Summer barbecues are fun, but when you’re the guest, coming up with the perfect dish to bring can be a task. You want something creative and tasty, but you don’t want to upstage or inconvenience the hostess. We’ve got tips and recipe links to help you choose the perfect dish.

  • First, be sure to ask the hostess what to bring. Upstaging the host or hostess is bad enough, but insulting them? That’s a party spoiler. Even if the hosts really are OK with two huge bowls of potato salad, you’ll worry about your faux pas all through the BBQ.
  • Pick a dish you can store and serve at room temperature if possible. Great choices are many types of pastries, dips or small sandwiches that aren’t mayonnaise based, or cakes and cupcakes for dessert.
  • Or load your dish into a small cooler to keep it fresh without taking up valuable space in your host’s fridge. Have an extra bowl that’s larger than the serving bowl or a decorative tray handy to hold the ice while serving. Try to keep it as compact as possible.
  • Summer BBQ dishes should be easy, too. At a BBQ, nothing beats a side of slaw. Make simple Southern-style slaw in minutes with pre-shredded mix from your produce section. Add mayonnaise, vinegar and salt and pepper, a pinch of sugar, along with finely chopped onions or celery if you like.
  • Skewer up something yummy. Mimic the BBQ kabob with skewered appetizers or desserts. This simple watermelon feta mint skewer is a refreshing summer choice. How about apples, cheese cubes and grapes or cantaloupe, honeydew and prosciutto? So easy to pick up from a buffet line and to eat poolside!
  • Use summer fruits in just about any dish. They’re light appetizers and sweet enough for dessert. Add mangoes to black beans for a summer salad or create a mango salsa. Fruit salad goes with or after the meal. Add fresh tomatoes and cucumbers to nearly any pasta or green salad.
  • Often, the host asks a guest to bring appetizers and desserts while hosts take care of the main dishes. If you’re assigned appetizers, be sure to arrive on time. Try hummus with pita chips or small wraps with crunchy vegetables and light nuts inside for munching without filling up.
  • Get creative with chips and dip. Make your own potato chips - or try chips from eggplant or sweet potato! Make cheese chips or crisps by shredding cheese, spicing it up with some hot sauce or chili pepper and pressing it in a panini maker.
  • Spice up a summer fruit and make guacamole. It’s such a refreshing and pretty dip to serve; try this easy, no-measure recipe. Mix up white, yellow and blue corn tortilla chips for a prettier display. A side of guacamole also makes a good burger condiment.
  • We mentioned how easy it is to keep cakes fresh without chilling, depending on your frosting and filling. Same goes for cupcakes, fruit pies and brownies. Angel food cake is perfect for summer, because it’s light, easy to make and great with fruit toppings like mashed and sweetened strawberries.