These family dinner ideas are total crowd pleasers: they’re easy to whip up and main dishes that everyone at the table will love.
We know: dinnertime is hard. Right? Even as food bloggers and cookbook authors, Alex and I find ourselves with evenings where we’re uninspired and we have a hungry toddler. But never fear: we’ve got countless family dinner ideas to come to the rescue! Here’s are all our top family dinner ideas that are 1. delicious crowd-pleasers 2. relatively healthy and nutrient-dense 3. easy to make at home. Here a few tips on how to survive dinner time: and then our top family dinner ideas? Ready to go?
Tips for cooking dinner for family
Now that we’ve got a 2 year old around, Alex and I know what it’s like to try to find and cook family dinner ideas that work for everyone! Here are a few tips that we have for getting dinner on the table:
Start with veggie snacks. While you’re cooking dinner, one way to avoid hungry kiddos is to start with some veggie appetizers. Put out a plate of carrot sticks, sliced peppers, and snap peas, and you’ll find the kids will go right for the veggies to cure the hanger! (You could even set out some Greek yogurt ranch dip too.)
Work together. If you can, work with your spouse or partner on dinner and corralling the family: it’s easier with 2 people working together! Alex and I always cook together as a
Don’t sweat it if it doesn’t go over the first time. One thing we’ve learned about cooking for kids is to not define dislikes. It takes 7 times of introducing a new flavor for it to stick. Our son Larson’s tastes change daily — so when we try some family dinner recipes a second time, he loves them even if he didn’t like them the first!
Find healthy ways to end the meal. If our kiddo doesn’t eat enough during the meal, sometimes we bring out Peanut Butter Dip and apple slices as a healthy post-meal snack that seems like a treat. (But it’s full of healthy ingredients!)
First up in our family dinner ideas: Mexican sweet potatoes! These loaded sweet potatoes are the perfect blend of sweet and savory. The black bean salsa compliments the light sweetness of the potato, and topped with creamy cilantro sauce, it’s a little bit of heaven. And gluten-free and plant based (vegan), too! Even better, it's 100% delicious.
What's a better pairing than tomatoes and basil? Even though this combo is super basic, it's satisfying every single time. Right? Just like a classic vanilla bean ice cream, tomatoes + basil is always an equation for success. Here's a pasta dinner idea that highlights them both, with a creamy balsamic sauce and savory Parmesan cheese. It's pretty darn perfect...and only takes 20 minutes to make. It's so classic, it's one of our top family dinner recipes.
This shrimp tacos recipe is a triple threat: simple, delicious, and healthy--which takes it to the top of our family dinner recipes. The shrimp takes only 5 minutes to cook, and the taco sauce also takes only a few minutes to whip up -- without even dirtying a blender! The shrimp is juicy and savory, spiced with Old Bay and cumin, the cabbage is crunchy and limey. And the creamy cilantro sauce, almost like a ranch dressing with chopped cilantro, brings it all together. It's what dreams are made of.
Here's a family favorite dinner recipe: this insanely-tasty healthy chili recipe.! It’s got a savory, hearty flavor even though it’s meatless. And it’s full of good-for-you ingredients; a trio of protein-packed beans, quinoa, and loads of spices. Of course, the toppings are where it's at in chili. We like to do a dollop of sour cream (or cashew cream for dairy-free), hot sauce, and crunchy roasted salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds).
Why not harness the magic of the shrimp boil for an every day meal? This shrimp boil in the oven is an easy way to make it on a weeknight: no large pot or fire required! What results is a seafood boil full of oven-roasted goodness. The veggies have browned and caramelized goodness, salty and seasoned with the nuance of cozy Old Bay seasoning. And the shrimp are perfectly tender. This one is a crowd pleaser, making it a hit in our family dinner recipes.
This Mexican Pinwheel recipe is all about making a healthy lunch or family dinner recipes as fast as possible. While we often serve them for lunch, we've eaten them for dinner when we need it FAST. The pinwheels are packed with healthy veggies: bell peppers, spinach, and black beans. They're mixed with Mexican spices and rolled into a tortilla with a bit of hummus. MAN, they are so tasty! Dip into salsa if you'd like!
Salmon is so quick to prepare and full of nutrients that it always features in our top picks for family dinner recipes. This 10-minute baked salmon recipe makes for an ultra quick dinner. You can eat it on its own, or pair it with our bright green chimichurri sauce. For a seriously quick dinner, serve with quinoa, couscous, or roasted brocolli.
Have you had jackfruit before? It’s a plant based substitute for pulled pork. A fruit standing in for meat? Turns out this tropical fruit magically mimics pulled pork in a way we never dreamed. This meaty filling is flavored with adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers), tomato paste, cocoa powder, cumin, and oregano. And one of the best ways to eat it? Tacos: a fast and easy family dinner recipe for weeknights. Add salsa and serve with our easy refried black beans, and you've got dinner.
This 20-minute creamy penne pasta is so tangy and creamy, sweet from the tomatoes and lightly peppery from the fresh basil. The secret to the creaminess is that goat cheese, which brings a body to the sauce that’s almost like a vodka sauce. Combined with chewy penne, it’s out of this world! And best of all, you barely have to think to make it. It's one of our favorite family dinner recipes. If you have goat cheese wary kiddos, you can sub cream cheese or cream, or leave it out!
This one actually tastes like a healthy version of a Big Mac! What makes this coleslaw & Swiss melt sandwich so savory and delicious? 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 a Reuben sandwich. It's impossible to not like this one, which makes it fitting for our list of family dinner recipes.
We affectionately call this one “pizza soup” because it tastes like liquid pizza! Ready in just 30 minutes, this Tuscan soup is one of our tried and true easy family dinner recipes. The pizza flavor is due in part to the San Marzano, a variety of tomato that’s grown in Italy that are easily accessible in most groceries. Add fennel and smoked paprika, throw in some Tuscan kale to the mix, and you'll only be able to taste the pizza!
Last up in our family dinner recipes: our Best Ever Taco Pizza! This taco pizza is topped with refried beans, cheese, romaine, crumbled tortilla chips, and of course — ranch. In a word: WOW. It uses our healthy homemade ranch and is modeled after a delivery-style pizza from our youth, with a healthy spin. To make it weeknight friendly, use storebought dough. There aren't many kids who will pass this one up!
Looking for more easy dinner recipes?
Aside from our top 10 family dinner ideas, we’ve got lots more! Here are some of our favorites:
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.