Our Best Family-Friendly Weeknight Dinners
Straight from the Yummly test kitchen, we've got 33 easy dinner ideas that will help you avoid takeout — and find some new family favorites.
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One-Pan Pasta Primavera; photograph by Olga Ivanova
A typical week at my place includes … Y’know what? Never mind. I refuse to play the Who’s Busier Olympics. We live in hectic times. I’m busy, you’re busy, our families are busy. And while in my single days I might’ve steamed some frozen vegetables, nuked a veggie burger, and called it dinner, that doesn’t fly any more. My family needs a weeknight meal, a real meal, every night. Every. Night.
That’s where this mega-collection of recipes comes in. You’ll find dozens of family-friendly meals here, and none takes more than 45 minutes to get on the table. If you cook one of these recipes every weeknight, your dinners are planned for the next six-plus weeks.
Which one will be your first family dinner?
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Simple bowls and salads
Either “big salad” or “grain bowl” is on the menu at my place pretty much every week. They’re so fast and flexible!
Y’know how they say a rug can really pull the room together? Same goes for a yummy dressing and grain bowls, like this cilantro vinaigrette. Drizzle some onto a rice bowl topped with black beans and assorted veggies, and you’ve got a meal.
Ready in just 20 minutes, this main-dish salad combines shredded rotisserie chicken, corn, black beans, and cilantro with a dressing made from store-bought BBQ sauce. My husband is a sucker for a creamy chicken salad, and this one tops his list.
This simple and refreshing poke bowl beats your average takeout sushi any day. Cubes of fish marinate in a soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil bath while you chop fresh veggies and make a creamy sriracha sauce to drizzle on top.
On Sundays, I’ll cook some bone-in chicken breasts in my Instant Pot and stow them in the fridge. Now I’m ready to serve a bright-tasting salad like this one in just a few minutes. It only calls for cutting up a handful of veggies: tomatoes, green onions, and fresh cilantro for the salad itself, and avocado slices for serving.
Dinner with an Asian accent
If my son had his way, the only takeout we’d ever get is Chinese. I’d rather make a quick stir-fry on the stovetop — it’s quicker and far less greasy.
Hoisin sauce adds a sweet and savory touch to this kid-friendly stir-fry. In it, thin slices of flank steak get seared in a hot skillet or wok and mixed with aromatics, crisp-tender vegetables, and that easy sauce.
Think of this as Mongolian Beef’s spicier cousin. Instead of the hint of sweetness you get from hoisin sauce, coarsely ground black pepper adds intrigue to the beefy stir-fry. Green and red bell peppers provide nice, crunchy contrast.
I’ve eaten a lot of Kung Pao chicken in my life, but I didn’t realize how easy it is to make at home. Here, tender chunks of chicken thighs or breasts meet a complex, spicy sauce, and the crunch of peanuts. I never need to order it again.
Kid-friendly dinners don’t get much kid-friendlier than burgers.
These burgers start out fairly basic, just ground beef seasoned with Worcestershire and garlic powder, but a not-so-secret ingredient takes them up several notches. Tucking potato chips inside your bun is a game changer. If you like things cheesy, the recipe has cheeseburger instructions. And if you’d like to get a little playful, make sliders by downsizing the patties.
Lamb burgers are just the thing for a family of more adventurous eaters. The combination of ground lamb, fresh or dried mint, a smidge of tomato paste, and a little ground cumin yields a special burger that still feels familiar. The yogurt-feta-garlic sauce is just what these patties need.
The mild flavor of ground turkey lends itself to all kinds of add-ins, like this recipe’s canned green chiles and southwestern spices. Served on a toasted brioche bun with lime-chipotle mayo, this is one memorable burger.
Classics old and new
There’s a reason recipes like these have endured for decades.
Garlic, butter, white wine, and lemon: You only need a handful of ingredients and 20 minutes to create a saucy shrimp dish that will have everyone in the family licking their plates. (Serve with rice or crusty bread to prevent licking.)
In old-school Italian restaurants, my husband orders chicken parmesan. I go with chicken marsala. The tender mushrooms, the slightly sweet wine sauce, the tender chicken … swoon. Cooking it at home means I don’t have to wait for a restaurant. The sauce is delectable, so serve with mashed potatoes — or for a faster side, prepared gnocchi.
These Joes are nothing like what we grew up with, but that’s not only OK: It’s amazing. The trick is to swap some of the ground beef for fresh Mexican chorizo, which effortlessly adds flavor and heat.
Easy weeknight vegetarian recipes
Whether you’re planning Meatless Monday or moving towards a fully vegetarian diet, you still need quick dinner options.
On a busy weeknight, it’s tempting to reach for a jar of marinara (I do, sometimes). But the one-pot method of cooking macaroni gives you a homemade, veggie-packed pasta dish in no time. Stir in some soft garlic-and-herb cheese at the end for a creamy sauce.
I love to make a big pot of veggie soup and stow it in the fridge for the week — with some good bread and a sprinkle of Parmesan, it makes a terrific lunch. To turn it into dinner, add a salad or Pesto Grilled Cheese sandwich.
Starting with frozen corn, canned creamed corn, and frozen hash browns saves a lot of time here. You wind up with a thick, hearty bowl of soup — filling enough for dinner — that tastes like it’s been simmering for hours, but it’s ready in just 40 minutes.
Store-bought flatbread takes on a wonderful smoky flavor after a few minutes on the grill. Top it with grilled halloumi cheese, grilled and raw vegetables, and a dressing made with prepared hummus, and you’ve got an easy, crowd-pleasing dinner.
Cozy cold-weather recipes
Comfort food is the order of the day when the weather turns chilly.
A handful of clever shortcuts, like pre-cubed butternut squash and store-bought red curry paste, give you a rich, vegan dinner-in-a-bowl that’s anything but ordinary. Don’t skip the garnish of pumpkin seeds and cilantro leaves — the contrasting textures make a big difference.
I like to make weeknights easier by limiting cleanup. This cozy one-pot supper cooks sliced onions, kielbasa, and frozen pierogi in one large skillet. Everything comes out golden brown, and the sausage and dumplings both develop nice crispy edges. The best part: There’s almost no prep, and just the one pan to wash later.
In less than half an hour, you can make a classic pasta recipe that tastes like you ordered it from a fancy Italian restaurant. Quick-cooking fresh pasta in a creamy, cheesy sauce is just the thing on a cold night — I want to cuddle up with a big bowl of it.
This outrageously delicious tenderloin — rubbed with a southwestern spice blend, wrapped in bacon, and glazed with maple syrup — is ready in just 45 minutes. Serve it with roasted sweet potatoes and your favorite green vegetable.
On a busy weeknight, I might not attempt something as complicated as enchiladas — but tacos, burritos, and quesadillas definitely qualify as quick and easy.
Mixing shredded rotisserie chicken with green salsa and sour cream makes an ingenious filling for burritos. So much flavor, with so little effort! Top the chicken with avocado, shredded cheese, and cilantro, roll up the tortilla, and toast it in a hot skillet until crispy.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen chickpeas at my local taqueria, but when they’re browned in a skillet with corn, bell peppers, and chili powder, they make a fantastic vegan filling. The avocado crema on each tortilla holds everything together.
These tacos are delightfully easy. To make them, rub warm spices like cumin, oregano, and chipotle powder on a pork tenderloin and grill it. While that’s going, make a quick, spicy-sweet mango salsa.
This takes breakfast-for-dinner to a whole new level. It’s like a giant bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich, made on a sheet pan — but with avocado and green onions tucked inside, and topped with sour cream, salsa, and pickled jalapeños.
Fast seafood suppers
Few foods cook as quickly as fish and shellfish. Frozen varieties thaw quickly, and you can buy top-notch canned and jarred fish, too.
Moist, rich Chilean sea bass only needs a few minutes of marinating in a miso-rice vinegar-soy sauce-brown sugar elixir. Pop it under the broiler until the top gets beautifully burnished, about 10 minutes, and it’s ready.
Who wouldn’t like a little tropical escape in the middle of a busy week? Coating mahi-mahi in chopped macadamia nuts, shredded coconut, and panko will whisk you away in just about half an hour.
If you’ve got a can of salmon, some sun-dried tomatoes, and pasta in the pantry you’re more than halfway to dinner. You’re only cooking the pasta and softening some garlic, so it’s on the table lickety-split.
This lightened-up version of the lemony, garlicky classic swaps scallops for shrimp, skips the butter completely, and adds spinach and pasta to make a complete, balanced, and easy meal.
Break out your gadgets
Sometimes, the answer to a quick weeknight dinner lies in using the right equipment.
An air fryer gives you all the crunchy goodness you expect from fried food, without the mess (or calories) of cooking in oil. Coat pork chops with panko and Parmesan, pop ‘em in the basket, and they come out irresistibly browned.
Honey, miso, and ginger make a perfect complement to rich salmon fillets. They come out of the air fryer moist and flaky inside, glazed and gorgeous outside.
My son would eat fajitas five nights a week (the other two? hot dogs and pizza). Using the air fryer to cook up seasoned flank steak, bell peppers, and red onion makes cleanup practically effortless. Pile on the guac, salsa, and sour cream, wrap in a tortilla, and dig in.
OK, so this is the opposite of fast cooking, but it’s still a weeknight lifesaver. Bone-in chicken breasts soak up the flavor from lemon, white wine, mustard, and garlic for hours after you set it and forget it in the slow cooker. When you return, dinner will be just about ready.
More dinner inspiration
Even more new family favorites await in the related articles below.