It’s a common dilemma – we all want to be healthier and eat better, and one of the best ways to do that is to cook your own food, rather than reaching for a takeout menu or ready meal packet whenever dinner time comes.
However, we’re all busy. We have jobs, kids, and other commitments. So it’s not surprising that we sometimes just don’t feel like cooking, much less like cleaning up afterwards.
But help is at hand in the form of this list. We’ve put together a sumptuous list of easy, weeknight meals that taste great with minimal effort. Say goodbye to frozen pizzas and hello to these beautiful dishes!
This delicious stir-fry dish goes perfectly with rice and is an ideal weeknight staple – it can be made in as little as 10 minutes!
It’s minced chicken stir-fried with soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, chili, a little chicken broth, and, the star ingredient, Thai basil.
This can be found in most good Asian supermarkets and even some mainstream ones too. It has a stronger flavor than regular basil, with hints of anise and mint to it.
As you can probably tell, the dish itself is bursting with bold flavors and is an absolute joy to eat. The genuine article is pretty spicy, but you can of course adjust the heat level to your own personal taste.
The name of this Neapolitan dish means “spaghetti with garlic and oil” and it’s well known for being both tasty and very simple to prepare.
The basic recipe calls only for spaghetti, garlic, and olive oil, though there are several variations which add in extra flavors, as this recipe does. Pepper flakes are a common addition, and parsley is often seen as a garnish.
Though this recipe includes Parmesan cheese, and you could add meat if you wanted to, the basic dish is entirely vegan and can easily be kept that way.
We’re already up to two stir-fried dishes on this list already, and it’s no coincidence – stir-fries are weeknight lifesavers for their ability to combine all kinds of ingredients in a way that cooks them almost at once. That’s the name of the game with this dish, too.
The beef is marinated in a honey and soy sauce mixture with ginger, and then stir-fried with some green onions, chilies, garlic, and more ginger, giving it a deep and distinctively Asian flavor.
It’s simple to clean up afterwards too, since you’re cooking all this in one pot. What could be better?
We talked in the introduction about cutting back on the takeout pizzas, but we didn’t say anything about these naan pizzas! They need only 5 ingredients and 10 minutes to make, so it’s hard to imagine a better dinner for a busy weeknight.
Those 5 ingredients are for the basic version, but it’s pizza, so you can put just about anything you like on it, from peppers to (gasp) pineapple. It could even be a good way of using up leftovers if you have half an onion or a bit of ham lying around your fridge.
Naan makes a surprisingly good pizza base and can also be prebaked for a few minutes before you add the toppings to give you an even crispier crust.
This vegetarian dish is easy to prepare in a hurry, and consists of portobello mushrooms stuffed with a flavorsome mixture of breadcrumbs, herbs, lemon, and white wine.
If you’re skeptical about eating just mushrooms for dinner, don’t be. Portobello mushrooms are large and more filling than you might expect.
You can of course also adjust the stuffing to include whatever ingredients you like, or just whatever you have around that you need to get rid of.
Juicy, tender steak combined with crispy potatoes. What could be better than that? How about those two things with a garlic, herb, and butter sauce?
Not only does it taste sensational but it’s more or less impossible to get wrong and will only take 30 minutes to make, maybe even less!
The steak is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, hot sauce, black pepper, and olive oil for maximum flavor. You can add Parmesan cheese to the potatoes as well if you like, and if that doesn’t all sound mouth watering then what else is there to say?
This is a one pot pasta dish that’s perfect for when you need dinner made as quickly as possible.
Cream cheese and nutmeg are the two main bringers of flavor here, and if you think that sounds like a bit of an unusual combination, you owe it yourself to give it a try. It’s a refreshing change from the usual tomato sauces that usually come with pasta, and it’s quicker to make, too.
The spinach also cooks quickly, but you can add other vegetables if you have them on hand, but it’d be best if you cut them up thinly, so they don’t slow down the cooking process.
In addition to being healthy (little fat, lots of protein, good source of Omega-3), tuna is very easy to cook and tuna steaks are ready to be fried with almost no preparation.
This recipe takes only 20 minutes and comes in at only 400 calories per serving, so you’re looking after your body by making this.
All you need to do to cook the tuna itself is brush both sides with oil, season it and fry it for however long it takes to get it to your desired level of doneness – 30 seconds (as in the recipe) should be fine for rare tuna steaks, but if you’d like it cooked more than that, leave it in the pan longer.
The salad is a perfect companion to the tuna and lets its flavors shine through.
These chicken breasts are stuffed with a delicious garlicky cream cheese before being wrapped in prosciutto, seared, and then finished in the oven.
This absolutely delicious combination goes well with all kinds of different things – the recipe recommends rice and steamed vegetables, but potatoes, roast vegetables and pasta could all be good options as well, so use whatever takes your fancy.
The mixture of soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger, and sriracha sauce means that this dish is packed with delicious flavor, and a little lime juice squeezed over before it’s served really completes the picture and makes all the other flavors pop.
It goes very well with rice – the recipe recommends basil fried rice – but if you’re short on time then just regular steamed rice will do well enough.
Luckily, the shrimp only take around 20 minutes to cook, so you shouldn’t be in too much of a rush.
As the great American philosopher LeBron James once said, “Taaacoooo Tuuuuesdaaay!” Tuesday, as you might be aware, is a weeknight, and therefore the perfect opportunity to enjoy these delicious tacos. The chicken is cooked with a long list of herbs and spices so that it’s teeming with flavor.
After it’s cooked tender, it’s shredded into the perfect taco texture and combined with the other ingredients to make amazing tacos. It’s also perfect as a leftover so you can have more tacos tomorrow!
This is a little bit of a different spin on the classic that is mac and cheese. For some people, there’s no need to fix what isn’t broken, but if you don’t mind a bit of experimentation, this is a great weeknight delight.
Oh, and it’s got bacon, so if you were still having doubts, that ought to win you over.
The crispiness of the bacon contrasts nicely with the smoothness of the cheese sauce and the softness of the cooked macaroni, along with providing delicious salty, meaty bites throughout the bowl.
The recipe also recommends using strong vintage cheddar in the sauce for maximum flavor.
Canton is an old name for Guangzhou, the city that’s the capital of Guangdong Province, Southern China.
Cantonese cuisine is one of the most highly regarded in China and is known for using subtle seasoning to let the best ingredients speak for themselves. This is a dish that perfectly demonstrates that philosophy.
The recipe will work with any fish that’s not too firm and oily – cod, sea bass, grouper, and other fish like that will be great. Traditionally, the entire fish is steamed, head and all, but if you just want to have a fillet then that’s fine too.
The main seasoning is simple – just some soy sauce, ginger, and cilantro for garnish, but that’s all it needs. Another great thing about it is that it’ll be cooked and ready to eat in 20 minutes, so it’s perfect for weeknights.
First, some quick explanations. ‘Nduja is a kind of spicy, spreadable pork sausage that comes from Calabria in Southern Italy. Vongole is just the Italian word for clams.
So, that means we’re having a dish with spicy sausage and clams (there’s some linguine in there too). The whole meal comes together in just 15 minutes, and the bold flavor of the ‘nduja will liven up the dish nicely.
This delicious stir-fry is 100% vegan, and will only take 20 minutes from start to finish.
It’s actually modelled on a traditional Chinese recipe for fried pork kidneys, where the kidneys were scored in a crosshatch pattern before cooking to improve their texture and help them absorb the flavors in the seasoning.
There’s no offal or meat of any kind in this dish, but the mushrooms are scored in the same way and for the same reason, making them taste outstanding.
Oh, by the way, when the title says “spicy”, it really means it, so don’t be afraid to tone down the spice a little if you’re the kind of person who’s sensitive to heat in food.
This delicious curry is a fairly simple one to make if you use store-bought green curry paste, or if you have some homemade stuff lying around in your fridge.
Making the paste fresh might start to take this out of weeknight meal territory, but that’s up to you.
This recipe doesn’t contain any meat, but it’s easy to add chicken to it if you like. Also note that just because it has vegetables and tofu in it, it isn’t necessarily vegetarian.
Also in the recipe is chicken broth, fish sauce (for which there are vegan alternatives) and green curry pastes often include animal products, so be careful.
Vegetarian or not, this is a rich and deeply seasoned curry that’s a delight to eat on a cold evening.
This lovely, warming soup is perfect for any weeknight, but is particularly good for making you feel comfortable and cozy when the weather’s cold.
It’s a hearty soup taken in a slightly unusual and interesting direction by the addition of the coconut and the extra seasoning that comes with it.
It’s also the kind of thing that’s very easy to freeze and reheat, so make a large batch, freeze the leftovers, and defrost them on another time when you need a quick weeknight meal.
Although there’s curry powder in it, it’s not all that spicy, so you can add in some chilies if you’d prefer some more heat.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you simplify weeknight meals?
It can be a real chore having to cook a meal on a weeknight, but there are things you can do to help yourself out. The first thing to do is find some quick, simple recipes to fall back on.
This list can certainly help you out with that! Once you’ve found some recipes you favor, you’ll quickly learn them by heart, so you won’t have to consult the recipe when you’re making them anymore, which will speed things up.
You can also make large batches of these dishes and save the leftovers for another night, saving you the work of cooking for that evening.
Are One Pot Recipes Good For Weeknights?
It depends, but the answer is often yes. Making a meal that’s all cooked in one pot saves you time because it reduces the number of dishes you have to wash afterwards.
That being said, some one pot dishes might not be ideal for weeknights because of how long they take to cook. You might not want to wait for 2 hours for a slow cooked stew to finish, for example.
Then again, dishes like that usually require little supervision once you’ve got them going, so if you’re content to wait awhile, you can fill the cooking time by doing something else that you need to do.
Can Quick Meals Be Healthy?
They certainly can. While not all quick meals are healthy (a burger and french fries can be a quick meal, after all), there are plenty of ones that are, so there’s no need for you to worry about your health when you make quick weeknight meals.
Most, if not all of the dishes on this list are at least reasonably healthy, so take your pick.
There you have it, enough simple and delicious weeknight meals to last you for weeks!
You won’t need to try them all in that time, either, as you can have the leftovers of some of them a couple of nights later to free up your time even more. With what you know now, no longer will your weeknights be full of pizza boxes and guilt!