I'm probably not alone when I say I adore fall. I look forward to this time of year from January onward: the crisp air, the colorful foliage, the warm and cozy knitwear, the even warmer and cozier food.
See, fall gives me a reason to turn on the stove again, after a summer of tomato sandwiches and ice-cream cones. Holidays galore mean a lot of time spent in the kitchen, preparing for near-constant feasting with family and friends.
And if you're anything like my family and friends, the center of these feasts are not the chickens or turkeys or roast beasts. No—we're there for the delicious sides that round out the table, celebrating the end of summer's produce and the beginning of hardy, cold-weather veg. We load up on the drop biscuits and dinner rolls and bowls of creamy polenta. We welcome four types of potatoes at the table, wondering why there aren't five.
Yes, for my family, "sides" are in fact a misnomer, as they're the very epicenter of any holiday meal. Here are 35 fall side dish recipes to make them the focus of your table, too.
First up, Chef Dan Kluger's super-colorful, even-more-flavorful roasted butternut squash—we guarantee it'll become your go-to winter squash recipe. Jammy, spicy onions; tangy goat cheese; and a flurry of fresh herbs punch up the rich sweetness of the squash, while toasty hazelnuts add some much-needed crunch. It's genius in every way.
These carrots are everything roasted carrots should be: creamy and tender on the inside, crispy and caramelized on the outside. That's because they're coated in a spice blend, then steamed for a spell in the oven and dry-roasted for a bit after that. And the best news? Since you're using young carrots, you don't even have to peel them. No muss, no fuss.
This pumpkin recipe involves a bit of advance planning—you'll need to salt-cure egg yolks for a few weeks before you make the dish—but the foresight is absolutely worth your while. Paired with crispy pumpkin chunks, fragrant curry leaves, and spicy pops of birds eye chile, the yolks provide creamy, rich relief. This dish will have you pining for pumpkin season all year long.
More carrots! This time in a clever, creamy soup, flavored with white miso, onions, and celery. All you'll need to do is roast the veg, blend with the miso, season to taste, and slurp up.
This simple, spiced up squash preparation, from Meike Peters' forthcoming book, 365: A Year of Everyday Cooking and Baking, is a revelation: It's roasted with ground cumin, then topped with an easy and elegant feta and pistachio dip, as well as a healthy pour of olive oil. The whole thing comes together in just about 30 minutes (most of it hands-off!), so you can start another side or two as the squash roasts.
Broccoli is such a multifaceted vegetable, able to shapeshift from crunchy-snappy to melt-in-your-mouth creamy. This recipe harnesses bits of both qualities, as the broccoli roasts with tahini and lemon to get crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. The tahini that gets trapped in the florets makes for an extra-luscious surprise.
Another low-ingredient-count, high-reward recipe—and an autumn classic, at that. This entirely homemade, stovetop version (meaning zero canned soup and still-crunchy, actually-still-green beans) absolutely does not skip the crispy onion topping, utilizing a quick batch of DIY fried shallots.
This might be called a "salad," but that's only because it's full of punchy, salad-y components (Castelvetrano olives, marinated artichokes, and roasted red peppers, to name a few). Otherwise, sautéed shredded Brussels sprouts are covered in Grana Padano cheese and a toasty bread crumb topping, recalling gratin-y vibes that are 100 percent welcome at this time of year.
Earthy, slightly bitter broccoli rabe (a cross between regular broccoli and leafier Chinese broccoli) just begs for some sweetness and umami, and gets it in spades in this classic Japanese preparation. The greens are blanched, then covered in a simple sauce of soy, mirin, toasty sesame seeds, and a touch of sugar, which balance the dish beautifully.
Cacio e pepe, the traditional Roman pasta dish, literally means "cheese and pepper," which are the two main ingredients that coat tender strands of spaghetti in a flavorful sauce. In this take, ribbons of Savoy cabbage masquerade as the pasta, and leeks bring a bit of bite to the party. It's a cheesy, comforting serving of veggies.
"Meet your new favorite way to eat collards," says recipe author Gena Hamshaw. Hardy greens are cooked down to their tenderest selves in a creamy, coconutty base, rendering the dish entirely vegan—and hopelessly delicious.
Would a holiday table be complete without creamed spinach? We think not, so here's the crème de la creamed spinach recipe from Laurie Colwin. As over a pound of drained frozen spinach is enveloped in thick and creamy evaporated milk, a hefty handful of Monterey Jack cheese, then topped with plenty of buttery bread crumbs, this dish is as cozy as it gets.
Another creamy, cheesy dish of greens—our favorite kind! Hefty lacinato kale is piled (yes, piled) in a baking dish with layers of cheese and cream in between, allowing the top to crisp up, like kale chips, and the bottom to get tender and lush. No need for pre-cooking here, either.
From Lior Lev Sercarz's forthcoming book, Mastering Spice, a heap of mixed vegetables are tossed in a lemony sumac spice blend and strewn on a sheet pan to roast to perfection. With the simple but incredible, nuanced addition of spice, ordinary roasted vegetables become a star of the table.
Recipe author Erin McDowell's parents grow leeks in their garden every year in order to make this dish (that's how special it is!). To celebrate the allium fully, they let it star in this buttery, brothy preparation. Feel free to source your leeks from the market, and braise away to glory.
Here's a side that's simple enough to whip up on a weeknight, but special enough to serve at a feast: Simply roast cauliflower florets with floral turmeric and caramelly dates, then top with a fresh and zingy pistachio gremolata. Just about 30 minutes of prep and cooking, and you're golden.
In this dish, a nutty, umami-rich miso-walnut dressing amps up the earthiness of roasted fall vegetables. The best part is, most everything takes place on a single sheet pan. The recipe comes from cookbook author Diana Henry, in her forthcoming From the Oven to the Table, which is filled with streamlined sheet-pan dishes that "let the oven do the work for you."
This recipe, from our test kitchen director Josh Cohen, rewards your patience and attention to detail. Here, you'll slowly caramelize shallots until they're sweet and jammy, and then separately sauté mushrooms in a screaming-hot pan till they almost char. These two moves develop flavor tremendously, so all that's left to season the final dish is some fresh thyme and a glug of red wine vinegar.
Chickpeas, capers, and cured olives dip in a pool of olive oil, then braise and tenderize wonderfully in the oven. After they're roasty-toasty, they're topped with thin slices of lemon, crumbled feta, and plenty of earthy paprika. This hearty side is the perfect complement to a simple rice or pasta, along with any of the vegetable dishes listed above.
This spicy, stewy red lentil dish—also from Meike Peters' 365—brings together creamy tahini, smoky harissa, and sweet-savory caramelized lentils. This is good on its own, by the bowlful, or with an assortment of roasted or braised vegetables and rice.
Lior Lev Sercarz brings us another cozy classic—brothy white beans and greens—but this time with a spicy twist. A combination of warming cumin and cayenne, licorice-y fennel seeds, and floral dried bay leaves injects even more flavor into the creamy beans as they cook, and charred spinach brings some smoky flair. Eat this with a buttery dinner roll, alongside rice or pasta, or with a portion of savory roast chicken or turkey.
This satisfying side dish really can't get any better: Spicy chorizo, tender chickpeas, and tangy crumbled chèvre come together in the ultimate trifecta, bettered only by a runny poached egg and a seedy roll to sop up the drippings.
These pan-roasted potatoes have been dubbed "the best" for good reason—they're irresistibly crispy, creamy, and salty, with an unbeatable crunch. You're going to want to make a triple batch and serve it as a main dish in its own right.
Chewy, smoky mushroom bacon, garlicky Greek yogurt, and plenty of chopped scallions find an excellent home on stuffed and twice-baked potatoes. They're wonderful next to a tender, juicy steak—or not.
Southern home cooking legend, Edna Lewis, has given us everything from the juiciest pan-fried chicken to delectably creamy shrimp grits. She's also given us this ethereally light whipped sweet potato casserole, topped with a craggy brown sugar–pecan streusel. You might never go back to the marshmallow rendition again.
Another perfect plate of potatoes, this time from the James Beard Award–winning Silver Palate Cookbook. Butter, sour cream, and cream cheese lend tangy, luxurious oomph to reliably delicious baking potatoes, and together they're beaten until light and fluffy.
If you make any type of macaroni and cheese dish this fall, make sure it's Martha Stewart's recipe. Sharp white cheddar and Gruyère cheese make a fine sauce that bubbles and bakes over tender macaroni noodles. The best part, though, is the cheesy, bready topping that covers the whole dish, made with huge chunks of torn bread. No dry, crusty, or stodgy mac here—all buttery, rich goodness.
Yet another recipe from Meike Peters' forthcoming 365: creamy, smooth polenta that's scented with woody rosemary, then topped with fragrant, caramelly maple butter and golden-brown parsnip chips. It's simple, comforting, and can be adapted an infinite number of ways—perhaps with those caramelized mushrooms from above, or next to the chickpea and chorizo dish.
Do you know what belongs on every fall table? Nutty and slightly sweet tomato-scented brown rice, with a ton of deep flavor and a teeny-tiny ingredient list. You can make this year round, too, with good-quality canned tomatoes.
Once you've made Martha's mac, try this seasonal take: sheet-pan mac and cheese with a brown butter–scented pumpkin cheese sauce and a crunchy bread crumb topping. It's creamy, nutty, and delicious with a satisfying crunch on top. One reader even said that this was "the best mac and cheese I’ve ever made."
What fall table is complete without bread? In this speedy and simple spoonbread recipe—baking up to be a cross between a hearty cornbread and soufflé—egg whites give cheesy cornmeal some airy lift, while chives add savoriness and bright, oniony flavor.
Stuffing's one of my very favorite fall sides; at its best, it's creamy and almost bread pudding–like, with a crunchy, buttery top and ultra-flavorful, tender mix-ins. This version fits the bill, and then some, with lean turkey sausage, dates, lacinato kale, and a whole lot of herbs and spices. Using tangy sourdough bread as the base doesn't hurt, either.
Breadmaking can be intimidating, but recipe author Yossy Arefi's is simple and streamlined. Beyond that, Yossy's recipe takes fluffy Parker House rolls to savory, seedy heights, with nutty spelt flour in the dough and toasted pumpkin seeds on top.
Easy-as-can-be drop biscuits are already a fall favorite, but these ones, with creamy cauliflower and crunchy bacon bits might disappear faster than usual from your table. With no kneading or rising to speak of, and a relatively short bake, they're the low-maintenance dinner roll you're going to want to add to your menu, ASAP.
Last but not least, the tried-and-true, beloved focaccia recipe of our time—we truly swear by it. While it requires up to a two-day rise for the deepest flavor and pillowiest bake, it's well worth the advance planning.
Whether you're in the mood for some soup-simmering, leaf-peeping, or nothing at all, your dream weekend awaits...View Guide