The cooked pork takes center stage at a pig roast. Other foods you serve at your luau or down-home party should complement the pork entree and give guests options. A whole pig takes several hours to roast, requiring frequent basting and monitoring. Because of this, you'll want to make quick and easy side dishes that won't steal too much of your attention from the roasting pig.
The aroma of roasting pork fills the air at a picnic and is sure to have guests salivating as they wait for it to finish cooking. Offer a few light appetizers to keep hungry guests at bay. Crudite platters piled high with fresh vegetables such as carrots, bell peppers, celery, sugar snap peas, cauliflower and broccoli are easy to assemble -- and give guests a healthy option so they feel less guilty digging into some of the unhealthier pork cuts. Include a low-fat dip, such as leek soup mix combined with plain yogurt.
Another option is cheese quesadillas. They appeal to a wide age range and can be made ahead of time. All you have to do is place a tortilla in a skillet, spread cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese over it, and top it with a second tortilla. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side over medium heat. Cut your quesadillas in triangles and serve with salsa, guacamole and sour cream for dipping.
Take advantage of extra space on the grill and cook some vegetable and fruit side dishes while you roast the pig. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise, brush the insides lightly with olive oil, and grill for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally, until brown and tender. Other vegetables that can be cooked similarly on the grill grates include asparagus, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and eggplant.
Grilled pineapple rings pair well with pork, especially for a pig roast with a luau theme. Or you can prepare fresh vegetables even without extra grilling surface, such as when you cook the pig on a spit over a fire pit. Wrap vegetables such as corn, potatoes or sweet potatoes in a double layer of aluminum foil, adding butter and spices inside the foil, if desired. Place the foil-wrapped veggies on the grill or directly in the coals. Corn should be ready to eat in less than 10 minutes, while large potatoes might take 30 minutes or more.
Even if you don't serve a single other dish at the pig roast, the menu must still include a large batch of coleslaw. While the cool, creamy, crunchy side tastes good on its own, lots of people like to make pulled pork sandwiches topped with coleslaw. You can also include macaroni salad and potato salad to complete the cold picnic-food trifecta.
Deviled eggs, always a sure hit, aren't exactly easy to make because peeling eggs is time consuming, but you can make them ahead of time. You should also think about offering some low-fat cold food options to balance all the mayonnaise-heavy dishes. A fresh garden salad is a welcome addition to the spread, or make a cucumber and tomato salad by tossing cucumber slices, tomato wedges and sliced onions in Balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
Guests likely won't have room for a heavy dessert, so offer a fresh fruit tray as a light option to satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth.
Light vegetable dishes cater to the health-conscious at the pig roast, but roasted pig is itself a comfort food to many, so the spread should also include common comfort food side dishes.
Dress up canned baked beans with a bit of brown sugar and bacon is always a great option. For a more impressive culinary feat, though, make them from scratch by cooking navy beans or other white beans seasoned with ingredients such as brown sugar, honey, molasses, mustard, ketchup, onions and paprika. Or, prepare a casserole dish of macaroni and cheese the day before, and pop it in the oven about 45 minutes before serving.
Other comforting hot food options include greens cooked with pork fat, green beans, scalloped potatoes or even a rice dish.
- Serious Eats: How to Roast a Whole Suckling Pig
- Serious Eats: How to Roast a Pig on a Spit
- LAist: How to Host A Pig Roast & Throw Epic (But Doable) Food Fiestas
- The Old Farmer's Almanac: How to Grill Vegetables
- Cooking Light: Top-Rated Picnic Recipes
- Food & Wine: Top 10 Picnic Food Ideas and Recipes
- Country Living: Eat Outside! 62 Summer Picnic Recipes
A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.