Hey there, summer! You’re looking good. While all the smoky grilled meats and cool summer treats tend to get top billing, side dishes can sometimes feel like an afterthought. But with a little inspiration, sometimes the sides can be the star of the show (lookin’ at you, Thanksgiving)! I’ve highlighted 12 flavorful recipes I personally can’t wait to serve up this month, ranging from crisp, fresh salads to indulgent potatoes and baked beans. There’s something on this list for every person, every meat, and every weekend this summer.
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If you garden, chances are cucumbers are taking over your yard right about now. Put that bounty to good use by whipping up a crisp, cooling salad that pairs perfectly with grilled mains, especially spicy ones. This Creamy Cucumber Salad is anything but simple with additional ingredients like chickpeas, lots of fresh herbs and Mediterranean spices.
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Speaking of bountiful gardens, I’m guessing zucchini is about to be your next crop to get out of hand (If you know, you know). To take advantage of the tender summer squash, try this Roasted Corn & Zucchini Salad. Roasting really helps to develop its otherwise watery flavor, and vibrant color makes it a great vegetarian side to serve all summer long. You can even get creative and use it on tacos or as a relish for burgers and hot dogs.
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Summer’s is on full display in this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style Summer Vegetable Salad. More a template than a recipe, you can mix and match the veggies for a salad that adapts with what’s in season (and in your fridge) all summer long. The charred lime vinaigrette pairs well with just about any vegetable I can think of, and really brings the whole dish to life.
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Our own Chef Nigel’s Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, and Asparagus Salad is the perfect way to use up the last of this spring veggie. Crispy prosciutto adds a salty bite, while Cherry tomatoes add a sweet pop and arugula a peppery crunch. This warm salad is easy to whip up but plates elegantly if you’re looking to impress for a summer supper al fresco – plus, it makes for a great light main dish.
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And lastly, we can’t talk summer veggies without mentioning Elotes. Like everyone else who’s fallen in love with this Mexican Street food staple in the last few years, we can’t get enough of the salty, savory, creamy preparation. With corn already being a crowd favorite, this flavorful upgrade is sure to irresistible, even amongst the pickiest of eaters.
Grains + Starches
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Appetizer meets classic side dish with Spicy Southern Kitchen’s Jalapeño Popper Potato Salad. This hearty, delicious side is a showstopper on its own, but it pairs nicely with bold grilled dishes like t-bone steaks, spicy grilled chicken breasts, and smoky barbecued meats.
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And while we love a creamy potato salad, they don’t exactly weather the heat as well as we’d like. If you’re looking for a dish to take to outdoor gatherings without fear of it spoiling out in the sun, try this simple yet sophisticated French-Style Potato Salad. The mustard vinaigrette base tastes great at any temperature, and can actually withstand the summer heat.
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What’s a barbecue without beans?! Ditch the can and make Oh, Sweet Basil’s self-declared Best Baked Beans instead. The hardest part is having patience waiting for the beans to bake for a bit. Pro Tip: If you don’t have or feel weird about using liquid smoke, feel free to omit it. If you still want that smoky flavor (and we think you do), you can use a spice like Ancho chile powder or smoked paprika. If you have a can of chipotles in adobo, add a little bit of the liquid, being mindful that it’s also going to add some serious heat.
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I don’t think I’ve been invited to a summer cookout yet without pasta salad, and I’m not sure I want to be. Pinch of Yum makes a classic Italian Pasta Salad that certainly stands up to all the rest. This is a great dish to make in bulk and serve a crowd or divide into separate containers to take to friends and family while we continue to social distance.
Fruity + Fresh
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Bookmark this Summertime Fruit Salad recipe for when you’re wondering what to do with all the stone fruit in markets later this summer. Perfectly ripe, in-season fruit doesn’t need much to shine, but the tart dressing and sprinkle of fresh herbs makes for a delicious, vibrantly colored dish that feels special.
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There are so many creative ways to use watermelon – have you seen those cakes?! Branch outside of the simple watermelon slices this summer and add this gorgeous Watermelon Salad with Feta & Cucumber to your rotation. Watermelon and cucumber both have a cool, refreshing quality thanks to their high water content, and tangy feta cheese and lemon really make the whole thing pop. We suggest pairing this salad with grilled lamb, chicken or turkey burgers.
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And lastly – calling this a recipe is generous, but hear me out! Brown Sugar Grilled Pineapple is a simple, tasty way to enjoy the tropical fruit. Not only is it sturdy enough for grilling, cooking it over high heat caramelizes the sugars, which really brings out its natural sweetness. Try it on top of a juicy burger instead of cheese for a twist on a classic with a little barbecue sauce or dice it up and use it in salsa. But me? I’ll be eating it as-is while I watch the sun set on another perfect summer day.