Much of summer’s fanfare is devoted to the season’s most impressive-looking dishes, like a gorgeous platter of fall-off-the-bone ribs or a tray of bright pink lobster rolls doused in mayo, herbs, and butter.
But what about the side dishes? Every main event needs a bit of support on the sidelines—we’re talking grilled vegetables, grains, chilled soups, pasta salads, and more—to make a meal feel complete.
Here are 87 of our best summer side dish recipes, from grilled corn with basil butter and marinated zucchini to spicy peanut slaw and a no-mayo pasta salad that even pasta salad haters will love. With so many delicious side options to choose from, you’re sure to find a few (or several) to serve alongside your main course all summer long.
This roasted, charred-on-the-edges eggplant gets just the right hint of brightness from the fresh mint and a squeeze of lemon juice, plus a pinch of sugar for balance.
You’ll never eat watermelon the same way again after trying it spiced with cumin and fennel seeds, zingy ginger, turmeric, and a dash of chile powder.
This raw, crunchy salad calls on some of summer’s best produce—sweet corn, red peppers, and crisp cucumbers—and gives them a creamy, herby upgrade with a rich-but-not-heavy buttermilk dressing.
This recipe has you cook the farro with garlic, onion, and parsley, making the grain far more aromatic than it would be just boiled in plain water. Ripe tomatoes, tangy olives, and creamy mozzarella come into the mix to make this salad a worthy side dish, and maybe even a main meal.
Loaded up with green, seasonal ingredients and a silky dressing of citrus and yogurt, this salad is exceptionally easy to make and guaranteed to make you feel good.
This simple sesame noodle salad would be a great match for a fillet of roasted salmon or maybe even some teriyaki-glazed chicken. Vermicelli works best for this one, but any super-thin noodle will do.
This perfect summer salad, excerpted from the James Beard Award–winning cookbook Between Harlem and Heaven by Chef JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls, makes the most of tomatoes at their peak.
Crispy tempeh bacon, roasted-meets-caramelized veggies, and herb-infused olive oil team up for the ultimate warm-weather side that actually gets better as it sits in the fridge.
Our best-ever coleslaw is ready for all your summer BBQs, picnics, breezy backyard dinners, and, yes, eating straight from the container.
We could walk you through how to make this family-favorite potato salad, but you already know how to do it: Boil the potatoes, mix ’em up with the rest of the ingredients, and always go in for a second helping.
Summer fruits are the clear star of this salad—juicy tomatoes and sweet nectarines are an absolute must—though the mozzarella and sweet-tart balsamic reduction are welcome additions.
Roasted chickpeas and za’atar, an aromatic Middle Eastern spice blend, make the perfect match in this vibrant, supremely flavorful salad.
This Genius-approved salad achieves a creamy, balanced, perfectly emulsified vinaigrette—without any mayo or dairy whatsoever. To find out how that magic works, you’ll just have to make it for yourself.
We love any and all panzanellas (who could say no to bread salad?), but we especially love this puttanesca-inspired version with bursts of cherry tomato, capers, and olives.
Turns out, not every hot dog needs a bun to live up to its full potential. Case in point: this grilled romaine dressed in a tangy vinaigrette, which is made all the better with crispy-salty hot dog bites (they’d also be great over just about any veg or salad).
Juicy, sweet summer peaches meet their new favorite savory counterpart—a creamy, umami-packed dressing starring anchovies—in this fruit salad you’ll wish you’d met sooner.
We love the flavor of capers. And to make them taste better than ever, we quickly fried them in olive oil so they get crispy-crackly on the outside and a little puffy on the inside. So much better with juicy heirloom tomato wedges and crunchy cucumbers.
18. Caprese Salad
A Caprese salad can sometimes feel like an afterthought, but it actually can and should be the star of the show in summer. That’s because there will be a plethora of good basil and good tomatoes, so this simple salad will be far from boring.
The inclusion of apples in this raw broccoli salad may feel a little autumnal, so for a more seasonally appropriate side, swap in peaches or plums.
The ripest tomatoes meet the crispiest chickpeas meet the jazziest mayo sauce in this summer side dish. To cook the chickpeas, toss them in a chile mayonnaise and sauté them in a super hot skillet for 15 minutes until browned and crunchy.
Kiwi with the skin on? Yes, it’s happening.
“Kiwis are a great balance of tart and sweet with the added pop of the little black crunchy seeds that make it much more than a lunchbox snack. This is a welcome change from a potato salad at a barbecue,” writes recipe developer Nadiya Hussain.
Anchovies might seem like an unlikely addition to grilled fava beans, but trust us on this one—they make the dish.
These vegetarian-friendly kebabs will never feel like an afterthought for any of your friends with dietary restrictions; they’re stacked with bright, smoky flavors and plenty of heft thanks to the tempeh.
Instead of frying up your okra this summer, toss them on a piping-hot grill and shower them in a zesty, spicy sriracha-lime salt that you’ll want to sprinkle over everything.
Tender, golden-brown eggplant gets a welcome hit of heat from fresh Fresno peppers. The whole dish avoids becoming too spicy thanks to a pinch of sugar and some cooling mint.
These soft-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside flatbreads make an excellent plus-one to all manner of creamy dips, grilled meats, vegetables, and more.
“Chef, author, and activist Bryant Terry may have designed this recipe for asparagus, but it offers a template that will bring any vegetable in your crisper to life,” writes Kristen Miglore, our founding editor and Genius creative director.
Nothing says summer quite like a batch of freshly grilled corn, but a slather of herby basil butter takes this seasonal staple totally over the top.
Herby pesto and citrusy cream over crusty grilled bread makes a foolproof side dish or appetizer for a feast of grilled meats, fish, or vegetables. It also makes an A+ snack.
This grilled watermelon spiked with tequila, chile powder, and cilantro makes an easy (and fun!) side dish, but it could just as easily stand in as a low-lift dessert.
Bok choy shouldn’t just be reserved for stir-frying and sautéing—its mellow flavor really comes alive over the grill. We especially like brushing it with miso butter, which caramelizes just a bit when it hits the flames.
Of this absurdly delicious marinated-then-grilled eggplant, one reviewer said it best: “This was easy and superb. The next day the flavors had married and, after being in the refrigerator overnight, were even tastier.”
You can make this leftovers-friendly salsa after a good day of grilling, but you can also toss those fruits and vegetables over the heat right alongside whatever else you’re cooking up for dinner that night.
The natural sweetness of summer tomatoes gets balanced with a bit of spice and tang, plus a quick flash on the grill. It makes a great appetizer, but would also pair nicely with grilled fish, barbecued beef, or sticky rice.
For smokier, feistier, all-around tastier coleslaw, marinate the cabbage in mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar and quickly blister it on the grill before chopping it up.
This grilled zucchini number will have you saying so long to soggy, bland bean salads for good, thanks to a Spanish technique: escabeche, in which a warm ingredient soaks up flavor from a tangy dressing.
You can never have too many ways to grill up eggplant over summer, and this rendition—glazed with miso and doenjang—is one of our favorites. Pro tip from recipe developer Dakota Kim: Turn any leftovers into a chunky dip by gently blending them in a food processor with a little bit of tahini and olive oil.
Fresh corn on the cob really doesn’t peak until the second half of the summer, but we promise this colorful salad will be worth the wait.
To say that tonnato sauce packs a punch would be an understatement—it’s made with a combination of tuna, tuft, anchovies, capes, garlic, herbs, lemon juice, and olive oil. Because it has so much flavor, we like using it as a dressing for more mild-mannered vegetables (think: tomatoes, lettuce, and beans), which are grilled to achieve a smoky flavor.
Asparagus gets shiny, blistered, and altogether addictive after a quick dip in scorching-hot oil. The dressing and leeks can be prepared a day or two ahead (so easy!), but we recommend serving the asparagus immediately after frying.
If you’ve got a bunch of tahini left over from making hummus, put it to good use in this cumin- and cayenne-spiced cauliflower with toasty pine nuts.
Even traditionalists are sure to love the taste—and texture—of these split pea “meatballs,” served over a creamy yogurt sauce made with pistachios, cumin, and lime.
This side dish (or light dinner) couldn’t be easier to make—you’ll need just one pot and no more than a handful of ingredients, many of which you likely have in your pantry.
This ranch Fun Dip is pretty much guaranteed to make any crunchy-fresh vegetable 100 times more delicious. Bonus: You can use it as a template to make any flavor Fun Dip you’re in the mood for.
Sweet roasted carrots get a bright, zingy kick with a drizzle of gremolata made from sharp, peppery mustard greens, roasted garlic, parsley, and lemon zest.
This is the type of summer-ready side dish you’re going to want to make when you have just 15 minutes to get something on the table and are in no mood for fuss.
Our co-founder Merrill Stubbs couldn’t help but get excited about these goat cheese grits, which she describes as, “Creamy and soft (I add a bit of milk to the cooking liquid), with just the right amount of tang from the goat cheese and a nice hit of heat from coarsely ground black pepper.”
The star of this dish is the crispy, crackly brown rice that’s similar to the golden layer of crust you’ll find at the bottom of a good paella or tahdig.
Put an entire head of broccoli to good use in this creamy, coconutty dish of chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, lively ginger, and a squeeze of lemon.
These simple skillet scallions from the late Southern cooking champion Edna Lewis don’t even need a pinch of salt or pepper at the end—just a few bunches of scallions, unsalted butter, and a hot skillet.
Our favorite thing about these marinated mushrooms—aside from their earthy, bright flavor and tender texture—is the fact that you can make them a whole day ahead of time and still get a delicious result.
There are a million ways to riff on these easy olive oil–braised chickpeas, but one reviewer gave us our favorite idea: adding carrots and ras el hanout.
“An homage to the Greek dish htipiti,” writes That Cheese Plate founder Marissa Mullen, “this whipped feta dip with roasted red peppers is the perfect balance of tangy and savory.” Bonus: You need only five main ingredients.
Watermelon again, for the win! Preserved lemon, creamy feta, and fresh mint transform this simple chilled fruit into something complex and totally addictive.
This zucchini carpaccio is both no-cook and vegetarian-friendly, which is why it’ll quickly become a staple for your summer get-togethers.
Recipe author Hana Asbrink says it best: “I eat this not-recipe throughout the summer when it’s so hot you can barely breathe and you have little to no appetite.”
We love cheese in pretty much any and every form, but we’re particularly grateful for this spoonable, creamy ricotta with fresh herbs, lemon zest, and good-quality olive oil.
This is a guacamole where the avocado really shines—you won’t find much else here besides a bit of white onion, jalapeño, salt, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime for a punch of acidity.
According to one recipe reviewer, this family recipe is “the perfect marriage—one that is layered, interesting, crunchy, spicy, and all-around satisfying.”
A handful of salty, crunchy popcorn makes the perfect addition to a plate of sweet shrimp “cooked” in lime juice with fresh chiles and cilantro.
Use up that leftover rotisserie chicken to make this easy-peasy pesto chicken salad, which makes not only a great side, but a wonderful sandwich or salad topper, as well.
A no-cook side dish that comes together in 10 minutes? Yes, please! Over a bed of salted-lime yogurt is the ultimate summertime trio: watermelon, cherry tomatoes, and Persian cucumbers.
For hummus lovers, this will quickly become your new favorite recipe—that’s because recipe developer Yotam Ottolenghi walks you through how to source the best tahini, explains the benefits of adding ice to the hummus while blending, and makes a case for peeling your chickpeas.
64. White Gazpacho
Sure, you’ve had regular red gazpacho before, but have you tried ajo blanco, made with a paste of blanched almonds and garlic, stale bread that gets soaked, and olive oil? Trust us on this one.
Summer wouldn’t be complete without at least one cup of chowder, and we love this crab and corn version for its comforting flavors and silky texture.
The extra bit of time and effort you’ll need to make freshly cooked posole with roasted peppers pays off 10 times over with this hearty, mildly spicy chicken soup.
Salmorejo, a chilled soup popular in southern Spain, is similar to gazpacho—only it’s creamier, thicker, and way more flavorful.
Lightly sweet with fresh summer corn, yet nutty and rich thanks to the pistachios, this light and bright chilled soup is an essential recipe to keep on hand during the hotter months.
A riff on “Rhode Island Red” soup, this chowder is a perfect mix of Manhattan clam chowder and New England clam chowder, so now you won’t have to pick sides.
If you’re skeptical of the idea of sweet strawberries in savory gazpacho, like we were, then take this reviewer’s word for it: “Well, I’m happy to report it’s a winner in my book.”
This flavor-packed curried coconut soup relies not on chicken or beef stock, but rather on a broth of simmered corn cobs.
This creamy chilled soup has just the right amount of heat and tastes great right out of the blender or food processor. But it’ll taste even better after a day or two in the fridge.
The only cooking you’ll need to do for this dish is the boiling of the spaghetti; all of the vegetables and herbs are served raw with just a bit of salt, pepper, and olive oil.
This laid-back summer pasta is the best way to use up any extra squash you picked up from the farmers’ market.
Crispy-chewy pillows of gnocchi, melt-in-your-mouth tomato confit with garlic, and creamy mozzarella—what’s not to love?
If you’ve got any pasta salad haters in your life, try making them this mayo-free peperonata version—it’s almost guaranteed to turn anyone into a convert.
This pesto isn’t like all the rest: It’s totally free of herbs or nuts. It does, however, call on kale to make a pasta sauce that’s light and fresh, yet still feels satisfying.
PSA: Brie shouldn’t be limited to just a cheese board. It also makes a creamy, lightly tangy addition to pasta with fresh tomatoes, garlic, and chopped basil.
Far from your average macaroni salad, this miso-peanut variation gets its edge from the vinegar and chile-garlic sauce.
A riff on Diane Kochilas’ Genius pasta, this summer-ready pasta stars lots of alliums and green peas.
This creamy pasta wonder would be incomplete without a few dollops of ricotta; according to one review, it makes the dish.
This pasta has so many things going for it—creamy ricotta and unexpectedly deep flavor from the anchovies and mushrooms, for starters—that we’ll be keeping it in rotation all summer long.
We love this Mediterranean-ish pasta side dish (but we wouldn’t go so far as to call it a pasta salad) and we love how the feta plays with the seasonal vegetables like tomatoes and green beans; half of it is melted into the hot orzo, creating a creamy coating, while the other half is reserved for sprinkling just before serving.
No summer cookout is complete without baked beans, but making them yourself can be a time-consuming feat. Luckily, everyone’s favorite multi-cooker—the Instant Pot—makes quick work of tenderizing the beans, and bacon adds a delicious, smoky flavor to the pot.
Green beans are at their best in summer, so we want to appreciate them in all their simplicity. This recipe allows that to happen—they’re quickly sautéed in a combination of butter, garlic, and salt…that’s it!
Give me a thick slice of cornbread and a serving of pulled pork and I’ll be a happy camper.
While burgers and fries might hit the spot at a sports bar or restaurant, when it comes to burgers on the grill on a hot summer day, I’ll take a side of creamy potato salad, please and thank you.
“Just remember to fully chill it on warm summer days before serving it outside. By refrigerating the potato salad beforehand, it can safely hang out in a shady spot for up to a couple of hours” adds recipe developer Josh Cohen.
What summer side dishes will you be serving up this year? Tell us in the comments!
This article was updated in May 2022 by our editors because we can’t wait for summer.