Summer is here and it’s hot! That means it’s time to roll out the BBQ, go to the beach, or have a picnic. Whether you’re looking for side dishes for BBQ or cold salads for a picnic, our 40 summer side dish ideas will surely inspire you.
1. Watermelon Salad
The cool thing about watermelon is that it’s easy to prepare, it can quench your thirst, and there are a lot of ways to use it. You can use it as the star of your salad or to compliment one. This simple recipe is just watermelon, feta cheese, and mint!
2. Cold Pasta Salad
There are many different shapes and types of pasta. Most pasta salads fall in to two categories, mayonnaise or vinegar based (Italian dressing anyone?). Just be sure to keep your mayo based pastas cold to prevent it from spoiling and keep harmful bacteria from growing.
3. Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms
Mushrooms have a lot of flavor and are perfect for stuffing with cheese, butter, and bread crumbs. Larger Portobello mushrooms can be stuffed and can be used to replace steak for those who want to keep things vegetarian.
For mushroom recipes, cooking guide, and essentials, check out “Wildman” Steve Brill’s Wild Mushrooms page!
SEE ALSO: How Long Do Mushrooms Last?
4. Green Beans Wrapped In Eggplant
Grilling these two simple vegetables gives a bit of crunch from the beans and a soft texture from the eggplant. Adding salt to them both really elevates their flavor.
Grilled asparagus tastes great on its own but there are a few ways to take it up a level. You can add salt, wrapped them in bacon, melt cheese over them, or add your favorite spice seasoning. Of course, there’s always warm melted butter if you prefer.
6. Greek Salad
Black olives, feta cheese, cucumber, tomato, and onion drenched in a delicious dressing. You can still enjoy the essence of a Greek salad using lettuce as the main component.
7. Potato Salad
If you don’t have time, you can always opt to buy a tub of potato salad at the store. However, making your own gives you a lot more control over the flavor and texture. Trying to modify a store bought tub with extra ingredients just doesn’t work out so well.
8. Baked Beans
Baked beans are perfect for the summer. Want to fool everyone in to thinking that you spent days cooking your beans? Take a few tins of store bought beans and dump them in to a cast iron pot. Cook over a fire slowly and let some of that smoke get inside the pot. No one will be able to tell that they came from a can once they are infused with the fire’s smoke.
9. Cheese Garlic Bread
Cheese or garlic or cheese and garlic bread are not just for lasagna or spaghetti. The best thing about this side dish is that it can be prepared in advance and warmed up when required. Just be sure that you add extra butter and don’t cook it fully, otherwise it will dry out when reheating.
10. Baked Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes can be cooked directly on the grill, the fire, or in an oven. The natural tendency is for the flesh to separate from the skin which makes it extremely easy to peel once cooked.
11. Rustic Potato Chips
You don’t have to make your own potato chips, but by choosing a thicker chip and warming them up by the fire can turn a plain chip in to something special.
SEE ALSO: How Long Do Potatoes Last?
There are many types of slaws. While some are suitable as a salad on the side of your plate or in a small bowl, others are better suited to being on top of a hamburger or hotdog. A sharp tasting vinegar coleslaw can help cleanse your palate so that you can taste other foods better.
If you have children, getting them to help make your kebabs are a great way to involve them in the kitchen. Aside from meat and vegetable kebabs, how about firm tofu brushed with a spicy Asian sauce?
SEE ALSO: What Does Tofu Taste Like?
It’s basically grilled bread (usually a firm baguette) topped with tomato, basil, garlic and olive oil. That’s the basic recipe, so why not add thin slices or prosciutto or cheese?
15. Cucumber And Tomato Salad
Here are two summer ingredients you should already have on hand. Turn them in to a salad with a little onion, fresh herbs, and vinegar based dressing of your choice. You could opt to turn the cucumber in to spaghetti using a Veggetti and make a cold pasta salad unique!
16. Stuffed Red Peppers
These red peppers are not spicy, but they can be stuffed with spicy peppers or meat. These are filled with rice and beef and topped with parsley.
Everyone loves nachos and cheese. At least, we do! Spread your nacho chips out on a baking sheet and cook until sizzling. Here are some ideas for toppings: olives, onions, green peppers, scallions, tomato, salsa or Pico de Gallo, sour cream, guacamole, spicy beef or chicken.
18. Spinach Salad
Spinach contains a lot of much needed iron, especially for those who choose not to eat red meat. While cooked spinach wilts down to almost nothing, choosing raw spinach, instead of lettuce, for a salad can keep you feeling much fuller. For many, it also tastes better raw than cooked.
Fresh spinach always tastes better! Learn how to store spinach to keep it fresh longer so that your salad tastes its best.
19. Carrot Salad With Walnuts
If you are looking for something with a bit of sweetness, carrot salad can do that without being overpowering. The raisins you choose will help be the deciding factor on how sweet or how savory you want your salad. By adding walnuts you can give you salad an extra crunch.
20. Corn Bread
Corn bread is easy to prepare in advance and keeps well when wrapped in foil. 3 popular things to add in corn bread are cheese, jalapenos, and bacon.
21. Stuffed Collard Greens
You may not be familiar with collards, and even if you are, stuffing them may never have come across your plate. They can be stuffed like cabbage rolls, or with just rice, onions, and spices. Just to note, not everyone appreciates the strong flavor of collard greens.
22. Mexican Rice And Beans
Mexican rice can be served warm or cold. When served cold, adding a splash of fresh lime juice will wake it up. Tip: precook your onions before you add it to the rice to ensure that they are soft.
23. Bean Salad
Depending on the dressing you choose for your bean salad, you may want to cut back on the amount of sugar used. You also don’t have to worry about letting the beans marinate overnight because they won’t go soggy.
24. Broccoli Salad
Broccoli salad is a very tasty salad similar to coleslaw with a lot of crunch. It’s best to let your salad sit for a few hours in the refrigerator after it’s been made to allow the flavors to combine and to help soften the raw taste of the vegetables.
25. Corn On The Cob
This is a classic that can be served many ways. It can be rolled in butter, sprinkled with salt or spices, grilled or boiled, baked and even deep fried. What would summer be without corn on the cob?
26. Zucchini Tart With Tomato And Herbs
While it is often eaten on a plate, it can also be eaten in your hand like a pizza. When making it, make sure your tart has a little bit of white vinegar to ensure your crust is tender and flaky.
27. Shrimp Skewers
Forget the shrimp cocktail rings, shrimp skewers are where it’s at this summer! To make things as easy as possible when eating, you should peel, devein, and remove the tails from the shrimp before cooking.
28. Japanese Soba Noodles With Spinach & Leek
Japanese soba is often served cold with a delicious dipping sauce. For most of us, the art of eating them is a challenge which can be extremely fun for you and your guests.
29. Barley With Meat And Vegetables
Similar to rice, barley has a unique texture and flavor. Adding meat and vegetables can turn this in to a standalone meal or a tasty side dish.
While you may not consider eating salsa on its own, it definitely compliments meat very well. Other uses aside from used as a topping for nachos includes: adding inside tacos, dipping sauce for burritos, stir in to rice, add to soups, bruschetta topping, or even puree it in to a gazpacho.
31. Bread With Avocado
How easy is this recipe? Peel and slice avocado and place it on your favorite bread. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a splash of lemon or lime juice to help prevent the avocado from oxidizing.
32. Snap Peas
Snap peas are an easy on-the-go snack. There are two flavor profiles of snap peas. The outer pod has a very green and slightly bitter taste, whereas the peas themselves offset that by their sweetness.
33. Corn Fritter
Sounds complicated? Try mixing pancake batter with canned corn and then pan fry or deep fry. These tasty morsels can be made in advance and filled with other things such as crab, cheese, jalapeno, or your favorite fruit or vegetable.
34. Fried Green Tomatoes
These are not for everyone, but they are a classic summer side dish. You can really fry any tomato just as long as they aren’t too ripe, otherwise they will become mushy.
35. Rice Salad
Another side dish that is best served cold. Add veggies and a splash of vinegar dressing.
Beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, tofu, you name it. Sliders are a great appetizer and with a little preparation can be prepared in advance.
37. Fruit Sangria
While not served in a dish, although it could be if you wanted to, fruit filled sangrias are prefect to compliment your summer meal to combat the heat. To make it even better, learn how to make ice balls to keep your beverages colder longer.
38. Beet Salad
Do you remember eating beets as a child? You probably hated them, right? Use freshly sliced beets and a dressing made with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and orange juice. You might be able to convert the haters!
Do you like it cold or hot? A slice of pizza is the perfect side because it contains most food groups in one bite, it’s simple and not too messy, and pretty much everyone can enjoy it. Your options are pretty unlimited.
40. Cast Iron Mac And Cheese
If you have a BBQ pit going, try cooking mac and cheese in a cast iron pan. The edges will be so crispy while the center is extremely creamy and smooth. If anything should go wrong, just add more cheese!
Easy Side Dish Tips
The best part is that good side dishes can be made at home easily and some can even be turned in to complete meals on their own.
While you probably have the main item covered for your meal, side dishes are where we often cheap out. It’s much easier to buy a tub of potato salad, isn’t it? But it certainly doesn’t taste homemade and can make the rest of your hard work look less impressive.
There are easy side dishes that you can prepare with ingredients that you should have stocked in your pantry. Yes, there are certain ingredients that you should keep on hand during the summer. Watermelon, feta cheese, breads, and a large variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables are to name a few.
If you aren’t sure what’s in season, make a trip to your local farmer’s market to see exactly what’s available in your area. But don’t stress out too much, summer time is supposed to be fun!