The weather is cooling down, which means you finally don’t have to dread turning on your oven at dinner time. Sourcing cozy fall dinner ideas is one of the best things about the transition into fall and winter, with soups, casseroles, and other comfort foods replacing the simpler meals of summer. And whether you’re planning a fall dinner party or just looking for some inspiration now that sweater weather is back in action, we’ve compiled some of our very best fall dinner ideas to help you meal plan for the days ahead.
So tie up those apron strings, dust off the Dutch oven, and take the Crock-Pot and Instant Pot out of storage—these are the super comforting autumn dinner ideas you’ll definitely want to indulge in this season.
Comfort Food Dinners
Fall is all about comfort, and that extends to mealtime.
Comfort food warms your soul in addition to your stomach. It’s the kind of food that you look forward to digging into all day and that easily heats up for lazy leftovers later on (assuming there’s any left over to begin with, of course).
If comfort food is your idea of the perfect fall dinner, try these cozy dinner ideas:
1. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Once you’ve mastered the grilled cheese, you’ll always have an easy go-to for quick dinners on cool nights. Pair it with tomato soup for a classic meal, or mix it up with another dippable soup variety, such as butternut squash, pumpkin, or potato leek.
2. Pot Pie With Biscuit Crust
Haul out your cast iron for a one-pan veggie or chicken pot pie that can go straight from stove to oven to plate. Biscuits make for a delicious buttery topping, though you could also go more traditional with pie crust or puff pastry. If you do opt for biscuits, work some cheddar cheese and chives into the dough before dolloping it on top of your filling.
3. Red Curry Lentils
Creamy, coconutty, and with just a hint of spice, red curry lentils might just be comfort food at its finest. Whip them up in your Instant Pot (Pinch of Yum has a great recipe) then serve alongside fluffy jasmine rice and a warm piece of garlic naan.
4. French Onion Soup
Soup is one of the best cool weather dinner ideas out there. And when comfort is the goal, French onion soup might just be the ultimate choice. For best results, make sure to fully caramelize your onions before adding your stock, then top with cheesy croutons made with crusty day-old bread.
Ramen is another ultra-comforting soup option for fall, and it’s endlessly customizable based on what you like and what’s in the house. Most of the flavor comes from the stock, so make it homemade if you can and give it plenty of time to steep and simmer on the stovetop.
6. Homemade Hamburger Helper
Get your nostalgia fix with a one-pot, homemade hamburger helper that’s way better than the boxed stuff. We love this recipe from Half Baked Harvest, which brings a ton of depth of flavor to this classic dish—plus some sneaky hidden veggies, too.
7. Sweet Potato Chili
Sweet potatoes hold on to smoke well, making them a great base for a hearty bowl of chili. Add in Italian sausage for a meat-based chili, or keep it vegetarian-friendly with beans or plant-based sausage. You can make it start-to-finish in your Dutch oven, then top with cheese, onion, and tortilla strips when you’re ready to dive in.
8. Apple Pie Pancakes
Apple pie pancakes may fall more firmly into the breakfast or dessert category than dinner, but does it really matter? This recipe on Averie Cooks features warm fall spices and vanilla maple syrup and is a great way to use up any apples you might have picked up on a seasonal trip to the orchard.
9. Baked Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese is a staple of fall comfort eating, but the boxed stuff isn’t going to cut it for our purposes. Go for a baked variety that’s filled with gooey cheese and broiled at the end for that perfect browned crust. You can pair it with a fresh salad or roasted green veggies, though we promise not to judge you if you don’t.
10. Eggplant Parmesan
Another fall dinner idea topped with cheese? Sign us up! Eggplant parmesan combines seasoned and fried eggplant slices with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella for a casserole dish that works as well for a dinner party as it does for a weeknight meal.
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Still not sure what to put on the menu? Here are some additional cozy autumn dinner ideas, including plenty of excuses to put your slow cooker to work.
11. Beans on Toast
The Brits are onto something with their affinity for beans on toast—a fast and easy dinner that’s cozy without being too heavy. For an elevated version, place dried white beans in a slow cooker with enough water to cover them by two inches. Cook on high for five to six hours, then drain. Once hydrated, cook beans in a pan with olive oil, lemon, white wine, fresh thyme, salt, and plenty of black pepper, then stir in a dollop of crème fraiche, spread on French bread, and enjoy.
12. Dumpling Soup
Relax at the end of a chilly day with a steaming bowl of dumpling soup. Save time by buying pre-made dumplings (frozen potstickers are excellent for this) and combining with the broth of your choice. Add veggies and herbs, and you have a soup that looks complicated but comes together in no time.
13. Pumpkin and Sage Baked Gnocchi
Pasta bakes are peak coziness. Go full fall with the baked gnocchi variation from Delicous.com, which makes good use of pumpkin and sage, both of which are traditional autumn flavors. There’s an abundance of cheese in there too, since no pasta bake is complete without it.
14. Slow Cooker Carnitas
The slow cooker is a prime vessel for braising, since you can cook low and slow all day and have your food ready at dinnertime. Toss in pork shoulder with spices, onion, a jalapeno or two, and some water, broth, or OJ, then let it cook on low for 10 hours (or high for seven hours). When it’s tender, shred your carnitas and place on tortillas or rice.
15. White Chicken Chili
Chicken, beans, and lots of cream cheese and half and half serve as the base for this creamy chili from The Chunky Chef. Top with lots of fresh cilantro to cut the richness, and be sure to serve alongside some warm cast iron cornbread.
16. Meat or Veggie Lasagna
Some fall dinner ideas are classic for a reason. Lasagna is as versatile as it is inviting, and it’s just as good heated up the next day as it is right out of the oven. Quick tip: put down sauce in your dish first, then layer the noodles, cheese, and other toppings. This prevents your lasagna from sticking to the pan or drying out on the bottom.
17. Tuna Noodle Casserole
The ‘80s called, and they’re insisting you put tuna noodle casserole on your weeknight menu. Set aside time to make your own cream of mushroom soup (we swear it’s worth it) and add fresh mushrooms to your casserole while you’re at it. It’ll be better than you remembered, and it might even become a mainstay of your kitchen.
18. Teriyaki Baked Potato
A steaming baked potato is a blank slate for tons of warm cool weather meals. Cheese, sour cream, and bacon won’t steer you wrong, but you can also go bolder by filling it with teriyaki chicken or veggies (or both). In general, if you can spoon it on top of rice, it will probably be yummy in a baked potato as well.
19. Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo
This New Orleans favorite is a cinch to recreate at home, and if you can get your roux down, you should have no trouble getting the rest to come together. If you prefer, go full veggie by skipping the shrimp, doubling up on the vegetables, and using a plant-based andouille.
Food That Warms You Up
The colder the weather, the more essential a delicious dinner becomes. Take on the blustery days ahead with these cool weather dinner ideas that warm you up from head to toe.
20. Corn Pudding
Corn pudding is technically a side dish, but if you start with that as your dinner inspiration, we guarantee you’ll be pleased with the outcome. Pair with seasoned baked chicken and lightly dressed greens, or use it as the base for some saucy BBQ pulled pork.
21. Shrimp and Grits
It might not get freezing in the south, but Southern cooking still has its fair share of warming meals. Case in point: shrimp and grits—a savory, cheesy dish that’s a welcome choice for both brunch and dinner.
22. Beef Stew
Make a big pot of beef stew with potatoes and carrots on Sunday, and you’ll have warm dinners ready for the whole week ahead. We like the recipe from Spend with Pennies, which shows how you can get big flavor without a big budget.
23. Tuna Melt
Cheese and tuna aren’t exactly the peanut butter and jelly of pairings, and yet a tuna melt is oh-so-satisfying on a cold day. It’s also a cinch to make; just whip up your favorite tuna salad, spread it on whatever bread you’ve got, top with sliced cheese, and broil for 5-8 minutes until the cheese starts to bubble. Bonus points if you add a drizzle of hot sauce over the top once it’s cooked.
24. Shepherd’s Pie
Take a culinary trip across the pond with a shepherd’s pie stuffed with your favorite fillings and blanketed in creamy mashed potatoes. A standard shepherd’s pie contains lamb, peas, carrots, and onions, but you can swap in a different meat—or skip the meat entirely and use lentils instead—if you want to.
25. Stuffed Pepper Soup
Get all of the flavors of stuffed peppers in a cozy soup. Taste of Home has an enticing rendition that brings together savory ground beef with sweet brown sugar for a comforting bowl you’ll keep coming back to again and again.
26. Paneer Tikka Masala
What’s not to enjoy about salty little cheese cubes hanging out in a rich tomato sauce? This beloved Indian dish is sure to warm you up on even the chilliest of nights, and it’s even better when served with samosas and crunchy fried pakoras.
27. Instant Pot Chili Mac
For those evenings you can’t decide between chili and mac and cheese, bring out the Instant Pot and go for both. If you’re in the mood for a healthier riff, go meatless with this recipe from The Picky Eater, which brings together all the crave-able flavors of chili mac with protein-rich beans instead of meat.
28. Cheesy Polenta with Roasted Mushrooms
Some nights you want a restaurant-worthy meal without putting in restaurant-worthy effort. And when that happens, this dish is the one to make. Drizzle some mushrooms with olive oil and balsamic and toss them in the oven to roast while you make the polenta—thickened with plenty of cream, butter, and cheese, naturally. Then put them together with some fresh sage or tarragon for take-out without leaving home.
What Are the Most Popular Fall Foods?
Stock your fridge and pantry with the season’s most popular foods, and you’ll never be short on ingredients for flavorful fall meals.
- Butternut squash
- Sweet potatoes
- Brussels sprouts
- Bell peppers
- Green beans
- Canned beans
- Coconut milk
- Vegetable, chicken, and beef broth
- Pumpkin puree
- Walnuts, almonds, and pecans
- Canned tomato
- Balsamic vinegar
- Baking supplies
- Dried pasta
- Fall spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom, allspice)
Combine the items above with proteins of your choice, including various meats and cheeses. You can also enjoy a completely vegetarian or vegan fall without giving up an ounce of cozy comfort.
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