It might be odd to think of mac and cheese as a main course, but with the right side dishes this classic pasta dish can easily be a full meal.
While all of these sides pair well with mac and cheese, each has a different flavor and works better for different types of mac and cheese.
17 Side Dishes to Serve With Mac and Cheese
The creamy and cheesy flavors of mac and cheese work well with a wide range of sides from crisp vegetables to savory meats to sweet baked goods. No matter what meal you are planning or how you intend to serve your mac and cheese, there is a side dish option that will compliment it.
1. Green Salad
The easiest and most effective pairing for mac and cheese is a fresh salad due to how much the two foods contrast in flavor and texture.
Salads are crisp, cold, and come with flavorful dressing while mac and cheese is soft, warm, and creamy with a very simple but comforting flavor.
2. Baked Beans
Baked beans are an easy to make side with a nice balance of sweet and savory flavors, making them a great choice to pair alongside mac and cheese.
You can also flavor baked beans with bacon and barbeque sauce to create pork and beans which is even more flavorful than baked beans, making it a tastier side dish.
Coleslaw works with mac and cheese the same way that salad does, by offering a cold vegetable side dish for a warm and savory meal.
The only issue with coleslaw is that both dishes tend to be creamy, but you can change the flavor of coleslaw by using more thin dressing and vinaigrette than mayonnaise.
Cornbread is a great side dish for mac and cheese because it is not only sweet but if you have large corn pieces in the bread it can also be crunchy as well.
Sweet, soft, and crunchy is an interesting combination for an already creamy and cheesy meal like mac and cheese to cornbread is a good choice for a side dish.
5. Baked Potatoes
Baked potatoes are a good side dish for mac and cheese because baked potatoes go well with creamy, cheesy dishes because of how the potato highlights those qualities.
You can either go with regular potatoes or, for a treat, you can bake sweet potatoes for a bigger contrast with the savory flavor of the mac and cheese.
6. Roasted Broccoli
Broccoli with melted cheese sauce is already a common side dish so combining a broccoli side with mac and cheese makes for an excellent meal.
If you want to get more flavor out of your broccoli, try seasoning and roasting it so the broccoli stays crisp in contrast to the soft, creamy textures of the mac and cheese.
7. Steamed Green Beans
Like with broccoli, the crisp and fresh flavor of homemade, steamed green beans works very well with the smoothness and creaminess of mac and cheese
One way to make this contrast more noticeable is to put a crunchy coating and seasonings on either the green beans or the mac and cheese.
8. Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Brussel sprouts have a very strong and unique flavor, and can be roasted to give them a nice crunchy texture which stands out against mac and cheese.
Since Brussel sprouts are also sometimes combined with cheese sauce, this makes roasted sprouts a great side dish for mac and cheese as the two flavors go well together.
9. Steamed Asparagus
Asparagus, even when steamed, is still a little crunchy and this helps the vegetable stand out against the much softer textures of mac and cheese.
If you want more of a contrast you can choose to air fry or roast the asparagus instead to make the tips a bit crunchier while keeping the stalks tender.
What makes watermelon a great side dish for mac and cheese is how well the two foods contrast and how easy it is to prepare watermelon.
Watermelon is cool, crisp, and sweet while mac and cheese is hot, creamy, and cheesy, a combination that highlights both foods and brings out their flavors.
11. Potato Salad
Potato salad does have some of the benefits of regular, leafy salads, being a colder side dish for a warm meal like mac and cheese.
However, with potato salad you need to be careful when serving two creamy dishes together, so consider a crunchy topping for the mac and cheese.
12. Pasta Salad
Like with potato salad, the flavor of pasta salad can be a great compliment to mac and cheese but you need to be aware of the texture of both dishes.
Have two pasta foods in one meal can be too much, so consider adding something to either dish to change its texture for more variety.
Creamy, dairy based foods like mac and cheese often go well with spicy or meaty foods like chili because they naturally balance each other out.
The heat and savory flavor of chili will naturally be mellowed out by the smooth, cheesy taste of mac and cheese, making chili a great side dish for the meal.
14. Pigs in a Blanket
Meat goes remarkably well with mac and cheese so meat-based side dishes like pigs in a blanket are an excellent choice for a mac and cheese meal.
Pigs in a blanket are very versatile because they can be made with different pork sausages, wraps, and sauces to create different flavors to compliment your meal.
15. Barbecue Ribs
While it might seem off for ribs to be a side dish for mac and cheese, a small batch of boneless ribs actually works great as a side.
The sweet and savory flavor of ribs in barbeque sauce contrasts perfectly with the creaminess of mac and cheese, and boneless ribs are easier to cook than regular ribs.
16. Sloppy Joes
Just like ribs, sloppy joes can be a meal on their own or they can be a side dish to mac and cheese if you make them in small enough batches.
One way to make sloppy joes are more suitable side dish is to serve them on cut rolls, which are smaller and easier to make in large numbers.
Meatballs are an interesting choice for a mac and cheese side dish because of how much variation there is in meatballs, for example what they are made of and what sauce you use.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can even add small or cut up meatballs to your mac and cheese just like hot dogs to add some savory flavor to the dish.
As long as you have the right choice of side dish, mac and cheese can easily become a main course in a full and delicious meal.
Mac and cheese pairs well with a lot of different foods, but the best side dishes are ones that contrast the warm, creamy, cheesy taste of the meal.