Lamb might not be as popular as beef or lamb, but it’s still a delicious type of meat that often features on the dinner table. It also has its own distinct flavor that makes it fantastic for special occasions.
As with beef, there are plenty of ways to cook lamb and many spices that go along with it. You can even put it in the slow cooker or experiment with different flavor profiles, like making lamb and chickpea tandoori stew or a lamb and couscous salad.
If you’re serving lamb as the feature part of your meal, then you’ll also need to think about what to serve with lamb. The best sides for lamb are those that complement its flavor profile, such as garlic potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, asparagus, and minted peas. Of course, there are also some more creative sides, such as rice pilaf or a quinoa salad, which make your meal a little more exciting.
The great thing is that these sides can all be tweaked. You can make simple versions or complex ones. Sometimes you can even completely change the flavor profile and still create a delicious meal.
As you’re going through the list, think about the cut of lamb you’re serving, the spices it uses, and the formality of your meal. These factors will all influence the best side for your dinner table. Don’t be afraid to use multiple sides either. Many of the best meals have at least two sides, if not more.
Potatoes are a quintessential side in the United States, which is hardly surprising, as they go well with almost any main under the sun. Potatoes are especially good with meat-rich dishes, as their starchiness contrasts the protein heavy meat.
Plus, potatoes are pretty bland. This makes them a canvas for other flavors, allowing you to make them as simple or as complex as you wish.
What about combining garlic and potatoes? The garlic adds another layer of flavor to your potatoes and will perfectly complement your lamb. There’s also the fact that you can add garlic to most potato recipes. Sometimes garlic might be the dominant flavor, other times it might be one of many. Either way, you’ll have a delicious side.
These Steakhouse Style Garlic Mashed Potatoes are a great example of leaning into the flavor of your garlic. They’re also designed to be extremely creamy, which makes them feel decadent and like something you would order when fine dining.
To achieve the results, there are a few interesting tweaks to the traditional mashed potato recipe, including boiling the potatoes in chicken broth rather than water and using buttermilk as an ingredient.
As a result, there are a few more ingredients in this recipe than normal. But, don’t worry. The mashed potatoes are still easy to prepare and use ingredients you’re likely to have at home.
It’s also important to have at least one vegetable-based side if you’re serving lamb. Steamed vegetables are a classic option, as gentle steaming is one of the best ways to preserve the nutrients in your vegetables. The vegetables should taste amazing as well.
The trick is to pay attention to how long you steam your vegetables for. Overcooking them leads to mushy and dull vegetables, ones that have only a fraction of their normal flavor.
You might also think about seasonings to use with your vegetables. Herbs and spices often work wonders, giving your vegetables a fantastic extra kick of flavor. You can also experiment with compound butter, as this provides a butterfly flavor, plus notes from whatever herbs or spices have been included.
This Buttered Parmesan Broccoli shows how easy it is to take a traditional steamed vegetable and make it so much more exciting. The dish is exactly what the name suggests – steamed broccoli that has been flavored with a mix of butter and parmesan.
Adding butter to your steamed broccoli is a familiar enough idea. But, parmesan too? That’s a fantastic way to make your broccoli taste so much better.
Now we come to tomatoes, which are really a world unto their own. Fresh, juicy, and bursting with flavor, tomatoes work well with countless meals. And, you know what is better than fresh tomatoes? Roasted tomatoes.
Roasting brings out their natural sweetness, while highlighting a wonderful depth of flavor that you don’t get elsewhere. You can enhance the tomatoes still further by using olive oil, salt, and pepper. Some extra ingredients like feta cheese or balsamic vinegar wouldn’t go amiss either.
While you’re at it, think about the type of tomato you’re going to use. There are plenty of varieties, including some very interesting and flavorful ones. You could even serve multiple types of tomato with the same meal.
The balsamic vinegar with these Balsamic Roasted Cherry Tomatoes acts as a fantastic contrast to the sweetness of the tomatoes and would still work with the flavor of your lamb (plus whatever sides you’re featuring).
Interestingly, the recipe doesn’t just focus on the tomatoes themselves. There’s also a complementary pasta dish that’s simple and elegant.
You could skip the pasta part of the recipe, given that you’re already serving lamb. Yet, the pasta could also serve you well, as it provides plenty of contrasting starch and works beautifully with the tomatoes.
Mushrooms are an obvious choice with lamb, as they offer this rich earthy and meaty flavor, with plenty of umami notes. They’re also easy to cook, as you can just saute them in a pan with plenty of butter.
They’re normally ready in less than five minutes, giving you a minimal effort side that you can throw together at the last minute.
Plus, like tomatoes, there are many types of mushrooms to choose from. These have their own distinct textures and flavors. You can even forage for many of them – just be sure to avoid any poisonous lookalikes.
These Easy 5 Ingredient Marsala Mushrooms are a little different, as they rely on marsala wine and creme fraiche to provide a distinct flavor profile. The recipe is designed for cremini mushrooms, but you don’t need to stick with those. The flavoring ingredients should be just as delicious.
The dish starts off with a simple sauté, then the wine is added, followed by the creme fraiche. It’s easy to see how these ingredients work beautifully with the mushrooms, giving you a meal that’s both simple and delicious.
Rice pilaf is a flavorful dish, where the rice has been cooked in a type of stock or broth to provide extra depth. The approach is much tastier than a regular rice risotto and completely open to interpretation.
In particular, this side that can be as simple or as complex as you like. Perhaps you just focus on the rice itself, some aromatics, and one or two extra ingredients. Or, may you create a more exciting version that includes dried fruit and nuts instead.
The rice you use makes a big difference to the finished meal. White rice is fantastic because it gives you a consistent texture and the flavor isn’t going to overpower your other ingredients. But, you could also try a different type of rice or even an alternate source of carbs, like orzo or quinoa.
The flavors in this Cranberry Apple Pecan Wild Rice Pilaf would make it exceptional as a holiday treat, although it would be just as tasty at another type of the year. The recipe is surprisingly simple too and the whole thing can be made in a single pot.
Surprisingly, the apple flavor in this recipe doesn’t just come from apple pieces. The rice is actually cooked in apple juice as well – an idea that works much better than you might expect.
Then there’s the wild rice. This is actually a semi-aquatic grain and isn’t actually a type of rice. However, it has many similar properties and is delicious in most of the same recipes as rice. Some recipes even use rice and wild rice. You could do that here too, just watch out for differences in cooking times.
Mint Jelly Or Mint Sauce
Mint sauce and mint jelly are both classic pairings for lamb. The jelly version tends to be sweet and have a familiar gelatin texture, while mint sauce is more similar to pesto.
Both versions work well with lamb. It’s simply a matter of deciding which one you prefer.
One theory suggests that mint sauce and lamb have some chemically similar features, which is why our brains think they taste so good together. It’s hard to say whether that’s true or not, nor does the science really matter. Either way, mint is exceptional with lamb.
What do you think of this Sweet & Tangy Mint Sauce? The sweet and tangy balance comes from a combination of vinegar and sugar. These ingredients work surprisingly well together and are even better when they’re complemented by your mint.
Plus, this is an easy three-ingredient recipe that relies on fresh mint. How can you go wrong with something as straightforward as this? You might even start to use the sauce for other dishes, rather than just lamb.
A Fresh Salad
Lamb tends to be heavy main that’s packed with protein. Consequently, you’ll often want a light side, ideally one that provides plenty of nutrients and some fiber. A fresh salad solves this problem perfectly, as it is packed full of flavor and healthy ingredients.
Salads are also easy to make and can be varied in countless ways. Lettuce is the traditional base ingredient, but you could also turn to a dark leafy green like spinach or an entirely different vegetable.
You can play with mix ins as well, like using fresh apple, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, cucumber, tomato, cheese, or anything else you can imagine. And finally… the dressing. Is this going to be creamy or use vinegar as the base ingredient? What else will you include?
If you’re getting bored with regular salads, then this Mediterranean Cucumber Tomato Salad is the way to go. As the name suggests, cucumber is the base ingredient of this salad. This is then complemented by tomatoes, onion, mint, parsley, and a simple dressing.
The chosen ingredients create a refreshing side that would even be tasty on its own. The inclusion of mint is a fantastic bonus, as mint pairs well with lamb and makes the salad even more complementary.
While we’re on the topic of mint, this simple sauce is an excellent alternative to mint sauce for your lamb. The sauce gives you a more Mediterranean-themed lamb meal, which is perfect if any of your other sides use Mediterranean flavors as well.
The simplest way of making this is to buy plain unsweetened yogurt from the store and mix in some mint and lemon juice (you can use fresh mint or dried mint here). Greek yogurt is one of the best choices, as this is naturally thick and high in protein.
This Cucumber Mint Yogurt Salad takes the idea of tzatziki one step further, by mixing in chopped cucumbers. The cucumbers provide an interesting texture and perfectly complement the other flavors.
Chopping them isn’t the only way to go either. Many people slice their cucumbers instead and serve tzatziki as a dressing over the sliced cucumbers. Either way, you get a delicious and refreshing dish that contrasts the heaviness of lamb.
Asparagus is always stunning as a side. It offers a buttery sweetness that is delicious on its own or in conjunction with seasonings (especially as apsparagus tends to absorb other flavors).
You can even experiment with purple or green asparagus. White asparagus tends to be mild with a touch of bitterness, while purple asparagus is sweet and somewhat nutty instead. If you use the purple variety, try blanching it first, as this reduces pigment loss when you cook the asparagus.
This Lemon Garlic Roasted Asparagus shows how a few simple additions can really make your asparagus shine. The recipe relies on asparagus, lemon, garlic, salt, pepper, and oil. That’s it. Nothing more is needed.
This is a fantastic recipe for beginners, as every step is laid out, including basic ones. There are plenty of photos to step you through the process as well.
Quinoa is a small pseudocereal that is often seen as a superfood. While the term superfood is certainly overused, quinoa is still surprisingly powerful.
A quinoa salad is simply a dish that uses quinoa as the base starch and is normally served cold with a dressing. It often includes other ingredients too, like cucumber, bell pepper, and parsley.
As with regular salads, there are endless variations to the theme. Most salad vegetables work well here, as do some less common choices, like roasted chickpeas, wasabi peas, soy sauce, and others.
The dish is a great alternative to lettuce-based salads, while still giving you plenty of nutrients and fiber. You can do something similar with alternative grains or couscous, although the nutrition profile varies depending on the ingredients you choose.
This Mediterranean Quinoa Salad is another side that leans into a Mediterranean theme. It features many familiar favorites, including red onion, olives, cucumber, and bell pepper. There are also cherry tomatoes and feta, which provide fantastic bursts of flavor.
I especially love the color in this recipe. It’s always amazing to find salads that stand out in the bowl. This one should taste every bit as good as it tastes, especially as it has a simple vinaigrette dressing that ties everything together.
While roasted vegetables can seem boring, they’re actually a powerful side dish. First, they provide an excellent balance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and carbs. The carbs help offset the heaviness of your lamb, while the other compounds provide a variety of health benefits.
Roasting vegetables is also one of the easiest ways to cook them. You add some oil, season them, then throw them in the oven. You can even cook the vegetables at the same time as your lamb. That makes things even easier.
Finally, there are plenty of options. You can look at the traditional options like carrots and potatoes, or branch out and roast some more obscure root vegetables instead.
Why make regular roast carrots when you can focus on Spiced Roasted Carrots instead? The spices are a stunning way to boost the flavor profile of the carrots, making them much more interesting than normal.
This is an especially good recipe for anyone who feels that tomatoes are a little too sweet. The chosen spices give you a more savory and earthy dish instead, one with the perfect amount of spice.
Plus, you could use these same spices with other types of roast vegetables. Why not experiment to find the version that works best for you?
Veggie Puree Or Mash
Instead of serving mashed potatoes with your lamb, why not try another type of mash instead? Doing so will often provide more flavor and fewer carbs, making the mash a healthier choice.
Root vegetables are a great place to begin, as many of them will mash just as well as potatoes. You can get more creative too, like making cauliflower mash or beet mash.
Including butter and cream is an excellent way to make the dish more decadent. Doing so isn’t the healthiest approach, but sometimes flavor is much more important.
This Root Vegetables Mash with Caramelized Leeks really steps up the idea of vegetable mash. The finished dish contains more layers of flavor than normal, including the aromatics of thyme, sweetness from some of the root vegetables, and an underlying buttery flavor.
The recipe focuses on potatoes, carrots, leeks, and rutabaga, but you can swap the rutabaga out for many other mashable vegetables. While doing so will change the flavor profile, you’ll still get a delicious mash no matter what.
A Simple Pasta Dish
Pasta is a surprisingly good side for heavy meats, offering just the right texture and plenty of carbs (this is why steak and pasta work so well together). The type of pasta dish you choose makes a big difference here.
In particular, you don’t want something overly complex or with too many strong flavors. That type of side will compete too much with your lamb. Look for something relatively simple instead, such as a carbonara dish.
Why not begin with something like this Easy Mushroom Garlic Spaghetti? The recipe relies on just seven ingredients (including the salt, pepper, and olive oil), so you should already have the ingredients on hand.
Even better, the dish can be prepared in 20 minutes. This is perfect if you’ve been focused on the roast and didn’t think about the side until the last minute.
Polenta is a simple dish, made from cornmeal that is typically boiled, cooled, then baked or fried. It ends up being creamy, delicious, and having an amazing texture.
The creaminess of polenta is what makes it so excellent with your lamb. You could even serve polenta instead of mash, as it has many of the same features.
As with most dishes, you can easily get creative with polenta. Even just an extra ingredient or two can noticeably change the flavor profile, making the polenta an even better fit for your meal.
This Cheesy Italian Polenta is a fantastic recipe to try. The polenta is cooked in chicken broth, which provides extra depth of flavor, then grated parmigiano reggiano and butter are added for the perfect creaminess and cheesiness.
The recipe also includes plenty of specific directions and tips. This allows you to make perfect polenta the first time, even if you’ve never made the dish before.
Minted peas are a super specific side, one that you’re likely to love or hate. Still, they’re a useful option, as they provide nutrients and fiber (they look fantastic on the plate too!). They’re also a source of that classic mint flavor that always pairs well with lamb.
The peas are also easy to prepare and can even be made using frozen peas. As such, you can make them even when you’re low on fresh ingredients.
Now, minted peas are traditional in England and Ireland, so you might not have tried them before. That doesn’t matter too much. They’re worth experimenting with and you have nothing to lose.
These Crushed Minted Peas show just how straightforward minted peas can be. The side takes no more than 15 minutes to prepare.
Notably, the recipe focuses on using mint sauce rather than fresh mint. Doing so saves you time, especially if you can find mint sauce in a jar in your local store. If not, you can easily make your own. You could then use the sauce on your lamb itself as well.
Specific Dish And Side Combos
For roast lamb, you’ll normally serve the lamb itself alongside two sides. One side is likely to be starchy, such as mashed potatoes or a simple pasta dish, while the other will be vegetable based instead. Asparagus, steamed vegetables, or minted peas are great options here.
For a summer event, you could try serving sliced roast lamb with fresh rolls and garlic butter. This is a great way to fully enjoy the flavors of your lamb without creating a heavy meal.
Lamb meatballs work well when served on top of a side, like fresh pasta, mash, or creamy polenta. A pasta salad, couscous, or even quinoa could work well too, if you’re looking for a little variation.
The sides we’ve featured will all work well for lamb chops. The best type depends on how you’re serving the chops and your favorite flavors.
For example, if you’re cooking lamb chops on the grill, you might look for easy to eat sides, like a pasta salad or fresh rolls. If you’re serving a three course meal instead, you might look for impressive and flavorful sides, like some type of garlic potatoes or perhaps rice pilaf.
Polenta is an especially good choice for lamb shank, due to the contrast of flavor and texture. Some type of mashed potatoes plus vegetables is certain to be a hit as well.
If you plan to serve lamb for Easter, you’re probably looking for delicious and complex sides. These help to make the meal feel special, while giving you more flavors to enjoy.
You might simply take some of the sides we’ve talked about and add a little more to them. For example, instead of garlic potatoes, you might serve potatoes au gratin instead. Similarly, you could add parmesan cheese to your polenta or a rich balsamic dressing to roast tomatoes.