Chefs’ Picks: BBQ Sides

Step up your barbecue spread with these next-level spins on the standard side dishes from chefs across the country.

Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.

Nothing says summer like firing up the grill for a smoke-tinged feast. Hot dogs and burgers are requisite, of course, but sides are your secret weapon for taking a spread from the expected to the exceptional. Borrow tricks from these chefs from coast to coast, who share their creative spins certain to elevate any barbecue.

Lima Beans

Louisville ’cue joint Doc Crow's brings a regional bean into the mainstream by dressing up this Southern staple with fresh flavors. Executive Chef Jonathan Schwartz sweats rosemary with onions and butter before adding in the lima beans. “It really brings out the rosemary oils and gives the flavor of the dish extra depth,” Schwartz explains. “Lima beans are a regional food, and the additional flavors give them American flavor profiles, making for a great barbecue side.”

Lima Bean Salad
Serving size: 6
Start to finish: 45 minutes
1 ounce butter
2 1/2 ounces bacon, diced
1 small stalk rosemary, whole
2 1/2 cups yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Black pepper
1 tablespoon white wine
11/4 pounds lima beans
3 cups chicken stock

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once butter is melted, add bacon and rosemary. Saute the mixture, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes or when the bacon begins to get a slight color, add the onion, salt and pepper. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes or until the bacon becomes translucent. The onion should not caramelize.

Add garlic and continue cooking for 1 minute, until garlic becomes aromatic. Deglaze with white wine and add lima beans, stirring well.

Add water and chicken base and bring up to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 20 minutes, until lima beans become tender. Discard rosemary stalk. Serve with your favorite barbecue dish.

Mac ‘n’ Cheese

At The Social Club, in the Surfcomber hotel in Miami, Blair Wilson cooks up his twist on a traditional barbecue side. “Other than the cold sides like coleslaw, potato salad, deviled eggs and pickles, I love mac ‘n’ cheese almost as much as barbecue baked beans,” Wilson notes. He gives classic mac a decidedly Southern spin by tweaking it with pimento. “Serve with love next to any of your favorite barbecue-style meats,” he advises.

Wilson’s pimento-laced sauce doesn’t have to be strictly relegated to pasta, either. You can also use it as a vegetable dip or to dress up other dishes.

Pimento Mac ‘n’ Cheese Sauce
5 pounds American cheese, sliced or shredded
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
2 cans diced pimentos, drained and roughly chopped
1 pound unsalted butter
1 gallon whole milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 quarts heavy cream
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder

In a medium rondeau (braising pan), melt butter completely and add flour. Cook the flour for 3 to 4 minutes, making a blonde roux. Slowly add the milk until the mixture is thoroughly incorporated. Add heavy cream, paprika, pimentos, garlic and onion powder. Bring to simmer and let thicken for 5 to 10 minutes. The mixture should resemble a pink bechamel. In portions, add the American cheese, making sure that it has melted before adding more. Repeat this step with the cream cheese. Bring mixture back to a very low simmer for 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt. Remove from heat. Feel free to pour over everything.

Baked Beans

Baked beans may be standard barbecue fare, but adding peaches to the mix makes for a refreshing riff on the classic. Chef Jason Dady of San Antonio’s Two Bros BBQ Market likes to serve his beans with both applewood-smoked bacon and fresh, chopped Fredericksburg peaches when available.

BBQ Beans with Peaches
2 pounds cooked pinto beans
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cups fresh peaches, diced
1/2 pound applewood-smoked bacon
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup BBQ sauce
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup kosher salt

In a large, heavy-bottomed braising pot, render and cook bacon until crispy. Remove fat as it renders, and reserve for another use.

Once bacon is crispy, add onion and cook until translucent. Add beans, sugar, barbecue sauce, Dijon mustard and vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Once beans come to a simmer, add peaches and serve immediately.


Coleslaw lovers usually have strong opinions about creamy or vinegar slaw. Chef Aaron Robins created his dill coleslaw for Boneyard Bistro in Sherman Oaks, Calif., to appeal to both camps. “It’s a great side for barbecue, due to its tanginess. It has all the acidity and bite of a vinegar slaw, with the body of a creamy slaw,” Robins explains. He suggests piling it on top of smoky pulled-pork sandwiches or serving it on the side of ribs and brisket to cut the richness of the meat.

Boneyard Bistro’s Famous Dill Cole Slaw by Aaron Robins

Serves 8 to 12
1 to 2 heads of shredded cabbage
1 tablespoon celery salt
1 tablespoon dried dill weed
1 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons Louisiana Hot Sauce (not Tabasco)
Salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients for dressing together until well incorporated and sugar is dissolved. The dressing will be viscous and very sweet.

Add dressing to shredded cabbage to coat well. Mix and put in refrigerator for about 2 hours.

Remove from refrigerator and remix. There should be more liquid now, due to the cabbage releasing its water, and the taste will not be as sweet. Add more dressing or pour off some excess. The cabbage should wilt a little bit but still retain some crunch.

Photos courtesy of Jaimie Schapker, The Social Club, Two Bros BBQ Market and Boneyard Bistro

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