7 of the Quickest — and Healthiest — Side Dishes Ever

Here’s the predicament: You’re having guests over for dinner tonight, and while you’re at the grocery store gathering ingredients for your carefully thought-out dessert and entree, you realize you completely forgot to plan a side dish. Don’t panic — we’ve all been there. When you’re short on time, it’s wise to avoid slow-cooking grains and zero in on the produce aisle instead. Spring peas, asparagus, edamame and fresh salad greens are just a few of the season’s lifesaving ingredients, each one quickly and easily transformed from its raw state into a flavorsome, complementary side. Here are seven of our easiest and lightest spring sides that are ready in 20 minutes or less. Tuck these ideas away in your recipe arsenal to consult the next time you’re hosting — no one will know the dish was an afterthought.

Green Salad with Strawberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette
Time: 5 minutes
Rachael Ray’s simple five-minute salad embraces the flavors of spring with fresh greens, strawberries and a sweet-tart vinaigrette.

Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
Time: 7 minutes
For less than 80 calories per serving, you can dress up mixed salad greens with Food Network Magazine’s rich buttermilk dressing that calls for pungent blue cheese, tangy sour cream, lemon and hot sauce.

Quick Vidalia Onion, Mushroom and Parsley Salad
Time: 5 minutes
This salad is all about simplicity and highlights the subtle sweetness of Vidalia onions. Try to get the slices really thin — the texture and flavor will be especially delicate.

Sauteed Asparagus with Olives and Basil
Time: 20 minutes
The combination of savory garlic and olives plus aromatic basil brightens crisp asparagus in this 20-minute side dish. Cutting the asparagus into short pieces allows them to cook quickly.

Chile Garlic Edamame
Time: 12 minutes
High-protein edamame benefits from the robust flavors of garlic, pepper flakes and lime juice in this quick and healthy side dish. Serve it alongside your favorite stir-fry for a well-rounded weeknight meal.

Green Beans Gremolata
Time: 20 minutes
Ina Garten enhances these quickly blanched green beans with olive oil and a homemade gremolata that includes lemon zest, grated Parmesan, minced garlic and parsley. Before serving, top the dish with toasted pine nuts for crunch.

Creamed Spinach
Time: 19 minutes
Ellie Krieger uses low-fat milk and chicken broth to add flavor and creaminess to this lightened-up creamed spinach. The dish will take less than 20 minutes to prepare if you thaw the frozen spinach well ahead of time.

Check out more quick and easy spring side dishes from our friends:

Feed Me Phoebe: 5-Ingredient Za’atar Beet Toasts
Devour: Beat the Clock with Easy, Under-15-Minute Side Dishes
Creative Culinary: Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes (Pasta Ponza)
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Five Fast & Fantastic Spring Side Dishes
TasteBook: Asparagus Ribbons with Lemon Juice and Shaved Parmesan
The Wimpy Vegetarian: Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice (with Coconut)
Taste with the Eyes: Teacher Appreciation Luncheon and Corn with Sweet Chili Butter
FN Dish: Counting Down the 5 Quickest Spring Side Dishes Ever