24 Side Dishes That Are More Popular than the Main Dish

24 Side Dishes That Are More Popular than the Main Dish

Let's face it — sometimes the side dishes are just better. Yes, chicken is great, and we'll never say no to a burger, but really aren't we just here for the buttery mashed potatoes, perfectly crunchy slaw, and crispy fries?

Today we're celebrating the supporting cast of the dinner table with our 24 favorite scene-stealing side dishes.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

1. Potato, Squash & Goat Cheese Gratin

Make good use of the early round of summer squash showing up at the grocery stores with this creamy gratin. The addition of the squash balances the potatoes, making it a little lighter. And really, can you ever say no to tangy goat cheese?

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

2. Pearl Couscous Salad with Cherries & Arugula

Pearl couscous is one of our favorite grains, just for the fact that it cooks up so quickly. It helps that it's also delicious and can be found in a whole-wheat variety. Here it forms the bulk of the base along with peppery arugula and the sweet, tart cherries to create a perfectly balanced salad.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

3. Garlicky Roasted Broccoli

If you normally steam your broccoli instead of roasting it, give this dish a try instead. You'll be blown away by just how rich the flavors are. That little bit of caramelization takes things to the next level.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

4. How To Make Super-Crispy Oven-Baked Asparagus Fries

How do you make the crispiest asparagus oven fries ever? The trick is using two types of bread crumbs. Try this recipe once and it will be a family favorite for years to come.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

5. How To Make Hasselback Tater Tots

If you have a bit of a tater tot obsession and need a more company-friendly way to enjoy them, look no further than these Hasselback tots. They are crispy, pop-able, and great with your favorite ketchup. Make them for your next movie or game night — we promise rave reviews.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

6. Sautéed Zucchini and Squash with Thyme and Feta

If you've suffered through bland zucchini all your life, now's the time to change your tune. This dish, made with plenty of fresh thyme and salty feta cheese, brightens up the summer squash. After all, zucchini is best used as a vehicle for strong flavors.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

7. Potatoes, Green Beans, and Corn with Lemon-Brown Butter Dressing

When you find this magical trifecta of ingredients at the farmers market, we can think of no better dish to make. It's versatile enough to stand as dinner on its own, or you can add it to a backyard barbecue buffet. Either way, we're sure everyone will gobble it up.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

8. Roasted Mushrooms with Herbs

If you normally sauté your mushrooms on the stovetop, try roasting them in the oven; it imparts a rich, umami flavor that just can't be beat. And while you can serve this as a side dish, it can also go atop toasts as an appetizer or be topped with a poached egg for a vegetarian entrée.

(Image credit: Michelle Peters-Jones)

9. Couscous & Goat Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes

While we're not quite at peak tomato season yet, there are a few early ones hitting the farmers market. To bring out even more of their flavor, stuff them with this cheesy couscous filling and pop them in the oven. You won't be disappointed.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

10. Quick Sesame Snow Peas

If you're used to eating snow peas only in a stir-fry, you're in for a treat. The first fresh peas of spring are crisp and full of flavor. All it takes is a quick toss with sesame oil and lemon juice over high heat, and you have the ideal spring side.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

11. Roasted Cabbage with Bacon

How could a side dish with bacon not steal the show? Put off making slaw or kraut for another couple weeks and make this roasted cabbage instead. The salty bacon and caramel of the char will have your family cleaning their plates.

(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

12. Creamy Spinach Bake

This isn't the soggy creamed spinach you might have grown up eating. Instead it's a cross between creamed spinach and a soufflé, which makes it incredibly light and airy, but at the same time still perfectly comforting.

(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

13. Baked Potato Casserole

This hearty, carb-laden side dish is pure comfort food. Yes, it might be a little heavy for spring dinners, but just serve it with a lighter main like a vegetable-laden salad.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

14. Roasted Potatoes, Radishes & Fennel with Lemon-Brown Butter Sauce

If you haven't tried roasting your radishes, either on their own or with other veggies like in this dish, we urge you to move it to the top of your to-do list. The heat mellows out some of their bite and makes them incredibly juicy.

(Image credit: Andrea Bemis)

15. Carrot Tahini Salad

This light, crunchy salad is the perfect side dish to lighten up a heavy meal. It doesn't feel restrictive or less satisfying because it's all veggies. Instead it has a fresh tang and a sweet and spicy combination, thanks to the raisins and spiced chickpeas that will wake up your tastebuds.

(Image credit: Gina Eykemans)

16. Crispy Salt & Vinegar Potatoes

If you want a slightly healthier take on salt and vinegar potato chips — or at least a version you can serve at a dinner party — look no further than these crispy potatoes. We used fingerling potatoes, but you can use whatever kind you prefer.

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

17. Curried Corn and Coconut Rice

You can certainly serve the rice and corn in this dish separately as two sides, but we love them mixed together and served at a backyard barbecue. It brings together the sweet pop of corn and the nuttier, mellow sweetness of the coconut rice.

(Image credit: Tara Mataraza Desmond)

18. Slow-Cooked Cider Beans

Baked beans are a quintessential summer side dish; you almost can't have a cookout without them. This recipe gets a double dose of cider from regular cider and apple cider vinegar, and the rich sweetness comes from blackstrap molasses.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

19. Light & Easy Broccoli Salad

An updated version of the traditional Southern broccoli slaw made with lots of mayo and ramen noodles on top, this lighter (yet still crunchy) salad gets a bit of tang from rice vinegar and lemon juice. The crunch comes from fresh broccoli and slivered almonds.

(Image credit: Nick Evans)

20. Cheesy Grilled Potato Packets

When it comes to grilling potatoes, foil packets are still one of the best ways to do so. Not only do they make for perfectly tender potatoes, but the foil also enables you to grill them with plenty of cheese. And really, who will say no to cheesy potatoes?

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

21. Pan-Seared Butternut Squash with Balsamic & Parmigiano Shards

We'll bet that most of you roast your butternut squash instead of preparing it on the stovetop, but pan-searing it can yield surprisingly delicious results — especially when you add in pomegranate molasses and balsamic vinegar. This side dish is ideal with roast chicken.

(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

22. White Bean & Roasted Vegetable Salad

This white bean salad might be one of the most versatile dishes on the list. Not only can it be eaten as a side dish, but it can also serve as a whole meal when served on toast, wrapped in a tortilla, or mixed with some high-quality canned tuna. Make a big batch over the weekend, and you'll be set for the week.

(Image credit: Erin Alderson)

23. Hasselback Sweet Potatoes

The secret to these company-worthy sweet potatoes isn't in the preparation (although Hasselback potatoes of all kinds do look very fancy), but in the seasoning. Sweet potatoes and thyme are just made for each other.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

24. How To Roast Any Vegetable

Last but not least: roasted veggies. When you come up with the right mix of seasonal veggies, you just can't go wrong tossing them on a big pan and roasting them. The high heat brings out a caramelized flavor that can't be beat. Toss in some salt, pepper, and a few herbs and your side dish is set.

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