Burgers, dogs and brats define a summer cookout, but without side dishes to pair them with, your cookout is incomplete. The best summer side dishes for barbecuing complement, rather than compete, with sweet sauces and rich meats. Use the bounty of produce in season and you'll wow your family and guests with fresh flavors and delectable tastes.


Crisp cabbage, light cream and fresh herbs provide a refreshing twist on classic slaw. Shred crisp, tart apples, such as granny smith, and toss with grated carrots, poppy seeds, white vinegar and raisins for a slaw that tastes best served alongside fatty, sauced ribs. The sweet fruits and vegetables along with the tangy vinegar cut through the richness of barbecued meat. A red cabbage slaw made with jalapeños and cilantro adds zip to plain burgers and dogs.

Potato Salads

Like cole slaw, potato salads are an expected barbecue side, but traditional versions can get tiresome. Try blending boiled new potatoes with smoky bacon, Dijon mustard and mayonnaise. Alternatively, skip the meat and mix fresh herbs, such as dill and tarragon, and grilled corn in with the potatoes. For a lighter salad, dress boiled waxy or fingerling potatoes with fresh summer parsley and a vinaigrette made with red wine vinegar, mustard and olive oil.

Grilled Vegetables

Grilled vegetables make a natural side for any barbecued meal, but kick it up a notch with unexpected options. Bitter, charred radicchio goes well with broiled steak topped with a sweet sauce; creamy eggplant moderates spicy grilled Italian sausage; or grill a mixture of wild mushrooms to deepen the flavor of a grilled chicken breast. Prepare a grilled vegetable platter with an array of dressings for dipping made in your Vitamix blender, or top with a parmesan balsamic vinaigrette. Sprinkle crumbles of feta or goat cheese over grilled baby artichokes or asparagus for a lighter option.

Fruits and Bread

Fruits, such as pineapple, peaches, plums and nectarines grill well and mix with lime juice, raw red onion and grape tomatoes for a fresh, tangy salsa that makes a flavorful barbecue side. Grill watermelon for a minute or two on each side and top with minced jalapeno and coarse salt for a tasty match for burgers or pulled pork. Brush breads, such as pizza crust or pita bread with olive oil and grill lightly on each side to dip into hearty blends such as hummus or spicy tomato sauce.