Making delicious and healthy dinners doesn’t have to take all day. Here are our best fast and easy dinner ideas — all made in 30 minutes or less!
Cooking takes time. But making delicious and healthy recipes doesn’t have to take all day! After over 10 years in the kitchen together, Alex and I have learned this: the best easy dinner ideas balance big flavor and quick cooking methods. So here, we’re sharing fast dinner ideas you can make in 30 minutes or less. From tacos to pasta to salads to soups, there are easy dinner ideas for everyone! Keep reading for the recipes.
Looking for fast and easy dinner ideas?
The question Alex and I asked most often is, “What are your favorite fast and easy dinner ideas?” And we get it. Life is busy. There are 101 things to do, and adding cooking to that list can be stressful.
When we started cooking, we mainly chose dinner ideas that were 30 minutes or less. Why spend longer, when our day was already crammed full?
Since those early days, we’ve learned the value of spending time in the kitchen. Some recipes just need time to develop great flavor. Today, we’re more willing to spend 45 minutes to 1 hour making dinner if we know the flavor will be excellent.
Keeping things easy…dinner concepts
At the same time, there are plenty of fast and easy dinner ideas that can be made in less than 30 minutes with big flavor. These are recipes with fresh, high quality flavor that’s achieved without using cheap shortcuts. Creating this type of fast and easy dinner ideas has become somewhat of a niche for us. We love tinkering with flavors and methods to get the perfect balance of speed and deliciousness.
Here are some of our favorite concepts for quick & easy dinner ideas:
- Simple pasta is a go to for quick dinner ideas: be it pasta salad or our speed demon 15-minute gnocchi with Romesco
- Quesadillas are always quick: like our loaded veggie quesadilla or avocado quesadilla
- Sandwiches are the ultimate simple dinner ideas, like our 5 minute sandwich (for brinner!) or our vegan bahn mi
- Tacos are all about speed, like our BBQ bean tacos or quinoa tacos
- Pita pizzas are perfect for “no think” dinners, like these umami bomb pita pizzas
With all the recipes in our arsenal, we’ve got you covered for those weeknights where you have less than 30 minutes to spare. In many cases, making one of our easy dinner ideas is even faster than takeout!
What people are saying…
Does this sound too good to be true: recipes that are easy AND taste good? Well let us assure you, it’s absolutely possible! Here are a few recent testimonials from readers who have emailed us about the easy dinner recipes they’ve been trying:
- “My husband has a heart condition and I have borderline high cholesterol. My son bought me your cookbook and I am continuing to try new recipes from your book and website. While we still eat meat, we have cut back considerably. I have managed to lose about twenty pounds and my cholesterol has improved. This week I made your teriyaki stir fry and mushroom and goat cheese pasta. Both were TERRIFIC!” –Debbie
- “My husband and I decided to take our family down the vegetarian road about 9 months ago. I used to LOVE cooking, but have been in a slump since we went vegetarian. Often I find vegetarian/vegan recipes try to do too much with too many ingredients. Well, tonight, the tides have turned! I made FOUR of the five sandwich recipes I got from your blog and every single one was a winner! I have not felt this satisfied in the kitchen in such a long time! ” –Terra-Leigh
Our cookbook: full of easy dinner ideas
Alex and I literally wrote the book on easy dinner ideas! Everyone asks us how to make healthy home cooking easy and accessible. Pretty Simple Cooking is all about solving that problem! That was the reason that we started this website, and that is why we keep doing what we do today.
Ok, now let’s get to the recipes!
First up in our easy dinner recipes: this mushroom pasta! It's a fan favorite recipe because of the big flavor that's possible in under 30 minutes. Imagine: creamy goat cheese and savory mushrooms, seasoned with thyme and oregano and paired with the bite of chewy pasta. An absolute showstopper.
Is there anything better than shrimp tacos? Add chips and salsa as a side, and we can’t think of much better. The cilantro sauce drizzle is creamy like ranch, but with cilantro and cumin. This easy dinner idea is fast enough for weeknights and fancy enough for entertaining: making it a double whammy.
Ready for the best veggie stir fry? Of course, that’s our humble opinion! This easy dinner idea uses our homemade teriyaki sauce: it has just 4 ingredients and comes together in 5 minutes! Oh, and it’s naturally sweet using maple syrup. Using homemade teriyaki sauce makes this stir fry taste natural and delicious: serve it up with some rice and you've got dinner.
This spin on a Hawaiian inspired poke bowl features seared salmon and veggies in a colorful bowl, an easy dinner idea perfect for weeknights or entertaining. The salmon is marinated and seared for just a minute in a hot pan. It’s cooked in literally 30 to 45 seconds: talk about fast dinner recipes! Throw it in a bowl with rice, tangy cucumber “noodles” and sesame carrot ribbons, and you’ve got one delicious dinner.
These loaded quinoa tacos are a true crowd pleaser! The quinoa filling is toasted and filled with taco spices and lime. Then combine it with a bell pepper slaw, spicy sour cream, salsa, and feta cheese, and you’ve got a new level of delicious. Oh and pickled red onions for color and crunch!
After trying this Swiss melt sandwich the first time, we agreed it tastes like a healthy version of a Big Mac! Start with our best coleslaw ever, and add melty cheese on a salty pretzel bun. What puts it over the edge is our secret sauce: Russian dressing, the star ingredient in...you guessed it, a Big Mac. And even better: it's seriously quick to make!
This romesco gnocchi recipe is bursting with flavor and takes just 5 minutes to whiz in a blender. And the gnocchi boils for 3 minutes! Instead of cooking the spinach, we use a little trick: use the hot pasta water to quickly wilt it when draining the pasta. Once you’ve tried this tip, you’ll find yourself using it often. Combine the wilted spinach with the gnocchi sauce and cooked gnocchi and you’ve got dinner!
This 30-minute coconut lentil curry is one of our most popular quick recipes to date. It’s a fast and easy dinner that’s healthy and full of flavor. One of our fan favorites, we hear things like: “This is a new favorite!” and “Absolutely LOVED IT! Definitely am making again.” It’s surprising how much humble brown lentils can inspire so much enthusiasm!
This chickpea bowls recipe is a common repeat in our easy dinner recipes repertoire. In just 25 minutes, you have a fresh bowl of veggies that’s smothered in a tangy lemon tahini sauce. If you’re just starting to eat plant based recipes or have been eating them for years, this one is a truly tasty way to eat your veggies.
These tacos are full of flavor and done in 25 minutes. Simply simmer pinto beans in a quick homemade BBQ sauce, then use that time to chop up your pineapple, red onion and cilantro for a quick salsa. It’s one of our go to’s for quick weeknights! The salsa uses canned pineapple, so many of the ingredients can be kept in the pantry for easy access when you need easy dinner recipes.
This chickpea salad sandwich is quickly becoming a fan favorite. Essentially a meatless chicken salad sandwich using chickpeas, the chickpea salad features mashed chickpeas, celery, green onion, a little mayo, and a pop of lemon. It’s one of our top easy dinner recipes and takes only 10 minutes!
Salmon is so quick to prepare and full of nutrients that it prominently features in our easy dinner recipes. Here this 10-minute baked salmon recipe makes for an ultra quick dinner, paired with a bright green chimichurri sauce. Serve with a whole grain like our pesto quinoa or rice.
Quesadillas are one of our top easy dinner recipes when we're in a rush. This vegetarian quesadilla recipe is homemade with natural whole foods and full of both nutrients. Most importantly, it’s bursting with flavor. The star ingredient here is creamy avocado, which adds healthy fats and richness to the filling without the need for a massive amount of cheese. And the zesty chipotle lime tahini sauce is the showstopper.
This is a quick and creative take on the popular Vietnamese sandwich, which typically features meat or egg on a baguette with lots of delicious quick pickled vegetables. This flavorful vegan banh mi sandwich features a homemade ginger lime hummus, colorful pickled vegetables, cilantro, and of course: Sriracha!
These quinoa bowls take just 30 minutes to make and are full of zesty flavor: fresh mango, red pepper, red cabbage, avocado, fresh greens, cilantro and cashews. It’s topped off with a vegan cashew citrus drizzle, a combination of cashews, orange and lime juice, and fresh ginger. It’s so, so good and tastes like it took hours to put together!
Ready in just 30 minutes, we affectionately call this soup “pizza soup” because it tastes like liquid pizza! The pizza flavor comes in part from the San Marzano tomatoes, a variety of tomato that’s grown in Italy and is now available canned in most stores in the US. Other essential ingredients that bring the savory flavor are fennel and smoked paprika. Throw in some Tuscan kale to the mix, and you won’t even tell it’s there: you’ll only be able to taste the pizza!
For this creamy mac and cheese, Greek yogurt is stirred in at the end, to give a creamy texture. Fresh spinach is gently wilted in for all the added nutrients without a strong flavor, and turmeric gives a tiny immunity boost and some extra color. And the flavor? Spot on delicious. The combination of cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese and fresh garlic makes it irresistible.
Looking for more easy dinner ideas?
- Easy Dinner Recipes for Beginners
- 12 Quick Dinner Recipes
- Easy Dinner Recipes for Busy Lives
- Easy Dinner Recipes for Family
- What Should I Make for Dinner?
- Easy Dinner Recipes for Two
- Easy Healthy Dinner Recipes
- 10 Favorite Weeknight Dinners
- Easy Weeknight Dinner Recipes
- 50 Quick and Easy Dinner Recipes
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.