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Whether you’re already a wizard in the kitchen or are just learning to cook, everyone needs some easy dinner ideas. When you’ve just finished a long day, the last thing you feel like doing is preparing a multi-course meal with 15 different steps and a grocery cart full of exotic ingredients. (Save that experimentation for the weekend!)
Plus, cooking at home is generally more nutritious than relying on takeout, especially if you follow a good recipe. Here are 16 easy dinner ideas, including easy chicken dinners, vegan options, and much more.
Whether you like your chicken grilled, roasted, fried, or even microwaved, it’s an infinitely versatile ingredient to have on hand for an easy dinner.
1. Chicken Fried Rice
The key to making great fried rice is to make sure the rice is cold before you start cooking. If it’s warm, the rice will end up too soft, and you’ll end up with a sticky mess. Because of this, fried rice is a great meal for using up leftover rice from the night before.
Add whatever you have lying around in the kitchen, such as scallions, frozen peas, beans, or carrots. You can make it with any protein (such as shrimp, tofu, or beef), but chicken fried rice is a classic for a reason—it’s easy and delicious. To make things even easier, check out this Skillshare tutorial for step-by-step instructions.
2. Microwave Tandoori Chicken
You might not immediately think of cooking chicken in a microwave, but if you’re looking for easy chicken dinner ideas, the microwave is your friend. This tandoori chicken recipe makes use of the microwave rather than the traditional Indian tandoor oven, which most people don’t have access to.
Marinate the chicken a few hours in advance (prepare the night before or the morning before you want to eat this dinner) so that it’s ready to cook in the microwave when you need it. It only needs 10 minutes of cooking time!
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Whether you’re a dedicated plant-based eater or just like a few meat-free meals in your week, these easy vegetarian dinner ideas have you covered.
3. Spaghetti With Tomato Sauce
Almost anyone can boil a packet of spaghetti and mix a jar of sauce through it in next to no time, but to elevate this simple meal, make your own tomato sauce from scratch. Italian chef Luca La Rosa walks through how to make an easy, authentic Italian-style sauce in this Skillshare tutorial.
4. Indian Cauliflower and Potato Curry
Cauliflower and potato curry (aloo gobi) is one of the easiest Indian curries to prepare because it doesn’t require you to make a thick gravy. You just need a few Indian staples in your spice rack, including cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and turmeric powder. Follow this simple recipe to make aloo gobi one of the easy vegetarian dinners you have on rotation.
Crock-Pots or slow cookers are a handy tool for busy cooks because you can prep your ingredients and place everything together to cook slowly over the course of a day. No hands-on cooking required!
5. Mexican Bean and Beef Stew
Throw some beans and beef (with a few other ingredients for taste) in a slow cooker, and you’ll have a tasty Mexican beef dinner waiting for you when you get home. Make it vegetarian by leaving out the beef, or swap it for another meat, and you’ll have even more easy Crock-Pot dinners in your repertoire. Learn how to make it by watching this Skillshare tutorial.
6. Slow Cooker Pulled BBQ Beef
Although using a slow cooker to cook BBQ-flavored beef takes about eight hours, it couldn’t be much easier because you can just set and forget until it’s ready to eat. After taking slow-cooking expert Stephanie O’Dea’s Skillshare class on the cooking method, student Zainab Sagfdga came up with her own version of slow cooker pulled BBQ beef and shares her method here.
Like slow cookers, Instant Pots simplify the cooking process and allow you to do other things while your dinner cooks away in the background. Check out these easy Instant Pot dinners to simplify your life.
7. Instant Pot Honey Garlic Chicken
Instant Pots are a great tool to use for cooking chicken, because you can place the meat in the pot with other ingredients for flavor and leave it all to infuse while you get on with something else. This recipe for tasty Instant Pot honey garlic chicken cooks on high in two to three hours.
8. Instant Pot Lasagna
This Italian dish is a favorite comfort food all over the world, thanks to its meaty bolognese sauce and cheesy goodness. When cooked traditionally on a stovetop and then in the oven, the many layers and processes involved don’t make it the easiest dish to perfect, but using an Instant Pot simplifies the process significantly. This Instant Pot lasagna recipe should take less than an hour to prepare, start to finish.
There are some great vegan restaurants out there these days, but you don’t always need to eat out to enjoy a delicious plant-based meal. Try these easy vegan dinners for yourself.
9. Vegan Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil
Traditional spaghetti aglio e olio (garlic and olive oil) is vegan, as long as you use pasta that doesn’t contain egg. (For a non-vegan but still vegetarian version, you can use regular pasta and sprinkle some cheese on top at the end.) This recipe is as simple as it gets to make but packs a tasty flavor punch thanks to the garlic and herbs.
10. Greek Cauliflower Stew
Cauliflower is prominently featured in vegan cuisine because it’s nutritious, it’s hearty, and it can be cooked in many different ways, from stir-fried to slow baked. This Greek-style cauliflower stew from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver combines a whole cauliflower head with potatoes, beans, and several vegetables. It’s easy to prepare and can be sped up even further by cooking in an Instant Pot.
Think of beef and you might immediately jump to roast beef, which isn’t the quickest meal out there. But there are other ways to prepare beef that are far faster. Just look at these easy beef dinners.
11. Milanese Steak
Preparing steak the Milanese way (named after the Northern Italian city of Milan) is super simple and changes things up from just grilling or frying your steak. Coat the steak in a mixture of egg, flour, and breadcrumbs before frying it in a pan of hot oil for about five minutes on each side. Whip up this classic Italian recipe, then serve with potatoes or a salad.
12. Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry
There’s no need to get takeout when you can cook an easy, quick Chinese-style beef stir fry at home. Fry the beef with broccoli and carrots, and use some classic Chinese sauces, such as oyster sauce and soy sauce, for flavor. Learn how to make it here.
Don’t be fooled by the skin, scales, and bones—some fish dishes are incredibly simple to make. Find out more with these easy fish dinners.
13. Whole Fish Baked in Salt
Cooking whole fish can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be difficult. If you buy a prepared fish from the supermarket’s fish counter (rather than catching one yourself!), you can make sure it’s ready to cook without needing to remove the insides.
Luca La Rosa’s Italian recipe for baking fish in a bed of salt is incredibly easy—just have a large bag of salt flakes on hand. Place the fish in a baking tray covered in salt crystals, then stuff the insides with garlic and a mixture of fresh herbs. Cover the top side of the fish with more salt and bake for up to half an hour. Remove from the oven and take off the fish skin, leaving lovely juicy pieces of cooked fish.
14. Lemon Butter Fish
If you’d prefer to cook with fish fillets than with a whole fish, you can’t get much easier than this lemon butter fish recipe. White fish fillets like cod, halibut, or mahi cook easily and pair beautifully with ingredients you’re likely to already have in your pantry, such as butter, lemon, and garlic powder. That means you probably won’t have to spend extra time tracking down special ingredients. Too easy!
Pork comes in many varieties, and bacon and sausage are particularly easy to cook with because they don’t require a lot of preparation. Plus, they’re tasty in their own right! Try these easy pork dinners for yourself.
15. Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chop
Pork chops can be tricky to perfect because they have a tendency to dry out too easily when cooking, but this Vietnamese-style pork chop recipe requires the meat to be left in a flavorful marinade overnight, adding moisture. This recipe includes a few accompaniments that aren’t the quickest to prepare, but keep things easy by focusing on the pork chop itself and serving with a simple side like mashed potatoes.
16. Potatoes With Mexican Chorizo
The only two ingredients in this easy Mexican dish are potatoes and chorizo—the latter of which is so flavorful, it’s tasty enough without the need for spices. Unlike Spanish-style chorizo, the Mexican version isn’t hard and needs to be cooked before you eat it. Whip the dish up quickly, then serve it with tortillas and salsa for a full meal.
What Are You Having for Dinner Tonight?
With these 16 easy dinner ideas for inspiration, you should never have trouble answering the question “What’s for dinner tonight?” Stock up your pantry with staples like flour, pasta, spices, and a range of fresh herbs, and there will be nothing standing in between you and a tasty, nutritious meal in half an hour (or less!).
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