Corned beef and cabbage is already a main and side dish package right? Yes and no.
It’s a package all right, and it’s one that calls for just the right compliments in flavor, texture and density to go along with it.
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Now first, while you may think of corned beef and cabbage as the quintessential Irish meal, it’s actually not quite as Irish as green beer and shamrock balloons.
Okay, you got us. Neither of those is particularly Irish either.
In fact, when Irish immigrants came to America en masse between 1820 and 1860, they settled in urban areas populated with other immigrants. Which meant that they frequented the neighborhood kosher shops and butchers, and they started purchasing corned beef brisket.
Why is corned beef special when it comes to finding good side dishes?
Corned beef’s humble appearance is just a metaphorical trick of the light. It’s actually cured in a salt brine with pickling spices, so it’s loaded – and we mean loaded – with briny flavor.
With that, what do you serve with corned beef that will pair favorably with the brine and make your meal shine?
Well that’s where we come into the equation. We want to help you find the best sides for your meal of corned beef and cabbage – to help you find just the right flavors to bring out the best in this wondrously flavorful dish.
From homemade condiments (we’re looking at you, horseradish!) to traditional Irish soda bread to colcannon, we’re here to provide you with some mouthwatering options to make your meal sing and dance.
What Goes with Corned Beef and Cabbage: Our List of Delish
So, let’s round up those brining spices and beef brisket – and get ready to do jig of joy. Because at the end of our rainbow is giant pot of corned beef side dish, sauce, and accompaniment ideas that will leaving you… wait for it… reeling.
1. Homemade Horseradish
Let’s cut right to the chase. Homemade spicy horseradish is amazing.
It takes the word “amazing” to stratospheric heights.
It makes your nose run from six feet away when it’s fresh, and – oh yes – fresh horseradish is far superior to anything in the refrigerator section of the grocery store. Your eyes will tear up in the most delightful way.
Horseradish is the cool kid in the class. But the cool kid that’s nice to everyone, the one that you actually like.
Horseradish is the song on the radio that makes you sing along.
And it makes corned beef and cabbage sing along too.
That’s right, when you’re eating corned beef and cabbage, horseradish is something you want to be only a fork’s distance away.
Clubfoody has a great video on how to make horseradish and how to control the heat if one is so inclined.
2. Buttered Parsley Potatoes
We love to serve whole baby potatoes with corned beef and cabbage. They look gorgeous on the plate, they pair perfectly with the meal – and let’s face it – buttery baby potatoes are pretty swoon-worthy.
Also, baby boiled potatoes are creamy and savory, and what more could corned beef and cabbage ask for as a plate mate?
We really like Christin’s recipe at Spicy Southern Kitchen for all the tuber goodness.
3. Sourdough Bread
Corned beef and cabbage sits up and takes notice when a boule of sourdough bread arrives on the table.
The bread nestles in a basket, wrapped snugly in linen napkin. The corned beef and cabbage lounges on a rustic platter, exuding pure mother-loving comfort.
That tangy bread sops up the meaty juices and that crunchy crust provides a little contrast to the fork-tender meat.
As you look around the table, all is well with the world.
4. Colcannon with Kale
We love serving traditional colcannon with corned beef and cabbage. It’s one of the best go-to corned beef and cabbage sides.
But, we also love to shake it up from time to time. And kale is a fantastic mover and shaker.
We also love to stir in a little heat with horseradish sauce – because, horseradish. #BecauseHorseradish
Long story short, super buttery mashed potatoes mixed with half and half and wilted kale makes the perfect side for corned beef and cabbage.
We really like Sue’s recipe at The View from Great Island.
5. A Crisp Green Salad
Corned beef and cabbage can be rich. (Isn’t that why we love it?) So, pairing it with a fresh salad makes the perfect yin to the main dish’s yang.
Hearty and light.
Succulent and crisp.
And winter greens are abundant with flavor.
Peppery mustard greens or arugula make a fabulous combination with more delicate greens like frisée.
Go nuts and make that salad pop with interesting textures and flavors!
6. Irish Soda Bread
We love the amazing savory chemistry experiment that is known as Irish soda bread.
The buttermilk and the baking soda create a little sumpin’ sumpin’ that makes the bread rise in a most delicious fashion.
And it loves to be on a plate with corned beef and cabbage.
Give the sliced bread a schmear of butter, and load up the rest of the plate with the meat and vegetables.
You know you want to.
Grab Rachel’s recipe at The Stay at Home Chef.
7. Dijon Stout Gravy
We love a good gravy with our corned beef and cabbage. A full-flavored little topping for the plate. Something that checks all the right boxes.
Luscious texture. Check.
Deep, dark savoriness. Check.
We love to drizzle the gravy over the meat and vegetables and just sit back and admire our Picasso-esque plate.
Look at all that beauty. Inhale all that flavor.
We really like Justine’s recipe at Cooking and Beer.
8. Apple Sauce
When choosing what to serve with corned beef and cabbage, we often think it’s good to zig instead of the more common zag.
And, we love a little sweet treat on the plate along with our savory main. And nothing satisfies more than apple sauce.
You can keep it chunky or make it smooth.
You can let the natural sweetness of the apples flavor the sauce, or you can gin it up a little by adding a bit of granulated sugar.
It’s up to you. It’s your beautiful plate of food.
Either way, your corned beef cabbage will shine a little brighter for having the apple sauce by its side.
We like Natasha’s recipe at the eponymously named Natasha’s Kitchen site.
Sometimes it’s good to take a side trip, to find the unexpected – but somehow perfectly complementary – side dish.
So, we say, when you think of side dishes for corned beef and cabbage, let your mind go to everyone’s favorite roly poly starch.
Whether they’re tossed with butter or a little olive oil, these potato dumplings pair with the corned beef and cabbage in a organic way.
Potatoes love, love, love corned beef.
And corned beef returns the adoration.
To make the gnocchi side dish even more off the charts, some cooked, cooled, and drained spinach would make a colorful and lip-smacking addition to the dough before forming and boiling them.
10. Roasted Asparagus
When you think of what goes with corned beef and cabbage, just crank that oven, and snap those stalks. Asparagus is ready to rock and roll with the main dish.
Just toss the asparagus with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper… and, of course, a bit of love.
The fresh bright flavor of asparagus will take care of the rest.
You could substitute the lemon juice for apple cider vinegar for an extra layer of tang, or finish it with parmesan for added richness.
You can’t go wrong with a plate of corned beef, cabbage, and roasted asparagus. Heck, you could even add some sauce on your asparagus and go wild.
11. Roasted Vegetables with Fennel Fronds
Inasmuch as white is the combination of all colors in light, roasted vegetables are a riot of sunny brightness.
Also, the joy of roasted veggies is that a sheet pan of full them can contain anything you want.
Carrots, onions, beets, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, potatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, and fennel, all play well with each other – and they love the lightly briny and salty flavor of the corned beef.
Top the hot veggies with fresh herbs or fennel fronds and call it a painting on baking sheet.
12. Dilly Beans
Turn into the briny flavors of the corned beef by serving them with the superstar of the pickle world – dilly beans.
They’re crisp, garlicy, and loaded with dill flavors.
No one – child or adult – can resist these.
They can be “quick pickled” by heating a brine with vinegar, water, sugar, copious amounts of fresh dill, and black peppercorns, and stored in the refrigerator. Or you can preserve them by processing them in a water bath.
Either way, you want these on your plate, and in your belly. Oh. So. Good.
13. Honey Mustard Roasted Parsnips
Parsnips are carrot’s shyer, sweeter, and hipper cousin.
They squat in the corner of a party, and effortlessly sketch the room in their art book with a jelly jar of wine on the floor next to them.
They volunteer in food kitchens without telling anyone.
They secretly put money in other people’s parking meters.
They’re just that good.
Parsnips are sweet and savory – and much like corned beef – they love a good and grainy mustard.
So, when serving up corned beef and cabbage, toss some parsnips with olive oil, honey, hearty mustard, salt and pepper, and roast them for 20 minutes.
You know the corned beef and cabbage are going to love the company.
What to Serve with Corned Beef and Cabbage: To Beer, or Not to Beer
So, that’s a deep dive into the world of sides and sauces to bring out the best in your corned beef, but there are still other accompaniments to consider.
For instance, is beer as good with corned beef as you think it would be?
The simple answer is, yes.
Beer is amazing with corned beef and cabbage. Especially a black and tan.
The impressive layers of a stout and a lager makes a festive, festive drink for this traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal.
But, as great a combination as corned beef and beer are, wine is the often overlooked beverage option here.
So, we thought it would be fun to take a look at what wine goes with corned beef and cabbage.
Because, wine makes us happy.
Being Thin-skinned is Good
Beaujolais Nouveau is made from the thin skinned gamay grape, which is fruity and low in tannins. This all adds up to a fabulous pairing for salty corned beef and earthy cabbage.
A delicate pinot noir or a light zinfandel are also eminently pourable for a dinner of corned beef and cabbage.
Also, a bouncy and sweet pinot gris, a flowery pinot grigio, or a crisp Riesling will all be welcome at the table.
End on a High Note
And for dessert, we have plenty of festive options.
What about a cookie and cream parfait made with Irish cream?
How about sugar cookies with green icing, or bright green velvet cupcakes.
And don’t forget to round out the evening with some Irish coffee.
Just because corned beef and cabbage isn’t totally Irish per se, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t embrace the fact that it’s become ubiquitous with St. Patrick’s Day.
Remember too, when all said and done you can always convert your corned beef into a reuben sandwich and use these great sides!
So, grab that brisket and spices and a big Dutch oven. Because deciding what to serve with corned beef and cabbage is simpler than you might think.
Go ahead. You’ve got a fabulous dinner waiting for you!