Best BBQ Main Dishes for a Party

Looking for main dishes to serve at a BBQ party? We’ve got various recipes to mix and match to serve as the basis for the perfect barbecue menu. Check out these recipes, tips, tricks and more.

a collage of four images showing different bbq entrees with the text best bbq main dishes

Aaaaah. ‘Tis the season for all things barbecue, and I do not know about you, but I am excited to host a backyard barbecue.

The world is your oyster with this, though.

You can make most of the dishes yourself or you can invite friends to turn it into a potluck situation.

No matter what you decide, you should first decide upon the main dish or the centerpiece of the meal.

What should I serve for a BBQ menu?

That’s up to you, my friend.

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    To me, a backyard barbecue is a gathering that shares the classic barbecue dishes I was raised on (including ribs, pulled pork and BBQ chicken) OR the Texas barbecue I’ve come to know and enjoy, like brisket.

    However, it can be as simple as throwing steaks, hamburgers or hot dogs on the grill if that’s what it means to you.

    This is oftentimes dependent on where you were raised. And no matter the way you want to do it, I’m here to encourage you.

    However, this list of BBQ meat focuses on those more barbecue-centric dishes of my youth, not just any old summer cookout.

    What to pair with your main barbecue dish:

    Again, this is dependent on what you make as the main BBQ meats…

    If you’re looking for side dishes, there is a world of possibilities for you.

    There are dishes that highlight vegetables, like charred corn salsa (or plain ‘ol corn on the cob), cucumber caprese salad, caprese skewers and more.

    And you can’t go wrong with classics, like potato salad, pasta salad, baked beans, watermelon fruit salad and more.

    I share some of our favorite side dishes at What to Serve with Pulled Pork Sandwiches.

    And if you’re in the market for a festive dessert that plays nicely with BBQ flavors? Check out 40+ 4th of July Desserts because we’ve got summery ideas, classic BBQ deserts (like cobbler, pie and ice cream) and more.

    How to plan a BBQ party menu:

    Every menu should be customized to YOU and the people you’re hosting.

    Some things to consider as you build your menu for a backyard barbecue include…

    • How many people are you feeding?
    • What are you able to cook?
    • Are you making everything or will guests bring dishes?
    • Does anyone have any dietary restrictions? Be considerate and have some food everyone can enjoy. Most of these BBQ dishes are naturally dairy and gluten free! (After all, we don’t add cheese to our barbecue.)
    • How many appetizers and sides will you need?
    • What equipment do you have at your house? (For example, if you’ve got a grill with a side burner, you might be able to make more dishes outdoors instead of if you don’t have a grill.)

    I always start with the protein and then expand out to capture how many sides, appetizers and sweets I’ll need to have on hand.

    Consider this all as you make your menu.

    Here are our favorite cuts of meat to barbecue for any occasion…

    Our Favorite BBQ Recipes to Make and Share

    A bowl of pulled pork next to a BBQ sauce
    Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork
    Knock the socks off guests with this Memphis-style Pulled Pork Shoulder, cooked in the slow cooker, then finished in oven. Once the pork shoulder is falling apart, shred it, then serve on a sandwich with slaw for the perfect summertime dinner!
    Check out this recipe!
    A BBQ burger with turkey with several toppings on a white plate on wood
    BBQ Turkey Burgers
    Saucy, delicious BBQ Turkey Burgers are topped with roasted onions and homemade barbecue sauce and served up on a toasted bun. This turkey burger is the perfect more healthy burger option for summertime grilling months.
    Check out this recipe!
    A platter of Memphis-Style Barbecue Ribs sits with barbecue sides on red, white and blue linen.
    Memphis-Style Barbecue Ribs
    Summertime is the season of barbecue… so it’s time to learn how to make a barbecue classic. Even though ribs take time, they’re well worth the effort, and these Memphis-Style Barbecue Ribs are PERFECT for any summer get-together. Seasoned with homemade barbecue dry rub, these ribs cook low and slow for hours. Finish this nod to the Memphis dry rib on the grill or in the broiler, and serve with traditional barbecue sides to complete the feast!
    Horizontal image of Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Nachos on a sheet pan, shown from above
    Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Nachos
    Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Nachos make a tasty weeknight dinner-turned-entertaining centerpiece! Made easy with rotisserie chicken, this colorful dish is perfect for both kids and adults! Toss the chicken in barbecue sauce, then layer the nacho ingredients on top of tortilla chips and bake. When bubbly and delicious, garnish and serve. Whether you’re hosting friends for the game or making a family meal, Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Nachos are sure to please!
    Check out this recipe!
    Close up of a pulled pork sandwich drizzled with BBQ sauce
    BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches
    BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches are one of the best ways to enjoy pulled pork. Meaty pulled pork sits on toasted buns with homemade creamy coleslaw and is slathered in BBQ sauce for extra flavor. Perfect for picnics, backyard BBQs, weeknight dinners and more, it’s hard not to LOVE this easy BBQ sandwich recipe!
    Check out this recipe!
    A BBQ chicken sandwich on a plate topped with coleslaw
    Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Mustard Coleslaw
    Prepare for the big game by whipping up this easy and delicious entree. These Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Mustard Coleslaw are sure to wow your guests without causing additional stress as you prepare for the party.
    Check out this recipe!
    Sliced Instant Pot BBQ Brisket sits on a wooden cutting board with pickles and is served with baked beans, as shown in the background.
    Instant Pot BBQ Brisket
    Don’t shy away from making barbecue at home! Instant Pot BBQ Brisket is proof that you don’t need a smoker to make incredible tasting meat this summer. Brine brisket for 24-48 hours before cooking in the electric pressure cooker. When all is said and done, this barbecue brisket tastes amazing… and requires very little hands-on time. Perfect for picnics, patriotic gatherings and more, Instant Pot BBQ Brisket is a flavorful summertime recipe!
    Check out this recipe!
    Two Pumpkin Pulled Pork Bowls sit on a blue background with colorful pink and orange napkins
    Pumpkin Pulled Pork Bowls
    Pumpkin Pulled Pork Bowls are the best fall dinner. Cook pulled pork in a slow cooker with homemade pumpkin BBQ sauce, then combine it with a homemade easy coleslaw recipe to make a meal. Whether you're hosting friends for an a tailgate party at home, bringing it on the road or serving it for dinner, these pulled pork bowls are an excellent meal.
    Check out this recipe!
    Four people grab for slices of Grilled BBQ Chicken Flatbread, straight off the grill
    Grilled BBQ Chicken Flatbread
    Fire up the grill this weekend and host friends and family for a backyard barbecue! Grilled BBQ Chicken Flatbread makes the perfect centerpiece for an outdoor party. Studded with various fresh summer veggies and grilled barbecue chicken, this scrumptious flatbread serves a crowd. Elevate the dish and gathering by pairing it with Coppola Diamond Collection cans. This premium wine comes in three varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.
    Check out this recipe!
    A platter of BBQ Chicken Burger Bites sits on a table before serving at a party
    BBQ Chicken Burger Bites with Avocado Slaw
    Today calls for BBQ Chicken Burger Bites with Avocado Slaw and a Spicy Vinegar Sauce. These quick chicken sliders make a delicious appetizer or meal. Featuring spicy BBQ sauce and BBQ rub, the poultry patties mix up easily and cook quickly. Top with homemade avocado slaw and a spicy/sweet vinegar sauce, and these burger bites are hard to beat. Cook up a batch for a crowd, whether you’re hosting a party, a holiday get-together or a weeknight meal!
    Check out this recipe!
    Three Pear BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Pear Slaw sit on a white platter with a BBQ sauce jar in the background
    Pear BBQ Pulled Pork with Pear Slaw
    Preparing for a fall gathering? No matter the occasion, Pear BBQ Pulled Pork with Pear Slaw is a delicious dish! This pulled pork cooks in the Instant Pot and serves a crowd. First, a make homemade PEAR barbecue sauce, and cook the pork. Next, toss together pear coleslaw, and serve together. Whether you’re serving dinner for the family or hosting a gameday gathering, Pear BBQ Pulled Pork with Pear Slaw will become a seasonal favorite! 
    Check out this recipe!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What do you bring when someone invites you to a BBQ?

    There is a world of possibilities that you can bring with you, and we’ve rounded up a LOT of them here in this post. I always advise asking your friend if they want to assign you a dish or to tell you what they already have covered so you don’t have duplicates.

    What is usually served at a BBQ?

    It depends on where you’re from and where you currently live, but to me, a BBQ tends to involved slow cooked meat that can be slathered in barbecue sauce…

    A woman with dark curly hair wearing a black tank top in front of a white wall

    About the Author:

    Erin Parker is a Southern gal living in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She started The Speckled Palate to share what she was cooking as a newlywed… and over the years, it’s evolved to capture her love for hosting. Specifically, the EASIEST, lowest key entertaining because everyone deserves to see their people and connect over good food. Learn more about her

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