15 Canned Food Combinations For Simple Side Dishes

Sometimes, after hours of grocery shopping, measuring, pre-heating, braising, and browning you're just sick and tired of cooking. That main dish can really take it out of you, and by the time is all cooked up, you don't have an ounce of energy left for side dishes. Unfortunately, nobody would find a meal complete without at least some anterior ingredients, so you may have to whip up something else besides just that hunk of steak, marinated tofu, or grilled shrimp. Instead of starting from scratch for those sides as well, consider using canned food combinations for simple side dishes to make your life just a little bit easier, without having to compromise on flavor.

In addition, using canned foods can be incredibly cost-effective, and you'll likely end up with less waste. Target some of the consistently least expensive canned foods to buy, forget about husking and peeling, and let your can opener do the bulk of the work. Sometimes all it takes is pairing two canned foods together to create something great, and sometimes it just needs a little heat or spice to get it to where it needs to be.

Beets and red onion

Beets are notorious for coming in canned form. For anyone who has worked with fresh beets in the past, you can fully appreciate having those root veggies sliced, peeled, and cooked for you. This is because beets can create quite a mess, and will stain anything from your cutting boards to your clothes, to your hands. Beets make for a fantastic side dish because although they are a vegetable, they are incredibly sweet and intensely aesthetically pleasing. They can bring both color and flavor to your plate, which can help to complement your main dish.

Canned beets can be enjoyed hot or cold, and taste phenomenal with onion because they share their sweet undertones, but the pungent and bitey flavor can help balance the sugars. Use canned onions and canned beets in combination for a bold side dish. Avoid making one of the biggest mistakes your can with canned beets by draining all of the liquid. Instead, reserve some to splash onto your side dish, save for a complimentary cocktail, or use in a dressing or marinade. If the two canned vegetables just aren't cutting it for you, drizzle with a little olive oil or melted butter, and sprinkle on a tiny bit of dried thyme.

Sauerkraut and Vienna sausage

Although you may see sauerkraut as a dedicated topping for sandwiches, hot dogs, or bratwurst, it often goes overlooked as its own side dish. However, fermented cabbage is incredibly flavorful and can be used as a sort of palate cleanser for robust and fatty meats. For those who enjoy pickled foods, tangy flavors, and vinegar, then sauerkraut was invented for you. Depending on the manufacturer, or if you make it yourself, sauerkraut can be extremely acidic and tangy, or milder in flavor. However, there is one thing for sure, you should start eating more sauerkraut because it's incredible for your gut.

It classically pairs well with meat, especially sausages, so it's no surprise that it complements the flavors and textures of Vienna sausage. These Frankfurt sausages were allegedly created in Vienna, adopting its name, just like so many sausages that are named after European cities. Vienna canned sausages are thin, small, and parboiled. Often made from pork and beef, they are described as being similar to hot dogs. Couple the two canned foods by heating the sauerkraut, and pan-frying sliced Vienna sausages to be served on top of the pile of fermented cabbage. This makes an incredible side dish for any German meal.

Black beans, corn, and green chilis

When considering Native American and South American cooking, beans and corn are here to represent. Both have been staples of the American continents since humans began cultivating crops. So it's no wonder that they taste incredibly delicious together. Both are starchy but have extremely different textures. Corn is bursting with juicy sugars, while beans are dense and soft. Beans and corn off the cob are roughly the same size, and the contrasting flavors work well together to make a pleasing side dish. Simply strain both cans, mix the two together on the stovetop, and enjoy. Use flavored beans, or add your own spices like chili, cumin, and garlic powder.

For an extra spicy kick, add canned green chilis. Mild chilis shouldn't catch your mouth on fire but feel free to experiment with heat levels. In fact, you should always have canned chilis in your pantry because they are inexpensive, but can elevate the flavor of any savory dish. Use this simple mix of three ingredients alongside North and South American cuisine.

Carrots and oranges

Although carrots are often thought of as a savory food, this root vegetable is loaded with sugar and pairs well with meats and vegetables, as well as fruits. There's a reason we love a roasted carrot side dish, and that's because root vegetables are quite complimentary to a variety of main courses. And although they are often doused with butter and seasonings, we think that it's never a bad idea to lean into their sweet flavors with complementary fruit.

Consider roasting canned carrots in the oven with mandarin oranges. Use just a few oranges, along with their juice to create a syrupy sweet glaze. Include butter, salt, and pepper, and roast the carrots at a very high temperature in order to crisp them up without drying them out. Butter is a go-to easy way to improve the flavor of canned carrots, but you can also opt for a vegan version and use olive oil.

Pineapple and baked beans

It's hard to find someone out there that doesn't love the flavor of baked beans in the summertime. Alongside your barbecue bounty, like ribs, corn, and coleslaw, baked beans are the sweet and starchy side dish that everyone can't get enough of. Make it even sweeter by combining canned pineapple and baked beans as an easy BBQ side dish. Simply heat your beans in a pot on the stovetop, and add small chunks of the tangy sweet fruit. This is a surefire way to sweeten them up even more and add an additional layer of flavor. Don't use more than a few rings of sliced pineapple, as you don't want to overpower the beans, and end up with a dish that is too sweet.

If you're not sure what to do with the leftover pineapple, toss it right on the grill. There you have it, two side dishes in one. Sprinkle it with cayenne pepper for an extra kick, or glaze it up with barbecue sauce. However, you may want to save a few extra rings for a second batch of pineapple-baked beans as your guests won't be able to get enough of this sweet and savory side dish.

White beans and diced tomatoes

White beans, and cannellini beans, in particular, are an essential ingredient for Italian cooking. So if you've been slaving away in the kitchen to make an irresistible Italian entree and aren't sure what to serve with it, think beans. They are mild enough to not overpower your entrée, but flavorful enough to hold their own up against anything from seafood to gamey red meat. Pair your cannellini beans with diced tomatoes, or canned tomato sauce, and let the two ingredients simmer until the liquid reduces. This will allow the sugars to come out in the tomatoes, and for the beans to absorb some of the umami flavor.

Instead of dicing your own whole tomatoes, follow a major tip you need when cooking with canned tomatoes and go pre-diced. These little chunks will keep their shape even after simmering, which can add a nice texture. Set and forget while you focus on your main entree, or add olive oil, herbs, and garlic to enhance the overall flavor of the Italian side dish. Once the tomatoes cook down and become nice and thick, you can spoon the beans right alongside your main dish without creating a liquidy mess. Take your time, and let your burner do the majority of the work.

Artichokes and pesto

For those who have been through the grueling process of getting to the center of artichokes to retrieve the heart, then you can fully understand why we recommend that you buy the canned version. No fuss no muss. Canned artichoke hearts are delicious, with tender yet chewy layers, and a buttery and nutty flavor. Grilled artichoke hearts can have quite a nice texture to them, so if you already have that grill going, don't hesitate to throw this canned delicacy right on the open flames. This is one of the best ways to use canned artichokes.

Alternatively, they can be pan-fried, oven roasted, or simply reheated in the microwave. Flavor them with a pre-made canned pesto. Pesto can complement the vegetable well because it's also nutty, contains sweet undertones from the basil, and is slightly spicy because of the garlic. Olive oil helps to keep things buttery smooth and adds a fatty mouthfeel. Whichever way you decide to heat your artichoke hearts, consider letting pesto enhance the flavor.

Clams and tomato sauce

Although much of the time it's important to let the main course shine while the side dishes take a back seat, this is not always the case. Sometimes a bold side dish is just what the doctor ordered, and if you're all about flavor then you should consider using clams in your side dish. These little seafood nuggets are quite chewy and have a salty, briny flavor. They are tender, yet rubbery in a pleasing way. Like most ocean cuisine, they aren't overbearing in flavor, but are instead distinctive. They pair beautifully with butter, lemon juice, and tomato sauce.

Use a light amount of canned tomato sauce in combination with canned clams to create the perfect side dish. Canned clams are one of the most underrated canned goods that you should try because they can be used in numerous capacities and applications, and pair well with a range of flavors. Clams in tomato broth are a classic, so feel free to simmer your clams in the tomato sauce, with a splash of canned seafood broth to thin the sauce and enhance the flavor. You can even use the juice from the canned clams themselves.

Cranberry sauce and mandarin oranges

Come Thanksgiving and Christmas, everyone suddenly remembers the most amazing side dish to bless roasted meat, and that's cranberry sauce. It's the perfect balance of tart and sweet and helps to add flavor, temperature, and texture variety to a classic Thanksgiving feast. Some people insist on making it from scratch, while others claim there is nothing better than the canned version.

If you're in the fan club for canned cranberry sauce, that doesn't mean you can't add your own flair. Try adding citrus to canned cranberry sauce via canned mandarin oranges. Simply place your log of cranberry sauce in a bowl, strain your mandarin oranges, and add them to the bright red jelly-like sauce. Use a fork to mash it all together, which will help not only make your sauce look more edible but will also help to break apart the orange slices without totally blending away their texture.

Peas and pearl onions

A classic around the holidays is peas and pear onions, and although your family likely has a special way they typically prepare the dish, we have an easy shortcut that is worth considering. Simply strain and combined canned peas and pear onions, add a little butter, and heat. If you're used to a creamier dish, add a little heavy cream. Sometimes salt, pepper, or thyme can help take it up to the next level, but after the two canned veggies are combined, it's all about personal preference.

Pearl onions are one of the most popular types of onions, but you typically only find them in canned goods or frozen produce aisles unless the holidays are near. But why should they make an appearance only once a year? This side dish is extremely easy to throw together but has the appearance of a holiday specialty. Use that in your favor, and enjoy them all year round.

Green beans and cream of mushroom soup

At just about every potluck, you'll likely find at least one green bean casserole. And that's because they're so easy to make, and universally enjoyed as a vegetarian side dish. Grab a few cans of green beans, and a can of cream of mushrooms soup to get started. Strain the green beans and mix them in a casserole dish with the soup. Bake until the soup reduces, and serve. Cream of mushroom soup can be used in so many ways as an ingredient, which is why it's one of the absolute best canned foods to stock your pantry with.

Some people enjoy a crunchy topping. Try crispy fried onions, which you can buy pre-made, or crumble buttery crackers over the top of the casserole before baking it. Some folks even like to add a little cheddar or parmesan cheese to their crispy topping, and a little extra butter never hurt anyone.

SPAM and potatoes

Ah, Spam in a can. This specially produced American meat may raise a lot of questions about what it actually is, but overall we can agree that it's quite delicious. For those who have never indulged in the delicacy, it has a similar texture to ham or bologna and is both salty and slightly spicy. It comes in a can and is often cubed and pan-fried. It can even be sliced and enjoyed on a sandwich. Consider mixing it into your breakfast potato hash to serve alongside eggs, waffles, and buttered toast, which is perhaps one of the absolute best ways to use Spam.

Dice up some canned potatoes, Spam, and any vegetable you deem worthy of a good hash. Consider onions, garlic, and green peppers, although potatoes and spam will do just fine on their own. Season with garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and paprika, and don't forget to keep everything browning and crisping up in a good amount of olive oil or butter. This can make a quick and easy go-to side dish for your next brunch, with little effort and lots of flavor.

Chili and jalapeños

Who doesn't love a side dish of chili? It's hearty, flavorful, and can be enjoyed over grains and starches alike. And while you could start from scratch with dicing, simmering browning, and slow cooking, it might make more sense to spring for a can of chili instead, especially if it's not your meal's main attraction. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make canned chili taste even better, and one of them is by adding green chilis. Choose mild or spicy chilis to control the overall heat of your side dish.

When it comes to canned chili, there are endless options out there. It's one of the most underrated canned goods you should try. Vegetarians and meat lovers alike can indulge in this ready-made side that takes just minutes to heat up. Toss the chili and jalapeño combination over a baked potato, or some cooked rice, or simply serve it as a hearty and delicious side.

Green beans and broth

There's no getting around it, fresh produce just tastes better. However, there are plenty of preparation methods that can help you to revive and flavor canned foods so that they don't have that distinct canned food taste. Especially when it comes to vegetables, they often need a little boost in the flavor department if their preparation method only uses a can opener. Try the ingredient addition for canned green beans that makes them taste homemade: broth.

Broth is a great way to make any vegetable sing. Simply grab a can of chicken, beef, or vegetable broth to reheat your canned vegetables in. Green beans, in particular, taste incredible when cooked in broth, and it can even help them to taste more expensive. Just be sure not to overcook the vegetables, because canned produce tends to be quite soft to begin with. Use a little fat like olive oil or butter, and dried herbs to help enhance the mouthfeel, and enjoy this uber-simple side dish, loaded with flavor and all of the benefits that vegetables have to offer.

Corn chowder and crab

Soup or salad? Why is it that we only seem to get this option of sides when we are out to eat? It's time to start enjoying more soups on the side, and corn chowder makes for a deliciously decadent option. It's sweet, creamy, indulgent, and loaded with veggie favorites like corn, potatoes, onion, and celery. Grab your favorite canned corn chowder brand, and give it an extra boost by adding some canned crab. Crab and corn chowder recipes are quite popular, and by mixing these two canned goods your job in the kitchen just got a whole lot easier.

Simply add canned crab to your canned soup before heating it up. Although it will most likely already be salty, consider adding some old bay seasoning, or canned diced tomatoes to enhance and complement the flavor of the duo. If you want to go one step further, top with fresh herbs like minced chives, green onion, or parsley. Just be sure to alert anyone with a seafood allergy, or any vegetarians of this sweet and chewy addition to your soup, and serve just before, or alongside your main entrée.