Side Dishes

What to Serve with Mac and Cheese: 21 Tasty Side Dishes

The best sides for a comforting mac and cheese dinner.

Claire Onidi By
Claire Onidi
Passionate about food and pastries since always, Claire spends most of her time in the kitchen to develop new recipes. She is French but lived many years abroad.
Learn more about me
Updated October 14, 2022

With this list of tasty side dishes, you’ll never wonder what to serve with mac and cheese again!

what to serve with mac and cheese

Mac and cheese has a long history, dating back to the 14th century. One of the first written accounts of mac and cheese is from an Italian cookbook called Liber de Coquina.

But Thomas Jefferson is credited with bringing this creamy classic comfort food to North America! After trying this cheesy pasta in France and Italy, he imported parmesan cheese and macaroni pasta back home.

Once he served this dish in the form of “macaroni pie” to state dinner guests, it grew in popularity. Nowadays, macaroni and cheese is a staple in Southern cuisine, and loved by kids and adults alike!

Macaroni and cheese is a popular side dish to serve with barbecued foods like BBQ ribs and hot dogs. As a childhood classic, it’s also a common side dish for sloppy joes and meatloaf.

This crowd-pleasing creamy pasta dish is hard not to love. Try mac and cheese with any of these sides for a guaranteed feel-good meal.

what to serve with mac and cheese recipe

01. Fried Chicken

Why get takeout fried chicken when the homemade stuff is so much better?

A buttermilk brine keeps chicken meat moist while the outside is deep fried to perfection. Make sure you use a high smoke point oil, like olive or canola oil.

Fried chicken is a common Southern treat, usually served with mac and cheese and coleslaw. It makes a great picnic food since fried chicken is tasty hot or cold!

02. Pasta Salad

There’s no such thing as too much pasta!

This classic pasta dish is made with a creamy sour cream and cotija cheese dressing. Cojita is a popular Mexican cheese with a tangy flavor similar to feta cheese.

I like to use rotini for creamy pasta salads because the spirals hold onto all that tasty dressing. This is a great cold dish to bring to barbecues and potlucks!

03. Buffalo Wings

Want your next party to be a hit? Serve up these spicy buffalo chicken wings!

Baking powder helps make these wings super crispy by breaking down the fat in the chicken. This gives the outside that crackly texture that is so mouthwatering!

The sauce is a tangy mix of hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and honey. I like to serve buffalo wings with a classic blue cheese dip to help balance out that spiciness.

04. Roast Chicken

This herb-roasted chicken will feed a family and please taste buds!

Oregano, lemon zest, and butter are just a few of the seasonings in this extra flavorful spatchcocked chicken. Spatchcocking is the process of butterflying a whole chicken so it cooks faster.

I love roast chicken dinners because you can put all your vegetables in the roasting pan too! All you need is a starchy side like mac and cheese to tie everything together.

05. Potato Salad

With flavors like crispy bacon and cheddar cheese, you can’t go wrong!

This potato salad recipe has all the flavors you love from baked potatoes. Sharp green onions, salty bacon, and cheddar all come together with a tangy sour cream dressing.

Use Yukon gold potatoes if you like your salads extra creamy. Like with any potato salad, this one tastes best when it’s had some time in the refrigerator to marinate.

06. Pork Chops

Pork chops are so easy to cook, but can be flavored in so many different ways.

If I need a dinner entree in less than 15 minutes, pork chops are my go-to! This recipe includes a delicious honey garlic sauce that helps the pork fat crisp up nicely.

When you cook your pork chops, only flip them once to get that perfect charred texture. I recommend using a skillet so the pork chops cook evenly.

07. Steamed Broccoli

A healthy side that pairs perfectly with just about anything!

Steaming is a great way to cook vegetables without using any oil or fat. Steaming also retains the broccoli’s color, fiber, and texture, while making it soft enough to chew!

It’s no secret that broccoli and cheese are an amazing combination. Serve this steamed broccoli with some mac and cheese sauce to get that cheesy goodness.

08. Green Beans

Kids love these simple sauteed green beans!

Green beans keep well in the fridge, so they’re the perfect fresh vegetable to have on hand. Frying green beans gives them a delicious char which infuses them with so much flavor.

Seasonings like garlic and butter go hand in hand with green beans. This recipe takes things up a notch by adding a spicy red pepper and caper drizzle.

09. Homemade Chicken Nuggets

Avoid the preservatives and fillers by making your chicken nuggets from scratch!

These homemade nuggets are seasoned with savory flavors like garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Panko is my favorite choice for the breading, because it’s light and crispy.

You can deep fry your nuggets, or bake them to keep them lean and healthy!

10. Garlic Parmesan Sweet Potatoes

A naturally sweet snack, with a deliciously savory topping!

Sweet potatoes have an earthy sweet flavor that is enhanced when you bake them. Heat brings out those natural sugars and gives these fries a chewy, slightly crispy coating.

A little bit of minced garlic and parmesan adds savory notes to balance the sweetness. It’s the perfect snack food or side dish for comfort meals like burgers or mac and cheese.

11. Barbecue Ribs

The juiciest rib recipe out there!

The fat content helps make these pork ribs so tender and flavorful. Once grilled, those fats caramelize and become deliciously crispy.

I like to mix garlic and Worcestershire sauce with store-bought BBQ sauce for even more depth of flavor. If you like your barbecued foods spicy, try adding a pinch of cayenne pepper too.

12. Brussel Sprouts Caesar Salad

Turn flavorful brussel sprouts into a versatile salad green!

Brussel sprouts have the perfect nutty and savory flavor that goes perfectly with Caesar salad. You can use a mandolin to shred these little sprouts to get a delicious shredded texture for your salad.

Toppings like bacon and parmesan add that touch of saltiness that’s needed. I like to make my own dressing with mayonnaise, garlic, and fresh cracked black pepper.

13. Bacon Wrapped Chicken

It’s hard to go wrong when bacon is involved!

Bacon helps infuse a salty, smoky flavor into any dish. Wrapping these chicken tenders in bacon helps keep them nice and juicy while they cook.

This is a great make-ahead recipe to pull out of the fridge when you have a busy day. Better yet, they only need 30 minutes in the oven!

14. Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted tomatoes add an element of umami to any dish.

Cherry tomatoes have the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. Roasting them brings out those smoky umami flavors that pair well with meats and baked mac n cheese.

Keep the seasonings to a minimum to let the tomatoes shine. A simple drizzle of olive oil and garlic salt is all you need!

15. Green Salad

Keep your mac and cheese meal light and healthy with a fresh tossed green salad.

I love a good green salad because you can customize the ingredients and dressing however you like. This recipe hits all the savory notes with toppings like bacon, red onion, and sunflower seeds.

This is definitely a recipe you want to make right before serving, to keep the greens from wilting. Omit the bacon and you have a delicious vegetarian side for mac and cheese!

Another healthy and tasty alternative is a fresh cucumber tomato salad!

16. Sloppy Joes

A family-friendly dish that always hits the spot.

Your childhood Sloppy Joes might have been from a can, but this recipe is all from scratch! Simple ingredients like ketchup, brown sugar, and garlic help achieve the perfect sweet and savory sauce.

Customize the sauce with additions like hot sauce and red pepper flakes if your family likes spice. Sloppy Joes and mac and cheese is a kid-friendly delicious meal for weekends and sleepovers!

17. Chili

A warm bowl of chili is the ultimate spicy comfort food.

Chunky chili is the best kind, and this recipe doesn’t disappoint. Juicy tomato, crisp green bell pepper, and lots of ground beef give this chili the perfect volume.

The toppings like shredded cheese are my favorite part of chili. If you’re experimental, try more unique additions like tortilla chips, sour cream, or avocado slices.

18. Hot Dogs

Turn the humble hot dog into a mouthwatering entree.

A good quality beef hot dog is the starting point for this delicious hot dog recipe. What makes it so unique is the sweet, smoky barbecue sauce glaze on top!

It’s best to score your hot dogs so the meat inside absorbs the flavor of the sauce. Grilling is the best cooking method to get that delicious char.

19. Apple Pie

Classic warm apple pie is the perfect dessert to follow a Southern-style barbecue dinner.

This apple pie has an old-fashioned buttery crust that’s both flaky and tender. Tart apples like granny smith are the most popular filling, but you can use whatever apples you like.

Pies are a great filling dessert when you need to feed a crowd. They travel well too, so they’re perfect to bring to picnics and barbecues.

20. Brownie with Ice Cream

When I think of the ultimate comfort food, I think of chocolatey brownies!

Super fudgy, gooey brownies are the perfect chocolate lover’s dessert. This recipe uses cocoa powder and chocolate chips for extra richness.

Vanilla ice cream is a must-have when serving warm brownies. That coolness cuts through the chocolate and adds some flavor contrast.

21. Coleslaw

Freshen up your plate with a side of this crunchy coleslaw.

I love coleslaw as a side because the cabbage doesn’t wilt like salad greens. The tangy, creamy dressing also goes great with rich dishes like grilled meats.

Let your coleslaw marinate in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Serve with other summery sides like steak, chicken wings, and mac and cheese!

What to Serve with Mac and Cheese: 21 Tasty Side Dishes

Directions


  1. Choose your favorite mac and cheese side dish from this list.

  2. Shop for your ingredients.

  3. Whip up a batch of your favorite creamy mac and cheese recipe.

  4. Share your mac and cheese and sides with family and guests!

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