17 Barbecue Sides You Can Make in the Slow Cooker

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Come summer, we’re all for cooking as much food on the grill as possible. We love the smoky, charred taste of grilled food and the way it cooks just a little bit unevenly — vegetables that are blackened at the edges but still al dente inside and meat with a charred crust and an almost-rare center. Plus, grilling outside keeps you from having to turn on the oven and add more heat to your already hot house.

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The thing is, a grill can only fit so much food at once, so while it’s great for cooking up a main dish, there isn’t always room for sides. Plenty of summer side dishes don’t need to be cooked at all — think juicy tomato and burrata salads or crispy coleslaw with just enough mayo — but for those that do, we prefer to use a slow cooker.

If you think “summer slow cooker” is an oxymoron, we don’t blame you. One of the slow cooker’s best and most famous tricks is that it can turn inexpensive, tough cuts of meat into tender, pull-apart piles of wintry stews and braises. The results are pretty damn impressive, but not exactly the kind of thing you crave in warmer summer months.

The thing is: The slow cooker can do pretty much everything your oven does (except turn your kitchen into a midsummer sauna). Plus, the set-it-and-forget-it nature of the slow cooker means that it’s great for preparing party side dishes ahead of time and not having to think about them until it’s time to eat. You can even plug your slow cooker in to an outdoor electrical outlet if you really don’t feel like adding heat to your house!

Whether you’re cooking for two minutes or 20, here are the 17 summer slow cooker side dishes you need to know about.

A version of this article was originally published July 2018. 

Originally posted on StyleCaster.

  • Slow Cooker Broccoli Casserole

    Image Credit: Persnickety Plates.

    This simple but delicious broccoli casserole can be made in the slow cooker in less than two hours. It doesn’t use any suspect condensed soups, and the garnish of fried onions adds a craveable crunch before serving.

    Get the recipe at Persnickety Plates.

  • Slow Cooker Cheesy Bacon Ranch Potatoes

    Image Credit: Slow Cooker Meals.

    Making a dish like this on the stove top or in the oven will turn your home into an inferno in the summer. Try making your cheesy bacon ranch potatoes in the slow cooker instead, and keep your kitchen comfy.

    Get the recipe at Slow Cooker Meals.

  • Slow Cooker Basil Pesto Bread

    Image Credit: Diethood.

    Cooking up homemade bread is even easier in the slow cooker, where it rises and bakes at the same time. This basil pesto bread would be delicious with grilled veggies, summer salads, or to soak up all the saucy goodness from your plate of barbecue.

    Get the recipe at Diethood.

  • Slow Cooker Garlic Parmesan Spaghetti Squash

    Image Credit: My Modern Cookery.

    We can think of about a million ways to serve this slow cooker garlic parmesan spaghetti squash this summer! Dress it with pesto made from fresh garden herbs, serve it with a cherry tomato bruschetta topping, add grilled chicken or shrimp — it’s so tasty, folks might not even realize they’re eating squash and not pasta.

    Get the recipe at My Modern Cookery.

  • Slow Cooker Baby Carrots with Honey and Brown Sugar

    Image Credit: Home Cooking Memories.

    Crowd-pleasing glazed baby carrots are even better when made in the slow cooker, so you can focus on the grill. The brown sugar honey glaze pairs well with barbecued items, and makes the carrots tasty enough that some people might actually want to put a vegetable on their plate of ‘cue.

    Get the recipe at Home Cooking Memories.

  • Bacon Ranch Chicken Dip

    Image Credit: The Skinny Pig.

    This recipe calls for an Instant Pot, but if you don’t have one, a slow cooker will work just fine! You’ll just need to complete the first few steps in a pan and then do the rest in your slow cooker. This delicious dip also makes a great appetizer!

    Get the recipe at The Skinny Pig.

  • Easy Slow Cooker Cornbread

    Image Credit: Fuss Free Flavors.

    No summer barbecue is complete without a big helping of cornbread. And sure, it’s pretty easy to bake your batter in a skillet, but it’s even easier to pour that batter right into a slow cooker and let it do its thing. You won’t have to worry about burning the edges or the top either since the slow cooker method means that everything will cook more evenly.

    Get the recipe at Fuss Free Flavours.

  • Slow Cooker Corn on the Cob

    Image Credit: Cooking Maniac.

    Full disclosure: With this recipe, you won’t get intermittently charred kernels like you do when you cook corn on the grill, which is a bummer. That said, corn for a crowd takes up a whole lot of grill real estate that might be better used for cooking up burgers or dogs, so this set-it-and-forget-it alternative is great for a party. Plus, the cobs cook in a bath of melted butter, so you know they’ll be delicious.

    Get the recipe at Cooking Maniac.

  • Slow Cooker Barbecue Green Beans

    Image Credit: Spicy Southern Kitchen.

    Far more delicious than the green bean dish you might eat on Thanksgiving (in our opinion, anyway), this one is studded with bacon and sauced with a tangy mixture of ketchup and barbecue sauce.

    Get the recipe at Spicy Southern Kitchen.

  • Slow Cooker Macaroni & Cheese

    Image Credit: The Cookie Rookie.

    Ever tried a hot dog topped with mac and cheese? If not, you should definitely add it to your summer to-do list.

    Get the recipe at The Cookie Rookie.

  • Slow Cooker Bourbon Baked Beans

    Image Credit: Plain Chicken.

    Can you heat canned baked beans to serve alongside your burger spread? Sure. Will those canned beans be laced with booze and bacon? Nope.

    Get the recipe at Plain Chicken.

  • Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes

    Image Credit: Cooking Classy.

    Whether you serve the baked potatoes as is or dice them up for potato salad, these no-fuss spuds come out perfectly every time.

    Get the recipe at Cooking Classy.

  • Garlic-Parmesan Potatoes

    Image Credit: The Magical Slow Cooker.

    Meat and potatoes make a great pair, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cook one on the grill and the other in your slow cooker.

    Get the recipe at The Magical Slow Cooker.

  • Slow Cooker Creamy Polenta

    Image Credit: Just a Little Bit of Bacon.

    Polenta is most often served with braised meat, but if you’re slow cooking a big cut of beef or pork on the grill, you’ll end up with a similar kind of super-tender meat that works really well with this creamy side.

    Get the recipe at Just a Little Bit of Bacon.

  • Slow Cooker Bacon Cauliflower

    Image Credit: 365 Days of Slow Cooking.

    Cauliflower is the trendiest vegetable around, and this slow cooker bacon and cauli dish is the perfect way to include it in any summer spread.

    Get the recipe at 365 Days of Slow + Pressure Cooking.

  • Slow Cooker Corn & Jalapeño Dip

    Image Credit: Damn Delicious.

    It isn’t a party without dip, and this sweet-spicy version is great for both scooping up with chips as an appetizer and later alongside a perfectly charred steak.

    Get the recipe at Damn Delicious.

  • Buffalo Chicken Tater Tot Casserole

    Image Credit: Slow Cooker Gourmet.

    What pairs well with Buffalo chicken tater tot casserole? The better question is: What doesn’t?

    Get the recipe at Slow Cooker Gourmet.

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