Before we get started on a subject dear to our hearts, let's define the term "no-cook," since it can be interpreted in many ways. Long, philosophical essays have been written on what it means to cook, but for the purposes of this post, let's say that "no-cook" simply means to not apply heat. This leaves us free to chop, squeeze, slice, arrange, dollop, scatter, mix, gently fold, and ... well, you get the picture. Basically no-cook means assembling, sometimes with things that have already been cooked (hard-boiled eggs, for instance, or slices of ham). Make sense? Good! Let's get started on some of the best meals out there.
The Art of No-Cook Meals
Since no-cook is about assembly, the no-cook meal begins in two places: the grocery store and the leftover shelf of your refrigerator. To help with the grocery store, be sure to read our comprehensive 31 essential ingredients for no-cook meals and make a list!
Your leftover stash will vary widely, but in general keeping things like hard-boiled eggs, a pot of rice or other favorite grain, leftover meats, and roasted vegetables is a good place to start.
This series offers five salads that are assembled from store-bought and leftover ingredients. While geared towards the lunch box, these delicious salads are hearty enough to also serve as dinner. And one salad, kale bistro salad, was so perfect, we declared it our Salad Recipe of the Year for 2016!
Grain bowls are another way to assemble your way into a delicious meal without having to cook anything. Again, a pre-prep plan is what makes this work, so a little forethought or some smart shopping is all you need to have a healthy, flavorful, filling meal in just a few minutes.
These snack board ideas are just the best and will help you to perfect your assembly skills in no time. You can go meaty, or gluten-free, or vegan, or you can base it entirely on what you can find at Trader Joe's for $20. And the grazing aspect — tasting this and then that and oh maybe a little more over here — is just so fun and satisfying.
Poke is a Hawaiian dish of marinated seafood, most often tuna, that's become quite popular recently, with poke-focused restaurants opening up all over. But poke is also really simple to make at home and can be tweaked and adjusted to fit your particular palate. Just be sure to buy the highest-quality tuna, as this is a raw dish.
This beautiful salad is packed full of fruits and vegetables and tossed with a rich cashew-date dressing, so it's got real heft despite the fact that it's raw and vegan. The toppings add a nice crunch to the crisp veg, but the best part is the flavor from all the fresh herbs, ginger, and chile.
People think they can't make sushi because it's complicated and you need to study with a master for 10 years. This may be true, but you can also just plunge right in with something a little easier and not too traditional, such as these hand rolls made with crab, avocado, and sprouts.
The Cobb salad is a perfect example of a no-cook dish that's hearty and filling and quick to assemble, especially if you have a nice stash of leftovers or store-bought goodies like BBQ chicken and cooked bacon. This version is especially flavorful and can be easily adapted to what you have on hand.
Whether you're a fan or not, it's an irrefutable fact that many people will have a smoothie as their meal, and not just for breakfast. These five smoothies are hearty and made with filling ingredients such as nut butter, chocolate, dates, and coconut butter to help make your liquid diet feel satisfying.
Spiralizers may be heading into the tired trend category, but they can be useful in creating playful, colorful dishes. In this case, spiralized and thinly sliced vegetables are tossed in an orange/miso/sesame dressing and left to marinate for a few hours to produce a vibrant salad that's satisfyingly flavorful and crunchy.
It's not dinner without dessert, so here's a no-bake classic that can be assembled up to a day in advance. The recipe is so simple — just slice up any juicy fruit that's in season and layer it with graham crackers and whipped cream. Maybe garnish it with some nuts or a drizzle of melted chocolate and then let it be for a few hours. Magic!
Do you have a favorite no-cook dinner? Something that just comes together with the magic of a few leftovers or a quick trip to the store?