What's your favorite BBQ side?
May 25, 2021 4:32 AM   Subscribe

I'm in need of some inspiration. What's your favorite dish to bring to a BBQ? I've looked in the usual places but curious as to what the hive mind likes. No dietary restrictions.
posted by cozenedindigo to Food & Drink (46 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Slaw can be absolutely divine. A lot of people put sugar in slaw, but I don't like that, so I use a recipe like this one.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:42 AM on May 25 [4 favorites]

Turtle! ...just kidding. My username doesn't matter much.

I split sides at a BBQ into two halves - directly complimenting the BBQ, or, easy to eat in the context of a BBQ.

For directly complimenting the BBQ, I like BBQ baked beans with BBQ meat, corn on the cob, toast, and/or homemade pickles.

For generally being good in the context, I like watermelon slices, a Cobb salad, popsicles, ice cream bars, a hummus plate, and chips and salsa. (mac and cheese, pasta salad, and potato salad are okay but you don't want them to spoil so a bed of ice is really necessary under the dish). You also can't really go wrong with a big thing of lemonade and a fifth of vodka too Spike it with.
posted by bbqturtle at 4:43 AM on May 25 [7 favorites]

brown butter cornbread. Always a hit, easy to make.
posted by inevitability at 5:08 AM on May 25 [3 favorites]

I always bring strawberries covered lightly in sugar, vanilla ice cream, and a yellow Bundt cake made from a mix like Betty Crocker to BBQs.
posted by all about eevee at 5:10 AM on May 25 [3 favorites]

Depending on what produce is like where you are, I am seriously into raw corn, tomato, feta salad. You can lightly cook the corn if you feel strongly about it, but it's so nice and crisp raw, yes, like the mom in War Games, she's not wrong! There are tons of recipes but I don't use one. Herbs and dressing are up to you, I just use olive oil and red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, basil if I have any.
posted by wellred at 5:29 AM on May 25 [2 favorites]

I am a big fan of collard greens. Those hearty greens are a great complement to grilled meat. They're great warm, and great cold.
posted by rocketman at 5:34 AM on May 25 [5 favorites]

Texas caviar is a tangy bean salad and cookout/potluck staple.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:34 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]

This is my favorite, easy summer side. Get fresh ears of corn….slather them in mayo and dust with paprika, chili powder, any seasoning that you like, just be generous. Wrap them tightly in tin foil and throw on the grill. Let them cook 20 minutes or so, rotating periodically. Soooo good and easy!! They don’t have a mayo taste, it just acts as a vehicle to get the spices down into the kernels. I always make twice as many as I think I’ll need and they fly off the table. Good question!
posted by pearlybob at 5:42 AM on May 25 [2 favorites]

My go-to bbq dishes:
Baked beans(with multiple types of beans!)
Pasta salad that includes fresh veggies
A cool dessert such as a frozen lemon pie

All these can be made ahead and they transport well. And I never bring home any leftovers!
posted by bookmammal at 5:42 AM on May 25

Barbecued corn on the cob. (Wrap it in foil and set it just outside the coals.) If you can find a non-sweet heirloom corn, all the better.

Followed by fresh guacamole.
posted by eotvos at 5:47 AM on May 25

Cornbread, corn pudding, or corn on the cob.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:59 AM on May 25 [2 favorites]

Deviled eggs.
posted by tmdonahue at 6:07 AM on May 25 [11 favorites]

This cucumber salad, though I just cut them into thin disks to make it easier to eat, is lo-cal and delicious. I’m also a fan of the classic broccoli slaw salads involving ramen noodles, sesame seeds, cranberries (or raisins), and almonds, etc. for some contrasting crunch. There’s a million variations on it.
posted by carmicha at 6:09 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]

Fresh watermelon, salt, feta cheese and fresh basil. Easy peasy summer salad!! No dresing required!
posted by archimago at 6:10 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]

Collard greens is my top favorite, followed closely by macaroni and cheese and cowboy beans.
posted by briank at 6:20 AM on May 25

Shredded red cabbage with a dressing of (ratios) 3:1 oil:balsamic vinegar, 1 brown sugar, and salt to taste

Tomato and onion salad w oil and salt to taste (NO VINEGAR)

posted by cotton dress sock at 6:23 AM on May 25

Lots of good suggestions; people go nuts for elotes. You can serve it as halves and skewer each little half and set them down on a tray so people can kind eat them popsicle style.

If you have a very fricking sharp knife and are looking to make an impression you can put these watermelon and feta skewers together. It's a little frustrating because the feta I used breaks half the time but looks cool.
posted by ftm at 6:27 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]

Banana pudding! If you're feeling particularly froggy, replace the Nilla Wafers with Nutter Butters.

Be careful of this, though - it'll be the only dish you're allowed to bring ever again.
posted by jquinby at 6:32 AM on May 25 [5 favorites]

Boil some pasta (rotini works best) and drain. Chop up some fresh basil. Throw the pasta, basil, a bunch of balamic vinegar, and some shredded (not grated) parmesan into a sealed container and shake it a bunch. Shake it again before serving. Pasta salad.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:37 AM on May 25

Yes, cabbage slaw is great, but as others have noted so can cucumber salad or even a carrot slaw.
posted by coffeecat at 7:05 AM on May 25

Pecan or Sweet Potato pie. Hush Puppies (fried corn bread dumplings).
posted by effluvia at 7:25 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]

Quick pickles with hot peppers. I like the Caribbean versions: Haitian pikliz or Jamaican escovitch.
posted by Nelson at 7:29 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]

Broccoli caulifower salad. The link is not exactly how I make it, but close enough, and as it says, you can adapt the recipe. Both taste and texture are a nice contrast to barbecued meat.
posted by mumimor at 7:30 AM on May 25

Little mouth, we do the same frosting over an angel food cake but no oranges
posted by kathrynm at 7:36 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]

I get the most requests for this mustardy potato salad from Smitten Kitchen. Bright and healthy feeling, tasty cold or room temp, and flexible--you can substitute other veg for her suggestions.
posted by EmilyFlew at 7:36 AM on May 25 [5 favorites]

Please invite me to your barbecues. Another favorite is deviled eggs. I just add mayo and a bit of Dijon mustard, and top them with capers.
posted by theora55 at 7:48 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]

Potato salad, Macaroni and cheese (i like to put my bbq in the mac and cheese and eat it lmao no judging), and citrus slaw. Mayo-based slaw is okay, but the brightness of the citrus is so good
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:25 AM on May 25

Mashed turnips. I swear.
posted by theredpen at 8:33 AM on May 25

Curried Orzo Salad. Always a MASSIVE hit.

16 oz. package uncooked orzo
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
3/4 cup diced red onion
1 large granny smith apple, diced

1 cup peanut oil (or vegetable oil if allergies are a concern)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
1 heaping tablespoon curry powder
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Cook orzo according to package, drain; set aside. Combine all dressing ingredients and mix well.
Pour dressing over warm orzo then add raisins, almonds, onion, and apple.
Mix thoroughly then refrigerate overnight.
posted by cooker girl at 8:34 AM on May 25 [7 favorites]

Vegan greens, beans, or black-eyed peas.

Most of the BBQs I attend have at least one vegetarian or vegan person, and lots of BBQ sides, even the veggie ones, have animal products as default ingredients.
posted by box at 8:42 AM on May 25 [2 favorites]

As a mayo-hater and starch lover, a lot of BBQ sides really don’t do it for me, but I can always get down with corn on the cob or a German-style potato salad. One time someone brought cold spicy peanut sesame noodles and I thought that was genius, and now I make that all the time.
posted by cakelite at 8:44 AM on May 25 [3 favorites]

I once attended a small BBQ where the person who threw it told all the guests to bring a side, and we ended up with 7 tubs of potato salad, including mine, and no other sides. By the end my potato salad was completely finished and none of the others were, so that's one recommendation for it. It's a recipe I got from my grandmother, who got it from the side of a Dijonnaise bottle, and I adjusted a wee bit. Original here, my version below:

2 lbs russet potatoes
1 cup mayo
1⁄4 cup Dijonnaise mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (absolutely key)
2 tablespoons fresh dill
1⁄2 cup green onion, sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Starchy, floury potatoes like russets are also key, as waxy potatoes sort of slide around inside the dressing, but starchy potatoes absorb it. Peel the potatoes, cut them into bite-size pieces and cook them in salted water until they're done. While they're cooking, mix the mayo, Dijonnaise, apple cider vinegar, dill and onion together and let them sit and get to know each other.

Once the potatoes are done, drain them and while they're still warm, stir them into the dressing and let them sit for a few minutes to absorb some of it. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper as desired.

This is even better the next day, after it's sat in the fridge overnight. The dill will magnify, so if you're prepping it the day before be conservative with the dill.

I suppose you could add celery to it (like in the original), but neither I nor my husband are fans of celery so we leave it out. The green onions add plenty of crunch.
posted by telophase at 8:58 AM on May 25 [3 favorites]

I like Potato salad. Also, non-mayo/oil & vinegar pasta salad.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 9:18 AM on May 25

Bean salad with a sharp vinaigrette. Or a potato salad with no mayo and a sharp vinaigrette. You can even put beans in the potato salad if you want - cut fresh green beans or just a can of white beans, drained and rinsed.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 9:52 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]

I think corn bread and mac and cheese are not exciting, but are always devoured and greatly missed if they're not there. Baked beans too! I've been thinking about classic potluck recipes lately and what is always a hit. You know what is always a surefire hit, but I usually forget about when planning? A cheesy potato casserole. The kind with cubes of potatoes and crushed cornflakes or potato chips on top. I'm not saying it's classy, I'm saying it's popular.
A pitcher of fresh watermelon juice is a nice touch too. This is making me hungry.
posted by areaperson at 10:24 AM on May 25 [2 favorites]

This potato salad recipe has garnered me more than one “I don’t generally like potato salad, but I love this” compliment.

I found this Hawaiian Macaroni Salad recipe when I was looking for something to serve along with pulled pork sandwiches that would mimic the taste of the macaroni salad you get with Hawaiian take out. Incredibly easy to make and so, so good.
posted by The Gooch at 10:58 AM on May 25

Korean Potato Salad or Gamja Salad
Try it! I'm usually more on the German/no mayo side of potato salads, but this is very delicious.
posted by mumimor at 11:57 AM on May 25

Throwing my potato salad on the side table, because it takes next to no effort and I had people praising it, to my surprise. It's not an American recipe and stands out as odd next to the local stuff.

- waxy potatoes (i.e. not russets; new potatoes are even better if you can find some); peeled for preference, cubed and boiled till cooked but not mushy
- mayo enough to coat them
- chopped up chives so there are plenty of green flecks in it when you stir them through (adding too much makes the texture more leafy, but doesn't spoil it)
- bit of pepper, to taste, if you fancy

... and that's it.

There are no critical measurements above, so you can eyeball it while entertaining. Raw diced onion also works instead of chives, but has a different texture. It is supposed to be served cold, but it's also good warm if you're in a hurry and can't cool the potatoes down. So, basically, you can't exactly go wrong, only different.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 3:28 PM on May 25

I usually bring deviled eggs, and they are always a big hit. I pipe the filling in with an icing bag and big star tip to make them look fancy, but that’s totally optional.

I also got compliments on cornbread made with the recipe from Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World, although it was a little sweet for my own taste.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:23 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]

It's a recipe I got from my grandmother, who got it from the side of a Dijonnaise bottle,

I live by the rule that the best recipes are the ones on food packages.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:26 PM on May 25 [2 favorites]

Mendocino Farms has a curried couscous that I absolutely cannot stay away from. I see someone recommended a curried orzo salad above, which might scratch a similar itch, but to their enormous credit, Mendo themselves have posted the recipe.
posted by mykescipark at 9:26 PM on May 25

While I myself will make a beeline for the deviled eggs, mac and cheese, and collards (depends what you mean by BBQ I suppose), I tend to bring a summery dessert. I used to make something like this strawberry graham cracker icebox cake a lot and it was goooooood and popular.
posted by athirstforsalt at 8:42 AM on May 26 [2 favorites]

I discovered Blue cheese slaw at a BBQ festival, and it goes amazingly well with smoked meat!
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:10 AM on May 26 [1 favorite]

I always find myself craving something lighter to balance the heaviness of the meat, so those are the things I'd gravitate towards.

I think a Japanese-style cucumber salad (sunomono) could be a delicious complement to BBQ.

A watermelon and feta salad could also be a good contrast.
posted by that girl at 10:58 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]

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