How to Have the Perfect Summer BBQ

July 20, 2022

Summertime is in full-swing, which means that it’s officially BBQ season! There is nothing more quintessential to the summer months than a backyard barbecue, packed with good food, good friends, and good memories being made. It’s one of those things that is fun at any age!

But of course, when it comes to barbecues, the most important aspect is the food, which is why today, I’m here to give you my top tops on How to Have the Perfect Summer BBQ – including recipes that fit with every diet! In this post, you’ll find gluten-free recipes, vegan-friendly recipes, vegetarian recipes, paleo recipes, and healthy recipes that everyone will enjoy. Save this post for your next barbecue – it’ll make your cooking a breeze!

An image of salmon, lemon, vegetables, and other ingredients scattered across a countertop. The words, "How to have the perfect summer BBQ" are written across the image

What Makes a Good Summer BBQ

If you’re wondering what makes a standout summer barbecue, it comes down to a few different things.

First, it’s having a variety of dishes. When I’m hosting a barbecue, I always make sure to have at least one good appetizer, two different mains (usually a meat-based option and a vegetarian option), three different sides, a dessert, and a delicious cocktail. That may sound like a lot of food, and it is, but think about what a classic summer barbecue is like. You want to have your paper plate piled high with tons of delicious food to enjoy. Which means if you’re the host, it’s up to you to ensure there’s an abundance of different options!

Second, it’s one thing to have good food, but it’s another to make sure it’s prepared properly. It’s no fun to be at a barbecue, watching delicious burgers being thrown on the grill, only for them to turn out charred, dry, and unappetizing. Talk about a bummer!

Thankfully, all of the recipes included in this post are super simple and easy, so you not only end up with healthy food, but also DELICIOUS food every time. These recipes have been tried-and-true at my own barbecues, and are perfect for satisfying a crowd!

Oh, and to ensure that your grilling (aka the actual barbecue itself) goes well, I’m also including my 5 Genius Summer Grilling “Hacks.” These tips have all changed the GAME when it comes to grilling, and makes the process such a breeze!

Simple & Easy BBQ Appetizers

Your appetizers are like a first impression: they set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. Make sure you set the right tone with delicious appetizers that are sure to leave your guests excited for more! Plus, all of these appetizers come together in a matter of minutes, so you can focus on the main courses while your friends and family are enjoying themselves.

1) Vegan French Onion Dip

Three words, say it, and I’m yours: French. Onion. Dip. Although my girl Blair Waldorf wasn’t talking about these three words, I have a feeling that if she tried my Vegan French Onion Dip, she’d fall in love with it faster than she fell in love with Chuck Bass. Too many Gossip Girl references? No worries, you don’t need them to know that this Vegan French Onion Dip is the perfect dairy-free spin on your favorite cheesy, onion-y, soup.
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2) Zucchini Pizza Bites

If you loved Pizza Bagels as a kid, then you're going to love this healthy riff off my childhood favorite. These Zucchini Pizza Bites are gluten-free, packed with veggies, and are a snack that both your kids and your inner child will absolutely love. Run, don't walk, to make these, and don't say I didn't warn you when you want to eat the whole pan!
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3) The Best Creamy Vegan Queso

Looking for a quick and easy vegan queso recipe that actually tastes like real queso? I've got you covered. This vegan queso recipe is made with soaked cashews, marinara sauce, and basic seasonings that come together for an unforgettable queso dip. Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!
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4) The Best Garlic Smashed Potatoes

Oh hi, these are the best garlic smashed potatoes around town. The potatoes are perfectly crispy and they have a delicious garlic sauce to drizzle on top!
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6) Jalapeño Popper Wonton Cups

Your favorite game day snack just got a delicious (and healthier) upgrade. My Jalapeño Popper Wonton Cups are a unique twist on the traditional jalapeño poppers that you know and love, but are made with wonton wrappers (rather than breaded) and are baked, not fried. Plus, this recipe can easily be made dairy-free, which means it's the perfect recipe for all of my vegan friends! Run to your kitchen and make these ASAP – they just might become your new snack!
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Satisfying BBQ Salad Recipes

While a salad may not be considered a staple when it comes to your average backyard barbecue, I love offering at least one large salad. Why? Because it’s perfect for feeding a crowd, easy to make multiple batches of, and is a great way to add in some much-needed fruits and veggies! These salad recipes are super easy to double (or triple!) depending on how many you’re feeding, and are a nice, healthy addition to add to your barbecue tables.

7) Lemony Parmesan Kale Salad

A large bowl of the lemony garlic parmesan kale salad, with two forks sticking out of the bowl. Smaller bowls with the separate ingredients can be seen in the background.
Your new favorite summer salad has just arrived. My Lemony Parmesan Kale Salad is a bright, vibrant salad that tastes so delicious, you'll actually forget that it's healthy. 😉 This salad also happens to be gluten-free, grain-free, and uses only 8 simple and easy and ingredients, so it's perfect to whip up any time!
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8) The Ultimate Green Pasta Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing

A bowl of the simple green pasta salad with lemon tahini dressing, sitting on a countertop with a lemon wedge.
My Ultimate Green Pasta Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing is a delicious, flavorful pasta salad that is bursting with fresh herbs, bright veggies, and the most delicious tahini dressing. Make this recipe for your summertime picnics, bbqs, cookouts, and family gatherings – it definitely won't disappoint!
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9) Strawberry Arugula Salad with Lemon Poppyseed Dressing

"The perfect summer salad doesn't exist," that is… until now. Meet my Strawberry Arugula Salad with lemon Poppyseed Dressing, aka the perfect salad for your late summer days. Peppery arugula blends beautifully with the sweet strawberries and the tangy lemon dressing. It's light, refreshing, and bursting with flavor. Plus, it's gluten-free, with the option to make it dairy-free and vegan-friendly, so it's perfect for parties or social gatherings!
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10) Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Dijon Dressing

Two large bowls of the shaved Brussels sprouts salad with dijon dressing.
For all of my meal preppers: this recipe is for YOU. My Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Dijon Dressing is the perfect make-ahead salad, because it stays fresh for days without getting wilted and soggy! That's right – prepare this salad ahead of time and have a crispy, crunchy, tangy salad available anytime that you want it. This recipe is gluten-free, grain-free, and vegetarian-friendly as well!
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11) The Ultimate Kale Salad with Tahini Lemon Dressing

Locked and loaded kale salad topped with toasted quinoa, dried cranberries, shaved parmesan cheese, and toasted almonds, all tossed in a super creamy tahini-lemon-garlic dressing. This addicting salad is one that you will come back to, again and again! It's mind-blowing good!
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12) Healthy Chicken Caesar Salad with Tahini Caesar Dressing

A light and healthy Chicken Caesar salad. I made homemade garlic croutons with sourdough bread, then tossed the salad in a creamy tahini Caesar dressing and topped it off with Parmesan cheese  for good measure. So good!
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Mouth-Watering BBQ Main Dishes

Here is where we get into the real stars of the show: the main dishes. While barbecues are, of course, known for the meat dishes (think: hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled chicken), I also wanted include some options for my vegetarian and vegan friends, who are often left behind in the barbecue conversation.

Plus, most of these recipes can easily be made on the grill, for that classic summer barbecue experience!

13) Caramelized Onion Bacon Burgers

Welcome to the most flavorful, juicy, delicious homemade burger of your LIFE! My Caramelized Onion Bacon Burgers are so delicious, you wouldn't believe that these are healthier than your traditional fast-food burger!
Save this recipe for your next grill date, or anytime that you're tempted to run into the fast-food line and fulfill your burger cravings. This recipe is proof that healthy does NOT mean that your food has to be boring!
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14) Sheet Pan Bruschetta Chicken Breasts

On a busy weeknight, there are few things better (or more relieving) than a sheet pan dinner, and my sheet pan bruschetta chicken breasts are as simple as it gets. These are perfect for the nights where you aren't sure what to feed your family, or you just want to make something easy that you don't have to think too much about. This recipe is gluten-free, paleo, low-carb, and a crowd-pleaser for the entire family.
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15) Smashed Chickpea Avocado Salad Sandwich

The lightest, freshest, most delicious sandwich perfect for anytime of year is here! My Smashed Chickpea Avocado Salad is perfect on its own, or served on a sandwich, like it is here! My recipe is totally vegan, gluten-free, and packed with plant-based protein. Oh, and did I mention… there's NO mayo in it? Yup! This recipe is proof that you can get a creamy, chickpea "salad," sans the mayo!
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16) The Best Ever Greek Chicken Marinade

The juiciest, most delicious chicken of your LIFE is just a marinade away. This recipe is truly The Best Ever Greek Chicken Marinade, and is a surefire way to ensure that your chicken turns out perfectly moist and juicy, every single time. Plus, this marinade comes together with only six ingredients, so it's perfect to whip up any time that you're craving restaurant-quality chicken.
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17) Sheet Pan Lemon-Herb Salmon with Asparagus

A big bowl of the sheet pan lemon-herb salmon with asparagus. A few slices of lemon rests in the bowl
If you're looking for a quick, easy, and healthy dinner that comes together in record timing, then look no further because this recipe is IT! My Sheet Pan Lemon-Herb Salmon with Asparagus is a light and healthy dinner AND a side dish rolled into one. Plus, this recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, and takes only 20 minutes to make, making it perfect for the whole family to enjoy!
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18) Roasted Cauliflower Tacos with Chimichurri Sauce

If you're in need for the *perfect* taco for Taco Tuesday, look no further than my Roasted Chimichurri Tacos with Chimichurri Sauce. Not only are these the easiest and most crave-able tacos that you will ever eat (yeah, I said it: EVER), but they are gluten-free, vegan-friendly, and the perfect way to combine Meatless Monday with Taco Tuesday. I am all about making delicious, healthy eating as simple and easy as possible, and these tacos hit all of the marks!
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Show-Stopping BBQ Side Dishes

Just like Beyonce’s performances wouldn’t be the same without her backup dancers, your main dishes wouldn’t be the same without the sides! These side dishes come together quickly and easily, and can easily be enjoyed on their own, as well. There is always one person at the barbecue who prefers to just enjoy a plate full of sides, and these recipes are made for them.

19) The Best Gluten-Free Jalapeño Cornbread Muffins

Fluffy, buttery cornbread muffins are a "must" anytime of year, and my Gluten-Free Jalapeño Cornbread Muffins are the only cornbread recipe that you need! They're buttery, they're fluffy, they're spicy, and they're delicious on their own, or paired with a delicious soup. Plus, my recipe is completely gluten-free! 
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20) Caramelized Roasted Carrots With Feta

caramelized carrots with feta cheese | KALEJUNKIE
These carrots are caramelized with honey and topped with feta cheese, for the perfect anytime side dish!
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21) Cabbage Carrot Salad with Tangy Peanut Dressing

A bowl of the cabbage carrot salad with tangy peanut dressing, on a cutting board with ingredients scattered around it. A long serving spoon sits in the bowl.
Say goodbye to boring, soggy salads – forever. My Cabbage Carrot Salad with Tangy Peanut Dressing is a crispy, crunchy, veggie-packed salads that maintains its crunchy texture for days. Make this salad as the perfect side dish to any Asian-inspired meal, or eat it on its own, straight out of the container – I won't judge! This recipe also happens to be gluten-free, grain-free, paleo-friendly, and vegan, so it's sure to satisfy almost anyone!
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22) Armenian Cucumber & Tomato Salad

A large bowl of the Armenian cucumber tomato salad, on a countertop surrounded by different ingredients
If you are looking for a quick, easy, and delicious recipe that comes together in minutes, then look no further because this is IT! My Armenian Cucumber & Tomato Salad is a light, simple, and refreshing dish that only takes a few minutes to whip up, but can be enjoyed and savored throughout the week. It's the best! Plus, this recipe also happens to be gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan-friendly, making it the perfect dish for everyone to enjoy!
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23) Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

The answer to your perfect party appetizer dreams has come true. These Buffalo Chicken Meatballs are a real crowd pleaser, and are infinitely better than those frozen meatballs you can find at the grocery store. They're gluten-free from a special ingredient (hint:a way better alternative to bread crumbs) and they're so good, you'll want to eat the whole tray.
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24) Everything Chicken Tenders

I am a firm believer that Everything But the Bagel Seasoning belongs on… well, everything, and these Everything Chicken Tenders are no different. They're salty, crunchy, and bursting with flavor, oh, and not to mention, they're also gluten-free. If you're craving the delicious, childhood favorite, then look no further because this recipe will change the game!
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Delicious BBQ Dessert Recipes

Of course, when it comes to a barbecue, you absolutely need to have dessert! These delightfully sweet recipes are the perfect way to satisfy your sweet tooth, without leaving you feeling bloated and sluggish. That’s the joy of making recipes with better-for-you ingredients; you can still enjoy the foods you love, while also taking care of your body’s needs. It’s all about the balance. 🙂

25) Paleo Strawberry Sugar Cookie Cake

All of the ingredients needed to make this paleo strawberry sugar cookie cake, laid out on a countertop
If you are looking for the perfect cake recipe to serve at all of your summertime BBQs, cookouts, and family gatherings, then look no further because this is IT! My Paleo Strawberry Sugar Cookie Cake is the ultimate cake for the summer, and is loaded with fresh strawberries, creamy vanilla frosting, and oh, did I mention: it's also paleo-friendly. That's right, this paleo-friendly, grain-free, dairy-free cake is sure to satisfy.
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26) Life Changing Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies

Welcome to the only cookie you need in your life, my Life Changing Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies, a recipe with "Life Changing" in its title for very good reason. These cookies are truly life changing!
They are paleo-friendly, gluten-free, grain-free, and they can be made vegan and nut-free too, which means that people with various food aversions, allergies, and what not, will likely have their lives changed too. And that texture? They are lightly crispy on the outside, perfectly soft and chewy on the inside, and they melt in your mouth.
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27) Healthy Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

There's nothing better than cheesecake, and these Healthy Blueberry Cheesecake Bars are a delicious, healthy, hand-held alternative to your traditional cheesecake. They're sweet, they're creamy, and the blueberry swirl makes for the perfect added touch. Oh, and did I mention… there's NO cheese in the cheesecake bars?! Yep! They are completely gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo-friendly, and the perfect yummy treat to make anytime!
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28) Frozen Chocolate Banana Pops

A cutting board lined with parchment paper and four of the frozen chocolate banana pops on them
If you love the taste of chocolate and bananas, then you are going to love this recipe! My Frozen Chocolate Banana Pops are a a simple and easy way to enjoy a healthy, delicious sweet treat! As the weather begins to warm up, these are the perfect way to cool down and ease into the spring and summer months!
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29) Dairy-Free Chocolate Fudge Walnut Ice Cream

Hold onto your horses, because this recipe is unlike anything I've ever shared on my blog before. Introducing… my Dairy-Free Chocolate Fudge Walnut Ice Cream.
You won't believe how simple and easy this recipe is- no fancy ice cream makers needed! Oh, and did I mention, it's fully vegan, dairy-free, and refined-sugar free. Don't let that scare you though, because this ice cream is absolutely delicious, and will change your LIFE.
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30) The Best Ever Paleo Peach Crisp

This paleo peach crisp is a recipe collaboration between myself and Michelle Rosen from Paleo Running Momma. The base is a perfectly sweet peach mixture, and it is topped with the perfect paleo crisp. This dessert is one that you will be making over and over again this summer!
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Delicious & Refreshing Drink Recipes

You didn’t think I’d leave you without the drinks, did you?! 😉 Well, have no fear because OF COURSE I am here to make sure that you have the most delicious drinks to pair with your delicious summer barbecue meals. While these are mostly cocktails, many of these recipes can be made virgin / alcohol-free, with a few of them naturally alcohol-free for a younger or #sobercurious crowd.

32) Strawberry Aperol Spritz

Two tall glasses of the strawberry Aperol spritz, on a countertop with strawberries and sliced oranges in the background
If you're looking for a sweet, summer cocktail that will make you feel like you've been transported straight to the Italian Coast, then this is the recipe for you. My Strawberry Aperol Spritz is bursting with notes of zesty oranges and fresh strawberries, making it feel like summer in a glass. Plus, this cocktail requires only four ingredients, making it so simple and easy to whip up on a warm summer afternoon!
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33) Gut Healthy Mixed Berry Mocktail

A tall glass of the gut healthy mixed berry mocktail, topped with fresh mint and sitting on a countertop
This summer, we are ditching the cocktails and opting for a mocktail that not only tastes delicious, but also supports our gut health. Sounds too good to be true? Well, then you'll have to make this recipe for yourself and see just how good a mocktail can truly be! My Gut Healthy Mixed Berry Mocktail is a fun and delicious alcohol-free drink that is perfect for the whole family! It's loaded with fresh fruits and gut healthy ingredients, so you can support your body for both a good time and a long time. 
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34) 3-Ingredient High-Protein Dole Whip

A tall glass of the 3-ingredient high protein dole whip, sitting on a counter with a slice of pineapple and a sprig of fresh mint in the glass
If you've ever had the infamous Dole Whip at Disneyland, then you are going to LOVE my healthy take on this classic recipe! My 3-Ingredient High-Protein Dole Whip is a delicious, protein-packed, vegan-friendly treat that will not only unlock some of that Disneyland nostalgia, but will also help cool you down in the warm summer months! This recipe also happens to be dairy-free and grain-free, so it's the perfect healthy treat!
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35) Frozen Mango Mezcal Margarita

A tall glass of the frozen mezcal mango margarita, on a countertop with a lime wedge and jalapeño slices
Your go-to summer cocktail has just arrived, and when I tell you it's good, I mean it. It's SO GOOD! My Frozen Mezcal Mango Margarita is the creamy, frozen, delicious cocktail of your dreams. Don't like mezcal? Make this recipe with tequila and enjoy it all the same. This cocktail is sure to bring out the fun this year, so run, don't walk, to your kitchen and make it for those long summer days!
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36) The Ultimate Fruit Ice Cubes

Two tall glasses of water, with the fruity ice cubes stacked high inside of them
If you're someone who struggles to drink enough water daily, then listen up, because this simple and easy recipe is for YOU! My Ultimate Fruit Ice Cubes are a fun and refreshing way to get more water in, this summer, while also keeping things extra exciting. Plus, this recipe comes together in just a few minutes, and can be completely customized to your liking! It's a win-win!
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If you decide to make any of these recipes, please be sure to leave a comment and rating below! And since I practically live on Instagram, be sure to tag me in your creations so I can see them and repost on my IG stories! Enjoy! xx

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