21 Easy Dinners to Make When You Don’t Want to Cook

updated Jul 2, 2023
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sandwich open faced being built next to salt and pepper
Credit: Photo: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Sometimes you really don’t want to cook — either because you’re too tired or simply don’t like cooking — but still have to feed yourself and your family. What you need is a simple, satisfying meal that doesn’t require a ton of effort. We’re talking about fuss-free recipes that call for just one pot or sheet pan or start with a smart grocery store shortcut (think, rotisserie chicken or bagged slaw) to provide maximum comfort with minimum effort.

From comforting one-pot pasta made with Greek yogurt to saucy BBQ shredded chicken, we’re sharing 21 easy dinner ideas for low-effort, high-reward recipes are just the thing to make when you simply don’t want to cook. They’re quick, easy, and perfect for people who don’t want to spend a ton of time in the kitchen.

21 Easy Dinner Ideas

1 / 21
The Easiest Five Ingredient Capellini
Capellini pasta, garlic, Parmesan cheese, lemon, and olive oil are all you need to make this easy, breezy meal.
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2 / 21
Sheet Pan Halloumi with Burst Tomatoes, Summer Squash, Preserved Lemon, and Mint
Not only is it bursting with seasonal flair, but it comes together quickly — and depending on the size of your household, you’ll have leftovers for lunch the next day, which is a win.
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3 / 21
Instant Pot BBQ Chicken
This saucy shredded chicken comes together with just two ingredients, and can be made with boneless chicken breasts, thighs, or a combination of the two.
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4 / 21
Egg Roll Skillet
Inspired by the tasty filling in Chinese egg rolls, this ground pork skillet requires very little chopping thanks to a bag of coleslaw mix.
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5 / 21
Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi and Veggies
If you have a package of gnocchi on hand you can make a quick dinner without having to boil any water. Just toss them onto a sheet pan with whatever veggies you have on hand and roast them. Cooking the gnocchi in the oven makes them crispy-yet-tender and eliminates the need to bring a big pot of water to a boil. It's time-saving and better tasting.
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6 / 21
One-Pot Cacio e Pepe
This might not be a traditional cacio e pepe recipe, but it's much easier and just as delicious. Just throw pasta, stock, and water into a pot, let it cook, then season with cheese and pepper. It's the perfect fuss-free pasta that leaves you with just one dish to clean.
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7 / 21
Garlic Butter Shrimp
This classic recipe calls for ingredients you probably already have on hand, like butter, garlic, and lemon, and it comes together in just 5 minutes.
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8 / 21
Vegetarian Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
This recipe takes a humble baked sweet potato and stuffs it with avocado and black beans to transform it into a complete, vegetarian-friendly meal. To save extra time, cook the potato in the microwave instead of baking it. That way you can get dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes.
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9 / 21
Creamy Greek Yogurt Pasta
Greek yogurt might sound like a strange ingredient to toss into pasta, but it's perfect for creating a quick, fuss-free sauce. Simply combine Greek yogurt, Parmesan cheese, and lemon juice in a blender and toss it with cooked pasta. The resulting meal is just as comforting as fettuccine Alfredo, only without all of the added effort.
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10 / 21
Nachos Recipe
One way to get around cooking a fussy meal is to make sheet pan nachos with a plethora of fresh toppings and call it dinner. Just spread a bag of chips onto a sheet pan, top with cheesy ground beef (or just shredded cheese), pop it in the oven, and garnish with whatever toppings you have on hand.
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11 / 21
Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Meatballs
Throw frozen meatballs into the slow cooker with honey, soy sauce, ketchup, and garlic, let it cook all day. Serve over cooked rice, quinoa, or with a simple salad and dinner is done.
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12 / 21
Creamy Ricotta Pasta with Broccoli
This genius recipe blends ricotta cheese with lemon juice in a food processor to create a rich, creamy sauce that perfectly coats pasta. If you don't have broccoli you can swap it out with just about any veggie, such as spinach, cauliflower, or artichokes. The pasta might look fancy, but it's super easy, so don't let it intimidate you.
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13 / 21
Rotisserie Chicken Tacos
For a quick, 10-minute dinner, shred a rotisserie chicken and season it with chili powder and cumin. Then just load it into warm tortillas and garnish with whatever toppings you have on hand: shredded cabbage, avocado, cheese, onions, and sour cream would all work well. If you're feeding a crowd, just place the toppings into bowls and let everyone build their own taco for a fuss-free BYO taco night.
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14 / 21
Sheet Pan Quesadillas
Instead of making a bunch of individual quesadillas for dinner, why not just make a giant one and save yourself the effort? This recipe lines a sheet pan with tortillas, adds a simple black bean and cheese filing on top, then tops it another layer of tortillas to create one giant one that can be cut into individual servings. This way you only have one dish to clean and you're not glued to the stovetop frying up quesadillas all night.
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15 / 21
French Onion Soup One-Pot Pasta
If you love French onion soup, you'll love this super-simple pasta that's made entirely in one pot and with only six ingredients. There's no need to boil the pasta and strain it, so you can cook it all in one shot. To caramelize the onions faster, cut them as thinly as possible. (If you own a mandoline this is the time to bust it out.)
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16 / 21
Instant Pot Lentil Soup
Packed with vegetables and a warm, lightly spiced broth, lentil soup is one of the easiest meals you can make in your Instant Pot.
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17 / 21
Cheese on Toast Recipe
Warm and gooey British cheese on toast is a quick, easy bite for any time of day — dinner included.
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18 / 21
The Easiest Skillet Chili Mac
This easy, cheesy chili mac comes together in just one pan with just a few store-bought conveniences.
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19 / 21
Easy Sheet Pan Chicken Nachos
Want restaurant-style chicken nachos at home without the hassle? This is your go-to recipe!
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20 / 21
The Best-Ever Caprese Sandwich
Tomatoes, avocado, mozzarella and basil are stuffed inside a toasted baguette and finished with a drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar in this perfect sandwich.
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21 / 21
The Easiest Cheese and Vegetable Frittata
A simple frittata is the best way to quickly clean out the vegetables you forgot in the crisper.
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