25 + Impressive Main Dishes for Your Labor Day BBQ

updated 2 days ago
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Credit: Olive and Mango/Kitchn

Here’s my secret to being a backyard BBQ baller: I keep my sides, drinks, and desserts simple, but serve up the biggest, most impressive main dishes I can muster. Ribs, whole artichokes, or even a big ol’ turkey are sure to wow your guests.

From saucy ribs and dill pickle chicken, to cauliflower steaks and short ribs, here are over 25 impressive mains for your end of summer BBQ that will feed a crowd and then some.

BBQ Main Dishes

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Best Smoked Ribs

Sticky-sweet, smoky, salty ribs are one of summer’s greatest pleasures. I’ve made smoked ribs an annual tradition in our house, taking advantage of summer’s long holiday weekends to slow-smoke dry-rubbed baby backs on our charcoal grill. Needless to say, this is a recipe I’ve spent years perfecting.

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2 / 27
Ribs in the Instant Pot
Yes, you can make tender, smoky, saucy baby back ribs in less than an hour.
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3 / 27
Slow Cooker Peach Carnitas
Use your slow cooker to make juicy peach carnitas topped with a peach salsa.
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4 / 27
Mini Thai Pork Pitas

There are two methods that you can use to cook these pitas: You can pan-fry them on the stovetop in some oil, or throw them onto an outdoor grill. Either way is delicious, but I prefer the grill method since there’s no cleanup and the only oil you need is for oiling the grill grates.

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5 / 27
Juiciest Burger Patties
Just one ingredient will make your burgers infinitely juicier this summer, and it's already in your kitchen: butter!
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6 / 27
Korean Bulgogi-Style Grilled Steak

Korean BBQ is such a fun meal out, especially if can find a place that has the individual grills in each table. You just pick out your proteins and vegetables, and then grill them over flames right at your own table! (I can’t imagine what those restaurants’ insurance bill must be.)

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7 / 27
Beef Kofta with Tzatziki

If you’re looking for a variation on the standard meatball, it’s time to consider kofta. It is essentially a spiced meatball with many versions that can trace their origin across the Eastern Mediterranean and Central and South Asia.

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8 / 27
Ribs in the Oven
We've cracked the code to making perfectly tender and mouth-watering barbecued ribs in the oven.
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9 / 27
Cilantro Lime Pork Chops
These cilantro lime pork chops are bursting with bold flavor, and make for a quick and easy weeknight dinner.
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10 / 27
Pineapple Burgers with Whiskey Glaze

An unusual favorite of mine that’s perfect for summer? Grilled pineapple! Brushed with whiskey glaze and accompanied by sliced jalapeños, these burgers are a little steakhouse, a little Hawaiian vacation, and a lot delicious.

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11 / 27
Flank Steak Panzanella
This quintessential summer salad, fashioned with day-old bread and ripe veggies, is tossed with seared flank steak to make it a meal.
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12 / 27
Slow Cooker Hawaiian Brisket Sandwiches
Pillowy-soft Hawaiian rolls piled high with slices of tender beef brisket and sweet pineapple, all topped with a crunchy, refreshing cabbage slaw.
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13 / 27
Easy Jalapeño Grilled Chicken
Flavored with tart lime and the fiery heat of jalapenos, these easy grilled chicken breasts are a summer stunner.
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14 / 27
BBQ Ranch Chicken Bites
All you need is chicken, ranch dressing, and barbecue sauce to reach BBQ ranch nirvana.
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15 / 27
Spicy Pineapple Chicken Packets
Chicken breasts and pineapple are flavored with a spicy, citrus-spiked marinade and cooked in a foil packet for an easy, mess-free meal.
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16 / 27
Fiona's Green Chicken

Make a double batch of the recipe and freeze half of the marinated chicken for a future meal.

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17 / 27
Spicy Korean Grilled Chicken

Hot off the grill, this spicy Korean chicken will not disappoint. Using chicken drumsticks and chicken thigh meat doused in a spicy, flavorful marinade, this grilled chicken needs to make an appearance on your dinner table soon!

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18 / 27
Rotisserie Chicken

If you have a rotisserie attachment for your grill hanging around, it’s time to dust it off (and if you don’t have one, now might be the time to finally buy it).

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19 / 27
Dill Pickle Chicken
Spicy and tangy pickle juice is the one-ingredient brine that makes the most tender and delicious chicken you will eat all summer.
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20 / 27
Grilled Pesto Chicken Flatbreads
Harness the flavorful power of pesto in these easy grilled chicken and cheese flatbreads.
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21 / 27
Bruschetta Pizza
All the flavors of bruschetta, transformed into a simple, flavorful grilled pizza.
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22 / 27
Grilled Eggplant Burgers with Halloumi Cheese

Halloumi is one of the few cheeses that is actually sturdy enough to be grilled, and I like to take full advantage of that property.

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23 / 27
Summer Vegetable and Tofu Kebabs

You can prepare them in advance, and they’re practically a meal unto themselves when served along with couscous, potato salad, or a grain-based dish. And what a great way to showcase summer’s bounty of vegetables!

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24 / 27
Grilled Chipotle Lime Cauliflower Steaks

These cauliflower “steaks” demonstrate that more than almost anything else I’ve grilled; their tongue-in-cheek name is a good indicator of how satisfying a centerpiece they make on any table, vegetarian or not. They’re smoky and spicy, with a squirt of lime and flurry of cilantro.

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25 / 27
Grilled Artichokes Recipe

It lends a nice crispy texture to the edges (think potato chip!) and a smoky flavor that you just can’t get out of a pot of boiling water.

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26 / 27
Best Grilled Pizza
Thanks to the extra-high heat of the grill, this method makes some of the best pizza you'll ever eat!
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27 / 27
Smoky Portobello Mushroom Cheeseburgers
An easy grilling recipe for vegetarian portobello mushroom burgers topped with smoked Gouda, tangy peppers, and arugula.
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