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When it comes to BBQ, the main attraction is undoubtedly the smoky, grilled meat that takes center stage on your plate. Whether it’s juicy ribs, tender brisket, or succulent chicken, the BBQ pitmaster’s art is all about perfecting the meat. However, what often elevates a BBQ meal from good to outstanding are the side dishes that accompany it. In this guide, we’ll explore some of the best BBQ side dishes, with a focus on salads, slaws, and other flavorful options to complement your BBQ feast.

The Importance of BBQ Side Dishes

Before we dive into the delectable world of BBQ side dishes, let’s discuss why they matter. Side dishes serve multiple essential purposes at a BBQ gathering:

Balancing Flavors: BBQ meats often have bold, smoky, and savory flavors. Side dishes can provide a refreshing contrast with their crisp, tangy, or sweet profiles, creating a harmonious meal experience.

Texture Variety: A well-rounded BBQ meal includes a variety of textures. Side dishes introduce crunchy, creamy, and chewy elements that make each bite exciting.

Nutritional Balance: Grilled meats are delicious, but they might not always be the healthiest choice. Side dishes loaded with veggies or grains can add a nutritional boost to your meal.

Temperature Balance: BBQ Charcoal Grilled meats are hot off and side dishes served at various temperatures, like cold salads, provide balance and comfort on a warm day.

Classic BBQ Side Dishes

1. Classic Coleslaw

  • 1 small green cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a large bowl, combine the shredded cabbage and grated carrots.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, honey, celery seed, salt, and pepper.
  • Pour the dressing over the cabbage and carrots, and toss until well coated.
  • Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

Why it’s a classic: Coleslaw is a beloved BBQ side dish for a reason. Its creamy, tangy dressing complements the richness of smoked meats, and the crunchy cabbage and carrots provide a refreshing contrast to the smokiness.

2. Potato Salad

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons pickle relish
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Paprika for garnish (optional)


  • Boil the diced potatoes until they are tender but still firm, about 10-12 minutes. Drain and let them cool.
  • In a large bowl, combine the diced potatoes, chopped hard-boiled eggs, celery, and red onion.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, pickle relish, salt, and pepper.
  • Pour the dressing over the potato mixture and toss until well combined.
  • Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to meld.
  • Before serving, sprinkle with paprika for a pop of color.

Why it’s a classic: Potato salad is a timeless BBQ side dish that provides a creamy and slightly tangy contrast to the savory BBQ flavors. It’s a crowd-pleaser at any cookout.

3. Grilled Corn on the Cob with Chili-Lime Butter

  • 6 ears of corn, husked
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)


  • Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
  • In a bowl, combine the softened butter, lime zest, lime juice, chili powder, and a pinch of salt.
  • Grill the corn on medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until it’s tender and lightly charred, about 10-12 minutes.
  • Remove the corn from the grill and slather with the chili-lime butter.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired.

Why it’s a favorite: Grilled corn on the cob with chili-lime butter is a delightful BBQ side dish that adds a burst of flavor and color to your meal. The smokiness from the grill pairs perfectly with the zesty, slightly spicy butter.

4. Three-Bean Salad

  • 1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15 ounces) green beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15 ounces) yellow wax beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


  • In a large bowl, combine the kidney beans, green beans, yellow wax beans, and thinly sliced red onion.
  • In a separate saucepan, combine the sugar, apple cider vinegar, vegetable oil, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Pour the hot dressing over the bean mixture and toss to combine.
  • Let the salad marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight for the best flavor.

Why it’s a classic: Three-bean salad is a tangy and slightly sweet side dish that provides a refreshing contrast to the richness of BBQ meats. The combination of beans and crisp red onion adds a satisfying crunch to your plate.

5. Caprese Salad Skewers

  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcini)
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic glaze
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Thread cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, and fresh basil leaves onto wooden skewers.
  • Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic glaze.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Why it’s a favorite: Caprese salad skewers offer a refreshing and elegant twist on the traditional salad. They’re not only visually appealing but also bursting with flavor. The combination of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil is a timeless classic.

6. Baked Beans

  • 4 cans (15 ounces each) of your favorite canned baked beans
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup diced bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup cooked and crumbled bacon (optional)


  • Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • In a large bowl, combine the canned baked beans, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, diced onion, diced bell pepper, and crumbled bacon (if using).
  • Transfer the mixture to a baking dish.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, or until the beans are hot and bubbly.

Why it’s a classic: Baked beans are a staple BBQ side dish known for their sweet and smoky flavor. They provide a hearty and comforting addition to your BBQ spread.

7. Pasta Salad

  • 8 ounces rotini or your favorite pasta, cooked and cooled
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup black olives, sliced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup Italian salad dressing
  • Fresh basil leaves for garnish (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a large bowl, combine the cooked and cooled pasta, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red bell pepper, black olives, red onion, and crumbled feta cheese.
  • Drizzle with Italian salad dressing and toss until everything is well coated.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    Garnish with fresh basil leaves if desired.

Why it’s a favorite: Pasta salad is a versatile BBQ side dish that allows for endless variations. It’s a great way to incorporate fresh vegetables and herbs, and the tangy Italian dressing ties everything together.

8. Grilled Vegetable Platter

  • Assorted vegetables (such as bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, and asparagus)
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Garlic powder
  • Dried herbs (such as thyme, rosemary, or oregano)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
  • Cut the vegetables into manageable pieces.
  • In a bowl, toss the vegetables with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, dried herbs, salt, and pepper.
  • Grill the vegetables until they are tender and have nice grill marks, about 5-7 minutes per side.
  • Arrange the grilled vegetables on a platter and serve.

Why it’s a favorite: A grilled vegetable platter is a healthy and colorful addition to your BBQ spread. The smoky flavor from the grill enhances the natural sweetness of the vegetables.

9. Fruit Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing

  • Assorted fresh fruits (such as watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, strawberries, and blueberries)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Fresh mint leaves for garnish (optional)


  • Cut the fresh fruits into bite-sized pieces and place them in a large bowl.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice and honey.
  • Drizzle the honey-lime dressing over the fruit and toss gently to coat.
  • Garnish with fresh mint leaves if desired.

Why it’s a favorite: A refreshing fruit salad is the perfect way to balance out the rich and savory flavors of BBQ. The honey-lime dressing adds a delightful zing.

10. Garlic Bread

  • 1 loaf of Italian or French bread
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
  • Slice the loaf of bread in half horizontally.
  • In a bowl, combine the softened butter, minced garlic, chopped parsley, salt, and pepper.
  • Spread the garlic butter mixture evenly over the cut sides of the bread.
  • Place the bread halves back together and wrap them in aluminum foil.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the bread is heated through and the butter is melted.
  • Slice and serve.

Why it’s a classic: Garlic bread is a crowd-pleasing BBQ side dish that’s both buttery and garlicky. It’s the perfect accompaniment to soak up all the delicious BBQ sauces.

While the star of any BBQ feast may be the meat on the grill, it’s the side dishes that round out the meal and provide a balanced and memorable dining experience. Whether you opt for the classics like coleslaw and potato salad or get creative with grilled vegetable platters and caprese salad skewers, these BBQ side dishes are sure to complement your barbecue spread and leave your guests craving more. So, the next time you fire up the grill, remember to include these delicious salads, slaws, and sides for a truly satisfying BBQ experience.

With these recipes in your arsenal, you’ll have a wide range of options to choose from, ensuring that your BBQ gatherings are not only delicious but also packed with flavor and variety. So go ahead, fire up the grill, and get ready to impress your family and friends with these fantastic BBQ side dishes. Your BBQ game will never be the same again! Enjoy your cookout!