What Are the Best Sides for Ribs?

What Are the Best Sides for Ribs?

If you’re gearing up for a barbecue and want to make sure those juicy, smoky ribs have the perfect partners on the plate, you’re in the right spot. We’re about to explore the top side dishes that transform a good rib meal into a grand slam of flavors. Think creamy, crunchy, sweet, and savory—all ready to mingle with your main course. Let’s uncover the best companions for your ribs that promise to round out your meal and impress your taste buds. Curious to find out which sides made the list? Let’s get into it!

BBQ is about tradition and soul

What Are the Best Sides for Ribs?

When it comes to the perfect barbecue, ribs steal the spotlight with their smoky goodness and tender, fall-off-the-bone meat. But what about the supporting cast—the side dishes? These are not just fillers on your plate; they’re taste enhancers that elevate every bite of your rib feast.

The right sides can balance the richness of the meat, add a refreshing contrast, or double down on comfort, creating a harmonious meal that satisfies all your taste buds. Let’s get ready to round out your rib dinner with sides that match every flavor note.


A classic coleslaw offers a refreshing counterbalance to rich, savory ribs with its crisp, crunchy texture. Comprising finely shredded cabbage and carrots, this side dish can be dressed in a creamy mayonnaise base or a zesty vinegar-based dressing. The tanginess of the slaw cuts through the fat of the ribs, refreshing your palate with each bite. It’s a versatile side that can be adjusted in sweetness or acidity, depending on your preference, making it an essential addition to any rib meal.

Classic Coleslaw:


Cornbread brings a comforting sweetness and soft, crumbly texture that complements the bold flavors of barbecued ribs. This Southern staple can vary from fluffy and light to dense and rich, often infused with corn kernels or jalapeños for extra flavor. The slight sweetness of traditional cornbread pairs wonderfully with the smoky depth of the ribs, providing a satisfying contrast. It’s also ideal for soaking up any extra barbecue sauce on your plate, ensuring you enjoy every last drop.

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Baked Beans

Baked beans are a hearty, satisfying side that melds perfectly with the deep, smoky flavors of barbecued ribs. Simmered in a sauce that typically includes molasses, brown sugar, and bacon, these beans offer a sweet and slightly tangy taste with a rich, creamy texture. The robustness of baked beans complements the intense flavors of ribs, providing a comforting balance to the smoky meat. They are also packed with protein, making them a substantial addition to your barbecue spread.

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Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is the epitome of comfort food and pairs delectably with barbecued ribs. The creamy, cheesy sauce envelops soft noodles, offering a rich and comforting side that balances the smoky and spicy flavors of the ribs. This dish can be customized with different types of cheese or additions like breadcrumbs for extra crunch, making it a versatile choice for any rib dinner. It’s a crowd-pleaser that satisfies both children and adults, ensuring everyone leaves the table happy.

What to Serve with BBQ Beef Brisket: Macaroni and Cheese

Potato Salad

Potato salad is a creamy, cool, and comforting side that complements the warmth and spice of barbecued ribs. The potatoes are typically mixed with ingredients like mayonnaise, mustard, onions, and herbs, creating a flavorful dish that can vary from tangy to mildly sweet. Each bite offers a soft, creamy texture that contrasts beautifully with the texture of ribs, making it a favorite at any barbecue. Potato salad also provides a refreshing break from the heat, allowing the flavors of the ribs to shine through.

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Corn on the Cob

Corn on the cob is a summertime favorite that pairs naturally with barbecued ribs. The kernels pop with sweetness, offering a juicy crunch that contrasts the tender, flavorful meat. Grilling the corn enhances its natural sugars, giving it a slightly smoky taste that mirrors the barbecued ribs. Buttered and seasoned with just salt and pepper, or spiced up with herbs and spices, corn on the cob is not only delicious but also a fun, hands-on side that adds a playful element to your meal.

International Flavors for Grilled BBQ Corn

Collard Greens

Collard greens, a staple in Southern cooking, offer a nutritious and flavorful side dish for ribs. These leafy greens are typically simmered with onions, garlic, and often smoked meats like bacon or ham hocks, infusing them with a hearty, smoky flavor. The bitterness of the greens complements the sweetness and spice of the ribs, providing a balanced flavor profile. Collard greens also add a splash of color and a dose of vitamins to your plate, making them as healthy as they are tasty.

What Are the Best Sides for Ribs? Collard Greens
Credits to Divas Can Cook

Garlic Bread

Garlic bread provides a crispy, aromatic addition to a rib feast. Slathered in butter and minced garlic, then toasted until golden brown, it offers a delightful crunch and rich flavor that pairs beautifully with the saucy, smoky ribs. The robust garlic and butter flavors make it an irresistible side that’s perfect for mopping up leftover barbecue sauce. Plus, its simplicity allows the flavors of the ribs to remain the star of the meal while the bread acts as a delicious supporting player.

Garlic Bread
Credits to Simply Recipes

French Fries

French fries are a universally beloved side that match well with almost anything, including ribs. Their salty crispness makes them an excellent palate cleanser between bites of rich, saucy ribs. Fries can be seasoned simply with salt or spiced up with seasonings like cajun or garlic powder, making them a customizable side that can adapt to the flavor profile of your barbecue. Whether thin and crispy or thick and fluffy, they provide a satisfying texture contrast that enhances the rib-eating experience.

French Fries
Credits to Taste

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried green tomatoes introduce a delightful tanginess and crisp texture to your barbecue plate. These tomatoes are sliced, coated in cornmeal, and fried until they achieve a golden crust. The sourness of the unripe tomatoes contrasts nicely with the sweetness and smokiness of the ribs, providing a unique flavor combination. This Southern favorite not only adds a crunchy element to your meal but also a burst of bright, acidic flavor that cuts through the richness of the meat.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Credits to Southern Living

Onion Rings

Onion rings bring a delightful crunch and sweet, savory flavor that complements the smoky taste of ribs perfectly. Encased in a crispy batter, each ring offers a satisfying bite that contrasts with the tender meat of the ribs. These rings can be seasoned with a blend of spices, enhancing their flavor profile to stand alongside bold barbecue sauces. Onion rings not only add a textural contrast but also a visual appeal to your plate, making them a popular choice for both their taste and aesthetic at any rib-centric gathering.

Cucumber Salad

A cucumber salad is a light, refreshing side that offers a crisp contrast to the hearty, flavorful ribs. Thinly sliced cucumbers mixed with a vinegar-based dressing infused with herbs like dill or mint provide a cooling effect that’s especially welcome alongside spicy or heavily seasoned meats. This salad can include onions, tomatoes, and peppers, enhancing its flavor and texture. The simplicity and freshness of cucumber salad help to cleanse the palate, making each bite of ribs as enjoyable as the first.

Grilled Vegetables

Grilled vegetables such as zucchini, bell peppers, and asparagus add a smoky, charred element that echoes the barbecued ribs’ cooking method. The natural sweetness and slight bitterness of these vegetables are enhanced by the high heat of the grill, providing a perfect complement to the rich, savory flavors of the meat. This side not only brings a variety of textures and flavors to your meal but also adds a colorful array of nutrients, making your rib feast both healthier and more visually appealing.

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Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet potato fries are a delicious twist on traditional French fries, offering a sweeter flavor and a boost of nutrition. Their crispy exterior and soft, creamy interior make them a delightful contrast to the chewy texture of ribs. The natural sweetness of the sweet potatoes pairs wonderfully with the smoky barbecue sauce, adding a unique flavor profile to your meal. These fries can be seasoned with salt or spices like cinnamon or paprika to enhance their taste, making them a versatile and popular side dish.

What to Serve with BBQ Beef Brisket: Sweet Potato Fries

Jalapeño Poppers

Jalapeño poppers filled with cream cheese and sometimes wrapped in bacon are a spicy, creamy side that adds a bold kick to your rib meal. The heat from the jalapeños invigorates the palate, providing a spicy contrast to the sweet and savory flavors of the ribs. The cream cheese filling offers a cooling balance, making each popper an explosion of flavors that complements the complexity of barbecued ribs. These are particularly great for those who enjoy a bit of heat with their barbecue.

Jalapeño Poppers
Credits to Allrecipes

Apple Sauce

Apple sauce is a surprisingly fitting side for ribs, offering a sweet and slightly tart flavor that complements the smoky meat beautifully. The smooth, refreshing quality of apple sauce provides a light contrast to the dense, rich ribs, making it particularly appealing with spicier rubs or sauces. This side dish can also help temper the heat and enhance the natural flavors of the pork, adding a subtle complexity to your meal that’s both unexpected and delightful.

Apple Sauce
Credits to Budget Bytes

Rice Pilaf

Rice pilaf is a light, fluffy side that serves as a wonderful base for soaking up the delicious juices and sauces from ribs. Infused with herbs and bits of vegetables like carrots and peas, pilaf adds an aromatic and savory dimension to the meal. It complements the ribs without overpowering them, offering a gentle texture contrast and a neutral palate that allows the flavors of the ribs to stand out. Rice pilaf is also a great option for balancing out a plate filled with rich, heavy flavors, providing a satisfying yet understated companion.

Rice Pilaf
Credits to Allrecipes

This curated selection of seventeen side dishes provides a delightful array of flavors and textures to complement any rib meal. From the creamy tang of coleslaw to the sweet crispness of apple sauce, each side enhances the main dish in its own unique way.

Whether you prefer the comforting richness of macaroni and cheese or the refreshing bite of cucumber salad, there’s something here to satisfy every taste preference. Perfect for family barbecues or a special dinner, these sides ensure that your rib feast is not only delicious but also memorably balanced and complete. Choose your favorites and make your next rib meal extraordinary!

What Are the Best Sides for Ribs?
Credits to motosdidac.es


In wrapping up, the art of selecting the perfect sides for ribs lies in balancing flavors and textures that complement the rich, smoky main dish. The seventeen sides discussed offer a wide range of choices, from the creamy decadence of macaroni and cheese to the crisp, refreshing bite of cucumber salad.

Each side dish has been chosen not only for its ability to pair well with ribs but also to enhance the overall dining experience by offering contrast and harmony on the plate. Whether you’re hosting a casual backyard barbecue or a formal gathering, these sides are sure to elevate your rib meal from simple to spectacular.

So next time you’re planning a rib feast, consider these options to round out your menu, guaranteeing a meal that’s as satisfying as it is delicious. Enjoy crafting a dining experience that your guests will rave about long after the last rib has been devoured!

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