BBQ Ideas: What Do I Bring as a Guest?

BBQ Ideas Kabob

Barbecue season is here, so it’s time to scheme your signature cookout contribution, or switch up the same-olds for a new take on some tastier summer vittles. No matter what you decide to bring, having a few unique BBQ ideas in your apron pocket will enhance your event – and net invitations to future events!

Where’s the beef?

Burgers and hot dogs are usually summer party necessities, but they aren’t your only options. Thoughtful guests contribute unique, delicious, and effort-free food items to the spread. Here are some tasty, ready-to-grill BBQ ideas for the main course:

  • BBQ Ideas KebabSkewered seasoned steak cubes, chicken-veggie shish kabobs, or bacon-wrapped scallops
  • Marinated meats, prepared in advance: chicken tenders, steak tips, boneless pork BBQ spare ribs work well
  • Chicken or turkey sausage can be made in many flavors: buffalo and blue, feta and sun-dried tomato, or hot pepper-infused links
  • Turkey, bean, or veggie burgers are always an excellent option for guests who prefer to eat lean or don’t eat meat
  • Gluten-free buns and rolls go a long way with diet-sensitive guests. Frank, Nufoodi Founder, also recommends bringing a head of romaine to flank your meats the low-carb way!
  • Remember to use pasture-raised or grass-fed meat for your guests who are on the paleo diet

BBQ ideas – sides and salads

Side dishes can make the meal, so it’s always satisfying to see your contributed bowl or tray of goodness completely consumed by the end of the day. Choose to bring foods that may be left on a table for at least an hour or two, without refrigeration. If determining a fantastic finger food seems too limiting, make sure your BBQ side is easily scoopable, because nothing kills a tasty treat like being difficult to eat.

Here are a few BBQ menu ideas for sides and salads:

  • Skewers again? Mix it up with grill-ready vegetable skewers, seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and grapeseed oil
  • BBQ Ideas Fruit SaladBeans, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, potatoes, and carrots all roast well. Pack them in foil with butter and garlic, and pre-roast at home, so you only have to reheat them on the party BBQ grill to save time and energy. Hosts rarely want guest chefs crowding their grill when you should be relaxing or social!
  • Veggie platters and a variety of healthy dips like hummus and tahini are surefire party pleasers
  • Pasta salads can take on any personality with as many ingredients as you can handle. Add diced strawberries or a tangy cheese, and turn up the volume on taste
  • Punched up fruit salad – try watermelon and bold mint or basil for a refreshing twist
  • Homemade coleslaw, egg or potato salad, with a mayonnaise alternative. Avocado or EVOO-naise are great substitutes!

Thirst quenchers and party starters

BBQ Ideas DrinksNothing kicks up a party like cocktails and mocktails, so bringing a jug of your favorite mixed drink is a creative BBQ idea. If you’d like to supply a specialty or a craft brew, try to bring enough for guests with similar tastes to try. Consider your company – if children and non-drinkers are present, make sure your tipsy beverage is clearly labeled (and separate from the non-alcoholic cooler). Also, think about bringing some juice mixers and flavored, RI favorite, Polar seltzer, and let fellow guests fix themselves a discreetly tame and tasty refreshment.

Some delicious beverage BBQ ideas:

  • Craft and hard-to-find local beers, such as from Revival Brewing Co., Lawson’s Finest, or Treehouse
  • Red, white, or rose sangria, mixed with fruit
  • Light wine for spritzers
  • Spiked iced tea and lemonade – mix it up for a John Daly, or skip the liquor and enjoy Arnold Palmers
  • Strawberry rum punch
  • Mojitos with fresh mint and crushed limes
  • Mocktails, such as juices (try cherry or açai) mixed with seltzer or Sprite for sparkle
  • Iced water, infused with previously frozen strawberries, citrus, or cucumber slices

Don’t forget the punch bowl and fruit or garnish to complement your libations!


Desserts can be tricky for picnics since most confections that contain dairy require refrigeration, or they’ll melt. Keep in mind that many dessert options have to remain fresh on an outdoor picnic table throughout the event. Consider these BBQ ideas if you are looking to provide a picnic-friendly sweet:

  • BBQ Ideas MacaronsCookies with non-melting ingredients, such as oatmeal raisin or sugar cookies
  • French macarons for the bold bakers – craft summertime fresh and fruity flavors like coconut or raspberry-lemonade
  • S’mores, perfectly prepared right on the grill or firepit (bring skewers!)
  • Grilled fruits – peaches, apples, figs, pineapple, and even watermelon can take on new life when quickly roasted over flames. This is a great alternative for friends looking for a gluten-free, dairy-free, healthier dessert
  • Homemade fruit and granola bars, such as apple pie bars, vanilla granola crunch bars, or if you can manage some fridge space, lemon cherry cheesecake bars
  • What are your favorites? Tweet to us or upload use hashtag #FindTheYum on Instagram!

Other BBQ ideas to keep in mind

BBQ Ideas PaleoIf you have a special diet, bring something that you can eat and drink, just in case your host isn’t prepared to accommodate you. Vegan options, gluten-free sides, and paleo-friendly foods are often welcomed by plenty of party guests, so exercise your right to chow down, according to your personal guidelines.  

Know your audience and consult with the host to see if anybody has any allergies or food restrictions. Preparing a delicious tray of lobster mac and cheese, only to learn everyone is on the Whole 30 diet will be a letdown.

Concerned about space or food longevity? Pack your goods in a cooler. This will make for easy transport in and out of the party, and you know you won’t be using up valuable host space in the fridge!

Summer is meant for fun, and the right barbecue foods add to the festivities. It’s time to head to your nearest supermarket and start shopping.

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