45 Sides, Sauces & Drinks That Go Well With Barbecue Chicken

Uncover the ideal side dishes to complement barbecue chicken.
Rustic plate of grilled tilapia, grilled outdoors with grill marks visible.
Rustic Plate of Grilled Tilapia: Freshly Grilled Tilapia for a Satisfying Meal.

Barbecue chicken is a beloved dish that is enjoyed by people all over the world. Its succulent and smoky flavors, combined with the charred and crispy skin, make it a true culinary delight.

Whether you’re grilling it in your backyard or ordering it from a local BBQ joint, barbecue chicken always manages to tantalize our taste buds and leave us craving for more.

But here’s the question: what goes well with barbecue chicken?

While the chicken itself is undoubtedly the star of the show, pairing it with the right side dishes, sauces, and beverages can elevate the entire dining experience to a whole new level.

The right accompaniments can complement the flavors of the chicken, balance out its richness, and provide a variety of textures and tastes.

This comprehensive blog post aims to delve into the world of barbecue chicken and explore the multitude of options for enhancing your dining experience.

We’ll cover everything you need to know, from understanding flavor profiles and balancing tastes to considering regional preferences and dietary restrictions.

By the end of this post, you’ll have a wealth of knowledge on what complements barbecue chicken, enabling you to create a memorable meal for yourself, your family, and your friends.

So, whether you’re planning a backyard BBQ, hosting a summer cookout, or simply looking to expand your culinary repertoire, this guide will be your go-to resource for discovering the perfect accompaniments for barbecue chicken.

Get ready to tantalize your taste buds and embark on a flavorful journey as we explore the wonderful world of pairing barbecue chicken with the right sides, sauces, and beverages.

Let’s dive in and discover the perfect companions for your next barbecue chicken feast!

Rustic plate of grilled tilapia served with a side of lemon.

Pairing Principles and Considerations

When it comes to finding the perfect accompaniments for barbecue chicken, understanding the principles of pairing is essential.

By considering the flavor profiles, balancing tastes and textures, and taking into account regional preferences and dietary restrictions, you can create a harmonious and satisfying meal.

Let’s explore these pairing principles and considerations in more detail.

1. Understanding Flavor Profiles

To create a balanced and complementary meal, it’s important to understand the flavor profiles of both the barbecue chicken and the side dishes.

Barbecue chicken typically offers a combination of smoky, sweet, and tangy flavors. The smokiness comes from the grilling process, while the sweetness and tanginess are derived from the marinade or sauce used.

When selecting side dishes, look for flavors that enhance or contrast with the flavors of the chicken. For example, if the barbecue chicken has a sweet and tangy sauce, you might want to consider sides that offer a hint of acidity or a touch of heat to balance out the sweetness.

On the other hand, if the chicken has a more savory and smoky flavor, you can opt for sides that provide freshness and brightness to contrast with the richness of the meat.

2. Balancing Tastes and Textures

Pairing barbecue chicken with sides that have contrasting tastes and textures can create a more dynamic and satisfying dining experience.

Consider the following factors when selecting your side dishes:

  • Texture: barbecue chicken is often tender and juicy, so pairing it with sides that offer a contrasting texture can add interest to the meal. For example, if the chicken is soft and moist, consider adding a side with a crispy or crunchy texture, such as coleslaw or cornbread.
  • Taste: While it’s important to consider the overall flavor profile, it’s also essential to think about balancing specific tastes. If the barbecue chicken is on the sweeter side, pairing it with a slightly tart or acidic side can provide a pleasant contrast. Similarly, if the chicken has a bold and spicy flavor, a side with a milder taste can help balance out the heat.

3. Considering Regional Preferences

Barbecue traditions vary across different regions, and this influences the choice of side dishes that are typically served alongside barbecue chicken.

For example, in the Southern United States, classic sides like coleslaw, baked beans, and cornbread are staples at barbecue gatherings.

These sides complement the flavors of the chicken and reflect the regional culinary traditions.

Repeat images of a rustic plate of grilled barbeque chicken.

If you want to stay true to a specific regional style, it’s important to take into account the flavors and ingredients commonly used in that cuisine.

However, don’t be afraid to experiment and mix different regional styles to create a unique and personalized dining experience.

4. Taking Dietary Restrictions into Account

When planning a barbecue chicken meal, it’s crucial to consider dietary restrictions and preferences of your guests.

Offering a variety of side dishes that cater to different dietary needs ensures that everyone can enjoy the meal.

Some common considerations include:

  • Vegetarian and vegan options: Include plant-based sides like grilled vegetables, quinoa salad, or vegetarian baked beans to cater to those who don’t consume meat.
  • Gluten-free options: Ensure you have gluten-free sides available, such as gluten-free cornbread or potato salad made with gluten-free ingredients.
  • Allergies and intolerances: Be mindful of common allergens like nuts, dairy, and shellfish, and provide alternative options or clearly label any potential allergens in the side dishes.

By being mindful of these dietary restrictions and preferences, you can create a welcoming and inclusive dining experience that accommodates a variety of needs.

Understanding these pairing principles and considerations will help you make informed decisions when selecting sides to go with your barbecue chicken.

Now that we have established the foundation, let’s move on to exploring the different categories of side dishes in more detail.

Side Dishes

Side dishes are an integral part of any barbecue chicken meal, as they add variety, texture, and flavor to the overall dining experience.

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In this section, we will explore a range of side dish options that pair well with barbecue chicken, from classic BBQ sides to healthy alternatives and international flavors.

Classic BBQ Sides

  1. Coleslaw: Coleslaw is a quintessential side dish that perfectly complements barbecue chicken. Its creamy and tangy dressing, combined with the crunch of cabbage and carrots, adds a refreshing element to the meal.

    Whether you prefer a mayo-based coleslaw or a vinegar-based one, this side dish provides a delightful contrast to the smoky flavors of the chicken.
  2. Baked beans: The rich and savory flavors of baked beans make them an ideal accompaniment to barbecue chicken.

    The slow-cooked beans, flavored with onions, bacon, and a sweet and tangy sauce, add depth and heartiness to the meal. Baked beans are a classic BBQ side that brings a touch of comfort and familiarity to the table.
  3. Cornbread: Cornbread is a staple in Southern cuisine and pairs exceptionally well with barbecue chicken. Its slightly sweet and crumbly texture complements the smoky flavors of the meat.

    Whether you prefer it plain or with added ingredients like jalapeños or cheddar cheese, cornbread adds a rustic and comforting element to the meal.
  4. Macaroni and cheese: Creamy, cheesy, and indulgent, macaroni and cheese is a crowd-pleasing side dish that goes hand in hand with barbecue chicken.

    The combination of tender pasta and gooey cheese creates a comforting and satisfying experience.

    Whether you prefer a traditional mac and cheese or a gourmet version with added ingredients like bacon or truffle oil, this side dish is sure to please.
  5. Potato salad: A classic potato salad is a versatile side dish that complements barbecue chicken exceptionally well.

    The creamy and tangy dressing, combined with tender potatoes and a medley of herbs and spices, adds a refreshing and cooling element to the meal.

    Whether you prefer a mayo-based or vinegar-based potato salad, this side dish is a staple at many BBQ gatherings.
  6. Grilled vegetables: Grilled vegetables offer a healthy and flavorful option to accompany barbecue chicken. The charred and smoky flavors of veggies like bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and onions add depth and complexity to the meal.

    Grilling the vegetables brings out their natural sweetness and creates a delicious contrast to the savory chicken.

Healthy Options

  1. Quinoa salad: Quinoa salad is a nutritious and protein-packed side dish that pairs well with barbecue chicken.

    The fluffy quinoa, combined with fresh vegetables, herbs, and a tangy dressing, offers a light and refreshing alternative to heavier sides.

    Quinoa’s nutty flavor and delicate texture provide a delightful contrast to the smoky flavors of the chicken.
  2. Grilled asparagus: Asparagus is a versatile vegetable that can be grilled to perfection and served alongside barbecue chicken.

    Its tender and slightly charred texture, combined with its earthy and slightly bitter taste, provides a delicious contrast to the richness of the meat.

    Drizzle the grilled asparagus with a squeeze of lemon juice or sprinkle it with Parmesan cheese for an extra burst of flavor.
  3. Green salad with citrus vinaigrette: A simple green salad with a zesty citrus vinaigrette is a refreshing and healthy choice to pair with barbecue chicken.

    The crisp and vibrant greens, combined with the tangy dressing, provide a light and palate-cleansing element to the meal. Add some sliced oranges or grapefruit segments to enhance the citrus flavors and create a harmonious pairing.
  4. Grilled zucchini boats: Grilled zucchini boats stuffed with a flavorful filling offer a unique and nutritious side dish option.

    The tender grilled zucchini acts as a vessel for ingredients like quinoa, cheese, or ground meat, creating a satisfying and well-rounded accompaniment to the barbecue chicken.

    The combination of smoky zucchini and flavorful fillings adds complexity and variety to the meal.
  5. Roasted sweet potatoes: Roasted sweet potatoes are a delicious and nutritious side dish that pairs beautifully with barbecue chicken.

    The natural sweetness of the potatoes, combined with the caramelization that occurs during roasting, creates a rich and flavorful experience.

    Season the sweet potatoes with spices like cinnamon or paprika for an extra layer of depth.

International Flavors

  1. Mexican-inspired sides: Mexican cuisine offers a range of sides that complement barbecue chicken. Consider serving dishes like Mexican street corn (elote), black bean and corn salad, or guacamole alongside your chicken.

    These flavorful and vibrant options add a spicy and tangy twist to the meal.
  2. Asian-inspired sides: Asian cuisine provides a variety of side dishes that can pair well with barbecue chicken. Consider options like sesame ginger slaw, cucumber salad with soy dressing, or stir-fried vegetables.

    These sides bring a balance of sweet, sour, and umami flavors to the table, creating a fusion of tastes.
  3. Mediterranean-inspired sides: Mediterranean flavors can add a fresh and vibrant touch to your barbecue chicken meal. Consider serving dishes like Greek salad, tabbouleh, or roasted eggplant with tahini alongside your chicken.

    These sides offer a combination of bright flavors and aromatic herbs, enhancing the overall dining experience.
  4. Caribbean-inspired sides: Caribbean cuisine offers bold and tropical flavors that can complement barbecue chicken wonderfully. Consider serving sides like plantain chips, mango salsa, or coconut rice and beans.

    These sides bring a burst of exotic flavors and spices to the table, transporting your taste buds to the islands.

With these side dish options, you have a wide range of choices to enhance your barbecue chicken meal. Whether you prefer classic BBQ sides, healthy alternatives, or international flavors, there’s something to suit every palate.

Experiment with different combinations and let your creativity shine as you create a memorable dining experience.

Sauces and Condiments

Sauces and condiments play a crucial role in enhancing the flavors of barbecue chicken. They add a burst of tanginess, spiciness, or sweetness, depending on your preference.

In this section, we will explore a variety of sauces and condiments that pair well with barbecue chicken, from classic barbecue sauces to unique flavor combinations and dipping sauces.

Classic Barbecue Sauces

  1. Kansas City-style sauce: Kansas City-style barbecue sauce is known for its thick and sweet profile. It typically features a combination of tomato, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar, and spices.

    This rich and flavorful sauce adds a sticky and caramelized glaze to the chicken, enhancing the smoky flavors.
  2. Texas-style sauce: Texas-style barbecue sauce is known for its bold and spicy flavors. It often features a base of tomato, chili peppers, vinegar, and spices.

    This sauce packs a punch and adds a fiery kick to the barbecue chicken, perfect for those who enjoy a bit of heat.
  3. Carolina-style sauce: Carolina-style barbecue sauce is divided into two variations: Eastern and Western.

    Eastern Carolina sauce is tangy and vinegar-based, providing a bright and acidic contrast to the richness of the chicken. Western Carolina sauce adds a touch of sweetness to the tanginess, creating a balanced and flavorful combination.
  4. Memphis-style sauce: Memphis-style barbecue sauce is known for its tangy and slightly sweet profile. It often features a combination of tomato, vinegar, molasses, and spices.

    This versatile sauce complements the flavors of barbecue chicken beautifully, adding a tangy and slightly smoky element to the meat.
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Homemade versus Store-bought Sauces

While homemade sauces allow for customization and experimentation, store-bought sauces offer convenience and consistency.

Both options have their merits, and it ultimately depends on your preferences and time constraints.

Homemade sauces: Making your own barbecue sauce allows you to tailor the flavors to your liking. You can experiment with different ingredients, spices, and sweeteners to create a sauce that perfectly complements your barbecue chicken.

Homemade sauces also give you the opportunity to adjust the level of sweetness, spiciness, or tanginess to suit your palate.

Store-bought sauces: Store-bought barbecue sauces offer a wide variety of options, ranging from traditional to gourmet flavors.

They provide convenience and consistency, ensuring that you have a reliable and tasty sauce on hand whenever you need it. Many store-bought sauces also cater to specific dietary needs, offering gluten-free or organic options.

Whether you choose homemade or store-bought sauces, the key is to find a sauce that aligns with your taste preferences and complements the flavors of your barbecue chicken.

Unique Flavor Combinations

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to try something different, consider experimenting with unique flavor combinations for your barbecue chicken. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Honey Chipotle: Combine the sweetness of honey with the smoky heat of chipotle peppers for a tantalizing flavor combination. The sweetness balances the spiciness, creating a harmonious and well-rounded sauce.
  2. Pineapple Teriyaki: Add a tropical twist to your barbecue chicken by incorporating pineapple and teriyaki flavors. The tanginess of pineapple complements the savory teriyaki sauce, creating a delightful fusion of sweet and savory.
  3. Maple Mustard: Combine the earthy sweetness of maple syrup with the tanginess of mustard for a unique flavor profile. The maple adds depth and richness to the mustard, resulting in a sauce that is both sweet and tangy.
  4. Sriracha Lime: For those who enjoy a bit of heat and tang, combine the spiciness of sriracha with the zesty freshness of lime. The citrusy notes of lime balance out the spiciness, creating a sauce that is bold and refreshing.

These unique flavor combinations provide an opportunity to add a creative twist to your barbecue chicken. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find the flavor combinations that excite your taste buds.

Spicy and Tangy Condiments

In addition to sauces, condiments can also enhance the flavors of barbecue chicken. Consider adding these spicy and tangy options to your meal:

  1. Hot Sauce: Whether you prefer traditional hot sauce, like Tabasco or Frank’s RedHot, or artisanal varieties with unique flavors, adding a few dashes of hot sauce can elevate the heat level and bring a fiery kick to your chicken.
  2. Pickles: Tangy and crunchy pickles provide a refreshing and acidic contrast to the richness of barbecue chicken. Whether you opt for dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, or spicy pickles, they add a delightful pop of flavor to each bite.
  3. Pepperoncini: These mild Italian peppers offer a tangy and slightly spicy flavor that pairs well with barbecue chicken. They add a subtle heat and acidity, enhancing the overall taste experience.
  4. Salsa: A fresh and vibrant salsa made with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and lime juice can add a tangy and zesty element to your barbecue chicken. Choose a mild or spicy salsa depending on your heat preference.

Dipping Sauces and Marinades

In addition to sauces that are brushed onto the chicken during cooking, consider serving dipping sauces or marinades alongside your barbecue chicken. These can add an extra layer of flavor and allow guests to customize their experience. Some options to consider include:

  1. Ranch Dressing: Creamy and tangy ranch dressing adds a cooling and refreshing element to barbecue chicken. It complements the smoky flavors and provides a creamy texture for dipping.
  2. Blue Cheese Dip: If you enjoy bold and tangy flavors, a blue cheese dip can be a great accompaniment to barbecue chicken. The pungent and creamy dip pairs well with the richness of the meat.
  3. Honey Mustard Dip: The sweet and tangy combination of honey and mustard creates a delicious and versatile dipping sauce. It adds a touch of sweetness and tanginess to each bite of barbecue chicken.
  4. Marinades: Marinades can infuse additional flavors into the chicken before cooking. Consider using citrus-based marinades, teriyaki marinades, or even beer-based marinades to add depth and complexity to your barbecue chicken.

By exploring different sauces, condiments, and marinades, you can elevate the flavors of your barbecue chicken and create a customized and memorable dining experience.

Remember to consider your preferences for sweetness, tanginess, spiciness, and heat when selecting the perfect accompaniments for your meal.

Beverage Pairings

Pairing the right beverages with barbecue chicken can elevate the dining experience, as the flavors of the drink can complement or contrast with the flavors of the chicken. In this section, we will explore a range of beverage options that pair well with barbecue chicken, from beer to wine and non-alcoholic alternatives.

Beer and Barbecue Chicken

Beer is a popular choice when it comes to pairing with barbecue chicken, thanks to its wide range of flavors and styles.

The carbonation and effervescence of beer help cleanse the palate, while the different flavor profiles can enhance the overall taste experience.

Here are some beer styles that pair well with barbecue chicken:

  1. Light Lagers and Pilsners: Light and crisp lagers and pilsners are refreshing options that complement the smoky and savory flavors of barbecue chicken. They provide a clean and subtle backdrop, allowing the flavors of the chicken to shine.
  2. Hoppy IPAs: If you enjoy hop-forward beers, consider pairing a hoppy IPA with barbecue chicken. The bold hop bitterness can cut through the richness of the meat and provide a contrasting flavor profile.
  3. Malty Amber Ales: Amber ales with their caramel and toasty malt flavors can provide a sweet and slightly nutty counterpoint to the smoky flavors of barbecue chicken. The malt backbone balances the richness of the meat and adds depth to the pairing.
  4. Crisp Pale Ales: Pale ales with their balanced flavors of hops and malt offer a versatile option for pairing with barbecue chicken. The hop bitterness and citrusy notes can complement the flavors of the meat without overpowering it.
  5. Dark and Smoky Beers: For those who enjoy bold and robust flavors, dark beers like porters and stouts can be an excellent choice. The roasted malt flavors and hints of chocolate and coffee can enhance the smokiness of the chicken and create a harmonious pairing.
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Wine and Barbecue Chicken

While beer is a popular choice for pairing with barbecue chicken, wine can also offer interesting flavor combinations. Here are some wine options that can complement the flavors of barbecue chicken:

  1. Rosé Wine: A dry or off-dry rosé wine with its refreshing and fruity flavors can provide a delightful contrast to the smoky flavors of barbecue chicken. Opt for a rosé with good acidity to balance the richness of the meat.
  2. Sparkling Wine: Sparkling wines, such as Champagne or Prosecco, offer a celebratory element to any barbecue chicken meal. The effervescence and acidity of sparkling wine can cleanse the palate, making each bite of chicken taste even more enjoyable.
  3. Riesling: Riesling, with its range of sweetness levels, can be a versatile option for pairing with barbecue chicken. A slightly off-dry or semi-sweet Riesling can provide a pleasant contrast to the smoky and savory flavors, while a dry Riesling can offer a crisp and refreshing element.
  4. Zinfandel: Zinfandel, with its bold and jammy flavors, can stand up to the robust flavors of barbecue chicken. The fruity and spicy notes of Zinfandel can complement the smokiness of the meat and create a harmonious pairing.
  5. Syrah/Shiraz: Syrah or Shiraz, with its rich and peppery flavors, can be a great choice for pairing with barbecue chicken. The bold and spicy characteristics of these wines can enhance the smokiness of the meat and provide a complex flavor profile.

Non-Alcoholic Options

For those who prefer non-alcoholic beverages or want to offer options for designated drivers or non-drinkers, there are plenty of choices that can still enhance the experience of barbecue chicken. Here are some non-alcoholic options to consider:

  1. Iced Tea and Lemonade: Classic iced tea or a refreshing glass of lemonade can provide a cooling and thirst-quenching accompaniment to barbecue chicken. Opt for sweetened or unsweetened versions depending on your preference.
  2. Fruit-Infused Water: Infusing water with fresh fruits like citrus slices, berries, or cucumber can add a burst of flavor to your meal. It provides a light and hydrating option that complements the flavors of barbecue chicken.
  3. Mocktails and Specialty Sodas: Mocktails, or non-alcoholic cocktails, can be a fun and flavorful choice for pairing with barbecue chicken. From virgin mojitos to fruity spritzers, these alcohol-free concoctions offer a wide range of flavors to suit every taste.

With these beverage pairing options, you can elevate your barbecue chicken meal and create a well-rounded dining experience. Whether you prefer beer, wine, or non-alcoholic alternatives, there’s a perfect match out there for your taste buds.

Remember to consider flavor profiles, levels of sweetness or bitterness, and personal preferences when selecting your beverage pairings. Cheers to a delicious meal!

Expert Take

In conclusion, finding the perfect accompaniments for barbecue chicken can elevate your dining experience to new heights.

By considering the pairing principles and taking into account factors such as flavor profiles, balancing tastes and textures, regional preferences, and dietary restrictions, you can create a well-rounded and satisfying meal.

When it comes to side dishes, classic BBQ sides like coleslaw, baked beans, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, and grilled vegetables provide familiar and delicious options.

If you’re looking for healthier alternatives, quinoa salad, grilled asparagus, green salad with citrus vinaigrette, grilled zucchini boats, and roasted sweet potatoes offer a fresh and nutritious twist.

Sauces and condiments play a crucial role in enhancing the flavors of barbecue chicken.

Classic barbecue sauces like Kansas City-style, Texas-style, Carolina-style, and Memphis-style provide a range of flavors to suit different preferences.

Whether you choose homemade sauces or store-bought options, the key is to find a sauce that complements the flavors of the chicken and aligns with your taste preferences.

Consider experimenting with unique flavor combinations or adding spicy and tangy condiments to create exciting and dynamic taste experiences.

When it comes to beverages, beer offers a wide range of options that can complement barbecue chicken.

Light lagers and pilsners, hoppy IPAs, malty amber ales, crisp pale ales, and dark and smoky beers all provide unique flavor profiles that can enhance the meal.

Wine also offers interesting pairings, with options like rosé wine, sparkling wine, Riesling, Zinfandel, and Syrah/Shiraz complementing the flavors of barbecue chicken.

For non-alcoholic choices, iced tea, lemonade, fruit-infused water, and mocktails are refreshing alternatives.

Ultimately, the perfect accompaniments for barbecue chicken will depend on your personal preferences and the flavors you enjoy.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and try different combinations to find what works best for you.

Whether you’re hosting a backyard BBQ, attending a cookout, or simply enjoying a meal with your loved ones, the right sides, sauces, and beverages can elevate the flavors and create a memorable dining experience.

So, fire up the grill, marinate that chicken, and get ready to explore the wonderful world of barbecue chicken and its perfect pairings.

Let your taste buds guide you as you embark on a flavorful journey of delicious combinations.

Enjoy the smoky, tender, and mouthwatering barbecue chicken, accompanied by sides, sauces, and beverages that bring out the best in every bite.


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