There are few dishes so satisfying as a rack of delicious, juicy, and saucy ribs. Just the thought of them oozing with barbecue sauce and meaty juice is enough to give anyone a serious appetite.
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Ribs are a people pleaser on all occasions due to their excellent flavor, sumptuous mouthfeel, and relative ease of preparation.
Whether you BBQ your ribs, grill them or smoke them, it’s actually really important to pair them with something to balance out the meaty flavors and provide a well-balanced meal with more than just sauce and meat (even though these are probably the best parts!).
Sides for Ribs - Side Dishes for Ribs
What follows is a great list of side dishes for barbecue pork ribs. They can also be used for pulled pork sandwiches. Each recipe has its own unique flavor. As always feel free to substitute tried and true options like mashed potato, cucumber salad, grilled corn, and Brussel sprouts.
Whether you’re planning to host a large dinner party or want to enjoy ribs by yourself, there are some great side dishes that can help take your rack of ribs to the next level, complementing the flavor of the meat and the sauce or helping to cleanse your palette to make every mouthful of the rib as enjoyable and satisfying at the first one.
We’ve put together a list of some of the best sides to accompany any rib dish, with plenty of options. Some of these sides are super easy to make while others are a little more of a process, but they all promise to make a huge difference to the overall experience of eating ribs, taking your dinner to the next level.
Coleslaw is one of the best ways to complement your ribs, particularly if they’re large and juicy or smothered in rich bbq sauce. Coleslaw can help add something a little lighter, with varied and intense flavors which can cut through the ribs and add a new dimension to the overall dish.
Coleslaw is quite a versatile side and you can put your own spin on it quite easily, however crunchy cabbage, mustard, carrot, and mayo are all essential to creating a classic American side dish that works brilliantly with ribs.
There’s often a lot of sauce and juice to mop up when eating a plate of ribs, but missing out on the flavors isn’t possible if you pair your ribs with some cornbread. While this may seem like a simple and even boring side to some, it's a great option to soak up leftovers and easily absorb these flavors to become much more flavorful and delicious.
It’s even possible to add additional ingredients to your cornbread to make it even tastier, feel free to get creative with it!
Corn on the cob is another classic side that works really well with finger foods such as ribs or wings because it’s also a rather messy finger food.
This allows you to double down on the juicy and sweet flavors of ribs with juicy and sweet corn on the cob, and as your fingers will already be a mess from eating the ribs you can focus on fully enjoying the food instead of practicing your manners!~Corn on the cob is great because it’s easy to prepare, just boil or grill it, smear it in butter, herbs, and salt, and enjoy!
Staying with the corn theme, corn fritters are another great option for those who don’t want something so juicy and prefer something with a crisp, fluffy texture to complement the dense and moist texture of ribs.
These can also be used to mop up the leftover sauce and juices just like cornbread, making them extra tasty and saving some washing up!
Sweet potato fries have surged in popularity over the last few years and it's no wonder, the beautiful sweet flavor and crispy skin make them a delicious alternative to standard french fries and are often much more flavorful and substantial.
6. Baked Beans
This may seem like an odd choice, as ribs typically already have a lot of sauce and moisture, and adding more could be overwhelming. However, tomato flavors work amazingly well with the sweetness of ribs and BBQ sauce, cutting through as the beans add a totally different texture to the dish.
Baked beans are also really easy to prepare and can be made in a pinch, making them great for large gatherings where ribs are also very popular.
7. Potato Salad
Potato salad is a really versatile side dish that can easily be made to taste by adding herbs or other ingredients to add flavor and texture, however, any version of potato salad works well with ribs.
The potato salad recipe can also be a great base for different sauces which is a great way to bring other sauces to your ribs without tainting the main BBQ sauce your ribs are no doubt doused in.
Adding herbs such as parsley, dill or chive are all great ways to further enhance your salad, especially with salad dressing on top.
Mac and cheese can be easily eaten as a main dish, but the beauty of it is that it also works as a side. In fact it’s actually better as a side most of the time, because a smaller amount lets you enjoy the richness of the cheese and pasta without getting overwhelmed by its stodginess. The rich cheese and starchy flavor of this side works well with ribs which are smoky, and it's easy to make enough for large gatherings.
If you want something a little healthier and lighter to complement your ribs, a green bean salad is a great choice that can be packed with flavor especially if you use sauces or vinaigrette to add a little extra punch to the salad. This also works for macaroni salad.
The key is to not overcook the beans, making sure they are tender but still crunchy.
10. Fried Pickles
Fried pickles work amazingly well as an individual snack food, however, they can easily be used as an accompaniment to other finger foods like ribs, and their salty flavor can really bring out the umami flavors in the ribs tender meat, and compliment the sweetness of the bbq sauce beautifully.
Deep frying the pickles also adds a nice crisp texture that works well against the softer, more tender mouthfeel of ribs.
Another great fried accompaniment is the fried green tomato, which is a little less obvious but still a great snack that gives a similar crispy mouthfeel to help balance out the juiciness of ribs.
Green tomatoes add a different flavor to red tomatoes however you can use red if you’re unable to get good green tomatoes to use.
12. Green Salad
If you’re after something a little more traditional or want to get back to basics, a simple green salad is an excellent no fuss choice of side that works really well with ribs due to its lightness and crunch.
It’s also flavorful and healthy, helping you to digest even the mightiest mountain of saucy ribs.
13. Broccoli Salad
If you want to make your salad even more healthy and add some more crunch, a broccoli salad is the way to go. Broccoli is a superfood full of valuable nutrients and tastes amazing when cooked correctly, with a little extra crunch to give a good alternative mouthfeel to intersperse with ribs.
Adding a nice creamy dressing over a broccoli salad can help add additional flavor and works well as broccoli has a large surface area, making it hold onto sauce well and delivering amazing flavor with every mouthful.
14. Cheese Grits
If you want some soul food to go with your ribs, cheese grits is an excellent comfort choice combining some of the most delicious ingredients, such as hot sauce, a good amount of melted cheddar, milk, and eggs all cooked into a sumptuous and molten casserole that is sweet, juicy and hugely flavorful.
15. Rainbow Slaw
If you want to make a side that is as eye catching as it is flavorful, a rainbow slaw makes an excellent choice and has a delicious array of ingredients such as shredded carrots, red and yellow peppers, snow peas, purple cabbage, and chopped avocado all drizzled in sumptuous salad dressing.
Tossing in some olive oil, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, sesame oil, and soy sauce as you mix everything together will produce one of the most aromatic, flavorful, and satisfying salads it's possible to make. It’s also very easy, using common and inexpensive ingredients all combined together to create a medley of textures and mouth watering tastes.
16. Hush Puppies
One final option if you want another alternative finger food would be Hush Puppies, which are made of cornmeal, deep-fried into bitesize balls of flavor, and perfect for mopping up leftover sauce and juices.
They are made with cornmeal and flour and are easy to make, as well as easy to experiment with meaning you can add little extras to spice them up as well as seasonings to bring out different flavors in the ribs.