Help me jazz up my low-carb menu!
August 2, 2011 1:25 PM   Subscribe

What are some good low-carb side dishes?

I’m mainly looking for tasty things to serve with roasted meat, hamburgers, turkey burgers, and baked fish other than plain steamed veggies and garden salad.

I’m not looking for “good carb” dishes (brown rice, sweet potatoes) but need ideas for things that are pretty low in carbs overall. I’m not afraid of fats… things made with cheese, butter, sour cream, etc. are welcome. Also wouldn’t mind hearing about one-dish low-carb meals that don’t require a side dish. Thanks!
posted by Serene Empress Dork to Food & Drink (40 answers total) 136 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried roasting broccoli crowns? Toss with olive oil, salt and some chopped garlic (optional), and place in a roasting pan in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until tips are browned (check regularly). Toss with lemon juice and parmesan cheese (or feta cheese, for more of a bite). The same can be done to cauliflower, or green beans - the roasting caramelizes things a bit to deepen flavors.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 1:35 PM on August 2, 2011 [6 favorites]

Seconding roasted broccoli or cauliflower. Roasting brings out a nuttiness in both that is just amazing.

Right now since zucchini and crookneck squash are in season, I've been eating the heck out of both of them, sliced and sauteed in a bit of olive oil with a little crushed red pepper. So good.
posted by padraigin at 1:37 PM on August 2, 2011

There's always the classic "faux" mashed potatoes:
1 head cauliflower, steamed with two or three cloves of garlic, and swizzed with cream cheese to make a puree. Loosen with some of the cooking water, if it gets too thick to work properly.

Here's my favourite low-carb salad:
1 head fennel, sliced thinly
1 chunk feta cheese, diced small or crumbled
dill, fresh or dried
Olive oil
White wine vinegar

Mix, and season with pepper.

How about Broccoli Salad:
1 head broccoli, cut into small florets
1 lb bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
cheddar cheese, grated
1 shallot, chopped fine

Combine broccoli, bacon, cheese and shallot in a bowl. Make a dressing of mayonnaise and red wine vinegar, adding some artificial sweetener if you need for it to taste sweet. Season with pepper.

Since it's summer, grill some fresh veg! Toss zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant with olive oil, salt and pepper, and grill till brown and crispy enough for you.

Good luck!
posted by LN at 1:38 PM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Common items from my kitchen:

Bacon cheese cauliflower. I play around with that basic idea - sour cream instead of milk, or sliced garlic, or hot sauce, whatever. I also just like cauliflower tossed with oil, salt, pepper, then roasted until just about done then tossed with a little cheese (cheddar, parmesan, even goat).

Asparagus, with or without a poached egg over.

Sauteed mushrooms.

Oven fried zucchini using cheap "green top can" parmesan instead of bread. (Or eggplant)

Broccoli slaw

Creamed spinach
posted by Lyn Never at 1:40 PM on August 2, 2011

Deviled eggs
posted by thirteenkiller at 1:43 PM on August 2, 2011 Curry Roasted Cauliflower (warning: so delicious you will want to eat it as a main course).
posted by c'mon sea legs at 1:44 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just attended a BBQ dinner where the sides were a mix of veggies (mushrooms, a mix of green / red peppers, and red onions, all roughly chopped and in chunks) were placed on a baking pan and broiled in the oven after being drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with Mrs. Dash. Yummmmmmy. Easy clean up too since nothing was left over.
posted by HeyAllie at 1:44 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cut a medium eggplant into 1/2" slices. Lightly coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the slices out on a cookie sheet and roast at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes. While it's cooking, coat a casserole dish with red pasta sauce. Spread eggplant in casserole, top with sauce, shredded mozzarella and parm. Bake for a few minutes, then switch on the broiler to brown the top.

You can also do this entire process with chicken breasts or eggplant and chicken breasts for a delicious, low-carb faux parmigiana. Okay, so it's not one-dish, but it is yummy and filling!

Also, fresh asparagus. Buy it, wash it and trim it (know the trick here? Hold the butt end in one hand and the top in the other. Bend the butt end until it snaps. The stalk will break at the spot where it's no longer tough. Tender asparagus with no stringy stuff!) Lay it on a dinner plate and add a little water at the bottom. Cover with cling wrap and microwave on high for a minute or two until it's tender. Burn the shit out of your hands removing the cling wrap and serve asparagus with dill mayonnaise for dipping.
posted by workerant at 1:49 PM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Asparagus! ALL THE ASPARAGUS. Grilled and wrapped in the tasty pork product of your choice, with cheesy sauce for dipping!
posted by elizardbits at 1:59 PM on August 2, 2011

Sorry guys, asparagus is out of season and therefore not nearly as delicious as it should be, and also locavorecarbonfootprintGRARetc. If you are in part of the world where it is still in season, enjoy to your heart's content. But spring asparagus is one of the world's natural wonders and should be left to its season.

But broccoli (ink-stained wretch's recipe is from Amateur Gormet I believe) is in season and that recipe is AWESOME.

Also, ratatouille is good. Dice whatever vegetables you like (I like small dice, others prefer larger chunks...whatever). I like zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, green onions, and garlic. Cook together quickly with olive oil. Add balsamic and seasoning. Add pecorino or parmesan.

Or gratin - slice any vegetables you like and layer them in a cast-iron or oven-safe dish. I add potatoes, but you don't have to. Put cheese over the top (I like fresh mozzerella balls and shaved pecorino). Bake at 450 until golden brown and delicious.

Also, never underestimate the power of quickly sauteeing vegetables with garlic, olive oil and seasoning - it transforms vegetables. I use that combination with everything, but green beans (in season!) and zucchini (in season!) are stellar.
posted by guster4lovers at 2:14 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thirding roasty vegetables.

I also try to include a little dish of toasted nuts into the meal -- pepitas, cashews, pistachios, and some toasted walnuts. I sometimes mix mine with 70%+ dark chocolate and/or dried berries. Not quite low carb, but not too bad.

There are about a zillion variations you can make on these cheese and nut wafers. All of them yummy, but you have to use real butter.

Manchega cheese is my favorite for slicing and serving with meals. Tasty by itself, it's firm enough that slices can be used as "cracker" style supports for canapes.

You can also make crunchy little cheese "crisps" by dropping grated cheese (cheddar and parmesan work well) onto a hot non-stick pan and letting it fry until browned.

And, um... pork rinds. Especially with burgers, makes a crunchy and pretty satisfying replacement for chips.
posted by cross_impact at 2:15 PM on August 2, 2011

Scrambled eggs, spicy sausage, and re-fried beans.
posted by Flood at 2:20 PM on August 2, 2011

Oven-roasted okra is beyond delicious. Don't like okra slime? Soak fresh, uncut okra in a vinegar and water solution (strongish) for a half hour, then rinse with water. Cut the okra, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400 for a half-hour. SO tasty and slime-free.
posted by workerant at 2:24 PM on August 2, 2011 [8 favorites]

Braise a bunch of chopped-up kale with chopped onions and garlic in chicken broth, and a can of tomatoes, for twenty minutes in a covered pot.

posted by np312 at 2:35 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

This Broccoli Gratin recipe is to die for, and really versatile too. The breadcrumbs are unnecessary, any good melting cheese will do (even colby jack is great), and a half and half mixture of cream and sour cream does just fine in place of the crème fraîche. I usually add a little nutmeg, garlic, and white pepper to jazz it up too.
posted by TungstenChef at 3:07 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you thought about egg-based stuff? My mother and sister make a crustless quiche thing which is basically 4 beaten eggs, 1 cup cheese and whatever is around, baked. Tomato, broccoli, leeks, eggplant, beans, etc have all been used.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:08 PM on August 2, 2011

As far as one-dish low carb meals go, I've had the most success with Asian recipes. Curries and stir fries go well with cauliflower rice, and you can substitute thinly sliced bamboo shoots for noodles in many Asian dishes. Dishes with coconut milk in them, like Thai curries are deeply satisfying, sometimes I don't even feel the need to add a rice or noodle substitute to them.
posted by TungstenChef at 3:31 PM on August 2, 2011

What about some version of a bean salad? I practically live on the stuff at work. Raw green beans (you can blanch'em if you like them a bit softer), sliced onions, radishes, celery, bell peppers. Parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar for an Italian taste; chili flakes, white wine vinegar, cilantro, maybe some black beans for a Mexican taste; sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, maybe edamame or chickpeas for a Asian taste ... all kinds of possibilities.
posted by elendil71 at 3:48 PM on August 2, 2011

Steamed, salted edamame. (For beans, they are very low-carb.)
posted by tully_monster at 4:38 PM on August 2, 2011

peperonata... red/yellow bell peppers cut into strips and roasted or sauteed with balsamic vinegar and thyme.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:56 PM on August 2, 2011

Brussels sprouts, cut into quarters, roasted with bacon. Toss the sprouts with very little olive oil, salt and pepper. Chop several strips of bacon into small squares and mix with the sprouts, and roast in a shallow pan at 400 degrees for about half an hour. Check frequently, times seem tog vary a lot for this recipe, bacon should be crispy. Can also add pine nuts.

Steamed edamame in the pod with sea salt is awesome.

Old school red cabbage with bacon... You can probably google a recipe, my grandma makes this.

If you like sauerkraut, canned or bag sauerkraut rinsed and prepared with butter and grated carrot is nice, the carrot cuts the acidity and gives a richer flavor.

A veggie platter or carrot sticks with hummus.

Caprese salad (tomatoes and mozzarella in olive oil with basil.)

Roasted chick peas/ garbanzo beans. Not sure about carbs for these, but they are great roasted with a little olive oil and spices at 400 for about 45 mins. I like to toss them with a mix of garlic, curry, seasoned salt, chili powder, a tiny bit of nutmeg and cloves and crushed red pepper, and a bit of lime or lemon juice. They are nice and crispy and make a nice substitute for fries or chips.
posted by catatethebird at 5:27 PM on August 2, 2011

Oh, and my favorite recipe for summer squash and/or zucchini: slice thinly, sauté with salt, butter and garlic, cover with red wine and simmer, then top with a little Parmesan.
posted by catatethebird at 5:36 PM on August 2, 2011

Sauteed Okra with Quick Tomato Sauce is the dish that changed my mind about okra (and now I'm a fiend); bonus, it's super fast and won't heat your kitchen up too badly (right now where I live it's 105 F most days!). Really delicious.

And I dunno if your steamed veggie burnout includes this sort of thing, but when I get bored with just "straight up parcooked veggie plain" I reinvigorate that approach with different dressings/sauces. Zillions abound (Mollie Katzen, Deborah Madison, NYT compendia, AskMe, Eating Well are all good sources; check out international takes too) and many can be made low carb using pureed veggies, dairy products like yogurt and cottage cheese, oil and acids, nuts, eggs, etc. for body and flavor. Stuff like green goddess, both salsa verdes, other caper sauces, onion sauces, curry yogurt sauces, charmoula-type stuff, citrus-y spins from mirepoix/sofrito, etc. The nice thing there too is you can usually make said dressing ahead of time and just take it out of the fridge as your steamed veggies finish up.
posted by ifjuly at 5:39 PM on August 2, 2011

oh, i meant to warn that recipe/blog post comes from me; that was my years-ago roommate's half assed recipe blog and he asked me to contribute.
posted by ifjuly at 5:39 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wilted dandelion green salad. You chop bacon finely and cook it in some olive oil until short of crispy, then add some chopped onions and continue cooking, and then right at totally crispy you add some chopped garlic so it turns a pale gold.

Prior to doing all that though you set aside a little bowl with a few tablespoons of vinegar, a teaspoon of dijon mustard, and a teaspoon of brown sugar. And you chop dandelion greens, or escarole, or endive, or even spinach (but if it's spinach you really have to move faster when you start cooking or it gets more soggy than wilty) and have that set aside too.

After the garlic and onions and bacon are all uniformly crispy and golden you add the vinegar, which spits and unleashes a pretty intense steam at your head--so be careful--and let that boil and reduce a minute. You want it pretty hot. And then you put in your chopped greens and flip them around with tongues until they're about half wilted.

And that's that.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:55 PM on August 2, 2011

We eat a low carb diet. Not - no card...low carb.

Some summer side dishes we eat:

Mexican Street Corn
Vegetable Melody - zucchini, yellow squash, and onion with olive oil and poultry seasoning baked at 425 degrees F for about 25 minutes
Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Salad
Antipasto Platter or Salad
Asparagus and Green Beans with Tarragon Lemon Dip
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 5:56 PM on August 2, 2011

Lettuce wraps.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 6:17 PM on August 2, 2011

flip them around with tongues until they're about half wilted.

Flip them around with tongs. Not tongues. It is important to know the difference between the two, as it's the sort of thing that can make enemies.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:18 PM on August 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

nori wraps are awesome--check out for some good examples
posted by chaoscutie at 6:41 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Turnips! Peel, roast, mash, whatever, like potatoes.

Rutabagas (1 cup raw chopped (140 grams) - 7 grams of carbohydrate plus 4 grams fiber; 1 cup boiled and mashed (240 grams) - 17 grams carb, 4 grams fiber) are better for roasting.

White turnips (1 cup raw chopped (130 grams) - 6 grams plus 2 grams fiber; 1 cup boiled and mashed (230 grams) - 7 grams plus 5 grams fiber) are better for mashing.

And they have a nice bite to them that potatoes lack.

As a fellow low-carber, I am happy to recommend turnips for your potato-substitution needs.
posted by droplet at 7:39 PM on August 2, 2011

I forgot:

Ask your Brit pals (if you have them) if they know how to roast them, as they probably grew up having them most Sundays. When I've had an English-style Sunday roast dinner, the parsnips/rutabagas/turnips were inevitably golden brown and crispy on the outside in a way Americans would be happily pleased to eat.
posted by droplet at 7:43 PM on August 2, 2011

Cobb salad: lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, roast chicken, diced eggs, bacon, bleu cheese, and a light vinaigrette. Make it outrageous and special by adding the same amount of diced peaches as tomatoes (seriously, this is delicious.)

While we're on the subject of peaches and tomatoes, which are AMAZING together this year, you could just cut up equal parts of both, drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil, and top with bleu cheese or goat cheese. Maybe a wee bit of salt and pepper.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:58 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

These are FANTASTIC! So many things I never would have thought of. I can't wait to try some of these!
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:45 PM on August 2, 2011

Just to tack one more idea onto the already-impressive list of suggestions upthread, you can make many Asian noodle dishes low-carb by using shirataki noodles.
posted by treblemaker at 9:15 PM on August 2, 2011

I fry kale in a small amount of olive oil and soy sauce (good stuff, like Kikoman). I like the stalks, so I include them - I put them in first because they take longer to cook. Then I add the fresh kale, cut up into strips of about one inch - splash the soy sauce in, and keep turning on high heat. How long you cook the kale depends on your taste - the long you fry it, the more
it will cook down, like spinach (but not as fast).
posted by jb at 10:23 PM on August 2, 2011

White cabbage and onions, fried in butter and seasoned with black pepper and a little salt.

The secret is high heat: you really want them to fry and to brown a bit, and not just wilt or simmer or whatever. The heat makes them sweeter and zippier and less cabbagey-in-a-bad-way. (The other secret is to be kind of heavy-handed with the butter.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:00 AM on August 3, 2011

I was astonished to find out how delicious many different vegetable purees are, and how pleasant it can be to eat things with a spoon that I was already saying "boring!!" to eating chunks of with a fork. There's also the option of taking some hollow vegetable (bell pepper, scooped out tomato/zucchini) and refilling with puree. (I am lazy and will not google each of these things just so I can link the top google result.)
- Zucchini, roasted with an onion and pureed, is delicious, and can form the base of all sorts of dips/mixes, like adding fresh basil and garlic to make a pesto dip, adding onion/tomato/spices to make a faux-guacamole, adding tomato and Italian stuff and topping with cheese, etc.
- Kohlrabi is yummy, and it's mysteriously even yummier when pureed. Similarly, I made asparagus pesto once, and it was basically asparagus baby food with extra garlic and salt, yet it was delicious.
- See the cauliflower faux-mashed-potatoes above.
- Not just beans, but black-bean hummus, white-bean and garlic puree, etc.
- For purees in things, vegetable soufflees are delicious: corn, onion/leek, spinach/greens, summer squash... (getting to stuff like carrot, it's likely to have too much sugar to be low-carb.)
- Cucumber soup is pretty much just cucumbers and onions sauteed and pureed with some broth, yum cold or hot. Similarly, gazpacho is a slightly weak main dish unless it's doctored up with fat/protein of some sort, but a fantastic side.
posted by aimedwander at 7:20 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are a number of Paleo food blogs that post low carb recipes. Try:

Marks Daily Apple - his cookbooks are excellent too
The Foodee Project
Everyday Paleo - Sarah has a new cookbook too
The Primal Palate
posted by revan at 2:01 PM on August 3, 2011

Oh good, an excuse to link to my beloved Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli Salad recipe! I use a little less garlic and a little less olive oil.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:42 AM on August 4, 2011

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