Discover the Best Side Dishes for Smoked Tri Tip

Published By Kevin Turner

Last Updated Feb 5, 2024 is reader-supported. If you buy something using the links on our site, we might earn an affiliate commission at no added cost to you. This helps us pay our staff to keep making awesome content for you!

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    As an ardent barbecue aficionado, I’ve come to understand that a beautifully smoked tri tip is only half the story.

    The other half?

    The carefully selected, lovingly prepared side dishes that turn a good barbecue into a fantastic feast.

    Just like a movie star and their supporting cast, a tri tip, no matter how perfectly smoked, needs the right companions to shine.

    That’s why today, I’m sharing my guide to the best sides to serve with your tri tip.

    From traditional favorites to innovative new ideas, there’s something here to please every palate, and together, we’ll create a barbecue spread that’s sure to impress. Let’s get started!

    Traditional Tri Tip Sides

    Coleslaw: A classic at any barbecue, coleslaw provides a refreshing, crunchy counterpoint to the richness of the smoked tri tip. I prefer to make my own slaw, combining shredded cabbage, carrots, and a tangy, slightly sweet dressing. The dressing is simple, with a base of mayonnaise, a splash of vinegar for acidity, a hint of sugar for sweetness, and a touch of mustard for a bit of a kick. The result is a crisp, creamy side dish that’s both refreshing and satisfying.

    Baked Beans: Next up on my list of favorites are baked beans. Their hearty, sweet, and slightly smoky flavor is a match made in heaven with smoked tri tip. I like to slow-cook my beans in a sauce that’s a blend of sweet and savory. Ingredients like molasses, brown sugar, and a touch of ketchup contribute to the sweetness, while smoked bacon, onions, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce add a savory depth of flavor. After a few hours on low heat, the beans become tender and the flavors meld together beautifully.

    Cornbread: I can never resist a piece of golden, crumbly cornbread as a side to my tri tip. Its slightly sweet and savory flavor, along with a moist, crumbly texture, is an excellent contrast to the smoky, juicy meat. My cornbread recipe is straightforward – a mix of cornmeal and flour, a dash of sugar for sweetness, and buttermilk for moisture. The batter goes into a hot, buttered cast iron skillet, and then into the oven, resulting in a cornbread with a crunchy crust and a soft, moist interior.

    These traditional sides, each delicious in its own right, come together to create a symphony of flavors and textures in every bite. From the crunch of the coleslaw, to the hearty baked beans, to the crumbly cornbread – it’s an ensemble that truly complements and enhances the star of the show: the smoked tri tip.

    Grilled Vegetables Side Dishes

    As we continue our exploration of the perfect sides to pair with smoked tri tip, let’s turn our attention to grilled vegetables. I love adding grilled vegetables to my barbecue spread. Not only are they healthy and delicious, but they also bring a wonderful smoky flavor that goes hand-in-hand with the tri tip.

    Choosing which vegetables to grill can be part of the fun. I have a few favorites that never fail to impress. Bell peppers, asparagus, and zucchini are top of the list. Each of these vegetables holds up well to the heat of the grill, and their natural flavors are enhanced by a bit of charring.

    Bell peppers, with their sweet, slightly bitter taste, are fantastic when grilled. I like to quarter them, brush them with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and place them directly on the grill. The result is a slightly charred, smoky, and wonderfully sweet side dish.

    Asparagus, with its distinctive flavor, is another great choice. I toss the spears lightly in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill them until they’re tender and slightly caramelized. They add a beautiful color and a fresh, vibrant flavor to the plate.

    Zucchini, when grilled, takes on a delightful sweetness and a soft, tender texture. I slice them lengthwise into thick strips, brush them with olive oil, sprinkle with some salt, pepper, and a bit of garlic powder, and grill them until they have nice grill marks on each side.

    Finally, a little tip from my kitchen to yours: try making a simple vinaigrette to drizzle over your grilled vegetables. I love whisking together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a touch of Dijon mustard, and a bit of honey. It’s a tangy, sweet dressing that enhances the smoky flavor of the grilled veggies.

    In my opinion, adding grilled vegetables to your barbecue spread brings color, flavor, and balance. They offer a healthier counterpart to the rich tri tip and heavier traditional sides, without sacrificing flavor. And remember, the grill isn’t just for meat – it can transform your veggies into smoky, charred delights, creating a barbecue that’s varied, balanced, and absolutely delicious.

    Fresh Salads with Tri Tip

    Next on our culinary journey to the perfect tri tip companions are fresh salads. There’s something about a crisp, cool salad that perfectly balances out the smoky, rich flavors of a barbecue. Whether it’s a simple green salad or something a bit more complex, the freshness of the ingredients and the variety of textures and flavors make salads an ideal side dish.

    A classic garden salad is always a hit at my barbecues. I keep it simple – crunchy lettuce, ripe tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and sweet bell peppers. The key is in the dressing: a homemade vinaigrette with extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, a touch of Dijon mustard, and a sprinkle of dried herbs. It’s light, refreshing, and cuts through the richness of the smoked tri tip beautifully.

    Greek salad is another of my favorites to serve with tri tip. The tangy feta cheese, ripe tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, and savory olives create a fantastic contrast of flavors and textures. And the dressing, a mixture of olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, and oregano, brings a vibrant, Mediterranean flair to the barbecue.

    Now, for something a little different, I like to prepare a tangy coleslaw. Unlike the creamy version discussed earlier, this coleslaw is all about the tang. The base is still shredded cabbage and carrots, but the dressing is a mix of vinegar, sugar, and a touch of celery seed. The resulting coleslaw is crisp, tangy, and a perfect contrast to the smoky tri tip.

    In my experience, adding a fresh salad to your barbecue spread provides a refreshing and balancing element. The crunch and freshness of the vegetables, the tang of the dressings, and the variety of flavors make them the perfect counterpoint to the richness of the tri tip and other sides. Plus, they add a vibrant splash of color to your plate! So next time you’re planning a barbecue, consider which salad might make the best companion to your smoked tri tip.

    Starchy Sides with Tri Tip

    As we continue our culinary adventure into the best sides for smoked tri tip, let’s talk about one of my favorite categories – starchy sides. These are the comfort food stars of the barbecue spread, providing a hearty, satisfying complement to the rich tri tip.

    Potatoes: A classic pairing with any meat, potatoes offer versatility that’s hard to beat. Roasted baby potatoes are a personal favorite of mine. I love to toss them in olive oil, rosemary, and garlic, then roast them until they’re golden brown and crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. They offer a comforting, earthy flavor that pairs beautifully with the smoky tri tip.

    For something a bit creamier, mashed potatoes never fail to hit the spot. My recipe involves a mix of Yukon Gold potatoes for their buttery flavor and russet potatoes for their fluffiness. I add in some warm milk, a good amount of butter, and a sprinkle of garlic powder for a rich, creamy, and slightly garlicky mashed potato that’s pure comfort food.

    Rice Dishes: Rice is another excellent choice for a side. For a barbecue, I like to make a flavorful rice pilaf. I sauté onions and garlic until they’re soft, add in some long-grain rice and toast it lightly, then cook it in chicken stock for a deep, savory flavor. The result is a fluffy, flavorful rice dish that’s a fantastic companion to the tri tip.

    Risotto is another great option. While it requires a bit more attention, the result is worth it – a creamy, rich rice dish that’s a meal in itself. My preferred risotto for a barbecue involves mushrooms and a good amount of Parmesan cheese for a hearty, earthy flavor.

    In my opinion, a good starchy side brings a comforting, satisfying element to your barbecue spread. Whether you prefer potatoes in any of their delicious forms, or a flavorful rice dish, these sides offer a wonderful complement to the smoked tri tip, creating a balanced, hearty meal that’s sure to impress your guests. 

    Tri Tip Sauces and Dips

    Stepping into the exciting universe of sauces and dips, we find these often underrated elements of a barbecue can take a smoked tri tip from enjoyable to absolutely delectable. They enhance the meat’s flavors, bringing a tantalizing twist to every bite. Here are a few of my all-time favorites:

    • Homemade Barbecue Sauce: A classic staple in any barbecue, this sauce brings a sweet, tangy, and slightly smoky accent to the rich tri tip. The ingredients for this sauce include:

      • Ketchup
      • Brown sugar
      • Apple cider vinegar
      • Smoky element (chipotle peppers or smoked paprika)
    • Chimichurri Sauce: Originating from Argentina, this sauce is a zesty, fresh contrast to the smoky tri tip. Here’s what you need to make it:

      • Fresh parsley
      • Garlic
      • Vinegar
      • Red pepper flakes
    • Horseradish Cream Sauce: Offering a creamy and tangy dimension, this sauce works wonders with the rich, smoky tri tip. The ingredients for this sauce include:

      • Sour cream or crème fraîche
      • Prepared horseradish
      • Lemon juice
      • A touch of Dijon mustard
    • Homemade Honey Mustard Sauce: Bringing a sweet, tangy, and slightly spicy note to the barbecue, this sauce is a crowd-pleaser. Here’s what you’ll need:

      • Dijon mustard
      • Honey
      • Apple cider vinegar
      • A touch of mayonnaise

    In my book, sauces and dips aren’t merely a last-minute addition. They’re a vital part of the barbecue landscape, introducing a range of flavors and textures. Whether it’s sweetness, tanginess, creaminess, or spiciness you’re after, there’s a sauce or dip that fits the bill. I encourage you to explore the world of sauces and dips and find which ones become your favorite accompaniments to your smoked tri tip.

    Bread and Rolls to Serve with Tri Tip

    Ah, the beauty of fresh bread at a barbecue! There’s something deeply satisfying about tearing into a crusty roll or a slice of fluffy bread while savoring a juicy piece of smoked tri tip. Bread serves as an excellent side, absorbing the juices and sauces while providing a textural contrast to the tender tri tip. Let’s talk about some of my favorite bread and roll options:

    1. Classic Dinner Rolls: Soft, fluffy dinner rolls are always a hit at my barbecues. They’re perfect for mopping up any sauce or juices left on your plate. Plus, there’s something comforting and nostalgic about a basket of warm dinner rolls passed around the table.

    2. Cornbread: This classic southern side is a personal favorite when serving smoked tri tip. The sweet and slightly crumbly cornbread complements the smoky, savory flavors of the meat perfectly. Whether you prefer your cornbread sweet or savory, it’s a hearty side that’s sure to please your guests.

    3. Garlic Bread: Another fantastic choice is garlic bread. The rich, garlicky flavors work so well with the smoked tri tip, and the crunchy crust offers a wonderful contrast to the tender meat. You can either buy it pre-made or make your own by slathering a baguette with garlic butter and toasting it until golden.

    4. Cheese-Stuffed Rolls: For something a bit different and sure to impress, try cheese-stuffed rolls. I like to use a strong cheese, like sharp cheddar or even blue cheese, stuffed into a soft dinner roll. When baked, the cheese melts and infuses the roll with a delicious, savory flavor that pairs excellently with the tri tip.

    5. Fresh Baguettes: There’s something incredibly satisfying about the crunch of a fresh baguette. It’s simple, yet the soft interior and crispy crust make it a perfect side to serve with smoked tri tip. Plus, it’s perfect for those who might want to make their tri tip into a sandwich.

    Bread and rolls are more than just fillers – they are an integral part of the barbecue experience. They absorb the sauces and meat juices, offer a textural contrast, and provide a simple yet satisfying side that complements the flavors of the smoked tri tip.

    Common FAQ’s

    1. What is tri tip? Tri tip is a cut of beef that comes from the bottom sirloin region. It is a triangular-shaped muscle that is flavorful and tender when cooked correctly.

    2. How do I select a good tri tip at the store? Look for a tri tip with good marbling, which indicates tenderness and flavor. Choose one that is bright red and has minimal browning.

    3. What is the best way to cook tri tip? Tri tip can be grilled, smoked, or roasted. Grilling or smoking over indirect heat to medium-rare or medium doneness is a popular method.

    4. What internal temperature should I cook tri tip to? For medium-rare, cook tri tip to an internal temperature of around 130-135°F (54-57°C). Keep in mind that the temperature will rise a few degrees during resting.

    5. How long should I let tri tip rest after cooking? Allow tri tip to rest for about 10-15 minutes before slicing. This helps the juices redistribute and ensures a more tender and juicy result.

    6. What are some popular marinades or rubs for tri tip? Popular marinades include a combination of olive oil, garlic, herbs, and soy sauce. For rubs, a mix of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika is commonly used.

    7. Should I slice tri tip against the grain? Yes, it is important to slice tri tip against the grain to maximize tenderness. Identify the direction of the grain and cut perpendicular to it.

    8. Can I freeze tri tip? Yes, you can freeze tri tip for future use. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight freezer bag before storing it in the freezer.

    9. What are some common side dishes to serve with tri tip? Traditional barbecue sides like coleslaw, baked beans, cornbread, and grilled vegetables pair well with tri tip. Salads, mashed potatoes, and rice dishes are also popular choices.

    10. What wines go well with tri tip? Red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, or Syrah pair nicely with the rich flavors of tri tip. For white wine lovers, a Chardonnay or a crisp Rosé can also be enjoyed.


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    Kevin Turner
    Hi there, I'm Kevin Turner, Founder and CEO of I started this website to share my passion and knowledge with you. You can leverage my years of experience as a pit master and professional to grill great food!

    About The Grilling Master

    Hi there, I'm Kevin Turner, Founder and CEO of

    My passion has always been grilling, smoking and BBQ delicious meats that satisfy my inner carnivore!

    I started this website to share my passion and knowledge with you, the hungry reader who wants to prepare the perfect meal. 

    You can leverage my years of experience as a pit master and professional. 

    Send me a message and let's connect on Twitter here.

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