Whether you’re celebrating a holiday or just having a fun afternoon with friends, good cookout food can make all the difference in whether or not your party is a success.
Whether you’re into traditional grilled goods, cool and creamy sides, or decadent desserts, this list should have something perfect for your next cookout.
I’ve tried to include a wide range of options to please everyone, from the most die-hard meat eaters to those with vegan, gluten-free, or low-carb dietary restrictions.
You’ll find a few staples for outdoor gatherings, such as potato salad, BBQ chicken, and ribs.
However, I’ve also provided a few less common, more out-of-the-box suggestions like grilled watermelon and grilled apple crisp.
So sit back, enjoy, and let the summertime vibes wash over you as you peruse this list of super yummy recipes.
Everyone knows that thick, juicy hamburgers are a must-have at any cookout.
However, despite how omnipresent they are, they don’t do the vegetarians at the party much good.
These grilled mushroom burgers, on the other hand, will be a massive hit with your veggie-loving friends.
The thick, tender portobello mushrooms are perfectly seasoned, grilled for that delightful smoky flavor, and added to a bun with Swiss cheese and all your other favorite toppings.
These grilled veggie skewers are another special treat for the vegetarians in your circle, but they’re so outstanding, everybody will want one… or two… or three…
You can use whatever veggies you like, but the combination of red, yellow, orange, and green bell peppers, red onions, and zucchini features plenty of vibrant, lovely colors and tastes excellent.
Plus, the garlic herb sauce you’ll use to coat each skewer is so good, you’ll want to drizzle it over everything in sight.
I’ve tried plenty of recipes for macaroni salad over the years, but I always seem to keep coming back to this one.
It’s quick and straightforward to make, includes plenty of healthy veggies, and is smooth, cool, and creamy.
With only three ingredients – pineapples, brown sugar, and canola oil – you can make a delightful side dish that’s sweet, tart, and just a tiny bit smoky.
These grilled pineapples are the easiest things in the world to make, and half the total time involves just letting them sit in the brown sugar!
You’d think grilled watermelon would be just like grilled pineapple, right? Nope. It’s much, much more.
You will grill the watermelon, but then you’ll pile it high with onions, peppers, corn, garlic, avocado, and more.
The contrast between sweet and savory is beyond delicious.
Grilled potatoes are like potato wedges, but they’re much better.
For one thing, they’re unbelievably crispy. They also have a lot more seasoning.
You’ll coat each slice of red potato with olive oil and a mixture of rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
I usually add a dash of garlic, as well.
Each bite is a little taste of herb heaven, and if you aren’t careful, you’ll eat a dozen or more before you can stop yourself.
7. Potato Salad
Not to sound too much like an art professor, but good potato salad is a study in contrasts.
It’s crunchy and creamy, savory and slightly sour, and salty and a little spicy.
This recipe has all that and more. I’m not a huge fan of the hard-boiled eggs in mine, so I know you can leave them out without sacrificing much taste.
It will lose some of its unique texture, though.
Grilled barbecue chicken is a staple of most cookouts, so I added this somewhat generic recipe to help you cook it perfectly.
Of course, this recipe is more about getting the meat tender, juicy, and well-seasoned.
You can, of course, use whatever kind of barbecue sauce you like to tweak the flavor.
I love this dish because it’s so colorful and creamy, and although it’s delightfully savory, there’s a hot kick to it, as well.
It’s also relatively easy to make. All you need is corn, olive oil, salt, pepper, bacon, cream cheese, jalapenos, sour cream, and cheddar cheese.
Whether you grill corn in its husks or with the kernels flat against the grill, it isn’t hard to make.
You can make grilled corn that will easily rival any made on the stove with nothing but olive oil and butter.
Most veggies taste pretty good when you cook them on the grill. Grilled green beans, though, are phenomenal.
I like a plate of steamed green beans just as much as the next person, but throw a few on the grill, and it’s hard for me to make myself share.
They taste almost like an entirely different food when grilled – incredibly tender, with a complex flavor that’s somehow salty, tart, sweet, and smoky all at once.
12. Beer Can Chicken
Beer can chicken might be the moistest, juiciest, and most tender chicken you can make. It’s certainly one of the most flavorful.
It takes about 90 minutes to cook but only 10 to prepare and most of that work goes into making the rub.
While you’re at it, you may want to make two because one won’t last long.
What could be better than seven-ingredient pork chops that you can fix in 15 minutes?
If you said not much, we’re on the same wavelength.
Start by coating each pork chop in olive oil, then add the homemade seasoning made from garlic powder, salt, parsley, minced onion, and basil.
Toss them on the grill and cook each side for about 5 minutes. The result is thick, herb-y, succulent pork chops that practically fall off the bone.
14. Grilled Hot Dogs
You’re probably thinking, “Everyone knows how to make hot dogs. Why would she add that to the list?”
I added them because not everyone knows how to make hot dogs like this. The secret is in the marinade.
Slice them and let them sit overnight in a mixture of chili sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, brown sugar, salt, and pepper.
When you grill and serve them the next day, you won’t believe how different (and delicious!) they taste.
This smoky but refreshing salad takes 20 minutes to make and requires only the tiniest amount of cooking.
After sauteing the watermelon, all you’ll have to do is assemble everything.
The salad is fresh, zesty, and super tasty.
If you’re making coleslaw, why not go all out and make copycat KFC coleslaw?
It’s cold and creamy, but the carrots and cabbage remain fresh and crunchy.
It’s pretty zesty but stops just short of being outright sour, just as coleslaw should.
If you like your coleslaw sweet, stick to the three tablespoons of sugar. Otherwise, you might want to dial it back just a bit.
Both fried and baked chicken wings are yummy, but if you want to ensure your wings are extra crispy, juicy but not greasy, and remarkably tender, use your grill instead.
You’ll only need four simple ingredients – wings, salt, pepper, and olive oil – but you can add a few optional ingredients to achieve a specific flavor.
Grill them for about 20-25 minutes, then serve them with your favorite dipping sauces.
18. Broccoli Salad
If you’ve never had broccoli salad, you have no idea what you’re missing. It takes about 15 minutes to make and requires zero cooking.
The broccoli, onions, cheese, and bacon give it a hearty, earthy flavor, but the sugar, grapes, and raisins add a wonderful sweetness that even the kiddos love.
If you have picky vegetable haters in your crew, this is almost a surefire way to get them to eat their greens.
19. Smashed Potatoes
These four-ingredient smashed potatoes take less than an hour to make, and you can fix them on the grill or in the oven.
The recipe recommends using a Traeger smoker, but if you don’t have one, that’s okay.
They’ll taste just as good, though maybe less smoky, fixed another way.
Their outsides are McDonald’s French fries crispy, and the insides are soft, tender, and silky smooth.
They taste marvelous as they are, but you can add some garlic powder for extra flavor if you like.
Delicious smoked ribs take some serious time to cook, but oh man, are they worth it in the end. This recipe is pretty close to perfection.
The Traeger sauce and rub, yellow mustard, maple syrup, and apple juice give the ribs a sweet, smoky flavor with just a hint of tanginess underneath.
The sauce crisps up a little around the edges for a bit of traditional BBQ crunch, but the meat is slide-off-the-bone tender.
21. Grilled Shrimp
Grilled shrimp is incredible because you can cook a pound of the stuff in less than 20 minutes.
Plus, thanks to all the seasonings, they’re super flavorful.
Also, they’re low in calories, fat, and carbs and pretty high in protein. Shrimp are awesome.
22. Three Bean Salad
Three bean salad is as beautiful as it is tasty. It has so much color from the green beans, red kidney beans, tan chickpeas, and white and purple onions.
The apple cider vinegar/olive oil mixture adds a nice, shiny coating to everything that makes it look even nicer.
Oh, and yes, it tastes fantastic – light, fresh, and just a tad zesty.
I was hesitant to try this at first because it didn’t look super appetizing.
But my friend made it, and I didn’t want to be rude, so I risked it. I was shocked at how good it was!
It has a bright, bold taste that’s tangy and just a bit salty.
Every so often, I’d get a red pepper-heavy bite, and that added a bit of spice, as well.
Naturally vegan-friendly and gluten-free, this dish is one you won’t want to pass up, especially if you’re looking for ways to eat lighter and add more healthy fats into your diet.
These rich, creamy avocado halves are grilled and stuffed with a filling of onions, garlic, cherry tomatoes, and more.
They’re spicy, filling side dishes perfect for those hot summer cookouts.
You can make crispy, tender, grilled asparagus with only five ingredients in less than 10 minutes.
Grilled asparagus is one of the easiest side dishes you can make, and its smoky, earthy flavor is the ideal complement to any main course.
26. Grilled Apples
Looking for a light, healthy dessert you can make on the grill?
Buy a dozen or so Granny Smith apples, slice them, cover them in honey, cinnamon, and brown sugar, and start grilling.
They’re a lot like baked apples, but grilling them gives them an extra touch of smoky flavor that everyone loves.
Every year as a child, I always looked forward to that first summer cookout of the year.
It was usually Memorial Day for my family, although some years we didn’t break out the grill until the Fourth.
It wasn’t the food or the chance to get together with my family that had me so excited about it, though. Nope.
It was my grandmother’s homemade lemonade. This recipe is like a blast from the past; it tastes just like hers.
I don’t care what anyone says; you don’t need all that fancy stuff for a good glass of lemonade. Lemons, sugar, and water are all it takes.
If you genuinely want to make “the best homemade lemonade,” this recipe is the one you’ll want.
28. Fruit Salad
Fruit salad always makes a good cookout dessert.
But fruit salad with additional peach pie filling? WOW! It makes the whole thing so much sweeter.
Apple crisp is one of my favorite summer desserts, but I had no idea you could make it on the grill until I found this recipe!
You’ll only need seven ingredients – apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, brown sugar, and butter – and it takes 15 minutes to prep for the grill.
Grilling it makes the apples so soft and tender, and the crust remains crispy and crumbly.
If you want to go all out, make some homemade vanilla ice cream to go on top. Yum yum.
30. Grilled Bananas
Grilled bananas are a simple, vegan-friendly dessert that takes only 20 minutes to make.
Because they share similar seasonings, they taste a lot like baked apples.
The bananas are softer and more tropical, and the ginger gives them a bit of a unique bite that sets them apart even further from the orchard-fresh taste of the apples.
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