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BBQ Menu Ideas and Recipes

While I love the idea of BBQs, the reality of planning and hosting can be a little bit stressful. These easy BBQ menu ideas and recipes will help you host your BBQ in style and enjoy it, too!

As warm weather approaches, my mind starts to drift toward lazy afternoons with neighborhood friends, the smell of charred burgers on the grill, kids throwing water balloons in the yard, and a cool drink in my hand. But then reality of party planning hits.


Me: "Hey, we should have some people over to BBQ this weekend.


Me: "OMG, why did we think this would be a good idea? Quick -- you need to power wash the patio and repaint the house, and I need to go to the store for some more decorations. Do you think five side dishes is enough? Should I buy special color-coordinated straws for the lemonade? We're out of ketchup?!! Let's cancel it and tell everyone we're sick!!"

The thing is, a BBQ can be relaxing and super easy to put together if you PLAN AHEAD and you KEEP IT SIMPLE! 


The first part of planning a great backyard BBQ menu is making sure that the various dishes you serve are going to complement each other and be well balanced.

You want to avoid overloading on one ingredient or serving conflicting cuisines (ie: Greek chicken skewers with a Mexican taco salad). Have a balance of light and hearty dishes so that everyone can be satisfied without feeling overstuffed.

Components of an easy BBQ party menu:

  1. appetizer/snack
  2. main protein
  3. veggie-based side
  4. starchy side
  5. dessert
  6. special drink 

You don't need to offer four or five side dishes to go with whatever you're throwing on the grill, nor do you need eight varieties of chips and three desserts.

When I refer to a "special drink," it just means something other than water that's a little bit fun and festive. It could be a signature adult beverage, or a kid-friendly homemade lemonade or fruit punch. It's an easy way to make your BBQ feel special without going overboard.


Key BBQ Menu Tip:

Make sure that only TWO of the things in your menu require any major effort on your part.

That means everything else should either be pre-made (store bought) or outsourced to one of your guests. For instance, if your main course is going to be hotdogs and hamburgers, it's OK to make a homemade potato salad and a dessert, but if you want to actually enjoy your BBQ, don't try to "do it all."

Summer BBQ Menu Ideas

And don't be afraid to pass some of the work onto others! Planning your menu ahead makes outsourcing MUCH easier to do. In the past, I've been notorious for telling people not to bring anything over when I'm making a meal. But it was NOT because I didn't want or need any help; it was because I didn't have a menu plan in place and so I had no clue what to tell them to bring.

Below are some sample menus I put together to help y'all out.

Sample BBQ Menu #1:

Sample BBQ Menu #2:

Sample BBQ Menu #3:

And, since everybody's tastes are different, I've also created a PRINTABLE MENU PLANNER 

This will help you to plan your menu, create a shopping list of the ingredients you'll need, and make sure you don't forget some of the most commonly needed extras for your BBQ, such as condiments, napkins, and ice. (We ALWAYS forget the ice).


*My favorite way to make tropical iced tea is to combine unsweetened tea with tropical fruit juice. It's so easy, and everybody loves it!

I hope this can help take some of the stress out of BBQ planning. If you're looking for more menu ideas or BBQ recipes, you can visit my BBQ Recipes board on Pinterest for more inspiration.

Remember, the whole point of entertaining is to gather together and enjoy good company, so don't worry about every little detail. Just make some plans, light up the grill, and enjoy your people!

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Saturday 4th of August 2018

My wife and I are having my bosses (Board of Education & spouses) over next weekend for a bbq and pool party. About 20 people total. Please offer me a great menu other than the typical hamburgers, hot dog, etc. In previous years we have had the hamburgers etc. one year we had a taco bar, and last year we had pulled pork and brisket. Any new ideas/thoughts?

Thank you.


Saturday 11th of June 2016

I love your menus. I always go overboard and got a good laugh at how you described all the things to do for a BBQ. Since I am having my family over for the 4th of July , you have inspired me to keep things simple and to enjoy the day.


Saturday 11th of June 2016

Awesome, Denise! Thanks so much for your comment. :)

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