Side Dishes to Rely on All Summer Long

Avocado-and-Cabbage Slaw
Photo: © Marcus Nilsson

Whether you spend a lot of time in front of the grill or in the comfort of your air-conditioned kitchen over the warmer months, cooking should be easy this summer. Fresh produce needs little to shine, and when the beach, pool, or campsite is calling, you don't want to spend hours laboring over dinner. Whatever centerpiece you're serving, be it grilled fish or barbecue chicken, the sides should be as easy to assemble as they are delicious. So we've rounded up easy side dishes that celebrate the best of the season — from cucumbers to corn — to keep in steady rotation this summer.

01 of 15

Burst Cherry Tomatoes and Pancetta

Burst Cherry Tomatoes and Pancetta
Greg DuPree

2018 F&W Best New Chef Michael Gallina of Vicia in St. Louis has a way with vegetables, and this time of year tomatoes are his muse. His Burst Cherry Tomatoes and Pancetta is a simple sauté that brings everything to the table: sweet acidity from the tomatoes; a salty, savory chew from the pancetta; and aromatics from the garlic and onion. The pancetta seasons the mixture, which begs to be served over ricotta toast.

02 of 15

Grilled Baby Potato Salad

Grilled Baby Potato Salad
© Con Poulos

This modern take on potato salad forgoes mayo for a base of vinegar and olive oil. Justin Chapple also grills the potatoes to add a great smoky flavor before tossing them with quickly pickled red onions. But the best part is the playful salt-and-vinegar potato chip topping, which adds a craveable crunch.

03 of 15

Mexican Grilled Corn Salad with Citrus Aïoli

Mexican Grilled-Corn Salad with Citrus Aioli
Rick Poon

This sweet, salty corn salad is the perfect side for an outdoor gathering. Bonus: You can make the aïoli the night before and fold in right before serving.

04 of 15

Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Fried Onions and Parsley

Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Fried Onions and Parsley
Abby Hocking

Food writer Alison Roman's advice for these potatoes: “Don’t oversteam or they will fall apart, never giving them a chance to hit that oil. Don’t understeam or you’ll never be able to crush them. Let them cool a bit before you smash them so they also dry out a bit, making them less likely to fall apart. The oil must be hot; if the oil is not hot enough, it will soak into the potato rather than crisp it up.”

05 of 15

Tomatoes with Herbs and Almond Vinaigrette

Tomatoes with Herbs and Almond Vinaigrette

New York City chef Dan Kluger makes a deeply flavorful vinaigrette for summer's sweetest and juiciest tomatoes. Instead of dry-roasting almonds for his salad, Kluger toasts them in olive oil until they're crisp and golden, then uses the richly flavored oil to make a tangy dressing.

06 of 15

Peach and Fennel Slaw

Peach-and-Fennel Slaw
© Line Klein

This sweet and crunchy salad is delicious with grilled pork or in a pulled pork sandwich. To wilt the fennel slightly, chef Michel Nischan briefly marinates it in vinegar and salt before tossing it with firm, ripe peaches.

07 of 15

Roasted Eggplant Caponata

Roasted Eggplant Caponata
© Guy Ambrosino

If you have the time, make the caponata at least a day ahead; it's one of those dishes that improves with time. Eat it as they do in Sicily: spooned over bread or focaccia, alongside roast lamb or chicken, paired with a wedge of pecorino … in short, with almost anything!

08 of 15

Quick-Pickled Sweet Cucumbers

Quick-Pickled Sweet Cucumbers
© John Kernick

Requiring just 15 minutes of prep, these super-thin sweet pickled cucumbers are salted before they're submerged in the pickling brine for maximum flavor.

09 of 15

Green Bean Slaw

Green Bean Slaw
© Fredrika Stjärne

In this alternative take on a classic coleslaw, tender haricots verts get tossed with crunchy strips of carrot, red pepper, and parsnip.

10 of 15

Corn and Zucchini Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese

Corn and Zucchini Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese
Con Poulos

We take pasta salad to a new level with sweet grilled corn, zucchini, and a creamy lime dressing spiked with chile powder. Fresh cilantro adds brightness, then the whole salad gets topped with tangy slivers of fresh goat cheese.

11 of 15

Baby Lettuces with Feta, Strawberries, and Almonds

Baby Lettuces with Feta, Strawberries and Almonds
© Peden + Munk

This eye-catching salad is an extraordinary combination of ingredients that wouldn't seem to go together: feta, strawberries, and almonds.

12 of 15

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette Recipe
© Christina Holmes

The warm, garlicky anchovy dressing here is fantastic with an assortment of juicy, peak-season tomatoes. To finish the dish, chef-restaurateurs Amelia O'Reilly and Nico Monday top it with tangy pickled shallots and an oozy, soft-boiled egg.

13 of 15

Summer Chopped Salad with Quick-Pickled Vegetables

Summer Chopped Salad with Quick-Picked Vegetables
© Kana Okada

Paul Newman, the late co-owner of Dressing Room, Michel Nischan's now-shuttered restaurant in Westport, Connecticut, loved a good chopped salad. To add a tangy burst of flavor, Nischan pickles the carrots, celery, and peppers before tossing them with the rest of the salad.

14 of 15

Avocado and Cabbage Slaw

Avocado-and-Cabbage Slaw
© Marcus Nilsson

When chef Suvir Saran's mother tried this spicy, crunchy cabbage slaw, she said, "Baba, this is the best chaat I've ever eaten!" While Saran didn't intend to make over the traditional Indian snack — a dish with chickpeas, potatoes, yogurt, and chutney — the crunch, spice, and tang immediately elicit an iconic chaat. "There is nothing Indian about it, and yet, it's entirely Indian," says Saran.

15 of 15

Summer Bean Salad with Potlikker Vinaigrette

Summer Bean Salad with Potlikker Vinaigrette
Eva Kolenko

Potlikker, as it’s called in the South, is the savory, starchy liquid left over after cooking beans or greens. Here, chef Joe Kindred whisks the über-flavorful liquid into a vinaigrette.

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