Cajun buttered corn on the cob

10 of the best barbecue sides and salads

by Great British Chefs 13 July 2018

It's natural for meat to take centre stage at a barbecue, but no barbecue is truly complete without a hefty selection of sides and salads. We've picked out our all-time favourites, from some of the UK's best chefs and food writers.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

When the stars align for the perfect barbecue, it's a beautiful thing. You need a slice of good fortune for this in the UK, but we get a few good shots at a barbecue during the summer, and it's important to be ready to take advantage when the sun decides to show up for a couple of hours.

When we think barbecue, it's natural to think of the sausages, chicken thighs, steaks and burgers that'll be hitting the grill, but spare a thought for the humble sides. No-one can survive on meat alone – at least not for long – and your guests are going to need some accompaniments to their meaty feast, whether that's a refreshing side salad, or a nice chunk of bread to mop up all their meat juices.

We've pulled together ten of our absolute favourite barbecue sides and salads, from some of the country's best chefs and food writers – take a look below and give them a try!

1. Kansas City baked beans

Though it may not have the oldest barbecue tradition in America, Kansas City certainly has the most diverse, with the sides being almost as revered as meats. Poke your head inside a Kansas City smoker and you’ll see trays of baked beans sitting there, catching juices from overhanging joints of meat and soaking up all that wonderful smoky flavour. You can do the same thing on your home barbecue – just get your wood chips on, close the lid and let your beans smoke away.

2. Cajun buttered corn on the cob

Throwing your corn on the barbecue really breathes some extra life into it – as the corn chars, the sugars inside caramelise and develop lovely smoky flavours. For best results, buy your corn with the husks still attached – that way you can barbecue the corn inside the husks to steam it through, before slathering them in delicious cajun butter. Feel free to finish them back on the barbecue for extra colour and smokiness if that’s how you like them!

3. Cornbread

Cornbread is a vital barbecue side in the American Deep South. The dense yellow crumb is perfect for mopping up meat juices and sauces, loading up with toppings or just enjoying with butter. It can be made sweet or savoury, but Anna Hansen’s fantastic loaf sits somewhere between the two, making it a superb barbecue all-rounder. It’s easy too – just mix your dry ingredients and your wet ingredients and bake for around twenty minutes.

4. Macaroni cheese with basil and garlic

Comforting and delicious, macaroni cheese is one of the all-time greatest crowd pleasers – perfect to break out at a barbecue if you’re feeding lots of hungry friends and family. Tom Aikens’ macaroni cheese recipe is rich and decadent, but he uses bay leaves, thyme, basil, garlic and Dijon mustard, as well as a mixture of Parmesan and Gruyère to take this comfort food to the next level. Finish the whole lot under a grill or in a hot oven to get that vital crunchy topping.

5. Broad bean guacamole

It’s fair to say guacamole has become one of the nation’s favourite side dishes – it’s no longer limited to Mexican dinner parties. We’ll have a bit of smashed avocado with anything if you give us the chance, and barbecue is no exception. Monica Shaw’s broad bean guacamole combines the creamy, silky pleasure of avocado with sweet broad beans – a fantastic pairing, but also one that makes smart use of broad beans when they’re in season. Perfect in a burger or dolloped alongside your favourite meats.

6. Freekeh, cumin-roast artichoke, grilled corn and pomegranate

Peter Gordon’s superb salad combines an array of beautiful aromatics, but is based around two core ingredients – artichokes and freekeh. Take care in preparing your artichokes to preserve the edible parts and stop them from discolouring, and Peter recommends to cook your freekeh in unsalted water, saving your seasoning for the end. The combination of roasted artichoke and chewy, smoky freekeh alongside pomegranate seeds, charred corn, pumpkin seeds and wild rocket is an impressive one, and might just steal the show from whatever’s on the barbecue.

7. Piccolo cherry tomato, watermelon and mint salad

Cold, crisp watermelon is one of summer’s great treats, but don’t pigeonhole it as strictly a dessert thing – watermelon is incredibly versatile and goes well with lots of savoury flavours. This tomato and watermelon salad from Food Urchin is a great example – the watermelon provides crunch and sweetness to the salad, and plays nicely with juicy cherry tomatoes and a simple dressing. Throw in a handful of crushed pistachios and a dollop of goat’s curd and this summer salad makes a refreshing side for a hot summer’s day.

8. Grilled lettuce

Helen Graves knows a thing or two about good barbecue, and her grilled lettuce is a perfect accompaniment to all those charred meats. Grilling lettuce may sound a bit odd, but the smoky flavour really works with the natural sweetness of the lettuce, and Helen boosts things even further with a pair of punchy dressings – a classic caesar and a blue cheese. Best of all, this salad can be thrown together in about half an hour.

9. Root vegetable coleslaw

With rich, fatty meats sizzling away over the coals, you need something tangy and fresh to cut through them. This root vegetable coleslaw does the job perfectly, and can be prepared well in advance. Serve it on the side or stuff it into bread with whatever else takes your fancy.

10. New potatoes with chilli and lime butter

Barbecue season just so happens to convene perfectly with new potato season in this country, and we’re blessed with so many delicious varieties that it makes sense to make the most of them. New potatoes are incredibly versatile – you can give them a quick boil and serve them with salt and butter if you wish – but Shu Han Lee’s recipe takes things a step further, slathering her Pembrokeshire Early potatoes in a fresh chilli and lime butter. Feel free to take her recipe as a guide and experiment – you can tailor your own butter to suit your barbecue.