Vegetable sides that go well with ribs are usually grilled or steamed vegetables. These include asparagus, broccoli, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, eggplant and peppers.
When you’re thinking about what to serve with your ribs, it’s easy to rely on the same old sides — things like potato salad and coleslaw.
Many of us eat these same foods every summer long, but there are so many other ways to add something special and new to your backyard barbecue.
It’s time for an upgrade!
The good news is that you don’t have to head out to a fancy restaurant or even a farm-to-table joint to enjoy some truly tasty and inventive side dishes.
You can make them right in your own kitchen.
Here are 26 vegetable sides that are perfect for ribs and all kinds of other summer meals:
26 Vegetable Sides for Ribs
A great vegetable side dish for ribs is something that has a lot of texture and substance.
It should also be a healthy option, so you’re not eating just to fill up.
Arugula is a wonderful side that can be dressed up or down depending on the other ingredients you pair it with.
It’s also a great salad to make in advance and serve as a make-ahead side.
Still looking for other options?
Then keep scrolling!
This crunchy side is a classic for good reason. It’s more than just cabbage – there’s tons of flavor in every bite.
Plus, the mayo-based dressing helps cut through the richness of the ribs.
Grilled corn on the cob is a classic choice to serve alongside ribs, but you can make it even better by boiling the corn in beer, apple cider vinegar and seasonings before grilling.
The liquid helps the kernels cook through during grilling, resulting in tender bites with perfectly charred kernels.
3. Tomato Salad
There’s nothing better than a fresh tomato salad in the summertime, and it pairs perfectly with ribs.
Toss thick slices of heirloom tomatoes with olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, basil and oregano for a simple side dish — or serve them with a bowl of fresh mozzarella balls and fresh basil for a Caprese-style salad.
Green beans are one of those vegetables that you either love or hate.
However, when you add garlic to the mix, it can be hard for anyone to resist.
I think that’s because garlic is a flavor powerhouse and can make anything taste better (in my opinion).
You can use fresh garlic, but I find that the flavor is stronger when you use the jarred kind.
If you want to spice up your green beans even more, try adding a little bit of cayenne pepper to the sauce.
This mix of brightly colored squash brings a gorgeous array of colors and flavors to the table.
Toss it with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast it for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees F before serving.
Roasted asparagus is a simple side dish that’s ready in less than 20 minutes.
Drizzle the asparagus with olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste, then roast it in the oven for about 10 minutes at 400 F.
Creamed spinach is rich, buttery and delicious, so it’s no surprise that it’s a popular side dish at steak restaurants.
It also goes remarkably well with barbecue — especially if you’re serving your ribs with a spicy tomato-based sauce.
For this recipe, use 2 pounds of fresh baby spinach leaves (don’t bother with frozen spinach).
Sauté them in a small amount of butter until they wilt, then stir in about 1/4 cup each of heavy cream and whole milk along with some grated Parmesan and salt to taste.
Now, hear me out on this one.
Brussels sprouts can be hit or miss with kids, but I’ve found that roasting them in an oven until they get crispy makes them irresistible to even the pickiest eaters.
Tossing some bacon into the mix doesn’t hurt either.
Tomatoes and mozzarella are summer classics, and they blend together perfectly.
If you have time, grill the tomatoes first over medium heat and let them sit for a few minutes with salt, pepper and garlic powder before adding them to the salad.
Add fresh basil for extra flavor.
10. Broccoli Salad
This salad is sweet and tangy enough to cut through the richness of fall-off-the-bone ribs.
Slivered almonds give it a nice crunch.
Make it early in the day or even the night before in order to maximize flavor.
This recipe makes a lot, so have a big bowl on hand for serving!
11. Caesar Salad
You can’t go wrong with a classic Caesar salad.
The tangy lemon and parmesan in the dressing balances out the meatiness of the ribs.
And if you add some croutons and bacon into the mix, you’ll have all of your favorite flavors on one plate.
12. Stuffed Peppers
These stuffed peppers are great not only with ribs, but also with a variety of other main courses.
They’re green peppers filled with rice, ground beef and cheese. What’s not to like?
Grilled vegetables are a great side for ribs because they cook alongside the meat, letting you work on your prep and timing with one eye on the thermometer and the other on the grill.
This recipe uses balsamic vinegar to add a sweet-tart flavor to the grilled veggies.
It’s important not to marinate them for too long, or the acid will start breaking down the vegetables.
14. Cabbage Salad
If you choose to serve this salad alongside ribs, go for a lighter style of ribs, such as baby back or spare ribs.
You don’t want the salad to compete with the rich flavor of the pork and barbecue sauce.
- Combine 2 cups thinly sliced cabbage, 1/2 cup thinly sliced celery, 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper, 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or parsley.
- Stir together 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons lemon juice; add to salad, tossing well to coat.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Cover and chill until serving time.
For a side that’s both sweet and earthy, you can’t beat maple-glazed brussels sprouts.
The bacon takes this dish to the next level, making it a little bit more indulgent while still being packed with vitamins.
16. Beet Salad
Beet salads are always in season, but the earthy sweetness of beets pairs particularly well with rich, smoky flavors.
Toss together a salad of sliced roasted beets, thinly sliced red onion, crumbled goat cheese and a dressing of olive oil and vinegar.
17. Roasted Zucchini
This side is a no-brainer for anyone who’s hosting a summer barbecue.
Sliced zucchini and yellow squash get tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper before hitting the grill.
Make sure to cook them until they’re tender and have some color on them, then serve them up with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Try this healthier alternative to french fries.
They’re crispy and delicious, plus they pair perfectly with a rib dinner.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a large bowl, toss 5 peeled and cut parsnips with 2 tablespoons each of olive oil and maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
- Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
19. Collard Greens
These greens are a classic southern dish that is a must at any barbecue.
- To make them, start by washing and cutting two pounds of collard greens into 2-inch pieces, removing the stems as necessary.
- Heat up a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil and stir in the greens until they’re wilted.
- Next add in one cup of chicken broth and let them simmer for about 30 minutes until they become tender.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!
20. Kale Chips
If you’re looking for a crunchy side dish, these kale chips will fit the bill.
They’re surprisingly simple to make, and we guarantee that they’ll disappear from the table faster than you can say “ribs.”
When it comes to kale, you might already know that it’s one of the healthiest vegetables in the world.
This is because kale contains tons of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
It’s also a great source of fiber, which can make you feel full for longer periods.
Being low on calories and high in fiber is a winning combination for those who are trying to lose weight.
- Wash and dry 1 bunch of kale.
- Cut the stems off leaves and tear into bite-size pieces.
- Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste.
- Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet, then bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until crispy.
21. Spinach Salad
Spinach salad is a great side dish for ribs.
The earthy taste of spinach complements the rich flavor of barbecue sauce and meat.
This dish is easy to make and doesn’t take much time once you’ve rinsed and dried your spinach leaves.
A lot of people like to add other raw vegetables, such as red onion, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, or sliced mushrooms.
I love the combination of tomatoes and basil, especially when it’s baked in the oven with parmesan cheese.
If you want to really splurge, try using buffalo mozzarella instead of regular mozzarella and add some fresh arugula to the mix! You won’t be disappointed!
23. Sauteed Spinach
If you’re not in the mood for steamed spinach, try sauteing it instead.
With a little garlic and some olive oil, it makes for an easy side dish that pairs well with pretty much any protein imaginable.
Nothing goes better with ribs than comfort food!
This easy-to-make summer squash gratin is loaded with cheese and delicious goodness.
Plus, since it’s made with whole milk instead of cream, it has less fat than traditional versions!
25. Spicy Slaw
This spicy slaw is sure to be a crowd-pleaser because it goes well with just about everything.
It comes together in a snap and has just the right amount of kick from the cayenne pepper and chili paste.
Roasting cauliflower takes away its somewhat bland taste and gives it more complex flavors that pair well with ribs.
This recipe is prepared on a sheet pan and is done in about 20 minutes from start to finish.
Why Serve Vegetable Sides for Ribs?
There are different opinions about what sides to serve with ribs.
Some people prefer a potato or pasta salad and others like baked beans or spicy coleslaw.
But did you know that there are many good reasons to serve a vegetable side dish with your ribs?
Here are a few reasons why you should choose vegetables for your next side dishes:
1. Vegetables are healthy and nutritious
Vegetables in their natural state, or cooked in healthy ways, provide vitamins, minerals and fiber.
When you add a vegetable dish to your meal, you will be getting the nutrients that you need to help meet your daily requirements of vegetables.
2. Vegetables are versatile
A vegetable dish can be made with fresh, frozen or canned vegetables and it is easy to change up the flavor by using different seasonings and sauces.
You can also use different combinations of vegetables to make this part of your meal exciting and interesting!
3. Vegetables are affordable
Vegetable side dishes usually cost less than meat or other protein sources, so they can help lower your food budget while adding nutrition to your meals at the same time!
4. Veggies Are a Great Source of Fiber
Fiber helps you feel full longer, which means you will eat less.
It also helps with digestion, which is important when you’re eating a lot of meat at one sitting.
Finally, fiber helps prevent spikes in blood sugar levels and can help lower cholesterol levels as well.
5. Veggies Have Fewer Calories Than Other Sides
Many people like to eat macaroni and cheese or french fries with their ribs.
These foods have a lot of fat and calories that can lead to weight gain if consumed regularly.
Vegetable dishes typically have fewer calories than other side dishes so you can cut back on your calorie intake.
6. Vegetables Complement Ribs’ Flavor Profile
The rich, smoky flavor of barbecue adds an extra dimension to most vegetables.
In particular, mushrooms and bell peppers go well with barbecue.
They absorb the flavor of the sauce and complement its smoky taste.
Asparagus and broccoli are also good choices because they’re easy to eat with your hands.
7. Vegetable Dishes Are Easier to Prepare Ahead
Ribs take hours to smoke properly, so it’s important to plan ahead for your guests’ meal.
While you’re tending the smoker, prepare easy side dishes that can be refrigerated until you’re ready to serve them.
For example, make sure you have enough ice on hand for your beverages and fill up coolers at least 24 hours ahead of time to keep drinks cold throughout the day.
The day before your cookout is a great time to prepare vegetables like broccoli slaw or tomato salad because they’ll taste better the next day after marinating with the dressing.
8. Vegetables Break Up the Meaty Texture
Ribs are undoubtedly delicious, but they can be difficult to eat because they’re so messy and fatty.
Serving some crunchy vegetables on the side helps break up the monotony of eating such a meaty meal.
Tips For Serving Vegetable Sides for Ribs
Ribs are one of my favorite foods.
They are so versatile and can be paired with just about anything, but I think that when it comes to serving ribs the sides make all the difference.
Consider your side dishes a canvas that you can play with to compliment the flavor of your ribs.
Here are some tips for pairing vegetables with your next rib dish:
1. Use Fresh herbs
When serving ribs for dinner, I always like to serve them with at least two vegetable sides, one that is cooked and one that is fresh (i.e. salad).
Whether you’re baking or grilling your ribs, fresh herbs can really elevate their flavor profile by adding freshness and brightness which will cut through any fat from the meat itself.
Some of my favorite herbs to use are basil, cilantro and parsley!
2. Consider how you will prepare your vegetables
Grilling is an excellent way to cook vegetables for a barbecue dinner.
You can grill your vegetables right alongside your meat, saving time and energy used to cook your meal.
Steaming is another healthy way to prepare vegetables for a barbecue dinner.
Steaming is quick and easy, which means it’s perfect when you’re running short on time while cooking dinner for a large crowd.
3. Be careful not to overpower the flavor of the ribs
The main dish at any barbecue is the centerpiece, and it should be the star of the show.
This means that while you want your vegetable side dishes to be delicious and flavorful, you should avoid anything that will overpower the taste of your ribs.
That said, there are plenty of ways you can add flavor without distracting from the meat.
For example, using garlic and salt will add a lot of flavor without overwhelming anyone’s palate.
4. Have a variety of colours
There’s no nutritional reason for having different coloured vegetables, but it does make your meal more visually appealing and interesting.
5. Start with fresh vegetables
Always start with fresh vegetables for your sides.
Fresh vegetables always taste better than frozen or canned options!
You’ll also save money by buying fresh because you will use less salt, oil, and other added ingredients that you might need if your vegetables aren’t fresh.
6. Serve Vegetables That Are Crisp
Ribs can be incredibly rich and fatty.
They need a vegetable that is crisp enough to cut through the richness and help cleanse your palate.
For instance, cucumber would be a great option because it is not only crisp but refreshing as well.
You may also want to consider serving celery or fennel since both are crisp and have an earthy flavor that will complement your ribs nicely.
26 Easy Vegetable Sides for Ribs
- Grilled Corn on the Cob
- Tomato Salad
- Green Beans with Garlic
- Summer Squash Medley
- Roasted Asparagus
- Creamed Spinach
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
- Tomato and Mozzarella Salad
- Broccoli Salad
- Caesar Salad
- Stuffed Peppers
- Balsamic Grilled Vegetables
- Cabbage Salad
- Maple Glazed Brussels Sprouts
- Beet Salad
- Roasted Zucchini
- Baked Parsnip Fries
- Collard Greens
- Kale Chips
- Spinach Salad
- Baked Parmesan Tomatoes
- Sauteed Spinach
- Summer Squash Gratin
- Spicy Slaw
- Roasted Cauliflower
- Pick any of these veggie sides to serve alongside your ribs.
- Prepare the ingredients according to the recipe.
- Enjoy your meal in no time!