Pack your plate high with side dishes that might just eclipse the rack of ribs this Independence Day weekend.

By Briana Riddock and Briana Riddock
Updated June 30, 2017
Credit: Jennifer Causey; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

The barbecued items from the grill often take prime real estate on your plate; for the space that’s left, stuff it with side dishes that can truly stand strong all on their own. Whether you are squeamish about your sides touching each other or you welcome the medley of flavors mixed together, there is no real cookout without an abundance of side dishes. You invited your aunt to bring her family secret mac and cheese and your cousin for their homemade cherry pie. For everything else in between, you want the dishes to hold their weight just as much as the ribs and burgers. If you’re weary of a cold slaw that suffers from mayo overdose, you might want to make it yourself along with a few other items. Here are suggestions for side dishes that give you a real deal taste of summer.

Tequila Slaw with Lime and Cilantro

Credit: Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Mary Clayton Carl

Liven up a usually droopy slaw, with a burst of silver tequila. It’s brightens the cabbage mix and gives you a margarita feel with a few splashes of lime juice. Bring in color with green onions and cilantro leaves.

New Potatoes with Shaved Celery, Buttermilk, and Dill

Credit: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Buttermilk creates a depth of dimension that you aren’t necessarily expecting from typical potato salad. It still has mayo in the dressing, but the buttermilk along with fresh dill, steals the show. Skip the boiled eggs and amplify the salad with thin slices of celery.

Tomato Salad with Herbed Ricotta and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Credit: Photo: Erin Kunkel; Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Summer is prime season to get plump juicy heirloom tomatoes. Mesmerize your guests with a beautiful display of colorful tomatoes on a platter. Heaping dollops of basil-laced ricotta cheese plop right on top of the tomatoes for a rich, creamy contrast to the acidic balsamic vinegar.

Rum Baked Beans

Credit: Photo: Hector Sanchez; Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham

Anything with rum or thick-cut bacon is automatically a victorious dish. Crown these baked beans the champ because they have both. Five different kinds of canned beans come together for the ultimate bean amalgamation of sweet and tang in each bite.

Blood Orange and Radicchio Salad

Blood Orange and Radicchio Salad
| Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey; Food Styling: Catherine Crowell Steele; Prop Styling: Thom Driver

Blood Orange and Radicchio Salad Photo: Jennifer Causey; Food Styling: Catherine Crowell Steele; Prop Styling: Thom Driver

Don’t worry about this salad wilting because it’s made up of robust radicchio and hearty fennel that hold their shapes through tossing, and their intense flavors will mellow as they sit in the dressing. The light sherry vinegar-based dressing allows the vibrant blood oranges to shine with moderate sweetness.

Pesto Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

Credit: Jennifer Causey; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

This pasta salad gives you all the feels of a classic caprese salad in a deconstructed format. Cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cubes make an appearance, while the basil takes shape in the pesto. They are all tossed together with whole-grain farfalle, but feel free to use white pasta if you prefer.

King Ranch Chicken Mac and Cheese

Credit: Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Buffy Hargett

A cookout hasn’t officially started until a pan of mac and cheese shows up. However, this is no routine recipe. A can of creamed chicken soup adds a newfound velvety cream that plain cheese can’t match all on its own. Your guests are in for a flavor shock of gooey goodness.

Summer Melon and Ham Salad with Burrata and Chile

Credit: Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Ribbons of honeydew and cantaloupe give a chic and simple vibe and the perfect hit of sweetness to be paired with cuts of salty ham and milky burrata cheese. All together, this dish is balanced with the essence of not only a side dish, but an impressive appetizer or after-dinner snack.

Orange-and-Basil Macerated Cherries

Credit: Photo: Alison Miksch; Styling: Marian Cooper Cairns

Go crazy over cherries especially when they’re natural sourness is sweetened with brown sugar and orange juice. When all the juices intermingle, serve with luscious ricotta cheese for a light rendition of a fruit salad.