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18 Easy Cookout Food Ideas

When the weather turns nice, nothing says the weekend like a cookout! So, if you’re ready to plan a memorable weekend cookout with some ridiculously flavorful grilled dishes, we’re here to help. This list of food ideas for a cookout has you covered. 

Delicious grilled recipes perfect for your next cookout

Are you ready to branch out and skip the hotdogs and hamburgers for your next cookout? Whether inviting fellow couples, families with kids, or just feeding your own family, there’s something for everyone here. With everything from meat and sides to dessert to build a menu, your guests will be raving about the food for months. 

Get out the checkered tablecloths and your favorite grill master apron, and let the fun begin. Grilling has never been so tasty with these easy cookout food ideas! 😋


How do you plan a cookout menu?

The same way you plan a dinner menu! Get together a list that includes your main dish, sides, desserts, and drinks, and you are good to go. 👌

What do you need for a cookout party?

Besides a good menu, you’ll want plenty of plates, utensils, serving platters, and cups on hand. Napkins and tablecloths are also key. And if it’s summertime, you might want to light a citronella candle or keep a couple of bottles of bug spray around for your guests. I always place a trash can or two somewhere in the backyard/porch area for easy cleanup, too!

What time should a cookout start?

This comes down to personal preference. I plan mine for around 5 pm, so it’s not too hot outside. That time also makes it so my friends with kids can still enjoy a fairly early dinner and get home by bedtime if they need to. 

Grilled Poultry for Your Cookout Food Ideas

Enjoying tender grilled Cornish hens with corn on the cob and green beans

1. Grilled Cornish Hens

These perfectly portioned little hens are ideal for a cookout with an upscale feel. Marinated and grilled to juicy perfection, you can serve one or half per guest, depending on individual appetites. The skin chars beautifully, and the flavor is subtly sweet, especially with grilled onions, for an elegant presentation. ✨

Grilled Cornish Hens
Perfectly juicy with the tastiest grill-charred skin, marinated grilled Cornish hens are a real delight to dig into. Besides tasting a treat, these tender birds are the perfect option for a simple dish that looks exceptionally elegant.
Check out this recipe
A smokey, insanely tender grilled Cornish hen with grilled potato wedges
Insanely delicious grilled chicken tenders on a bed of fresh lettuce

2. Grilled Chicken Tenders

With a herby marinade and the smoky flavors from the grill, these ain’t your average fast-food chicken tenders! The flavor these babies deliver will please kids and adults alike. Don’t forget to serve them with fun dipping sauces, like homemade Alabama BBQ sauce or honey mustard sauce.

Grilled Chicken Tenders
These grilled chicken tenders explode with flavor for the perfect comfort food. Lemon and garlic herbiness deliver a truly indulgent treat. And they're super easy on the grill, a grill pan, or an air fryer.
Makes 12-20 chicken tenders
Check out this recipe
Insanely delicious grilled chicken tenders on a bed of fresh lettuce
scrumptious grilled boneless chicken thighs beautifully plated

3. Grilled Boneless Chicken Thighs

Serving a crowd on a budget? Look no further than grilled boneless chicken thighs. With a zesty marinade and quick cooking time, these juicy (affordable) cuts are perfect for quick and easy grilling. 😎

Grilled Boneless Chicken Thighs
Infused with a zesty marinade and cooked to perfection deliver a quick and delicious meal option. And easy prep with speedy cooking creates awesomeness for any occasion, especially cookouts. So fire up the grill for a mouthwatering feast!
Check out this recipe
boneless grilled chicken thighs ready to eat
Delectable chicken wing flats with ranch dressing for the win for any cookout

4. Chicken Wing Flats

Juicier and easier to eat than their drumette counterparts, these chicken wing flats are insanely delicious. This recipe is super simple, and the key to all the flavor is in the chicken rub. Another quick and easy cookout main that is always a crowd pleaser. Don’t forget the celery and carrot sticks and a side of blue cheese.

Chicken Wing Flats
This finger-licking good recipe crafted to perfection will satisfy your hungry soul with its delectable flavor and have you craving more. Super easy, fun, and guaranteed to steal the show at your next cookout. Wings are great, but flats are amazing.
Check out this recipe
Satisfy your soul with delectable flavor of grilled chicken wing flats and your favorite sauce
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad served in a Plate with Garlic Bread

5. Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

Grilled salad? Yes, my friend. If you’re looking for a lighter dish, try grilled chicken and grilled romaine lettuce for a charred yet crunchy salad. Perfect with grilled bread, this is one of my favorite meals when the summertime heat hits. ☀️

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
The classic combination of crispy romaine lettuce, juicy chicken, garlicky croutons, and tangy Parmesan cheese is taken to the next level. A cook time of less than 40 minutes provides an amazing option for a quick and satisfying meal. It's a delicious and easy-to-make dish that's perfect to serve to your family.
Check out this recipe
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad served in a Plate with Garlic Bread

Grilled Seafood Recipes

Perfectly grilled tilapia fillets smothered in delectable mango salsa

6. Grilled Tilapia Filets

These surprisingly simple tilapia filets are one of my favorite main courses. This light fish is shockingly tasty, considering how healthy it is. It also cooks in just a few minutes, which is super convenient. Serve it with rice and grilled bok choy for an Asian feel, or make it tropical with some grilled plantains and mango salsa on the side.

Grilled Tilapia Fillets
These quick, easy, surprisingly tasty fillets are also good for you. They almost sound too good to be true! Get ready to make a meal that will satisfy the whole family in minutes.
Check out this recipe
Perfectly grilled tilapia fillets smothered in delectable mango salsa
A perfectly grilled tuna steak, with a mouthwatering sear on the outside and a tender, pink center, placed on a clean plate.

7. Grilled Tuna

Make waves at your next cookout with this succulent, smoky main that’s remarkably easy to make. It tastes amazing and looks like something you would order at a fancy restaurant, so points for a fabulous presentation, too! Keep things light with a grilled Caesar salad for a side and steaming white rice. So good! 🤤

Grilled Tuna
With its tender, succulent texture and harmonious blend of savory and smoky notes, is a true gem that's surprisingly simple to prepare. Get ready to make waves at your next cookout with this tasty dish.
Check out this recipe
A perfectly grilled tuna steak, with a mouthwatering sear on the outside and a tender, pink center, placed on a clean plate.
Grilled Salmon Burgers are a great cookout food idea

8. Salmon Burger

For some next-level burgers, try these delightful salmon burgers. They’re juicy inside, with just a slight crunch on the outside. Seafood lovers will swoon! Top them with warm, melty smoked cream cheese for a heavenly finishing touch. 

Salmon Burger
This recipe takes burgers to the next level. The juicy inside and soul-satisfying crunch on the outside pack a whole lot of flavor. Top it off with a tartar sauce, tomatoes, onion, and lettuce for exquisite and healthy summer burger happiness!
Check out this recipe
Grilled Salmon Burger

Beef Recipes for Your Cookout

Tender, medium rare grilled ribeye ready to be devoured at your next cookout. Great food idea

9. Grilled Ribeye

Insanely tender and juicy with a crisp outer sear, this steak is beyond satisfying. Plus, these are some of the easiest steaks to make. If you’re nervous about it, invest in a meat thermometer, and you’ll have perfectly cooked steaks every time, guaranteed. And you should definitely top these beauties with some cowboy butter

Grilled Ribeye
Insanely tender with a beautifully seared crust, this grilled ribeye will have all of your friends and family raving. Plus, grilling the perfect steak is probably easier than you'd imagine.
Check out this recipe
Leftover smoked beef brisket for a decadent sandwich

10. Leftover Beef Brisket Sandwiches

If you prefer spending some time grilling some spectacular sides and desserts, then beef brisket sandwiches are an ideal main course. The melt-in-your-mouth beef is delicious, and the sandwiches are easy to customize with lots of fun toppings. Serve them with smoked baked beans, and your weekend will be complete! 😄

Leftover Beef Brisket Sandwich
Juicy strips of brisket piled high on a soft bun, then loaded with BBQ sauce and fresh toppings, taste heavenly. Perfectly tasty and easily customizable, it's no wonder these sandwiches are real crowd-pleasers.
Check out this recipe
Chunky beef brisket sandwich served with jalapeno
Beef Brisket Burger served in a wooden chopping board perfect for your list of favorite cookout ideas

11. Juicy Beef Brisket Burgers

What’s better than a thick and juicy hamburger fresh off the grill? A juicy beef brisket burger! One bite of these ultra-beefy patties will hook you. And remember to make homemade burger sauce to drizzle on top!

Juicy Brisket Burger
The ultra-beefy flavor of these rich and satiating burgers is so incredible you may find it hard to go back to regular ground beef burgers. And besides being out of this world when it comes to flavor, they are ridiculously easy to make. Get ready to take your backyard BBQ burgers to the next level.
Check out this recipe
Beef Brisket Burger served in a wooden chopping board
Bacon Burger Served in a Wooden Chopping Board

12. Grilled BBQ Bacon Burgers

Speaking of insanely good burgers, this may be my absolute favorite cookout burger in existence. Painted with homemade BBQ sauce during their final minutes on the grill and topped with crispy grilled bacon, these burgers are nothing short of perfection.

Grilled BBQ Bacon Burgers
Juicy ground beef is deliciously seasoned with herbs and spices, slathered in tangy BBQ sauce, and grilled to perfection. Top your BBQ burger with crispy bacon and all your favorite fixings, and pile it on a toasty-golden bun for the ultimate comfort food! You'll never do drive-thru again after tasting these beauties!
Check out this recipe
Bacon Burger Served in a Wooden Chopping Board

Grilled Sides for Your Cookout

Grilled peppers and potatoes topped with fresh basil perfect for cookout food ideas or to have in the freezer

13. Grilled Peppers

A quick marinade infuses these sweet peppers with the perfect amount of smokiness when they come off the grill. Ultra versatile, these peppers make the perfect side for poultry, beef, or seafood. You can serve them as-is or pile them atop a burger. They always add a special touch to cookout food ideas. 

Grilled Peppers
Grilled peppers are some of the most tender and flavorful of all grilled vegetables. The secret lies in a quick marinade to create some smoky sweetness. This recipe proves that keeping things simple can lead to some seriously amazing results.
Check out this recipe
Grilled peppers and potatoes topped with fresh basil
Grilled Zucchini and Squash with parmesan cheese on top

14. Grilled Zucchini and Squash

These summer staples taste amazing when grilled. I use a quick marinade to make those earthy, smoky, and barely sweet flavors really shine. Pair them with your favorite main course, or try them alongside grilled lamb lollipops. Eating your veggies has never tasted so good! 😆

Grilled Zucchini and Squash
Gorgeous squash and zucchini tossed in a delicious marinade and grilled to perfection are my family faves! The smoky earthiness with just a hint of sweetness is oh-so-satisfying. Whether hosting a backyard barbecue or looking for a healthy side dish, this deliciousness will impress your family and friends.
Check out this recipe
Grilled Zucchini and Squash in a black plate
Grilled acorn squash drizzled with maple syrup and sprinkled with sunflower seeds

15. Grilled Acorn Squash

Charred to glorious perfection with warm, savory spices, this winter squash (a.k.a. acorn squash) recipe is absolutely heavenly. These beauties are the perfect balance of sweet and spicy flavors and go with just about any main course. Try them with any main on this list, or pair them with a juicy flat iron steak or this pellet-grilled spatchcock turkey.

Grilled Acorn Squash
Winter squash never tasted so good! Perfectly charred with sweet and savory spices, this side dish is oh-so-warm and comforting. Best of all, it goes with almost any main course you can think of.
Check out this recipe
Grilled acorn squash drizzled with maple syrup and sprinkled with sunflower seeds
Insanely good grilled cabbage steaks drizzled with remoulade

16. Grilled Cabbage Steaks

It’s all about those crispy caramelized edges. Who knew you could transform cabbage into something so delicious with just a few simple pantry staples? Another big win is that this side is 100% versatile. Try it with some grilled pork belly, and you’ll see what I mean. 😉

Grilled Cabbage Steaks Recipe
Discover a delicious and healthy dish with our grilled cabbage steak recipe. Learn how to grill cabbage to perfection and serve it with a delightful remoulade sauce. A simple and flavorful dish that's perfect for any occasion.
Check out this recipe
Hearty grilled cabbage steaks topped with creamy and tangy remoulade sauce, garnished with chopped fresh herbs.
Grilled Carrots served in a white plate with brown butter sauce make a great cookout food idea

17. Grilled Carrots

Grilled carrots in a delectable browned butter sauce, anyone? Another versatile side, carrots are easy to make and economical. And let me reiterate: the brown butter sauce, which is herby, sweet, and balsamic-y, is off the charts. You will definitely be adding this to your cookout menu on the regular. 

Grilled Carrots
Perfectly charred and roasty, with an incredible sweet browned butter sauce, carrots have never tasted so good! This is an easy, economical, and extraordinarily tasty side dish you'll come back to week after week. 👌
Check out this recipe
Grilled Carrots served in a white plate with brown butter sauce

Grilled Desserts Idea for Your Cookout

grilled pineapple served with vanilla ice cream for a delicious dessert option for your next cookout. Great food ideas are delicious

18. Grilled Pineapple

Tangy, juicy, smoky pineapple coated in warm cinnamon sugar – mmm! My mouth is watering just thinking about it. No need to spend time making baked goods for dessert, just pop this pineapple on the grill. Or make it as an appetizer or chop it up and use it to top grilled fish or tacos. 🌮

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