The 40 Best Summer Side Dishes & Recipe Ideas

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!

Watermelon Salad

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.

Cold Pasta Salad With Peas Pickles and Ham

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?

Cheese Stuffed Potobello Mushrooms

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.

Green Beans Grilled Eggplant

5. Asparagus

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.

Grilled Asparagus Skewers

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.

Greek Salad Leafy Lettuce

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.

Classic Potato Salad

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.

Classic Baked Beans

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.

Toasted Cheese Garlic Bread

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.

Roasted Sweet Potatos

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.

Rustic Potato Chips Spicy BBQ

SEE ALSO: How Long Do Potatoes Last?

12. Coleslaw

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.

SEE ALSO: Best Frozen Hamburger Patties For Grilling

Red Cabbage Coleslaw

13. Kebabs

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?

Beef Shish Kebab

14. Bruschetta

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?

Bruschetta Tomato Basil

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!

Tomato Cucumber Salad

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.

Stuffed Red Peppers

17. Nachos

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.

Nachos Cheese Sour Cream Avacado

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.

Spinach Salad With Burger

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.

Carrot Salad Raisins Walnuts

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.

Corn Bread In Cast Iron Pan

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.

Stuffed 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.

Mexican Rice and Beans

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.

3 Bean Salad With Onions

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.

Creamy Broccoli Salad

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?

Corn Cob With Butter Wrapped In Foil

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.

Zucchini Tart

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.

Shrimp Skewers With Lemon

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.

Japanese Soba Noodles With Spinach And Leek

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.

Barley With Meat And Vegetables

30. Salsa

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.

Chicken with Salsa

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.

Avocado on Toast

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.

Snap Peas

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.

Corn Fritters With Vegetables

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.

Fried Green Tomatos

35. Rice Salad

Another side dish that is best served cold. Add veggies and a splash of vinegar dressing.

Rice Salad

36. Sliders

Beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, tofu, you name it. Sliders are a great appetizer and with a little preparation can be prepared in advance.

Beef Sliders

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.

Fruit Sangria

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!

Beet Salad

39. Pizza

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.

Veggie Pizza

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!

Mac and Cheese In Cast Iron

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!

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