As much as I truly enjoy cooking, weeknights can be rough, and the dinner struggle is real. But at the first mention of 30-minute meals, I knew that was a cooking strategy made for me. I've come to lean on 30-minute meals during the week for numerous reasons, but time is always the main draw. The time cap on these recipes is an easy sell, but are they delicious? Will they cost me a small fortune in pre-prepped veggies? Will there be a ton of stuff to clean up? And seriously, 30 minutes from start to finish? Lies!
No lies here — just hot, delicious meals that answer all those questions with a yes, no, no, and yes (in that order).
From an ultra-satisfying soup to sheet pan salmon, these are the five weeknight-friendly recipes that will teach you just how easy it can be to get a nourishing dinner on the table in 30 minutes.
We Want the Same Thing from 30-Minute Dinners
Your questions about 30-minute meals are my questions about 30-minute meals, so when I set out to make recipes to share with you I made sure to get all the answers I wanted. I didn't want 30 minutes to be an illusion; I didn't want a recipe that blew my food budget; I didn't want a meal that took 30 minutes to make to require 30 minutes for cleanup; and I most certainly didn't want 30 minutes to be at the expense of flavor. To achieve all this I had to come up with one big-picture rule: Keep things simple.
There are so many reasons to keep things simple when you're aiming for a total of 30 minutes in the kitchen, but a few stand out.
Embrace the "Meanwhile"
This is perhaps one of the very best tricks to help you get dinner on the table quickly and efficiently. But what exactly do I mean by "embrace the meanwhile"? For starters, it's not the same as multitasking, so no need to worry about trying to do two things at once. The "meanwhile" is the tactic that takes advantage of those few hands-off minutes that show up in recipes — like while veggies are steaming or something is coming to a boil — that allow you to work on something else, like slicing that carrot.
This means that instead of prepping all of the ingredients at the onset (as we're often told to do), read the full recipe, then prep just what you need to get started. This will look different from recipe to recipe, but the idea is always the same. It's these small steps that add up to minutes, and ultimately save you time along the way.
Lean on Freezer and Pantry Staples
A well-stocked freezer and pantry can be the helping hand that lets you bring dinner together faster. A package of frozen broccoli cuts down on prep and cooks up faster for a warm and fragrant green curry. Skip the marinara and turn that emergency bag of tortellini into a hearty soup. Dijon mustard and maple syrup join forces for a quick sauce to fancy up salmon fillets, and prevent them from drying out. Cooking from your pantry means you're working with ingredients you're familiar with. When you want to make a meal fast, keep things simple and stick with ingredients you know.
Know the Kitchen Tools That Will Help You
There are two sides to a 30-minute meal: It comes together quickly and you can quickly clean it up. To do that, you'll need to reach for the right cookware. Pull out a baking sheet for saucy salmon fillets paired with asparagus and potatoes. Your entire meal — protein plus two sides — is served up all at once. A single pot like a Dutch oven is your ticket to a warm veggie and tofu curry or a spicy chicken and chorizo chili. Don't forget your beloved cast iron skillet for a chicken dinner finished off with salty prosciutto and melted cheese. All of these vessels make an entire dinner possible with just one pot or pan. How's that for simple?