Dinner can sometimes seem like an impossible feat at the end of the day. It’s easy enough to whip up some chicken and mashed potatoes, but a veggie side can make or break that meal. And while simple steamed broccoli is fine, it’s also why the veggie is on many kids’ (and adults’) list of least-favorite foods.
Taking just a little more time and a few more ingredients, these side dishes will have you more excited to get home and cook than your entrée. With sides this tasty, you’ll be glad Mom taught you to always eat your veggies.
Corn on the cob is a delicious treat, but it can be a mess to eat (and nobody likes getting silk stuck between their teeth). This recipe is flexible enough to use fresh or frozen kernels in a salad with tomatoes, poblano peppers, and beans for fiber and protein. It’s great for a light lunch, but even better as a way to dress up grilled chicken.
Everyone seems to have a go-to recipe for a roasted vegetables, but that sweet and toasty flavor can get boring after a while. This versions spices things up with earthy curry powder and bright cilantro, giving carrots, parsnips, and turnips and unexpected and amazing flavor. It might seem insane to use eight cloves of garlic, but keep in mind that the flavors mellows out while roasting.
If roasted cabbage sounds strange, consider that cabbage is basically one giant Brussels sprout. This recipe has just five ingredients (including salt and pepper) and takes hardly any effort—honestly, the oven will work harder than you. Bonus: Cabbage provides loads of fiber and vitamin C, and is super cheap to boot!
Raw tomato salads are fresh and tasty, but baked tomatoes are rich and luxurious. This dish calls for steamed fennel, so it takes a bit of time, but the ingredient list is so short that it barely matters. The vitamin C in both the fennel and tomatoes helps the body absorb iron, making it the perfect side for a meaty main.
Lean proteins are a great option when it comes to eating healthy, but they can be completely dull on the plate. For an easy way to wake up dinner, roast some green beans with a tasty blend of spices. The chickpea garnish makes more than you really need, but go ahead and make a full batch and save extras for a snack.
Roasting gives radishes a complete makeover. Rather than spicy and pungent, they become mellow, sweet, and super tender. This recipe makes any meal elegant and is hardly any work. Be sure to buy radishes with the tops still attached since they make an appearance in the final dish (and make it look even more gourmet).
A simple green salad makes a great accompaniment to any meal, and this recipe takes it from average to amazing by roasting the lettuce to develop a sweet and toasty flavor. Halving the greens makes for a gorgeous presentation, and it also cuts down on prep time. A drizzle of dressing made from just balsamic vinegar and Greek yogurt adds a tangy touch.
Glazed carrots are usually too sweet, mushy, and downright terrible. Not these. A tablespoon of maple syrup adds a touch of sweetness while cayenne delivers just enough heat. Bookmark this one for Thanksgiving.
Roasted cauliflower tastes cozy and inviting, but adding zesty lime and cilantro to the mix makes it a little bit more special. Need another reason to eat more cauliflower? It’s full of fiber and some studies suggest that cruciferous vegetables may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.
For all the flavor of stir-fry but way less maintenance, try this savory broccoli side. Toss the veggie with soy sauce and olive oil, and then transfer it to the oven. A shower of sesame seeds adds a little bit of crunch and makes it look extra fancy—and fancy vegetables are definitely good vegetables.
Romanesco looks kind of like cauliflower from another planet, but the taste is surprisingly familiar (you can even use cauliflower or broccoli in this recipe if you can’t find romanesco). The purple potatoes and rainbow radishes help bulk up the salad and add extra color, but feel free to leave them out or swap in other veggies you have on hand.
For lovely squash flavor that’s a bit more delicate than roasted, look to the stove. A steamer basket cooks both the squash and greens for minimal clean up, and the simple dressing (coconut oil, lime juice, honey, and cilantro) gets shaken together in a jar, making it easy to double and save for salads during the week.
Most broccoli recipes call for florets, but that means you’re left with a bunch of stems. This dish is a great way to use of those leftover bits as well as the tops. Coconut milk makes this creamy mash dairy free and also brings on the healthy fats. They might even knock mashed potatoes out of the running for best side dish.
There’s no reason steamed vegetables can’t be refreshing. Letting these carrots and green beans cool before tossing them with a mustard and balsamic dressing keeps this salad fresh and light. It also means that leftovers are ready to go for lunch the next day. Minimal effort for a multiple meals is reason enough to make this tonight.
Between all of the time in the oven, letting them cool, and then peeling, roasting beets can mean dinner isn’t ready until 10 at night. Steaming them instead is a great way to get loads of minerals and antioxidants in way less time. Plus, orange zest, raisins, and ginger make this salad as tasty as it is healthy.
The thought of steamed cauliflower isn’t particularly appetizing—unless it gets tossed with this curry butter. This dish might sound rich, but a little butter keeps this side satisfying and actually helps the body absorb the cauliflower’s vitamin K, a nutrient that helps blood clot. And a final sprinkle of toasted almonds adds a great crunch.
For an easy way to make vegetables super flavorful, steam them with ginger tea bags and fresh ginger in the water. A pretty standard mix of veggies gets a surprise visit from Jerusalem artichokes, which are similar to potatoes and taste like water chestnuts—and don’t look a thing like regular artichokes. All of the produce packs six grams of fiber into each zingy, tangy serving.
It’s time for Brussels sprouts to escape the bacon-roasted rut. Slicing them gives great texture and also cuts the cooking time down to almost nothing. The best thing about this recipe? Any combo of dried fruit and nuts can be swapped in based on what you have. We vote for apricots and pine nuts.
Ever gone to the store to get green beans only to find that they’re all sickly looking? Thankfully, this recipe works just as well with frozen beans, which are just as nutritious—if not more so—than fresh beans, research suggests. Tossed with soy sauce, garlic, chili flakes, brown sugar, and sesame oil, these cook up nice and soft with some crispy tips.
Ratatouille doesn’t have to only be a main dish. Instead, combine the usual ingredients—onions, zucchini, eggplant, pepper, and marinara sauce—for a side to serve with any protein. The thyme and basil add instant color and tons of flavor.
Swiss chard is a good source of B vitamins and blood orange adds a dose of vitamin C, meaning this side tastes good and does the body good. A topping of pecans and goat cheese is optional, but that combination of creamy and crunchy is pretty irresistible.
Cooked carrots are usually not soft enough, or completely mushy. Neither of those is a great option, but this skillet-blackened method manages to get it just right. With a sweet flavor and more than a day’s worth of vitamin A in one medium carrot, the veggies make a great side dish. Warming goat cheese on top makes them fantastic.
Succotash can taste pretty bland, especially if the produce is out of season. Adding just a bit of seafood seasoning completely eliminates that problem, and it’s a good thing because, like chickpeas and black beans, lima beans have a surprising amount of protein. As an added bonus, succotash is just fun to say.
Soy sauce and mushrooms couldn’t be a more perfect pair—except when ginger is involved. Though the ingredient list looks long, this mushroom stir-fry is incredibly simple and so delicious that it’s well worth a little extra effort. Using one skillet for the entire recipe means there’s less cleaning required and more time to do important things (like going to happy hour).
One of the best parts about going to a steakhouse is getting a big bowl of creamed spinach, but it’s usually more cream than spinach and can feel pretty heavy. For a healthier variation, try swapping the dairy with coconut milk and the spinach with kale. This leafy green offers a better texture and adds even more vitamin C.
Cabbage and turnips can seem like boring vegetables, but all they need is a little flavor boost. This recipe adds a touch of cumin for an earthy flavor that’s irresistible with the mildly sweet veggies. For a spicier side, try the Asian version with chili flakes, soy sauce, and sesame seeds.
Kohlrabi looks like something from outer space, but don’t let it scare you. This member of the cabbage family tastes a bit like, well, cabbage, broccoli, or radishes, depending on who you ask. With some apple cider, sage, and butter, the vitamin-rich veggie makes a hearty side for meat.
Filled with fiber, antioxidants, and folate, artichokes are a veggie that deserves more attention at the dinner table. This simple braise gets loads of flavor from white wine and garlic, and the fava beans add buttery texture and a nutty hint. It goes great with chicken or fish, but also makes a great base for some poached eggs.
Romano beans are sort of like a more rugged version of green beans that stand up really well to long cooking. Though this recipe takes some time, it’s hardly any work and the end results are so delicious you’ll be glad you stuck with it. Plus, you’re totally off dish duty. (Can’t find romano beans? It’s just as good with green beans.)
A hearty pot of braised cabbage goes with just about anything. Here, a little apple offers some sweetness and caraway seeds give a licorice-y flavor. It takes about an hour to cook, giving you time to ponder why it’s called red cabbage when it’s purple. (Deep thoughts, we know.)
Many Italian restaurants serve pasta with tomato sauce as a side dish, but who wants all those carbs on top of an entrée? This side of veggies simmered in tomato sauce has the same great flavor, but with loads more fiber and antioxidants. It’s a great dish for entertaining, though you might not want to share.
Traditional collard greens get nearly all their flavor from a ham hock, but those can be hard to find in the grocery store. Besides, sometimes you want your greens to actually taste like greens. To jazz up this classic, braise the greens in beer—it offers loads of flavor. Plus, collards make for a tasty way to get a dose of vitamin K.
For all of those kale salad haters (yes, they do exist), why not try something braised instead? This recipe combines broccoli, kale, olives, and feta for a hearty dish with a salty bite. As far as braises go, this one is fast, so it’s great for nights when you come home starving. (No one has to know if you eat it directly out of the pot.)
Slicing cauliflower into steaks makes a pretty finished dish, and it’s also a lot easier to cook on the grill. This recipe contrasts the caramelized flavor of the cauliflower with a vibrant salsa of black beans, corn, and tomatoes. With protein, fiber, and loads of vitamins, this is one power-packed side.
Sending asparagus to the grill takes a tame veggie and turns it into something super special. Asparagus may fight diabetes 1, and it tastes fantastic with a little bit of char. The spicy, Mexican-inspired pesto makes this dish—you’ll want extra to use on everything.
Roasted red peppers have a smoky flavor that goes well with so many foods, but the texture isn’t always so great. Grilling the peppers gives them the same deep taste, but lets them retain some of their crunch. They’re a colorful and flavorful way to get even more vitamin C than from eating an orange.
Bitter greens like escarole can be, well, bitter. Cooking them over the grill helps mellow out the flavor and creates a unique salad that’s both hot and cool. A quick dunk in a soy and balsamic dressing caramelizes on the grill, and a final sprinkle of pecorino adds just enough cheesy goodness. It’ll make you wonder why you don’t always grill your greens.
Carrots from the farmers’ market usually come with the greens still attached, and turning those tops into a pesto is probably the most delicious form of recycling there is. Not to mention, it makes a really vibrant sauce for the smoky veggies. Use whatever carrots are available, but pick multi-colored if you can for the prettiest presentation.
Grilling isn’t just for hanging out on the deck in summer. With indoor grill pans, even a tiny apartment can crank out impressively charred food like this broccoli side. (Just try not to set off the smoke detector!) The butter adds additional smokiness with a nice balance of tangy lime and sweet honey.
Grilling zucchini is an easy way to add extra flavor and texture to a classic Greek salad. And the juicy tomatoes, feta, and salty olives makes it extra satisfying. Though this recipe calls for bottled dressing, making your own out of lemon juice and olive oil takes a matter of seconds (and is often much healthier).
Who knew only four ingredients could combine to make a side that’s as tasty as it is unexpected? These peas transform into something magical on the grill. Ok, not magical, but they’re really good. A sprinkle of mint gives them a burst of freshness that contrasts with the charred exterior.
Simply blanched green beans go well with just about any meal, but grilling them with peaches makes them the star. Want to make this outside? Just be sure to use a grill basket so the beans don’t fall through the grates. Charred beans are great, but burnt beans aren’t quite as good.
Raw kale can be a little boring, but topping it with bright citrus for vitamins and creamy avocado for healthy fats makes it irresistible. A drizzle of soy and honey dressing is an easy way to layer in even more flavor. Just when you thought kale salad was so 2014, this dish proves it’s not over the hill yet.
Broccoli slaw is usually more mayo than slaw, but not this version. A dressing made with Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and mustard offers a healthier but still creamy alternative. A final sprinkle of sunflower seeds gives it even more crunch. It’s sure to be a hit at any potluck or picnic.
A refreshing tomato and cucumber salad is the perfect side to serve with roasted or grilled meats. With antioxidants and low-calorie vegetables, it’s more than acceptable to have seconds. Although a mandolin makes quick work of the cucumbers, a sharp knife will get the job done as well.
Just because a salad is raw doesn’t give it any excuse to taste bland. An umami-based marinade with soy sauce and sun-dried tomatoes infuses these greens with an impressive amount of flavor. Prep these a day in advance for the most flavor and the fastest trip to the dinner table.
47. Raw Fennel Salad
For those days when only a super crunchy salad will do, fennel is the answer. Here, the anise-flavored veggie combines with cucumber, red onion, and lemon juice for one of the easiest sides you’ll ever make. For the most texture, toss just before serving.
Chioggia beets are sometimes called candy striped beets, and it’s no wonder with such vibrant red and white streaks. The stripes actually muddle together when the beets are cooked, so this raw preparation is a great way to show off the beautiful insides. Goat cheese dressing keeps this salad from feeling like diet food and adds a nice tang.
Brussels sprouts star in a slaw-like salad here that proves they’re just as capable as cabbage. Plus, they’re way cuter and loaded with even more fiber and vitamin C. Five minutes is all it takes to transform simple ingredients into a simply delicious salad. Salty pecorino isn’t necessary, but with such a healthy side, a little cheese is definitely welcome.
For an entirely different taste experience, try shaving raw rutabaga and turnips. They stay crunchy and sweet, which pairs wonderfully with a mustard vinaigrette. Scallions add just enough onion flavor and a hit of green color.
Sometimes it’s hard to find time to find time to stop at the store on the way home, but this dish uses ingredients you probably already have. Celery is incredibly low in calories and full of vitamins and antioxidants—reason enough to work more into your repertoire. It also has a wonderful flavor that can hold its own even when it’s not sitting alongside a plate of wings.
- Asparagus officinalis extract controls blood glucose by improving insulin secretion and β-cell function in streptozotocin-induced type 2 diabetic rats. Hafizur R.M., Kabir N., and Chishti S. British Journal of Nutrition, 2012 Nov 14;108(9):1586-95.