Stop Trying To Make “Main Dish” Happen. These 16 Sides Are All You Need

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Stop Trying To Make “Main Dish” Happen. These 16 Sides Are All You Need

Sides are where the real action is, and we’ve got the recipes to back our claim. When you’ve got a lineup of side dishes like this, you’ll forget why you ever bothered with anything else. So, stop trying to make “main dish” happen — these sides are all you need to steal the show and keep everyone coming back for more.
Buttery Whole Roasted Cauliflower. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Creamy Dill Cucumber Onion Salad

Bowl of creamy dill cucumber onion salad in a bowl with spoons.
Creamy Dill Cucumber Onion Salad. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

This Creamy Dill Cucumber Onion Salad isn’t just a side dish — it’s a 30-minute ticket to flavor town. It’s a refreshing break from the usual, with crisp cucumbers and sharp red onions all tossed up in a smooth, creamy dill dressing. Perfect for those days when you can’t even think about cooking a main dish, this salad is light, easy, and ridiculously quick to prepare. Plus, it’s a great way to keep things light and fresh at the table, leaving everyone wondering why they’d even bother with a main course.
Get the Recipe: Creamy Dill Cucumber Onion Salad

Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice

A bowl of cilantro lime cauliflower rice.
Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice happens when you want a side dish that practically makes the meal. In just 20 minutes, this dish features finely pulsed cauliflower mixed with onions and jalapeños, all brightened with a splash of lime. It’s perfect for complementing tacos or sitting near grilled meat, making it clear that sometimes the sides are the real MVPs. If you’re tired of the main dish hoopla, this side’s fresh taste and quick prep time will show you the lighter side of life.
Get the Recipe: Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice

Parmesan Crusted Potatoes

A baking sheet with garnished parmesan crusted potatoes on it.
Parmesan Crusted Potatoes. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Parmesan Crusted Potatoes are about to become your new favorite. Ready in less than an hour, these potatoes are tossed with garlic, herbs, and a lot of Parmesan, then baked until they achieve the perfect crispy exterior and tender heart. They’re great for those evenings when you want something spectacular without spending the night in the kitchen. Forget the main dish — these potatoes are here to steal the spotlight and cut your kitchen time in half.
Get the Recipe: Parmesan Crusted Potatoes

Baked Tomatoes with Parmesan and Mozzarella Cheese

Baked tomatoes with Parmesan and mozzarella cheese garnished with parsley.
Baked Tomatoes with Parmesan and Mozzarella Cheese. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Baked Tomatoes with Parmesan and Mozzarella Cheese brings a burst of color and flavor to your meal in just 25 minutes. Fresh tomatoes are topped with layers of Parmesan and mozzarella, then seasoned with Italian herbs and baked until the cheese is bubbly and golden. This dish is so simple yet effective it might convince you to ditch the main course more often. Quick to prepare and even quicker to impress, it’s perfect for adding a little gourmet without the hassle.
Get the Recipe: Baked Tomatoes with Parmesan and Mozzarella Cheese

Tuna Macaroni Salad

Close-up of a creamy pasta salad sprinkled with paprika and garnished with chopped herbs in a white bowl.
Tuna Macaroni Salad. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Tuna Macaroni Salad is the hero we all need on a hectic day. In just 40 minutes, combine elbow macaroni, tuna, and hard-boiled eggs in a creamy dressing for a side dish that could headline any meal. It’s easy, quick, and uses pantry staples, making it a great last-minute lifesaver. When your day’s packed and cooking a full meal feels like a marathon, this salad makes life a bit more manageable, showing that sometimes, the best meals are the simplest.
Get the Recipe: Tuna Macaroni Salad

Golden Baked Jicama Fries

In FDL library.
Golden Baked Jicama Fries. Photo credit: Plays Well With Butter.

Forget the regular old potato fries, Golden Baked Jicama Fries is where it’s at! This dish involves slicing jicama into fries, boiling them until tender, then tossing them with avocado oil, turmeric, and garlic powder before baking them to perfection. Not only are they a breeze to whip up, but they’re also a healthier option that won’t leave you feeling bogged down. Great for those days when you want to keep dinner simple but still feel like you’re treating yourself.
Get the Recipe: Golden Baked Jicama Fries

Halloumi Fries

Halloumi fries with dill dip on a plate.
Halloumi Fries. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Halloumi Fries turns the idea of sides on its head because once you try them, you might never return to your main dish ways. Take thick slices of halloumi, a cheese that holds up to heat like a champ, coat them in a light spice mix, and bake them until they achieve that perfect golden-brown crust. These bad boys are done in about 25 minutes and are the perfect party trick to impress guests or make a Wednesday night feel a little less like a Wednesday night. They’re crispy, they’re cheesy, and they’re everything you need in a side.
Get the Recipe: Halloumi Fries

Buttery Whole Roasted Cauliflower

A roasted whole cauliflower head topped with herbs and seasoning on a baking tray.
Buttery Whole Roasted Cauliflower. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

This Buttery Whole Roasted Cauliflower takes center stage, drenched in chicken stock, slathered with butter, and jazzed up with Parmesan and thyme. It’s a show-stealing dish showing cauliflower can be any meal’s star. It roasts up tender and rich, all in just 30 minutes, which is great because who wants to wait all night for dinner? This dish is a breeze to whip up, whether you are trying to impress guests or feed yourself on a Tuesday. Plus, it’s a perfect example of how the side dish is sometimes the main event. There is no need for a main dish when the side looks and tastes this good.
Get the Recipe: Buttery Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Baked Sliced Zucchini

Baked sliced zucchini with parmesan on a white plate.
Baked Sliced Zucchini. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Baked Sliced Zucchini is your quick fix for a side dish that’s as easy as it is. Just slice up some zucchini, toss it with Parmesan and your favorite Italian herbs, and bake it until it’s crispy. This dish is ready in just 20 minutes, which makes it perfect for those nights when you’re trying to juggle ten things at once and still want to put something respectable on the table. It’s light, it’s crispy, and it’s got just enough cheese to feel like a treat. Plus, it’s so good that you might forget about making a main dish.
Get the Recipe: Baked Sliced Zucchini

Twice Baked Potato Casserole

Twice baked potato casserole with bacon and green onions.
Twice Baked Potato Casserole. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

This Twice Baked Potato Casserole is a side that eats like a man, and no one’s complaining. It’s a hearty combination of russet potatoes, crispy bacon, sour cream, milk, butter, and a generous helping of cheese. It’s the kind of dish that you put in the oven and forget about for 90 minutes, but then it fills the house with smells that remind you why you bothered to turn the oven on in the first place. It’s creamy, comforting, and just the thing for feeding a crowd or making sure you have leftovers. Who needs a main dish when your side dish does all the heavy lifting?
Get the Recipe: Twice Baked Potato Casserole

Loaded Zucchini Boats

Three loaded zucchini boats on a plate.
Loaded Zucchini Boats. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Loaded Zucchini Boats are what happens when zucchini decides to be the life of the party. Halve some zucchini, hollow them out, and fill them with a mix of bacon, cheese, and sour cream. These boats are ready to sail into your dinner plans in under 30 minutes, making them perfect for those hectic evenings when even ordering takeout seems like too much work. They’re delicious, filling, and so easy to make that you’ll have time to kick back and relax while they bake. Plus, they make eating your veggies fun.
Get the Recipe: Loaded Zucchini Boats

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms on a serving tray.
Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms are like little bombs of flavor. Packed with sausage, cream cheese, bread crumbs, Parmesan, and a hint of garlic, they’re a party favorite that doesn’t require you to spend all day in the kitchen. In 45 minutes, these golden delights show that a side dish can easily highlight your dinner spread. Plus, they’re the perfect excuse to keep your evenings free for more fun activities like sitting down. Hey, sides can be stars too!
Get the Recipe: Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Roasted Cubed Butternut Squash with Cauliflower and Bacon

Roasted butternut squash with cauliflower and bacon and dollops of sour cream with a spoon.
Roasted Cubed Butternut Squash with Cauliflower and Bacon. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

This combo of Roasted Cubed Butternut Squash with Cauliflower and Bacon brings together sweet squash, robust cauliflower, and crispy bacon seasoned with a dash of garlic and Dijon mustard. It roasts up in about an hour, making it a hearty addition to any meal. It’s the perfect dish for those evenings when you want something filling but don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen forever. Plus, it’s proof that you can have a meal about the sides, and no one would miss the main dish. It’s a great way to keep dinner simple and stress-free.
Get the Recipe: Roasted Cubed Butternut Squash with Cauliflower and Bacon

Cauliflower Risotto with Mushrooms

Cauliflower risotto in a pan.
Cauliflower Risotto with Mushrooms. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Let’s lighten things up a bit with Cauliflower Risotto with Mushrooms. It swaps traditional rice for cauliflower rice, mixed with mushrooms, Parmesan, and a splash of cream. It’s ready in just 30 minutes, perfect for those nights when you’d rather not linger over the stove. This dish serves a classy touch without the hassle, showing that a side dish can take center stage at any meal. Also, it’s a neat trick to make your dinner feel upscale without making your kitchen a disaster zone. Who said you can’t have elegance on a weeknight?
Get the Recipe: Cauliflower Risotto with Mushrooms

Fried Cabbage with Bacon

A pan full of bacon and cabbage with a wooden spoon.
Fried Cabbage with Bacon. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Fried Cabbage with Bacon is your quick fix for a flavorful side. It combines the crispiness of bacon with the soft, sweet taste of cooked cabbage, and it’s ready in about 25 minutes. This dish is versatile, matching well with various mains or standing proudly. It’s the go-to for adding more greens to your meals without the groans. Because, let’s be honest, everything’s better with bacon, and quick sides like this mean you’re spending less time cooking and more time enjoying.
Get the Recipe: Fried Cabbage with Bacon

Creamy Broccoli with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

A pan of creamy broccoli with sun-dried tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
Creamy Broccoli with Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Creamy Broccoli with Sun-Dried Tomatoes turns what could be an ordinary side into something a bit more special. Broccoli florets and sun-dried tomatoes are tossed in a creamy, lightly spiced sauce, ready in 25 minutes. It’s a fast way to bring flavor to your meal, showing you can whip up something great without much effort. It’s perfect for those nights when you want to eat and relax, not be over a hot stove. After all, who says you need a main dish when the sides are this good?
Get the Recipe: Creamy Broccoli with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

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