Is there any better comfort food than mac and cheese? Piles of tubular pasta, cooked to perfection in a rich cheese sauce, with a topping of golden toasted cheese and breadcrumbs. And that even before we get into different variations. That said, you might just like your mac and cheese ‘as is’… But it can get a little boring, and you want to know what to serve with mac and cheese? Well, fear not, I’ve got a plan. Here’s a list of great ideas for mac and cheese sides that will make it a meal to remember.
16 Mac and Cheese Side Dishes
1. BBQ Ribs
Is there anyone who doesn’t love ribs? The only downside is that there never seems to be enough of them. Unless you will make a Fred Flintstone-sized portion, it makes sense that they are paired with something substantial… Like Mac and cheese. We find that the BBQ ribs’ sweetness works really well with the mac and cheese’s creamy, savory flavors. Ribs can also be a little bit of a chore to make, so the fact that mac and cheese is so easy makes them the perfect combo. Plus, if you’re looking for sides to serve with ribs, we have you covered.
2. Sloppy Joes
If you combine your mac and cheese with sloppy joes, you’ve got an all American dinner right there. If you are making mac and cheese, you will already be a fan of using standard store cupboard ingredients. The good news is that sloppy joes sandwiches use things that you’ll find around the house. As the name would suggest, sloppy joes sandwiches are a little messy, so why not go the whole hog and top your sloppy joes with a layer of thick and creamy Mac and Cheese?
Ok, so we know that mac and cheese isn’t always the lightest dish, so maybe you want to dial back on the carbs just a little. Let us suggest a lighter alternative. Coleslaw goes great with mac and cheese. Aside from your waistline, you’ll also find that the strips of crunchy white cabbage, carrots, and onions work really well to cut through the richness of the cheese. For a large splash of color, try using red cabbage in your coleslaw instead of white cabbage to create a little contrast on the plate.
Let’s stay low calorie (for the time being). Few dishes won’t work with a simple side salad. Mac and cheese is delicious, but it can be hard to make a plate look a little less ‘boring’. The ideal solution is to throw in a handful of leafy greens, succulent ripe tomatoes, and perhaps a nice dressing. Both ranch and blue cheese dressing go exceptionally well with a side salad, and it also works a treat with mac and cheese, who’d have thought. Give it a go!
5. Little Smokies
Alright, we get it. Just sometimes, you want to add a little bit of meat to your meal. If this sounds like you, then check this for a treat. Little smokies are tiny sausages wrapped in a blanket of sweet bacon. They are crunchy, juicy, and delicious. And here’s the best bit, they are just perfect for dipping into mac and cheese! Served on their own little smokies are the perfect finger food for dipping, so imagine how good they will be with a thick and creamy cheese sauce?
Keeping on a meat theme, we absolutely love meatloaf, but it can be difficult to find the ideal pairing, just like mac and cheese. Well, why not combine them together to make a mega meal. Both are really easy to make, so if you are pushed for time or just want an easy afternoon, they can be prepared ahead and left ready to throw in the oven when the time comes. For a really hearty meal that will leave everyone in the mood for a good old snooze, mac and cheese paired with meatloaf fit the bill.
Bacon is one of those things that we could never do without. When it comes to what to serve with mac and cheese, bacon sits high on our favorites. It’s so versatile. If you are looking for something really simple, just grill or fry rashers until they are sizzling and crispy and serve alongside. Alternatively, cut your bacon into thick chunks and stir it into the mac and cheese before cooking. Depending on your choice of cheese, mac and cheese can be mild. This works really well with the saltiness of the bacon. It’s like a meaty seasoning!
So you like to dip and dunk, right? Well, meatballs are the perfect side for mac and cheese if dunking is your thing. The best bit is that you won’t even need to make a sauce. Meatballs with macaroni and creamy cheese sauce is about as good as it gets. For something slightly different, top your mac and cheese with the meatballs before baking to create a sort of delicious savory layer cake. Absolutely divine!
9. Roasted Broccoli
For a splash of color and a healthy option, roasted broccoli can make the ideal side to serve with mac and cheese. They take about the same amount of time in the oven too, so this is a great option for added convenience. Aside from the color, roasted florets of broccoli make for an ideal little ‘broom’ to mop up all those patches of creamy cheese sauce.
10. Pigs in Blankets
Pigs in blankets are very similar to little smokies, except they aren’t made with brown sugar and therefore aren’t quite as sweet. But they are equally delicious. We like to brown our sausages and allow them to cool before wrapping them in bacon and grilling them to perfection. We use small chipolata style link sausages. However, you can also use full-size sausages to create mega pigs in blankets. These are great if you are wanting to create a much more substantial meal.
Who wants boring old rice with chili when you can have mac and cheese? If you are going to serve a pile of carbs, then you might as well make it tasty. Chili is a great accompaniment to mac and cheese. If you’ve made it a little spicy, you’ll find that the mac and cheese calms down a sizzling palate. For something rich and really filling, layer your chili on top of your mac and cheese before adding an additional topping of cheese and breadcrumbs. It’s like the best bits of Mexican and Italian rolled into one huge lasagna!
12. Fresh Bread
Maybe you want to keep it simple and have something really rustic. There are fewer joys in this world than a freshly baked crusty loaf, spread thickly with a layer of melting butter, ah bliss! You certainly won’t be hungry with mac and cheese paired with bread, and you can use chunks of soft and crispy bread to soak up all of that lovely cheese sauce. Is your mouth watering?
13. Green Beans
If you are cooking mac and cheese, there’s a good chance you are looking for convenience. For a veggie hit that is also easy to make, give green beans a go. You can simply boil them. However, our favorite way to serve green beans as a side for mac and cheese is to parboil them before tossing them with melted butter, seasoning, and lemon juice. We roast them for 10 minutes along with the mac and cheese. They come out slightly crunchy with an acidic and sweet flavor that works, so well with creamy cheese and pasta.
14. Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Listen, don’t boil Brussels sprouts. It’s the best way to ruin them. Slice them finely and saute them in a large pan with a little butter, salt, and pepper, before giving them a quick blast in the oven to turn the loose leaves ever so slightly crispy. For an ultra-tasty addition, add some precooked bacon shards and perhaps a handful of crumbly toasted walnuts. The hardest part will be deciding what to eat first. The sprouts or the mac and cheese. May not have been obvious but it’s one of my favorite dishes for what goes with mac and cheese.
We don’t know why but steak works really well with mac and cheese. Perhaps we just like the simple things in life? We love to cook our steak medium and find that the blushing pink interior looks so good on the plate with a large helping of mac and cheese. Plus if you want to know some great steak sides, some of these options on this page are also fitting.
16. Roasted Vegetables
Ever heard that people first taste food with their eyes? By serving a delicious heap of roasted vegetables along with mac and cheese, you’ll be creating a table that is bright, colorful, and perfect for just digging straight into. We cut carrots, sweet potatoes, red onions, and zucchini and give them a liberal toss in oil before seasoning and roasting for the same amount of time as our mac and cheese. Extra points awarded for cooking your vegetables al dente and leaving some of that crispness.
Knowing what to serve with mac and cheese isn’t particularly difficult. You’ll find that it makes a great blank canvas to pair with other side dishes because of the mild flavors in the mac and cheese. What’s your favorite? Let us know in the comments.