Recipes: 5 great barbecue side dishes

20 July 2023

Grilling is our preferred method of cooking during the warmer months. My husband and I love to sip a cocktail or beer on the patio while our meat sizzles away.

And while I am a fan of our grilled and smoked meats, often the thing I look forward to most on my plate is whatever is on the side.

I have a million recipes saved for salads, slaws, beans and more, and I switch things up often. But I do have a few go-to recipes that are crowd-pleasers if I need to contribute to a communal meal but are easy to scale down if it’s just our family. And I’ve included here a few newbies that will definitely be added to my list of favorites.

These recipes are mostly light and fresh — an unexpected slaw, a cucumber salad with a twist, a BLT salad that mimics all the flavors of our favorite summer sandwich and a potato salad with bright Mediterranean flavors — but I made an exception for baked beans, one of my very favorite summer sides. My Aunt Sue made a version that I loved as a kid, and I’ve done my best to replicate it, using a pressure cooker to speed things up, but also to avoid heating the kitchen when it’s hot outside.

I promise these five recipes will have your guests or family members reaching for seconds this summer.

Poolside Slaw

Poolside slaw is perfect for mayo and vinegar haters. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

I love all kinds of slaw, but I’m also aware that not everyone is a fan. Some dislike vinegar, others won’t have anything to do with mayonnaise. This fresh, nutty version, punched up with Asian flavors, should please either camp. I also love that you can use up whatever vegetables you have in your crisper. As long as they can be cut in a julienne style, they’re fair game.

— Adapted from

Serves 6-8 as a side


For the dressing:

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
2 tablespoons white miso
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive or a neutral oil
Salt and Sriracha to taste

For the slaw:

4 cups thinly sliced mixed carrots, cucumber, celery, bell peppers, sugar snaps, and/or snow peas
2 cups thinly sliced red, green, savoy, or napa cabbage
1 cup chopped salted peanuts
1 cup thinly sliced scallion (white and green parts)
Handful chopped fresh cilantro, optional
About 1 cup Miso-Sesame Dressing (above)


Combine all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and run until smooth, scraping down sides once. You can also hand-whisk the ingredients in a bowl, but be vigorous so the chunky ingredients smooth out. Taste and adjust ingredients to your preference.

Holding back a little of the peanuts, scallion, and herbs for garnish, add all ingredients to a large bowl and toss with half of the dressing, adding some or all of the remaining dressing to taste. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Sprinkle with reserved peanuts, scallions, and herbs. Serve immediately or refrigerate for a few hours before eating.

Melon and Cucumber Salad

This cucumber melon salad is a snap to make and is a great foil to rich meat dishes. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

My nearly grown children all love cucumbers, but a few of them are against a creamy cucumber salad. They all devoured this super simple salad, though, which can be made with any dense melon. I used a green Galia melon, which made the entire salad a pleasing green hue, but a regular cantaloupe would be great, here, too.

— Adapted from “The Outdoor Cook” from America’s Test Kitchen

Serves 4-6 as a side


2 cups ½-inch cantaloupe or other dense melon pieces
½ English cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced thin crosswise
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pepper to taste


Toss all ingredients to combine. Serve immediately.

Electric Pressure Cooker Baked Beans

The sauce on these beans is less thick and sweet than Bush’s, and that’s the way I prefer it. I like to simmer the beans on the stove while I’m waiting for guests to arrive to further reduce the sauce. Even so, the pressure cooker is much faster than the traditional recipe and doesn’t require you to heat up your kitchen with an oven. Please note that for best results you should soak the beans overnight before beginning.

— Adapted from

Serves 6-8 as a side


For soaking the beans:

1 pound dried navy beans
1 tablespoon kosher salt
6 cups water

For the beans:

6 strips of thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ¾ cup cold water
¼ cup regular molasses (not blackstrap, which can make your beans bitter)
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon soy sauce (I prefer Tamari)
¼ teaspoon (or more to taste) kosher salt
2 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar


Drain the beans in a strainer and discard the soaking water. Rinse under cold tap water and drain well. Soaked beans should nearly double in weight.

Whisk together molasses, maple syrup, soy sauce and 1 ¾ cup cold water in a bowl. Set aside.

Turn the pressure cooker on saute. Add bacon and stir occasionally until the bacon bits crisp, 3-5 minutes. Add onion and freshly ground black pepper, and saute for a minute more. Add garlic, and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Pour the molasses mixture into the pressure cooker to deglaze the pan. Scrub all the browned bits off the bottom and mix them into the onion and bacon mixture. Add ¼ teaspoon salt, 2 bay leaves and soaked navy beans. Mix well and make sure all the beans are submerged.

Close the lid and pressure cook on high pressure for 25 minutes, then allow the cooker to naturally release pressure for 20 minutes. Open the lid carefully and taste the beans. If you prefer them more done, cook them in 5-minute increments so they don’t get overdone and mushy.

Add dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar. Mix well, taste and adjust by adding more molasses, salt or vinegar, according to your taste. I usually end up adding more molasses.

Place in a dutch oven or heavy pot and simmer on the stovetop to reduce the sauce, 20 minutes or until ready to serve. Add more water if the beans get dry.

BLT Salad

A BLT salad with bacony croutons is a crowd-pleaser. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

This salad is great even when tomatoes aren’t in season, because it uses cherry or grape tomatoes, which are tasty even in the winter. If you have some backyard tomatoes or other fresh, local varieties, feel free to chop them up and use them instead. I particularly love the trick of cooking the croutons in the rendered bacon fat for extra flavor.

— Adapted from Bon Appetit

Serves 6-8 as a side


8 slices thick-cut bacon
1 4-ounce piece rustic country-style or sourdough bread
⅓ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
⅓ cup olive oil
Pinch of sugar
¼ bunch or a small handful of chives, chopped
2 romaine hearts, chopped into ¼ to ½-inch pieces, depending on your preference
1 pound cherry, grape or ripe juicy tomatoes, cut into bite-size wedges or slices or halves
1 large avocado, diced


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lay bacon on it in neat rows, overlapping very slightly if necessary. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until crisp. Start checking it around halfway through, flip slices if necessary.

Remove bacon to paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Leave parchment (with bacon fat on it) on baking sheet.

While bacon is baking, tear bread into 1-inch pieces. Don’t worry if the pieces end up in different shapes and sizes. Irregular is good! You should have about 2 lightly packed cups.

Add bread pieces to the baking sheet with the bacon fat, add freshly ground black pepper and move around with tongs to soak up the fat.

Bake bread, tossing once halfway through, until pieces are golden all over and crisp, 10–15 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, whisk ⅓ cup mayonnaise and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a medium bowl. Season with salt and lots of pepper, then slowly stream in ⅓ cup oil, whisking until dressing is thick and emulsified. Whisk in a pinch of sugar; stir in chives.

Place lettuce in large bowl, top with tomatoes, avocados, croutons and dressing. Serve immediately.

Roasted Potato Salad with Lemon and Feta

A potato salad in which the potatoes are roasted instead of boiled is balanced and bright. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

I told family members I was bringing a potato salad recently, and their pleasant surprise when tucking into this fresh, lively salad that roasts the potatoes (rather than boiling) for texture and flavor, ensured that it will be in the regular rotation. Be aware that feta and olives are salty, so you shouldn’t add more than the pinch the recipe calls for when roasting the potatoes.

— Adapted from the New York Times

Serves 6-8 as a side


1½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup roughly chopped pitted Kalamata olives
½ cup chopped fresh dill
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup sliced pepperoncini, roughly chopped
½ cup crumbled feta cheese


Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper, toss the potatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Arrange in an even layer and cook until golden brown and crisp, tossing about halfway through, about 35 minutes.

Let the potatoes cool for 5 minutes, then add them to a large bowl with the lemon juice. Toss to coat, then let cool to room temperature.

Add the tomatoes, olives, dill, parsley, pepperoncini and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the bowl. Stir gently to combine, then sprinkle the feta over the top. Taste and add more lemon, salt and pepper if desired. Serve room temperature or cold.

Related Articles

Restaurants, Food and Drink |

Quick Fix: Thai Lamb Satay takes little effort with premade peanut sauce

Restaurants, Food and Drink |

Recipe: How to make prize-winning Cheese-Stuffed Jalapeños

Restaurants, Food and Drink |

Recipe: This Peanut Butter Fudge has won blue ribbons at county fairs

Restaurants, Food and Drink |

Now open in the former Dari-Ette Drive-In: Boga Ice Cream and Burger

Restaurants, Food and Drink |

Beloved St. Paul Vietnamese eatery Ngon Bistro to close after 16 years

Need help?

If you need support, please send an email to [email protected]

Thank you.