Grilling salmon or baking chicken make for easy main dishes on a low-carb, high-fat diet, but the side dishes accompanying the show's stars are equally crucial in composing the entire meal experience.
And while your pre-keto sides may consist of an abundance of sugar, starch, grains, and other simple carbohydrates, there are loads of low-carb alternatives available to remake your classic favorites with a keto twist.
Plus, you can prepare many sides ahead and refrigerate or freeze them for longer-term meal prep, so you're always prepared with macro-friendly meals to heat and eat at will.
Also, as we near the holidays, you may be in search of keto-friendly recipes to make this year's meal extra special. And we've got a host of options to share to ensure you're ready to fête without the unwanted carbs.
Some may opt to eat sides as mains because these dishes are satisfying enough to enjoy as a mono-meal but pair them with a perfectly-cooked Porterhouse or some hearty slivers of dark meat turkey for the perfect plate.
Here are some of our beloved keto side selections that we hope you'll entertain this season and beyond:
1 - Keto Cranberry Sauce: There's no need to eliminate your beloved tart and sweet cranberry sauce for the holiday season; it's a flavorful addition that brightens any platter.
Set aside some time to make the sauce from scratch so you have complete control over the quality of your ingredients and which sweetener you use to keep carbs in check.
A fresh cup of raw cranberries offers four grams of fiber to offset its 12 grams of total carbs, so eating a half cup or so is entirely doable with a macro cost of around 4g net carbs per sitting.
2 - Garlic and Parmesan Roasted Asparagus: Crisp, roasted stalks of asparagus are fantastic as they are but add aromatic garlic and savory, fatty parmesan, and you have the perfect side that's good enough to eat all by itself.
Plus, with the aid of chopped store-bought garlic, creating this delicious side dish is a snap—you could go from fridge to table in about 15 minutes!
3 - Keto Creamed Spinach with Cheese: Eating vegetables is effortless when slathered in butter, heavy cream, and chives.
Plus, a side of creamy keto spinach is perfect for adding a touch of decadence to brighter citrusy mains like a filet of cod with a spritz of fresh lemon.
4 - Cheesy and Creamy Cauliflower Purée: Mashed potatoes is a family favorite for many; it's one veggie that kids usually eat enthusiastically. But those starchy spuds are a no-no on keto.
But it's no problem since cauliflower serves as the perfect potato alternative. Steam and drain some cauliflower rice and add it to a food processor with the cream, butter, salt, and seasonings, and blend until silky smooth, and you'll have a side that everyone can enjoy in minutes.
Plus, the texture and taste of a well-seasoned cauliflower purée will make you forget about its starchier counterpart. Trust us; you won't miss mashed potatoes once you get a load of this formidable alternative dish.
5 - Keto Gravy: Traditional gravy contains loads of grain-based flour that can quickly blow your macro budget. However, the aid of a few clever keto swaps can keep the sauce flowing this season for regular weeknights and family festivities.
Plus, pouring savory gravy atop your favorite holiday fixings is a fantastic way to add a touch of welcomed nostalgia as we reflect on all we're grateful for as we close out another year.
Sourcing a keto-friendly gravy in stores or online is a test of patience. However, products like xanthan gum are great ingredients to create a homemade sauce reminiscent of granny's own without the unwanted sugar and carbs.
- 6 - Ham & Gruyere Keto Casserole: Remember those sides we mentioned that are satisfying enough to stand alone? Yeah, this is one of those divine dishes, and better still, it's perfect for making during meal prep and then reheating and eating with minimal effort for weeknights when cooking is not in the cards.
7 - Roasted Zucchini and Mushrooms: Cubed zucchini and mushrooms appear unassuming, but they pair perfectly to deliver a dynamic side dish when drizzled with a bit of oil and roasted.
Both veggies absorb seasoning and flavors so well, and roasting amplifies taste and texture in ways that make it hard to believe how simple it is to make.
Plus, this cheesy and savory casserole offers a twist on mac & cheese that takes the flavor up a notch with the addition of bacon and chives, making any meal feel like a celebration.
- 8 - Golden Keto Cauliflower Bake: Bacon, cream cheese, and chives, oh my. Add juicy bits of cauliflower, and you have a yummy and filling keto casserole fit to serve as a side or a main keto dish.
- 9 - Creamy Keto Pumpkin Soup: A simple side like a comforting and slightly sweet creamy keto pumpkin variety is the perfect complement to a low-carb wrap or sandwich half. And it's easy to blend a few batches of soup ahead, portion them and heat and eat with the rest of your meal in moments.
- 10 - Bacon and Brussels Sprouts:The nooks and crannies in brussels sprouts are ideal for housing the satiating fat and hickory smoke flavor lent by the bacon in this recipe. Plus, it's easy to toss together chopped bacon and halved brussels sprouts and simply roast the oven until crisped to perfection.
11 - Buffalo Cauliflower Bites: We must give cauliflower the respect it's due because this marvelous cruciferous vegetable enables us to create a converted low-carb version of everything from pizza to rice.
But the fun doesn't end there: using cauliflower florets to create buffalo cauliflower bites or keto sweet and sticky bites is a creative way to expand your culinary options—especially on days you prefer to eat more plant-based options.
12 - Zucchini Fritters: Potato cakes and fritters are delightful topped with a poached egg, but the carb count could quickly drive anyone out of metabolic ketosis.
Luckily, grated zucchini and parmesan cheese combine to create a most pleasing fritter with macros ideal for those living a low-carb lifestyle.
13 - Broccoli & Cheese Soup: Creamy & Keto Broccoli and Cheese Soup creates a silky and savory side to enjoy with other keto foods or as a delicious and satisfying main dish offering.
Bake or buy a loaf of keto bread and make a grilled cheese to pair with this creamy soup for a double dose of calcium and cheesy goodness.
- 14 - Keto Onion Rings: French fries are a favorite fast-food side for their fatty and salty goodness with an added crunch. But a better option on keto is an equally-delicious onion ring battered in low-carb breading and fried in your favorite neutral oil.
- 15 - Green Bean Casserole: Even the littles tend to be willing to give green beans a try. These stalks are flavorful and fun to play with plain, but they elevate to new culinary heights when bathed in a creamy wash, peppered with bacon, and topped with bubbling cheese.
16 - Keto Oven-Roasted Vegetables: Adding colorful veggies to your meal plan adds esthetic and nutritional value, and making super-simple options like oven-roasted vegetables is a great choice any night of the week.
Line a baking pan with parchment paper, pile on red bell peppers, broccoli, and other hearty veggies, and then top with a drizzling of omega-3-rich avocado oil and a sprinkling of mineral-rich sea salt. Bake until tender and serve, even directly from oven to table, using a decorative, oven-safe dish.
- 17 - King Keto Taco Casserole: Toss together some salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumbers, and whatever else you have on hand to build a massive salad and pair it with a craving-crushing tasty taco casserole with all of the flavors you desire with none of the added carbs.
18 - Cauliflower Faux-tato Salad: Again, cauliflower is a master chameleon and can stand in place of many high-glycemic starchy ingredients but with a fraction of the carbohydrate macros.
With your favorite creamy and tangy mayonnaise, celery, onions, salt, and seasonings, you can recreate a treasured side dish classic with significantly fewer carbs.
19 - Keto Garlic Bread: So many fear that avoiding carbs means banishing bread from the menu for life, but that's not necessary.
Whether you reach for a convenient keto-friendly bread or biscuit mix or use grain-free options like almond, lupin, or coconut flour to create mouth-wateringly delicious baked goods to satisfy any sweet or savory craving.
Plus, incorporate garlic, butter, and chopped herbs into the recipe, and there will be no reason to reach for the higher-carb fare—keto bread is entirely hearty and satisfying.
- 20 - Keto Coleslaw: Cabbage is a fantastic cruciferous veggie to add to your diet because of its fiber content and potential benefit to gut health—primarily when fermented. But in addition to cooked recipes, cabbage serves as the perfect base for a crisp and creamy classic coleslaw, sans sugar, of course, that pairs perfectly with a seared grass-fed burger or as a complement to your holiday spread.
Plus, canned food items can come in handy when you only have enough time to pop a top, heat, and eat. Here are some packaged low-carb sides to consider:
- Diced canned chicken may not be a side dish, but it is the perfect ingredient to have available to help a simple veggie stir-fry come together, even if access to fresh poultry is limited in stores.
- You can use a variety of canned low-glycemic vegetables to add flavor and flair to simple meals. Options like asparagus, hearts of palm, green beans, or lupini beans are excellent to keep stocked in your keto pantry.
- Bone broth is a fantastic base for soups and stews, but it's also outstanding to sip on some bare mineral-rich, salted broth alongside a keto-friendly salad for a light and gut-healthy meal that's easier on your digestive system.
- A side salad is always in fashion and the perfect companion dish to any keto-friendly fare. Plus, eating a huge salad a day is beneficial to ensure you’re eating nutrient-dense ingredients along with fiber to aid in satiety and healthy digestion.
Plus, salads like our beloved So KETO Kimchi Salad is a lovely and light selection that’s bright flavor cuts through and enhances the balance of high-fat meals that could otherwise read a bit heavy.
Also, get ahead and consider prepping salads in a jar and you’ll always have a healthy and delicious meal option prepped to go alongside a filet of fish or savory batch of buttered chicken thighs.
Whether eating your sides as mains or using them as colorful and flavorful enhancements, your options are many. Plus, pairing low-carb sides with your primary dishes adds a wide variety of recipes to your keto roster—a fabulous way to stay interested in your meal plan as you curb carbs and seek to eat more premium healthy proteins and fats.
Use the recipes we've shared as a starting point, but know that the possibilities of the different keto side dishes to make are limited only by your imagination.
Plus, with all the helpful keto ingredients, we can alternate in classic recipes to curb the carbs; experimenting with the abundance of low-carb side selections will give you plenty to enjoy for many months and years to come.