Between the flaky dinner rolls, marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, and buttery pies, the holidays are, hands-down, the most indulgent of time of year. We're just going to come out and say it: Not every dish on your table needs to be so rich and decadent that it makes you feel uncomfortably bloated. Lighten up your holiday spread with these nine low-carb recipes that don't skimp on flavor. Spanning a fall harvest salad that's bursting with fresh produce to a show-stopping soup served in roasted acorn squash bowls, these are the deliciously light side dishes that will have your guests getting up for seconds (and thirds). Now all that's missing is a generous glass of low-carb wine.
If you're in hot pursuit of healthier dishes to serve alongside your turkey, look no further.
Harvest Cranberry, Persimmon, and Burrata Salad
Traditional sides are quite hearty, so a seasonal salad is a great way to lighten up your table. This harvest salad from Half Baked Harvest is bursting with fresh fall flavors. Think walnuts, pepitas, maple syrup, cranberries, and, of course, the ingredients in the title. "If you're totally not into the persimmons, you could always use apples or pears instead," Recipe creator Tieghan Gerard suggests.
Our favorite part is definitely the creamy, rich burrata cheese, which adds a subtle sweetness to the already decadent dish.
Pesto Cream Stuffed Mushrooms
For a fuss-free appetizer, look no further than these pesto cream-stuffed mushrooms from The First Mess. To make day-of assembly super easy, make the pesto cream filling ahead of time. "If you're avoiding bread entirely, you could do my cheesy chickpea crumble or even a healthy sprinkling of my pine nut 'parm' on top," The First Mess founder, Laura Wright notes.
Za'atar-Roasted Cauliflower With Herb Whipped Feta
The herb-whipped feta made with fresh dill, cream cheese, za'atar spices, and lemon juice makes this za'atar-roasted cauliflower a standout low-carb side dish. We wouldn't expect anything less than amazing from Natalie Mortimer, co-founder of The Modern Proper. She says that if you prefer your vegetables on the crispier side, roast the cauliflower florets for an extra 15 minutes. Who doesn't love a crispy veggie?
Creamy Fall Soup in Acorn Squash Bowls
Festive, colorful, and comforting, this creamy fall soup from Minimalist Baker is made with a nutrient-rich sweet potato, carrots, and butternut squash. Plus, it looks picture-perfect when served in roasted acorn squash bowls. "If squash bowls seem a little too over the top for you, you can totally skip this part, and the recipe would become a 1-pot, 45-minute wonder," recipe creator Dana Shultz says.
Butternut squash is notoriously difficult to cut into because its outer layer so tough and hard. The best way to cut into it is to poke holes along the fruit lengthwise and then pop it in the microwave for no more than five minutes. Then, using a very sharp knife, cut along the puncture marks.
Pomegranate Avocado Salad With Candied Walnuts
Although this pomegranate avocado salad from Half Baked Harvest calls for candied walnuts, you can simply swap in roughly chopped raw nuts to lower the carb count. Gerard admits, "I know blue cheese is not for everyone, so if you'd like use to another cheese, I think crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese would both be delicious."
Stuffed Squash With Broccoli Rabe and Quinoa
Boasting protein-rich, low-carb quinoa and loads of aromatic spices like garlic, rosemary, and sage, this stuffed squash recipe from The First Mess is a surefire crowd-pleaser for vegetarians and staunch meat-eaters alike. "I used the fancy, truffled Marcona almonds from Trader Joe's for the garnish here, and it was spectacular," Wright confesses. Though this dish is typically served as an appetizer or side, it's so filling that it could be a suitable alternative to the turkey.
Kale Salad With Pumpkin Seed Clusters
This kale salad from The Modern Proper is equal parts sweet and tangy. If you're avidly counting carbs, toss in toasted pumpkin seeds rather than the sugary pumpkin seed clusters. "Using your hands, squeeze or 'massage' the kale while dressing it," recipe creator and co-founder of The Modern Proper, Holly Erickson advises. "This will make the kale more tender."
Creamy Brussels Sprouts With Wild Mushrooms
Mushrooms and brussels sprouts are a winning combination in this delicious side dish from The Modern Proper. Topped with fried shallots, it's decadent without being too rich (or high in carbs). "Season [brussels sprouts] to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately topped with fried shallots," Mortimer recommends. It's so healthy and delicious that your guests will definitely be coming back for seconds.
Curried Beet Soup With Tandoori Chickpeas
Filled with good-for-you ingredients like ginger and garlic, this spicy curried beet soup from Minimalist Baker is as healthy as it is hearty. Its bright red hue also makes it a holiday show-stopper. "Serve with an extra drizzle of coconut milk, a generous amount of tandoori chickpea, and a sprinkle of cilantro," Shultz offers.