classic mac and cheese recipe

Slow cooker BBQ sides let you focus your attention on grilling the main attractions—and your Crock-Pot can even do dessert if it’s too hot to turn on the oven. So ease into Labor Day Weekend with these Crock-Pot BBQ side dish recipes.

On the day of a barbecue, there’s no denying that the grill is the center of attention. And it should be: all those meaty, perfectly charred mains are designed to steal the show. But no outdoor feast can subsist on burgers, kosher dogs, and brisket alone. A bright and colorful array of sides is just as essential.

Appliance UpgradeThe Best Slow Cookers for Every Personality & SituationYou can grill all of them and then some, from the salad (see our grilled romaine guide) straight through to grilled dessert—but you can also cut down on the fuss and devote all your energies to being the master of the grill by making your sides in the slow cooker. Or if you’re a guest, a slow cooker side is easy to prep ahead of time and bring to the party. These recipes make it possible to put your ingredients in the crock and simply press start.

We threw in a couple extras (including a slow cooker dessert and a Crock-Pot dip) because it’s always good to have options. Behold, 15 of our favorite summer slow cooker recipes (but don’t forget the slaw and potato salad either).

Related Reading: Ultimate Guide to BBQ & Grilling

1. Easy Slow Cooker Baked Beans

Slow Cooker Baked Beans and Hot Dogs

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Saucy baked beans are a fantastic accompaniment to grilled and barbecued meats. Our version throws in bacon and molasses, for a smoky-sweet flavors that hold up against virtually any heavily-marinated main—but omit the bacon and add a tiny bit of liquid smoke for a great vegan version. Get our Easy Slow Cooker Baked Beans recipe.

Related Reading: Vegan & Vegetarian BBQ Dishes All Your Guests Will Adore

2. Easy Slow Cooker Chili

slow cooker chili recipe

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Whether you’re in the mood for jam-packed chili dogs or just want to fit a little extra meat into your spread, a ladle full of chili can easily find its place amidst all the barbecue fun. Get our Easy Slow Cooker Chili recipe.

3. Slow Cooker Hot Wings

easy slow cooker hot wings recipe

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Is your grill space all maxed out with burgers and brats? Throw your wings in the slow cooker for a supremely saucy finger food. Get our Slow Cooker Hot Wings recipe.

4. Slow Cooker Collard Greens

Slow Cooker Collard Greens with smoked ham hocks

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The best greens are full of smoky flavor with a hint of sweetness and tang. This slow cooker recipe ensures that they are completely infused, turning them into a powerhouse on the plate, and a perfect side for ribs. Get our Slow Cooker Collard Greens recipe. (Try Crock-Pot Bacon Green Beans too.)

5. Slow Cooker Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

Vegetarian Slow Cooker Stuffed Peppers recipe

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Think of this as your veg and your grain-based salad all in one. The slow cooker helps the peppers get soft and sweet while the bean-studded quinoa turns each package into something hearty and substantial (which is extra-good if you have vegetarian BBQ guests and forgot to stock up on grillable meat alternatives or make your own veggie burgers). Get our Slow Cooker Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers recipe.

6. Slow Cooker Creamed Corn

A barbecue spread would feel incomplete without corn of some sort. This rich and creamy rendition brings it in its most rib sticking-ly delicious glory. Get the Slow Cooker Creamed Corn recipe.

7. Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

The best part about mashed potatoes with barbecue is swirling them around with the sauce from the meat to make one incredibly amazing flavor mashup. This recipe makes getting those delectably fluffy spuds about as easy as can be, and classes them up with a little brown butter for extra nutty flavor. Get the Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes recipe.

8. Slow Cooker Summer Squash

Slow Cooker Summer Squash recipe

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Summer squash can be cooked two ways: either just barely charred (or sauteed) and still nicely al dente, or meltingly tender and soft. With barbecue, the latter might just be the better option, fitting in perfectly with the other low and slow eats. This recipe shows you how it’s done. Get our Slow Cooker Summer Squash recipe.

Related Reading: What Is the Difference Between Winter Squash and Summer Squash?

9. Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese

Mac ‘n cheese in the slow cooker? Yes, indeed. The Crock-Pot method brings out its most delightfully gooey unctuousness. Get the Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese recipe.

10. Slow Cooker Spanish Rice

Slow Cooker Spanish Rice recipe

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If you’re doing skewers or kebabs, there’s something really great about pairing them with rice, and this slow cooker Spanish rice is full of flavor and almost effortless to make in a big batch, two big BBQ pluses for sure. Get our Slow Cooker Spanish Rice recipe.

11. Crock-Pot Baked Potatoes

A fully loaded baked potato can look pretty boss even next to the most spectacular of barbecued meats. These puppies are a side that few would want to skip over. Get the Crock-Pot Baked Potatoes recipe.

12. Slow Cooker French Onion Dip

Easy Slow Cooker French Onion Dip recipe

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While you might not technically call it a side, no one will quibble with a big batch of delicious dip on the table. This one is creamy, tangy, savory, and full of sweet onions that caramelize in the Crock-Pot for up to 9 hours. Have plenty of chips and crunchy vegetables on hand. Get our Slow Cooker French Onion Dip recipe.

Related Reading: The Best Dips for Your BBQ Appetizer Spread

13. Slow Cooker Bacon Compote

Slow Cooker Bacon Compote

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Similarly, this is more of a condiment than a side, but it’s so full of bacon, it almost counts as an entree. Try it on your hot dog, burger, grilled pizza, or anything else that could use a shot of sweet, smoky, salty flavor that’s been mellowed out and enriched with coffee, molasses, and cider vinegar. Ohhh, yeah. Get our Slow Cooker Bacon Compote recipe.

14. Slow Cooker Spicy Relish

slow cooker spicy relish recipe

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Why not throw another homemade condiment in the mix? If you prefer spicy to sweet pickle relish, this slow cooker concoction with bell peppers, serrano chiles, and onion is the perfect topper for all your grilled meat. Get our Slow Cooker Spicy Relish recipe.

Related Reading: The History of Kosher Hot Dogs

15. Slow Cooker Peach Crumble

slow cooker peach crumble

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And to close things out, you can call on your slow cooker for dessert too. This Crock-Pot peach crumble was inspired by an Alton Brown recipe, and simply asks that you tumble peaches, oats, brown sugar, flour, allspice, nutmeg, and butter into your slow cooker, then wait for it to get all soft and relaxed and sweetly caramelized. Okay, and then put some ice cream or fresh whipped cream on top. Get our Slow Cooker Peach Crumble recipe.

Related Reading: Easy No-Bake Desserts for Stress-Free Summer Entertaining

Related Video: How to Make Spicy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

This post was originally published on June 24, 2015 and has been updated with new images, links, and text.

Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University’s program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.
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