Dinner, Faster

17 Easy, Breezy Dinners for Summer Beach Days

End a day of fun in the sun with these dinner recipes.

June 29, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

Beach food—or, really, any midsummer meal—should be utterly uncomplicated, seasonally appropriate (tomatoes! corn! herbs galore!), seafood-heavy if you are indeed by the shore, hearty enough to get you back to the beach tomorrow, and quick enough that you don't have to head home early to get the cooking started. Here are the recipes we make when all that's on the docket for the next day—and the one after that—is floating on our backs in the closest body of water.

Our Best Dinner Recipes for Beach Vacations

1. New Manhattan Clam Chowder

It's not a true beach day without a bowl of clam chowder, right? Right. This tomatoey version uses 3 pounds of fresh clams, bringing that straight-from-the-sea flavor straight to your mouth.

2. Crab Cakes

Whether you start a beach dinner with more seafood for an appetizer (we doubt anyone will complain) or decide to serve these as your main course, our Baltimore-style crab cakes are the very best you'll ever taste, guaranteed.

3. Jasper White’s World-Famous Lobster Rolls

If you're team lobster salad over a Connecticut-style hot lobster roll, this is the recipe for you. An entire pound of freshly cooked lobster meat is tossed with homemade tarragon mayonnaise, thinly sliced scallions, and finely diced cucumbers for a fresh, crisp bite. Pile the salad high into your favorite top-sliced hot dog bun for the ultimate beach vacation dinner.

4. Sardinian Clam Stew With Fregola

The beauty of this clam stew is that you don't need to be too precise or too pretty. Start by making your own fregola, which is an Italian pasta similar to Israeli couscous. Cook the beads of pasta with a combination of garlic, onions, tomatoes, and olive oil (you know the drill), plus 2 pounds of clams for an Italian stew that will transport your taste buds seaside.

5. Steak & Bean Torta

After a long day on the beach, you're probably a little tired, a little sunburned, and certainly quite hungry. This Mexican-style sandwich will hit the spot. "This torta is fairly light in meat because of the addition of beans, and since I often have the rest of the ingredients on hand, it is quick and easy to pull together," says recipe developer SavorThis. If you have ingredients like black beans, chipotle and cumin powder, paprika, and sherry vinegar on hand, you'll be good to go.

6. Summer Weekend Pasta

Corn on the cob shines in this colorful pasta primavera along with yellow zucchini and fresh basil. But the fun doesn't stop there. After all, it's the weekend, so what better way to celebrate than with a little bit of bacon thrown into the mix, too?

7. Avocado Crab Rolls

Upgrade the crab roll that you know and love from a seaside shack with this recipe, which combines crabmeat with a vibrant avocado mayo. The four-ingredient mayo brings just the right amount of zest to this summer sandwich, which is exactly what you want after a long day spent at the beach.

8. Spaghetti With Clams, Parsley, Garlic & Lemon

Amanda Hesser calls this one of her favorite summer dinners for a family vacation, and soon enough, you will, too. Our co-founder's secret is using both preserved lemons and fresh lemon juice so that you get plenty of brightness even after the sun goes down.

9. Fish With Sauce Niçoise

A trip to France may be out of the budget, but this dish inspired by the flavors and ingredients of Nice is certainly within reach.

10. White Fish Escabeche Tacos

"This is in my post-beach dinner rotation in the summer. It's all prepped ahead and the only thing left to do is warm the tortillas and make yourself a drink," says recipe developer Cheese1227. In our book, that's the perfect way to end a long day spent in the summer sun.

11. Marinated Green Bean Sandwiches

For a light vegetarian dinner that you can bring to the beach for a picnic dinner, make these green bean and mozzarella sandwiches. The best part is that you can make the marinated green beans a few days in advance, so they're ready to eat at the drop of a hat.

12. Dad's Favorite Seafood Stew

Of course you can make this seafood stew for Father's Day or Dad's birthday (hence the name), but it's also the perfect summer dinner after a beach day. It's loaded with three kinds of seafood—white fish fillets, sea scallops, and large shrimp.

13. Summer Pasta alla Caprese

One of the staples of a caprese salad are tomatoes, and during summer, they're at their best and brightest. In this pasta salad that's perfect for a beach dinner, ripe red tomatoes team up with plenty of basil and mozzarella (a given), plus red onion, balsamic vinegar, and extra-virgin olive oil to boot.

14. Octopus & Potato Salad (Insalata di Polpo e Patate)

This is no ordinary pasta salad. It's so much better, thanks to the 2 pounds of octopus, which cooks in white wine and olive oil and then is diced and tossed with parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, and thinly sliced celery.

15. Skillet-Grilled Fish Tacos With Cilantro-Lime Crema

Instead of firing up an outdoor grill, achieve the flavor and texture of charred grill using a cast-iron skillet for these simple tacos that are topped with a fragrant cilantro-lime sauce.

16. Peperonata (Red Pepper Stew)

Grab a slice (or two!) of toasted bread and top it with this super-simple red pepper and tomato "stew."

17. Spicy Shrimp

You can do just about anything with this grilled shrimp—toss it with pasta, serve it over salad, pair it with grilled veggies, or toss with rice and vegetables. However, we wouldn't blame you if you wanted to eat them straight off the skewers, unaccompanied. In fact, we might just do the same exact thing.

How do you do beachy, summery, post-beach dinners? Share your tried-and-trues in the comments below.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • p. turley
    p. turley
  • sreastland
  • jpriddy
  • Jessica Ferreira
    Jessica Ferreira
Former Food52 Staff Editor


p. T. August 12, 2021
I was thinking that I would find one of your new recipes on this list: Roast Cod with Little Tomatoes and Assorted Olives. Going to the beach in about a dozen days with women I've known about four dozen years. We will do halibut instead of cod, as that is more plentiful on the Oregon coast. Looking forward to this new recipe, and using up all those extra assorted olives in my refrigerator. All of us have gardens with extra cherry tomatoes. Thanks for all the inspiration! Good job.
sreastland July 14, 2021
Your list sounds amazing, and regionally influenced. We live near the Gulf Coast so my beach go-tos would look a little different based on available fresh seafood (produce is about the same). At the top would be a chilled tomatoey-based Campechana with chunks of shrimp, crabmeat and avocado. Some eat it with tortilla chips, but I eat it with a spoon! Grilled Tuna or Grouper would also be on my list as would ceviche! I wonder about favorite beach dishes from regions too!?
jpriddy July 11, 2021
Thank you for so many wonderful veg-centered recipes. I appreciate it!
Jessica F. August 4, 2016
ouuu very interesting dishes you shared here :)
Unfortunately I'm not really into veggies but I'm sending this post to my mother ASAP!! hehe


Xoxo Jessy