15 Sides That Make the Meal—These Are Summer’s Undisputed Best

There’s never a better time of year than *right now* to simplify your meals. (And life, for that matter!) The warmer season sees us soaking up long, late-into-the-evening al fresco dinners, complete with fresh and vibrant mains and summer side dishes that inspire. With the weather ripe for outdoor dining, having an arsenal of delicious and easy-to-prep side dishes is the easiest way to elevate any meal. From refreshing dips to tangy slaws and fruit-forward salads, the possibilities are endless. We’re here to guide you through a selection of delicious summer side dishes sure to please any crowd.

15 Summer Side Dishes Your Guests Will Devour

Whether you’re planning a beach picnic, backyard barbecue, or a casual get-together with friends on the patio, these summer side dishes are perfect no matter the occasion. Each recipe makes the most of all the fresh, seasonal ingredients at your fingertips. And what’s more, they celebrate the essence of summer—lending a burst of color and crisp flavor to your table. With your grocery list at the ready, let’s dive into all the best summer side dishes to accompany your summer feasts.

Spicy Watermelon Feta Salad

Spicy Watermelon Feta Salad

Why We Love It: When summer rolls around, I’m all about dishes that balance sweet, savory, and spicy flavors. Creating a recipe that hits this trifecta is hard—but this watermelon feta salad delivers. The feta’s rich, salty bite contrasts with the sweet, juicy watermelon. And the jalapeño’s punchy spice is all I need to confirm: this is the official side dish of the summer.

Hero Ingredient: Basil leaves might be my favorite summer ingredient. The aromatic herb enhances this salad’s overall flavor profile, tying all of its elements together.

Kale Pea & Ricotta Spread

Kale Pea & Ricotta Spread

Why We Love It: I’ve never met a spread I didn’t love—and proceeded to dive into, crudité-first. This spread is not only packed with fresh summer flavor (think: peas, garlic, lemon juice, and a little heat from the red pepper flakes), but it’s also a breeze to whip up. Pull out your food processor and you’re already halfway there.

Hero Ingredient: I love a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg sprinkled into my creamy dips. It’s warm, nutty, and—with a hint of clove and tobacco—adds a beautiful complexity to this simpler-than-it-seems summer side.

Street Corn Guacamole

Bhutta Street Corn Guacamole

Why We Love It: It’s an unspoken rule: guacamole is a must on any summer table. And though people like to keep theirs simple, I’m here for this Indian-inspired spin. Corn (sliced freshly off the cob) is a summertime classic. When mixed with a vibrant medley of avocados, jalapeño, cilantro, and unexpected spices, you have a summer side that’s right at home alongside your favorite tacos, protein of choice, or with as many tortilla chips as you can manage.

Hero Ingredient: Chaat masala—end stop. It adds a complex blend of tart, spicy, salty, and tangy flavors that awards this dish the title of The Most Interesting Guacamole in the World.

Snap Pea Salad

Snap Pea Salad

Why We Love It: When the temps reach into the triple digits, the oven is off and we need sides that deliver all the fresh flavor. This snap pea salad satisfies with an addictively crunchy texture. The goat cheese and feta, plus the creamy white beans, keep things interesting and make this salad more satiating than your typical summer go-to.

Hero Ingredient: This mustard-y champagne vinaigrette has quickly become a staple drizzled atop all of my salads. You’ll love its sharp acidity and slightly sweet tang.

Crispy Torn Halloumi Salad

Crispy Torn Halloumi Salad

Why We Love It: When you want a summer side that leans closer to the satisfying end of the spectrum, this torn halloumi variation is your go-to. It’s comprised of a blend of simple ingredients that complement and contrast each other to create a truly addictive dish. And I love how, when you tear the halloumi, it boasts all these beautiful, craggily nooks and crispy bits that lend plenty of satisfying texture.

Hero Ingredient: Halloumi will always be the hero ingredient in my heart. Its flavor is mellow but not at all boring, and it can stand up to all sorts of cooking methods. Though it’s usually expensive, I’d argue that it deserves staple-status in your kitchen.

Simple Tomato Salad recipe

Simple Tomato Salad

Why We Love It: My relationship with tomato salads: the simpler, the better. Summer is peak tomato season (I’d argue you should never buy tomatoes outside of June through September), so of course, you want their vibrancy to shine. With just six ingredients, this tomato salad follows my rules to perfection—and reaps the delicious benefits as a result.

Hero Ingredient: The tomatoes, hands down. All the other ingredients (salt, lemon juice, sunflower oil, garlic, and onion) serve simply to enhance your tomatoes’ flavor. Opt for farmer’s market, fresh tomatoes—you’ll be happy you did.

Samosa Chaat Sweet Potato Fries

Samosa Chaat Sweet Potato Fries

Why We Love It: While sweet potato fries may not seem like an obvious homemade summer side dish, they might be one of my favorites on this list. Why? 1) Hello, french fries. 2) Counting salt, this recipe calls for just five ingredients. So when you’re in a pinch and want to serve something statement-making, these sweet potato fries are always your answer.

Hero Ingredient: I’m a toppings girl at heart. Give me all the yogurt, mint, cilantro, red onion, and jalapeño. Oh—and a drizzle of lime for good measure.

simple potato salad

Simple Potato Salad with Smoked Chile Aioli

Why We Love It: It’s not summer without a potato salad. And while potato salads of yore might have looked more like a gloppy mess than a delicious summer side dish, this recipe understood the assignment. Yukon gold potatoes roasted in olive oil get tossed with soft-boiled eggs and a smoky-spicy aioli to bring it all together. This recipe is your sign to step away from the sub-par grocery potato salad.

Hero Ingredient: I will happily devour the smoked chile aioli straight with a spoon.

Avocado Caprese Salad

Avocado Caprese Salad

Why We Love It: I’m here for the trend of deeming any salad that involves tomatoes and mozzarella a caprese—and this avocado spin is my newfound fave. I love how the avocado introduces a creamy texture and rich, buttery bite to the salad’s fresh components. The result is so satisfying, and I’m obsessed with all the colors this salad packs.

Hero Ingredient: Camille opted for burrata here, and I live by the rule that burrata makes everything better.

The Best Simple Green Salad

The Best Simple Green Salad

Why We Love It: Sure, you probably don’t need a recipe for a green salad. But—an herby, crunchy, green salad tossed with the best shallot vinaigrette of your life? For that, you need Camille’s secrets. I love the variety of greens this salad packs, and the mixed herbs add so much fresh flavor.

Hero Ingredient: Toasty, buttery, finely chopped walnuts reign supreme.

Burrata, Fig, & Arugula Salad

Burrata, Fig, & Arugula Salad

Why We Love It: Let this be a PSA to start adding fruit to your salads, stat. Figs, when halved lengthwise, display a beautifully ornate cross-section that yields plenty of visual interest. In terms of flavor, they add a fruity element—a mix between strawberries and dates—to the mix, and their jam-like quality plays up the creamy burrata to perfection.

Hero Ingredient: The candied nuts add a perfect crunch, and if you make extra, the leftovers are an ideal afternoon snack.

Strawberry Caprese Salad

Strawberry Caprese Salad

Why We Love It: To reiterate: fruit belongs in your summer salads. When strawberries are at their freshest peak-summer, this salad is a must-make. You’ll macerate the strawberries, drawing out their natural flavors and concentrating their fruity bite. Paired with freshly torn basil and burrata (bless), this salad is summer personified.

Hero Ingredient: How can wax poetic about summer-fresh strawberries and not call them this salad’s hero ingredient?

Green Salad With Sesame Dressing

Green Salad With Sesame Dressing

Why We Love It: When you’re keeping your salad simple, it’s all about the dressing. Case in point, this summery green salad with a ginger-packed tahini vinaigrette. And while the salad itself only calls for four ingredients—baby greens, freshly grated parmesan, roasted and salted pistachios, and furikake—it layers in so much flavor and texture that’s sure to keep all your guests satisfied.

Hero Ingredient: Furikake (a Japanese seasoning made with toasted sesame seeds, nori, salt, and sugar) is an unexpected—though obsession-inducing—topping. Get the big bottle: you’ll be putting it on everything.

Fennel Salad

Fennel Slaw

Why We Love It: Every summer gathering needs a quick and easy slaw. Although pulling out the coleslaw mix and blending a quick dressing works in a pinch, this fennel salad is just as fast—and might even call for fewer ingredients.

Hero Ingredient: Fennel needs to start getting the good press it deserves. While some people are put off by the anise-like flavor, I love its fresh, pleasantly sweet bite. All of that is amplified in this simple dish—the herbs, citrus, and slight sweetness from the honey give this standout veg the star treatment.

raddichio citrus prosciutto salad

Bitter Greens, Citrus, and Prosciutto Salad

Why We Love It: Can we—right now—all agree that bitter flavors deserve a spot in our daily diets? Bitter ingredients make the perfect foundation for creamy additions. Some examples: coffee with cream, lemon with butter, and arugula with olive oil. As Camille notes in this recipe: it’s all in the balance. And balance, this salad perfects. I’m obsessed with the spectrum of hues, flavors, and textures this salad takes on. It’s salty (prosciutto), it’s crunchy (pistachios), and it’s one of the best summer side dishes you’ll make this year.

Hero Ingredient: This salad is a compendium of underrated ingredients. Let this be a shoutout to the balsamic vinegar that yields a rich, complex sweetness to every bite.

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