Side dishes are integral to any meal, providing balance and variety to complement the main course. Not only do they add extra flavors and textures, but side dishes also boost the nutritional value of the meal. Meals containing a variety of side dishes have higher amounts of important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than meals centered around a large portion of meat or other mains.
With busy schedules, side dishes that are easy to make are a great way to prepare nutritious accompaniments to any dinner quickly.
Read on for some delicious, simple side dish recipes to serve with everything from roasted chicken to grilled steak.
Roasting is one of the easiest cooking methods for vegetables. Simply chop vegetables like Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, or sweet potatoes into bite-sized pieces, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast at 400°F for 20-30 minutes. The high heat caramelizes the natural sugars, intensifying the flavor.
Roasted veggies pair well with nearly any main course, from fried chicken to baked salmon. Their sweet, concentrated flavor provides balance to rich and savory mains.
Any Type of Corn
Classic grilled corn, corn salad, corn salsa – there are just so many ways to enjoy corn! It perfectly accompanies barbecue mains like ribs, brisket, or pulled pork. The sweet corn flavor balances the smoky, savory flavors. And nothing beats a good corn side dish in the summer.
You can also try this easy homemade creamed corn recipe, which may become your new favorite way to enjoy corn. It’s rich, creamy, and easy to make – perfect for busy weeknights or a holiday get-together.
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and chard pack a nutritional punch, loaded with vitamins A, C, and K.
Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped greens and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Then season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a squeeze of lemon.
Sauteed greens make a fast, healthy side for mains like meatloaf, pasta, or fish.
Try mashed cauliflower for a low-carb, nutrient-dense alternative to mashed potatoes. Simply steam or boil cauliflower florets until very tender, then mash with butter, cream cheese, milk, and seasonings.
You can serve it warm alongside fried chicken, pot roast, or other comfort food mains. The mild flavor adapts well to herbs like chives, garlic, or parsley.
Warm, crusty garlic bread can alleviate any meal. Spread French or Italian bread with a mixture of butter or olive oil and minced garlic. Toast or broil until golden brown. Then sprinkle with parsley or parmesan.
Garlic bread is best served alongside Italian favorites like chicken parmesan, meatball spaghetti, or lasagna. The garlicky flavor and crunch complement the saucy, cheesy mains.
Canned refried beans make an easy, protein-packed side dish with Mexican favorites like tacos, enchiladas, or fajitas.
Simply heat the beans on the stovetop or microwave until warm, then season with cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Top with shredded cheese, salsa, and sour cream for extra flavor. Hearty refried beans pair nicely with spicy Mexican mains, providing the perfect contrast of flavors.
Creamy coleslaw adds crunch and freshness to any barbecue meal. For the best homemade slaw, whisk together mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Toss with shredded cabbage and carrots. Let sit for at least 30 minutes for flavors to meld.
Serve it chilled alongside classic barbecue mains like pulled pork sandwiches, ribs, and grilled chicken.
Rice pilaf, made by sautéing rice in butter before simmering in broth, is more flavorful than plain rice. After browning the rice, add chicken or vegetable broth and seasonings like garlic, onions, and herbs. Add in carrots or peas for extra texture.
Rice pilaf provides a simple base for saucy, stewed main dishes like chicken tikka masala, beef bourguignon, or jambalaya. It soaks up the flavorful sauce nicely.
Canned baked beans with bacon, onions, brown sugar, or barbecue sauce make a fast and tasty side for any grilled meat. Combine beans with your favorite flavors and bake until thick and saucy. Baked beans pair especially well with classic barbecued mains. Their sweetness and smoky flavor complement dishes like ribs, burgers, and hot dogs.
Warm, fluffy dinner rolls complete any meal. For an easy shortcut, you can bake pre-made dough. But of course, serving homemade rolls shows extra effort and guarantees more flavor.
Either way, this bread basket favorite is great for soaking up sauces and juices from hearty mains like beef stew, Minestrone soup, and chili.
Baked Sweet Potatoes
When baked whole in the oven, sweet potatoes become incredibly tender. Bake at 400F for 45 mins-1 hour until tender. Top with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, or maple syrup.
Sweet potatoes pair well with smoked or southern-style main dishes like pulled pork, fried chicken, or blackened fish. The natural sweetness balances savory flavors.
For a quick vegetable side, saute sliced carrots in butter or olive oil over medium-high heat until just tender, about 5-7 minutes. Season with honey, thyme, garlic, and salt.
Sauteed carrots add a pop of color and natural sweetness to complement mains like baked chicken, pork chops, or pot roast.
Chilled macaroni salad is a classic summer side dish. Simply boil elbow macaroni, mix with mayonnaise, vinegar, diced vegetables like celery or peppers, and seasonings. Let chill before serving alongside barbecued main dishes.
Side dishes don’t need to be complicated to make a meal more exciting. These easy recipes provide variety and nutrition without lots of work. You can quickly prepare delicious sides to complement your main course, from roasted veggies to mashed cauliflower, creamed corn, rice pilaf, and more.
Varying flavors, textures, and colors can elevate any dinner table while adding important nutrients. Keep these simple sides on hand to add something extra to every meal.