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 considerable foresight.
With this in mind, we took the honors and compiled a list of 25 delicious, 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. Whip these up the next time you're short on time.
Keep scrolling for our favorite last-minute dinner recipes to make on short notice.
Lemon Butter Chicken With Orzo
The Recipe: Lemon Butter Chicken With Orzo
Why We Love It: First of all, the only tool you need to make this Half Baked Harvest recipe is a skillet, so cleanup will be swift and painless. Seared with lemon slices and butter, the chicken is the perfect balance between crispy and juicy.
Pro Tip: Throw in some fresh dill for color, and serve this dish directly from the skillet, like Half Baked Harvest does.
Crispy Vegan Eggplant Parmesan
The Recipe: Crispy Vegan Eggplant Parmesan
Why We Love It: 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. While you wait for your eggplant to bake in the oven, stay on theme and boil a pot of water for spaghetti.
Pro Tip: Eggplant will keep for up to 2 days.
Baked Salmon Plantain Noodle Bowl
The Recipe: Baked Salmon Noodle Bowl
Why We Love It: 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. 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.
Pro Tip: This recipe is paleo diet-friendly. Top with toasted coconut flakes and cilantro to garnish.
Simmered Shoyu Chicken
The Recipe: Simmered Shoyu Chicken
Why We Love It: A low and slow simmer does most of the culinary heavy lifting in Salt & Wind's shoyu chicken recipe, which is a local food classic in Hawaii. Have a pot ready to pour soy sauce, broth (or water), then add chopped sweet onion, ginger, brown sugar, jalapeño (optional), and an entire head of garlic, and chicken thighs. Simmer for 50 minutes
Pro Tip: Follow Salt & Wind's tip for making the sauce more of a glaze, if desired.
Black Bean and Mango Quesadillas
The Recipe: Black Bean and Mango Quesadillas
Why We Love It: We can think of a hundred reasons to eat quesadillas every night—one of them being that they're easy to make, and 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.
Pro Tip: Serve with Greek yogurt, limes, avocado, and cilantro.
Lemon and Arugula Pasta
The Recipe: Lemon and Arugula Pasta
Why We Love It: 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 nutritional bonus.
Pro Tip: Top with parmesan cheese to finish.
Coconut Curry Chickpea Stew
The Recipe: Coconut Curry Chickpea Stew
Why We Love It: A handful of pantry staples and 45 minutes of prep and cooking time produces I Am A Food Blog's dynamic, plant-based stew recipe. Break out the chickpeas, coconut milk, red curry paste, vegetable or chicken stock, greens, garlic, onion, and ginger.
Pro Tip: Finish with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
Truffled Mushroom and Prosciutto Pizza
The Recipe: Truffled Mushroom and Prosciutto Pizza
Why We Love It: This truffle cheese, mushroom, and prosciutto pizza from Salt & 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 at a later date. Or you can always buy some good-quality pizza dough if making it from scratch isn't an option.
Pro Tip: "If you don't have a pizza stone, turn a rimmed baking sheet upside down in your oven and let it heat up while the oven heats," writes Salt & Wind.
Sweet Potato, Whipped Goat Cheese, and Tahini Sandwich
Why We Love It: 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 & 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—plus it comes together in only 10 minutes.
Pro Tip: Stir tahini before drizzling.
Spring Broccoli Buddha Bowl
The Recipe: Spring Broccoli Buddha Bowl
Why We Love It: 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. It's packed with vitamins and minerals thanks to broccoli, sweet potato, blood orange, avocado, turmeric, carrots, purple cabbage, and more, all atop a bed of brown rice or quinoa.
Pro Tip: For an additional nutrition boost, serve with sprouts and hemp seeds.
Sheet Pan Harissa Chicken With Sweet Potatoes
The Recipe: Sheet Pan Harissa Chicken With Sweet Potatoes
Why We Love It: One needs only 15 minutes of prep work before seasoned chicken, and sweet potatoes are baked on one pan for 30 minutes. To make Feasting at Home's recipe, you'll need skin-on chicken thighs, red onion, sweet potatoes, seasonings including smoked paprika, cumin, chipotle powder, and caraway seeds as an option.
Pro Tip: This recipe also works well with tofu or fish as the main protein.
Tarragon Chicken With Asparagus, Lemon, and Leeks
Why We Love It: One bowl and a simple lemon and tarragon marinade infuses seasonal veggies like asparagus, and chicken in Feasting at Home's sheet-pan dinner recipe. Opt for tofu for plant-based protein (or a combo of both), and bake everything on parchment for 20 minutes.
Pro Tip: Broil for a few minutes after the chicken is cooked through to give it some color, Feasting at Home recommends.
Baked Miso Salmon With Spring Peas
The Recipe: Baked Miso Salmon With Spring Peas
Why We Love It: When you're craving a fast and healthy meal, try Feasting at Home's salmon and vegetables recipe. Marinate salmon in miso, sesame oil, Mirin, and sugar (or honey), and bake. Serve with a side of peas—shelled spring peas, frozen peas, or snow peas for example.
Pro Tip: Opt for black cod or sea bass instead of salmon to mix things up.
Instant Pot Chicken Marinara With Polenta
The Recipe: Instant Pot Chicken Marinara With Polenta
Why We Love It: The Instant Pot's high heat and pressure help prepare The Modern Proper's chicken and polenta recipe in 25 minutes. While chicken and marinara cooks in the Instant Pot, cook polenta on the stovetop for 12–14 minutes.
Pro Tip: "If polenta thickens too much while cooling, return to heat and add in water, ½ cup at a time," The Modern Proper recommends. "Stir until desired consistency returns."
Braised Chickpeas With Chard
The Recipe: Braised Chickpeas With Chard
Why We Love It: To make The Modern Proper's vegetarian-friendly recipe, simmer chickpeas in marinara sauce and garlic for 15 minutes, and add smoked paprika, and swirl in chopped kale or chard for a zippy dinner.
Pro Tip: Serve warm over crusty bread, The Modern Proper recommends, "Or crispy potatoes."
5-Ingredient Chicken Tortilla Soup
The Recipe: 5-Ingredient Chicken Tortilla Soup
Why We Love It: The Modern Proper's soup recipe has so much going for it—all you need are five ingredients, it's ready in 30 minutes, and it's freezer friendly so you could even make a double batch to have on-hand when you need it. Take chicken stock, roasted rotisserie chicken, red enchilada sauce, canned tomatoes, and canned sweet or creamed corn.
Pro Tip: The Modern Proper prefers diced, fire roasted tomatoes.
Bison Burger Sliders With Whiskey Onions
The Recipe: Bison Burger Sliders With Whiskey Onions
Why We Love It: In 30 minutes, Salt & Wind's burger recipe beats hanger with meaty, mushroomy sliders topped with caramelized onions. All you need is ground bison, slider buns, onion, whiskey, garlic, and fresh thyme.
Pro Tip: Serve with high-quality mayonnaise, and baby arugula.
Black Bean & Rice Skillet
The Recipe: Black Bean & Rice Skillet
Why We Love It: 10 minutes, a skillet; beans; rice; tomatoes; cheese; onion; and spices are all you need to make a plant-based, protein-packed dinner from Marisa Moore. Be sure to dice the onion well, and drain the tomatoes before adding in.
Pro Tip: Garnish with cilantro, jalapeño, avocado, and fresh green onions.
Chipotle Lime Shrimp Tacos With Avocado Salsa
The Recipe: Chipotle Lime Shrimp Tacos With Avocado Salsa
Why We Love It: As a lean protein, shrimp cooks up in minutes. Follow Marisa Moore's taco recipe for citrusy shrimp tacos with a kick—thanks to garlic, chipotle powder, lime. You will also need avocado, tomato, red onion, more garlic, and cilantro for the salsa.
Pro Tip: "Don’t crowd the skillet when cooking the shrimp. Leaving plenty of space in the pan will help the shrimp to get a nice sear," Moore recommends. "That means more flavor!"
Lemon Garlic Pork Steaks With Mushrooms
The Recipe: Lemon Garlic Pork Steaks With Mushrooms
Why We Love It: Peace Love and Low Carb's porks steaks recipe calls for stovetop cooking, so meat cooks up in 30 minutes or less. Just be sure you have butter (or ghee), lemon pepper seasoning, chicken stock, garlic, mushrooms, lemon, and parsley on hand.
Pro Tip: For maximum flavor, "Use a rubber spatula to scrape any remaining bits of pork from the bottom of the pan and mix into the sauce," Peace Love and Low Carb advises.
The Recipe: Cheeseburger Casserole
Why We Love It: Ground beef, rice, bacon and seasons are baked for a quick 30 minutes, which makes Kim's Cravings' casserole recipe a lifesaver when you're pressed for time. Be sure to also have an onion, seasonings like garlic and onion powder, Greek yogurt, liquid egg whites, and shredded cheddar cheese in easy reach.
Pro Tip: Top with diced tomato, pickles, and a chipotle mayo drizzle.
The Recipe: Turkey Chili
Why We Love It: In just 30 minutes, Kim's Cravings' chili recipe comes together from a simple ingredient list that includes ground turkey, beans, bell pepper, crushed tomatoes, and spices. Add chili powder and cumin to taste, and garnish with cilantro and avocado.
Pro Tip: Add a cup or more of broth if you prefer a thinner consistency.
Chicken and Mushrooms
The Recipe: Chicken and Mushrooms
Why We Love It: Roasted chicken thighs in a creamy mushroom sauce makes for a quick (read: Ready in less than 45 minutes), satisfying meal, courtesy of this Bowl of Delicious recipe. Besides chicken and mushrooms, you'll need heavy cream, onion, all-purpose flour, chicken broth, butter, olive oil, and fresh thyme.
Pro Tip: Lighten the recipe up with whole milk or half and half, instead of heavy cream.
Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
The Recipe: Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
Why We Love It: A quick sauté of chopped cabbage and ground turkey in Eating Bird Food's deconstructed cabbage rolls recipe means dinner on the table in no time. You'll need onion, tomato sauce, apple sauce, apple cider vinegar, garlic, cinnamon, tomatoes, and parsley for garnish.
Pro Tip: Serve over cauliflower or regular rice. This recipe serves 4.
5-Ingredient Sweet Potato Curry
The Recipe: 5-Ingredient Sweet Potato Curry
Why We Love It: With a few pantry staple ingredients, plus coconut milk and green curry paste, Eating Bird Food's vegetarian curry recipe cooks up in less than 30 minutes.
Pro Tip: Serve over rice, with cilantro and a squeeze of lime.