15 Summer Side Dishes You Need

Looking for summer side dishes using the best produce of the season? We’ve got your back: here are all the recipes you need.

Summer side dishes

Summer is all about gathering: potlucks, cookouts, and simple relaxed patio parties. There’s a magic in the air when vibrant heirloom tomatoes and massive bags of corn on the cob appear in the farmers markets. So what to do with all this beautiful summer produce? When tomatoes, corn, blackberries, blueberries, eggplant, cucumbers, peppers and zucchini abound: make these summer side dishes!

Each of the recipes below are a tried and true recipe that Alex and I have made time and time again. And we’re not joking when we say: summer is the most exciting time to be in the kitchen! With so much produce to taste and try…what are you waiting for? Let’s get to these summer side dishes, shall we?

Ready for our top summer side dishes?

What makes Mexican grilled corn so irresistible is the contrasts of flavors and textures. You’ve got the sweet corn, charred to smoky perfection on the grill, then the creamy mayo and sour cream sauce, seasoned with chili powder, garlic powder and cumin. It’s topped with chunks of feta or queso fresco cheese. Serve it with tangy lime and cilantro, and the crunch of the corn against the creamy, messy sauce is pretty much to die for. It's tied for one of our top summer side dishes...ever.

We’re getting a little hungry now…

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Ahh, beautiful summery ripe tomatoes. Is there anything better? It doesn’t feel like summer until we’ve had a savory sweet bite of an heirloom tomato. This summer side dish is all about simplicity: just tomatoes and herbs, marinaded in balsamic and olive oil for 30 minutes. And once you taste it: it’s truly one of the best ways to use ripe tomatoes you’ll find.

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This salad is classic and chic: ripe blackberries or blueberries, baby greens, soft goat cheese and smoked almonds bring a nuance of flavor that’s extraordinary for the amount of prep time required. Top it off with our famous creamy Best Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing. Alex and I dreamed up this salad, and upon first bite, both declared “Wow.” It's one of our favorite tasty and healthy summer side dishes.

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What makes this the best zucchini bread recipe? Both applesauce and zucchini stand in for some of the oil. This makes the texture perfectly moist, but not too oily. With 1/4 cup of oil for the whole loaf, that’s less than 1 teaspoon per slice!

Another one of our secrets is using turbinado sugar, which gives it an almost caramel-y flavor. And it’s seriously scented with cinnamon: it makes for just the right amount of spiced goodness.

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Ready for the best summer side dishes to hit your plate? Because man is this Grilled Caesar Salad tasty! It sounds a little strange, but grilling romaine lettuce infuses it with an incredible smoky flavor that is irresistible. Think about how good Caesar salad is, for a moment. OK, now imagine it GRILLED: it takes it to a whole new level! Top it off with our creamy homemade Caesar dressing, and it's a little bit of heaven.

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Can there be a recipe that’s too simple to write down? We hope not, because this one might be one of the simplest summer side dishes there is. But though it’s easy to make, it’s truly one of the greatest taste treats known to man.

The mozzarella tomato basil salad is a thing of glory, when the summer tomatoes are the juiciest and the summer basil is bushy and prolific. Also called Caprese salad (salad from Capri, Italy) it’s the dish of the season.

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Are you cauliflower addicts like we are? These days there are so many creative ways to eat this tasty cruciferous vegetable. And as a summer side dish, might we recommend this grilled cauliflower recipe?

Grilling infuses a smoky flavor into the cauliflower: and painting it with our tangy Homemade BBQ Sauce puts it over the top. We serve it as a side dish, but it would also be perfect in a sandwich like our Grilled Buffalo Cauliflower Sandwich.

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Though it looks a little like rice, orzo is actually a small pasta in the shape of rice! It’s often used in Mediterranean-style recipes like Italian and Greek cuisine.

This Greek orzo salad is one of our favorite summer side dishes that harnesses the flavors of Mediterranean. It's got salty feta cheese, Kalamata olives, and of course, powerhouse herbs like mint and dill!

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What's a list of summer side dishes without a bean salad? The secret to the flavor in this easy bean salad is the dressing: it’s made with a bit of tomato paste and ketchup, so it has an unexpected earthy undertone. And adding feta cheese brings in a savory flair! Finally, the combination of green onions and chives adds just the right amount of complexity. Oh -- and you can whip it up in just 15 minutes.

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Have you ever tried a peach salsa? If not, you’re in for a treat!  Not only is the blend of the sweet juicy peaches with the spicy red onions incredibly delicious, but it’s quite versatile. You could serve it with chips or crackers as an appetizer. It’s the perfect peach salsa for fish, or in a burrito or taco. With tortilla chips, it's one of our go-to's for summer side dishes!

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Is there anything more refreshing than a watermelon salad? This one features juicy watermelon, salty feta, cucumber, fresh basil, and lemon zest. This summer side dish is truly easy: it’s just matter of chopping a few ingredients and throwing them together on a platter. It’s a fantastic accessory for summer cookouts and potlucks!

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What's more classic in a list of summer side dishes than a potato salad? This No Mayo Potato Salad really is the best potato salad we’ve had. It tastes like your favorite deli counter potato salad, but more vibrant and delicious because it’s a healthy potato salad that’s made from all real food ingredients. Some of our secrets? Yellow mustard and lots of pickles.

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Did you know the easiest way to cook is corn on the cob is in the oven? This one is a game changer. There's literally no prep time: you don't even need to husk it! Throw it on the oven grates to roast and it comes out beautifully moist. Said a recipe tester, "This is heaven! The corn was cooked perfectly." It's one of our most low maintenance summer side dishes.

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This cucumber salad with vinegar is everything summer! Did you grow up with the tradition of eating it? It’s perfect for everything from summer potlucks to patio barbecues to picnics. And it accessorizes perfectly with everything from salmon to a grilled burger. The thinly sliced cucumbers and onions are salty, tangy, and lightly sweet all at once, and totally addicting. And it's vegan, plant-based, and gluten-free, so it works for lots of diets too. 

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This Creamy Coleslaw recipe is perfectly balanced in sweet and savory flavors, and it has a healthy spin. There’s no refined sugar and less mayo than most coleslaw recipes. We found ourselves going back to the fridge for seconds and thirds with this one. It's one of those classic summer side dishes you never want to end.

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Need more summer side dishes?

In case these didn’t strike your fancy, here are a few more summer sides we love:

Drink up!

Here are a few summer fruit forward drink recipes to pair:

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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