What to Serve at a BBQ: 20 Classic BBQ Foods & Sides



Last Updated: Aug 16, 2022

Barbeques are casual cookouts that take place anywhere outside. Gathering at the beach, in a park, or even in your own backyard to have a barbeque is the perfect way to connect with friends and family. Hamburgers and steaks are traditionally the most common food item thrown on the grill, although there are so many more options for what to serve at a barbeque. From steak to oysters to vegan salad, grab some inspiration from our list of BBQ food ideas.

How much BBQ per person should I cater for?

For the star of the show—the barbeque food items—as a general rule, it’s smart to plan for around 1/4lb to 1/2lb of meat (or meat alternative) per person. This allows for some guests who may be big eaters and also covers you if more guests turn up. Serve generous portions of sides, and you won’t run out of those.

Main dishes to serve at a BBQ

Let’s dive into this collection of creative dishes of which foods to serve at a barbeque. 

1. Steak

grilled tri tip steak with chimichurri sauce

Try serving grilled rib-eye steak, sirloin, or strip steak. And don’t forget to let them rest for 10 minutes after grilling. Serve with steak sauces such as chipotle sauce, black pepper sauce, or even Australian steak sauce.   

2. Sausages

Sausages or hot dogs are always a regular at barbeques. For something a little different, try bratwurst or chicken sausage. Fry some onions on the flat plate, and have some extra condiments like sauerkraut, salsa, or hot sauce to add a twist to the standard hot dog in a bun.

3. Slow-cooked ribs 

Tender, juicy, and covered in sauce, barbeque pork ribs are delicious and always a people-pleaser. They’re relatively easy to prepare and cook, and extra bonus points if you can cook them so the meat just falls off the bone.

4. Burgers

Burgers are another solid favorite, but why not consider setting up a burger station? The fun of building your own burger is everyone can customize their food. Aside from the usual cheese and ketchup, try topping burgers with the following items:

  • Candied bacon
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Caramelized onions
  • Feta or goats cheese
  • Sriracha sauce
  • Blue cheese dressing 

5. Seafood 

For seafood lovers, try grilling oysters, mussels, or shrimp. Most shellfish grills easily and has a sweet, smoky flavor. Try ginger and soy sauce shrimp skewers—they’re delicious with lime dressing. 

6. Pulled Pork

smoked meat assortment beef brisket pulled pork

Pulled pork is mouthwatering and affordable, especially if you slow cook it in barbeque sauce and cook it to a texture that just melts in the mouth. This dish does need to be cooked in the slow cooker first, but then just keep it warm on the grill. 

7. Chicken

For chicken on the bone, salt the chicken ahead of time, and it’ll help retain its juices when cooking. For chicken breast pieces, marinating is the key. Try chicken in all kinds of ways: honey mustard grilled chicken, spicy wings, soy ginger drumsticks, or satay chicken skewers.

8. Vegetarian and vegan options

Although barbeques and vegetarians don’t seem like a good match, there are so many delicious meat-free options to explore. Try grilled marinated tofu pieces, barbequed halloumi, and grilled bell pepper skewers. Grilled cauliflower steaks or grilled acorn squash are a great alternative for the main dish. 

9. Desserts

Yes, you can even barbeque your dessert. Of all the things you didn’t know you could grill, fruit is the one that gets overlooked the most. Try grilled fruit like pineapple or rockmelon slices with coconut ice cream.

Side dishes to serve at a BBQ

Your guests are sure to be impressed when they feast on these delicious barbeque side dishes. Serve up a spread of salads, potato dishes, and veggie-inspired delights.

10. Classic potato salad

Fluffy mashed potatoes with chives in a wooden bowl

You’ll find this classic side at every barbeque. For the perfect potato salad, use Yukon Gold potatoes and add boiled eggs, green onions, dill, chives, sour cream, and mayonnaise. 

11. Summer salad

Create an epic salad to balance out all that meat. Use iceberg lettuce with heritage tomatoes, cucumber, mango, avocado, red onion, feta, and corn, and serve with a lime-cilantro dressing

12. Homemade coleslaw

Homemade coleslaw is way better than shop-bought versions, and it pairs perfectly with burgers and on pulled pork sandwiches. Make with the usual cabbage, carrots, and onions, and add a little dijon mustard and paprika to the mayonnaise dressing for extra zing. 

13. Grilled herbed vegetables

Simply flavored with garlic, herbs, lemon, and olive oil is all vegetables need to be delicious and nutritious. Try grilling eggplant, red bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions. 

14. Cheesy garlic bread toast

Spread garlic butter and parsley inside ciabatta loaves, sprinkle on parmesan and cook under a grill until golden. Then lightly char the outside on the barbeque before serving. 

15. BBQ corn on the cob

Wrap corn on the cobs in foil and throw on the barbeque until tender. If you want them charred, throw them on without wrapping. Brush with chili butter to serve. 

16. Jacket potatoes with sour cream

Homemade Potato Skins

Oven-bake large jacket potatoes rubbed with olive oil and sea salt. Then serve with a filling of sour cream, shallots, and chives.

17. Vegan slaw

Perfect for barbeques, this dairy-free slaw is tangy and delicious. Use shredded red and white cabbage, carrots, and red onion. Cover with a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, and dijon mustard.

18. Vegan potato salad

No plant-based guest should miss out on sampling this classic side dish. Make your classic potato salad vegan by using vegan mayonnaise. Throw in some capers too for some extra bite.

19. Stuffed peppers

Stuff whole red and yellow bell peppers with mozzarella, gorgonzola, cherry tomatoes, rice, and stock. Wrap kitchen string around the stalk to secure and barbeque the stuffed peppers until browned. 

20. Chickpea and cauliflower salad

Another vegetarian delight, this warm chickpea cauliflower salad is sweet and crunchy. Marinate and bake a head of cauliflower and roast the chickpeas alongside it. Toss in tomatoes, lemon juice, and coriander and mix with coconut cream and yogurt for the dressing.

BBQ party planning checklist

Food is always the focus of any event or social gathering, and a backyard barbecue cookout is no exception. For the right type of meat and to get the best cuts for your barbeque, visit the meat counter at your grocery store.

When you’re planning your next barbecue event, save yourself some time and effort and shop all your barbeque food supplies through Instacart. Get convenient, same-day delivery on all of your groceries, snacks, and party platters.



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