While the macronutrients of protein and fat hold star status on low carb diets, the vegetable side dishes are often what make the meal more interesting and complete. The asparagus recipe below is not only low carb, but offers a lot of protein from the egg garnish. And it’s quick and easy to boot!
There are many cookbooks and blogs that include recipes for low carb side dishes featuring vegetables, and some are quite inspirational. Many of the more creative recipes however, are either quite complicated or include grains or dairy.
I bought the cookbook “Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi and absolutely love it, but I find I save most of his creative vegetable dishes for the weekend due to complicated ingredients or lengthy directions.
Criteria for Flavorful, but Low Carb Side Dishes:
For me, the resistance to making vegetable side dishes is twofold:
- The need for a “recipe” often stops me on weeknights. I don’t make vegetable side dishes frequently enough to have preparation methods at the tip of my fingertips. Currently, the mock mashed potato dish (made with cauliflower) and sautéed leafy greens with onions are the workhorses.
- The hassle of chopping and rinsing fresh vegetables is also an obstacle. If you want fresh, there isn’t really any getting around this. Employ some family help here or put on the headphones and zone out.
- Sauteed vegetables are best for those week-night dinners when you need to get something on the table quickly. Enhance them with some balsamic vinegar, chili spices, or hard-boiled eggs and you’ve gone from good to great.
- Don’t forget to top your veggies with plenty of butter. Butter is one of those fats that is low carb and can really make a taste difference on vegetables.
- Salt is another ingredient that can take vegetables from good to great. Salt has been given a bad rap, and the use of it is frequently misunderstood. Processed foods include a LOT of salt (often hidden) and that is where the health problem comes in. If you cook at home, and use very little processed food, using salt will enhance your food without the health issues.
- If you are still shy of using salt on your fresh vegetables, opt for some mild chile spices.
3 Creative, Weeknight Low Carb Side Dishes
So, my recent attempts at getting more creative with spices on vegetable dishes are taking me into the realm of different cultures. Moroccan, Ethiopian and Vietnamese are my favorites so far, but I’ve just scratched the surface with spice combinations.
The Cauliflower dish and the asparagus dish below were inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s book, which I adapted to be compliant with a low carb diet. The Korean spinach recipe was only slightly adapted from a recipe for Korean Barbecue in Fine Cooking Magazine.
A few other vegetable dishes you might enjoy include:
- Vegetable Medley of Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower and Broccoli
- Adding Fruit Vinegars to Vegetables as a Sheet Pan Dinner
- Low Carb Chimichurri Sauce to Enhance Vegetables
All three dishes were wonderful, quick and low-carb friendly. Here is a printable recipe card for the asparagus dish, followed by text recipes for the other two vegetable dishes
Recipe for Asparagus with Crumbled Eggs and Capers
Asparagus w/ Crumbled eggs & Capers
- large pot
- coarse grater Like a cheese grater
- 3 eggs
- 2 large bunches asparagus
- 2 Tbsp olive oil or olive oil
- 2 ½ tsp capers drained
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Place eggs in a pot of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When water is boiling, turn burner off and cover the pot. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Remove eggs with slotted spoon into bowl of ice water and let cool. Peel under cool running water. * note: fresh eggs will not peel well. you really need eggs that are at least a week old.3 eggs
- Grate the eggs on a coarse cheese grater.
- Bend the asparagus until the tough bottom ends snap off and compost the ends (or use in soups). Place the asparagus spears in a large pot of boiling water and cook for 3 minutes, or until tender.2 large bunches asparagus
- Drain asparagus. While still warm, drizzle the oil over the asparagus and sprinkle with capers, salt and pepper. Top with the grated egg.2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 1/2 tsp capers, 1 tsp sea salt, 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Once vegetables become something you can prep on autopilot, they are really very quick and add a whole new dimension to your meals as a low carb side dish. And when you start to feel that resistance to cooking vegetables, remember…
“Cooking is a practice, same as Buddhism, CrossFit and sobriety. You just have to do it until that’s what you do. ” — Sam Sifton