As much as we love to devour elaborate, well-rounded homemade meals, it's just not an option every night of the week. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be able to enjoy dinner without paying the price for an indulgent night out or takeout order. Having an arsenal of last-minute dinner ideas for those busy days is the best way to avoid frantic evenings and hangry family members or housemates. Bookmarking them for future use is also a good way to be prepared without actually considering forethought.
With this in mind, we took the honors and compiled a list of delicious 10 last-minute dinner ideas with corresponding recipes. When deciding what qualifies as a "good" recipe to make at the last minute, we just considered how much hands-on time and cleanup it requires as well the number of complicated ingredients it calls for. Below, find the best last-minute dinner ideas to whip up next time you're short on time.
Lemon Butter Chicken With Orzo
First of all, the only tool you need to make this Half Baked Harvest recipe is a skillet, so you already know that cleanup will be swift and painless. Ease aside, this lemon butter chicken is delicous, comforting, and healthy. Seared with lemon slices and butter, the chicken is the perfect balance between crispy and juicy. The sauce makes this it good enough to eat on its own if you don't want to make anything extra or you're avoiding carbs, but the orzo definitely brings it to the next level.
Crispy Vegan Eggplant Parmesan
Whether you're looking for meat-free mains or not, this vegan-friendly and gluten-free eggplant parmesan recipe from Minimalist Baker will hit the spot. It's crispy, wholesome, and full of flavor. It takes about 45 minutes to make in total, but only 15 for prep. Of course, if you don't usually cook vegan, you may have to make a run to the grocery store for items like plain almond milk and any other alternatives, but otherwise, it's extremely easy to make. While you're waiting for your eggplant to bake in the oven, stay on theme and follow this recipe for some spaghetti.
Baked Salmon Noodle Bowl
As extravagant as this baked salmon bowl looks, the recipe from Food Faith Fitness is actually really easy to follow and only takes 30 minutes to make in total. That said, this will only be a good last-minute dinner idea for someone with a fully stocked spice rack or the energy to go to a supermarket, as it calls for cumin seeds, coconut sugar, and cayenne pepper. But the outcome is worth it since the pineapple notes and spiralized plantain chips make every bite in this bowl taste like vacation.
Sumac and Thyme Roast Chicken
Everyone should have a go-to roasted chicken recipe—it tastes good with everything, you'll get your protein fix, and it's really easy to prepare. Rubbed in sumac and thyme, this roasted recipe from Salt and Wind is particularly delicious. And while it sounds extra fancy, it only calls for a total of eight ingredients: extra-virgin olive oil, ground sumac, kosher salt, ground pepper, thyme leaves, garlic, lemon, and of course, a chicken.
Black Bean and Mango Quesadillas
We can think of a hundred reasons to eat quesadillas every night, one of them being that they're easy to make, but this recipe from Half Baked Harvest makes this dish even more enticing. Layered with black beans, black rice, and mango, it'll make your everyday quesadilla taste more like a well-rounded dinner. Just pop it in the oven on a sheet pan for 20 minutes and voilà.
Lemon and Arugula Pasta
What would a roundup of last-minute dinner ideas be without a pasta dish? If you're looking to graduate from a classic garlic-and–olive oil situation, try this lemon arugula penne pasta recipe from Melanie Makes. It's simple but never boring, plus it calls for an extra dose of greens, which is always a bonus.
Rainbow Veggie Wraps
Not only are thee yummy rainbow wraps from Stuck in the Kitchen easy to make, but they're also easy to eat on the go, which means they're ideal for late nights in the office, running between work events, and even messy eaters (adults and children alike). The sweet earthy beetroot hummus pairs nicely with the array of colorful crunchy veggies, and there's no cook time to take into account.
Mushroom and Proscuitto Pizza
This truffle cheese, mushroom, and prosciutto pizza from Salt and Wind is a delicious dinner option whether you're short on time or not. You can make the pizza dough from scratch when you have time and then freeze the extra so it's ready for you when you at a later date. Or you can always buy some good-quality pizza dough if making it from scratch isn't an option.
Though we usually associate sandwiches with a sad lunch break, this one is definitely an exception, which isn't surprising since the recipe is from Salt and Wind. Packed with roasted sweet potato slices, whipped goat cheese, and tahini veggie spread, it's a healthy, fresh, and filling way to end the day.
This vibrant buddha bowl from Half Baked Harvest will cheer you up, no matter how last minute you decide to make it, not only because it tastes good, but also because of the mood-boosting ingredients. Specifically, it's packed with vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, antioxidants, protein, fiber, calcium, and magnesium, thanks to the broccoli, sweet potato, blood orange, avocado, turmeric, carrots, purple cabbage, and more, all atop a bed of brown rice or quinoa.