11 Insanely Easy Side Dishes That You Can Make Ahead and Freeze

Freeze all the things! Even your side dishes. 

Side dish recipes are, for me, often the trickiest part of getting dinner on the table.

There are only so many times I can roast broccoli florets with olive oil and salt (my normal weeknight go-to) and instead make one of our side dishes a little more interesting.

The problem with “interesting” side dishes on a weeknight, though? They usually take too dang long. We’re working against the clock here, people!

That’s why I started seeking out some easy side dishes that did double duty as banging freezer meals.

If I could throw a couple together on a weekend and store for later, I knew it would save me time on the weeknights; bonus was it would change up our boring side dish routine!

So here are some of the tastiest side dishes I’ve found out on these there interwebs lately. I’ve saved them to my Side Dishes Pinterest board, where I’m always adding new pins and recipes, so if you dig this list, make sure to follow that board, too!


Lemon Parmesan Zucchini from Damn Delicious

Baked Zucchini Bites from Give It Some Thyme

Balsamic Glazed Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts from Girl In the Kitchen

Cauliflower Rice from Cook Eat Paleo

Parmesan Garlic Cabbage from Real Housemoms

Freezer Slaw from The Daring Gourmet

Confetti Corn from Better Homes and Gardens

Freezer Mashed Potatoes from The Kitchn

Spinach Balls from Genius Kitchen

Freezer Dinner Rolls from Cooking with Karli

Potato Latkes from Tori Avey


There you have it: a whole buncha freezer sides to get you going! Now I’ve just gotta find the time to batch cook on a weekend….

Maple Butter Carrots

Get your kids eating this easy carrot side dish on a weeknight dinner this week! They hold up well in the fridge for a few days, too- making it a meal prep rockstar.

Hey, wanna know how to get your kids eating more vegetables?

Make a carrot dish dish with butter and maple syrup.

I know, I know. It sounds like you’re basically making candy out of carrots.

And honestly, in a way, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

This kid-friendly carrot side dish is big, soft bites of carrot, cooked in butter and maple syrup.

First, you caramelize the carrots in butter, getting a lovely brown and toasty thang going.

Then, you add maple syrup and a lid to the pot, so they steam in the sweetness and retain that lovely brown caramelization.

We love these carrots on the side of something hearty, like a pot roast or roast chicken.

And they hold up like rockstars in the fridge for up to 5 days, so they get an extra participation trophy in the meal prep game!

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Maple Butter Carrots

  • Author: Ruthy Kirwan

Description

Bite-sized chunks of carrot are browned in butter and then a lid is added and they are steamed with maple syrup, making these kid-friendly and a great side dish for your weeknight dinner tale. I used peeled, chopped carrots but baby carrots work great, too!


Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter

3 pounds carrots, peeled and ends trimmed

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons maple syrup

½ cup water


Instructions

Chop the carrots into bite sized pieces.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Add the carrots and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots have begun to brown and caramelize in the butter.

Add the maple syrup and stir to coat, then add the water and quickly cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid.

Cook the carrots until the water has dissolved and the carrots have softened through, about 5 minutes.


Feta and Garlic Stewed Spinach

Frozen spinach gets a blast of cheese and garlic in this easy to make side!

I’m forever looking for easy sides to throw together for a quick dinner.

It’s like, my obsession. For reals, check out my “Easy Sides” Pinterest board. I’m always adding to it!

One thing I needed more of were sides that used frozen vegetables.

I mean, they’re cheap. They’re easy. They’re great to keep on hand as a backup. And research shows that freezing vegetables quickly after they’ve been picked retains their nutrients and vitamins.

I had a block of chopped spinach sitting in my freezer for, oh, 3 months?

Honestly, I was sick of looking at the thing. And guess what? We needed a side for dinner that night.

So I stewed the frozen spinach on the stovetop with broth, garlic, and some parmesan, and then I smothered it in crumbled feta before serving.

Ever eat a vegetable side so good it makes your eyes roll in the back of your head? If so, try this!

Frozen spinach side nirvana, baby.

We made it again. Then again. And I was eventually like, “this needs to be shared with the world”.

And so, I present to you: the easiest, more flavor packed frozen spinach side this little blog has ever seen.

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Feta and Garlic Stewed Spinach

  • Author: Ruthy Kirwan

Description

This easy side comes together best when used with frozen chopped spinach, but you can use fresh spinach leaves if that’s what you have on hand.


Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed

3 large garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

½ cup chicken or vegetable broth

½ cup crumbled feta


Instructions

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the spinach, garlic, parmesan cheese and stir to combine, then add the broth.

Place a tight fitting lid on the pan and reduce the heat the low. Simmer 5-8 minutes until the garlic has softened and the spinach is fragrant.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the crumbled feta. Serve warm.



Slow Cooker Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Creamy, garlicky, perfect mashed potatoes, made in the slow cooker! This means less hands-on work for you, making this crockpot mashed potatoes recipe perfect for holiday meals or a meal prep side.

I’m a big proponent of using your slow cooker as a meal prep powerhouse.

You mean, I just have to throw in some ingredients, turn the thing on, and it does the work for me?

Yessss, lady! #praisehands

Finding time to get meal prep into an already busy week is tough enough.

But the crockpot makes light work of that, and these creamy, dreamy mashed potatoes prove that.

Big chunks of peeled potatoes are cooked with whole garlic cloves, a little bit of water and butter, and salt. THAT’S IT.

Then you let those flavors come together sloooowwwwlly, before whisking in milk at the end and mashing everything up.

It makes for a great hands-off holiday meal side, meal prep side, “I’m-in-love-with-mashed-potatoes-and-I-don’t-care-who-knows-it” side.

You do you, honey boo.

And then throw some potatoes in a crockpot and forget about them for a while.

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Slow Cooker Garlic Mashed Potatoes

  • Author: Ruthy Kirwan

Description

Creamy, garlicky, super easy mashed potatoes- made entirely in your slow cooker! Free up your oven or just make this simple side when you’re not at home.


Ingredients

2 pounds russet potatoes

6 large cloves garlic

2 tablespoons butter

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup water

½ cup milk


Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes and slice into large chunks.
  2. Lightly smash the garlic to break the papery outsides, then peel the cloves.
  3. Add the potatoes, garlic, butter, salt and water to a 4 or 6 quart slow cooker and secure the lid.
  4. Cook on low for 3 hours.
  5. When the potatoes are ready, remove the lid and add the milk.
  6. Mash the potatoes until creamy and serve.

Harvest Rice Bake with Crispy Breadcrumbs

A simple Harvest Rice Bake, perfect for your holiday table (and a great vegan Thanksgiving side!) Add a shower of crumbled goat cheese if you’re missing out on the creaminess, and don’t forget to use panko bread crumbs- they amp the crispiness in this easy dish.

Harvest Rice Bake is a perfect vegan Thanksgiving side! Made with sweet potatoes, vegetable broth, wholegrain brown rice, and topped with crispy breadcrumbs.

Somehow, some way, we made it to October. 

It’s already the second week of the month, guys, and I’m torn between feeling dizzy at the thought that 2018 is almost to a close, and at the same time gleefully pulling out all my sweaters, boots, and comfy cold-weather clothes.

In other words, see ya later, spaghetti straps. I’ll start missing you in February. Today, I’m all about the knits.

Knits that feel extra cozy when we think about this simple Harvest Rice Bake, made with just a handful of ingredients and is -get this! – the perf vegan Thanksgiving side.

I mean, vegans need love on Thanksgiving too, right? The day is about more than just the turkey!

Of course, if you’re like me, you shower the top of this Harvest Rice Bake with crumbled goat cheese because #IHEARTCHEESE and even though I love me a good vegan buddy, I’m not losing the cheese. So feel free to do whichever version floats your foodie boat.

This is another rice dish made using VeeTee Rice, the company kind enough to sponsor this post (meaning I received some compensation and free rice in exchange for the time and effort it took to develop and photograph the recipe below)

VeeTee par-cooks their rice prior to packaging. This means their rice blends are the perfect match for recipes like this, recipes that “finish” the rice during the overall baking process.

Harvest Rice Bake is a perfect vegan Thanksgiving side! Made with sweet potatoes, vegetable broth, wholegrain brown rice, and topped with crispy breadcrumbs.



| READ: Thanksgiving Turkey With Herb Butter Seasoning

Remember the kimchi fried rice and the spicy arancini from earlier this year? This is along the same lines; the vegetables and rice cook together in the pan, but since the rice is parcooked, the starch within the rice releases earlier in the cooking process, making the whole dish all creamy and yummy and bring in fall flavors like whoa.  

I used sweet potatoes and yellow onions in this recipe, but I’m already playing with adding sliced brussels sprouts, or butternut squash, or even chunks of apples into the mix.

You know, like all the fall things that are glorious and wonderful. Grab your wooly socks and a steaming cup of tea and let’s fall the hell out of tonight with a Harvest Rice Bake.

Harvest Rice Bake is a perfect vegan Thanksgiving side! Made with sweet potatoes, vegetable broth, wholegrain brown rice, and topped with crispy breadcrumbs.
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Harvest Rice Bake is a perfect vegan Thanksgiving side! Made with sweet potatoes, vegetable broth, wholegrain brown rice, and topped with crispy breadcrumbs.

Harvest Rice Bake

  • Author: Ruthy Kirwan

Description

This Harvest Rice Bake brings together simple fall flavors using the ease of VeeTee Rice, a parcooked microwaveable rice. If you’re using regular rice, cook the same amount halfway before stirring it in as in Step 3.


Ingredients

  • 1 10 ounce package VeeTee whole grain brown rice
  • substitute: 1 ½ cups brown rice
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (about 2 sprigs)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For serving:

  • ½ cup crumbled goat cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*F and grease an 8×8” baking dish.
  2. If using regular brown rice, cook the rice halfway according to the instructions on the packaging. Remove from the heat when the outside of the grain has softened but the insides are still hard.
  3. Prepare the ingredients:
    1. Peel and chop the sweet potato into 1” size dice
    2. Peel and dice the onion.
    3. Peel and mince the garlic
  4. In a large bowl, combine the rice, sweet potato, onion, garlic, thyme, salt, and vegetable broth. Stir to combine, then pour into the baking dish.
  1. Cover the dish tightly with a lid or wrap in foil. Place in the oven and bake 30 minutes or until the sweet potatoes have softened all the way through.
  2. While the dish is baking, heat the olive oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Stir in the breadcrumbs until they are coated in the oil, then continue to cook, stirring often, until the breadcrumbs have turned a golden brown and crispy. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. When the rice dish is done baking, scatter the dish evenly with the fried breadcrumbs and serve warm. If desired, sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese prior to serving.

Crispy Spanish Rice Arancini (simple appetizer recipe for a party!)

This simple, three-ingredient recipe makes a fabulous party appetizer, or just a fun weeknight dinner side! This post sponsored by VeeTee Rice. Read my disclosure statement here.  

Here’s a simple appetizer recipe for a party that you can whip up in under 20 minutes! Spicy Latin flavors combine with a classic Italian appetizer to create these Crispy Spanish Rice Balls.

Spicy Spanish rice is bound with egg, coated in breadcrumbs, fried crispy, and studded with melty pops of soft Spanish cheese. It’s a simple appetizer recipe for a party that you can throw together with just 4 ingredients!

I’ve mentioned this before, but we’re rice fiends in our home. I love how versatility and inexpensive it is, and how it bulks up pretty much any dish.

We eat rice spicy, cheesy, fried with kimchi, made ahead as meal prep, bulked up under a fast weeknight curry, and a million other ways.

These Spanish style rice balls are a cross between two of my favorite ways to use rice, Spanish rice, and Italian arancini.


Read: Easy Appetizers for a Last-Minute Holiday Party (& a Video!)


Spanish rice, that bright and fiery rice usually served alongside Mexican dishes like burritos or enchiladas, isn’t really “Spanish”, as in from Spain. It’s an Americanized term that refers to a Mexican style of cooking rice with cayenne, garlic, chicken broth, and tomatoes.

And Italian arancini is an appetizer usually made with leftover rice. They’re small, crispy fried balls of rice and cheese, usually served as an aperitif alongside a cool glass of white wine.

Arancini makes a perfect simple appetizer for a party; they’re just the size to pop in your mouth as you mingle and drink with friends.

But what if you don’t have leftover rice to make into arancini? That’s where VeeTee rice flavors come in.

I’ve spoken before about my unabashed love of VeeTee Rice (especially since they have since become a sponsor of Percolate Kitchen, thanks guys!)

VeeTee, a US company based out of Virginia, sell packs of par-cooked rice that are done after just 2 minutes in the microwave.

Where other ‘instant’ rice brands can often become soggy or oddly textured after cooking, VeeTee rice cooks to the perfect al dente, and in only 2 minutes! It makes for a really quick way to add rice to your weeknight meals without having to babysit a pot on the stove.

VeeTee sells a number of different flavors of rice, including everything from plain, whole grain, mixed with quinoa, lemon, and the flavor I used to create this Spanish-Style Crispy Rice Balls: Spicy Spanish.

VeeTee’s Spicy Spanish rice has flavors of paprika, smokey adzuki beans, sweetcorn, tomato, and jalapenos, making it more than just a standard side dish; it’s a whole meal to itself.

But when you’re short on party appetizer recipe ideas, this spicy rice can turn into a perfectly quick dish in under 20 minutes.

Simply take a package’s worth of cooked Spicy Spanish rice, mix it with crumbled queso blanco, and roll in breadcrumbs. Dry the little balls over medium-high heat, then drain any excess oil on a paper towel.

What you’re left with are crispy little balls of spicy rice, cooled slightly with melty chunks of queso blanco, that are perfect for popping in your mouth as you mingle with friends. It’s a seamless blend of Latin heat and Italian cuisine, and the perfect simple appetizer recipe for a party this holiday season (or any time of the year!)

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Spanish-Style ‘Arancini’ Rice Balls

  • Author: Ruthy Kirwan

Description

Crispy Spanish Rice ‘Arancini’ is spicy Spanish rice studded with melty cheese and coasted in crispy breadcrumbs; make this simple appetizer recipe for a party this holiday season- or any time of the year!


Ingredients

  • 1 package VeeTee Spicy Spanish Style Rice ((9.9 ounces))
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1/3 cup crumbled queso blanco
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the rice, egg, and cheese. Use your hands or a large spoon to mix and combine thoroughly.
  2. In a large stainless steel pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  3. Pour the breadcrumbs onto a plate. Using our hands or a small handheld ice cream scoop, scoop the rice mixture and roll into balls. Toss the balls in the breadcrumbs until coated, then place carefully in the hot oil.
  4. Fry, turning the balls in the oil until they are browned on all sides.
  5. Place cooked balls on a plate lined with paper towel to drain off any excess grease, then serve hot.