The holidays are a time for gathering with family and friends over delicious food. As a home cook, you want to impress guests with a fabulous spread but not spend all day in the kitchen. But after making mains and desserts, how much time do you really have to make side dishes?
Side dishes are essential for rounding out the meal, and it’s key to have options that can be made quickly and easily. So, this holiday season, try out some of these effortless yet delicious side dish recipes that will have everyone asking for seconds. Best of all, they pair perfectly with everything from roasted meats to hearty stews.
Read on for five easy side dish ideas to make your holiday table shine.
1. Baked Potatoes with Crispy Skins
Steamed vegetables and fluffy rice are wonderful, but nothing truly completes a holiday meal like a perfectly baked potato. Thanks to the Instant Pot, achieving that ideal baked potato becomes not just simpler but quicker, making it an excellent choice for a side dish when you’re short on time but don’t want to skimp on quality.
Starting with russet potatoes, known for their perfect baking quality, you can effortlessly create a dish that can be both rustic and gourmet, depending on your chosen toppings. Here’s an instapot baked potatoes recipe that pairs well with nearly any holiday main dish, and it comes together in a fraction of the typical baking time.
Take 4-6 russet potatoes and, after a thorough wash, pat them dry. Use a fork to pierce the skin several times. Next, pour a cup of water into the Instant Pot, then place your potatoes on the trivet. Secure the pot’s lid, ensure the valve is set to SEALED, then select the MANUAL mode, adjusting the time for 14 minutes. (For potatoes that are smaller or larger, set the time for 12-16 minutes.)
Once cooking completes, let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes, after which, switch the valve to VENT. For crispy skins, brush your potatoes with olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and then broil them on a baking sheet for 3-4 minutes. Watch closely to prevent burning.
Finish by slicing the potatoes and serving them with your choice of toppings. Some favorites include butter, sour cream, sharp cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, or green onions. The perfect balance of fluffiness on the inside and crispiness on the outside ensures these baked potatoes will be a crowd-pleaser.
2. Flavorful Fennel and Peppers
Roasting fennel and peppers together makes for a festive holiday side dish with its colorful medley of vegetables. The natural sweetness of the bell peppers combined with the aromatic licorice flavor of fennel is a nice change from typical starch-heavy sides.
To make this easy roasted veggie dish, start by chopping one large fennel bulb and two bell peppers (any color) into 1-inch pieces. Toss the chopped veggies with two tablespoons of olive oil, two minced garlic cloves, and one teaspoon of Italian seasoning. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast at 400°F for 15-20 minutes, stirring halfway, until the vegetables are fork-tender and browned along the edges.
The mellow garlic notes, a touch of Italian seasoning, and caramelized edges from roasting help bring out the natural sweetness of the veggies. Serve this colorful medley warm alongside roasted or grilled meats. The sweet and savory flavors pair perfectly with holiday ham, turkey, or beef tenderloin.
3. Lemony Rice Pilaf
Rice pilaf is a simple, satisfying side dish that can be dressed up with bright, tangy lemon for the holidays. The citrusy flavor and fragrant lemon zest transform ordinary rice into something special.
To make this easy lemon rice pilaf, start by cooking 1 cup of rice according to the package directions. When the rice is finished cooking, stir in 2 teaspoons of freshly grated lemon zest, two tablespoons of olive oil or butter, two tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley, and a squeeze of lemon juice (about one tablespoon). The lemon zest infuses the rice with a citrusy aroma, while the lemon juice adds a nice tart flavor.
This bright, lemony rice pilaf pairs well with poultry or pork dishes. The tangy citrus flavor cuts through the richness of gravy and roasted meats. For a pretty presentation, cook the rice in chicken broth, then fold in frozen peas just before serving. The green peas contrast nicely with the yellow lemon rice. Serve warm.
4. Creamy Pasta Primavera
This veggie-packed pasta primavera is a quick, creamy holiday side dish that celebrates fresh produce. With an easy cheese sauce and an abundance of vegetables, it’s hearty enough to be a meal yet simple enough to complement your holiday ham or turkey.
Start by sautéing 1 cup each of chopped zucchini, carrots, frozen peas, and broccoli florets in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cook 8 ounces of bowtie pasta according to package directions.
To make the sauce, melt three tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over low heat. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in 1 1/2 cups milk and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan.
Drain the cooked pasta and return to the pot. Add the cooked vegetables and cheese sauce, tossing to coat. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. The fresh vegetables and creamy sauce make this pasta dish a satisfying holiday side.
With minimal effort, you can complete your holiday spread with easy yet impressive side dishes. From bright lemon rice pilaf to creamy pasta primavera, these flavorful sides will have everyone going back for seconds.
But don’t spend all day cooking this holiday season. With these simple recipes, you can assemble amazing sides in no time. Focus on spending time with loved ones, and let these dishes do the work of wowing your guests.