These 25 last-minute dinner ideas that you can make in 30 minutes or less are easy and delicious. No more weeknight dinner struggles.
Coming up with quick, easy, and delicious last-minute dinner ideas can be a chore, but this recipe roundup proves it doesn’t have to be. Here are my top fish, poultry, vegetarian, and meat dish picks for satisfying and nutritious last-minute dinner ideas for busy weeknights that come together in 30 minutes or less. Plus, most of these recipes use common ingredients you may have already stocked up on.
P.S. Don’t forget to bookmark this page so you always have last-minute meal inspiration at your fingertips!
Last-Minute Dinner Ideas: Meat
Weeknight dinners often call for comfort food. If you’ve got ground beef, bell peppers, onion, garlic, and a few basic condiments on hand, then you have everything you need to make sloppy joes (plus buns, toast, or a baked potato to serve them on). These sloppy joes are filling, flavorful, and require only eight ingredients.
When you’re tight on time and have nutritional needs to meet, you whip up a Thai beef stir-fry. This recipe comes together in just 20 minutes, plus the cooking time for the rice or other grain or noodle you choose to serve it on, like quinoa or rice noodles. This Thai beef stir-fry may be an easy dinner, but it never disappoints when it comes to satiety or flavor.
No buns, no mayo, no cheese, no problem. That may sound sad, but these Korean Beef Lettuce Wraps will change your mind about that. You’ll be making and grilling up your own beef patties in this recipe for maximum flavor (and lettuce wraps that are far less messy to eat and serve).
The ingredients list for these beef lettuce wraps is surprisingly simple: leafy green lettuce, ground beef, ginger, garlic, green onions, coconut aminos or soy sauce, sea salt, and avocado.
For toppings, we have kimchi, cherry tomatoes, and sesame seeds for extra crunch, texture, flavor, and nutrients. You could also add BBQ sauce to the beef patties if you want to go the Korean BBQ route.
For my low-carb-loving friends, this spicy chicken pho with zucchini noodles served with bone broth will surprise and delight you with the flavor and nutrient profile.
I love using bone broth in my recipes to get extra collagen in my diet for the skin, gut, and joint health. But you can substitute regular beef broth if you don’t have bone broth on hand or can’t source it from your local health food store.
As an added bonus, you don’t have to cook the zucchini noodles in this recipe, which cuts the cooking time down to 15 minutes. You do, however, need a zucchini spiralizer or julienne slicer to make the “zoodles”, which are easy to find on sites like Amazon for under $10. (And it’s a tiny appliance you’re likely to use again and again.)
Spicy and full of flavor, this Asian-inspired lamb stir fry is a crowd pleaser. It comes together in just 22 minutes and contains basic yet flavorful ingredients like cumin, dark soy sauce, cilantro, and chili powder. Don’t be surprised if it becomes one of your weeknight dinner repeats!
I recommend using boneless leg of lamb for a leaner recipe, but you can use lamb shoulder if you prefer. You can also substitute beef for the lamb and accompany this dish with noodles instead of rice.
Dinner frittatas really are a thing. This zucchini, ham, and cheese frittata is protein-packed and easy to customize. Again, a quick and easy way to use up the veggies in your produce drawer (and this one sneaks in some cooked ham for added protein).
Baked Italian meatballs: What more can I say? These meatballs truly make the most out of your 30-minute prep and cook time window, yielding delicious, tender, filling morsels that are ready to be placed on a bed of your favorite pasta. Yummy.
We all love a good gnocchi dish. However, this is a personal favorite for being low maintenance when it comes to clean-up, requiring only two dishes: a medium saucepan for warming up vacuum-packed gnocchi and a large skillet to cook everything else. The end result is not only less clean-up time but a seriously flavorful and enjoyable weeknight pasta dish.
A health-forward alternative to traditional fried rice, this fried cauliflower rice uses cauliflower in place of white rice and combines it with egg, tons of veggies, and all the classic Asian flavors: sesame oil, ginger, oyster sauce, soy sauce (or coconut aminos for a gluten-free option), and green onion. This recipe calls for kielbasa sausage, but you can omit it for a vegetarian version, and it’s just as delicious a meal.
Last-Minute Dinner Ideas: Seafood
Quick and easy Asian cuisine! Is there anything better? When you want something healthy, balanced, and flavorful, this salmon fried rice is a staple go-to. I recommend prepping the white rice ahead of time (day-old white rice works best for this recipe), so this is a fantastic way to use up lingering cooked grains.
You only need seven ingredients to make this recipe: salmon fillets, cracked pepper, green onion, olive oil, fresh or frozen vegetables of your choice, and rice. Teriyaki sauce and oyster sauce bring the flavor. If you’re gluten-free, you can use tamari or coconut aminos instead of oyster sauce.
These shrimp burrito bowls are highly versatile and customizable, and are truly the perfect “bowl-making formula”. Serve this bowl with shrimp or swap it out for a different protein. Prep ahead of time if you’d like, and store in the fridge for up to three days. Enjoy hot or cold. Pretty much anything goes!
All you need to make these spicy shrimp burrito bowls are a pound of raw shrimp and ingredients for the spice mix: chili powder, paprika, garlic, and cumin. Combine with rice, black beans, corn, salsa, diced avocado, and cilantro, and you’ve got one filling, flavorful bowl.
Excuse the imperfect recipe photos I’ve posted in this recipe: I assure you the taste makes up for it. We all love a good quesadilla, and this tuna salad quesadilla is a fun and delicious twist on the usual beef, chicken, or bean and cheese quesadillas we’re all used to. You also can’t argue that serving a tuna sandwich on a tortilla makes it that much more exciting.
If you’ve got canned tuna, mayo, green onion, celery, tortillas, lemon juice, and mozzarella cheese on hand, you have everything you need to whip these beauties up.
If you feel like you need an Italian escape from your work week, bring Italy straight to your kitchen in just 30 minutes with this Shrimp and Scallop Scampi.
This recipe may require a quick grocery store trip ahead of time unless you’ve already got shrimp, scallops, white wine, peppers, herbs, parmesan cheese, and your pasta of choice on hand. But it will be worth it for this perfect weeknight treat.
No need to order Mexican take-out. In less than the time it would take to arrive (and at a small fraction of the price), you will already have these Blackened Shrimp Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa on the table! I highly recommend making the mango avocado salsa ahead of time so that you can whip these up in only ten minutes.
Last-Minute Dinner Ideas: Chicken
Chicken breasts aren’t always the most exciting dinner idea. But when they’re cooked in a lemon butter garlic sauce and paired with mushrooms and green beans, this is a recipe that will have you waking up and counting down the hours until it‘s dinner time.
This chicken recipe is surprisingly simple for the amount of flavor it offers. All you need is chicken, green beans, mushrooms, and your favorite seasonings (like paprika, parsley, or red pepper flakes). To make the lemon butter garlic sauce, all you need is garlic, lemon juice, chicken broth, and cornstarch.
This sauce would also be a perfect pairing with seafood, like shrimp, salmon, cod, or prawns.
Whole30-approved, keto, paleo, and gluten-free, this cilantro lime sauce over chicken thighs is a Mexican-inspired healthy dinner that will tantalize your taste buds. You may even have all of the ingredients for the sauce since it’s so simple. All you need is cilantro, lime juice, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper. This sauce would be amazing over any sort of chicken dinner: Chicken breasts, chicken wings, and seafood too.
Fajitas are another quick and filling last-minute dinner recipe that offers a fair amount of veggies and nutrients. As long as you’ve got chicken, tortillas, spices, oil, and veggies (plus desired optional toppings like sour cream and cheese), you’re pretty much set.
This classic chicken fajita recipe also offers an easy method for making a DIY fajita seasoning—all you need is chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, salt, and pepper. Easy as.
Last-Minute Dinner Ideas: Vegan or Vegetarian
No one ever regrets having breakfast for dinner. Plus, making a frittata is not only easy, but it’s one of the best ways to use up your produce that‘s headed towards its expiration date.
To make a frittata, all you need are eggs, onion, veggies, herbs, butter, and cheese—and an optional but highly recommended ingredient: hash browns. Yes, you can bake hash browns in the same skillet with the frittata. You can even serve the frittata directly from the skillet to save on clean-up time too.
This pasta salad is a winner for a meatless Monday idea. This is a super quick, nutritious, and flavorful recipe that comes together in only 15 minutes. With only 10 ingredients, you save a ton of time by using a bagged salad recipe in lieu of fresh chopped veggies, but feel free to customize the veggie portion however you’d like because the real magic is in the sauce!
This is the heartiest of hearty veggie-based salads, featuring sweet potato coins, chopped romaine, carrots, red pepper, cilantro, sliced almonds, and an almond butter maple lime dressing. It’s the perfect way to add more raw veggies and nutrients to your diet without still feeling hungry after the meal.
Perhaps the most genius of last-minute dinner ideas is a DIY grilled cheese bar. It can feed one person or a crowd. This post offers 12 combos so original and delicious that you’ll want to try them all.
The perfect grilled cheese formula, as explained in this recipe, is your favorite bread + a soft cheese + a hard cheese + your choice of sandwich-friendly veggies (like roasted red peppers or sauteed leafy greens), sandwich-friendly fruit like figs or pears, cold cuts, and condiments, and little extras like jalapenos, kimchi, sauerkraut, and more.
In this plant-based stir fry, you’ll find green beans, tempeh, spice, and everything nice (like cashews!). It’s flavorful, hearty, filling, and has a variety of textures and flavors. If you’re not a tempeh fan, you could use extra firm tofu instead without compromising the flavor or textures in the recipe.
I couldn’t help but add one more fried rice recipe to the list, this time with a potent probiotic and spice kick. If you have kimchi, eggs, and a couple cups of cooked rice, you are pretty much in business. That’s how easy this recipe is.
If you ask me, two of the most glorious dishes in the world are tacos and pasta. And they taste darn good as a hybrid! This chilled vegetarian taco pasta salad is just rotini pasta (or another pasta of your choice), combined with classic taco fillings like black beans, kidney beans, corn, green onion, red onion, cheese, and jalapeño and cream-based dressing.
This recipe serves 6-8. If you’re only cooking for a small group or yourself, this pasta salad is a fantastic meal prep recipe for lunches and dinners throughout the week.
I’ve listed numerous fried rice recipes here, but this one is higher in fiber and B vitamins because it uses brown rice instead of white rice. If you prefer to use brown rice for your fried rice recipes, this recipe offers the correct method, plus some tips to make sure it turns out just as fluffy and delightful as the versions that use white rice.