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65 Cookout Side Dishes to Serve at Every Alfresco Gathering

Mmm, German potato salad

cookout side dishes: german potato salad, grilled watermelon and corn fritter caprese
Katherine Gillen/EE Berger/Mark Weinberg

You already planned your Memorial Day menu (wait 'til your guests see the over-the-top hot dog bar), but why stop there? Summer is all about eating outdoors, and the barbecues, picnics and potlucks are about to pile up on your calendar, not to mention all the alfresco gatherings you'll be hosting at your place. Instead of settling for the same old potato salad, try one of these 65 cookout side dishes—like grilled watermelon skewers or mini peach tarts—that are sure to make entertaining an easy task. They're seasonal, simple and great for feeding a crowd, plus some can be prepared ahead for minimal stress.

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1. Strawberry, Basil and Arugula Salad with Lots of Black Pepper

  • Time Commitment: 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: no cook, low carb, <500 calories, vegetarian

"The dressing isn’t really a dressing in the traditional sense, since you don’t need a whisk or a blender to make it," explains PureWow senior food editor Katherine Gillen. "Instead, the strawberries are marinated with rice vinegar and honey, releasing their juices to coat the greens." All that's missing is a drizzle of olive oil.

2. Ranch Potato Salad

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <500 calories, make ahead

"Maybe your guests can’t agree on hot dogs versus hamburgers, but they can all get together on ranch dressing. Short of plopping a bottle of store-bought next to the carrot sticks, how can you sneak it in the menu?" inquires Gillen. Answer: This crowd-pleasing salad that tastes like pure comfort.

3. Tomato-Peach Caprese Skewers

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <500 calories, no cook

Everything tastes better on a stick, including salad. And when you’re looking for creative ways to use the pounds of fresh peaches you splurged on at the farmers market, why not throw them in the mix? "The skewers are ready in 15 minutes and pair really well with a glass of white wine," raves Gillen.

cookout side dishes: burrata salad with stone fruit and asparagus
Photo: Jon Cospito/Styling: Heath Goldman

4. 20-Minute Burrata Salad with Stone Fruit and Asparagus

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, crowd-pleaser, special occasion–worthy, <500 calories

Burrata makes *everything* look Insta-worthy. It’s practically no-cook (just five minutes!), feeds a crowd and won’t wilt when you set it out in 90-degree weather.

cookout side dishes: watermelon feta skewers
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

5. Grilled Watermelon-Feta Skewers

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, low carb, gluten free, high protein

Rather than just chopping up the ingredients and tossing them with dressing, this flavorful take on a summer staple begins on the grill. Charring the melon will offer smoky splendor to every bite.

cookout side dishes: mini peach tarts with goat cheese and honey
Photo: Mark Weinberg/Styling: Erin McDowell

6. Mini Peach Tarts with Goat Cheese and Honey

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

These have just the right amount of sweetness and spice, plus they look really impressive, even though they’re shockingly easy to make. (That’s the magic of store-bought puff pastry.)

cookout side dishes: avocado and black bean pasta salad
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

7. Avocado and Black Bean Pasta Salad

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, make ahead, kid-friendly

As much as I adore a mayo-based salad, it’s not always the best choice when the temps are pushing 90 degrees. This pasta salad is dressed with olive oil for a hot weather–ready treatment.

cookout side dishes: roasted poblano and corn guacamole
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

8. Roasted Poblano and Corn Guacamole

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: low sugar, gluten free, vegetarian, dairy free

It’s just the right balance of sweet, spicy and zesty—and it’s filled with delicious goodies, namely grilled summer corn. Pass the tortilla chips, please.

cookout side dishes: light and tangy coleslaw
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

9. Light and Tangy Coleslaw

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

No one wants a bowl of gloppy, store-bought slaw at the end of a picnic table. Here, you'll lay off the mayonnaise and use a zesty vinegar base instead. The result? A lighter and more flavorful take on a classic.

cookout side dishes: corn fritter caprese
Photo: Mark Weinberg/Styling: Erin McDowell

10. Corn Fritter Caprese with Peaches and Tomatoes

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: high protein, vegetarian, kid-friendly, special occasion–worthy

Be still my corn-loving heart. The only thing you have to cook is the fritters, so this hot-and-cold masterpiece is surprisingly simple to make.

cookout side dishes: zesty chargrilled broccolini
Simon Pask/The Happy Balance

11. Zesty Chargrilled Broccolini

  • Time Commitment: 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, low carb, <10 ingredients

If you already have the coals fired up for burgers, why not make your whole meal on the grill? This cookout side dish only requires five ingredients (and that's including salt and pepper).

12. Kale and Brussels Sprout Caesar Slaw

  • Time Commitment: 25 minutes
  • Why We Love It: no cook, make ahead, crowd-pleaser

Wanna know a secret? This slaw can be completely plant-based if you leave off the blue cheese. The super creamy dressing is made from a base of soaked nuts and seeds.

13. BLT Pasta Salad

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

It combines all the crunchy, savory, creamy ingredients of the classic sandwich—minus, well, the bread (because pasta is way more fun). Make it ahead so the components have plenty of time to soak up the dressing.

cookout side dishes: slow cooker baked beans
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

14. Slow Cooker Baked Beans

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

If a backyard barbecue is thrown and there are no baked beans on the menu, did it really happen? (The answer is no.) These come together in the Crockpot, so they're decidedly low-lift.

cookout side dishes: rainbow vegetable skewers
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

15. Rainbow Vegetable Skewers

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

With one ingredient each, these skewers will grill to perfection (unlike mixed kebabs, which always cook unevenly). Meet you at the farmers market in five.

cookout side dishes: chilled cucumber salad
Erin McDowell

16. Chilled Cucumber Salad

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: no cook, low carb, keto friendly

During the dog days of summer, turn to this chilled number. It basically makes itself in the fridge, so you won’t even break a sweat.

17. Carrot Pigs in a Blanket

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser

We serve this ever-so-slightly sophisticated, vegetarian version of the classic with a side of green goddess dressing for dipping—swoon. Even picky kids will go for 'em (well, maybe).

18. “Magic” Peppers Salad with Pine Nuts and Capers

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

The caramelized vegetables can be used in countless ways, from pasta salad to bruschetta and free-form tarts (hence the “magic”). But this salad is a guaranteed win.

19. Salami, Artichoke and Ricotta Pasta Salad

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, <10 ingredients, ready in <30 minutes

Our favorite Italian flavors unite in a picnic-ready salad to create one simple yet satisfying dish. Even better, it’s ready in less than 30 minutes.

20. Minty-Fresh Zucchini Salad with Marinated Feta

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, no cook, <500 calories

Zucchini is typically reserved for cooking, not raw preparations. But one bite of this zesty, marinated no-cook salad and you’ll never look back.

21. Summer Millet Salad

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, kid-friendly, low sugar

Not all salads need to include tender lettuce, especially if you’re serving them on a hot summer day. This grain salad will hold up to the heat—if it lasts that long.

22. Corn and Tomato Salad with Feta and Lime

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, kid-friendly

When corn is in season, make a beeline for your local farmers market and grab as many ears as you can carry. Then, make this 20-minute salad that keeps like a charm in the fridge.

cookout side dishes: pearl couscous with chickpeas, eggplant and peaches
Eleisa Johnson/The Peach Truck Cookbook

23. Pearl Couscous with Chickpeas, Eggplant and Peaches

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegan, make ahead, crowd-pleaser

This seasonal side dish is great cold, warm or at room temperature, and you can make it up to one day ahead. In other words, it's a win-win for any hostess.

24. Cold Sesame Cucumber Noodles

  • Time Commitment: 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: no cook, <30 minutes, vegetarian

The marinated tofu and tangy homemade dressing ensure this side dish is packed with flavor without turning on the oven. Crank the A.C. and make it on a sweltering day.

25. Green Beans with Garlicky Pistachio Vinaigrette

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

Cold green beans? Yep, it’s true, and it’s oh-so-refreshing. The veggie gets a quick blanch to tenderize it before being doused in an irresistible vinaigrette.

26. Melon Salad with Chili Powder, Mint, Lime and Flaky Sea Salt

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

Forget the boring fruit salad of your childhood. This one is spicy, herby and versatile to boot, but it still lets the in-season produce shine.

27. Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Sriracha and Lime

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, <10 ingredients, <500 calories

Consider it an elevated alternative to French fries. Cook the sweet spuds on the grill instead of in the oven if you want to stay outdoors while you entertain.

28. Watermelon Salad with Almonds and Dill

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, crowd-pleaser

Bring on the savory fruit salads! This one combines watermelon, radishes, shallots and cider vinegar for a tangy treat.

29. 7-Layer Dip

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

It’s a potluck favorite for good reason: Namely, that it’s delicious. This cookout side dish also calls for store-bought ingredients, like guacamole and salsa, so all you'll have to do to pull it off is assemble.

30. Smoky Barbecued Corn

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, <500 calories, <10 ingredients

Lightly charred and slathered with Mexican street corn toppings, it’ll make you never want to eat plain boiled corn again. Pass the lime wedges, por favor.

31. Roasted Broccoli and Bacon Pasta Salad

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, make ahead

Honestly, I’d eat this as a main course or a side dish—it’s that tasty. Chalk it up to the shatteringly crisp bacon.

32. Crudités with Romesco Sauce

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: low carb, make ahead, crowd-pleaser, special occasion–worthy

This easy appetizer can do double duty as a stunning centerpiece. Make an extra batch of the sauce and serve the leftovers on sandwiches with grilled seafood, tinned fish or as a dip.

33. Sweet and Spicy Cornbread

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, one pan, beginner-friendly

If you can’t find Fresnos, jalapeños will work—slice the peppers thin so you get a little bit of heat in every bite. (And don’t forget honey for drizzling.)

34. Avocado Tahini Dip

  • Time Commitment: 5 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, crowd-pleaser, no cook

Toss all the ingredients in a food processer and voilà: instant snack. No wonder it comes together in five minutes flat.

35. Tomato Salad with Grilled Halloumi and Herbs

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

It’s like a gourmet caprese salad will halloumi instead of mozz. Grill the cheese right next to the steaks and your meal will come together in a flash.

36. Vietnamese-Style Summer Rolls

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why We Love It: gluten free, vegetarian, make ahead

They’re refreshing, gluten free and will make you look like a pro chef with very little effort. Plus, you can wrap them the night before the cookout and store them in the fridge until serving.

37. Avocado, Radish and Walnuts with Carrot-Miso Dressing

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: no cook, <30 minutes, beginner-friendly

Let’s shake up the definition of a salad, shall we? This one substitutes avocado for the usual greens, which I think is pretty smart.

38. Black Fig and Tomato Salad

  • Time Commitment: 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: no cook, <30 minutes, <10 ingredients

Tomato girls assemble. When the ingredients are at their peak, a ten-minute salad is guaranteed to taste like a million bucks.

39. Sweet Corn, Tomato and Zucchini Grain Salad with Peach-Dijon Vinaigrette

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: no cook, <30 minutes, special occasion–worthy

Corn, tomato and zucchini are arguably the holy trinity of summer produce. The edible flowers are an optional decorative touch, but they take this side dish from delicious to absolutely showstopping.

cookout side dishes: citrus, shrimp and quinoa salad
Allison Day/Modern Lunch

40. Citrus, Shrimp and Quinoa Salad with Feta

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, <500 calories, ready in <30 minutes

Thanks to protein-rich shrimp, this cookout side dish is surprisingly filling. If you’re cooking it ahead of time, it will hold in the fridge for up to two days, you genius you.

41. Cherry Tomato Galette with Garlic and Herbs

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion–worthy, <500 calories

Sweet, roasted cherry tomatoes and a beyond flaky crust? This is the savory galette of my summertime dreams, down to the fresh rosemary and thyme.

42. Zoodles with Avocado and Mango Sauce

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <500 calories, no cook, gluten free

Blitz the creamy raw coconut milk sauce in your blender and drizzle it over zucchini noodles (which you can find pre-spiralized at the supermarket). In 15 minutes, you’re done.

43. Peach Caprese Salad

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

As much as I love tomatoes, there’s another seasonal produce vying for the spotlight, and it pairs just as well with mozzarella and balsamic vinegar.

44. Pesto Zoodles

  • Time Commitment: 25 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, kid-friendly, low carb

Pesto makes everything taste special, including zucchini noodles. Toss on a generous flurry of fresh Parmesan and you’re golden.

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

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, make ahead, special occasion–worthy

Spread it out on a big platter for everyone to serve themselves and it’ll wow everyone at your next backyard bash. (Peaches are special like that.)

46. Grilled Cheese Crostini

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, <500 calories, special occasion–worthy

It’s like fancy grilled cheese for adults, no? I love the combination of strawberries and balsamic vinegar, but you could also use tomatoes in their place.

47. Mango Guacamole

  • Time Commitment: 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: no cook, <30 minutes, <10 ingredients

We know mango sounds like an unusual ingredient to use in guacamole. But it adds a burst of tangy sweetness that melds delightfully with creamy avocados.

48. Rainbow Heirloom Bruschetta

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: no cook, <30 minutes, crowd-pleaser, special occasion–worthy

Isn't she lovely? It’s quick, easy and on the table in 15 minutes, but so much more chic than soup-packet onion dip.

49. Vegetarian Sushi Cups

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser, vegetarian

Normally I’d say sushi and hot weather do not mix, but when the former is fish-free, I say go for it. This poppable cookout side dish comes together in a muffin tin.

50. Spicy Corn Carbonara

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion–worthy, beginner-friendly

It’s luscious and creamy but not heavy, which is ideal on a summer evening. Plate it with grilled chicken or salmon for a boost of protein.

51. Bruschette with Mixed Heritage Tomatoes and Burrata

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, <30 minutes, special occasion–worthy

Toast, but make it pinkies-out. Your guests will be drooling at the first mention of burrata, but the real highlight is the in-season tomatoes.

52. Zucchini Ricotta Galette

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <500 calories, low carb, crowd-pleaser

Once again, store-bought pie crust saves the day. Cut it into thin slivers to serve it as a side dish or appetizer.

53. Grilled Caprese Skewers with Halloumi and Sourdough

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <500 calories, crowd-pleaser, vegetarian

Homer Simpson says you don’t win friends with salad, but I might disagree, thanks to this salad-on-a-stick number.

54. Easy Zucchini Chips

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, low carb

Nothing against a bag of store-bought potato chips, but these crispy bites are a little more special. It is a party, after all. Serve them with tzatziki for dipping.

55. Zoodles with Summer Vegetables

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, <500 calories, gluten free, dairy free

You just took a trip to the farmers market and have enough zucchini, cherry tomatoes and corn to feed you for a week. Now, you know exactly what to do with it.

56. Cold Soba Noodle Salad with Strawberries

  • Time Commitment: 25 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, beginner-friendly, make ahead

The combination of strawberries and a savory-spicy salad might sound unusual, but it totally works. The lightly sweet miso dressing ties it all together. Thank me later.

57. Caesar Pasta Salad

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, <500 calories, crowd-pleaser

Crisp, cool lettuce and creamy pasta salad: It’s the best of both worlds in one dish. Plus, you can make it up to two days in advance.

58. Grilled Corn with Spicy Aioli

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <500 calories, <10 ingredients, vegetarian

It’s not as if corn on the cob needs improvement; I just can’t help playing with my food. The combination of smokiness from the grill and spiciness from the sauce will blow your usual butter and salt away.

59. Caprese Pasta Salad

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, <30 minutes, vegetarian, <10 ingredients

See ya never, sad, gloppy mayo. This pasta salad is perfectly content sitting out at the picnic table. And thanks to orecchiette's bite-size shape, it's totally kid-friendly too.

60. German Potato Salad

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, <500 calories, dairy free, gluten free

If a creamy side dish isn’t your jam, try this tangy, bacon-y version instead. It’s delicious whether you serve it warm or at room temp.

61. Caprese Salad with Grilled Zucchini

  • Time Commitment: 25 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, low carb, gluten free

This is what I like to call “summer on a plate.” Bonus points if you’re working with zucchini that you grew in your own backyard.

62. Grilled Melon With Tahini, Chili Oil and Sesame Seeds

  • Time Commitment: 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, gluten free

This cookout side dish is ready for its closeup. Pair this refreshingly sweet-savory cookout side with grilled fish and a tomato salad for the ultimate summertime effect.

63. Rogue Ratatouille Risotto

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

“I love this quick and simple one-pan dish with a passion,” writes recipe developer Jamie Oliver. “It’s a crowd-pleaser, bringing Italy and Provence together. Purists would judge the frozen veg base hack, but I guarantee they’re missing out.” Finish it with all the goat cheese you can handle.

64. Sprightly Biscuits

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

You're only six ingredients away from barbecue and fried chicken's timeless soulmate. The biscuits have a sweet secret: “It’s the Sprite (or 7-Up) that makes them light,” reveals recipe developer Dora Charles.

65. Rarebit Mac ‘n’ Greens

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, special occasion-worthy

You'll feel more inclined to eat your veggies when they're swimming in cheese sauce, no? Kale, spinach, collards and mustard greens are all fair game. The dairy aisle is also your oyster, but recipe creator Molly Baz recommends a blend of extra-sharp cheddar, Gruyère, Emmentaler and fontina.


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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Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...