8 Barbecue Sides Perfect For A Potluck


Hosting or attending a potluck barbecue is always an exciting event. The star of the show might be the grilled meats, but the sides can make or break the meal. From classic favorites to unique twists, the right sides complement the smoky flavors of barbecue and bring balance to the feast. Here are eight barbecue sides perfect for any potluck gathering.

1. Classic Coleslaw

Coleslaw is a quintessential barbecue side, offering a refreshing crunch that balances the richness of grilled meats. Made from shredded cabbage and carrots, this salad is tossed in a tangy dressing typically made from mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, and mustard. The creamy texture and slight sweetness of coleslaw make it a perfect match for smoky, savory barbecue dishes. For a healthier twist, consider using Greek yogurt in place of mayonnaise. You can also add a bit of apple or dried cranberries for an extra burst of flavor. Whether served on the side or as a topping for pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw is always a crowd-pleaser.


2. Baked Beans

Baked beans are a hearty and flavorful side that has long been a staple at barbecues. Traditionally slow-cooked with a sweet and smoky sauce, these beans often feature ingredients like molasses, brown sugar, and bacon. The rich, savory flavors of baked beans complement the charred goodness of grilled meats, making them a must-have dish. For a bit of spice, you can add jalapeños or chipotle peppers. Alternatively, for a vegetarian version, omit the bacon and use a smoky barbecue sauce. The depth of flavor and satisfying texture of baked beans make them a potluck favorite that guests will come back to for seconds.

3. Cornbread

Cornbread is a classic Southern side that pairs wonderfully with barbecue. Its slightly sweet and buttery flavor is a perfect match for smoky ribs or brisket. Made with cornmeal, flour, buttermilk, and a touch of sugar, cornbread can be baked in a cast-iron skillet for a crispy crust and tender interior. For a twist, you can add ingredients like cheddar cheese, jalapeños, or even corn kernels to the batter. Whether you serve it plain or with a dollop of honey butter, cornbread is a versatile and delicious addition to any potluck spread. It’s also easy to make ahead and transport, making it a convenient choice for gatherings.

4. Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food and a fantastic side for a barbecue. The creamy, cheesy pasta is a favorite among both kids and adults, and its richness pairs well with the robust flavors of smoked meats. A good mac and cheese starts with a creamy béchamel sauce, blended with sharp cheddar or a mix of cheeses like Gruyère and Parmesan for extra depth. Baking it with a breadcrumb topping adds a satisfying crunch. You can also spice things up by adding ingredients like bacon, jalapeños, or truffle oil. Whether baked or stovetop, mac and cheese is sure to be a hit at any potluck.


5. Potato Salad

Potato salad is a versatile and beloved side dish that’s perfect for a barbecue. The creamy, tangy salad can be made in a variety of styles, from classic American with mayonnaise, mustard, and hard-boiled eggs, to German with a warm vinegar-based dressing and bacon. Red potatoes or Yukon Golds work well as they hold their shape after cooking. Adding ingredients like celery, pickles, and fresh herbs can elevate the dish, providing a balance of textures and flavors. Potato salad is easy to prepare in advance and benefits from sitting in the fridge for a few hours, allowing the flavors to meld together beautifully.

6. Grilled Vegetables

Grilled vegetables are a healthy and delicious side that complement the main barbecue dishes. Seasonal vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, asparagus, and corn on the cob take on a wonderful smoky flavor when grilled. Simply toss them in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill until tender and slightly charred. You can enhance the flavor with a sprinkle of fresh herbs, a squeeze of lemon, or a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Grilled vegetables are not only nutritious and flavorful but also add a vibrant, colorful element to your potluck spread, making them a visually appealing and tasty addition.

7. Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is a versatile and refreshing side dish that’s perfect for a barbecue potluck. Made with al dente pasta, fresh vegetables, and a zesty dressing, pasta salad can be tailored to suit any taste. A classic Italian pasta salad might include ingredients like cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, mozzarella, and a tangy vinaigrette. For a more Mediterranean twist, consider adding feta cheese, Kalamata olives, and a lemon-oregano dressing. The beauty of pasta salad lies in its adaptability; you can add grilled chicken, shrimp, or beans for extra protein, or switch up the vegetables based on what’s in season. It’s easy to make ahead and tastes even better after the flavors have had time to meld.

8. Watermelon Salad

Watermelon salad is a refreshing and unexpected side that’s perfect for summer barbecues. The juicy sweetness of watermelon pairs beautifully with savory and tangy ingredients, creating a unique and delightful dish. A popular version combines watermelon cubes with feta cheese, fresh mint, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. The salty feta contrasts with the sweet watermelon, while the mint adds a burst of freshness. You can also add cucumber, red onion, or arugula for additional texture and flavor. Watermelon salad is not only delicious but also hydrating and visually appealing, making it a standout side dish that will impress your potluck guests.

In conclusion, these eight barbecue sides offer a range of flavors, textures, and colors that will enhance any potluck gathering. From the creamy comfort of macaroni and cheese to the refreshing crunch of watermelon salad, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. These dishes are easy to prepare, transport, and serve, ensuring that your next barbecue potluck is a delicious success.

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