Sweet and sour pork is a classic Chinese takeout dish that combines tender pieces of pork with a sticky sweet and tangy sauce. While the pork is undoubtedly the star of the show, having the right side dish can take this meal to the next level. The ideal side should balance out the strong flavors of the pork and sauce while adding extra nutrition and variety to the plate. When considering the best side for sweet and sour pork, there are a few key factors to take into account.
Since sweet and sour pork has a bold, sweet and sour flavor profile, you’ll want a side dish that complements these tastes without overpowering them. Here are some flavor profiles that pair well with the classic sauce:
- Tangy – Tart ingredients like citrus, vinegar, and yogurt provide a bright counterpoint to the sweetness of the pork.
- Savory – Umami-rich sides made with soy sauce, sesame oil, mushrooms, and the like balance out the sweet flavor.
- Crunchy – Crisp, fresh vegetables or nuts give some textural contrast to the tender, saucy pork.
- Mild – Because the pork is so strongly flavored, a relatively neutral side dish prevents palate fatigue.
Consider how potential sides complement the sweet and sour profile based on their own flavors and textures.
Since sweet and sour pork delivers plenty of protein, carbs, and sugar, an ideal side dish will round out the meal nutritionally. Some healthy nutrients to look for include:
- Fiber – Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes boost fiber, which most pork dishes lack.
- Vitamins & Minerals – Fresh produce provides essential vitamins and minerals like Vitamins A, C, and K.
- Healthy Fats – Unsaturated fats from plant-based foods like avocado and olive oil promote heart health.
- Lean Protein – For a protein boost, add a plant-based protein like tofu or edamame.
A nutritious side will help make this takeout favorite into a balanced meal.
Let’s be honest – when ordering takeout, you don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking side dishes from scratch. Look for sides that are simple to prepare or can be made ahead of time. Some easy options include:
- Simple salads like a spinach salad with pre-sliced veggies and light dressing
- Baked or roasted vegetables – just toss with oil and seasoning and pop into the oven
- Pre-cooked whole grains like quinoa or brown rice
- Canned or frozen vegetables that just need quick reheating
Sides that require minimal prep allow you to focus on enjoying the sweet and sour pork without all the kitchen labor.
Now that we’ve covered how to select an optimal side dish, let’s look at some specific options that are known crowd-pleasers next to sweet and sour pork:
Rice is the quintessential match for any saucy, stir-fried entree. Plain white steamed rice soaks up the flavorful sauce beautifully. For more nutrition, opt for brown rice or give the rice an Asian flair with additions like sesame oil, soy sauce, grated ginger, shredded nori, or stir-fried veggies.
Quick-cooking, crisp-tender vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, snap peas, bok choy, carrots, and mushrooms make an excellent complement. Stir-fry them with a little oil, garlic, and soy sauce for a healthy, colorful side.
Kale, chard, spinach, and Asian greens like yu choy wilt down quickly when sautéed with garlic and make a fiber-filled, nutritious match for saucy pork. Garnish with sesame seeds for added crunch and nuttiness.
For a sweet, refreshing counterpoint, enjoy sweet and sour pork with fresh orange or pineapple slices, grapes, or melon. The natural sugars balance the sweetness from the pork glaze.
Cool, crisp cucumber slices or spears provide a hydrating, palate-cleansing accompaniment. Dress simply with rice vinegar and sesame oil for an Asian-inspired slaw.
Warm, steamed edamame pods make an easy protein-packed side. The nutty flavor and satisfying crunch stands up well to the pork. Sprinkle with kosher salt before serving.
For a crispy, indulgent side, try quick-fried wontons with just a squirt of sweet chili sauce. They provide a tasty textural contrast to the soft, saucy pork.
Putting it All Together
Here’s a sample meal with sweet and sour pork and complementary side dishes:
|Side Dish 1
|Side Dish 2
|Sweet and Sour Pork
The brown rice soaks up the bold sauce while adding fiber and nutrients. Meanwhile, the bright green broccoli provides a fresh, crunchy contrast. Together, these sides balance the flavors and textures of the pork for a satisfying, well-rounded meal.
With its sweet and tangy sauce coating tender pieces of pork, sweet and sour pork is a cherished Chinese restaurant menu item. Rice is the classic accompaniment, but incorporating a vegetable side as well makes for a healthy, balanced dinner. Crisp, crunchy vegetables, fresh fruits and salads, and plant-based proteins all make excellent pairings. Choosing sides that feature complementary flavors and textures allows the sweet and sour pork to really shine while giving your meal more nutritional diversity. With the right combination of sides, takeout night becomes a nutritious and delicious homemade-tasting dinner with minimal effort.