26 BBQ Menu Ideas: Recipes That Will Transform Your Backyard Party

Nothing tops a day spent outdoors with loved ones and a cold drink in hand—but a tasty spread of backyard eats could only make it better. Fire up the grill and fasten your “Kiss the Cook” apron for 26 BBQ menu ideas that’ll impress your guests (including picky kids). Think juicy watermelon skewers, spicy charred corn, a fishy twist on the almighty burger and seasonal desserts that are as delicious as they are photogenic. We’ll bring the beer.

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The Drinks

1. Frozen Dirty Shirley Cocktail

  • Time Commitment: 8 hours and 5 minutes (includes freezing time)
  • Why We Love It: beginner-friendly, <10 ingredients, no cook

As long as you freeze the lemon-lime soda (or ginger ale) the night before the cookout, these cocktails will be ready in no time. Plus, you can serve a vodka-free version to the kids at the party.

2. Guava Mezcal Mule Cocktail

  • Time Commitment: 5 minutes
  • Why We Love It: no cook, <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, special occasion-worthy

Break out the copper tumblers. Take this classic up a notch by swapping sweet guava juice and smoky mezcal in for traditional lime juice and ginger beer. Substitute tequila if you'd prefer.

3. White Sangria with Peaches and Berries

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, <10 ingredients, make ahead, beginner-friendly

Bring your favorite dry riesling to life with sweet peach juice and fresh summer produce. (The orange liqueur won’t hurt, either.) Swap ice for frozen fruit so the sangria doesn’t get diluted over time.

4. Whiskey Lemonade with Honey Simple Syrup

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, special occasion-worthy, beginner-friendly

Does anything scream “summer” louder than ice cold lemonade? Yep: Heidi Larsen's grown-up version, made with herbs and raw honey. (Personally, we'd opt for mint and bourbon.)

The Appetizers

5. Yogurt Dip with a Frizzled Carrot-Herb Swirl

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy

Place this swirled stunner on the patio table and watch it vanish in 30 seconds flat. The key to the dip's layered flavor is infusing the oil and carrot with herbs and spices before pouring it over the yogurt.

6. Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Mango Salsa

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, <30 minutes, high protein

Consider these tacos the tropical vacation you’ve been craving. Hot sauce, cayenne, chile powder and jalapeño keep things spicy, while fresh mango and lime juice offer cool relief to every bite.

7. Grilled Watermelon-Feta Skewers

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, <10 ingredients, beginner-friendly

We're calling it: This is the new caprese. A few char marks will put a smoky spin on everyone’s favorite summer fruit, not to mention zingy balsamic vinegar. (And in case you need help dicing the watermelon...)

8. Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: high protein, make ahead, beginner-friendly

Wings just got a crowd-friendly makeover. The best part about these bite-sized starters that can be assembled ahead? They’re way less messy than traditional drums and flats, so much so that you won't need napkins. (Well, maybe one.)

The Salads

9. Bitter Greens Salad with Herby Ranch Dressing

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, <30 minutes, no cook, make ahead

Sure, you can go with a crowd-pleasing Caesar...but all your guests will see it coming. This assortment of sharp radicchio, Insta-worthy frisée and sweet-tart apples is sure to surprise. (And don't even get us started on the from-scratch ranch.)

10. Grilled Peach and Halloumi Salad with Lemon-Pesto Dressing

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: special occasion-worthy, vegetarian, beginner-friendly

This stunning spread is loaded with salty slices of grilled halloumi, charred summer peaches and crunchy pine nuts, so expect plenty of oohs and ahhs from your guests. Make extra garlicky basil-citrus dressing to drizzle over pasta salad or sandwiches.

11. Chilled Cucumber Salad

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, <10 ingredients, make ahead, vegan

Don’t listen to your kids: A little green never hurt nobody. In fact, they’ll find these seasoned, chilled cukes super refreshing after playing in the yard. Up the decadence factor by stirring in some sour cream.

The Entrées

12. Crispy, Spicy Cauliflower Tacos with Jicama-Carrot Slaw

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 25 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, vegan, dairy free, gluten free

Barbecues tend to be a meat fest, so it's smart to have at least one vegetarian or vegan main for your plant-based friends. They'll be thrilled to nosh on this combo of smoky cauli florets, lime-kissed slaw and dairy-free cilantro crema.

13. Salmon Burgers

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: high protein, beginner-friendly

Ground beef who? Salmon’s the new belle of the BBQ, and she’s bringing Old Bay, fresh dill and tangy coleslaw along with her. Save some time on the big day by assembling the patties and slaw the night before.

14. Honey-Lime Chicken and Veggies in Foil

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: beginner-friendly, high protein

Wrap juicy chicken breast up with your favorite seasonal produce and cook them to juicy perfection right on the grill. If you think this looks like a win now, wait until you realize this recipe only leaves you with one dirty dish to clean.

15. Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

  • Time Commitment: 7 hours and 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: slow cooker recipe, high protein, crowd-pleaser, make ahead

This sweet-and-savory pork main is magical on its own, but we like to pile it high on a bun with lots of dressed cabbage and grilled pineapple. Use the leftovers in quesadillas for the kids (if there are any, that is).

16. Grilled Flank Steak with Lemon-Herb Sauce

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, high protein, special occasion-worthy

The best thing about this dish (well, besides the zippy marinade and lemon-mustard sauce)? You can kick back with a cocktail and some chitchat for a whole hour while the steak marinates. Win-win.

The Side Dishes

17. Slow Cooker Baked Beans

  • Time Commitment: 6 hours and 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, <10 ingredients, slow cooker recipe

With so much action going on in the backyard, it'll be a relief to let the Crockpot take care of a dish or two indoors. Be sure to soak the navy beans overnight before transferring them to the slow cooker.

18. Cauliflower ‘Potato’ Salad

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, vegetarian, make ahead

Is there anything cauliflower can't do? Spuds get the boot in this riff on a picnic classic, but it's just as creamy as the standard thanks to Greek yogurt, sour cream and Dijon mustard. (If you prefer potatoes, try our ranch potato salad on for size.)

19. Jalapeño-Avocado Mac and Cheese

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: beginner-friendly, vegetarian

Ripe, buttery avocados and spicy green chiles are impeccable matches for ooey-gooey white cheddar sauce. Add sweet corn kernels for seasonal flair, breadcrumbs for crunch or hot sauce for more heat.

20. Grilled Corn with Spicy Aioli

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly, special occasion-worthy

As far as BBQ menu ideas go, this summer staple is a no brainer, especially when you dress it up with sriracha aioli instead of drenching it in salt and melted butter. Add lime juice, queso fresco and chili powder for an elote-inspired take.

21. Baked Avocados with Fresh Salsa

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, vegetarian

Baked avocado is a thing—a rich, creamy, beautiful thing. Pile them high with in-season cherry tomatoes and corn kernels, plus salty queso fresco crumbles. (Feta or goat cheese work, too.)

The Desserts

22. Foil Packet Peach Crisps

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: beginner-friendly, kid-friendly, <10 ingredients

Simply nestle the packets atop a hot grill or a bed of campfire coals and let it bubble away for 20 minutes. You'll be left with an impressive summer treat (that'll be begging for a scoop of vanilla ice cream, obvi) and minimal mess.

23. 3-Ingredient Blood Orange Granita

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes (plus freezing time)
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, <10 ingredients, beginner-friendly, vegan, crowd-pleaser

There are few things as refreshing as a frosty spoonful of shaved ice. Add the citrusy masterpiece to a glass of Champagne to squeeze in an early nightcap (or two).

24. Lemon-Berry Sheet Pan Trifle

  • Time Commitment: 3 hours and 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, sheet pan recipe, kid-friendly

Homemade meringue makes this shareable sweet a standout. Your kids can help make the whipped topping, toss the fruit in lemon juice and sugar or assemble the trifle.

25. Sweet Corn Doughnut Holes

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, special occasion-worthy

Warning: These are as irresistible as they look. The secret to this unexpected pick’s cream filling? A whole lot of whipped corn kernels. (Just trust the process, OK?)

26. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip

  • Time Commitment: 5 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, <10 ingredients, make ahead, no bake

You’ll never be too old to dunk a graham cracker (or spoon) into this nostalgic dip. Serve it alongside a simple s’mores station and you’ll officially be the hostess with the mostest.

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Taryn Pire is PureWow’s associate food editor. A former bartender and barista, she’s been writing about all things delicious since 2016, developing recipes, reviewing restaurants and investigating food trends at Food52, New Jersey Family Magazine and Taste Talks. When she isn’t testing TikTok’s latest viral recipe, she’s having popcorn for dinner and posting about it on Instagram @cookingwithpire.

Taryn Pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...
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