You’ve spent hours planning and shopping, prepping, cooking, and perfecting your main course. You’re minutes away from an entrée that will be your pièce de résistance when you realize that with all your attention on the star of your dinner show … you forgot to consider the supporting acts. The sides aren’t just offsides—they’re nowhere to be seen.
With just a quarter of an hour left on the clock, what to do?
Your first task: Stop panicking. You’ve come to the right place, because here are 12 side dishes you can make in 15 minutes or less with just few simple ingredients you likely already have on hand. Save the day—and dinner—with these delicious, super-fast sides.
01 of 15
This vegan salad—made with cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, and carrots—is tossed with lemon juice, cilantro, and ground cumin for a refreshing side dish. Recipe developer Anita Schecter suggest pairing with "any spicy food, curries, dal, rotis, burgers, sandwiches, or spicy curries.
02 of 15
Sure, you can make a standard coleslaw, but why would you when you can wow with the deep and dramatic violets of red cabbage and red onion? The dressing is as simple as can be with only three ingredients, and earthy crunchy add-ins like pecans, walnuts, and sunflower seeds deepen the flavor. Alternatively, try a carrot and kohlrabi slaw, inspired by French grated carrot salad.
03 of 15
Bring those fancy steakhouse vibes home with minimal effort and cost—you’ll never order it out again. Using non-dairy milk makes it vegan and appropriate for those who are lactose-sensitive. However, you can swap to conventional if you like. Or skip the creaminess entirely! Garlic wilted spinach comes together even more quickly.
04 of 15
There’s more to zucchini than zoodles, and a rapid stint in a pan helps you make the most out of a summer squash surplus with minimal effort. Sweet, delicate, and fast-cooking, they caramelize beautifully in a splash of oil over medium-high heat. Feel free to add yellow squash or carrots for color—extras are amazing in egg dishes.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
05 of 15
Don’t have enough of just one vegetable to make it a focal point? Stir-fry comes to the rescue. This base sauce can set you up for success, featuring Chinese flavors that complement any vegetable under the sun. Oyster sauce and Chinese rice wine like Shaoxing add extra flavor dimensions. Mastering a cornstarch slurry like the one in this recipe means velvety take-out-worthy sauce any time.
06 of 15
Once again, sweet bell peppers can carry the day, enhanced by a quick blister with balsamic vinegar. Typically an accent vegetable, tossing the finished pepper pieces with some baby spinach leaves and adding red onions make it a vibrant side salad that’s far from the usual.
07 of 15
In a time crunch, the Instant Pot lives up to its name. This recipe yields beautiful roasted sprouts in a fraction of the time traditional roasting would, the pressure infusing the flavors of garlic and pepper deep into every bite. With 10 minutes more on the clock, though, you can explore other tech-enabled sides, like elote-inspired Instant Pot Corn on the Cob and Instant Pot Mac and Cheese.
08 of 15
Just because you don’t have leafy greens on hand doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a salad. This light and crunchy side dish is filled with fennel, avocado, red onion, and a lemony dressing. It's a great balance of textures and flavors that will be a welcome addition to any meal.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
09 of 15
Potatoes can take a long time to cook … unless you shred them! The smaller the pieces of ingredients, the faster they’re done, and that applies to dense starches like sweet potatoes as well. Save time by using a food processor to break down the raw potato. You can do the same with zucchini fritters as well. Both are great as anytime sides, not just at breakfast.
10 of 15
Lemon is a great accent for earthy greens, from asparagus to broccoli. In this dish, garlic, butter, salt, and pepper fill out the flavor profile, giving it body while preserving broccoli’s natural flavors, mellowed and sweetened with a quick steam. Use the microwave to bring the total prep and cook time down to just 13 minutes: With a sprinkle of water and covered, 3 minutes on high is all they need to cook through.
11 of 15
With just three basic ingredients (tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil) and a luxurious 2-ingredient balsamic glaze, this classic salad comes together in just 10 minutes. While recipe developer Leah Maroney suggests using heirloom tomatoes for this recipe, really any tomato works here. It doesn't get much easier or more delicious than this!
12 of 15
Another vegetable commonly found at high-end chophouses that’s deceptively simple to perfect, elegant asparagus comes together in no time at all. It’s actually one of the fastest-cooking vegetables, despite its seeming woodiness. Choose younger, thinner spears—these tender stalks need nothing more than salt, pepper, a splash of acid, and shaved hard cheese to go gourmet.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
13 of 15
If saving the trouble of peeling sounds appealing, wait until you try the delicious taste of maple syrup as an accent to naturally sweet baby carrots. This side brings out the warm flavors of fall with a touch of nutmeg and cinnamon, and adding goat cheese enriches it. The recipe finishes up in 17 minutes, but halve the carrots lengthwise and you can shave off a couple minutes’ cook time.
14 of 15
You just need 15 minutes of prep time for this hearty salsa. With canned black beans, corn, tomatoes, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, and lime, this side packs a bit of heat and lots of texture. Bonus: It will hold in the fridge for up to two weeks!
15 of 15
Why steam plain frozen green beans when only three ingredients can elevate it to a light, Asian-inspired side that goes with practically anything? A minute’s toss with garlic, ready-made teriyaki, and some sesame seeds gets you table-ready with minimal effort. Optional carrots add more color and nutrition.