Side Dishes: The Ultimate Lists of Sides to Complete Any Meal
The side dish is a powerful, if little noticed, thing. It’s a companion on a plate, a helpmate on the table.
It can make a familiar main dish sing notes we’d forgotten about, or it can ground the wild flavors of a complex main dish while still letting its magical qualities come through.
Of course, your choice of a main dish plays a huge part in where your meal is headed, but there’s good reason to also focus in on choosing the best side dishes.
Whether you’re trying to highlight the central flavors, contrast with the textures, or simply find the fastest way to get a well-rounded and delicious meal on the table, it can be both an art and a science.
Most meals are best thought of as an ensemble cast of characters, not one built to highlight one powerhouse performance.
Of course, there will be powerhouse performances, and that’s as it should be.
All eyes will – and should – turn to that gorgeous beef Wellington you slaved over. But it’s the perfect accompaniment that will really make all that work pay off.
Because, once you master the perfect side dish, you’ll realize that it’s often the unsung hero – the bit player, the character actor – which makes the whole meal not just good, but deliciously memorable.
That’s all the long way of saying that, bringing the best supporting cast into your menu will only make your main dish sing with even more aplomb.
Much like pairing the perfect wine, the perfect side can often make your main dish even better, bringing out flavors and textures that might otherwise fade into the background.
Of course, great side dishes can also simply round out the meal, not just to make sure there’s enough food for a satisfying meal, but also to diversify the nutrition, visual appeal, and flavors of the meal.
Finding the Right Balance
Leaning into contrasting flavors to balance and add interest to the palate is one of our go-to uses of dish duos. If your main dish is fatty and heavy, think about a side dish with a touch of acid or spice.
If your main dish comes barreling at you with bright and spicy flavors, look for sides with a touch of sweetness or a luxurious fattiness.
A heavy protein is often beautifully balanced with the light crunch of vegetables or the bitterness of greens with a touch of heat and a wisp of acid from citrus or vinegar.
If your main dish is complex and involved, then easy side dishes may be in order to help balance your time and sanity in the kitchen.
It’s Always the Right Season
Thinking seasonally and regionally is also a good strategy for searching out the perfect accompaniment to round out your meal.
If your main dish leans heavily on seasonal ingredients or is traditionally served at a specific time of year, then don’t hesitate to lean into seasonal touches with your sides or appetizers.
Think lamb with mint and peas or roast turkey or seared duck with autumn root vegetables for Thanksgiving side dishes.
The Role That Salads Play
Salads not only add a punch of fresh flavors and endless possibilities, they can also be a great time saver.
Whether you’re going elaborate or simple, you can almost always pull a good salad together while your main dish is cooking. On a busy weeknight or during hectic prep for a dinner party, salads are the perfect companion to – well – pretty much everything.
Bonus: We’re in a golden age of fruits and vegetables, and keeping just a few things in the fridge can up your salad game tenfold.
Pomegranate seeds are available all year long now, and there are wide varieties of things like pea shoots, radish shoots, watermelon radishes, and other types of produce that were just a blip on the radar a few years ago.
Playing in the produce aisle has never been this much fun!
So, let’s delve into some of our favorite ideas for side dishes to our favorite meals.
Sides for Beefy Dishes
Beef brings a hearty, bold savoriness that makes it naturally the star of every plate. So, it practically begs for bold partners especially when you’re talking about special dinner sides. There are many ways for a side dish to be assertive and bold – whether it be through bright contrasts of acidity and crunch or the richness of a stick-to-your-ribs classic. We explore these many possibilities to get the perfect accompaniment for your delectable beef recipe tonight.
Hearty, meaty, stick-to-your-ribs deliciousness – beef stew needs no introduction. But you might be surprised at just how much more appreciation you’ll have for this classic concoction once you serve it with the perfect side. Our list has a plethora of ideas for just the right combinations.
As the name implies, beef tenderloin is not only tender and succulent, it also deserves your love and attention. But pair it with the perfect side dish, and it might just take your breath away. Whether you focus on archetypal combinations like the perfectly baked potato or adventure into more unusual territory, we have a whole host of ideas to help get your perfect dinner together.
The perfect beef Wellington wants, nay, demands the perfect simple and elegant side dishes to compliment its masterful place in the center of the table. Whether it’s a simple bright carrot puree, or a rich and decadent cheesy potatoes dauphinoise, we have the sides that one of the most storied main dishes will love. You’ll find the perfect accompaniment here.
The classic (and classy!) Italian meatball is insanely popular – and for good reason. It’s the ultimate family dish. Adults love them. Kids love them. Domestic animals linger beneath your feet hoping one will roll off the plate. And they love a good side dish. So, whether you opt for a traditional side like a Caesar salad, or go for something that’s simple and unique like eggplant pizzas, we’ve got you covered.
It’s a Wednesday night, and the aromatic smell of a beef or turkey meatloaf is wafting through the kitchen. Oh, you can smell its homey and luscious flavors. And those flavors want the perfect side dish to match its unparalleled table appeal. So, while you’re letting it rest for a bit why not pull together a quick side of bacon-wrapped asparagus? How about a steakhouse favorite like luscious creamed spinach? We have 15 delectable sides for you to choose from here.
When you’ve had a pot roast in the oven for a few hours it gives you time to think. Namely, about how rich and juicy the meat is going to be – and what would lovingly pair with its amazingness. Wonder no more! We have 15 suggestions that cover everything from the sweet (hello, applesauce!), to the hearty (hello, whipped mashed potatoes!), to the light and airy (hello, dinner rolls!).
We love Sloppy Joes! It’s a security blanket of youthful joy and whimsical pleasure. A classic of barbecues and good school days. Sloppy Joes never let you down. So, they deserve the right back up, as well. And we found a world of side dishes – from quick pickles and savory corn – that are perfect for a quick Tuesday night meal. So many ideas to get you started.
When you love something, you take the time to make the time. And cabbage rolls are definitely a Sunday meal – not a Monday one. So, once you’ve taken the time to put together these bundles of flavor – you want some stellar sides to go with them. And boy, did we find some amazing sides that fit the bill.
Stuffed peppers are a fun dish that never seem to go out of style. They’re like Audrey Hepburn riding a Vespa scooter in Roman Holiday. They fill you with joy. So, we searched out side dish recipes to make sure all that joy has some excellent company on the plate. From a peppery and fresh salad to pillowy homemade pita, you’ll never need to wonder what to serve with stuffed peppers again.
Sides for Poultry Dishes
Poultry loves to absorb what’s around it, which makes it a perfect canvas for a variety of flavors. And the sides that accompany it can be comfortably fresh and light like the many easy side dishes for chicken, or hearty and savory, and each can elevate the poultry main dish until it shines.
Roll this chicken dish into a roulade or deep fry it, or stuff it with black forest ham and gruyere cheese and bake it in the oven. It’s a mouthful of wonderful textures and flavors, and what you pair it with can make it even more magical when you find just the right contrasts. Check out these ideas and take a ride beyond the boundaries of appetizing.
A bowl of chicken and dumplings is legendary. Just so perfectly homey and comforting, whether in a wedding buffet spread or on a harried Tuesday night dinner table. It also pairs magically with any number of sides, from sweet and creamy corn to hearty breads. We’ve got all the bases covered with this list.
Chicken marsala sides run the gamut from “great” to “really great” to “fork-droppingly fantastic.” And we have a list of them that are resoundingly delicious and versatile. Creamy polenta starts our list off and spinach with garlic and lemon closes it out – and there’s so much more deliciousness in between.
There’s no denying that when you eat something as special as chicken piccata you need something extraordinary to go with it. In fact, whatever you choose will undoubtedly taste better itself. Let our list of sides, apps, drinks and desserts complete your perfect evening tonight.
Chicken pot pies are the ultimate in comfort food. Steaming chicken and vegetables in a flaky crust is like a hug on a plate. So, to bring that loveliness up a notch we’ve compiled a list that ranges from the sweet and tangy all the way to the rich and savory. Our list of the perfect side dishes for this beloved classic await you.
Chicken salad is one of the most versatile meals around. It can be a bit of classic Americana, or it can be filled with the flavors of Asia. Chicken salad wears its many hats very well. Our list of sides celebrates this versatility, from crunchy bites like cheese straws to a multitude of salads and soups.
Chicken wings are a go-to for parties. They’re easy to walk around with, and they make the perfect pointer tool for gesturing at the television when your team earns some points on the board. Score! You’ll score too, with this list of side dish ideas that covers an exciting range of indulgent flavors. Delve into the goodness here.
These wonderful, diminutive birds are the perfect meal for a date night, a dinner party, or a special and memorable weeknight meal. So, we wanted to let them “get their fancy on” with some sides that would showcase their beauty. Roasted veggies, a myriad of eye-popping salads, and big, fluffy, popovers are just a few of the amazing sides that made our list.
Duck breast is a wonderful midweek treat. It cooks in the same amount of time as a chicken breast, but brings a certain joie de vivre to a worknight meal. So rich. So decadent. So elegant. And we love pairing it with things as traditional as roasted figs, or as avant garde as burrata blood orange salad. This is a fun – and delicious – list of sides.
Jerk chicken is spicy, but it’s not a “hey, hold my beer while I walk across a bed of red hot coals on a dare” type of heat. It’s a thoughtful heat that’s a little fruity and bright. It just begs for side dishes with vibrant colors and an array of textures. Think colorful salsas, red beans and rice, or fried plantains – just to start. Our list is chock full of easy and delightful weeknight sides to pair with this multi-layered main dish.
Sides for Mexican Dishes
Mexican food is one of the most popular cuisines in America. For example, salsa has overtaken ketchup as the number one selling condiment. This also means there are a plethora of new and fresh ingredients popping up in grocery stores that are perfect to create a side dish with classic and new Mexican flavors. We’re full of ideas of what sides work with your favorite south-of-the-border dishes.
Meat, cheese, veggies all melted and sandwiched together in a tortilla. There’s no telling what you can pair with this American favorite Mexican dish, and we take you through some of the tasiest matches. From the spicy to the refreshing, you’ll find a an authentic supporting cast of sides.
You don’t need a party as an excuse to serve fajitas, because they are the party. Once the flavorful sizzling meat and vegetables kissed with a bit of lime hit the warm tortilla – oh, yes. It’s a party. And every party deserves fun guests. So, we found some. From classic combos to unexpected delights, our list has more than enough ideas to turn your table into a fiesta.
Sides for Seafood
Seafood loves colors and textures to bring out its delicate flavors. Whether the seafood is kissed with citrus or cream, or just a myriad of herbs – there’s a world of side dishes awaiting your favorite oceanic protein.
Sweet and crunchy coconut shrimp is a meal that makes every evening stellar. So, let’s take a little journey to the Caribbean with some sides, shall we? From tropical and sweet to spicy and light, with island fare from around the globe, this list will help you get the perfect coconut shrimp dinner together in no time.
Whether traditional New England clam chowder is your jam, or Manhattan clam chowder is your thing, we have the sides that will make your chosen style of this flavorful classic jump out of the bowl. Think about basil butter corn or bacon wrapped scallops lingering near a bowl of steaming chowder. Check out a variety of fun sides here.
Sweet and flaky crab cakes are a perfect summer meal. And they are loath to dine alone. The perfect side dishes bring out the delicate nature of the crab and elevate the cakes to new heights. So, dive into our round up of sides – the colorful, the vibrant, and the sweet and savory.
There are as many grilled shrimp recipes as there are stars in the evening sky – some citrusy, others smoky. But all of them are tantalizing. So, your sides have to live up to the main and bring it all together. We love to pair shrimp with everything from light and crisp vegetables to more hearty and filling dishes. Our list is loaded with fun ideas to hit the spot.
Halibut is mild and sweet, and it loves to take on any flavors a cook can throw at it. Which makes it the perfect vehicle for herbs, spices, and sauces. So, we love big, bold, colorful accompaniments that make the meal jump off the plate. Here are some of our favorite lively options for your evening of halibut pleasure.
How much do we love lobster tails? Let us count the ways. It entices us with its lightly sweet flavor, and when it’s dipped in butter it’s a joy beyond words. So, of course we want an equally indulgent side dish. From succulent, indulgent salads to herby breads or hearty, cheesy wonders, there’s a whole world of possibilities. We’re hear to help you sort them out.
In our round up of tuna steak side dishes, we called them “the beef tenderloin of the sea,” and we wholeheartedly stand by that metaphor. They’re big and bold, and they love to be paired with things like a winter citrus salad, or German creamed spinach. Here are some more ideas you’ll love to peruse for a quick midweek meal.
Sides for Italian Dishes
Italian food is like a kiss from a beloved grandmother. It’s comforting and it’s the epitome of warmth and joy. Because it tends to be a little rich, it loves light sides like salads, but it also enjoys heartier fare like roasted veggies and homemade breads.
Tender and lovely gnocchi – tossed with a rich butter or tomato sauce – can be made from a variety of ingredients. Potatoes, ricotta, butternut squash gnocchi are all a delight. So, naturally that leaves us a myriad of side dish ideas to choose from. From pancetta umami bombs to deeply flavored vegetables, our list will get you where you want to go.
You pull your lasagna from the oven and put it on the oven top to rest up before slicing, when you realize, “Side dishes!” Take a deep breath. It’s not too late. This is the perfect time to pull together a fun side dish. We love a good garlic bread with parmesan and herbs or a bowl of brightly roasted Italian broccoli, but we have so many other delectable ideas for that perfect Sunday meal.
Creamy mac and cheese is rich and homey – the culinary equivalent of a warm blanket on a cold, rainy day. We love you, Mac and Cheese! Which means we only want to pair you with the most beautiful and delicious sides. Whether you’re in the mood to brighten it up or to lean into the creamy side, we have the perfect suggestions for you.
Risotto is a classic dish that loves to be paired with other rich and lively food. Think of scallops that are perfectly seared in butter or parmesan garlic roasted green beans. How heavenly do those dishes sound next to the perfectly cooked risotto? The answer is “very.” But that’s just to get things rolling – our list will help get your risotto dinner to the finish line.
Pull out that red and white checkered tablecloth and light the candles. It’s spaghetti night! With or without meatballs, we have a variety of sides that will pair with every kind of spaghetti dish imaginable. We have colorful salads like lemony arugula with pine nuts, and we have amazing carbs like braided pesto bread. We’ve got you covered for so many spaghetti side dishes.
Sides for Other Meat Dishes
Hearty meats love to be front and center in main dishes, whether it’s andouille in jambalaya or a good tender lamb chop on the bone. And that rich meat needs a foil on the plate. Whether it’s a crisp salad or tender spaetzle, we have all the sides for meat you’re looking for.
When it comes to sides for brats, we love ‘em all. So, when you’re heating up that grill to make one of our favorite meats for an al fresco summer evening, we have lots of options – from classic sauerkrats and spaetzles to light and bright salads or sweet and sour veggies – to choose from for a quick accompaniment.
This truly all-American dish is the perfect blend of savory and spice. And it loves big, bright, and bold flavors. We love to pair it with greens and veggies like Swiss chard in balsamic vinegar, or rich and flaky cheddar biscuits, or … well, our list has so many options for you to choose from. Check it out.
Rich and earthy lamb loves both simple side dishes and complexly-layered company on the plate. Elegant roasted spring vegetables are a welcome addition to lamb chops, and pea and mint risotto are a perfect pairing too. Both are classic combinations, but there are so many other options and our list will open the door to new ideas and side dishes for you to play with.
Grilled, boiled, or fried, we all love a good hotdog. And it’s an exuberant main dish, that loves a fun accompaniment. How about classic baked beans loaded with molasses and bacon, or fluffy cornbread that will make your mouth water. Yes, we’ve got those sides – but so much more, including some clever (if we do say so ourselves!) ideas for toppings.
There’s tons you can do with pulled pork, so we give you the sides that cover almost any style you eat your shredded pork with. Plus, we dive into some of the ways you can eat pulled pork with combinations you might have never thought were possible…but will find delicious!
Sides for Vegetarian Dishes
Double your veggies, double your fun! Vegetarian side dishes love to be surrounded by flattering and or contrasting produce flavors to really let them shine. They also love grains, and every type of bread under the sun. There’s nothing better than a rainbow on the plate.
Rustic ratatouille is a classic vegetarian dish. The veggies meld together in wonderful garden-fresh goodness, infused with herbs and spices. It’s perfect when served on a bed of cheese grits, or with polenta triangles. Don’t forget to indulge in some rice love with pilaf and risotto too. There are so many combinations to choose from that you may want to indulge in them all.
Sides for Breakfast Dishes
Breakfast is more than just fluffy eggs and toast on a plate. It’s fruits and vegetables, and a world of flavors to get your day started with vim and vigor. And of course, the right side dish can bring your breakfast – or brunch – up to the next level and turn a simple meal into a treasured memory.
Whether it’s for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner, quiche is where it’s at. It’s beautiful, filling, and loaded with veggies, meats, and cheese for the ultimate “one pot meal.” But, quiche loves companionship. A little green salad or a little fruit salad. A little soup or a little bread. All bring quiche up to another level. And we have just the recommendations to get you there.
Side Dish Companions
Side dishes love other side dishes. Bowls and platters of good things go together like best friends. Whether it’s soup or bread, or roasted veggies or grains – the table is never happier than when it’s groaning under the weight of varied and lively sides.
Ah, the baked potato. When you think of meaty meals and want a starch, you think baked potatoes. While you can’t deny the good balance made from this combo, there are plenty of meat recipes you might not have thought of before to pair up with some hot spuds. Check out our ideas; plus, we’ll dive into the world of toppings and twice baked versions that will have you running to the store to pick up some potatoes in no time.
Whether you’re looking for new cornbread add-ins or looking for something to metaphorically break bread with cornbread at the table – we have a lot of thoughts on the matter. Like pork. Barbecue pork loves to be served with cornbread, and cooked smoky bacon loves to be cooked in cornbread. We also delve into soups, stews, casseroles, cheeses, and stuffing. Check out all of the cornbread love here.
When it comes to French onion soup sides, sometimes less is more. And sometimes more is perfect. We love to pair the hot, steaming, rich, cheesy soup with salads, veggies, and the occasional New York strip steak. Oh, and we don’t neglect the wine! We’re thinking about both white and red. Here are some of our favorite sides.
Potato soup is a creamy treat that can be hot as potato leek soup or as chilled as Vichyssoise. And there’s a wide range of hearty and light soups and stews in between – a lot of wiggle room for colorful sides to pair with a canvas of flavor. Think of mashed potato puffs, or DIY whole grain crackers heaped up alongside a big bowl of deliciousness. And so many other ideas for you to play with, so let’s dive in!