12 Vegetarian Winter Side Dishes for any meal, whether high days and holidays, or just a healthy family meal.
Like a lot of confirmed vegetable lovers, I am all about the side dishes. In fact, stuff the turkey – give me ALL the sides!
Can I just have sides, please?
Last week I lurked on a Twitter thread where the chat was about how they could do without the Christmas main course – whether meat or vegetarian – and just pile their plate full of side dishes. I must say, I quite agree. Although I love a show-stopper (Hello Cauliflower and Porcini Mushroom Wellington! image below), side dishes are what do it for me. I love the variety of textures, tastes and colours that come with a table overflowing with little plates and bowls of this and that.
Vegetarian winter side dishes beat the rest of the year sides, hands down. Do you agree?
The side dishes mentioned on Twitter were nearly all indulgent. There were plenty of salty, fatty, bacony side dishes being championed. And why not? Christmas is often a time when old family and heritage favourites get a space on the menu. A special meal, to my mind, shouldn’t be about sending a particular message other than everyone at the table is valued. I love it when the menu reflects the wishes and desires of all diners. Concentrating on lots of tasty, colourful, seasonal sides is often the easiest way to go.
With the Twitter chat in my mind I thought I would tempt you to consider one or two new-to-you vegetable-packed recipes I’ve posted over the past 9 years. Nearly all of them are easy and can be at least partially prepped ahead. If you are reading this after Christmas 2019, then I would say that quite a few are suitable for making ahead and freezing. But as it is only a few days until Christmas right now, fresh may be best. 🙂
So, shall we grab a fork and dig in?
Vegetarian Winter Side Dishes for all
Incredible Cauliflower Mash
Nothing against ordinary mashed potato, but if the table is already groaning with carbs – including a platter piled high with crunchy, salt-flecked roast potatoes (Andrew’s request) – Incredible Cauliflower Mash gets a space on my plate. This is a smooth, creamy, mild sidekick that plays nicely with others. And it’s almost indecently delicious with a ladleful of my very easy spring onion gravy.
Another no-oven make, this recipe is in fact completely raw. Based on the French classic, my recipe for Celeriac Remoulade is a bit lighter on the mayo and adds in tangy crème fraîche. Make enough for Boxing Day leftovers. You’ll thank me later. Another Andrew favorite.
Maple-Roasted Carrots with Fennel Seeds
This is one recipe I make throughout winter. You can make Maple-Roasted Carrots ahead and just warm through as you pull your roast potatoes from the oven. If you fancy changing out the fennel seeds for caraway, cumin or even my beloved cardamom, be my guest. If you have leftovers, whiz them up with a little crème fraîche or cashew cream, maybe with a tiny blob of Dijon mustard. I would just eat that on its own.
Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Loads of Lemon and Dill
If I could only have one side dish – heaven forbid – I think I might pick Brussels Sprouts with Loads of Lemon and Dill. Stir-fried until just starting to soften, then tossed with butter, plenty of lemon and a shower of green, fragrant dill, this is my idea of a perfect little side dish. And I won’t be argued with. It’s pretty much an instant recipe, but feel free to make ahead and just blast with a bit of stovetop heat and add the lemon and dill just before serving. Little sprouts can be halved but quarter bigger fellas. You might even want to have a raw version of this: see the recipe for my tips.
Baked Ratatouille Tian
I know this is a bit left-field for a winter vegetarian side dish, but it would totally make a vibrant, nutrient-dense side dish that would happily mingle with the other bits on your table. Baked Ratatouille Tian will not be particularly seasonal for most of us, but it tastes so good. And because of this I really think it earns its place on the right menu. Don’t you? You may totally buy the sauce. And get your most steady-handed friend to cut or mandoline the veggies. Then it is just a matter of bunging it in the oven.
Smoky Maple-Pecan Hasselback Butternut Squash
The trick to the perfect Hasselback Butternut Squash is to part-bake, and only then slice and flavour up. You save a lot of hassle – and your fingers! To get ahead, part-roast your squash, then make your thin slices (not cutting all the way through) before cooling and refrigerating until close to serving time. Or, cook it fully up to four hours before eating and just give it a quick blast to reheat. This recipe can be tweaked all kinds of ways, introducing some bold spices, or even some tangy ones. This minimal-ingredient recipe is so easy, and looks suitably festive on the table.
Southern Cornbread Stuffing
My childhood was full of vegetables. I have vivid holiday memories of a lace-clothed table, barely visible under a jigsaw puzzle of vegetable dishes, interlaced with platters of fried chicken, smothered steak and the inevitable Jello salad. But the star was always the side dishes, mainly vegetables. Most often they were freshly picked from my grandmother’s garden (they were farmers), lightly cooked, with some possibly pickled earlier in the long Tennessee growing season.
I ate all of the other stuff too, including Southern Cornbread Dressing(stuffing). I remember it made by my grandmother with chicken or turkey giblets and stock – rich and savoury. There were a few vegetables in it too, but I can’t recall exactly which. Most likely just onions and celery. Possibly some bacon leftover from an earlier meal. I can even remember the soft texture, with the coveted crispy bits on the sides, and poking through the savory, custardy middle.
This vegan recipe – one I have honed over the years – is my modest homage to my grandmother Mimi’s homey, loving and skilful cooking. It is not a patch on hers, but it is pretty good, and one that is my own family’s favorite. And no bacon grease. Oh, and here’s another vegan stuffing/dressing that you might like – One-Pan Squash and Kale Stuffing with Sour Cherries and Pecans. The texture is great, and the taste is savoury, slightly sweet and a bit tangy. Sub in dried cranberries if you can’t get the sour cherries.
Creamed Parmesan Kale
This has been one of our favorite sides this past year. Always a feature in southern holiday menus, creamed spinach is just the most delicious thing. With only a gentle hint of minerality, this creamy, super-savory side has been the gateway vegetable dish for many a young greens-phobe. These days we like it just as much using kale – sometimes half kale and half spinach. It’s an easy way to enjoy kale at any time of year.
In this Creamed Parmesan Kale freshly grated proper PDO parmesan adds a touch of luxury and umami that the holiday table deserves. And I don’t bother with making a bechamel. Go visit the recipe and see what we do instead. Here is an earlier recipe for Creamed Kale Two Ways, the vegan version of which uses my favorite flavor enhancer, miso. Both miso and real parmesan are tremendous ways to add deep flavour to any dish. It’s the umami thing.
Roasted Parmesan Sweet Potatoes
And while we have that block of parm in hand, let’s make some Roasted Parmesan Sweet Potatoes. Studded with roasted garlic and shallots, and enhanced with panko crumbs and grated parmesan, this dish is too easy and impactful not to try at least once. It’s a sweet, savoury, crunchy, and tender side dish that will have your family asking for seconds. A tray of these nutritious sweet potatoes would be great for any dinner – festive or everyday.
I forgot to include this in my dozen. And the image isn’t in the collage above. But how could I not feature it? I’ve made Celeriac Parmentier pretty much every week for the past two months or so. It seems so go with everything. And the leftovers are just as good as the first time around. A win-win for this under-rated, mildly-flavoured, low-carb wonder of a vegetable. If you have never tried, let alone bought, a celeriac (celery root), this is the recipe to rectify this gap in your food history. Once you peel the gnarly skin (daunting, I admit), you expose the creamy-white interior. Follow the easy instructions to get your own pick-off-the-tray-delicious roasted celeriac.
Butternut Squash Mash with Buttery Rosemary Pecans
My healthier ode to the marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes of my youth (and here is an even closer version – Orange and Spice Sweet Potato Casserole! ) Swirls of roasted butternut squash mash topped with crunchy sweet-savory rosemary pecans. An easy and incredibly delicious side dish for holidays or any autumn-winter dinner. Roasted Butternut Squash Mash is beautifully simple, but with oodles of taste and sublime texture. A Food To Glow favorite.
Beetroot and Jerusalem Artichoke Boulangere
Sounds fancy, but it’s really so simple and tastes absolutely amazing. Basically Beetroot and Jerusalem Artichoke Boulangere is thinly sliced and layered beets and artichokes seasoned with shallots, thyme and a surprise herb, tenderly cooked in vegetable stock until meltingly-tender under the tines of a fork. A healthier potatoes boulangere. It will go with everything that you might be serving at Christmas or even Easter. It is easy to make ahead and reheat when needed under a foil cover. Tastiest served warm rather than piping hot. A vegetarian winter side dish classic in the making?
Cornmeal Crusted Cauliflower with Turmeric
I freaking love roasted cauliflower.
I love it, but the texture can be off-putting. Roasting long enough to mellow the taste to nutty sweetness is the goal, but can often make it a bit soft. Am I right? And for me, texture is everything. I am a big kid in that respect.
My way of roasting cauliflower so that it is more-ishly snackable – yes as a snack, not just side dish – is also very versatile. You can add in any flavours, spices, herbs that you fancy. It will be fantastic every time. As long as you don’t get distracted like I do and not hear the timer, golden, crunchy, sweet cauliflower will be ready to eat in under 30 minutes. Roasted Cornmeal Crusted Cauliflower with Turmeric and Black Pepper makes a simple, healthy and fabulously-textured side dish to go with so many things. Even if it doesn’t feature on your festive menu, do try and make it soon. 🙂
Go over to my Instagram profile to discover my best sweet – and low-carb! – recipe EVER: Chocolate Toffee-Nut Christmas Crackle. Fiber-rich, buttery and sweetened with this safe no-carb sweetener. Makes about 24 heavenly pieces. Perfect for a last minute gift.
So, will you being filling your plate high with vegetarian winter side dishes? What are your personal favorites? Can I help eat your leftovers?!
See you soon for more original recipes and nutrition tips to make your cooking easier – and a little more Food To Glow