Mexican Side Dishes
May 1, 2011 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Good ideas for vegetable-based side dishes to go with Mexican food? (other than beans)

I'm often at a loss for side dishes to serve with Mexican / Latin American food. I know that beans and rice are always traditional, but sometimes I don't want to serve beans (for instance, if the main dish is a black bean soup) or there may already be plenty of starch in the meal (like when I make chilaquiles or enchiladas). In these situations, I usually end up serving a salad or some sauteed greens -- which are good, but they don't always seem to go well with the rest of the food on the plate.

I know about calabacitas, but what other side dishes tend to go well with these flavors?
posted by rossination to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I love grilled veggies (anything, really) with Mexican food. If it's a bad weather day, I'll roast or saute them instead.
posted by cooker girl at 1:00 PM on May 1, 2011

Similar to (but lighter than) calbacitas: I often mix up cooked corn kernels, chopped cherry tomatoes, diced fresh chilies, lime juice to taste, and salt and pepper for a quick salad.
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:05 PM on May 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Grilled corn kernels, avocado chunks, cherry tomatoes, slivers of mango, salt and pepper and a good squirt of lime juice.

I had a honey jalapeno dressing once that was fantastic - toss any grilled or roasted veggies or fresh salad greens in it and I imagine that would be seriously delightful.
posted by sestaaak at 1:06 PM on May 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Jane Brody's Three Pepper Salad goes great with Mexican food. It's a "salad" but there's no lettuce, just bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, onions and cilantro in a lime vinaigrette. Very pretty too.

Corn is a great side with Mexican food, but it veers into starchy rather than veggie. Same with plátanos maduros.

Fried zucchini blossoms are delicious.
posted by ambrosia at 1:07 PM on May 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe some sweet potato with some mexican spices and chipotle peppers. Also plantains are good and can be cooked a lot of different ways. I eat both on a regular basis with mexican themed food. You can also use quinoa or cous cous as a base and add veggies and spices to those to create a matching side.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 1:08 PM on May 1, 2011

Grilled nopales, salads with fruit and jicama, yuca, boiled huauzontle, chayote, tomatillos.
posted by Houstonian at 1:21 PM on May 1, 2011

Another vegetable salad idea: thinly sliced radishes and carrots tossed with minced cilantro or mint, then dressed with a combination of lime and grapefruit juices and salt. It's more or less this recipe from Mark Bittman.
posted by Janta at 1:30 PM on May 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

We like sweet potato fritters with Mexican food--smash sweet potato with cumin, an egg, and a little chili powder, form into patties, fry until golden.

Salad of chopped tomatoes, peppers (both sweet and hot), onion, and avocado is delicious--dress it with a chili-lime dressing and you're good to go. I often eat this for lunch over rice.

If you're not opposed to corn, we like to pan-fry or roast it with a little chopped jalapeno until it's browned, then sprinkle it with crumbled fresh cheese, lime, and maybe cilantro.
posted by MeghanC at 1:43 PM on May 1, 2011

Shredded lettuces with a large dollop of guacamole on top, with chopped tomatoes and onions and cilantro on top of the dollop. Olives and sour cream too if you like. Delicious.
posted by iconomy at 1:43 PM on May 1, 2011

This doesn't avoid starch, but it's a really great side. Mexican Grilled Corn!
posted by troublewithwolves at 2:29 PM on May 1, 2011

Grilled summer squash. No need to pretty it up, just season it, grill it, and put it on the plate.
posted by Gilbert at 2:47 PM on May 1, 2011

It's Salvadoran rather than Mexican, but Curtido/cabbage salad is mighty tasty. It's also a light, bright contrast to the heavier elements of this kind of food.
posted by darksong at 3:22 PM on May 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I soak thinly sliced red onion in water for a bit, then drain and dress with lime juice, a little oil, cilantro, chilli pepper, salt and pepper. Great with fish tacos.
posted by hannahlambda at 3:26 PM on May 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

saute fresh (or parboiled, depending on how soft you like yours) green beans in olive oil and season with salt, your favorite chili powder (I like chiptole), and lime. Yum!
posted by sugarbiscuit at 3:44 PM on May 1, 2011

I recently made this mixed vegetable salad for a taco bar/wedding shower I hosted. It was awesome. I used the multi colored fingering potatoes and it was delicious and pretty. I also served roasted asparagus.
posted by classa at 4:30 PM on May 1, 2011

Chayote and pumpkin are sorta-kinda-starchy but not really, if you know what I mean.

Chayote, peeled, cored, sliced into vaguely-wedge shaped pieces, steamed, tossed with butter, lime and salt (or even just butter).

Pumpkin (a sweet variety), peeled, chunked, tossed in oil and salt, roasted til melting soft and blackening at the edges, drizzled with a pumpkin seed and tomatillo sauce.

Zucchini / courgettes, split and grilled, or diced and sauteed in oil and oregano.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:48 PM on May 1, 2011

Seconding curtido, but I find any kind of coleslaw goes well with Central American food. Add some minced jalapeños, toasted cumin seeds, and cilantro if you like the stuff (I do not) to whatever recipe appeals to you, and you're good to go.
posted by wreckingball at 4:54 PM on May 1, 2011

This is more fruit than vegetable, I guess, but there are lots of things that are salsas when chopped small but salads when chopped big.

Pretty much you want a hot, a sweet, some onion, some citrus juice, probably some cilantro, (unless you're St. Alia of the Bunnies), and whatever else sounds good, like garlic, &/or bell peppers, &/or jicama, if it's around, &/or avocados, &/or tomatoes.

With that recipe in mind, you go to the store and see what's in season. Around here right now it's strawberries and mangos.

Strawberries, fresh jalapenos chopped fine, maybe some jicama, bell peppers, lime and/or meyer lemon juice? I'd put in some green onions and cilantro but try it and see if you like it.

Heck, mangos AND strawberries sounds good to me.

Google {name of fruit}+ salsa for more ideas. Whatever the fruit is, someone's probably done it, or done something similar.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:39 PM on May 1, 2011

That cabbage salad listed up above is one I've had a bunch of times with Mexican food, though we've tweaked the recipe a bit to get to a taste we like more.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:41 PM on May 1, 2011

Roasted potatoes or roasted sweet potatoes, with or without seasonings. Fried plantains.

Avocado and mango salad (avocado, mango, slivered red onion, lettuce and I like honey-mustard dressing, although it's not authentic).

Pineapple salsa: diced pineapple, serrano peppers, red onion.

This soup, although it can be a main dish on its own:

Creamy Poblano Soup

2 poblano peppers (about 9 ounces total, see note)
1 teaspoon oil
½ cup diced red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon margarine or oil
1 tablespoon flour
4 cups vegetable broth, divided use
1 15.5-ounce can hominy, drained
1 12.3-ounce box firm silken tofu
1 medium avocado
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
Tortilla chips (optional)

Blister poblanos over a gas flame or under the broiler. Put in a paper bag or wrap with wax paper and allow to cool. Peel peppers and discard stems and seeds. Cut half of one pepper into short, thin strips and set aside.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a soup pot. Sauté onion and garlic until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add margarine or additional oil, melt, and stir in flour. Cook 1 minute. Add about a cup of vegetable broth and stir well. Continue to stir until soup thickens slightly.

Place hominy and tofu in a blender and add about a cup of vegetable broth. Blend, and pour most of the mixture into the soup. Add avocado, peppers and remaining broth to blender and blend. Add to soup. Stir in cumin and chili powder, and heat soup without boiling.

Divide among 5 or 6 bowls and top with reserved pepper strips and a few tortilla chips, if desired.
posted by zinfandel at 6:02 PM on May 1, 2011

Rajas con crema...! "Rajas con crema is the name given to a Mexican dish consisting of sliced Poblano pepper with cream." Onions are usually also added. "Cream" can be one or a few of many types of thick dairy whatnot. Sometimes other peppers are used if one is Canadian and one's access to poblanos is very limited, and it's still delicious.
posted by kmennie at 9:12 PM on May 1, 2011

Spicy pickled veggies are great. I love pickled carrots, garlic, onions, celery, and peppers. Plus you can make huge batches and they will keep for ages. Make them spicy!
posted by aganders3 at 9:40 AM on May 2, 2011

Thanks for the ideas, everyone - these are great!
posted by rossination at 10:46 PM on May 2, 2011

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