For the love of Summer, warm weather, and the great outdoors! Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day, all share a common denominator - food with friends and family. Here you will find fabulous cookout food ideas that include plenty of main and side dish recipes, appetizers, salads, cocktails, and desserts, everything you need to plan your Summer get-togethers.
The opportunities are almost limitless to gather with family and friends between May and September with picnics, cookouts, parties, graduations, holidays, and backyard BBQs. They all provide a relaxing setting for enjoyable connections where laughter, conversation, and delicious food join together.
What Kinds of Food are Best for a Cookout?
There are so many options to choose from when planning a cookout or deciding what to take to one. Here you'll find 32 wonderful varieties of recipes to throw on the grill from T-bone steaks to burgers. Also, there are a couple of salad ideas to toss together, a watermelon salad and a Mediterranean pasta one. Quick and easy side dishes that range from asparagus bundles to scalloped potatoes. Appetizers include make-ahead artichoke dip and the popular Jalapeño poppers, plus several more. All kinds of sweets range from cherry cheesecake to lemon bars. And you cannot forget the beloved cocktails that are perfect for the Summer, from Limoncello margaritas to berry-infused Mojitos.
So, let's begin our little cookout food and cocktail ideas journey.
Main Dish Recipe ideas
There's nothing like firing up your grill and throwing on some juicy thick T-bone steaks. Topped with blue cheese butter, this cut of beef is a mouthwatering plate of deliciousness. It’s time to sit back on your shaded deck, relax and enjoy a delectable steak this evening. In my opinion, this is the true essence of Spring and Summer!
These Grilled Turkey Burgers are some of the juiciest and tastiest you’ll find anywhere. Onion, garlic, spices, and herbs permeate the meat to enhance the turkey’s overall flavor. I’ve also added Rotel to the recipe which gives it a subtle little kick. If you were like me and wrote off turkey burgers for good, please give these a try. They will not disappoint. Throw them on the grill for a Memorial Day celebration with friends and family.
Add some spice to your life by trying this Grilled Beef Satay with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce. There’s a kick in both the marinade and the peanut sauce. The sauce, although it brings a little heat, adds a creamy, cooling influence to the dish. If you don’t like too much heat, you can taper down the hot chili sauce and the crushed red peppers. This is a great option for a backyard cookout and is easy for a large group because these can be made ahead of time and thrown on the grill whenever ready to serve.
This Boston Butt Pork Roast is cooked low and slow in a crockpot for 8-10 hours for this Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe. You will be in awe at how tender, juicy and flavorful this cut of meat comes out. Add homemade coleslaw with pickled red onions and you have the perfect sandwich to bring to any picnic.
Sweet and Spicy Peppadew Jam adds a nice kick to these lean Bison Burgers. Top them with a sunny-side-up egg and you have one of the best burgers in town. Your taste buds will thank you along with all the people celebrating the Fourth of July holiday with you.
Ham and Cheese Crescent Rolls that are soft and fluffy will win the day at any graduation party this season. These homemade rolls are made from scratch and wrapped around black forest ham and Swiss cheese. I guarantee you’ll end up with an empty platter once you set them out for guests. The buttery go-to appetizers are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. They can be made ahead and served at room temperature.
The Best Sides to Serve at any BBQ or Cookout
A quick pasta salad that brings all the flavors of the Mediterranean to you in one easy dish. Along with farfalle pasta, texture is created by adding kalamata olives, grape tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, feta cheese, and my favorite, the crunch of pine nuts. Topping the salad is a lovely Greek Vinaigrette that dramatically influences all the other ingredients. If you are looking for a great salad for your next BBQ, this is your go-to recipe.
Tender sliced potatoes swim in a luscious cream sauce that is flavored with garlic, onions, and thyme. These homemade Scalloped Potatoes have layers of melty sharp cheddar cheese that are absolutely divine. Comforting is its best characterization. The recipe is really simple and will be the hit of any backyard party you're planning.
Charred to perfection, these smoky grilled sweet potatoes become the ultimate summertime side dish. Dusted with a simple coating of smoked paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper heightens the sweetness of the potato and makes for a flavorsome orange “sugar” spud. The highlight of this dish is found in the Roasted Tomato & Garlic Aioli sauce.
If you are looking for a non-traditional side dish or appetizer to compliment any cookout gathering, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus is a great option. This is a super easy, make-ahead dish to go alongside salmon, chicken, steaks, or pretty much any entree you’re serving. And of course, the prosciutto is what literally holds the dish altogether.
This buttery-cheesy Hasselback potato recipe ring is full of herbs, onions, and garlic and it’s brimming with flavor. An abundance of butter and melting cheese seep down into the grooves for an incredibly delicious side dish to any meal. The slices of potatoes are arranged as a ring in a cast-iron skillet and then baked in the oven or on the rill until they are superbly tender.
Watermelon Arugula Salad with Feta is a great summertime choice that is quick and easy to throw together. A refreshing side dish with a variety of flavors that enhance the overall taste. The tanginess of feta cheese and the sweet-piquant taste of the pickled red onions pair perfectly with the watermelon, arugula, and mint. To top it all off, drizzle a simple white balsamic vinegar and poppyseed dressing.
Oh, the taste of summertime – Potatoes and Onions on the Grill wrapped up nice and neat in a “throw-away” foil packet, making clean-up a cinch. This no-fuss side dish is seriously one of the best recipes for a cookout. Flavored with garlic and fresh rosemary, these enticing spuds are slightly charred which delivers a smoky characteristic throughout.
Appetizers to make for any Grilling Event
No backyard bbq is complete without a spinach artichoke dip recipe. And I've got the perfect one for just that. A golden-baked dip that is abounding in flavor and overflowing in gooey goodness. Loaded with goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, and parmesan, this dip will prove to be the life of your party or get-together. And of course, the spinach and artichokes give it texture and depth of character. It’ll have your guests begging for more.
Baked Jalapeno Poppers know how to bring some heat to a party. These bad boys are overstuffed with cheese and wrapped with thick center-cut bacon to make an indulgent appetizer for any get-together. This recipe makes 24 extra-large poppers. But still, that might not be enough for your ravenous guests. A warning Label is attached: Extremely Addictive.
Plump and juicy chicken bites that are coated with crispy panko breadcrumbs. These small nuggets marinate overnight in a seasoned buttermilk brine that enhances the flavors and makes them beyond tender. There’s no way you’ll be able to eat just one of these Crispy Baked Parmesan Chicken Bites.
Crispy. Chewy. Cheesy. Oh, and BACON! Of course bacon. An everyday, ordinary breadstick is transformed into an extraordinary indulgent appetizer. When these twisted Cheesy Breadsticks Wrapped in Bacon are dunked in your favorite marinara sauce, they’re not only brought to the party, they then become the party.
Crispy thick-cut bacon!! The kind, while cooking, fills your home with an enticing aroma that can only be satisfied by a piece of that salty goodness landing on your tongue. What could possibly be better? Maybe … a strip smothered with brown sugar, honey, and bourbon. Candied to a perfect gooeyness yet still keeping the crunchy crackle of the bacon itself.
These Feta and Spinach Puff Pastry Appetizers are loaded with savory flavors of garlic, green onions, artichokes, and salty cheeses. It is a buttery puff of goodness that just about melts in your mouth. Simple make-ahead finger food that your guests will devour.
Sweets and Desserts for the Ultimate BBQ
A ridiculously decadent dessert with a layer of whipped cream filling atop a smooth and creamy cheesecake. It’s crowned with a topping that’s bursting with tart cherries. All of this rests on a buttery graham cracker crust. This made-from-scratch cherry cheesecake is a pure delight for any guests you are serving.
The blending of a rich dark chocolate cake and the creamy deliciousness of peanut butter frosting makes for the most amazing Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes in the world. If you love chocolate and peanut butter (and who doesn’t), you’re gonna go bonkers over this outrageous sweet snack. There’s even a little peanut butter surprise tucked in the middle of this wonder.
The classic lemon bars are elevated to a scrumptious new level with fresh strawberries swimming atop the lemon filling. The sweet but tart taste and added texture of the cooked strawberries enhance the citrusy layer of goodness. All of this rests on a light and buttery crust that serves as the base for a delicious summer dessert. I give you Strawberry Lemon Bars! If you loved these, try my Lavender Infused Lemon Bars.
The foundation of this Puff Pastry Apple Galette Recipe is the flaky, buttery puff pastry crust that is simply delectable. The sliced apples themselves sit in a sweet ground almond mixture. They are coated with an amaretto sauce and are baked to perfect tenderness. The flavors of cinnamon, amaretto, and caramel highlight this gorgeous display of deliciousness.
A deliciously rich and moist four-layered Chocolate Raspberry Cake is the perfect decadent dessert for any Summer gathering. Four layers of dark chocolate cake, creamy chocolate frosting, and a luscious raspberry filling. The entire cake is frosted with a silky ganache that envelops this gorgeous masterpiece. It is pure indulgence!
Last but not Least - Cocktails to Celebrate the Summer
This Margarita Cocktail Recipe is a citrusy classic that adds a new refreshing twist with homemade limoncello liqueur. The perfect summertime, “relax-on-your deck with friends” kinda drink. The core of this sweet-tart limoncello libation is frozen limeade, freshly squeezed lemons, orange liqueur, and of course, the thing that makes a margarita, the beloved tequila.
This Mojito Cocktail Recipe is a wonderful summertime libation that highlights a raspberry and blackberry-infused white rum. This delightful cocktail hints at a tartness of fresh lime juice and muddled mint leaves. An impressive but simple mixed drink displaying layers of refreshment as you laugh and enjoy friends and family while grilling out.
Happy Hour just got “happier” with this Thyme Infused Grapefruit Vodka Cocktail. Splash in some freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, good vodka, and Campari and you have the making of a relaxing evening sipping a refreshing libation. The thyme infusion is found in the simple syrup which kisses this drink with a tinge of sweetness.
A Moscow Mule Drink is the quintessential summertime cocktail. This recipe takes the classic Mule and gives it a twist with the taste of cucumber. Cold, refreshing, and light, this is the perfect happy hour drink for any time. Ginger beer brings the taste of freshly squeezed ginger along with a sweet spiciness to your party. And of course, the tart lime juice enhances everything about this drink. It’s time to slow down, kick back and relax with a little bit of “happy.”
This Tropical Cocktail will transport you to a sandy beach soaking up the sun somewhere in the Caribbean. Coconut rum and coconut simple syrup add a sweet, smooth, and creamy coconut taste to this summer drink. Muddled mango, kiwi, and pineapple deliver fresh delight with texture and taste. Kick off your shoes, pull up an Adirondack chair, and relax with this refreshing ray of sunshine in a glass.
A classic cocktail is elevated to new heights with this Tequila Sunrise Prosecco Mimosa recipe. This, at present, is my all-time favorite alcoholic drink. Dazzling with beauty and bursting with citrusy, bubbly effects, this cocktail will be the hit of any upcoming cookout you are planning.
Dress up any happy hour party with this boozy sangria created from full-bodied red wine, and brandy, and highlighted with fresh-squeezed oranges, lemons, and limes. A splash of ginger ale tops the drink with a bit of effervescence. But the supreme delight of this pitcher cocktail is the wine-saturated fruit you get to eat when the glass is empty. This will definitely be a crowd-pleaser for your cookout pleasure.
Enjoy this Summer season of warm weather, cool breezes, and lots of grilling with friends and family. Cookouts are meant to be resplendent with good food, laughter, and lots of love.