Surf and turf is a classic meal pairing of seafood and steak. The surf component is usually a seafood like lobster, shrimp, scallops or crab legs. The turf is a nice juicy steak like filet mignon, NY strip, ribeye or T-bone. When putting together a surf and turf dinner, half the battle is picking out delicious side dishes that will perfectly complement these stars of the show. Here are some tips on how to choose fantastic pairings for surf and turf.
Consider the flavors and textures of your surf and turf
The first step in choosing sides is to take into account the flavors and textures of whatever seafood and steak you are working with. Lobster, for example, is sweet and tender. Filet mignon is buttery and tender. Scallops are delicate and sweet. A NY strip is robust and beefy. You’ll want to pick sides that are flavorful enough to hold their own against the stars of the meal, but that won’t overpower them either. You’ll also want to consider textures – some creamy, some crunchy, some crispy. The goal is balance.
Stick with classics
Some classic side dishes pair perfectly with just about any surf and turf dinner. It’s hard to go wrong with options like:
- Baked potato
- Mashed potatoes
- Rice pilaf
- Sauteed vegetables
- Green salad
- Bread rolls
These are all fairly mild in flavor and provide the starch, vegetables, and crunchy textures you want with a surf and turf meal. Feel free to jazz them up with different seasonings, cheeses, vegetables or other mix-ins. The basics work with just about any combination of seafood and steak.
Play on the cuisine
If you want to get creative with your side dishes, think about the type of cuisine that your particular surf and turf pairing is inspired by. For example:
- For a classic lobster and filet mignon, stick with elegant French-inspired sides like wild mushroom risotto or asparagus with hollandaise sauce.
- For shrimp and ribeye, try Southern flavors like cornbread, collard greens or cheese grits.
- For crab and strip steak, complement with All-American sides like twice-baked potatoes, creamed spinach or mac and cheese.
- For sea scallops and filet, go coastal with sides like crab cakes, fried clam strips or New England clam chowder.
Playing into the cuisine theme can help all your food feel cohesive.
Remember drink pairings
Don’t forget to think about what wines, beers or cocktails would go well with your particular surf and turf meal! Lobster screams for white wine or champagne. Filet mignon calls for a good red wine or whiskey. And certain beers can perfectly complement different cuts of steak or types of seafood. Get creative with your drinks and you can add a whole new layer of flavor.
Try these specific side pairing ideas
Here are some more specific side dish ideas that are specially suited for certain surf and turf combinations:
Lobster tail and filet mignon
- Truffle mac and cheese
- Garlic mashed potatoes
- Creamed spinach
- Sauteed wild mushrooms
- Roasted asparagus
Crab legs and ribeye
- Corn on the cob
- Cole slaw
- Hush puppies
- Baked beans
- Potato salad
Scallops and NY strip
- Roasted cauliflower
- Quinoa salad
- Roasted brussels sprouts
- Blistered tomatoes
- Sauteed carrots
Shrimp and filet mignon
- Garlic bread
- Pasta alfredo
- Sauteed zucchini
- Tomato mozzarella salad
Rules of thumb for side dishes
Here are some general guidelines and tips when brainstorming the perfect sides for any surf and turf dinner:
- Aim for balance of flavors, colors and textures
- Include at least 1 starch, 1 vegetable, 1 salad/bread
- Keep it simple – 2 to 3 sides is usually plenty
- Focus on highlighting the stars of the show
- But don’t be afraid to add bold flavors
- Make sure cooking methods complement each other
- Consider what’s in season and local
- Get creative with sauces and dressings
Sample surf and turf menus
Here are a few sample full surf and turf menus with different side dish options:
Lobster, Filet Mignon and Classic Sides
- Lobster Tails
- Filet Mignon
- Baked Potato with Sour Cream
- Sauteed Asparagus
- Caesar Salad
- Dinner Rolls
Crab, Ribeye and Southern Sides
- Snow Crab Legs
- Ribeye Steak
- Cheesy Grits
- Pecan Pie
Scallops, Strip and Coastal Sides
- Seared Scallops
- NY Strip Steak
- Fried Clam Strips
- Roasted Potatoes
- Steamed Broccoli
- New England Clam Chowder
Shrimp, Filet and Mediterranean Sides
- Grilled Shrimp Skewers
- Filet Mignon
- Tomato Cucumber Salad
- Sauteed Zucchini
- Garlic Bread
Don’t fret if you don’t have all the ingredients for a certain side dish. There are plenty of possible substitutions or changes you can make.
|Side Dish||Possible Substitutions|
|Baked potato||Mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, fried potatoes|
|Rice pilaf||Risotto, quinoa, couscous, pasta|
|Sauteed vegetables||Roasted vegetables, steamed vegetables, grilled vegetables|
|Green salad||Caesar salad, kale salad, spinach salad, wedge salad|
|Corn on the cob||Cornbread, corn salad|
|Coleslaw||Potato salad, pasta salad, broccoli salad|
|Cheesy grits||Mac and cheese, mashed potatoes|
|Sauteed zucchini||Sauteed squash, roasted vegetables|
|Tomato salad||Beet salad, fruit salad, simple green salad|
The key is being flexible and working with whatever ingredients are fresh and readily available. With surf and turf, you really can’t go wrong with the classics!
Surf and turf is all about delicious contrast – the sweet brininess of seafood alongside the savory umami of steak. Half the fun is rounding out the meal with an array of complementary side dishes. Stick with versatile classics like potatoes, rice and vegetables or get creative and play into different global cuisines. Just remember to aim for balance of flavors, textures and colors to let the stars shine. With so many possibilities, you’re bound to find the perfect pairings!