What to Serve with Ribs: Perfect Side Dishes for Your BBQ Feast

Discover a selection of side dishes that will elevate your next rib feast from delicious to unforgettable.

Key takeaways:

  • Southern Baked Mac & Cheese: Creamy, crunchy, and indulgent side dish.
  • Coleslaw: Refreshing with sweet, tangy, and creamy dressing options.
  • Cornbread: Sweet, crumbly, and customizable to your taste.
  • Grilled Asparagus: Light, charred, and quick to cook.
  • Potato Salad: Creamy, tangy, and crunchy with endless flavor options.

Southern Baked Mac & Cheese

southern baked mac amp cheese

A hearty side dish, the rich creaminess of a southern-style baked macaroni and cheese provides a delightful contrast to the savory, smoky flavor of ribs.

Key elements include a blend of sharp cheddar for depth and a smooth melted sensation, and a crust of seasoned breadcrumbs or crumbled crackers for a satisfying crunch.

To personalize the dish, experiment with a mixture of cheeses like Gouda or Monterey Jack for added complexity.

It’s important to ensure the pasta is cooked al dente as it will continue to soften during baking.

This indulgent side anchors the meal and balances the meaty main with its comforting, cheesy goodness.


The crispness of coleslaw offers a refreshing contrast to the rich, smoky flavors of ribs. A classic slaw is typically comprised of shredded cabbage and carrots, but variations are plentiful and encourage creativity.

To meld with the savory notes of BBQ, a dressing that hits the sweet, tangy, and creamy marks is often called for. Apple cider vinegar, a splash of lemon juice, and a hint of mustard can balance the sweetness of the mayonnaise or dressing base. For a lighter version, consider an oil and vinegar dressing to cut through the fat.

Enhancing your coleslaw with ingredients like apple slices, raisins, or a touch of fresh herbs can add unexpected layers of flavor and texture. Remember, chill the slaw before serving; it allows the flavors to integrate and offers a cold bite that complements the heat from the ribs.


Cutting through the richness of ribs, a slice of cornbread offers a slightly sweet and comforting counterbalance.

Its crumbly texture is ideal for soaking up flavorful juices without losing its integrity.

For variety, add jalapenos to the batter for a spicy kick or fold in corn kernels for added texture.

The versatility of cornbread makes it a receptive side for customizing to your taste or theme of the meal.

Serve it warm with a dollop of honey butter to accent its natural flavor, ensuring an inviting pairing that satisfies the palate.

Grilled Asparagus

Grilled asparagus is a vibrant side dish that complements the rich flavors of ribs. Its light, charred taste balances the smokiness and heft of the meat.

To prepare, toss asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Grill over medium heat until tender and lightly charred, stirring occasionally—this should take about 5-10 minutes.

For added zest, finish with a squeeze of lemon juice or a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

This vegetable is not only healthy but also quick to cook, making it an ideal side dish that won’t detract from the main attraction.

Potato Salad

When considering the ideal side to complement the rich flavors of ribs, potato salad is a perennial favorite. This classic dish provides a creamy contrast to the smoky, savory taste of barbecued meat. The key to an exceptional potato salad lies in the balance of textures and flavors. Opt for waxy potatoes like Yukon Gold or red potatoes which hold their shape after cooking and provide a pleasing bite. To enhance the flavor profile, mix in a tangy dressing of mayonnaise and mustard, a hint of acidity from vinegar or lemon juice, and a crunch from diced celery or pickles.

Herbs such as dill or chives can add a fresh element, while a pinch of paprika or a dash of hot sauce can introduce a subtle warmth, mimicking the spices often found in rib rubs. For those looking to cut through the richness of the ribs, consider incorporating a sharper ingredient like chopped red onion or capers. Remember to allow the potato salad to chill – this not only improves its texture but lets the flavors meld, resulting in a side dish that beautifully rounds out the BBQ feast.