Easy Side Dishes That’ll Do All the Work at Your Labor Day Cookout
Signaling that the end of summer is nigh, Labor Day weekend means one thing: It’s time for a cookout. Our Memorial Day and Fourth of July barbecues, these were just practice for a last hurrah full of fresh produce, colorful ingredients, and fantastic summer flavors. We're going all in. Every cool salad we pack with crisp greens and sweet fruit, each vegetable dish we pick and shuck just for the occasion, and the warm golden bites we pop right out of the frying oil. Our Labor Day side dishes squeeze every last ounce of summertime onto the picnic blanket or porch table. Please the crowd with our Spicy Grilled Corn Salad, Watermelon Salad, and Best-Ever Succotash, just to start; and make sure to serve up either our Andouille Hush Puppies or Corn Fritters on the side. No matter your plans, these Labor Day cookout ideas will close out the season with a bang.
Recipe: Best-Ever Succotash
Our food editor put it best: "No dish celebrates the bounty of the late-summer garden better than succotash." The blend of corn, beans (typically lima beans or field peas), okra, and tomatoes means that not only is it the best summer side dish, but that it might just upstage the entire potluck spread. Finished with thick-cut bacon pieces? Perfection.
Spicy Pineapple Slaw
Recipe: Spicy Pineapple Slaw
This sweet and spicy slaw will go with every summertime main, from barbecue chicken to pulled pork to juicy burgers. Besides, who can resist spooning a hearty helping of such a crunchy, festive, and colorful side? Not us! Bonus: It doesn't contain mayonnaise, making it low-maintenance and portable.
Crispy Andouille Hush Puppies
Recipe: Crispy Andouille Hush Puppies
Especially if your Labor Day includes some seafood, you need a few hush puppies too. These crispy bites are sent to flavor heaven with smoky Andouille sausage. Make a double batch of this recipe—because they're going to disappear quickly.
Recipe: Watermelon Salad
Tomatoes and watermelon work in perfect harmony in this summer side. Peppery arugula, creamy goat cheese, and crunchy pecans make it so much more than a basic tomato salad for the Labor Day celebration.
Tangy Potato-Green Bean Salad
Recipe: Tangy Potato-Green Bean Salad
We can't believe we're saying this—but hold the mayo. A fresh lemon-dill vinaigrette makes sure this warm-weather side dish will keep well even if set outside on the picnic table.
Recipe: Creamed Corn
Though it's incredibly simple and old-fashioned, creamed corn always feels like a delicacy. Something about the warm creaminess, freshly shucked kernels, and subtly sweet and buttery flavor makes it special. Top with a sprinkling of chopped bacon for an extra touch.
Recipe: Strawberry-Tomato Salad
This simple recipe makes the easiest last-minute addition to any summer supper. The salad takes just minutes to throw together but adds so much color to the table. It's a surprising, yet always complementary side to serve with any grilled main dish.
Summer Pasta Salad with Lime Vinaigrette
We're loving this tangy, nectarine-speckled pasta salad for Labor Day cookouts serving up pulled pork or barbecue chicken. The recipe includes easy shredded rotisserie chicken, but you can always skip the protein for the potluck.
Recipe: Zucchini-and-Squash Pickles
It's no secret that during the summertime, Southerners love to pickle things. This particular cookout complement uses thick ribbons of zucchini and squash, making the pickles just as beautiful as they are tasty.
Watermelon-and-Feta Orzo Salad
Recipe: Watermelon-and-Feta Orzo Salad
Turn your typical pasta salad on its head for this end-of-summer celebration. While watermelon and feta always make a dynamic duo, the addition of peppery watercress or baby arugula and tender orzo makes for a sweet and savory salad.
Kettle Chip-Crusted Fried Green Tomatoes with Tasso Tartar Sauce
We'll probably never know who it was that first sliced a green tomato, dredged it through seasoned cornmeal and tossed it in the frying pan. But we sure are grateful. It deserves to be summer's last bite.
Rum Baked Beans
Recipe: Rum Baked Beans
Consider this recipe the party-perfect version of your traditional baked beans, even using a medley of beans to spice up the flavor and texture. And we won't make you guess: Rum is the secret to this delicious baked bean side.
Tomato, Cheddar, and Bacon Pie
Recipe: Tomato, Cheddar, and Bacon Pie
Trust us, you've never made tomato pie like this. The cookout crowd will love our update made with a sour cream crust studded with bacon, layers of colorful tomatoes, and plenty of cheese and herbs.
Squash and Green Chile Casserole
Recipe: Squash and Green Chile Casserole
Old-school squash casserole gets a Southwestern makeover with green chiles and tomatillos. Using long-grain rice and topped with cheese, this dish is super satisfying for a hungry crowd on a hot summer night.
Smoky Pimiento Cheese Deviled Eggs
No Southern cookout would be complete without either deviled eggs or pimiento cheese, and this recipe happily covers both. To make it look a little fancy for the Labor Day feast, top with sliced green onions, diced country ham, sliced pickled okra, or spiced pecans.
Spicy Grilled Corn Salad
Recipe: Spicy Grilled Corn Salad
This salad inspired by Mexican-style street corn will easily spice up the barbecue. No matter the sideboard, it makes a statement with its flavor combination of fresh yellow corn, jalapeños, cilantro, and lime juice.
Pickled Shrimp and Vegetables
Recipe: Pickled Shrimp and Vegetables
There's nothing quite like the fresh, crisp, and cool taste of pickled shrimp in the summer, and this recipe goes a little further thanks to the addition of okra and sweet peppers. Keep the shrimp cold in the heat by nestling the serving bowl inside a larger bowl of crushed ice.
Recipe: Watermelon Gazpacho
Our favorite chilled soup is back this season with a twist: We're swapping the tomato for watermelon. It's a party-worthy side dish that makes braving the summer heat a little more bearable.
Recipe: Crispy Potatoes
Perfectly brown caramelized potatoes will never disappoint, whether served at a casual grill-out or fancy affair. When making these potatoes in the oven, little things make all the difference between an end result that's either mushy or crispy. Most important: Don't crowd the pan.
Recipe: Riesling Peaches
Think of these as both the foundation for standout summer dishes as well as the finishing touch to any snack spread. Our favorite way to serve these sweet gems up? Pair on a charcuterie board along with cured meats, spoon over torn bread, and top with a little Dijon mustard.
Broccoli, Grape, and Pasta Salad
Recipe: Broccoli, Grape, and Pasta Salad
This classic pasta salad deserves an end-of-season shoutout. The cool and colorful ingredients—including broccoli and grapes—along with tender farfalle pasta and a tangy-sweet dressing make it a no-brainer combination every time.
Golden Corn Fritters
Recipe: Golden Corn Fritters
The sight of perfectly crisp corn fritters fresh out of the fryer is enough to make the grumpiest Southerner grin. Comforting and nostalgic, these fried bites will be the absolute favorite at the family feast.
Big Daddy’s Grilled Blue Cheese-and-Bacon Potato Salad
Labor Day means summer is officially coming to an end, and what better way to transition to the cooler months of hot stews and casseroles than this potato salad riff with a warm finish? The tangy and salty duo of bacon and blue cheese makes it a standout side.
Recipe: Texas Caviar
This party-perfect dip is just as good scooped up with chips as spooned over grilled chicken at the family cookout. In this recipe, green tomatoes bring a bright, almost citrusy note to the mix.
Uncle Jack's Mac-and-Cheese
Recipe: Uncle Jack's Mac-and-Cheese
Macaroni and cheese is comfort food at its finest, but what makes this recipe even more comforting? The fact that it can be cooked and transported to the party in your slow cooker. Bonus: You can trust it'll stay ooey and gooey all evening long.