Having a cookout in the backyard is all about relaxing with family and friends. However, if you are hosting an outdoor party for the first time, it is important to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Cooking food outside is a lot of fun, but it’s also a great way to spend more time outdoors. Food cooked outside just seems to taste better. Moreover, in the hot summers, cooking food outside can help you avoid heating up your house and sending your electricity bill through the roof.
Having some cookout food ideas ready to go will help from having to waste time and money on extra ingredients you won’t end up using.
As the warm weather approaches, there’s nothing quite like the aroma of sizzling burgers, smoky barbecue, and tasty side dishes to signal the start of the cookout season. Cookout food is the epitome of summer, allowing families and friends to gather outdoors and indulge in the delicious flavors that the grill brings forth. From classic hamburgers and hot dogs to delectable vegetable skewers and refreshing salads, there are endless possibilities when it comes to creating the perfect cookout menu.
The joy of cookout food lies in its simplicity, as well as the opportunity it offers for customization. Be it chicken wings marinated in a spicy sauce or a tower of grilled veggies with a drizzle of olive oil, everyone can find something to love when eating alfresco. An added bonus for hosts, preparing cookout food tends to be more relaxed, giving them more time to enjoy the company of their guests.
While traditional cookout fare is always a crowd-pleaser, exploring new recipes and techniques can elevate the entire experience. Whether it’s experimenting with unique marinades, grilling up regional specialties, or preparing homemade condiments, a little creativity in the culinary department can go a long way in creating a memorable cookout feast. So, fire up the grill and let the tantalizing flavors of cookout food make the summer months even more enjoyable.
You won’t find just a bunch of meats on this list either. You’ll get a ton of good cookout food ideas that will please any palate and dietary needs.
So if you’re wondering what to bring to a cookout, we’ve got you covered.
Choose your favorite from the cookout ideas below to please all your guests at your next get-together.
Cabbage isn’t everyone’s favorite but when you throw it on the grill it takes on that smoky flavor which really adds to the profile.
You can stick grilled cabbage in a number of recipes too so it doesn’t hurt to make a big batch so you can use it throughout the week.
Instead of going with regular beef burgers, try this healthy grilled mushroom alternative.
Saute the mushrooms and then grill them until they’re done. Top it off with a slice of cheese and put it on a whole wheat bun for some added health benefits.
Put on just about any ingredient you want, just like it was the real thing, and they will all taste good.
You could even make these BBQ mushrooms and slather on some of your famous homemade sauce to go with them.
Serve it up with a side of corn on the cob or some classic french fries to give it those classic cookout feels.
Bananas are another great fruit to add to your grill that will give them a great taste.
The sugar starts to caramelize so the bananas actually transform on the grill into a completely different type of dessert.
Serve them with some ice cream or simply drizzle some syrup on them to get that perfect dessert after a heavy meal.
There’s nothing easier than cutting up some veggies and sticking them on a skewer.
These veggie skewers are great because you can get your kids involved and make it a fun activity.
It’s also extremely healthy and will get your family to eat veggies they normally wouldn’t touch.
You can use whatever vegetables you want, but some great options are zucchini, yellow squash, red onion wedges, bell peppers, cherry tomato, and mushrooms.
The possibilities are endless and they cook in minutes.
What will really take these over the top is if you add some homemade remoulade sauce to dip your veggies in.
Apple Crisp is about as American as it gets and having it during a cookout screams patriotism.
Grilling your apple crisp makes it even better because the top layer of crisp gets cooked evenly with the rest of it.
It will taste like heaven in your mouth when you bite into this dessert.
Having some vanilla ice cream waiting on standby because this dessert is going to go perfectly with it.
Just about every family has their own macaroni salad recipe but this one is a good bet for cookouts. It’s easy to make and you can even prepare it ahead of time if you need to.
Because it’s served cold, you can make it at the beginning of the day and stick it in the fridge until it’s time to serve.
You could even make a ton so that you have leftovers to keep for the rest of the week.
The pasta salad balances really well with the hot food that is usually made at cookouts. This is especially true if it’s a hot day.
7. Fruit Salad
You can’t go wrong with a solid fruit salad.
The fresh fruits balance out the savory flavors perfectly and it’s also healthy for you.
You might not have believed you could make pineapple any better but it’s about to be changed forever.
The trick is grilling it until it gets nice and charred around the edges and then brushing on some homemade or store-bought barbecue sauce before serving.
It turns into a delicious side that you can serve up with just about anything, but we recommend putting one on your burger.
Just the smell of pineapple grilling at a cookout is mouth-watering enough to get a crowd gathered.
It wouldn’t be a cookout without some refreshing drinks served on the side.
This lemonade recipe is a classic that will never go out of style.
You can make it alcoholic by adding some vodka to the mix.
Pour it into cups with ice and you’re done!
You could also use flavored seltzer water for a twist on the classic drink.
Just make sure to get two pitches ready to serve because if it’s hot outside, this drink will disappear quickly.
The part about grilling watermelon is that you can use it for a ton of different recipes.
Need a smoky drink that’s still refreshing? Try a grilled watermelon cocktail.
Want a salad that has a savory feel without adding in a ton of ingredients? Throw your grilled watermelon in the salad and all the flavors will come bursting out.
Grilling a watermelon isn’t hard either and when you cut it down into smaller pieces it makes it even easier to serve.
11. Grilled Apples
Instead of making a time-consuming dessert, stick with this quick recipe for grilled apples.
These grilled apples will only take you about 15 minutes so you can get your eat on with your guests while they are still hot and fresh off the grill.
Everyone loves a good apple and these taste even better than any of those complicated desserts that take forever to make!
Drizzle some caramel for a full dessert serving!
12. Grilled Potatoes
Grilling potatoes is just a part of cookout life. It’s one of the favorite cookout foods because it goes with pretty much anything.
There’s nothing better than eating these crispy chunks of potato, especially when they’re topped off with all your favorite fixings.
You can grill potatoes whole if you want to, but it’s always fun when you cut them into different shapes.
The crispiest texture that you’ll get comes from charring the little guys over an open flame.
You could stick the potatoes in a foil pouch if you have cut them into smaller pieces.
Throw in some fresh herbs and it will make the potatoes sing.
Just serve them with some ketchup or homemade sauce and you might always have to grill your potatoes after trying it.
Asparagus is another one of those easy cookout sides you can make.
Since you already have the grill going, you might as well grill up some veggies.
Traditionally, asparagus is served with hollandaise sauce but you can stick with the basics and just use salt and pepper for seasoning.
Normally, a potato salad doesn’t have this much flavor but this loaded recipe is the one to keep.
You’ll end up adding in bacon and cheese and making a salad that everyone will fall in love with.
It’s the kind of potato salad you might make to take to a cookout but end up eating all by yourself because it’s so delicious.
You can use different types of cheese like blue cheese crumbles or cheddar, both would taste great here.
You don’t need fish to make a ceviche, especially when you have some avocados lying around.
You’ll start by grilling your avocados and then building your ceviche on top.
Top it off with some cilantro or parsley to give it a true ceviche taste.
The classic BBQ chicken is best if made on the grill.
The mixtures of spices that come with the sauce give the chicken a delicious flavor that you don’t want to miss out on.
Grilling up a chicken breast can sound daunting, but it’s actually pretty simple as long as you watch it closely and don’t forget about it.
Once your chicken is done cooking, slather those bad boys with some homemade or store-bought BBQ sauce and you’ll be in for a treat.
What’s great about being a chef is you get to taste the deliciousness before it even hits the table.
You might not have considered throwing lettuce on the grill, but this grilled romaine recipe is going to blow your mind.
It’s packed with flavor and goes well with pretty much anything.
This recipe is so good you’ll consider throwing it into your weekly rotation instead of just keeping it for special cookouts.
This jalapeno popper grilled corn salad adds in a ton of ingredients that mix together perfectly.
This is one of the best cookout recipes because it’s served cold so it balances out the hot proteins you’ll be cooking and tastes incredible.
It’s also extremely colorful and everyone at your cookout will love it because it still has that smoky flavor.
19. Three Bean Salad
Three bean salad is a classic cookout food that pairs perfectly with all the heavy foods that are normally served at cookouts.
You’ll have to chop up your veggies so it’s best to get all the chopping done ahead of time, especially if you are getting ready for a big cookout party.
This salad goes really well with many dishes so it’s guaranteed to be a hit.
You can’t go wrong with some corn on the cob at a cookout.
Everyone loves a nice buttered corn on the cob and you can even throw on some seasoning to make the flavors pop even more.
21. Grilled Shrimp
If you’re looking for a protein that isn’t the same old meat at your next cookout, try out this shrimp recipe.
They don’t take long to make and you can stick them on skewers, eat them by themselves, or serve them on top of a rice dish to make a complete meal.
Just make sure they get the right seasonings because it can make all the difference.
If you haven’t tried green beans on the grill then you don’t know what you’re missing.
Adding the smoky flavor will transform this green bean recipe into something that you’ll never want to stop eating.
The trick is making sure that the beans don’t burn and just cook evenly throughout.
Your friends will be shocked when they learn how good green beans can taste on the grill.
23. Short Ribs
If you are looking for that show-stopping recipe that will get everyone at your cookout talking, stick with this short rib recipe.
You’ll have fall-off-the-bone ribs that are exploding with all sorts of different flavors. It’s amazing that ribs can taste this good!
Just make sure to cook them low and slow on the grill for about 4 hours or until they are fork-tender.
Once you try these out you’ll never want to do ribs on the stovetop again.
24. Beer Can Chicken
This is a real southern delight that you can set up on the grill and then just check on periodically.
You’ll add a nice rub and then just stick a beer can in one end.
Put everything on the grill and sit back with your friends while the whole thing cooks for you.
Beer can chicken might be the moistest, juiciest, and most tender chicken you can make. It’s certainly one of the most flavorful.
It takes about 90 minutes to cook but only 10 to prepare and most of that work goes into making the rub.
While you’re at it, you may want to make two because one won’t last long.
25. Smashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes and smashed potatoes aren’t quite the same thing.
This classic cookout recipe doesn’t need a lot of ingredients and it’s very easy to make.
You will find yourself making these smashed potatoes for years to come in your cookouts because they are truly delicious.
Having some grilled pork chops at your next cookout is almost expected.
Having a perfectly cooked pork chop on the grill is much better than having it pan-fried.
But it’s always nice to add some new flavors and tastes to your pork chops so you don’t end up cooking the same thing every time, no matter how delicious of a cook you are.
27. Broccoli Salad
Get yourself a refreshing side to go with all the savory foods you’re serving at your cookout.
This is one of the most healthy recipes on this cookout food list.
It’s super quick to make and doesn’t take a lot of prep at all.
You can even buy most of your ingredients already prepped.
Hot dogs are great, grilled cheese is great, why not try to make the two together?
This recipe mixes the best of both worlds and brings it out to the grill so you can enjoy them all at once.
If you’ve never tried a grilled cheese hot dog before, then you are seriously missing out on some deliciousness. It is one of the greatest combinations ever created for cookouts.
To get the full cheesy experience, have yourself a side of mac and cheese to go with your hot dog.
To get the best crispy chicken wings you can, you need to use the grill.
There just isn’t any way to get the same, tasty results from a pan or oven.
Just marinate them in some seasonings and cook on the grill for 25 to 30 minutes while flipping every so often.
These will be some of the most delicious wings you’ll ever eat on the grill and your friends will be begging for more after they taste them for themselves.
Grilling a watermelon is surprisingly easy and when you add it to a refreshing salad, it brings a whole new level of flavor.
It doesn’t take long to make either, so you can have the perfect app to go with the rest of your cookout meals in no time.
Coleslaw is one of the true classic cookout recipes.
It’s the perfect combination with any meat and it can even be a side to eat on its own.
It’s also very easy to make because the only thing you have to do is chop up your vegetables and mix them together with some dressing.
There are so many different types of coleslaw out there, which makes it perfect for everyone because everyone likes something different.
Our 30+ BEST Cookout Food Ideas & Recipes (+Homemade Fresh Lemonade
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice or bottled lemon juice
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 6 cups cold water
- ice cubes to add to glasses
- Fresh lemon slices for garnish
- Place the sugar into a pitcher or jar.
- Juice the lemons and strain the pulp.
- Pour lemon juice and water over the sugar, stirring well.
Organize all the required ingredients.
Enjoy the food.