Oh, hot dogs. You stand by our grill all summer long, from the Memorial Day cookout to the July 4th potluck to the Labor Day picnic. So why do we always repay your loyalty with nothing but broken potato chips and watermelon wedges? This year, we’re making it up to you. Here are 18 sides for hot dogs to whip up for every backyard barbecue of the season. Trust us, there won’t be any leftovers.
1. Grilled Watermelon-Feta Skewers
The season’s signature fruit is all grown up. The melon holds up great against the tangy cheese, and don’t even get us started on those smoky grill marks. Tomato and mozzarella? We don’t know them.
2. Chilled Cucumber Salad
Even the kids won’t mind cooling off with a bowl of this tangy side. And with only five ingredients, it couldn’t be easier to make. The secret? Dill and rice vinegar. (And did we mention it pairs wonderfully with Pinot Grigio?)
3. Cauliflower ‘Potato’ Salad
Sorry, spuds. There’s a new veggie in town. Cauliflower stars in this light take on a summer classic. We traded mayo for Greek yogurt, Dijon mustard and sour cream, plus added a bunch of crunchy surprises like celery, green onion and minced cornichons.
4. Rainbow Vegetable Skewers
We’re big fans of skewer season. You will be too, once you place these on the grill for a stellar Instagram photo. The best part? Each skewer has a different veggie, so you don’t have to worry about the small ones cooking faster than the rest. Color Roy G. Biv impressed.
5. Slow-Cooker Baked Beans
One summer essential, coming right up. A pound of navy beans turns soft, savory and sweet after six hours in the Crock-Pot. Don’t be shy with the brown sugar.
6. Grilled Corn with Spicy Aioli
Butter and salt? You can do better than that. Fire up the grill, husk a few cobs and mix an addicting spicy mayo you’ll want to put on everything.
7. BLT Pasta Salad
Here’s a side even salad-haters can get behind. That’s what happens when you dress tomato, romaine and avocado up with crispy black-pepper bacon and mayo-mustard dressing. We can’t blame ’em.
8. Zucchini Caprese Salad
The traditional combo of mozzarella, tomato, basil and balsamic vinaigrette sounds good to us. Assemble it atop grilled zucchini with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and you’ve got an app for the books.
9. Loaded Baked Potato Chips
Mashed, roasted, fried. We’ll take taters however they come. But this genius starter is at the top of our list because it gives us all the fixings—bacon! cheddar! sour cream!—while still leaving us with room for everything else on the table.
10. Light and Tangy Coleslaw
No cookout is complete without a batch, and we don’t mean the clumpy store-bought stuff. We substitute mayo for a base of zesty rice vinegar, Dijon and Greek yogurt. Shred your own cabbage and carrot or save time with a pre-shredded mix.
11. Roasted Cauliflower Sliders
TBH, hot dogs are usually an appetizer for our cheeseburger. At least for us. Save more room for dessert (and cocktails) by trading beef and cheese for golden-brown cauliflower steaks sandwiched between layers of spicy yogurt and your favorite hummus.
12. Jalapeño-Avocado Mac and Cheese
She’s spicy. She’s buttery. She’s super cheesy. What’s not to love about ooey-gooey white cheddar sauce over pretty gemelli pasta? That’s right, nothing.
13. Portobello and Avocado Quesadillas with Magic Green Sauce
Is there a better way to get your daily vegetables? We think not. These are filled with mushrooms, black beans, avocado, cheddar cheese and Greek yogurt. Just wait until you dunk a triangle into the bright citrusy sauce, rich with herbs, capers and lime juice.
14. Zucchini “Fries”
Fries are a no-brainer, but these have a twist. Not only do we use zucchini in place of potatoes, we also skip messy frying and crisp these up in the oven instead. The kids may turn up their noses at first, but it’ll only take one bite to convert them.
15. Chopped Italian Salad Pizza
How do we like our greens, you ask? On golden-brown pizza crust, that’s how. It’s thin and crispy, so you can double-fist a hot dog and a slice without getting too full. We’ll take extra pepperoncini, please.
16. Zucchini Salad with Lemon and Parmesan
Three words: No. Cooking. Required. This beauty comes together in minutes, and all you need is a peeler (because zucchini just tastes better in ribbons), fresh herbs and a few pantry basics. Don’t skimp on the Parm shards.
17. Salami, Artichoke and Ricotta Pasta Salad
Red sauce wasn’t invited to the picnic. Instead, we’re bringing bowties with briny artichoke hearts, salami, dollops of ricotta and a ridiculously-simple mustard vinaigrette.
18. One-Ingredient Watermelon Sorbet
We’re picturing you in the pool with a weenie in one hand and a cup of this in the other. It’s so sweet and refreshing no one will guess it’s just straight-up watermelon. We won’t tell if you just let it melt and drink it with a straw. Or spike it with vodka. You do you.