Best mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, more: National Barbecue Month sides

Mackensy Lunsford
Southern Kitchen

May is National Barbecue Month, and there are so many ways to celebrate. There's the Memphis in May Barbecue Competition, which runs May 11–14, with plenty of barbecue events to follow now that food festivals are back

Starting May 23, Southern Kitchen will roll out the first of what's to be a huge package on outdoor cooking, with an emphasis on all-American grilling traditions, the history of barbecue and piles of recipes and how-tos.

But you don't have to wait. Here are some of our favorite barbecue sides, from baked beans to macaroni, just begging to be served up next to hot, smoked meat at this very moment.

More:20 delicious spring, summer food festivals in Nashville, Atlanta and across the South

Macaroni Pie

Our best mac and cheese recipes

It's hard to beat mac and cheese for its creamy goodness and sheer comfort. Here, we've rounded up our seven favorite macaroni and cheese recipes, from the classic, sliceable baked type to the fancier truffled sort with aged cheddar. Get the recipes

Greens galore

While kale might be having a bit of a moment, there are plenty of other Southern greens that deserve a place on your table. Here, Southern Kitchen brings you a dozen of our best recipes for slow-stewed collards, tender turnip greens and, yes, even kale gets a turn in a crunchy coleslaw and a hearty baked casserole. Get the recipes

Pass the potatoes

It's hard to argue with these cheesy skillet potatoes. Loosely based on a French “tartiflette,” they're full of bacon-cheesy goodness.

Perfect, fluffy mashed potatoes.

Simple mashed potatoes are always a crowd-pleaser. Here we, along with the culinary director of Potatoes USA, show you how to make the best mashed potatoes of your life.

On the sweeter side, these fire-roasted sweet potatoes are perfect if you already have some coals going for a big backyard barbecue. 

Sweet Southern baked beans

These bourbon-Coca-Cola baked beans are perfectly sweet and can be made with meat or without. Get the recipe

These barbecue baked beans are simple: Bush’s Original Baked Beans, Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce, ground turkey, brown sugar and seasonings. But the ingredients combine to make a dish that is more than the sum of its parts. Get the recipe

Other perfect barbecue sides

It's hard to imagine a Southern potluck or barbecue without a platter of deviled eggs. We present these as the gold standard. Get the recipe

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This Southern squash souffle, a fancier version of squash casserole, has a crisp, buttered breadcrumb topping. There's plenty of cheese, but the texture is smooth, with none of those pesky squash seeds that can sog out a crisp topping. Get the recipe

We love the snap of green beans alongside slow-cooked meat and fattier, creamier sides. These pancetta and hazelnut-studded green beans, provided by the Biltmore Estate as a Thanksgiving recipe, would be fabulous any time of the year. Get the recipe

Patience required:Everything I know about grilling I learned from my dad, except for one thing: patience

Baked okra:This crunchy baked okra is just like the classic fried side, but it's oil-free

Spring recipes:Peas, please: In-season recipes from our favorite vegetable-forward cookbook

Healthy comfort food:8 of Southern Kitchen's best recipes for healthier Southern comfort food

Mackensy Lunsford is the food and culture storyteller for USA TODAY Network's South region and the editor of Southern Kitchen.

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Reach me: mlunsford@southernkitchen.com