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24 Best Side Dishes in 8 Categories + Appetizers

Historically, we’ve probably always eaten ‘side dishes’ or additional food items to go with our main meals. In this article we’ll cover some of the most delicious ones, whether you’re looking for a side dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas, for a steak or for salmon, whether it’s a modern one or something traditional.

The idea of making side dishes something special and unique in its own right is relatively new. From mouthwatering salads to satisfying mashes and gourmet creations, modern side dishes are center stage.

The term side dish as an ‘accessory’ to the main course stems from around 1725, with the American English phrase regarding restaurant sides showing up in 1884 onwards. So side dishes the way we know and love them today aren’t that old of a concept. 

Best Side Dishes You Need to Try

Best Side Dishes You Need to Try

Side dishes can truly make a special meal. They’re there to accentuate and enhance the main, giving it a nice balance it might otherwise not have. With that said, side dishes needn’t be overly complicated.

You can make beautiful sides that only take a few minutes in the kitchen, or try something restaurant worthy. It’s all in the flavors, and our top lists below will give you plenty of those.

Best Easy and Quick Side Dishes

Best Easy and Quick Side Dishes

The best side dishes are sometimes the simplest. Here we delve into our top 3 super simple ones, that’ll only take minimal ingredients and prep-time. Stuck for time? Number 3 will get you back on track in no time at all.

The Best Mashed Potato

Mashed Potato

The best mashed potatoes start with high–quality spuds. You’ll want to opt for Yukon gold or russet potatoes, and peel and wash them to start with.

Cut the potatoes into even chunks and add them to a large pot of lightly salted water. Add some peeled garlic cloves and boil for about 15-20 minutes or until you can easily pierce them with a fork.

Drain the potatoes. Microwave a cup of cream or full fat milk and add to the potatoes. Mash them thoroughly using a potato masher, taking care not to overwork them (or they’ll turn goopy).

Add a little bit of salted butter and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Roasted Asparagus

Roasted Asparagus

The key to making delicious green asparagus is to buy it fresh and snap off any woody ends. Wash it gently then add it to a roasting tin and coat in a few tablespoons of olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt, and some black pepper.

Roast at around 425F until just done and a little browned. Don’t leave it too long, or it’ll become dry.

Replace the olive oil with butter if you prefer it, and dry your asparagus well before baking it if you like a more charred (and less steamed) side.

Steamed Broccoli with Garlic and Parmesan

Steamed Broccoli with Garlic and Parmesan

One of our favorite hacks for cooking tenderstem broccoli is so simple, you can throw it on even if you’ve entirely forgotten about making a side until you’ve already set the table.

You’ll need to wash some fresh tenderstem broccoli, ensuring you’ve trimmed any woody bits off the stalks.

Don’t dry them, but rather add them to a plate and drizzle with olive oil, some dried garlic, black pepper, and sea salt.

Blitz in the microwave for around 3-4 minutes and top with shaved parmesan. Done.

The quick, slightly moist cooking process ensures the broccoli is vibrantly green and has a nice bite to it, plus it’s the easiest recipe ever.

Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Thanksgiving is the ideal time for enjoying generous portions of delicious food with your family. Everyone probably already has their ‘go-to’ sides, but if you’ve not tried our three below, we recommend you get to it right away.

Potato Gratin

Potato Gratin

Potato gratins look luxurious and taste wonderful. Yet the French classic is actually quite easy to make.

The key is to use good-quality potatoes (starchy varieties such as russet or maris piper are excellent), then peel, wash, and slice them evenly. Around 2-3mm thickness is great if you still want them to have a bit of bite.

Mix around 1 1/2 cups of full fat cream, minced garlic, and 2-3 tbsps of salted, melted butter in a jug. Layer ⅓ of the potatoes in a nice baking dish, then coat with the cream mixture.

Sprinkle on ¾ cups of grated gruyere (or cheddar if you can’t find gruyere), then cover with another layer of potatoes. Repeat until you get to the top, but don’t coat the final layer with cheese just yet.

Bake everything in the oven for around 1 hour 15 – 1 ½ hours. Top with cheese and a bit of fresh thyme, and re-bake for another 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.

Homemade Turkey Gravy

Homemade Turkey Gravy

If you’ve yet to ever make homemade gravy for Thanksgiving, now is your chance.

It’s actually super simple as well, as all you need is your roast turkey’s drippings, ½ cup of flour, 4 cups of chicken broth (turkey broth if you have it), and a bit of salt and pepper.

The key is in removing the fat from your cooled drippings, then cook 1 cup of what remains while vigorously whisking in ½ cup of flour. Once you have a nice pasty, golden brown consistency, slowly whisk in another cup of drippings plus 4 cups of the broth. Allow your gravy to cook thoroughly then season it.

Top tip: if your gravy turns out a little bit lumpy, don’t despair: you can – carefully – use a blender to make it silky smooth and delicious.

Sumptuous Mac and Cheese

Sumptuous Mac and Cheese

The best homemade mac and cheese is defined by a nice mix of cheeses (we like gruyere and mozzarella) and a delicious, crumbly topping. You’ll want to cook your macaroni per the package instructions, then drain and toss in some salted butter.

To make the perfect cheese sauce, you’ll have to make a roux (essentially butter and flour), whisking vigorously until it turns a nice golden brown and no longer contains any lumps.

Add in some milk, then your cheeses until they’re melted. Coat your macaroni with the sauce, then top with a mixture of panko breadcrumbs crumbled together with a bit of salted butter. Toast lightly in the oven, and serve.

Best Side Dishes for Steak

Best Side Dishes for Steak

Steak is one of those mains most people love, whether it’s just seared or cooked to a medium doneness. There’s something quite luxurious about steak, made even more so by adding some delicious side dishes. Here are a few of, in our opinion, the best ones.

Honey-Roasted Carrots

Honey-Roasted Carrots

The best roasted carrots start with fresh, relatively young (speak smaller, sweeter) carrots. You can scrub your carrots or peel them, either way you’ll want to layer them on a baking sheet, taking care to not overlap any.

Drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil, honey, sea salt, and black pepper. Roast them at 400F for around 25-35 minutes or until they’re fork-tender and golden brown. Garnish with some fresh parsley, if you wish, and serve.

French Onion Style Baked Potatoes

French Onion Style Baked Potatoes

Prepare a few medium-sized russet potatoes by scrubbing them and cutting a cross shape into each one, around ¼” in depth. Place your potatoes on a baking sheet, cut-side up, and bake at 400F until they’re crispy on the outside or around 2 hours.

When there are about 30 minutes of cooking time left, prepare some sliced onions with a sprinkling of fresh thyme, some minced garlic, and freshly-grated gruyere cheese.

Set aside the cheese, and caramelize the onions in a separate pan. Top your baked potatoes with this mixture and the cheese, and return to the oven for a few minutes until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Homemade Garlic Bread

Homemade Garlic Bread

There are plenty of hugely ambitious recipes for garlic bread out there. However, we think garlic bread shouldn’t be complicated. The best recipe for the latter begins with a large loaf of French bread or baguette.

You’ll want to slice your bread into ¾” slices while preheating your oven to 400F. Meanwhile, combine ½ cup of salted, softened butter with 3 cloves of minced garlic (or garlic powder if you don’t want to use fresh garlic) and some freshly chopped parsley.

Spread your fresh butter onto one side of each slice, then stack them back into their original loaf-shape. Wrap in tin foil and bake for around 20-25 minutes, and enjoy.

Best Vegetable Side Dishes

Vegetable Side Dishes

Veggie-based side dishes or even extra side dishes for vegetarian mains needn’t be boring. Nowadays, we’ve learned so much about global cuisines and flavors, that it’s easy to create some truly spectacular veg sides. Below are some of our favorites.

Couscous ‘Salad’ with Strawberries

Couscous ‘Salad’ with Strawberries

Couscous salads are both filling and refreshing all at the same time, and perfect for a summertime meal.

We like still-warm couscous paired with quartered strawberries, some fresh mint leaves, spring onions, and a balsamic and extra virgin olive oil dressing that’s refined with a touch of honey and some fresh black pepper.

Top with some optional toasted pine nuts. You’re guaranteed to make this again and again.

Garlic Mushrooms

Garlic Mushrooms

Garlic mushrooms may sound like a generic veggie side, but they aren’t if you make them well. The best garlic mushrooms use fresh button mushrooms, a good amount of salted butter, some extra virgin olive oil, fresh thyme, fresh parsley, heaps of minced, and fresh garlic.

Season with just sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper, and you’re set. For an extra layer of flavor, try to find some smoked sea salt, which gives everything a nice, slightly charred flavor.

Homemade Flatbreads with Veggie Dips

Homemade Flatbreads with Veggie Dips

Homemade flatbreads are actually pretty easy to make. While traditional ones are unleavened and have no yeast added to the dough, you can cheat and buy readymade pizza dough.

We like to fry our stretched and prepped flatbread in a well-oiled cast iron pan. Serve with any dip you like. You can whip up a really great one using a mix of sour cream, mayonnaise, some ranch seasoning, grated onion, fresh dill, and some sea salt.

Best Side Dishes for Salmon

Best Side Dishes for Salmon

Salmon has been enjoyed by people for some 200,000 years. It’s no surprise then, that it’s still cooked in a variety of ways all over the planet.

You can enhance your salmon dishes further by serving them with some scrumptious sides. Here are some of the best ones you can make at home.

Quick-Pickled Cucumbers with Dill

Quick-Pickled Cucumbers with Dill

Pickling needn’t be labor-intensive or time-consuming. In fact, all you need is five minutes to make these quick-pickled cucumbers with fresh dill.

Simply cut your cucumber into even slices and place in a clean jam jar. Top with apple cider vinegar, a sprinkling of sea salt, some sugar, freshly ground black pepper, and some finely chopped fresh dill.

Screw on the lid and shake, then leave until you’ve prepared the rest of your dinner and serve.

Top tip: if you only use a little bit of vinegar and a touch of salt, the brine of this actually makes quite a tasty juice.

Miso Noodles

Miso Noodles

Miso is a well-known and loved fermented soybean paste that offers a rich, salty umami flavor. Pair it with some sesame oil, chili garlic sauce, soy sauce, maple syrup or honey, minced garlic, chopped spring onion, and wheat or vermicelli noodles.

The rich, salty flavors go perfectly with the relative sweetness of freshly cooked salmon.

Roasted Sugar Snap Peas

Roasted Sugar Snap Peas

The key to perfectly roasted sugar snap peas is to trim them well before you cook them. Spread your washed and trimmed sugar snap peas evenly on a baking tray, then sprinkle with some extra virgin olive oil, some minced garlic, sea salt, and sesame seeds.

If you like spicy side dishes, and extra sprinkling of chili is very good too. Roast for 7-10 minutes at 425F or until they’re tender and just a little bit crisp.

Top tip: you can treat these similarly to the steamed broccoli in our quick and easy section above if you want vibrant green, soft sugar snap peas instead.

Best Christmas Side Dishes

Best Christmas Side Dishes

Christmas is the time of year when most families bring out their tried and tested recipes. People enjoy traditional dishes that have been served for generations.

Sometimes it’s fun to try something new, other times the vintage classics are truly the best. Here we showcase some of each.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Love them or hate them Christmas dinner just isn’t complete without brussel sprouts. We liked them cleaned, cut in halves, and roasted with some extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and a teaspoon of sticky honey.

Roast at 425F for around 20 minutes until they’re lightly charred and golden brown, and enjoy.

Vintage-Style Almond Green Beans

Vintage-Style Almond Green Beans

Classic French ‘Green Beans Almondine’ are classy yet so simple to make. All you need is some trimmed haricot verts or other green beans, some sliced almonds, extra virgin olive oil, thinly sliced spring onions, sea salt, minced garlic, some freshly ground black pepper, and a dash of fresh lemon juice.

Boil your prepped beans very briefly in boiling, lightly salted water (around 2 minutes max). Next, toast them in a skillet and toss in the other ingredients – and that’s about it.

You can top with the almonds at the end, though we prefer them lightly toasted as you toast the beans.

Parker House Rolls

Parker House Rolls

Parker House Rolls, if you’ve never had them, are dinner rolls that were invented by an annoyed baker in the 1870s. They’re folded over and popped in a baking tray together and were created at the namesake Parker House Hotel in Boston.

All you need to make this is your favorite white bread dough recipe, readily made, risen, and good to go. You’ll also need some egg wash (an egg mixed with 1 tbsp of water), around 60g of melted salted butter, and a bit of sea salt to finish the rolls.

Divide your dough into 18 equal pieces and create regular ball-shaped forms initially. Next, flatten each slightly into an oval, one at a time, brush the inside with some melted butter, and fold it in on itself.

Arrange in a buttered baking tray in vertical lines. Leave your prepared rolls to rise for around another hour, then preheat your oven to 350F.

Brush with egg wash (to give them that golden, shiny appearance once done), then bake for 25-30 mins until golden brown and done. Brush with some more butter and sprinkle with some sea salt. Serve warm and make extra batches, as these are going to be popular.

Best Sides for Ribs

Best Sides for Ribs

There’s nothing quite like a juicy side of ribs made on the BBQ on a hot day, smothered in sauce and served with an ice cold beer. But what really makes your ribs are the dishes they’re served with. Below are a few of our favorites.

Southern-Style Biscuits

Southern-Style Biscuits

Every Southern chef or homecook probably has their own recipe for homemade biscuits. We like ones made with flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, a touch of sugar for sweetness, a sprinkling of salt, some cold unsalted butter to make the dough, and… buttermilk.

The fat and acidity of buttermilk work well in biscuits to help your dough rise, resulting in fluffier, more delicious biscuits to soak up any delicious sauces.

Easy Coleslaw

Easy Coleslaw

We’re big fans of Memphis-style coleslaw, with its lovely balance of both tangy and sweet flavors. To make it, all you need is some different colored cabbages (or readymade coleslaw mix), celery seeds, a finely grated onion, some sea salt, sugar, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, and mayonnaise.

The dijon mustard gives a lovely sharpness to the dressing that makes this perfect for cutting through the rich, sweet flavors of your ribs.

Bang Bang Cauliflower

Bang Bang Cauliflower

Chinese Bang Bang sauce is spicy, slightly sweet, and incredibly moreish. All you need to whip up your own is around 80g of sweet chili sauce, 20g of spicy sriracha, the juice of one lime, and a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup. Mix it all together.

To use it with cauliflower, add your favorite batter (we like a mix of flour, milk, and spices alongside some panko breadcrumbs) to the prepared florets.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Coat in the sauce and garnish with some sliced spring onions and toasted sesame seeds. Add extra dried chili if you like it hot.

Best Side Dishes for BBQ

Best Side Dishes for BBQ

Not everyone has ribs at BBQs, so you may need to make some extra sides for those who’d prefer a burger, some sausages, or a juicy bit of grilled chicken. Here are some excellent options to share with your friends and family at your next cookout.

Spicy Jalapeño Corn Muffins

Spicy Jalapeño Corn Muffins

Many people have a favorite cornbread recipe, particularly in the Southern and Midwestern US. So you may just wish to follow the one you already have first.

Alternatively, we like the most basic ones with added shredded cheddar cheese and some chopped jalapenos drawn through the dough.

Top tip: putting some extra canned corn kernels through your dough makes the muffins even juicier and adds a lovely texture.

Southern-Style Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing

Southern-Style Salad with Hot Bacon Dressin

The idea behind hot dressings is that they actually wilt the salad, resulting in an unusual texture and scrumptious warm salad. To make this you can actually use leftover bacon drippings from your breakfast.

We like simple recipes that use thick-sliced, chopped bacon, some minced shallots, apple cider vinegar, a touch of honey, some dijon mustard, and sea salt. It’s salty, slightly spicy, and sweet, making this an incredibly addictive BBQ side.

Charred Corn on the Cob

Charred Corn on the Cob

You could pretty much just put fresh corn in its husks on the BBQ and cook it there, then add lashings of butter once done. However, we prefer to make up a mix of some butter, honey, crushed garlic, and tomato ketchup with which you coat some prepared cobs (speak, without husks).

Next, wrap each one in a double layer of tin foil and add to the BBQ for around 30-35 minutes. They’ll turn out lightly charred, smoky, and delicious.

Top tip: if you like spicy marinades, you can also add some dried chili or harissa to these.

Best Tasty Appetizers Before Serving Dishes

Best Tasty Appetizers Before Serving Dishes

If you’re looking for the ideal appetizers to round up your beautiful mains and side dishes, we’ve got you covered. Below are some very simple appetizers you can whip up in no time. Be prepared for some very impressed guests.

Tomato and Mozzarella

Tomato and Mozzarella

Tomato and mozzarella or ‘Caprese Salad’ is one of the most widely available French appetizers out there. The simplest way to make it is to start by cutting both your tomatoes and mozzarella into equally-sized slices.

Alternate them on a platter, then drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and season with some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Prosciutto and Melon

Prosciutto and Melon

This delightful Italian dish may sound a little unusual, but we promise it tastes great. Simply wrap wedges of cantaloupe with fresh prosciutto and arrange on a serving platter or individual plates.

Appetizers really couldn’t get any simpler or quicker than this, and it works beautifully as part of a summertime menu.

Alternatively, serve ‘prosciutto e melone’ as a side dish at your next BBQ for a refreshing, juicy treat.

Cold Soup

Cold Soup

Cold soup, we hear you ask? It may sound strange, but several cold soup recipes are especially delicious and make for an easy thing to prep the day before you cook a meal for your friends or family.

Gazpacho is made with fresh, juicy tomatoes, garlic, water, olive oil, vinegar, cucumbers, onions, and green peppers, and thickened to your desired consistency using bread crumbs.

French Creme Vichyssoise is a chilled cream of leek and potato soup that’s elegant and delicious.

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