5-Ingredient Holiday Side Dishes
What are some quick and easy Christmas side dish recipes? Here’s how we spell festive 28 ways.
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Photo by Olga Ivanova
It’s my favorite time of year. There’s nothing more magical than seeing Christmas through the eyes of your child, or surprising a loved one with a gift they’ve had their eye on. But, above all, what I probably love most about the holiday season is the food — making cookies with my son, slow-cooking stews and roasts, and baking pies.
I always look forward to our family Christmas dinner and the traditional recipes. There are certain dishes we have to have on the table (or else someone is going to pout) — my mom’s apple pie and her broccoli casserole, Aunt Cindy’s yeast rolls, my sister’s corn casserole, Dad’s mashed potatoes, Mimi’s ambrosia, and her seven-layer salad. But amongst all the cracker-and-cheese-topped casseroles, there’s always a need for a simple vegetable or rice dish. And that’s where I come in. Yes, I usually contribute something more adventurous, but I also like to add roasted carrots, a seasonal salad, or another easy recipe I’ve had my eye on.
There are also those crazed mid-week meals this time of year: You walk into the kitchen at 5 p.m. after a busy day and have to figure out what to make for dinner. Having a repertoire of easy side dish recipes to go along with a rotisserie chicken or skillet pork chop is a game-changer.
We could all use a stash of easy side dish recipes in our back pocket, right? I’ve pored over the Yummly recipe library to pick out the best dishes to add to your holiday table or to save the day when you need something quick. The best news: Each of these has 5 ingredients or fewer, not including oil, salt, and pepper. Whether the star of the table is a roast turkey, glazed ham, roast beef, or a vegetarian main dish, these simple sides come together quickly and will round out the meal.
Jump ahead to:
6 easy holiday sides featuring potatoes
I’m a meat and potatoes girl, so there always has to be some form of potato when I'm looking for a Christmas side dish. These are all gluten-free, too.
For a classic go-to mashed potato recipe, I suggest these Easy Mashed Potatoes you can make using a mixer! Garnished with chives, they’re pretty and tasty — the perfect complement to just about any holiday spread.
If you’re feeling fancy, give buttery Garlic-Parmesan Hasselback Potatoes a try. They may look tricky, but they’re surprisingly easy to make. When I hasselback potatoes (meaning, slice into but not all the way through them), I like to position the spud between two chopsticks or wooden spoon handles. That way, when I cut the slits in the potato, the knife doesn’t go all the way through, and the cuts are even.
If you like the sound of the previous recipe but don’t feel like hasselbacking, try these Crispy Garlic-Parmesan Potatoes instead. They have the same great flavor profile. If you're looking for something extra cheesy, feel free to serve more Parm at the table.
This next dish is also a winner in my book. The addition of fresh rosemary makes it feel festive, and it's especially delicious served with prime rib or turkey.
Ready for a complete change from sweet potato casserole with marshmallows? Sweet potato fries — especially roasted sweet potato fries — are a fun idea for when you want to mix things up. They get their kick from chili powder and cayenne and taste superb served with roasted chicken or a holiday pork roast.
Four colors of vegetables, including orange sweet potatoes, red and green bell peppers, and red onion, add beauty and layers of flavor to your plate. This would be delicious alongside a holiday roast or a vegetarian main dish.
3 simple holiday side dishes with root vegetables
Besides potatoes, this time of year is especially perfect for root vegetables. My favorites are beets, carrots, and parsnips.
Honey enhances the natural sweetness of these lightly glazed beets and carrots. For additional color, you can use rainbow carrots instead of just orange. Salt, black pepper, and extra-virgin olive oil are the only other ingredients you need.
I love the simplicity of these beets with goat cheese. The tanginess of the cheese pairs perfectly with the earthiness of the beets, and the bright flavor of fresh dill is the ideal finish. Parsley, chives, or other fresh herbs would also be excellent if you don't have dill.
If you haven’t tried them, let me tell you — parsnips are so delicious! They look like white carrots, and you can cook them the same way, but they taste sweet, earthy, and somewhat peppery. These roasted parsnips are worth a try. They may become a favorite in your house like they have in mine.
3 easy holiday side dish recipes with butternut squash
It’s also prime season for winter squash, and butternut squash is always a home run for my family. It’s sweet but not overly so, and so easy to cook.
We love maple anything, and the simple, festive combo of maple syrup, butter, and cinnamon in this first recipe complements the natural sweetness of the squash. You can use a bag of pre-cubed squash or cut up your own. This dish would be excellent alongside a holiday ham.
Nutty Parmesan and savory thyme are a match made in heaven, so when we’re craving a more savory option, this recipe is our go-to.
Mashed squash is a delicious alternative to mashed sweet potato or Yukon gold potatoes, and roasting the squash instead of boiling it prevents it from becoming too watery. A touch of pumpkin pie spice makes the recipe holiday-worthy.
6 favorite 5-ingredient recipes for green veggies
Now we can’t forget to add a green dish to the menu. Here are some of my favorite options because they're easy and feel special.
Brussels sprouts seem like a must for a holiday meal because they’re so sweet this time of year. This first recipe is sweet and tangy and goes well with poultry and pork. The honey helps the vegetables get nice and caramelized in the oven.
For a more savory option, I like these Brussels sprouts roasted with fresh garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. The crispy edges from roasting in a hot oven make them irresistible, and the garlic takes them up a notch.
To be honest, you could put garlic on just about anything, and I’d love it. That's why I probably like this recipe so much. In addition to the garlic, the lemon adds brightness and zip to this simple side — it’s a slam-dunk addition to a main course, including poultry, seafood, and pork.
Green beans are also a go-to holiday vegetable for me. The traditional combination with toasted almonds, butter, and shallot seems fancy when, in fact, it’s easy to make — and far faster than a green bean casserole.
We also love broccoli in our house, so this one's a no-brainer because there’s bacon in the recipe, too. What more is there to say?
It’s not green but in the same family as broccoli and definitely deserving of a seat at the table: cauliflower. Are you a lover of this cruciferous vegetable? Cauliflower is having a moment right now, and I can understand why. It’s so versatile and delicious. If you’re feeling adventurous and craving something a little different, I highly recommend you try cauliflower with a warm spice blend of turmeric, cumin, and coriander. It’s excellent alongside turkey, pork, or chicken.
4 easy winter salad recipes
As I’ve got most of our vegetables covered, I mustn’t forget about a few simple salad options. Sometimes, it’s handy to have a side dish that doesn't require space in the oven or on the stovetop — and one you don’t have to bring to the table hot.
I adore this salad. Shred the Brussels sprouts raw and toss with thinly sliced apples and a simple lemon-honey-Dijon dressing. It’s another winning option to serve alongside poultry and pork.
Another seasonal salad I absolutely love is this colorful one with pumpkin, spinach, and feta. It’s almost hearty enough to serve all by itself.
I don’t think this wedge salad will ever go out of style. It’s on heavy rotation in our house because it’s so easy to put together and everyone loves the ranch dressing, blue cheese, and crisp pancetta or bacon. The salad is also classic served with a special steak when we’re craving a steakhouse meal.
If you want the easiest salad option that’s not from a bag, I suggest this. It’s great as-is (with just Parmesan and a lemon vinaigrette) or as a base for adding your favorite holiday flavors like dried cranberries, toasted pecans, and pears.
3 simple recipes for rice and other carbs
Last but certainly not least, I like to have a couple of grain and carb alternatives to add to the table.
You can’t go wrong with a delicious rice side dish, and this easy pilaf is a winner. It’s especially good served with beef roasts and gravy.
I also like to have a go-to stuffing recipe just in case some comfort food is in order, and this Sausage Stuffing is a great option. Italian sausage and boxed stuffing mix provide all the seasonings you need.
Finally, for a bright and fresh dish — this couscous is a lovely addition to the lineup. It even includes holiday colors of red pomegranate and green mint.
More options for your holiday meal
I hope this stockpile of recipes helps you and your family have the best holiday ever! For more holiday-inspired recipes, check out these additional recipe collections.