Last-Minute Recipes

Quick and easy foolproof meals for when you're short on time

Shrimp scampi with rice and peas in a bowl

The Spruce

When you only have a few minutes to get dinner on the table, a last-minute recipe is your mealtime solution. These recipes are all quick, easy, and foolproof, requiring limited ingredients and not a lot of time. From pasta and chicken breast dishes to steak and seafood ideas, to soup and salad recipes—even quick breakfasts—there are plenty of choices for any time of the day.

  • 01 of 15

    30-Minute Pasta Recipes

    Caprese pasta with tomatoes and basil

    The Picture Pantry / Getty Images 

    Pasta is often a dinnertime lifesaver as it's inexpensive, easy to cook, and can be paired with just about any ingredient, from frozen corn to heavy cream. Most of these recipes can be on the table in 30 minutes or less, and offer a wide range of ingredients and flavors, from tuna carbonara to pasta alla puttanesca.

  • 02 of 15

    Easy Skillet Chicken Breast Recipes

    Lemon basil chicken with lemon wedges

    The Spruce 

    Boneless chicken breasts are an ideal ingredient when short on time as they cook up quickly in a skillet or on the stovetop, especially when the meat has been pounded with a meat mallet into a thin, even thickness. From sweet and sour chicken breasts to lemon chicken with mushrooms, there are plenty of recipes to please the whole family. A quick pan-sear of the chicken, add a few ingredients to make a sauce, and you've got a delicious dinner in no time.

  • 03 of 15

    Quick Steak Recipes

    Filet mignon on a white plate

    Boyrcr420 / Getty Images

    By choosing the right type of steak, you can serve up some red meat without a lot of prep time. Cuts that are meant to be cooked quickly on the grill without much or any marinating are ideal, like rib-eye, tenderloin, and skirt steak. A steak and vegetable stir-fry is also a smart dinner idea since it is a quick and complete meal, especially when served over rice or noodles. Fajitas or a main dish steak salad will also satisfy a hungry family.

  • 04 of 15

    Easy Shrimp Recipes

    Crock pot shrimp and grits with lemon wedges

     Nicole S. Young / Getty Images 

    Shrimp is the ideal ingredient when you need a meal on the fly, since this shellfish takes only five or six minutes to cook. This selection of recipes shows how their delicate, sweet taste makes them a versatile protein, delicious in a variety of cuisines including Asian, Italian, and Southern American.

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  • 05 of 15

    Last-Minute Fish Fillet Recipes

    Grilled halibut with capers, olives, and tomatoes

    Lauri Patterson / Getty Images

    Fish fillets are the ultimate last-minute food as they cook quickly and can take on a variety of ingredients—from simple to elaborate. These easy recipes feature all types of fish, from salmon to cod to haddock, and various cooking techniques, including grilling, baking, sautéing, and frying.

  • 06 of 15

    Last-Minute Pork Recipes

    Grilled pork chops on a green plate

    James Baigrie / The Image Bank / Getty Images

    Pork is a versatile meat that's very low in fat but full of flavor. Chops and boneless tenderloin cook in a short amount of time, making for a quick meal that will please a variety of palates. In just 25 minutes, you can have pork chops and peppers or, if you have a little more time (that's mostly unattended), put together a Parmesan roast pork tenderloin.

  • 07 of 15

    Main Dish Salad Recipes

    Caramelized salmon salad in a blue bowl with lime wedges

    The Spruce / Elaine Lemm

    In the summer, main dish salads are a wonderful way to get a one-dish meal together in a hurry. From grilled shrimp over a colorful vegetable salad drizzled with avocado-lime dressing to a creamy turkey salad with celery, grapes, and pecans, these filling salad recipes can be on the table in a flash.

  • 08 of 15

    Fast and Easy Skillet Dinners

    Chicken with creamed spinach, mushrooms, and bacon in a skillet
    Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman /

    Cooking in a skillet on the stovetop means dinner comes together quickly. From Asian stir-fries to meat and noodles dishes to seafood and vegetable sautés, there are plenty of meal ideas to keep the family happy. Have all of your ingredients at the ready, and these dishes will come together in a snap.

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  • 09 of 15

    Quick and Easy Stir-Fry Recipes

    Stir-fry with shrimp and Chinese greens over rice

    The Spruce

    Stir-fries are a great solution to getting dinner on the table quickly. The protein and vegetables are swiftly cooked together in a sauce and served over rice or noodles, making for a complete meal—and very little cleanup. Whether chicken, shrimp, beef, or tofu, any of these stir-fry recipes will be a good choice on a busy night.

  • 10 of 15

    30-Minute Soup Recipes

    Shrimp scampi with rice and peas in a bowl

    The Spruce

    When we think of soup, we often think of long simmer times on the stove or lots of ingredient prep. But there are plenty of recipes that you can put together in 30 minutes or less, from creamy vegetable soups and chowders to ramen and traditional bean and pasta soups. Homemade soup is also a great way to use up leftovers that may not be enough to serve at a meal.

  • 11 of 15

    Creative Cold Sandwiches

    Muffuletta sandwich in a fresh roll

    Grilled Cheese Social

    Sandwiches are a natural go-to at lunchtime but can also be the perfect solution for a no-fuss dinner. These creative cold sandwiches will make mealtime anything but ordinary, whether enjoying midday or evening. Satisfy hungry family members with a curry chicken salad sandwich, a classic New Orleans muffuletta, or even a Thai toast with peanut butter, Sriracha, and cilantro.

  • 12 of 15

    Simple Vegetarian Dishes

    Vegetarian chilli with red and white beans in a bowl

    Katerinabelaya / Getty Images

    Whether you're practicing "meatless Monday," trying to cut down on meat, or have a vegetarian family, there is a substantial selection of vegetarian dishes that are quick to prepare. From Indian favorites to pastas to chili, you may have a tough time deciding.

    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    Quick Vegan Recipes

    Buffalo wing tofu with rice
    Kim Smith-Miller Photography / Getty Images

    If you are not that familiar with vegan cooking, the idea of making meals free of meat and dairy may seem daunting. But there are plenty of recipes that can be ready in a flash, whether it's Buffalo tofu hot "wings" or yellow Thai vegetable curry.

  • 14 of 15

    Last-Minute Appetizers

    Devils on horseback appetizer with dates and Asiago cheese wrapped in bacon and secured with a toothpick

    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

    Turn dinnertime into fun time by serving a few different simple appetizers. You can make a meal out of mini pizzas, bacon-wrapped shrimp, and pigs in a blanket while satisfying a variety of taste buds at the table. Get the kids to help, and the meal will come together even quicker.

  • 15 of 15

    Last-Minute Breakfast Recipes

    Chorizo and avocado breakfast tacos with lime and cilantro

    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

    On busy mornings, especially during the school year, breakfast may be an afterthought. But instead of a boring bowl of cereal or protein bar on the go, start your day with an egg and spinach wrap, quinoa bowl with fruit, or avocado and egg toast. Most of these recipes take about 10 minutes to make, meaning you can feed your family a healthy breakfast any day of the week.