44 Fast and Easy Dinner Ideas for Busy Weeknights

No Complicated Cooking, No Big Messes

Easy Cheesy Baked Ziti

The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Too busy to cook? Tired of takeout? These fast and easy dinner ideas are here to make your life better. Consider these your go-to recipes for effortless weeknight meals that cook up quickly, and are yummy enough to please everyone in the family, with minimal meal prep and cleanup involved.

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    Vegan Black Bean Veggie Burgers

    Vegan Black Bean Veggie Burgers

    The Spruce

    Are you a vegan who's missing burgers? These black bean veggie burgers are cheap, delicious, and deliver all that hamburger texture you crave in every bite. Cook them up quickly in a skillet on the stovetop, for serving on buns with your favorite burger fixings.

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    Crispy Baked Tilapia

    Crispy Baked Tilapia Recipe

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

    With its crispy potato chip and Panko breadcrumb coating, you could be forgiven for assuming this baked tilapia is fried. You'll actually use your oven to bake it to perfection in less than 30 minutes. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes, and a steamed green vegetable, for a complete family meal.

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    Easy One-Pan Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese

    Easy One-Pan Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    Craving homemade mac and cheese, but don't feel like making a roux? Try this easy one-pan recipe that takes only 20 minutes to prepare, and will be a hit with even picky eaters. Plenty of sharp cheddar cheese gives this cheesy pasta dish amazing flavor, and chopped frozen broccoli florets add extra nutrition and texture.

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    Pasta With Garlic, Lemon, Capers, and Tuna

    Pasta With Garlic, Lemon, Capers, and Tuna

    Danette St. Onge

    You need less than 30 minutes to make this fuss-free, protein-packed pasta for weeknight dinners. You won't believe how much flavor can be coaxed from ingredients you probably stock already in your pantry and fridge, including canned tuna, dry pasta noodles, white wine, half a lemon, and jarred capers.

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    Skillet Beef Stroganoff

    Recipe beef stroganoff for two recipe

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    Fast and easy doesn't have to mean basic, as this gorgeously flavorful stovetop beef Strogranoff proves. It comes together in about 30 minutes, and features a divinely creamy, savory mushroom sauce. Serve over tender cooked egg noodles for an impressive main dish.

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    Chorizo Shakshuka

    Chorizo Shakshuka

    Leah Maroney

    Eggs for dinner just got a lot more exciting! Brimming with spicy, tangy tomatoes, and chock full of delicious Mexican ingredients, including crumbled chorizo sausage, cotija cheese, runny fried eggs, and chopped fresh cilantro, this South-of-the-border shakshuka is a comforting, saucy brunch or dinner in one skillet.

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    Chicken Katsu

    Chicken Katsu

    The Spruce/Leah Maroney

    Chicken katsu is a tasty twist on the classic Japanese dish, which is traditionally made with pork. Crunchy chicken cutlets are simple enough to make any day of the week, and make a delicious dinner topped with Japanese barbeque sauce (tonkatsu), and served with steamed rice.

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    Quick and Easy Canned Tuna Fish Tacos

    Quick and Easy Canned Tuna Fish Tacos

    The Spruce

    Taco night at home just got a whole lot easier (and cheaper) with these tasty fish tacos that use a single can of tuna to feed a family of four. Assemble them in 10 minutes with common pantry ingredients, tossing the tuna quickly in a pan to warm it up, before serving in your choice of hard shell tacos or soft tortillas.

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    Instant Pot Meat Lasagna

    Instant Pot Lasagna

    Diana Rattray

    On warmer days, when you'd prefer not to turn on a hot oven but crave the comfort of pasta and cheese, this Instant Pot meat lasagna checks all the right boxes. Hearty and satisfying, with a savory filling of ground beef and three kinds of cheese, it only takes 45 minutes to make from start to finish. Freezes well for make-ahead meals.

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    Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl (Oyakodon)

    Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl (Oyakodon)

    The Spruce

     

    Super-popular both at restaurants and in Japanese homes, oyakodon is a nutritious, one-dish meal of chicken and eggs simmered together in a tasty dashi-based broth. The mixture is spooned over bowls of tender steamed rice, to create the classic Japanese comfort food experience.

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    Turkey Cutlets With Mushrooms

    Pan-Seared Turkey Breast Recipe

    The Spruce 

    Turkey cutlets sautéed with mushrooms and herbs, and simmered in a creamy sauce that includes sherry and butter, is one of the tastiest, heartiest meals you can whip up in 30 minutes. Make it for smaller holiday gatherings, weeknight dinners with the family, or anytime you're craving turkey.

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    Vegan Indian Cauliflower Curry

    Vegan Indian Cauliflower Curry

    Stocksy/Helen Rushbrook

    An aromatic medley of dried Indian spices, and a nutty garnish of chopped peanuts and sesame seeds, transforms humble cauliflower florets into a delight for the senses. Serve this nourishing vegan curry for dinner with basmati rice or naan bread, or as a uniquely tasty side dish when you entertain.

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    Fresh Salmon Patties

    Fresh salmon patties recipe

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    This recipe for salmon patties or salmon croquettes is made with fresh salmon, which gives them an excellent fresh fish flavorm, but you can sub in canned in you're short on time. They are a fabulous way to turn simple pantry ingredients, including canned salmon and saltine crackers, into a scrumptious family meal. Serve on toasted English muffins, or soft burger buns.

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    Ground Turkey Stir Fry

    Ground Turkey Stir-Fry

    Anita Schecter

    This Chinese-inspired ground turkey stir-fry is incredibly easy to make, and a great way to get healthy, low-fat protein and vegetables into finicky kids. It's also an affordable weekday recipe that makes a complete meal, when served atop a bed of rice. Feel free to tweak the ingredient list with any additional veggies from your crisper or freezer.

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    30 Minute Mexican Enchiladas

    30-Minute Mexican Enchiladas

    The Spruce

    Tasty Mexican-style enchiladas take only 30 minutes in the oven, and make a filling family meal. Prepare them simply with cheese, flour tortillas, and jarred enchilada sauce, or spruce them up for the meat-lovers in your household by adding browned ground beef or shredded cooked chicken. Freezes up to a month, for easy reheating.

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    Vegan Lemon Pasta With Pine Nuts and Broccoli

    Vegan Lemon Pasta With Pine Nuts and Broccoli

    The Spruce/Emily Hawkes

    Are you a pasta lover who's eating vegan? You'll want to make this vegan and vegetarian lemon pine nut pasta one of your go-to weeknight dinner recipes. Use your choice of pasta shapes or long pasta noodles, and feel free to swap the broccoli for any fresh or thawed frozen veggies you have on hand.

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    Tex Mex Chicken Drumsticks

    Tex Mex Chicken Drumsticks

    Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

    Few chicken dinners are easier than tangy, saucy, kid-friendly chicken drumsticks. All you need to prepare them are chicken legs, a jar of chunky salsa, an onion, dried spices, and about an hour in the oven.They are likely to become a family favorite, and make a great game day nosh.

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    Italian Sausage and Peppers

    Italian sausage and peppers in a pan

    Homey, filling, and loaded with satisfying flavor, Italian sausage and peppers are a classic combination. They're a great everyday dinner idea you can make in less than 30 minutes, using a single pan on the stovetop. Serve them on fluffy submarine buns, for an easy summer sandwich idea.

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    Chicken Meatloaf

    Chicken Meatloaf

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

    If you love meatloaf but are looking for a leaner alternative to ground beef, give chicken meatloaf a try. The secret to keeping a chicken meatloaf nice and moist is to add breadcrumbs and milk, as well as some grated parmesan cheese. Adding the cheese not only imparts flavor but it adds a little bit of fat to the lean ground chicken mixture.

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    Shrimp Primavera Pasta

    Shrimp Primavera Pasta

    Elaine Lemm

    Shrimp primavera pasta is one of the easiest, yummiest, and healthiest pasta dishes around. Primavera means "spring" in Italian, and this elegant weeknight entree is loaded with fresh spring vegetables, sweet shrimp, salty Parmesan cheese, and enough pasta noodles to make it a satisfying meal.

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    Quick Stove-Top Beef Fajitas

    Quick Stove-Top Beef Fajitas

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    Does your family love classic Tex-Mex fare? Cook up a mess of sizzling-hot beef fajitas in under 30 minutes with this easy stovetop recipe. Load the cooked beef and veggie filling into flour tortillas, for topping with salsa, guacamole, shredded cheddar cheese, and all your other favorite fixings.

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    Meaty One-Pot Penne Alla Vodka

    Meaty One-Pot Penne Alla Vodka

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

    Whether you're cooking for date night, family night, or to satisfy a carb craving, this easy, meaty one-pot pasta always delivers. Creamy, rich, and loaded with ground beef and crushed tomatoes, with just a little vodka kick, it makes an indulgent dinner anytime.

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    Honey Mustard Chicken Thighs

    Skillet Honey Mustard Chicken Thighs

    The Spruce Eats

    Inexpensive chicken thighs are a fabulous choice for family meals and cookouts alike. This saucy, savory recipe simmers boneless, skinless chicken thigh strips and vegetables in a rich and fragrant honey-mustard sauce that makes a great topping for hot cooked rice or pasta.

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    French Onion Pork Chops

    French Onion Pork Chops Recipe

    The Spruce / Jennifer Perillo

    Love the idea of French onion soup but need something more filling for dinner? This recipe for French onion pork chops are the best of both worlds, topped with gooey, melty cheese, and sautéed onions for a winning main course. 

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    Easy Tuna Carbonara

    Easy Tuna Carbonara

    The Spruce

    Transform canned tuna and a few other pantry and fridge ingredients into the creamy seafood pasta of your dreams in about 20 minutes. Brimming with tuna flakes and bacon crumbles, with a rich-tasting sauce made with eggs, cream, and Parmesan cheese, you're sure to crave this spaghetti dish on the regular.

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    Instant Pot Sloppy Joes

    Instant Pot Sloppy Joes

    Diana Rattra

    Saucy, nostalgic, budget-conscious sloppy Joes are ideal for busy weeknights, or whenever you are in the mood for comfort food. This Instant Pot recipe with ground beef and vegetables is ready in just 30 minutes, and yields enough food to feed a crowd at cookouts.

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    Sheet Pan Salmon Teriyaki

    Sheet Pan Salmon Teriyaki

    The Spruce/Leah Maroney

    Yearning for sweet and tangy salmon teriyaki but don't want to pay restaurant prices? You need only a single sheet pan, and about 30 minutes, to prepare a complete, delicious Japanese-style salmon teriyaki dinner with roasted vegetables. The sauce is a snap to stir together but you could use a prepared marinade for even easier prep.

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    Chicken and Pasta With Lemon Pesto

    Chicken and Pasta With Lemon Pesto in a bowl

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    Fresh and undeniably tasty, this lemon pesto makes a great dish when combined with chicken breast and pasta. In just a few minutes you'll have a complete dinner that everyone will love. Serve with bread and salad for an easy and beautiful meal.

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    Pad Thai Noodle Salad

    Pad Thai Noodle Salad

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

    Rice noodles, shrimp, red bell pepper, bean sprouts, and fresh herbs are tossed together in a tamarind dressing that has a kick of spice from a bit of chili sauce. The resulting dish can be served as a main course or side dish; it also makes a beautiful salad for any occasion. 

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    Vegetarian Bean and Rice Burritos

    Vegetarian Bean and Rice Burritos

    The Spruce

    Vegan burritos stuffed with leftover rice, black beans, and plenty of Mexican spices are a family-pleasing dinner that you can make ahead for your freezer, so there's always something to reheat for quick and easy meals. You could also replace the beans with scrambled eggs, for a filling breakfast idea.

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    Shrimp Fajita Pasta

    One-Pot Pasta: Shrimp Fajita Linguine

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

    Mexican spices and shredded cheese put the fajita flavor into this tasty one-pot shrimp pasta entree. It's a great dish to throw together when you're craving big flavors but don't have tons of time to cook, or want to eat on the lighter side.

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    Easy Baked Chicken Parmesan

    Easy Chicken Parmesan

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    This baked chicken Parmesan takes just a few minutes to put together. Since there is no fried coating, it's also lower in calories and fat than the traditional version. You could use prepared marinara sauce as an easy shortcut in this dish, or make your own tomato sauce for the freezer, so you'll always have it on hand for Italian night at your place.

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    Pork Fried Rice

    Pork-Fried Rice

    The Spruce

    Pork-fried rice is a delicious way to use up leftover rice in the fridge. It's also versatile for tweaking with whatever fresh or frozen veggies you have on hand. Or swap out the pork for diced cooked ham, shredded rotisserie chicken, or browned ground beef.

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    Chicken Lo Mein Stir Fry

    Chicken Lo Mein Stir-fry Recipe

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

    Skip takeout and whip up this fast and easy Chinese restaurant-style chicken lo mein. Loaded with tender chunks of chicken and whatever fresh vegetables you have on hand, it's an excellent stir fry to make when you're pressed for time, but crave a nourishing meal. Feel free to swap in spaghetti or linguine for the traditional lo mein noodles.

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    Easy Provencal Fish

    Easy provencal fish recipe

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    Whether you're looking for a healthful Friday fish recipe, or want to impress on date night, this French Provencal-style fish dinner can't be beat. It only takes 30 minutes to simmer fresh fish fillets in a skillet with tomatoes and other veggies, black olives, and lemon pepper seasoning, for a saucy, flavorful main.

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    Easy Cheesy Baked Ziti

    Easy Cheesy Baked Ziti

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    Baked ziti is one of those super-easy family recipes you can change to suit your mood, or the ingredients you have on hand. Make it with store-bought spaghetti sauce, and serve with garlic bread, and a Caesar salad, for a quick and satisfying Italian-style meal.

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    Instant Pot BBQ Chicken

    Instant Pot BBQ Chicken

    Diana Rattray

    BBQ chicken in 30 minutes is a reality when you use the Instant Pot appliance. This tangy, saucy, sweet, and tender chicken dish will please everyone in the family. Or serve it for a cookout main, with a side of mac and cheese.

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    Beef and Vegetable Stir-Fry

    Beef and Vegetable Stir-Fry

    jjpoole/E+/Getty Images

    In just 15 minutes, with 5 ingredients, you can prepare this savory beef and vegetable stir-fry that your family will request again and again. Use packaged frozen mixed vegetables for an easy shortcut, and feel free to toss in any fresh veggies from your crisper, too. Serve with rice or egg noodles for an easy meal.

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    30-Minute Beef Chili

    30-Minute Chili With Ground Beef and Beans

    Diana Rattray

    You need only half an hour to prepare this hearty, satisfying ground beef chili. Start by browning inexpensive ground beef, then add spices, tomatoes, and black beans, and cook until saucy and heated through. Makes an easy lunch or dinner that hits the spot on chilly days. Serve with cornbread or crackers.

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    Skillet Chicken With Bacon and Sour Cream

    Skillet Chicken With Bacon and Sour Cream

    The Spruce

    Skillet chicken with bacon and sour cream is a breeze to prepare in about 30 minutes, and fancy enough to impress guests. Pounding the chicken breasts thin is an essential first step that makes them cook up quickly in the pan. Serve with rice and a simple green salad for a complete, elegant meal.

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    Vegan Chinese Peanut Noodles

    Vegan Chinese Peanut Noodles

    The Spruce/Emily Hawkes

    Peanut-butter loving kids and adults alike will flip for these chewy noodles coated in an Asian-style peanut sauce. Whip up a warming batch in less than 30 minutes for a delicious, low-fuss vegan meal. Add a few diced veggies if you like, such as broccoli, snow peas, or bell peppers, to boost nutrition.

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    Easy Shrimp With Angel Hair Pasta

    Easy Shrimp With Angel Hair Pasta

    The Spruce

    In about the time it takes to boil a pot of pasta, you can pull together this elegant shrimp dinner. Loaded with plump shrimp, this buttery, garlicky pasta dish is incredibly quick and easy to make for weeknight dinners, and special occasion meals alike. Keep a close eye on shrimp as they cook, as it happens fast! They should be removed from the hot pan the moment they turn pink and opaque.

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    Roasted Sheet Pan Chicken, Sweet Potatoes, and Broccoli

    Roasted Sheet Pan Chicken, Sweet Potatoes, and Broccoli

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    Looking for a one-pot dinner? How about a one-pan dinner? Chicken, sweet potatoes, and broccoli all roast together to make a complete meal with minimal cleanup in this sheet pan dinner.

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    Buddha Bowl

    Buddha bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney 

    Buddha bowls are traditionally vegetarian grain bowls loaded with bright colored vegetables, something crunchy, a protein, and a delicious sauce. This Buddha bowl meets all of those tasty criteria and then some. We created a peanut and tahini dressing for drizzling over crispy tofu, quinoa, carrots, cucumbers, shredded cabbage, and crushed peanuts.