A BBQ is all about the food. Sure, the camaraderie and the good vibes play a huge part in making a BBQ great, but let’s not lie to ourselves. We come for the star of the show; the food! When creating your menu, here are some good tips to keep in mind:

Be Mindful of Your Guests

When curating a menu for your BBQ, it’s important to consult the guest list (see, told you it’s important!). Did you invite any friends or family with dietary restrictions? Are you aware of any allergies anyone on the guest list might have? Make sure to include a note asking guests to specify any food restrictions they might have in the invitation. This will allow you to curate your menu to fit everyone’s needs, so that none of your guests feel excluded.

Keep it Simple

When curating a menu, it makes things just a bit easier if you stick to the main categories: appetizer, main course, side dishes, and dessert. This way, your menu is a bit more organized, and preparation is a lot simpler. Choose a few dishes that fit into each category and voila! Your cookout menu is done and you can begin prep.

Stay on Theme

It’s also important to stick to the theme/season of the event when curating a menu. In this case, we will focus on “summer” foods. Foods like burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, etc. You can keep it simple and stick to the cookout basics, or, if you’d like to spice it up a bit, we’ve included some fun ideas to try for your cookout!

Appetizers

Kabob/Skewers

These are classic cookout foods. They’re easy and delicious and the perfect appetizer for any outdoor event! Not only that, but they’re also quite versatile. You could make a grilled chicken kebab or a seafood kebab, or keep it vegetarian or vegan and just use roasted veggies!

Charcuterie Boards

A very popular appetizer, and for good reason. Charcuterie boards are not only delicious, but very fun to make. Gather your favorite cheeses, meats and crackers and arrange them on a platter. Add dips or jams to spice it up a bit. Or, if you’re tight on time, you can buy one premade! The fun thing about charcuterie boards is that you can make one from pretty much anything–meats and cheese or candies and sweets, or all four! For added fun, have any kids at your cookout sit down and create their own mini charcuterie boards!

Chips, Dips & Salsas

A staple in event food, chips and dips are proven time and time again to be one of the best appetizers you could serve. Simple, versatile and delicious.

 

Seafood Platters

Much like charcuterie boards, seafood platters are great because they are simple and light. You could buy a premade shrimp platter that comes with cocktail sauce, or make your own! 

Main Courses

Ribs & Chicken Wings

You can’t go wrong with BBQ ribs and wings! Oven bake them or prepare them on the grill, either way, they are guaranteed to be a favorite. They are a bit messy, though, so be sure to have napkins and wet wipes ready. 

Hot Dogs & Burgers

You can’t have a cookout with hot dogs and burgers. These are a definite staple in cookout cuisine and they’re quite easy to make! Be sure to have all of the condiments your guests might want on their hot dogs and burgers and let them customize them however they’d like. Easy on you, delicious for the guests!

Stuffed Peppers

A delicious vegetarian/vegan option for those who’d like it! Of course, you can stuff your peppers with whatever you please, but if you know you’re going to have some guests who don’t eat meat, this would be a great option to keep meat-free. You can stuff them with rice, chickpeas, mushrooms, or even more peppers! Here is a great vegetarian stuffed peppers recipe, and here is one with chicken!

Side Dishes

Baked Beans

What’s a cookout without baked beans? Not only are they easy, they’re very delicious and can be a safe option for any picky eaters! You can buy the canned version or make it from scratch — whatever you’d prefer!

Coleslaw

This one is an acquired taste. While coleslaw might not be everyone’s favorite, this coleslaw recipe will be a favorite for those who do enjoy it!

Salads

Potato, pasta, fruit–you name it. The versatility of salads put them in a league of their own, really. They’re easy enough to prepare and a very refreshing side dish for your guests! 

Elote

Also known as Mexican street corn, this dish would be an amazing option to serve at your cookout. Not sure how to prepare it? Here is a simple recipe to follow!

Desserts

Banana Pudding

This dessert is so good that even I, a person who vehemently despises bananas, love it! A definite staple for any cookout!

  1. Strawberry ShortCake

Sweet and refreshing, this strawberry shortcake is sure to be a fan favorite at your cookout!

  1. Ice Cream

If you’re up to it, you can make it homemade, or buy a large gallon of it to serve. And don’t forget the cones and the sprinkles!

  1. Water/Shaved Ice

A summertime classic, and a perfect cold dessert for anyone who might not be able to eat ice cream! They’re easy to make, but if you’re not sure, here is a simple recipe!