Whether they’re dry rubbed or tossed in a sticky-sweet Kansas City-style sauce that leaves stains in unexpected places, baby back ribs instantly turn up the volume on your summer gathering. Pounds of ribs laid side by side is a sight to behold—and the smell of them coming right off the grill or being pulled out of the oven guarantees that neighbors will walk over uninvited to say, “what’s cooking?” But hey, the more the merrier, especially when it comes to such a crowd-friendly main course like ribs.
And while the meat is plenty filling on its own, a true barbecue feast will also feature an all-star lineup of side dishes like potato salad, coleslaw, grilled summer vegetables, baked beans, sautéed greens, and a whole lot more. Here are 21 of the best side dishes to serve with ribs all summer long.
Barbecue and potato salad are key players for summer and this recipe is considered one of our very best sides. It features a classic duo mayonnaise and whole-grain mustard, which adds sharpness and some texture. Chopped chives add vibrancy and break up the neutral hues of hard-cooked eggs and potatoes.
This may be humanity’s most genius idea ever—a salad made with big crusty cubes of bread. It’s not exactly the lightest side dish ever, but it doesn’t need to be because it’s just so delicious. Toss the bread with grilled summer vegetables like squash and zucchini, plus tender broccoli rabe. A spicy mayonnaise marinade ties it all together.
Everyone knows and loves the humble potato salad. It’s a comforting summer side dish that pairs well with anything and everything—but especially ribs. This recipe goes on a tour of the American South with ingredients like sweet relish, Miracle whip, yellow mustard, and a generous dose of hot sauce.
No cookout is complete without coleslaw, plain and simple. There are endless recipes for this staple side, including some that even swap out the usual cabbage in place of carrots, zucchini, or squash. But when you want a twist on the all-American, old-fashioned recipe that will still make Grandma happy, this is it. There’s tang from Greek yogurt, sweet honey, earthy za’tar, heat from Tabasco, and acidity from apple cider vinegar for a beautifully balanced bite.
When I think of the perfect side dish for ribs, I instantly think of cornbread. Crumbly, buttery, semi-sweet cornbread. “Like all cornbread, this is dreamy still warm from the oven, but it also holds up for a couple of days,” said recipe developer Emma Laperruque, which means that it’s just right for summer entertaining.
One of the ultimate side dishes to pair with ribs is collard greens. There are so many ways to prepare them, but this sweeter iteration calls for cooking the greens in a combination of coconut oil and coconut milk. A couple of tablespoons of tamari packs a punch of savory umami flavor and breaks up the sweetness with some salt.
If you’re like me, you’re counting down the summer days until corn on the cob is officially in season. Once it’s time, grab a bushel, cut the kernels off the cob, and turn them into this speedy side salad.
If you’d rather be lounging on a floating inflatable swan in a swimming pool than cooking over a hot stove, fear not: This 30-minute salad, which features a bounty of grilled produce and a sharp garlic scape pesto, will let you have some fun in the sun with time to spare to prepare a delicious side dish.
Macaroni and cheese is a crowd-favorite entrée, but it also is a dream side dish for ribs. This six-ingredient sheet-pan side dish developed by our founder Amanda Hesser makes our childhood (and let’s face it—adulthood) wishes come true.
Recipe developer Samin Nosrat learned a way to make old-fashioned buttermilk biscuits feel new again. She “incorporated half of the butter into the dough to make it tender, and then rolled and folded the finished dough a few times to create flaky layers.” All we need now is an extra pat or two of butter to smear in the middle.
If you’ve managed to maintain your sourdough starter throughout the pandemic, here’s a very-clever way to use it beyond breads and pastries. Thin and crispy corn fritters made with starter are shallow fried in butter in a cast-iron skillet until they’re golden brown and spring back when you give them a poke.
“Standing in front of the open fridge, the night of a holiday brunch party years ago, I spread some pimento cheese on a leftover biscuit, and it hit me that I could save that pesky spreading step and create a one-bite wonder,” said recipe developer TheRunawaySpoon. Try it for yourself alongside sweet-sticky ribs, of course.
A perfect salad should be a little salty, a little spicy, and a little sweet, and should introduce a few different textures (think: creamy and crunchy). This 15-minute corn salad checks all of the boxes.
Turn a bag of potato chips into a this Spanish-style tortilla, which is one of our readers’ favorite recipes of all time. Slice it into wedges or small bite-size pieces for a side dish to accompany ribs.
If you’re looking for a way to make use of an abundance of fresh summer produce that you gathered after a trip to a local farm stand or market, this recipe is the answer. Pan-fried green beans and tomatoes bursting at their seams with juices are tossed with cooked orzo and feta cheese. Soon enough, the crowd will be saying: “This is your best pasta salad ever.”
For an attention-grabbing potato salad look no further: it introduces the flavors of pimento cheese to the mix using peppadew peppers and cheddar cheese. We bet you’ll never look back.
It’s time to dig into the far reaches of your cabinet, dust off the ol’ multicooker, and make use of this popular appliance for this flavor-packed preparation of baked beans. Jessica Romanowski’s recipe calls for nearly every pantry staple—three kinds of garlic (regular and black garlic cloves, plus garlic powder), onion powder, black peppercorns, ketchup, mustard, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar. Once you take a taste, you’ll see what a difference the hefty list of ingredients makes.
This easy, breezy pasta salad forgoes a mayonnaise or vinegar dressing and keeps it simple (but plenty flavorful!) with salty green olives, toasted walnuts, roasted bell peppers, anchovies, and a corkscrew-shaped pasta.
Beyond cocktails and cobblers, pies, and preserves is this savory side salad made with peaches and a salty anchovy dressing. “Just add a few tiny fillets for a boatload of briny, brawny umami, and serve next to whatever you’re having for lunch or dinner,” said recipe developer Emma Laperruque. In this case, that means ribs, ribs, and more ribs.
This Big Little five-minute recipe calls for three simple ingredients—ripe tomatoes, sharp cheddar cheese, and extra-virgin olive oil. Despite the low-key recipe, the bubbly, sizzling, gooey appearance delivers big-time as a summer side dish.
Short on time? This 20-minute side dish—made with fresh corn kernels, cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds, crumbled feta, and fresh mint—pairs so well with ribs for the ultimate summer dinner.
What’s your favorite way to prepare and serve ribs? Tell us in the comments below!