16 Vegan Side Dishes So Good, You'll *Almost* Forget the Mains

From hearty salads to crispy roasted veg to silky mashed sweet potatoes.

October 30, 2020
Photo by Bobbi Lin

When planning a menu, the focus tends to steer towards the entrees of the spread. Break the norms and rewrite the narrative with side dishes like creamy tahini potato salad or stuffed zucchini with freekeh pilaf and currants worthy of stealing the show.

Satisfy both the omnivores and herbivores among your friends and family with these 16 vegan side dishes featuring plant-based ingredients like miso, tahini, and tons and tons of delicious vegetables.

1. Coconut Mashed Sweet Potatoes

This mashed potato recipe is the perfect balance between sweet and comforting. Make this simple side dish using just four vegan-friendly ingredients like coconut milk, maple syrup, and ginger. The spicy root adds a subtle kick to counterbalance the fatty coconut milk for a creamy side you’ll want with almost every meal.

2. Nobu's Fried Asparagus with Miso Dressing

Inspired by Nobu’s Japanese background, this dish calls for miso and soy sauce to create a decadent dressing that coats the lightly fried asparagus spears. This vegan dish requires minimal effort yet yields a restaurant-worthy side comprised of delicately crisped shreds of leek and a luxurious miso dressing that would pair well with just about any vegetable.

3. Creamy Tahini Potato Salad

Typically slathered in heaps of traditional mayonnaise, most delicious potato salads do not qualify as vegan friendly. Fortunately, this potato salad “veganizes” a classic favorite using creamy tahini in place of non-vegan mayonnaise to create the ideal side to bring to a holiday gathering.

4. Warm Purple Potato Salad with Green Beans, Radish, and Fennel

Consume most of your daily vegetable intake with this hearty salad filled with crunchy, tasty ingredients like haricot vert, radishes, fennel, and purple potatoes. Infused with shallots and dijon mustard, the citrus vinaigrette brightens the medley of flavors in this recipe. Whip up this eye-catching dish in under 30 minutes for an impromptu dinner party or a weekend brunch.

5. Grilled Broccolini Salad With Basil-Walnut Vinaigrette

Get the most out of your grill before the cold winter months arrive with this grilled broccolini warm salad topped with an addictingly good basil-walnut vinaigrette. Charred and crispy on the edges, cook the broccolini until the sides are browned and finish with a generous serving of this nutty yet refreshing dressing. If you don’t have a grill on hand, feel free to roast the broccolini in your oven for similar results.

6. Bhartha (Spicy Indian Eggplant)

Transform eggplant into this vegetarian—and vegan—dish that can convince anyone to eat more vegetables. This recipe is the perfect addition to your dinner spread, packed with rich flavors from warm spices like curry, cumin, turmeric, and chili powder. Serve over a bed of jasmine rice to transform this side into a filling entree.

7. Beet Butter

Whip up a batch of this ridiculously easy beet butter to add a pop of color to the table. This five-ingredient recipe is perfect for a simple appetizer to serve with pita chips, an assortment of fresh veggies, or slices of fresh warm bread. Best of all, this spread can hold in the fridge for up to one week for even more enjoyment.

8. Perfect Steamed Broccoli With Caper-Raisin Vinaigrette

Simple yet surprisingly refreshing, this steamed broccoli recipe transforms a somewhat bland vegetable into an extraordinarily tasty one. The author of this recipe shies away from caramelizing the broccoli and opts for steaming the greens to preserve their tender texture. Sarah Jampel drizzles a sharp and sweet vinaigrette made with balsamic vinegar, golden raisins, garlic, capers, parsley, and olive oil to dress the florets.

9. Roasted, Spiced, Almondy Cauliflower

Adapted from Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, this quick cauliflower side requires minimal attention and care. A type of set-it-and-forget-it recipe, simply toss cauliflower florets in a blend of coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and olive oil to coat all sides, and garnish with sliced almonds before popping it in the oven until golden brown.

10. Gingered Cranberry Fig Chutney

This is certainly far from your ordinary cranberry relish. Forget serving gelatinous cranberry sauce that still has the aluminum can demarcations, and up the ante with this homemade version that will have you never looking back again. Aside from the more traditional chutney ingredients like mustard seeds, spices, vinegar, and sugar, this recipe adds heat and dimension with components like dried figs, fresh ginger, red pepper flakes, fresh thyme, and toasted hazelnuts.

11. Roasted Baby Turnips with Dijon-Shallot Vinaigrette & Tarragon

Bring out the true potential of turnips with this simple and elegant dish that won’t make you break a sweat. Transform this potentially bland root vegetable with a bright vinaigrette made with vinegar, dijon, shallots, and tarragon for a fool-proof side dish perfect for any occasion.

12. Quinoa Salad with Hazelnuts, Apple & Dried Cranberries

Combine some of the best fall flavors in one salad with ingredients like hazelnuts, apples, and cranberries for a festive and light side ideal for any time of day. The author notes that this recipe is flexible and lends itself to adjustments whenever needed. If you’re running low on hazelnuts, replace them with almonds, and if you just snacked on your last apple, use pears instead, and so on.

13. Spicy Oven-Roasted Okra

If you’ve been hanging on the fence about your liking (or disliking) of okra, this recipe will turn you into a fan. This recipe’s creator notes that cutting the okra in half lengthwise eradicates the slimy texture that may seem off-putting to some. Coat the sliced okra with a simple mixture of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, olive oil, and bake until slightly charred. The author also explains that the smaller the okra pod, the sweeter, and more flavorful it will be.

14. Stuffed Zucchini with Freekeh Pilaf and Currants

Make the components of this dish beforehand—up to two to three days ahead—to save time in the kitchen when you’re ready to serve. Fill hollowed zucchini halves with spiced freekeh that adds texture and bite to this veggie-forward side. If you’re looking to add a touch of creaminess, drizzle with tahini dressing and pomegranate molasses for a sweet, savory, and spicy combination.

15. Molly Stevens' Roasted Fennel, Red Onion & Orange Salad

This citrusy, crunchy, and savory recipe combines three common ingredients to create a warm winter salad to fill your belly and excite your taste buds. This recipe demonstrates how roasting simple aromatic ingredients together like fennel, red onions, and navel oranges can result in a tasteful, stunning side dish sure to impress your guests.

16. Spicy Stuffed Tomatoes

This summertime (but really, anytime!) side dish is delicious, filling, and perfect for a small get together. Make these individually portioned stuffed tomatoes ahead of time and simply heat in the oven once your guests are ready to eat. The author urges adding a sprinkling of fresh parsley at the end to add an herby, peppery punch to this dish.

Tell us in the comments below your favorite vegan side dishes that steal the show every time!

Order now

The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Maki Yazawa

Written by: Maki Yazawa

Food Writer & Recipe Developer