10 Ways to Transform Your Barbecue with Southern Sides

Barbecue and southern sides go together like peas and carrots. Here are a few ways southern sides can transform your bbq game.


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Barbecue and southern sides go together like peas and carrots. Any barbecue party is incomplete without some classic southern sides to round out the meal. From crispy fried okra to sweet and tangy baked beans, the possibilities for pairing smoky, saucy barbecue with its ideal accompaniments are endless. The American South is renowned for its rich culinary traditions, and southern-style sides are a quintessential part of what makes barbecue cuisines so iconic and delicious.

Today, barbecue has expanded beyond its regional roots and can now be found nationwide. But to truly appreciate the flavors of authentic southern barbecue, you need the classic sides that have been passed down through generations. The right sides don’t only complement the barbecue – they transform the entire experience. So, whether you’re firing up the grill in your backyard or visiting your favorite barbecue joint, don’t forget the sides.

Here are a few ways southern sides can take your barbecue game to the next level.

1. Baked Mac and Cheese

No barbecue meal is complete without creamy macaroni and cheese. This classic comfort food pairs perfectly with smoky, tangy barbecue, adding a rich, indulgent element to the plate. Bake the mac and cheese in a casserole with extra cheese and breadcrumbs on top for a crispy, browned topping. The smooth, melty cheese sauce provides the ultimate contrast to the saucy barbecue. Kids and adults alike will be going back for seconds.

2. Slow Cooker Green Beans

An easy slow cooker side dish, these southern-style green beans are cooked slowly with bacon and seasonings for maximum flavor. The smoky bacon pairs perfectly with any kind of barbecue and adds a savory depth to the fresh green beans.

Easily prepared in the crockpot, these green beans will fill your home with an irresistible aroma as they simmer. So, make these southern style crockpot green beans and serve them as the ultimate barbecue side.

Layer the beans with chopped bacon, chicken broth, garlic, and spices like thyme, salt, and pepper in the slow cooker. Cook on low heat for 4-6 hours until the beans reach your desired tenderness. The sauce thickens into a luscious glaze that complements the barbecue beautifully.

3. Cornbread

Warm, buttery cornbread is perfect for soaking up barbecue sauce. This southern staple can be baked or fried into wedges or muffins, providing a sweet, crumbly contrast to savory barbecue. For authentic flavor, use stone-ground cornmeal and cook the cornbread in a cast iron skillet. The slight grittiness and hint of corn flavor balance the intensity of the barbecue sauce. Crumble leftover cornbread over chili or barbecue baked beans.

4. Coleslaw

Cool, crisp coleslaw is a refreshing counterpoint to messy, saucy barbecue. The crunchy cabbage and carrots tossed in a creamy dressing help cut through the rich flavors of smoked meat. Coleslaw can be made sweeter with mayo and apple cider vinegar or tangy with Greek yogurt and lemon juice. Add toasted nuts or seeds for crunch. The possibilities are endless for customizing coleslaw. Serve it chilled in scoops alongside a juicy pulled pork sandwich.

5. Baked Beans

No barbecue menu is complete without a big pot of baked beans simmered low and slow with molasses and spices. The smoky, tomato-based sauce provides a sweet counterpart to the savory smoked meat. Upgrade basic baked beans by adding chopped bacon, brown sugar, onion, and barbecue sauce. Garnish with green onions and serve warm right out of the oven or slow cooker.

6. Fried Okra

Crispy fried okra is a quintessential southern side that adds crunch to any barbecue plate. Fresh okra is sliced and tossed in an egg wash and cornmeal breading before frying to golden brown perfection. The cornmeal coating soaks up the barbecue sauce beautifully. Fried okra provides a nice textural contrast to the tender smoked meat. Just beware of the slime inside the okra pods if you’re not a fan. Fried okra is hard to resist when done right.

7. Skillet Cornbread

Skillet cornbread is the perfect southern side to serve right from the cast iron pan. Allowing the cornbread to develop a crispy, browned crust in the preheated skillet gives it incredible texture and flavor—the coarse cornmeal and touch of sugar pair beautifully with smoky, tangy barbecue sauce. For the best results, cook the cornbread with bacon grease instead of oil. Fry slices of cornbread in the bacon drippings for a more decadent take.

8. Green Beans

Slow-cooker green beans are an easy, nutritious addition to your barbecue feast. Just toss fresh green beans with smoked turkey or ham, chicken broth, garlic, and seasonings, and let them cook low and slow until tender. The smoky meat adds tons of flavor. Drizzle the beans with barbecue sauce or top with crispy fried onions. Buttery yet crisp-tender green beans balance the richness of the barbecue perfectly.

9. Macaroni Salad

Macaroni salad is a Southern staple that often makes an appearance at barbecues. Elbow macaroni is tossed in a creamy dressing made with mayo, mustard, vinegar, and shredded vegetables like onion, celery, peppers, and carrots. The starchy pasta and vegetables soak up the dressing and provide a nice crunch factor. Chill the salad before serving it alongside saucy pulled pork or chicken. The cool, creamy pasta balances the hot, juicy barbecue.

10. Collard Greens

Collard greens are a staple southern side dish that packs a nutritious punch. Slow-cooked with smoked ham hocks or bacon, collards become meltingly tender with a slightly bitter, earthy flavor. The smokiness of the meat complements the natural smoky flavor of barbecue. Collards provide vitamin C, calcium, and fiber. Plus, the potent greens help cut through the richness of barbecue. Serve collards simmered low and slow with some pot likker (juices) for a truly authentic Southern experience.


When it comes to barbecue, the meat is just the beginning. To take your barbecue experience to the next level, don’t forget the time-honored southern sides that complete the meal. The possibilities are endless when pairing smoky, tangy barbecue with cool, creamy, or crunchy sides. Use this guide to transform your next cookout with soulful southern sides that bring out the best flavors. The right sides can make all the difference between a splendid and truly unforgettable barbecue.

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