During summer (or really any time of the year if you are in the mood) ribs are a favorite for a barbecue or a group meal.
You can bake them, smoke them, grill them, or cook them whatever way suits you best, but however you cook ribs they will always come out delicious and are a perfect crowd pleaser.
There are a few staples you should have when you are serving barbecue ribs but if you want to make a big meal you are probably wondering if there are some more unconventional but still fitting sides to serve with it.
Of course, you are going to want extra sauce for dipping the ribs in, and you are going to need plenty of napkins to go round as serving this meal is sure to get messy, but what else.
This list will include meals which will work well served alongside ribs, or to contrast them, or as palate cleansers even. Any of the sides will be welcome alongside ribs and will show that you know your stuff when it comes to serving ribs.
There are some inclusions on this list which will seem obvious, but there are just as many which you may have never considered.
If you are planning to serve ribs in the near future and are worried you do not know what is best to serve with them, or want to try something new, this list is sure to have something to spice up your next rack of ribs!
Mac And Cheese
One of the first things which comes to mind when it comes to dishes to serve alongside ribs, we are sure that one of the first things which came to mind is mac and cheese.
The cheesy flavor goes amazingly well with the sweet and savory meatiness of the ribs. There are plenty of different ways to make mac and cheese, and most home chefs have their favorite which they have perfected.
But this is the beauty of mac and cheese being that it is so easy to customize and shake up. You could try a different type of cheese to add a new flavor profile which might complement another side or the specific seasoning you have used on your ribs.
Or you could try a completely different way of serving the mac and cheese like slow cooking, or baking to get a new texture.
Any way you serve mac and cheese, it is sure to be delicious, so either try something new to shake it up, or instead stick to the classics if you are confident in your recipe.
Another classic to go with ribs or any barbecue meat in general is baked beans. The seasoning on these beans makes them compliment the flavor of the ribs and the beans themself are yummy as well as nutritious adding more protein where it may be lacking.
Similar to mac and cheese, there are plenty of ways to serve baked beans which many people may have never even considered.
Many people do not even know that you can cook baked beans completely from scratch instead of starting in a tin and by doing this you get a much better end result which is definitely worth the extra time and effort.
Even if you start with a tinned product you can spice it up with extra seasonings or maybe some unconventional extras.
Recently a popular recipe for baked beans has included mixing in brown sugar and letting it cook into the beans and sauce adding an extra depth of flavor, and then adding bacon to get caramelized by the sugary sauce and add a savory aspect to balance out the sweetness.
However, you choose to serve baked beans at a barbecue, they are sure to go down well and go great with your ribs.
It is best to get some of the classics out of the way first just so you are reminded of what goes bets with ribs, and when it comes to sides which will work great at a barbecue, there is almost nothing more fitting than a potato salad.
Potato salad is most people’s go-to salad when it comes to what you want to serve at a barbecue. The potatoes work well as a base to add extra flavor through seasonings and additions, and everyone knows a dressing or sauce which works well with a potato salad.
Another great reason to serve potato salad is that it is super easy to customize and make your own through adding new ingredients which you may have never considered.
A lot of different cultures also have their own version of potato salad with additions you will not have even heard of.
While most would just add herbs and butter for a potato salad, if you want to try something new, you can try the olivier salad which has loads of extras to complement the potatoes like carrots, eggs, peas, and even sausages with a fresh dill and mayo dressing.
However, you choose to serve potato salad, it is hard to excuse this staple from being missing.
Green beans are a great easy side for any occasion and since they are so widely loved, you will not have to worry about people not liking them. They can be cooked and served in many different ways.
You can quickly boil them just to get them tender enough to eat, or you could all out and try some more out of the box methods.
A simple new way to cook beans is by frying them with butter and garlic to fix them a new flavor which compliments them and other barbecue meats.
If you want to try something even fancier to really show off you could try making green beans almondine which is where you will toss your green beans in a brown butter mixture alongside toasted almonds for a whole new dish.
This will be cooked with garlic and shallots and then freshened up with a little bit of lemon juice. However, you want to serve green beans, they are sure to all get eaten no matter what.
Maybe one of the most expected sides for any barbecue, people will probably be confused if there is not any coleslaw, and this of course goes great when served with ribs.
This creamy side can be found cheap store bought, but if you have never made it before, it is very simple to make and will not require much effort from the cook.
You can also change your coleslaw recipe in loads of different ways to give it new appeal and better compliment the ribs you are serving.
This could be changing some of the main ingredients which make up the foundation of the slaw, using a different type of sauce or dressing to give a different flavor, or adding different seasonings or toppings.
There are many different slaw recipes out there which fit ribs so try out different ones to see which suits your tastes best!
There is a reason why pasta salad is served at so many barbecues and part of this is because it goes so well with meats like ribs.
This salad is just as filling and yummy as salad, but it incorporates for fresh flavors than most hot pasta dishes do and is nearly always more refreshing. If you want a side which will refresh your guests and help fill them up, going with a pasta salad is a great choice.
This is also a great way to serve extra veggies in a way more kids are willing to try.
If you want something which is as visually appealing as it is delicious, try making a rainbow pasta salad which includes your classic pasta base with a fresh cheese like feta, and then a bunch of different colorful vegetables to help this pasta dish live up to its name.
For a great filling side, skipping the pasta salad is a bad idea.
This is a more unconventional side which many people would not consider since it is usually seen as a dish for dessert or not fitting for a barbecue, but we beg to differ.
A fruit salad is a great sweet dish which is usually pretty easy to prepare and is super fresh if prepared just before eating. All you need to do is cut up a good amount of fresh fruits which you think will compliment your ribs and drizzle it with a dressing.
A good choice for dressing is something like honey and/or citrus (Check out another citrus-y fruit here) as it really enhances the flavors of the fruit.
This fruity side will go great with your ribs as the sweetness of the salad compliments the flavors of the ribs by contrasting the savory notes and strengthening the sweet with new depth.
If you do not trust this combination, your hesitation is understandable, but if you have never tried it, doing it at least once will probably prove you wrong.
Back to another side which is common for almost every meaty dish, but especially fitting for a meal like ribs is mashed potato. Almost every cook has made masked potatoes at least once due to the simplicity which goes into preparing it.
Most chefs will make mashed potato with a combination of potatoes, butter, milk, and some salt and pepper, and while this base is a classic, there are infinite ways to customize this to make it suit different meals and mains better.
A way to change up a mashed potato side which many people have never tried is to melt in a complimentary cheese before the potatoes have cooled down.
One of the best unconventional choices for this is goats cheese as it melts easily and adds a unique but refreshing flavor to the side. You can try this with any cheese on hand, and as many know, cheese and potatoes is never a bad combo, especially with ribs in the equation.
On top of this, adding fresh herbs to your mashed potatoes adds a whole new depth of flavor which helps keep this side feeling fresh and will help alleviate some of the more heavy flavors.
Like a lot of the other dishes on this list, collard greens can be customized to fit any taste. This southern classic goes great with any barbecue and go great with black eyed peas and cornbread.
They are not too hard to make but to get the perfect smoky flavor takes a while to perfect and if you have a family recipe, this would be the best thing to try. Make sure to include plenty of bacon bits to enhance the smoky flavor and sweet onions to add a great depth of flavor.
This fresh salad with a foundation of tomatoes is great to balance out the heavier flavors of the meat and really cleans your palate after lots of flavorful meats.
It also helps that these salads are usually super easy to make with you usually only needing to chop up your tomatoes and add any seasoning or dressing you feel like adding. You do not have to make it, so tomatoes are the only veggies in this salad, however.
You can add vegetables like avocado, cucumber, and even onion to add more varied flavors and textures. Another ingredient that not everyone knows fits tomato well is mozzarella and the higher quality mozzarella you can find the better!
While this is not technically a side and more of a drink accompaniment, having ribs on a hot summer day without lemonade on the side should really be a crime.
You can find lemonade pre-made in stores, and you can even buy lemonade concentrate in most stores too, but making this drink from scratch is the best way to capture the tart taste of the lemons and the sweet freshness this drink provides.
Making this drink from scratch also does not take much time and can be done in a variety of ways but the most effective is to make a concentrated syrup from the juice and zest from a lemon with sugar and then dilute this with ice water.
Since this method is so simple you can also adapt it to use different flavors and fruits.
Some popular fruits to use with lemonade, especially for summer, are strawberries and raspberries, but make sure to still add some lemon as the sourness of this adds a great flavor enhancement which should not be missed!
This is one of the most simple and effective ways to serve potatoes which can be cooked in a tray making it super convenient. The creamy sauce is extra great when ribs have been dunked in it making it a perfect side dish for this main.
There are many different ways to serve and prepare this dish but once you have found your favorite you will not want to stop making it. This dish is also a crowd pleaser, so if you have any picky eaters, this dish is sure to please even them.
Mediterranean salads are a great choice for going with barbecues and ribs since they incorporate fresh ingredients while still being filling enough to be a substantial side.
You can probably find a recipe for this which uses ingredients which you already own, so if you need something to make in a rush, do not hesitate to try making one of these salads.
Gnocchi is not everyones first thought when it comes to a side for ribs, but this Italian staple is almost as customizable as pasta and can be adapted to fit any occasion.
This meal is easy to prepare and can be put with any sauce as a base to make the dish suit any occasion. If you want to put a new spin on a classic, try using gnocchi to use an unconventional base as it is super versatile.
Finally, another classic which would be amiss to not serve at a barbecue alongside ribs is corn. The best type of corn for this occasion would be a classic buttery corn on the cob.
You can boil or roast the corn depending on preference, but either way, the results will be refreshing and delicious.
For an unconventional method of preparing corn you can make Mexican street corn which is served with a lime-garlic sauce which is perfect for summer meals and compliments ribs greatly.
Hopefully this list has given you the inspiration you need for the next time you plan to serve ribs. All of these dishes go amazingly well with ribs and compliment its rich sweet flavors in different ways.
Just making a couple of these dishes will show that you know your stuff when it comes to preparing ribs!