25 Make-Ahead Recipes for Summer Cookouts
Sure, the warm weather is nice and we love the gorgeous seasonal produce—but summer entertaining ain't no picnic. Next time you're headed to a cookout or a potluck, make your day much easier by preparing a dish ahead of time. From easy pasta salads to slow cooker recipes to delectable desserts, we've got your summer party covered. Check out our 25 best make-ahead summer cookout recipes here.
Slow-Cooker Beef Nachos
These slow-cooker beef nachos deliver big flavor using simple ingredients and make a great party appetizer. From the Kitchen of Julie Hutson, Callahan, Florida. "This is surprisingly yummy to have such simple ingredients."
Three-Bean Pasta Salad
We combined two potluck classics—pasta salad and three-bean salad—to make one tasty new side dish. Blanched celery is the unexpected star in this side dish; it has a tender-crisp texture and bright green color. Swap out the canned beans for your favorite cooked field peas.
Mexican Corn Salad
Mexican street corn morphs into an epic salad in this dish. Beautiful to behold, this salad shines thanks to the combination of colors and textures. This potluck-perfect side is easy to make ahead of time, and it gets even more flavorful when it sits overnight.
This salad is a delightfully unexpected way to use the fresh rhubarb and berries that are just coming into season. The dressing on this bright, beautiful salad is a happy meeting between sweet and tart flavors, the almonds add a nice crunch for variety of texture, and a hint of mint makes a fresh dish feel even more so.
Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs
Barbecue season is here, but we'll let you in on a secret: All you really need for crowd-pleasing baby back ribs is the right recipe and a slow cooker. Savory, tender, juicy, and slow-cooked to perfection, this recipe for Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs is our newest and best.
Warm Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Eggplant
Congratulations—You just found your new go-to pasta salad! This veggie-packed beauty is nice and filling, thanks to meaty eggplant. If you can’t find burrata, simply tear 6 ounces of fresh mozzarella into bite-size pieces. Heading to a potluck? Feel free to make this recipe ahead of time.
Tomato, Peach, and Corn Salad
The summer's favorite produce is compiled together to create this vibrant and beautiful salad. The salad is tossed in a sweet and savory honey vinaigrette and topped with feta for a stunning finish.
Blackberry-Peach Cobbler Bars
Toffee-glazed pecan pieces add a streusel-like crunch to the tops of these Blackberry-Peach Cobbler Bars. One reviewer called these potluck-perfect bars "easy to make and quite delicious." Another said "they get rave reviews from everyone."
Peach and Celery Salad
The flavors of peach and celery meld beautifully in this no-cook side, while pistachios amp up the crunch factor. This easy side salad, which uses gorgeous seasonal produce, is sure to be a hit at any summer get together.
Easy Blackberry Cobbler
Rather than breaking a sweat over the perfect pie crust and lattice top for your farmers' market blackberries, use them up in a hassle-free cobbler. All you need are fresh berries plus 5 more ingredients to whip up this Easy Blackberry Cobbler recipe.
Puff Pastry Summer Fruit Slab Pie
This show-stopper is easy to assemble, but so impressive. The only component of this effortlessly elegant tart that needs to bake is the puff pastry base itself. Once it’s baked and cooled, you’ll top it with a creamy, fluffy spread of sweetened mascarpone cheese mixed with marzipan (i.e. almond paste), vanilla, freshly whipped cream.
Grilled Corn Pasta Salad
This vibrant, flavor-packed summer side dish combines a bounty of favorite seasonal flavors into a single, epic pasta salad. The recipe comes from our friends The Food Gays, and they developed this colorful grilled corn dish as a fresher, brighter alternative to the typical mayo-based pasta salads that often show up a summer parties.
Yellow Corn Salsa
Perfectly Easy Blackberry Pie
If you haven’t eaten any blackberry pie yet, is it really summer? This perfectly easy blackberry pie comes together in a little more than an hour and highlights one of summer’s best fruits. This recipe works with either fresh or frozen blackberries (or a mixture of the two), but fresh blackberries have more flavor and won’t take as long to cook. Serve with vanilla ice cream or lemon sorbet.
Easy Chicken Salad
This 20-minute chicken salad recipe is creamy, flavorful, and packed full of healthy veggies and protein-rich meat. To make our easy chicken salad recipe, we lightened up the typical mayonnaise base by adding in 1/2 cup of low-fat, plain Greek yogurt, but you can use one full cup of mayonnaise if you'd like.
Everything Bagel Salad
Your favorite brunch special just took on a new, heartier format. Everything here comes through: The bagels, capers, lox, raw onions, and cream cheese are all balanced out by spinach’s natural mild sweetness.
German Chocolate Brownies
This recipe is a combination of my nana’s greatest hits—brownies and German chocolate cake. The fudgy brownies allow the frosting’s coconut flavor to shine and are decadent without overwhelming the palate.
Easy Slow-Cooker Jambalaya
Have dinner ready when you come home with this ultimate, slow-cooker Jambalaya. Featuring chicken, shrimp and smoked sausage, this classic Creole rice dish is perfect for the slow-cooker as all the flavors blend together over time in a marvelous way.
Crock-Pot BBQ Ribs
If you’re skeptical about ribs in a slow cooker, prepare to be amazed by the tender and delicious results. Cooking ribs doesn’t get easier than this two-step method, and while they serve as the perfect summer entrée, you can make these ribs just as easily at any time of year.
Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Tex-Mex chicken enchilada casserole is a delicious dinner main when you are craving Southwestern-style comfort food without the notorious gut-busting casserole calories. Scoring in at under 375 calories, this lightened up enchilada bake is a win-win for your taste buds and keeping your diet in check.
Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint
There’s more than one way to enjoy the classic sweet flavor of fresh watermelon besides eating it right off the rind. This watermelon feta salad is a light and refreshing complement to any summer meal, no matter if it’s for a cookout, potluck, or regular weeknight dinner.
Southwest Black-Eyed Pea Dip
This cheesy appetizer will be the talk of any game day gathering. We took the ingredients in Texas caviar (a classic chilled Southern dip made with black-eyed peas) and turned them into a warm and gooey multi-layered dip topped with diced tomatoes, zesty cilantro, and spicy jalapeños.
Green Bean Casserole
We’ve given the classic casserole an upgrade by swapping sodium-heavy canned soup for a rich and chunky homemade mushroom sauce. For bean blanching instructions, see the note on the recipe at left.
Easy Margaritas for a Crowd
Look no further than these large-batch margaritas when you're hosting your next big fiesta and can't spend hours juicing limes. This margarita recipe is a revelation--the secret ingredient is a can of frozen limeade concentrate which, once emptied, doubles as a measuring cup for the remaining ingredients.
Oreo Cookie Pie
Oreos on Oreos on Oreos. This Oreo pie recipe is super easy and a must-make for any fan of Milk's Favorite Cookie.