25 Cookout Side Dishes That Will Steal the Show on the Fourth of July
With Independence Day coming up, cookout season has arrived. What are you taking to the park, the backyard, the beach? Burgers and dogs may initially attract a gaggle of grill supervisors, but seasoned cookout attendees know the sides can quickly steal the show. So, don’t get caught flat-footed: After one bite of the salads, slaws and braises below, everyone will enthusiastically ask, “Who made this?”
1. Sesame Cucumber and Avocado Salad
Check cool, creamy and crisp off your list with this Hetty McKinnon dish. A truly no-cook salad, it requires all but 10 minutes to make and provides a lot of textures with very little effort. Any cucumbers will do, but pick up thin-skinned Persian or English varieties if they’re available at your market.
Recipe: Sesame Cucumber and Avocado Salad
2. Buttermilk Green Goddess Slaw
If mayo-based slaws kill your vibe, try one with a creamy buttermilk and avocado dressing. Melissa Clark adapted this recipe from “The Animal Farm Buttermilk Cookbook,” and it will give you a reason that isn’t pancakes or fried chicken to keep buttermilk on hand. Make enough of the dressing, and you can take it beyond coleslaw for other salads or use it as a dip.
Recipe: Buttermilk Green Goddess Slaw
3. Green Bean Salad With Hot Mustard Dressing
Hot mustard powder goes a long way in adding sharpness to a quick green bean salad with a pretty pared-down ingredient list. In this recipe from Kay Chun, the mustard powder is combined with aromatics like minced shallot and ginger for a punchy dressing that you’ll want to keep for tossing with other snappy summer vegetables.
Recipe: Green Bean Salad With Hot Mustard Dressing
4. Southern Broccoli Salad
This classic Southern side marries the sweet (raisins or dried cranberries) with the savory (Cheddar and bacon) on an altar of crunchy broccoli. In her version, Kay Chun briefly blanches the broccoli to maintain its texture while removing some of its tough raw edge. Like the best marriages, this one just gets better with time, so make it a few hours before you plan to serve.
Recipe: Southern Broccoli Salad
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it’s 90 degrees out and you just want a platter of burgers and dogs. For those days, there’s Kay Chun’s simple-as-it-gets coleslaw, with shredded purple and green cabbage and carrots, and just enough creamy dressing.
6. Cowboy Caviar
A cookout is no place for caviar “bumps.” But it is absolutely the place for this exquisitely simple dip, also known as Texas caviar depending on where you’re from. There are many iterations of this tailgate standard, the first of which came from Helen Corbitt, a New York transplant who moved to Texas in 1931. Margaux Laskey’s adaptation includes corn and black beans, but whether you use black-eyed peas or add avocado, it’s sure to be a hit.
Recipe: Cowboy Caviar
7. Smashed Pickle Salad
If you’ve ever wondered what a cucumber salad would taste like if you made it with pickles, Ali Slagle is here with a provocative answer: It’s fantastic. Using pickles in the place of cucumbers eliminates a lot of the seasoning required of a traditional cucumber salad, significantly cutting down the shopping list (and prep time). A win for pickleheads everywhere!
Recipe: Smashed Pickle Salad
8. Mango Slaw
Coleslaw may just be the king of the cookout sides, and this mango-laden twist from Millie Peartree shows why. Crunchy, cool and slightly sweet, the cabbage, carrots and mango shine next to any grilled meat, particularly those with a kick. Save the mayonnaise for your burger buns: All this slaw needs is a bit of lime juice and honey to bring it all together.
Recipe: Mango Slaw
9. Italian Broccoli Salad
Those who thrill to an Italian sub: Turn your attention to this make-ahead salad from Ali Slagle. The flavors of your favorite sandwich transfer beautifully to broccoli florets and shaved stems. Don’t stop at the peppers, olive and provolone, either. The usual cured meats would taste especially great sprinkled over top, as would other protein-packed ingredients like chickpeas or lentils.
Recipe: Italian Broccoli Salad
10. Cucumber Salad With Roasted Peanuts and Chile
Just let the stunning photo above and the ever-forthright readers of New York Times Cooking sell you on this crunchy, saucy salad from Sue Li: “This salad is incredible!” “I’ll be making this over and over again.” “In a word, FANTASTIC.” “I ate the entire bowl and called it dinner.” Readers particularly love the simple peanut dressing, which adds welcome velvety texture.
Recipe:Cucumber Salad With Roasted Peanuts and Chile
11. Roasted Potato Salad With Jalapeño-Avocado Dressing
Somewhere in between a classic mayo-doused potato salad and a three-bean salad lies this light yet filling recipe from Hetty McKinnon. Potatoes, green beans and cannellini beans are tossed in a spicy, dill-flecked dressing that would also make for a delicious dip with crudités.
Recipe: Roasted Potato Salad With Jalapeño-Avocado Dressing
12. Cherry Tomato and White Bean Salad
Pair grilled meat or fish with this bright salad from Lidey Heuck that features tangy red wine vinegar and sharp Dijon mustard. The whole thing will take you only five minutes to assemble, but you’ll want to marinate the alliums in the vinaigrette for 15 minutes beforehand, to mellow their flavor. While the recipe calls for parsley, feel free to swap in any combination of your favorite soft herbs.
Recipe: Cherry Tomato and White Bean Salad
13. Watermelon Chaat
For a side that’s equal parts sweet and savory, make a flavorful (and hydrating!) fruit salad. In this recipe for watermelon chaat, which Tejal Rao adapted from the cookbook author Malika Ameen, toasted cumin seeds and sweet paprika add savory notes, ground cayenne and chopped jalapeño supply heat, and citrus juice and amchur powder, or dried green mango powder, pack a sweet-and-sour punch.
Recipe: Watermelon Chaat
14. Green Goddess Pasta Salad
This pasta salad from Melissa Clark is particularly swoon-worthy, with its creamy dressing, crisp vegetables and plump cheese tortellini. Pasta salad is a bona fide cookout side, sure, but we wouldn’t fault you for eating this version as a lunch or dinner on its own.
Recipe: Green Goddess Pasta Salad
15. Grilled Corn and Avocado Salad With Feta Dressing
After the main event comes off the grill, toss on corn, scallions and jalapeño to make this summery salad from Sue Li. In this five-star recipe with more than 3,000 reviews, the tart buttermilk-feta dressing perfectly balances the flavors of charred vegetables and creamy avocado. Double the dressing to serve with other grilled or roasted vegetables, per one reader recommendation.
Recipe: Grilled Corn and Avocado Salad With Feta Dressing
16. Bacon and Shallot Potato Salad
There’s always an abundance of mayonnaise-based salads at a Memorial Day cookout. Why not bring something a little different? For a side that’s just as good warm as it is at room temperature, look no further than this German-style potato salad from Melissa Clark, which gets its flavor not from mayo, but from whole-grain mustard and bacon.
Recipe: Bacon and Shallot Potato Salad
17. Crunchy Spring Iceberg Salad
Hearty, savory barbecue begs for something refreshing. Look no further than this green-as-can-be salad from Hetty McKinnon, featuring crisp, cool lettuce alongside blanched asparagus and peas. The slightly spicy dressing and the crumbled feta on top offer welcome moments of briny herbaceousness.
Recipe: Crunchy Spring Iceberg Salad
18. Lowcountry Collard Greens
A pot of braised greens is the ideal accompaniment to meat that’s been cooked low and slow in a smoker or on a grill. Don’t rush Millie Peartree’s Lowcountry collard greens, as the longer they cook, the better they’ll taste. And since you took the time to stew greens, be sure to delegate cornbread duty to a friend.
Recipe: Lowcountry Collard Greens
19. Lemon-Tahini Slaw
This creamy slaw can sit out on a sun-soaked table for a few hours without issue — not that it’ll last that long. Ali Slagle skips the more traditional eggs and dairy for tahini and mustard, and has even more flavor with a paste of smashed capers, lemon zest and scallions. The end result is salty, zippy and vegan.
Recipe: Lemon-Tahini Slaw
20. Grilled Corn, Asparagus and Spring Onion Salad
Go from spring to summer with this deeply flavorful salad from Pati Jinich. Grilling the components helps them reach their full potential, making them a little sweeter without sacrificing crunch. To bring it all home, shower it all with a bit of salsa preparada, in this case a mixture of lime juice, soy sauce, Worcestershire, Maggi sauce and chile oil.
Recipe: Grilled Corn, Asparagus and Spring Onion Salad
21. Baked Beans
You don’t need much for a satisfying pot of baked beans, just navy beans, some slab bacon, a little onion, molasses, dry mustard and the most important ingredient of all: time. You’ll probably want to make this recipe from Sam Sifton a day in advance, though you can also always cheat and use canned white beans for similar results in an hour or so.
Recipe: Baked Beans
22. Avocado Salad With Herbs and Capers
What’s one to do with perfectly ripe avocados? Slice them up for this five-star salad from Melissa Clark. If it looks simple, that’s because it is, but you’d never know it from all the work the garlicky salsa verde-like dressing does in the flavor department.
Recipe: Avocado Salad With Herbs and Capers
23. Tahini-Parmesan Pasta Salad
Your favorite pasta shape, when paired with sweet blistered tomatoes and tossed in an umami-rich sauce of nutty tahini and salty Parmesan, is all but guaranteed to steal the show at a potluck. Ali Slagle recommends waiting until you’re ready to eat to dress up the pasta salad with mint, scallions, sesame seeds and more Parm.
Recipe: Tahini-Parmesan Pasta Salad
24. Spicy Corn and Shishito Salad
If you love snacking on blistered shishito peppers drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with flaky salt, you’ll love this salad from Lidey Heuck. In her recipe, the mild peppers are sliced and sautéed before they’re tossed with crisp raw corn and a cumin-lime dressing, and topped with Cotija cheese and cilantro.
Recipe: Spicy Corn and Shishito Salad
25. Grilled Romaine
A simple Caesar salad never disappoints. A grilled Caesar-ish salad, like this one from Sam Sifton, is sure to impress. A quick turn on the grill softens the romaine quarters before they’re brushed with a dressing of made with garlic, anchovies, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, olive oil and cider vinegar, and grilled once more.
Recipe: Grilled Romaine
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