Are you spending way too much time and mental energy thinking about “what should I cook for dinner tonight?” I feel you. It can be such a time and energy drain! But I’ve got some simple solutions for you. I’ve compiled this list of Quick and Easy Dinner ideas, so you can crush your goals, eat better, save money, feel like a superhero, and still have a little time to put your feet up at the end of the day. 😊
Originally posted 6-21-2018, updated 6-23-2021.
The Best Easy Weeknight Dinner Ideas
The criteria for making this list include:
- Short ingredient list
- Fast (about 30 minutes)
- Easy recipes suitable for beginners
- Comprised of mostly pantry staples, so you can whip them up on the fly
And by “pantry staples” I mean items that are shelf-stable so you can keep them on hand without worrying they’ll spoil. This can be dry goods (actual pantry), refrigerator items that have a long shelf life, or items that can be stashed in the freezer for a rainy day. Check out my list of Pantry Staples so you can get a good idea of what to stock up on for fast weeknight dinners.
Make sure to familiarize yourself with your browser’s bookmark feature, you’re going to want to keep these quick and easy weeknight dinners handy!!
Easy Pesto Chicken and Vegetables
Easy Pesto Chicken and Vegetables – This dish cooks up fast and easy like a stir fry, but is flavored with basil pesto and Parmesan. It’s hearty, healthy, and delicious! You can eat it on its own as a lower-carb meal, or spoon it over rice or pasta. Total Time: 30 min. Number of Ingredients: 11
Weeknight Black Bean Chili
Weeknight Black Bean Chili – Chili is such a classic and total family pleaser and this black bean version is also a winner. You can keep almost all of these ingredients on hand, ready to go, and make use of anything you might have leftover in the fridge for toppings, like sour cream, shredded cheese, green onions, or tortilla chips. Total Time: 35 min. Number of Ingredients: 12
One Pot Cheeseburger Pasta
Cheeseburger Pasta Skillet – This super easy one-pot pasta will bring all the comfort food vibes back from your childhood. It’s like a homemade version of hamburger helper, made totally from scratch, but somehow just as easy as the boxed version. WIN. Total Time: 30 min. Number of ingredients: 10
Tuscan White Bean Pasta
Tuscan White Bean Pasta – No time to thaw meat? No problem. This Tuscan White Bean Pasta is still packed with protein, but utilizes a shelf stable can of white beans instead of meat! What more could you want from a quick weeknight meal? Total Time: 30 min. Number of Ingredients: 11
Curried Chickpeas with Spinach
Curried Chickpeas with Spinach – You won’t believe the flavor in this dish, despite the incredibly short ingredient list! It’s kind of amazing how just a little curry powder and tomato sauce can turn into something so fantastic. No time to make rice to go along with it? Serve this with pita or naan bread to make things even easier. Total Time: 25 min. Number of Ingredients: 8
Pork and Peanut Dragon Noodles
Pork and Peanut Dragon Noodles – Seriously, forget take out. You can do better at home, with only SEVEN ingredients and 25 minutes (it takes longer to order delivery anyway, ammiright?). You can easily adjust the spiciness of these noodles, or toss in any extra vegetables you might have in your fridge. Total Time: 25 min. Number of Ingredients: 7
One Pot Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff
One Pot Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff – This super creamy and savory pasta cooks all in one pot so not only are you going to spend less time cooking, but you’ll spend less time cleaning up! Total Time: 30 min. Number of ingredients: 11
Beef and Cabbage Stir Fry
Beef and Cabbage Stir Fry – Stir fries are the epitome of fast weeknight dinners! This Beef and Cabbage Stir Fry has gone viral because it’s incredible flavor and easy prep. To make things even easier, grab a bag of coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots) so you can just toss it in the skillet and skip all the chopping! Total Time: 30 min. Number of Ingredients: 14
Southwest Chicken Skillet
Southwest Chicken Skillet – This is another great “rotisserie chicken helper” type meal. It comes together quickly, is full of flavor, uses just a handful of ingredients, and is as satisfying as that burrito bowl you were going to order from Chipot… er… that restaurant. Total Time: 25 min. Number of Ingredients: 8
Bacon and Spinach Pasta with Parmesan
Bacon and Spinach Pasta with Parmesan – It’s amazing how just a little bacon and Parmesan can transform plain pasta into something crave-worthy. And I like to throw in a little spinach just for good measure. ;) Total Time: 30 min. Number of Ingredients: 6
Sheet Pan Kielbasa Potatoes and Green Beans
Sheet Pan Kielbasa, Potatoes, and Green Beans – While this dish does take a little longer than 30 minutes to make, the hands time is very minimal, as is the ingredient list. Just six simple ingredients and you have an incredibly flavorful and filling dinner! Total Time: 45 min. Number of Ingredients: 6
Easy Rosemary Garlic White Bean Soup
Easy Rosemary Garlic White Bean Soup – When the chilly weather hits, there’s nothing like a hearty bowl of warm soup for dinner. Add some crusty bread and you have a super easy and filling meal. Plus, the leftovers are great! Total Time: 30 min. Number of Ingredients: 8
One Pot Sausage and Sun Dried Tomato Pasta
One Pot Sausage and Sun Dried Tomato Pasta – You’ll feel like you’re eating dinner at a fancy bistro with this one, but really you can whip up this masterpiece at home in just ONE pan, and in 30 minutes. And there’s no waiter to tip. ;) Total Time: 30 min. Number of Ingredients: 9
Blackened Salmon with Zucchini
Blackened Salmon and Zucchini – A healthy dose of herbs and spices take this salmon to the next level! It cooks in minutes in a skillet, and then the zucchini is sautéed in the same skillet so none of those spices go to waste. It’s fast, efficient, and has very little clean up! Total Time: 30 min. Number of Ingredients: 13
Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta
Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta – Super simple and satisfying, this creamy tomato and spinach pasta hits all the marks for a weeknight dinner. If you want to punch it up a bit you can always add some rotisserie chicken or Italian sausage! Total Time: 25 min. Number of Ingredients: 14
Vegan Creamy Mushroom Ramen
Vegan Creamy Mushroom Ramen – This recipe is the ultime instant ramen hack. It’s so fast, so simple, and so incredibly creamy and delicious! Plus it’s flexible and allows you to use up odds and ends of other ingredients in your fridge. Total Time: 15 min. Number of Ingredients: 8
Cajun Sausage and Rice Skillet
Cajun Sausage and Rice Skillet – Another easy one pot dish with very little clean up!! There is so much flavor in this spicy and rich rice dish that you’ll keep coming back for more and more. And the leftovers are just as good the next day! Total Time: 45 min. Number of Ingredients: 14
Eggplant Mozzarella Sandwiches
Eggplant Mozzarella Sandwiches – This is an easy vegetarian meal that even your meat-eaters will love! It’s hearty, tasty, and topped with tons of melty mozzarella. Who would say no to that?? Total Time: 40 min. Number of Ingredients: 10
Garlic Noodles with Beef and Broccoli
Garlic Noodles with Beef and Broccoli – Forget take-out, these noodles are to die for! They’re rich, salty, slightly sweet, and absolutely addictive. Total Time: 25 min. Number of Ingredients: 11
And just for fun, here is ONE MORE quick and easy dinner idea for you (see the full blog post for this recipe here):
Pasta with Bacon and Peas
- 8 oz. pasta* ($0.63)
- 6 oz. bacon ($2.06)
- 1 small onion ($0.32)
- 1 cup frozen peas ($0.50)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan ($0.44)
- 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
- 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper ($0.02)
- 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper (optional) ($0.01)
- Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Once boiling, add the pasta and continue to boil until the pasta is tender (7-10 minutes). Reserve about a half cup of the starchy pasta water before draining the pasta in a colander.
- While the pasta is boiling, cook the bacon. Add the bacon to a large skillet and cook over medium heat until brown and crispy. Transfer the cooked bacon to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon. Drain most of the bacon grease from the pan, leaving about 2 Tbsp.
- While the bacon is cooking, finely dice the onion. Add the diced onion to the remaining bacon grease and sauté until tender (about 5 minutes).
- Add the frozen peas and about ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water to the skillet. Continue to cook and stir until the peas have heated through.
- Add the drained pasta to the skillet, stir to combine, and remove from the heat.
- Top the pasta with Parmesan, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and crumbled bacon. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper to your liking.
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Feel free to share your go-to weeknight dinner recipes for other readers to enjoy in the comments below. :) The more the merrier!