17 Side Dish Ideas You Need For Better Weeknight Dinners

Justin Micheal

Food Writer & Editor in Chief For KitchenSanity

Justin Micheal is KitchenSanity's founder, food writer and editor in chief. As an expert home cook with over 30 years of daily cooking experience and food handler certifications, he's a pro at experimenting with recipes and a stickler for food safety. He writes informative and detailed guides about cooking basics such as proper food storage, cutting and cooking methods, and choosing the right products to make cooking easier.

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In this guide you’ll find what goes good with your favorite meals!

Welcome to our collection of side dish ideas, where each side celebrates flavors that perfectly complement your main meal. Whether you’re pairing with a delicate fish or a hearty roast, our sides are here to bring balance and excitement to your plate. Browse our list of carefully selected side ideas ranging from vibrant veggies to comforting grains and everything in between.

Side Dishes For Seafood

Fresh Edamame Chickpea Salad - Perfect Seafood Side Dish

When it comes to seafood, it’s all about balance and complementing the delicate flavors of the sea without overwhelming them. Think light, think fresh, and let the natural taste of the seafood be the star. Here are some side dishes that promise to do just that:

  • Sides for Scallops: Whip up a citrusy, herb-infused quinoa salad. Squeeze in fresh lemon juice and fold in chopped parsley and chives for a light, refreshing accompaniment.
  • Sides for Lobster: Create a crisp cucumber and dill salad. Combine thinly sliced cucumbers with fresh dill and a splash of vinaigrette for a refreshing contrast.
  • Sides for Crab Cakes: Prepare a tangy remoulade slaw. Mix a homemade remoulade with shredded cabbage for a creamy side that’s full of flavor.

Side Dishes For Soups & Stews

Crostini with Fish and Mozzarella - Perfect Soup & Stew Side Dish

Soups and stews are the ideal comfort foods, but I’ve separated them with this list. The perfect side for these dishes should complement their liquid nature with a bit of crunch or coolness, adding texture and contrast to your meal. Whether it’s a slice of something toasty to dip or a refreshing salad to offset the heat, these sides will surely enhance your soup or stew experience.

  • Sides for French Onion Soup: Enhance with a Gruyère-topped crostini. Broil the top until the cheese becomes bubbly and golden for a savory, crunchy topping.
  • Sides for Jambalaya: Balance the heat with a cool, crisp coleslaw. Combine the shredded cabbage and carrots with a creamy dressing and let it chill.
  • Sides for Beef Stew: Serve up crusty bread for dipping or creamy mashed potatoes. For the potatoes, blend with butter, cream, and a touch of salt until they’re perfectly smooth.

Side Dishes For Comfort Foods

Homemade Meatloaf with Carrots and Mashed Potatoes - Comfort Food Classics

Comfort food is all about warmth and satisfaction, a culinary hug that soothes the soul. The best companions to these hearty dishes are sides that echo their richness and depth, adding a touch of contrast to keep every bite interesting. Whether you’re scooping, dipping, or forking, these sides are designed to round out your comfort meals with just the right touch of coziness.

  • Sides for Chicken Pot Pie: Offer honey-glazed carrots or green bean almondine. Glaze the carrots with a mix of honey and butter, and toss green beans with toasted slivered almonds.
  • Sides for Meatloaf: Pair with roasted vegetables or a classic Caesar salad. Roast a medley of veggies or toss crisp romaine with Caesar dressing and crunchy croutons.
  • Sides for Mac and Cheese: Lighten it up with a simple green salad. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, and seasoning for a dressing that cuts through the richness.
  • Sides for Sloppy Joes: Add crispy sweet potato fries or a tangy coleslaw. Bake the fries until they’re golden, and toss the slaw with a vinegar-based dressing for a crunchy side.

Side Dishes For Baked & Stuffed Dishes

Colorful Stuffed Peppers - Ideal Companion for Baked Entrées

Baked and stuffed dishes are often the showstoppers of the table, rich with layers of flavor and texture. The ideal side dishes for these can hold their own without stealing the spotlight. They should bring a contrast in texture or a refreshing flavor to cleanse the palate.

  • Sides for Lasagna: Accompany with marinated artichokes and olives. Marinate in olive oil, lemon zest, minced garlic, and herbs for a zesty side.
  • Sides for Quiche: Serve a light arugula salad with a lemon vinaigrette or a colorful fruit salad. Dress the arugula just before serving, and choose seasonal fruits for the best flavor.
  • Sides for Stuffed Peppers: Offer creamy polenta or a garlic spinach sauté. Stir Parmesan into the polenta until it’s rich and creamy, and cook spinach until just wilted with a hint of garlic.
  • Sides for Ratatouille: Pair with crusty garlic bread. Toast slices of a hearty baguette and rub with garlic for a simple yet satisfying side.
  • Sides for Chicken Cordon Bleu: Complement with steamed asparagus drizzled with hollandaise sauce. Whip up the sauce with egg yolks, lemon juice, and melted butter for a luxurious touch.

Side Dishes For Casual Dinners

Fresh Veggie Tacos - Perfect Pick for Casual Gatherings

Casual dinners call for food that’s as laid-back and enjoyable as the company. These side dishes are all about adding to the fun and flavor of your favorite easy-going meals. They’re the perfect plus-ones for when the fare is as comfortable as your favorite jeans and as welcoming as a backyard BBQ.

  • Sides for Fajitas: Consider a vibrant, zesty corn salad with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of cilantro to mirror the Tex-Mex vibes or a creamy avocado and black bean salad for a hearty yet refreshing sidekick.
  • Sides for Cornbread: Pair this Southern classic with a tangy collard greens slaw or a sweet and spicy honey-jalapeño butter to slather on top for an extra kick.

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