Smoky, sweet, sticky, and delectable. No BBQ is complete without grilled ribs making an appearance. While they can stand on their own, you may be wondering what you could serve alongside them that will compliment them.
Sides that pair well with grilled ribs include cornbread, corn on the cob, potato salad, green salad, sweet potato fries, Cole’s slaw, mac ‘n cheese, hush puppies, bean salad, and dips and sauces. These can take on many variations and can be adjusted to your tastes and dietary requirements.
Although considered secondary in importance to the main dish, side dishes play an essential role in any dining experience. The sides served at a BBQ are no different. When paired with grilled ribs, it’s important to select items that will not overpower or clash but rather complement and enhance the flavors of your ribs.
Starchy And Carb-Filled Dishes To Serve With Grilled Ribs
Given that ribs are just meat and bone- it would make sense to serve them with dishes containing starches and carbohydrates to balance it out.
Sides Containing Corn
Corn is a staple at any cookout. It’s versatile, flavorful, wholesome, and comforting all at once. Since you’re going to be eating your ribs with your hands (I’m assuming?), why not have a side dish that can be enjoyed the same way?
The side dishes mentioned below have two things in common: 1) They contain some form of corn, and 2) They don’t require any cutlery. So embrace your ravenous inner caveperson!
- Cornbread is a great medium to mop up any sauces left on your plate. Cornbread can be either sweet or savory, but a savory one will balance the flavors of your rib marinade.
- Corn on the cob – No instructions are needed here. Naturally flavorful and sweet, it requires minimal effort. Enjoy it without any adornments, or smear it with butter and a sprinkling of salt or chili flakes and a squeeze of lime.
- Hush Puppies – A distant relative of cornbread, it contains similar ingredients but is fried as small balls of batter. Leaving you with a crisp outside and fluffy inside.
- Fried Green Tomatoes – Are technically a fruit wearing a corn coat. Coated in cornmeal and flour, then shallow fried until the outside is golden and crisp. The tangy flavor of the green tomato itself will prove to be a delicious and refreshing contrast to the tastes of your ribs.
Traditionally a potato salad is made with cooked, cut potatoes covered in a creamy mayonnaise dressing.
While the OG recipe has many variations, there are more ways to serve a potato salad. For example, you could use baby potatoes and leave the skin on or off. Not a fan of mayo? Skip it entirely and instead smother it in pesto or vinaigrette.
Throw in some onions, olives, parsley, feta, and lemon zest, and you have a Greek potato salad. Don’t fancy a cold potato salad? Opt for a warm one! The possibilities are endless.
Pasta Sides To Serve With Grilled Ribs
Mac’ n Cheese is another versatile dish that can be served with your ribs. You can use a sharp cheddar to accentuate the smoky BBQ flavor further. Or, if you prefer something milder and creamier, use Gouda and heavy cream.
By adding chopped-up jalapenos and paprika to your mac ‘n cheese, you will give it a spicy, exotic kick.
If you think mac ‘n cheese is a little too heavy as a side dish, you could dress your pasta up any way you like. Cold or warm pasta salad recipes exist in the thousands. It could be creamy, spicy, light, tangy, or simple.
Sweet Potato Fries
Thinly cut and deep-fried to perfection, then tossed in herbs and sea salt. The textures of the crispy sweet potato fries add an exciting contrast to the soft meaty texture of your ribs. Paired together, it’s a winning combination.
Salads And Greens To Serve With Grilled Ribs
Side dishes containing carbs may be too filling for some people. If you’d prefer to leave more room for the grilled ribs or you prefer a low-carb alternative, then salads and greens are just the things for you.
The traditional Cole’s Slaw is shredded cabbage, carrots, and mayonnaise. If you want a slaw without the mayo:
- Consider an Asian-style slaw instead.
- Use green and red baby cabbage, carrots, red onions, cucumber, and fresh mint.
- Dress the slaw in a rice wine vinaigrette and add a sprinkling of crushed peanuts.
Try a raw broccoli slaw if you enjoy the creamy, tangy mayo flavor but find yourself craving a bit more variety from your slaw.
The crunchy, earthy flavor of the broccoli and tart flavor of the mayo dressing can stand their ground but not so much that it will detract from the grilled ribs.
Bean Salads That Pair Well With Grilled Ribs
Instead of serving canned baked beans as is, opt for mixed beans. Combine canned and fresh green beans in a vinaigrette with fresh herbs to create a mouth-watering combination of textures and flavors. Add in some canned chickpeas if you’re feeling adventurous.
Good Old Green Salad
Since grilled ribs are wonderfully indulgent, perhaps you would prefer to have them alongside some light, healthy, and guilt-free.
This is where the green salad has its time to shine. The primary ingredients consist of lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. But you can pack your salad with virtually any fruit or vegetable that takes your fancy. So you won’t find yourself facing limitations when it comes to a green salad.
Dipping Sauces To Serve With Grilled Ribs
While your ribs will be marinated, sometimes you just need more sauce.
These dipping sauces can accentuate or contrast your rib marinade in the best way.
- Ranch dressing
- Blue cheese dipping sauce
- Sweet BBQ sauce
- Honey and mustard sauce.
- Peanut satay sauce
- Plum sauce
- Sweet chili sauce
- Ginger and lime dipping sauce
The dips and sauces differ in viscosity, so some can be paired or drizzled over your side dishes.
Best Drinks To Serve Alongside Your Grilled Ribs
With all the flavorful sides, sauces and dips, you will likely require some libation. However, washing everything down with a sugary carbonated drink may not leave you feeling comfortable.
Instead, you could infuse jugs of water with slices of fresh fruit and sprigs of herbs. Or, if you want to put in a little extra effort, you could make your own homemade drinks, from various lemonades to virgin cocktails and iced teas.
They will quench your thirst without you feeling bloated from any excess sugar or carbonation. And if you so desire, you can spike your beverages with sparkling wine, vodka, or rum.
Non Edible Sides That Belong With Grilled Ribs
Ribs are a messy business. It would be good practice to have the following items on or near the table too:
- Wet wipes
- Cutlery for side dishes
- An extra plate for bones
- A trash bag
The chosen sides will inevitably depend on your preferences, dietary requirements, and the amount of prep work you’re willing to do. However, it is worth noting that where grilled ribs are involved, mustard, garlic, chili, sweet paprika, and brown sugar do the best job of bringing out the flavor.
Don’t be afraid to experiment by adding your own twist on classic side dishes with all this in mind.
- What Do You Drink With BBQ Ribs?
- Is Cabernet Sauvignon A Good Cooking Wine?
- What Wine Goes Well With Grilled Pork?