Looking to get dinner on the table lightning fast? Here are quick dinner ideas to get from zero to dinnertime in a flash.
Okay, we get it. You’re short on time some nights — and so are we! It’s hard to get a delicious, nutritious meal on the table, especially if you’re tight on time! So Alex and I have cooked up some lightning fast quick dinner ideas for nights where you don’t have a moment to spare. Some of these aren’t even really “recipes,” they’re more like ideas! Feel free to customize them to make them your own, based on what’s on hand in your pantry. Luckily, most of the recipes below have a healthy spin too! So you’ll be nourished in the handful of minutes you have to meal prep.
Since you’re low on time, let’s get right to the point…
And now, our top 12 quick dinner ideas!
First up in our quick dinner ideas: the quesadilla! Alex and I often make quesadillas when we’re in a rush for dinner. And this one is packed with veggies! This vegetarian quesadilla recipe is homemade with natural whole foods and full of both nutrients. Most importantly, it’s bursting with flavor — the kind where both Alex and I both mutter “Whoa” while still chewing the first bite. 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.
Time to make it: 20 minutes
Next up in our quick dinner ideas: seared tuna! Seared ahi tuna is one of the most delicious foods on the planet, and it literally cooks in less than 5 minutes! Put it together with leftover veg or rice and you’ve got a quick dinner. If you’ve never had ahi tuna, it’s time to start. NOW! Sushi grade seared ahi tuna does not tasty fishy at all. The flavor? Buttery on the inside and salty savory on the outside. Here we’ve shown the seared tuna with some leftover rice, veggies, and Yum Yum sauce.
Time to make it: 5 minutes, plus time to prep how you’re serving it (try this couscous for a side dish that cooks in 5 minutes)
While we’re on seriously quick dinner ideas, let’s talk about this 5 minute gnocchi sauce! The romesco gnocchi sauce recipe is bursting with flavor and takes just 5 minutes to whiz in a blender. And the gnocchi boils for 3 minutes! For this recipe we used packaged gnocchi, which we still consider a whole food similar to packaged pasta. And 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!
Time to make it: 15 minutes for the entire meal
Another one of our quick dinner ideas is a fancy sandwich! This Mediterranean veggie sandwich features our garlic herb white bean dip as a filling, but you can also use purchased hummus as a time saver! Add sliced red onion, shredded carrot, and feta cheese. To top it all off, we’ve used pea shoots for some visual flair; though you can use any type of sprouts or microgreens. It’s super fast to put together and pretty darn delicious. For a vegan version, replace the feta cheese with salty Kalamata olives.
Time to make it: 15 minutes
This pita pizza is one of our no-think quick dinner ideas! It’s a way to get dinner on the table in just a few minutes: way quicker than delivery pizza! You can use any marinara sauce or basil pesto as the sauce for this pita pizza: a great option is our 5-minute Homemade Pizza Sauce. Make a margherita pizza or a veggie pizza or your own creation! Veggies like jarred roasted red peppers, artichokes, spinach, and olives work well. Or you could do straight up cheese: we love the combination of shredded mozzarella and feta cheese. Stock up on some pita bread to keep in your refrigerator when you need quick dinner ideas. Pita pizza is truly a lifesaver on busy weeknights.
Time to make it: 10 minutes
Pasta is a go to in our quick dinner ideas: because simple pastas come together so quickly! A few flavors elegantly combined can taste better than something that has taken all day to prepare. Anything goes with this orecchiette pasta: combine it with roasted vegetables as we have here, use fresh veg and load it with herbs in the summer, or simply douse it in marinara. This orecchiette recipe takes just 7 ingredients and about 20 minutes to make. It’s so quick and simple it works for a weeknight meatless dinner, but it’s also elegant enough to serve for guests. Other ways to serve it: try our easy marinara sauce or with peas, feta and dill.
Time to make it: 20 minutes
One of our most “fancy” truly quick dinner ideas, this quick garlicky shrimp couscous comes together in a flash. Juicy shrimp, quick sauteed in a bit of butter with minced garlic, tastes so good it’s almost like candy! Here it’s served with quick cooking lemony couscous. Couscous is a pasta and not a whole grain, so cooks up in 5 minutes and is perfect for quick dinner ideas. If you have more time, feel free to substitute the grain of your choice: quinoa is also relatively fast. Throw some fresh parsley over the shrimp and couscous and it’s a totally gourmet meal in 15 minutes.
This Tex Mex migas uses old tortillas or tortilla chips instead of bread; they’re mixed with eggs and veggies into a delightful scramble! Another name for this type of migas recipe is migas con huevo (crumbs with eggs). We almost always have old corn tortillas on hand, so for us this is a perfect clean-out-the-refrigerator weeknight meal! You can eat migas for breakfast, or for quick dinner recipes (we’re always in for brinner!).
Time to make it: 20 minutes
Here’s a fun quick dinner recipe: Greek nachos! What’s in these Greek nachos? Juicy tomatoes, cool cucumber, and lightly flavored white beans are spread over crunchy pita chips and covered in a cool, bright green cilantro sauce. These Greek nachos are vegan, so they’re 100% plant based! You can make your own Homemade Pita Chips, but of course if you’re in a hurry, use storebought pita chips instead! You could also use hummus as a sauce instead: just mix it with a little water or lemon juice until you can drizzle it over the nachos.
Time to make it: 25 minutes, less with the shortcuts above
Another one of our quick dinner recipes: naan pizza! Just like with the pita pizza above, we use storebought naan bread. here we pre-bake it for a few minutes to make a lightly crispy crust. Then add pizza toppings and bake for another few minutes until the cheese is melted. That’s it! In this recipe Thai curry paste mixed with canned tomatoes makes for an ultra delicious pizza sauce! Add cashews, thinly sliced green onions and cilantro, and you have uniquely tasty pizza.
Time to make it: 25 minutes
These chickpea tacos with avocado cream feature chickpeas coated in a spice mixture and sauteed quickly. The avocado cream whips up in a blender within minutes. It’s Greek yogurt-based, but below we also offer a vegan version with cashew cream. On top, there’s a quick slaw: thinly sliced cabbage mixed with lime juice and salt. Tacos are our favorite quick dinner ideas, and these chickpea tacos come together in just about 30 minutes.
Time to make it: 30 minutes
And last up in our lightning quick dinner recipes: these peanut noodles! This one is seriously easy and people always love it! These noodles are smothered in a creamy peanut sauce and mixed with Napa cabbage and red pepper. The trick here is using our method to “cook” the red pepper by pouring over the boiling water from the noodles when draining them. It’s a fun shortcut that makes for crunchy tender red pepper strips. Combine that with frizzled Napa cabbage and some lime, cilantro and chopped peanuts, and you’ve got a delicious dinner.
Time to make it: 30 minutes
Looking for more quick dinner ideas?
Outside of these lightning quick dinner ideas, here are a few more to choose from:
- Seared Salmon Poke Bowl
- Mushroom Pasta with Goat Cheese
- Coleslaw & Swiss Melt Sandwich
- Easy Chickpea Salad Sandwich
- Stir Fry Vegetables with Teriyaki
- Quick Coconut Lentil Curry
- Loaded Quinoa Tacos
- Gemelli Pasta with Fire Roasted Tomatoes
- Superfood Veggie Quesadilla
- 50 Quick and Easy Family Meals
- Chickpea Couscous Bowls with Tahini Sauce
- Pasta Puttanesca Recipe
Chipotle Quesadilla with Avocado
Avocado makes this chipotle quesadilla recipe creamy without overloading on the cheese, and the chipotle tahini sauce sends it over the top.
5 Minute Romesco Gnocchi Sauce Recipe
This 5-minute romesco gnocchi sauce recipe is bursting with flavor. Serve it up with packaged gnocchi for a fast and easy dinner recipe in just 15 minutes!
5 Minute Seared Tuna Recipe
Seared tuna is a super quick, nutritious and filling 5 minute recipe; serve with leftover veggies and rice.
Easy Cheese Pita Pizza
Pita pizza is our way to get dinner on the table in just a few minutes: way quicker than delivery pizza!
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.