30 Unexpected Holiday Sides That Will Steal The Show

crab casserole in white dish
crab casserole in white dish - Erin Johnson/Daily Meal

The holidays are all about celebrating great food and great company. With so much going on this time of year, it's tempting to stick with tried-and-true classics when it comes to planning your meals. But serving repeats year after year can make for stale dinners and bored diners. So, instead of sticking with the same old holiday recipes, why not mix it up this season with some unexpected dishes?

Injecting new life into your holiday menu doesn't necessarily mean scrapping everything and starting from scratch. You can still keep your favorites on hand while mixing them up with some fresh, fun, and unique side dishes to add some flair to your spread. We've made it easy for you by putting together a round-up of our best show-stopping sides that will surprise and delight your guests. Some are riffs on classics; others veer further off the beaten path -– all are sure to elevate any holiday feast.

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Sautéed Garlic Broccolini

broccolini on plate with lemon
broccolini on plate with lemon - Kristen Carli/Daily Meal

This simple yet impressive side dish focuses on one main ingredient: broccolini. This relative of broccoli has a mild flavor and crunchy yet delicate texture and needs minimal cooking time, meaning you can throw this delicious recipe together in about 15 minutes. Lemon and garlic accentuate the vegetable's fresh flavor without overpowering it, giving you a vibrant dish to brighten the rest of your holiday spread.

Recipe: Sautéed Garlic Broccolini

Cheesy Savory Monkey Bread

monkey bread on a plate
monkey bread on a plate - Erin Johnson/Daily Meal

Every holiday meal needs some kind of bread on the table so diners can sop up all the delectable sauces and gravies. Instead of going with traditional dinner rolls, try this monkey bread, which wows not just with its taste and texture but also with its fun and festive presentation. Using canned biscuit dough keeps preparation simple, while the rainbow of different cheeses and seasonings adds big punches of flavor to every bite.

Recipe: Cheesy Savory Monkey Bread

Lemon-Roasted Rutabaga

lemon roasted rutabaga in bowl
lemon roasted rutabaga in bowl - Jennine Rye/Daily Meal

Root vegetables are always a welcome staple on the holiday table. If you're looking to branch out from your usual potatoes and carrots, this lemon-roasted rutabaga recipe may be just the dish for you. Rutabaga, a relative of cabbage and turnips, develops a rich, creamy texture and crispy exterior when roasted in the oven, making it a substantial starchy side. A little bit of honey brings out the vegetable's natural sweetness.

Recipe: Lemon-Roasted Rutabaga

Perfectly Seasoned Quinoa

cooked quinoa in white bowl
cooked quinoa in white bowl - Susan Olayinka/Daily Meal

Fluffy, flavorful quinoa makes a fantastic holiday side dish. This grain's naturally nutty taste melds well with fall and winter flavors and needs only a few deftly added herbs -- here, we use parsley, oregano, and thyme -- to give it just the right seasoning. Plus, quinoa is full of fiber, protein, and other important nutrients, so you can feel good adding this superfood to your holiday recipe repertoire.

Recipe: Perfectly Seasoned Quinoa

Baked Spaghetti Squash

spaghetti squash with marinara sauce
spaghetti squash with marinara sauce - Miriam Hahn/Daily Meal

This baked spaghetti squash recipe does double duty on your holiday table. It gives you the look and texture of a noodle dish with the flavor and nutrition of a vegetable dish. While marinara sauce makes an excellent accompaniment, any sauce, gravy, or topping works well with the squash's mellow flavor. Be sure to use caution -- and a properly sharpened knife -- when cutting through the squash's hardy exterior.

Recipe: Baked Spaghetti Squash

Instant Pot Risotto Alla Parmigiana

risotto in a white bowl
risotto in a white bowl - Deniz Vergara/Daily Meal

Risotto may seem like a rather time-consuming and labor-intensive side to add to a holiday menu. But in an Instant Pot, the dish comes together with very little hands-on work and in nearly no time at all. This satisfyingly creamy, cheesy side adds a layer of sophistication and elegance to your meal, and no one has to know you took a shortcut to get it on the table.

Recipe: Instant Pot Risotto Alla Parmigiana

Truffled French Fries

truffled french fries on parchment
truffled french fries on parchment - Susan Olayinka/Daily Meal

Potatoes are no stranger to many a holiday menu. But rather than go with the usual mashed or roasted versions, bring a little bistro character to your meal with these crispy, crunchy french fries. A drizzle of truffle oil elevates these spuds from fast-food to gourmet, so they're not just fare for the kids' table. The truffle flavor works as a wonderful complement to other earthy fall and winter ingredients like wild rice, grains, root vegetables, and especially mushrooms.

Recipe: Truffled French Fries

Easy Baked Kale Chips

baked kale chips in bowl
baked kale chips in bowl - Miriam Hahn/Daily Meal

Serving greens as part of a holiday meal is a must, and there are so many ways to make them. While salads and sautés are what typically come to mind, you can give your guests an unexpected twist on greens with these kale chips. Curly kale works best as it develops ridges of crunchy texture along its edges. These chips serve as a great crispy contrast if you have a lot of side dishes with softer consistencies.

Recipe: Easy Baked Kale Chips

Spruced-Up Green Bean Casserole

green bean casserole in skillet
green bean casserole in skillet - Erin Johnson/Daily Meal

Casseroles always make great holiday side dishes, and the green bean casserole has stood the test of time to be one of the most popular to serve when this time of year rolls around. While this version may not seem unusual at first glance, the addition of minced cloves of garlic and fresh sliced mushrooms amp up the dish's classic flavors while still staying true to the original inspiration.

Recipe: Spruced-Up Green Bean Casserole

Everything Roasted Cauliflower

bowl of roasted cauliflower
bowl of roasted cauliflower - Veselovaelena/Getty Images

Everything seasoning may have made a name for itself on bagels, but it's proven to be an incredibly versatile spice blend on everything from meats to popcorn to roasted veggies, like cauliflower. The mix of garlic, onion, and seeds adds just the right pop of savory flavor and texture to mellow cauliflower, which gets nicely tender and golden-brown in the oven. Everything seasoning is fairly easy to find these days, but you can also make your own.

Recipe: Everything Roasted Cauliflower

Easy Corn Pudding

corn pudding in baking dish
corn pudding in baking dish - Kristen Carli/Daily Meal

While corn is a seasonal summer vegetable, you can enjoy its sweet, sunny flavor all year round by using canned corn in recipes like this one. The sweetness of this pudding works well as a foil for more savory holiday dishes. It can also be something of a blank canvas, easily altered to fit whatever flavor profile you're going for with simple additions like herbs, spices, cheese, or other vegetables.

Recipe: Easy Corn Pudding

3-Ingredient Pigs In A Blanket

pigs in blanket on plate
pigs in blanket on plate - Kristen Carli/Daily Meal

There may not be an easier way to bring a smile to your guests' faces than with this super easy, only three-ingredient Pigs in a Blanket. Canned dough and pre-cooked mini hot dogs make easy work of this classic cocktail party snack, which is sure to delight kids and adults alike when served as an appetizer or side dish for your holiday meal. Don't forget to put a dipping sauce or two on the table.

Recipe: 3-Ingredient Pigs In A Blanket

Jalapeño Popper Sausage Balls

Jalapeño sausage balls in bowl
Jalapeño sausage balls in bowl - Erin Johnson/Daily Meal

These creamy, spicy sausage balls are basically jalapeño poppers in meatball form. While these nuggets may seem more at home as part of a game day spread than a holiday table, they make a nice flavor-packed, meaty side dish perfect for carnivores and chile lovers. If you find your old holiday recipes a little too bland, these sausage balls will add some much-needed firepower to your menu.

Recipe: Jalapeño Popper Sausage Balls

Quick Bacony Collard Greens

collard greens on plate
collard greens on plate - Christina Musgrave/The Daily Meal

While many recipes for collard greens call for eons of long, slow cooking time, this quick version can be on the table in less than half an hour. Bacon provides flavorful fat for sautéeing the greens as well as a crispy, crunchy textural element that makes each bite pop with flavor. A dash of chili flakes adds just a bit of heat and can be adjusted depending on how much spice your guests can handle.

Recipe: Quick Bacony Collard Greens

Easy Garlic Bread

cut garlic bread on board
cut garlic bread on board - Christine Musgrave/Daily Meal

Garlic bread isn't just for pasta night. It makes a fabulous accompaniment to any holiday feast, upgrading the bread element of your meal with an extra boost of flavor. The mixture of butter, fresh garlic, parmesan cheese, and parsley can be spread on any kind of bread you have on hand. You only need 10 minutes in the oven to transform a plain loaf into a toasty golden, flavor-packed holiday side, perfect for mopping up juices and gravy.

Recipe: Easy Garlic Bread

Maple-Dijon Brussels Sprouts

brussels sprouts in serving bowl
brussels sprouts in serving bowl - Kristen Carli/Daily Meal

Far from the bland, bitter Brussels sprouts you may be used to, this recipe takes the once-underrated vegetable to new heights. These sprouts are coated with a deceptively simple glaze that perfectly balances sweetness and zing from the blend of maple syrup and spicy Dijon mustard. Slicing the sprouts in half and roasting them in the oven allows them to soften on the inside while developing a nicely caramelized exterior.

Recipe: Maple-Dijon Brussels Sprouts

Dippable Crab Rangoon

crab casserole in white dish
crab casserole in white dish - Erin Johnson/Daily Meal

Crispy-fried crab rangoon dumplings may not be a dish you think of when it comes to holiday meals. Forming dumplings is time-consuming, and frying them is an ordeal. But you can get all the satisfying texture and flavor of crab rangoon without all the fuss by turning the filling into a baked dip. This creamy, rich, and savory dish can be spread on bread, spooned onto a plate, or served with crispy wonton wrappers for crunchy dipping.

Recipe: Dippable Crab Rangoon

Greek-Style Roasted Potatoes

plated chicken and roasted potatoes
plated chicken and roasted potatoes - Kristen Carli/Daily Meal

There are about a million ways to make roasted potatoes, and some methods can leave you with boring, one-note spuds. But this recipe, inspired by Greek flavors, delivers on all fronts. The combination of multi-colored potatoes gives the dish visual appeal, while the blend of dried herbs and punch of lemon juice adds bright and zesty flavors. Making sure the potatoes aren't crowded in the roasting pan will maximize their crispy edges.

Recipe: Greek-Style Roasted Potatoes

Oysters Rockefeller

oysters Rockefeller on a pan
oysters Rockefeller on a pan - Bhofack2/Getty Images

If you want an absolute show-stopper of a side dish to grace your holiday table, look no further than oysters Rockefeller. Sophisticated, elegant, and decadent, this classic dish takes freshly shucked oysters and tops them with a creamy mixture of spinach, bacon, and cheese before topping them with breadcrumbs that get crisped and golden in the oven. It's hard to imagine a classier, more impressive dish to serve guests on a special holiday.

Recipe: Oysters Rockefeller

Baked Whole Cauliflower With Indian Spices And Mint

baked whole cauliflower in skillet
baked whole cauliflower in skillet - istock.com/bhofack2

This recipe turns colorless, mild-tasting cauliflower into a dramatically presented, explosively flavor-packed dish that's sure to impress meat-eaters and vegetarians alike at your holiday table. Leaving the cauliflower whole and brining it before cooking gives the vegetable a gorgeous look and impressive depth of flavor worthy of a main dish. This is a labor-intensive recipe, but it is worth every step.

Recipe: Baked Whole Cauliflower with Indian Spices and Mint

Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Jammy Eggs

roasted Brussels sprouts with eggs
roasted Brussels sprouts with eggs - Pete & Gerrys Organic Eggs

It's easy to get everyone excited about their vegetables with this recipe that's a symphony of textures and flavors. Halved and roasted Brussels sprouts are the main event, but that's just the beginning -- breadcrumbs add toast and crunch, and boiled eggs with soft, golden yolks bring rich, silky smoothness to each bite. Garlic, fennel, and lemon keep the flavors bright and brimming with Mediterranean flair.

Recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Jammy Eggs

Classic Cheddar Cheese Ball

cheese ball with crackers
cheese ball with crackers - Christina Musgrave/Daily Meal

This festive dish is made for holiday parties. While you may think of the cheese ball as a cocktail party hors d'oeuvre, it works just as well as a dish served with a more formal meal. Who wouldn't want to spread a soft, creamy mix of cheese and crunchy bites of almonds on a cracker or piece of bread in between bites of turkey? A food processor makes this recipe a cinch, and you can form the ball in advance to make things even easier.

Recipes: Classic Cheddar Cheese Ball

Baked Mac And Cheese

macaroni and cheese on plate
macaroni and cheese on plate - Jessica Morone/Daily Meal

It's hard to think of a more satisfying side than good old mac and cheese, especially during chilly holiday months. This recipe delivers on every aspect of the dish that makes it a classic: Perfectly cooked noodles, velvety sauce, and a crisp golden breadcrumb topping. You can easily make this dish your own by switching the cheeses, adding meat or vegetables, or spicing things up with different seasonings.

Recipe: Baked Mac And Cheese

Easy Broccoli Salad

broccoli salad in white bowl
broccoli salad in white bowl - Miriam Hahn/The Daily Meal

This salad is chock full of the flavors of winter and fall, making it the perfect cold vegetable dish to include on a holiday menu. The maple syrup, soy sauce, and spice-roasted almonds take this salad to the next level, adding a smoky, sweet, salty crunch to each bite. The colorful blend of ingredients makes this dish just as much a pleasure to look at as it is to eat.

Recipe: Easy Broccoli Salad

Ultimate Creamed Spinach

creamed spinach in baking dish
creamed spinach in baking dish - Erin Johnson/Daily Meal

Technically, you're getting your greens with this dish, but let's be honest -- it's really the rich, creamy, cheesy element that makes this a top-notch holiday side. You can adjust the ratio of spinach to dairy if you like yours a little greener, but you still want to make sure there's creaminess aplenty. Don't skip the nutmeg, as a tiny touch of the warm spice brings out dimensions of flavor.

Recipe: Ultimate Creamed Spinach

Classic Creamy Scalloped Potatoes

scalloped potatoes on plate
scalloped potatoes on plate - Kristen Carli/Daily Meal

When it comes to luxurious, indulgent ways to prepare potatoes, this recipe is hard to beat. Baked in a creamy sauce and topped with a golden layer of cheese, this rich dish may just be the pinnacle of potato perfection when it comes to impressive holiday sides. A mandoline will give you the best results by ensuring thin, even slices of potato, but careful cutting with a kitchen knife can work, too.

Recipe: Classic Creamy Scalloped Potatoes

Cheddar Herb Hasselback Potatoes

hasselback potato on plate
hasselback potato on plate - McCormick

Hasselback potatoes are always a scene-stealer on whatever table they grace, whether it's a casual weeknight dinner or a huge holiday feast. Getting the slicing just right so the potato can be fanned out but still hold together can take some practice, but it's worth the effort. The slices create an extra surface area that gives the potatoes a crispy texture while allowing the toppings to melt into the grooves, bringing bursts of flavor to every bite.

Recipe: Cheddar Herb Hasselback Potatoes

Baked Sweet Potato

baked sweet potatoes on plate
baked sweet potatoes on plate - Anna Shepulova/Shutterstock

Sweet potatoes often show up on the holiday table in the form of a casserole or pie, but these rich root vegetables really don't need anything but heat to turn them into a delicious side. If you've got a little bit of extra space in the oven, you can throw these potatoes in wherever there's room and let them bake through in less than an hour. Diners can top them with the usual baked potato fixings, like sour cream, butter, bacon, and chives.

Recipe: Baked Sweet Potato

Green Beans Almondine

green beans held in tongs
green beans held in tongs - Jennine Rye/Daily Meal

A few small additions take plain green beans and transform them into an elegant, French-inspired side in this impressive holiday recipe. Buttery, toasty almonds add a rich, textural dimension to the vegetable, along with fresh thyme and aromatics to enhance the beans' natural flavor. The secret ingredient that pushes this over the top is sumac, a deep red spice that gives off a tangy, citrusy, and floral quality that brings the whole dish together.

Recipe: Green Beans Almondine

Nước Chấm Crab Cake

crab cakes with sauce
crab cakes with sauce - Catherine Brookes/Daily Meal

Suppose you're looking to really wow your guests with flavor; these Vietnamese-inspired crab cakes are the perfect holiday side dish. Fish sauce, soy sauce, and lime juice add a savory tang, along with ginger and chili, to spice things up. Fresh crab meat is ideal if you're lucky enough to get your hands on some, but imitation crab can work in a pinch -- these cakes will still taste delicious.

Recipe: Nước Chấm Crab Cake

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