Classic Side Dishes Completing Your Suppertime Spread

Figuring out what to make for dinner is usually harder than the actual cooking, especially when it comes to sides. Resorting to steamed broccoli or white rice isn’t going to add much excitement to some simple grilled chicken or spice-rubbed steak. Focusing on side dishes is definitely the way to go, because making a flavor-packed supporting character is a lot easier than constructing an elaborate beef Wellington for the main. Don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel, though. We’ve rounded up some old favorites that will take the guesswork out of meal planning.

1. Rice Pilaf

rice pilaf

Rice pilaf | iStock.com

You might be familiar with this rice and pasta combo in its boxed form, complete with the dehydrated seasoning packet. Instead of picking that packaged stuff, make a batch of this rice pilaf from A Family Feast. It’s just as easy, tastes better, and doesn’t contain hydrolyzed corn protein.

Toast the orzo in a dry pot, set it aside, then sauté some onion and rice in a little bit of butter and olive oil. Add the herbs, orzo, and chicken stock to the pot. Now for the best part: Let it cook in the oven for 30 minutes. No need to worry about monitoring the heat or having to keep an eye on the pot.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup orzo pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3½ cups chicken stock

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Toast orzo, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove orzo and set aside.

Add olive oil and butter to pot. Once melted, add onions and rice. Season with salt. Sauté until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to brown rice or onions. Add garlic and stir for one minute. Add by leaves, thyme, pepper, and orzo. Stir in chicken stock.

Cover and place in oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and discard bay leaves. Fluff rice with a spoon. Season with salt, to taste.

2. Green Beans Almondine

cooking green beans

Cooking green beans | iStock.com

Turning plain vegetables into something glamorous takes nothing more than a handful of ingredients. Next time you’re feeling uninspired, these green beans almondine from Serious Eats will make your meal feel a bit more special. With such a simple recipe, make sure your beans are really fresh. If the ones at the store look shriveled, skip this recipe.

Blanch the veggies in salted water until tender but still crisp, then drain and rinse with cold water. Toast the sliced almonds in a dry skillet, then add the butter, lemon juice, and beans. Sauté just until everything is heated through. You’ll have elegance in a matter of minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ⅓ cup slivered almonds
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions: Cook green beans in a small amount of salted water until tender, but still firm. Drain and rinse with cool water.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add almonds, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds, until very lightly toasted. Add butter and lemon juice, then add beans and sauté for 2 minutes, or until all beans are coated and heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.

3. Sunny Broccoli Salad

Use broccoli to make delicious side dishes

Broccoli | iStock.com

The combination of crisp broccoli with a creamy dressing has been reinvented again and again, but nothing beats the classic. Midwest Living’s sunny broccoli salad shows you how to bring the potluck favorite to your kitchen. Just mix everything together and let it chill. Throw together the salad in the morning, and it will be ready when you walk in the door. Just don’t forget to add the bacon and sunflower seeds before serving.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup finely chopped red onion
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 7 cups chopped fresh broccoli florets
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • 8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

Directions: In a large bowl, stir together mayonnaise, onion, raisins, sugar, and vinegar. Add broccoli and stir to coat. Cover and chill at least 2 or up to 24 hours. Stir in sunflower seeds and bacon immediately before serving.

4. Roasted Potatoes with Fresh Herbs

Roasted potatoes | iStock.com

While potatoes can be a nutritious side dish, many people are getting their spud fix in the form of chips and fries. Give the tubers the oven treatment by making Bon Appétit’s roasted potatoes with fresh herbs for a dish that’s a whole lot better for you. Loaded with herbs and garlic, they might even be more delicious.

Whisk the garlic, oil, and herbs together, then toss in the potatoes. Spread them onto a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, then roast until they’re tender on the inside and brown on the outside. A final sprinkle of parsley makes them even more gorgeous. And feel free to play around with herbs. Finishing with chives or tarragon would be especially nice.

Ingredients:

  • 5 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 pounds large fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
  • Coarse kosher salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a garlic press, squeeze into a large bowl. Alternatively, mash into a paste on a cutting board with a sprinkle of salt. Whisk in oil and herbs. Add potatoes; toss to coat.

Spread potatoes in single layer on large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and brown, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Serve, topped with additional parsley.

5. American Macaroni Salad

macaroni salad

Macaroni salad | iStock.com

What ever happened to pasta salad? This onetime favorite has virtually disappeared from the dinner table, and it’s time to change that. Make this American macaroni salad from Food Network for a taste of what you’ve been missing.

Cook the macaroni first, then drain and rinse. An easy sour cream and mayo dressing comes together in seconds. Pour it over the macaroni and veggies, then mix to combine. Serve it up right away, or let it hang out in the fridge until you’re ready.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dried macaroni, cooked, drained, and rinsed
  • ⅓ cup diced celery
  • ¼ cup minced red onion, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ cup diced tomato
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¾ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions: In a large bowl, combine macaroni, celery, onion, parsley, and tomato. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, sour cream, and salt. Pour dressing over salad and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

6. Garlic Mashed Potatoes

garlic mashed potatoes

Garlic mashed potatoes | iStock.com

Usually considered steakhouse fare, creamy potatoes spiked with garlic can easily be whipped up at home. These garlic mashed potatoes from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food manage to deliver a serious amount of flavor with just 5 ingredients. Just boil some potatoes with plenty of garlic cloves, simmer until tender, then drain. Throw the mix back into the same pot, add the butter and milk, then mash until they’re smooth. While these go great alongside that nice piece of beef, they’re also perfect with everything from chicken stew to some simple pork chops.

Ingredients:

  • 8 medium Russet potatoes
  • 1 head peeled garlic cloves
  • Coarse salt
  • 1½ cups milk
  • ½ cup butter, cut into small pieces

Directions: Peel potatoes and quarter lengthwise; cut crosswise ½- inch thick. In a 5-quart saucepan, combine potatoes and garlic cloves, cover with water by 1 inch. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 25 to 30 minutes.

Drain; return garlic and potatoes to hot pot. Stir over medium-high heat until dry, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. In a small saucepan, bring milk to a boil; pour over potatoes. Add butter and 1 teaspoon of salt. Mash until smooth and creamy.