If you’ve ever found yourself in a blind panic looking for the perfect holiday roast, hang on a sec. Side dishes are the way to go. They’re simpler than a giant main dish and way more creative, flavor-wise. Not convinced? We’ll leave it to this week’s featured foodie, Amanda Paa of Heartbeet Kitchen. She’s showing off her seven best vegetarian sides that totally steal the show. So don’t bother with the giant poinsettia or go mad looking for a ham—we’ve got your holiday centerpieces right here.
1. Honey Garlic Caramelized Carrots
These pan-caramelized rainbow carrots look way fancy, but—spoiler alert—they’re super simple. Spicy-sweet garlic, plus gobs of raw honey, turn the tender veg from a perfectly nice side to one of those “oops, I may have finished the whole pan mid-cooking” dishes.
2. Pumpkin-Swirled Mashed Potatoes
Dress up everyone’s favorite classic holiday side (mashed potatoes, duh) with a vibrant swirl of sweet orange pumpkin purée. The secret to the perfect texture? Blend the roasted pumpkin until silky smooth, but leave the taters just a little lumpy. A sprinkle of salt and you’re more than ready for dinner.
3. Blistered Green Beans With Crushed Almonds
Throw green beans in a blistering hot oven to char the veg to a delightful crisp. Squeeze on lemon for zip and crushed almonds for crunch. Try one to make sure the seasoning is just right. Then another to make sure it’s not a fluke. Then maybe one more…
4. Roasted Tomatoes and Butternut Squash With Cardamom Yogurt
Tomatoes and squash may sound like just part of a salad, but we’d like to offer this dish as evidence that they are so much more. Exhibit A: blistered whole tomatoes bursting with sweet juice. Exhibit B: silky butternut squash, just beginning to caramelize. Exhibit C: a pillow of cardamom-kissed yogurt to add a hit of tang and cream to every bite.
5. Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Salad With Maple Balsamic Dressing
It may look like a simple rice-and-veg salad, yet you’ll find it makes a stunning addition to any holiday table. Unlike other veggies, cubed butternut squash and shredded kale hold up to hours of sitting at the potluck table without getting soggy. In fact, the longer everything sits in the sweet maple dressing, the tastier the salad becomes.
6. Cozy Gratin With Butter-Roasted Tomatoes, Beans, and Kale
It’s a crowd-pleasing healthy side! It’s a vegetarian/gluten-free main! It’s tomorrow’s breakfast! Whatever you want to call it, this super-cozy tomato-bean-kale casserole is what you need to make for the holidays. And can we talk about how pretty the red and green are when piled on a plate?
7. Crispy Garlic Butter Fingerling Potatoes
Put down the bag of frozen fries and get these buttery fingerling potatoes in your life. Sear tender little potatoes in garlicky compound butter (yes!) and don’t apologize when you eat them all before dinner.
Amanda Paa is the blogger behind Heartbeet Kitchen. She believes that the best meals are those made with fresh, simple ingredients, local if possible, and always what’s in season. Her blog is a celebration of the sweet and savory recipes created in her Minnesota kitchen, along with the other tidbits that make up her everyday life. For more from Amanda, follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.