Throwing a barbecue with side dishes that are sure to impress? Make sure you know who you’re cooking for. When you’re barbecuing for kids, don’t be surprised if they’re not begging for more of the greener than green salad (even if it is drizzled in a sweet vinaigrette). You can’t blame it your kids though; it’s not their fault. Their taste buds just haven’t matured yet. However, that doesn’t excuse them from eating anything green until they’ve graduated high school.
BBQ Side dishes can be the hardest part of a kids’ barbecue party with fun and games– when it comes to the menu at least. Side dishes are where the veggies, oddly textured pasta and the exotic cheeses come in. That’s usually where the kids tune out. But never fear, there are kid-friendly side dishes for the pickiest of eaters, and they don’t have to be devoid of plant life. Here are some classic barbecue dishes that are sure to get high marks from every kid.
Kid-Friendly Side Dishes
Kids might not like vegetables, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to prescreen each dish for them. While sides can be a challenge to parents, they’re also one of the easiest places to sneak in healthy stuff, like veggies and orzo and other things your kids that aren’t yet a part of your kid’s culinary vocabulary.
Hidden Vegetable Mac and Cheese
One great dish to side sneak veggies is this Hidden Vegetable Mac and Cheese. With gooey Parmesan, olive oil, and pasta, they won’t see the yellow squash coming. And what they don’t know surely won’t hurt them.
- 1 ½ cup dry macaroni pasta
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ½ cup milk
- ½ medium summer squash
- 1 tablespoon low-fat cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Puree summer squash. You will need ½ cup
- Cook macaroni according to directions and drain. Add one tablespoon of flour and mix until thick and bubbly. (It heats quickly. Keep an eye on it!)
- Melt one tablespoon of butter in a large skillet. Stir until it begins to bubble again.
- Add ½ cup of summer squash puree and stir until fully mixed in. Add cream cheese and mix until smooth. Add salt. Add the cooked macaroni to your thickened sauce (see below for recipe).
- Top with shredded cheddar or Colby Jack.
To Make Sauce:
- Add one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of flour to a medium-sized skillet to make the roux.
- Once thickened, add ½ cup of milk and thicken again. Add ½ cup of summer squash puree and 1 tablespoon of cream cheese. Stir until it has reached your desired consistency.
What Sides Go Well With Hot Dogs?
If you’re having a barbecue with kids, hot dogs are an absolute must-have. Hot dogs are small in size, can be eaten on a stick, and make great finger food. That’s the kiddie food trifecta – and you certainly can’t say the same for hamburgers. So now that you’ve got your dogs, you’ll need something to accompany them.
When the question of what goes best with hot dogs (a.k.a. franks) comes up, the answer almost always comes back “beans.” Franks and beans are an American tradition. They’re right up there with milk and Oreos, peanut butter and jelly, and Kim and Kanye. Beans boost fiber, lower cholesterol and help to settle stomach problems (which is music to our ears in more ways than one). Kids don’t like beans? What?? Never fear. Here’s a barbecue side recipe that will have them- and you- tooting with happiness.
Baked Beans Made with Grape Jelly
Don’t spill the beans spilled about this one. The secret ingredient here is the grape jelly. Move over peanut butter. With savory bacon, fresh sautéed pepper, and tasty onion, this classic barbecue side dish with a twist redefines the term jelly beans.
- 6 cooked slices of bacon
- 1 small onion, diced large
- 1 green pepper diced, large
- 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
- 1 quarter-ounce jar of grape jelly
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 large can of baked beans, not restaurant size (there can be too much of a good thing).
- Preheat oven the 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Slice bacon into 1-inch pieces and render in a frying pan
- Sautee onion and green pepper until softened.
- Stir in mustard, salt, pepper, and beans.
- Turn into an ovenproof casserole and bake for one hour.
Zucchini Corn Pirate Boats
Your kids might ARRG-ue about eating their zucchini, but they’re a lot less likely to ARRRG-ue about eating zucchini corn pirate boats. Brimming with hidden treasure, like yummy bacon, sweet corn, and juicy tomatoes, and complete with skewer mast, these pirate ships will have your kids hooked.
- 4 medium zucchinis, hollowed out, flesh saved and chopped
- 2 strips of bacon, chopped
- ½ cup of finely minced onion
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped and seeded
- 2 cups fresh corn kernels from 2 ears of corn
- 2 small zucchinis, diced into ¼ inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh cilantro leaves
- 8 small cherry tomatoes
- 4 -6 one inch skewers
- 2 zucchini slices, halved
- 2 green onions, green parts only
- (Boats) Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and cook for 3 minutes until slightly tender. Remove zucchini and set them aside to cool. Scoop the insides out and set them aside for filling.
- (Filling) Preheat a medium-sized sturdy saute pan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook for 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Remove all but 2 ½ teaspoons of bacon drippings from the pan.
- Add onion and cook it until it is translucent. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add corn, cilantro, tomato and stir occasionally, until zucchini is tender or about 5 mins. Stir in bacon. Season with salt and pepper.
- (Masts) Thread 2 cherry tomatoes onto each skewer, with half a slice of zucchini and a little piece of green onion.
- Fill the zucchini boats with the filling and insert a mast into the end of each boat. Arrange on a platter and serve.
What Sides Go Well With Hamburgers?
When kids eat hamburgers, it’s usually love at first bite. As soon as they get burgers into their stomachs, they’re looking for more of where that came from. And what goes better with burgers than fries? It’s the fun version of meat and potatoes. But when you know those potatoes are filled with saturated fats, the fun factor begins to become less of a factor.
Fortunately, there is a way to let your kids have their fun as well as their fries, and that’s by substituting the fully saturated for the monosaturated. Sweet potatoes have monosaturated fats that provide kids with a healthy source of energy; white potatoes are loaded with trans fats which are a bad scene all around. When it comes to taking sides, we’re team sweet potato all the way. Here is a sweeter take on a classic recipe that will make the happiest meal yet.
Sweet Potato Fries
Orange is the new French fry. Or should we say, the new French fry is orange? If there’s any veggie a kid will eat, it’s a potato. Why not take this opportunity to introduce him to the fairer, version? Ketchup can hide a multitude of nutrients, (specifically – the fiber and beta carotene- found in sweet potatoes). With a little help from some kid-friendly condiments, these sweet potato fries will disappear before your eyes.
- 2 pounds sweet potato
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tablespoon low sodium chili seasoning
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a bake sheet with aluminum foil. Set aside.
- Peel sweet potatoes using a peeler. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and then cut them into 1 ½ inch fries.
- Place potato fries in a large mixing bowl. Add oil and spices. Toss until the potatoes are fully coated.
- Spread fries in a single layer across the baking sheet. Place in oven. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, turning once to ensure even cooking.
What Sides Go Well With Barbecue Chicken?
Toss the napkins, pile it up, and hope no one fights over the drumsticks. Your kid probably won’t realize it when he’s licking his barbecue sauce-covered fingers, but chicken is one of the healthier and leaner meats for barbecuing. Slather it with sauce and it’s a meal fit for a kid. It just needs a side dish to go with it.
Now we’re not saying, “Don’t eat this, eat that,” but when you’re serving an outdoor summer meal that features barbecue chicken, a salad is almost mandatory. We went with this creamy coleslaw because it’s light, loaded with healthy veggies and so kid-friendly, it could be your kid’s new BFF.
Kid-Friendly Cole Slaw
How about giving it to them raw? This coleslaw recipe is almost completely raw, and it’s got some fruit to boot. With apples, raisins, carrots, and cabbage, this lively barbecue side dish is packed with crunch, flavor and all the ingredients that put the raw into slaw set the bar for the barbecue.
- ¼ head of cabbage, shredded or chopped
- 1 ½ cups carrots, shredded or chopped
- 1 apple or pear diced
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise
- Splash of apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup raisins
- Sea salt to taste
- Chop or shred carrots and coleslaw and place in a large mixing bowl. Add diced apple and lemon juice in a small bowl. Toss well and add to carrots and cabbage.
- Add in mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar, tossing everything together. Throw in the raisins and mix again.
- Season to taste.
- Refrigerate for at least an hour to let flavors blend
Tip: Chopped walnuts would work well with this dish and bring in some healthy Omega -3s.
Scalloped Potatoes with Crumb Topping
“Crumby potatoes again?” Or is it, “Crumby potatoes again!” This crumby and yummy casserole-style dish is a healthier take on the classic barbecue side dish scalloped potatoes with non-fat milk, cheddar cheese that will have your kids begging for crumbs.
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon flour
- 3 cups nonfat milk
- 6 oz. cheddar cheese
- ½ cup sliced scallions
- 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 6 large baking potatoes
- ¼ cup plain dried bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons butter
- Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 13 x 9 x 2”baking dish.
- Pour flour into a medium saucepan. Whisk in milk until blended, making sure to get the corners of the pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer 2-3 minutes, stirring until thickened. Off heat, stir in 1 cup cheese, ¼ cup scallions, and the salt and pepper.
- Slice potatoes with a thin slicing disc of a food processor or into 1/8 “ slices by hand. You should have ten cups.
- Put in prepared dish, add cheese sauce and toss to coat. Spread evenly and cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes.
- Mix breadcrumbs, butter, and remaining cheese in a small bowl until crumbs are evenly moistened.
- Uncover the baking dish, sprinkle with crumb mixture, and bake uncovered 1 hour until potatoes are tender and the top is golden. Sprinkle with remaining scallions.
Grilled Chocolate Banana Foil Pack
When it comes to hiding healthy ingredients in your classic barbecue side dishes, we’ve gone completely bananas. You didn’t think we would stop at dessert, did you? This banana split meets S’mores dish is a sweet treat that your kids will go bananas for.
- 1 banana, peeled
- 2 tablespoons miniature marshmallows
- 2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon crunch cereal, slightly crushed
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
- Slice bananas lengthwise and slightly open.
- Place on a rectangle of aluminum foil.
- Insert marshmallow and chips into the sliced banana.
- Wrap the banana in foil and cook on the grill for 5-6 minutes and broil until marshmallows are lightly toasted.
- Unwrap banana and top with cereal.
- After melt has cooled eat with a spoon.
We hope that your kids will find those side dishes fun and delightful and will get all their veggies down the hatch and into their tummies with no weird looks or hesitation. Visit our pages on more backyard party ideas to help you throw a fun and memorable backyard party BBQ.