There’s nothing like a good old barbecue. Get your family and friends together, put beers in the fridge, and fire up the grill for dinner. No matter if you’re making barbecue beef, pork, or chicken, here’s a list of delicious appetizers and salads to pair with the meat.
These appetizers and salads for BBQ are so good, they may even outshine your main course! Check them out and include them to the spread the next time you have a crowd in your backyard.
1. French Fries
Who can resist golden brown french fries? Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, they are the perfect complement for barbecue steaks and burgers. Here’s how to make them.
Choose the right potatoes for french fries. The best potato variety for french fries are, from left to right, Russet Burbank, Maris Piper, and Yukon Golds. The starchier the potato, the fluffier the french fries will be on the inside. Russet Burbank works best because it contains the most starch of the three.
Cut the potatoes into ¼ or ½ inch slices. Long potatoes make the best french fries. Using a chef’s knife, slice each potato in half. Lay each half cut-side down on the cutting board. Slice lengthwise into ¼ or ½ thick slices. Then cut lengthwise into ¼ or ½ thick french fries.
Soak the potatoes in salty water. When you’re cutting potatoes, the white coating that accumulates on your chef’s knife and cutting board is starch. You want starch on the inside of your fries, but not on the outside. Pour water in a big bowl. Dissolve 100 grams of salt per 1 liter of water. Add the french fries and let them float for 1 to 2 hours, then take out and dry well with a paper towel.
Cook the fries twice. This is the best trick I’ve found for making french fries. You get french fries that are perfectly crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
- First, fry the potatoes at 350°F or 175°C. The goal is to let the potatoes cook through to the middle, but not take on any color. When a toothpick picks through the french fries with ease, they’re ready to take out. Let them drain and cool on a wire rack or sieve for 15-30 minutes.
- Bring the temperature of the oil to 400°F or 205°C. Fry the potatoes a second time until you get golden brown color. When they’re done, remove from the oil, soak up some of the oil with a paper towel, and season to your taste with salt.
At each step, don’t put all the potatoes in the pan or frier at once. This will lower the temperature of the cooking oil too much, too quickly. Instead, add small batches at a time, let the cooking oil recover temperature for a moment, and continue until enough fries are cooking.
2. Italian Mixed Salad
Simple in ingredients and rich in flavor, the Italian salad is the perfect BBQ salad for a crowd.
Mix spring greens and half-sliced cherry tomatoes in a large bowl. Season with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt. Grate Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano on top and serve.
What are the best greens for Italian salad? My favorite dark greens are arugula, Swiss chard, and baby spinach. If you like the lighter greens, I recommend Endive, Butterhead lettuce, Romaine lettuce, or Iceberg lettuce.
You can also add sliced Prosciutto and Italian olives (ask for Baresane, Cerignola, Castelvetrano, Gaeta or Taggiasca in the Italian deli in town) to your salad.
3. Nachos with Guacamole and Salsa
Through much experimentation and running on the treadmill after, I’ve found that Masa Uno, Santitas, and Mission make the best tortilla chips for nachos. Masa Uno is undoubtedly my all-time favorite. The chips are well salted, perfectly crispy, and sturdy enough to work with a dip.
Whichever brand is your favorite, always buy salted tortilla chips for a good plate of nachos and let the guacamole and salsa add freshness and flavor.
How to make guacamole dip? You’re going to need ripe avocados, diced red onion, diced tomatoes, jalapeño peppers (fresh or picked), cilantro, lime juice, and sea salt. Mash the avocados, add in the other ingredients, mix well, and serve.
How to make salsa dip for nachos? You’re going to need red onions, juicy tomatoes (look for Red Brandywine, Firebirds, or Roma plums in the grocery store), and coriander leaves. Dice the onions and tomatoes and chop the coriander leaves. Mash them to a semi-paste and add lime juice, sea salt, and black pepper to taste. Mix well and serve.
If you’re looking for what to serve at the next BBQ, add these two-dip nachos to your spread. I guarantee you the crowd at your party won’t be able to get enough of them.
4. Fresh Tomato Bruschetta
Head to your local baker and buy a long and crusty French baguette or an Italian stirato bread. If you’re less picky, a baguette that’s crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside from the grocery store will do.
Slice the baguette on the diagonal into half-inch thick slices. Brush each side with extra virgin olive oil. Since you’ve fired up the grill in your backyard, put the baguette slices on the grill. Depending on the heat, the best cooking time can be anywhere between 5 to 10 minutes. This will add a charred taste and smoky aroma to the bread, turning the bruschetta into the perfect appetizer for your BBQ.
Brush the two sides of each baguette slice with a peeled garlic clove as soon as you take it off the grill. Slice sweet cherry tomatoes into small pieces and season them with salt, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. Spoon them onto each bread slice.
You can add coriander leaves or basil leaves to your bruschetta for extra color and herby taste. Also, consider adding olives and fresh mozzarella or provolone cheese to the tomato bruschetta.
5. Charcuterie Board
It doesn’t take much to make an amazing meat and cheese board for your next BBQ party.
The cheeses, meats, bread, crackers, vegetables, and fruit are excellent appetizers for a crowd, especially if you’re serving light beer (like Corona), hard seltzer, or chilled wine (like rosé or white white).
Build your charcuterie board on a wood cutting board. Depending on the size of the crowd in your backyard, you’re going to want a larger or smaller board.
Choose a variety of cured meats and salumi. My favorite cured meats are Prosciutto, Capicola, Bresaola, Pancetta, Guanciale, and Speck. As for salumi, I’d go for Pepperoni, Cacciatore, Mortadella, and Genoa Salami.
Choose a variety of cheeses. Combine hard and soft cheeses to make your charcuterie board diverse in taste and aroma. My favorites are Mature Cheddar, Double or Triple-Crème Brie, Gauda, Ricotta, Fontina, Goat Cheese, Roquefort, and blue cheese.
Add olives and antipasti. Go as diverse as you can when it comes to the olives. I like to add black olives, green olives, and Kalamata olives. You can add whole olives, cured olives, filled olives. Complement with antipasti like seasoned cherry tomatoes and capers, dried nuts, grilled artichoke, and pickled peppers.
Add bread and crackers. If you decided to make the fresh tomato bruschetta, buy more baguettes than you’re going to need for them, brush them with extra virgin olive oil, and grill them for 5 to 10 minutes. Add a variety of crackers and breadsticks to make it easy for your guests to mix-and-match to their taste.
Mix in fresh and dried fruit. Grapes, apricots, and figs are the most common and universal fruit that pairs well with the saltiness of the meats and cheeses. You can also add prunes and other dried fruit to your charcuterie board.
Serve and enjoy as your BBQ party guests can’t move away from your charcuterie board.
6. Mozzarella Sticks
If there’s kids around at your house barbecue, they’re going to love the deep fried mozzarella sticks.
To make mozzarella sticks, you’re going to need a block of whole-milk mozzarella cheese. You want your fresh and watery mozzarella when making pizza and pasta, but dried and low-moisture when making mozzarella sticks.
David Hood from Cook’ n’ Share on YouTube recommends the following way to make mozzarella sticks:
Slice the block of mozzarella cheese into pieces ¾ of an inch thick. Slice them down the center again to turn them into cheese sticks.
Onto your breading station. You need all-purpose flour in one bowl, breadcrumbs in another, and a couple of free-range eggs. Season the breadcrumbs with salt, black pepper, and garlic powder, and stir with a fork to mix the seasonings well.
Beat the eggs well until the eggs whites and yolks have become a consistent mixture (the same one that you’d prep for an omelette).
How to bread mozzarella sticks? The key to the most amazing mozzarella sticks is to bread them twice, so that the shell is thick enough to keep the melted cheese inside.
- Roll each mozzarella stick in flour and shake the excess flour off;
- Take it out and roll it around in the egg mixture;
- Cover it with breadcrumbs;
- Take it out and roll it around in the egg mixture again;
- Cover it with breadcrumbs one final time.
Finally, freeze the mozzarella sticks for 6 to 24 hours before frying. This will make them firm enough My two cents? Make the mozzarella sticks the day before your BBQ party. Take them out and fry them whenever you’re ready to serve.
What’s the best oil for frying? When frying food, you should look for an oil with a subtle taste and high smoke point. The best and healthiest oil to use for frying is avocado oil. It has a slightly nutty, but not obtrusive, taste and a smoke point of 520°F or 270°C.
Add a couple of inches of avocado oil to a pot and heat to 350°F or 175°C. When the cooking oil is hot enough, cook 2-3 mozzarella sticks at a time, adding them one by one. Since the sticks are coming out of the freezer, give the oil a moment to heat up again after each stick. You want your cooking temperature to be consistently high.
Fry each mozzarella stick for 2-3 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when it becomes golden brown.
7. Caprese Salad
Caprese salad is a simple Italian salad with sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves. It’s seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar (or a reduction of balsamic vinegar), and sea salt.
What is the best tomato for caprese salad? Red Beefsteak tomatoes are large, meaty, and juicy, making them a great fit for caprese salad. Heirlooms are also a good variety to use since it’s aromatic and flavorful. You can use a single variety of tomatoes or mix multiple ones for your salad.
Personally, I like to add variety and color to my caprese salad. When I can find them in the grocery store, I buy Red Beefsteak, Heirloom, and cherry or cocktail tomatoes, and mix them in my caprese salad. The result is a salad rich in diverse aromas that tastes incredible.
What mozzarella is best for caprese salad? Fresh mozzarella is best for caprese salad because its softness and wateriness complements the tomatoes well. For an authentic Italian mozzarella, go to the Italian deli in town and ask for Fior di Latte (cow’s milk mozzarella) or Mozzarella di Bufala (buffalo milk mozzarella).
Caprese salad is also fun to make. Arrange the tomato slices and fresh mozzarella chunks on a platter like they do in a restaurant, sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, season with salt to your taste, and add a dozen of fresh basil leaves for a herb flavor.
8. Grilled Asparagus
Grilled asparagus is a great appetizer (or salad?) for a barbecue party. It’s simple, tasty, and pairs well with chicken, beef, or pork.
It’s also incredibly easy to make. Buy a bunch of asparagus from the grocery store. Rinse them in cold water, pat them dry with a paper towel, and season them with sea salt and black pepper or white pepper; whichever you like more.
Cut off the lower part as it’s too tough to eat and chew, leaving about ⅘ or ⅚ of each asparagus for grilling. Put on the grill and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes. Cook until all sides of the asparagus are nicely charred, but there’s still moisture and freshness on the inside.
Remove the asparagus from the grill and serve while still warm. Your BBQ guests are going to fall in love with this semi-appetizer, semi-salad.
9. Prunes in Bacon
This barbecue appetizer comes with the perfect balance of sweetness and softness from the prunes, and saltiness and crispiness from the bacon.
You’re going to need classic cut bacon and pitted dried prunes for this recipe. Cut each rasher of bacon in half lengthwise. Lay a strip of bacon on your wood cutting board, put a dried prune at the top edge and roll.
Make sure to wrap the bacon strip tightly around your prune, then pierce each bacon-wrapped prune with a toothpick to help the strip stay in place.
Put them on the grill or bake them for 10-15 minutes in an oven, preheated to 400°F or 200°C.