Weeknight Cooking

11 Easy Meals for When You’re Too Tired to Cook

March 12, 2018

When I’m in a foul mood, my sister will always ask me two questions: “Are you tired?” and “Are you hungry?” It’s almost always a “yes” to one or the other—and on days following the switch to Daylight Saving Time, it’s usually both. Tonight, I don’t want to mess with 15-step recipes or tons of dishes. I want a meal that requires only a handful of ingredients and minimal active cooking, like speedy grits, bubbly bakes, or done-in-a-flash fish. That way I can chow down, jump in the shower, and then into bed.

If you’re looking for your own easy dinners, check out these 11 short, simple dishes. And then get some rest.

The stew starts simple: oil, onion, lentils, tomato paste, curry powder, salt, water. And the process involves chopping one vegetable, pouring some stuff in a pot, and stirring every so often. Really, that’s it.

This “slow” roasted technique takes 30 minutes, tops, and results in a beautifully tender, evenly cooked, not-one-bit-dry piece of fish.

Goat cheese makes the dish creamy and soft and adds a bright, tangy flavor. Feel free to add fresh herbs, or top your grits with spinach, tomatoes, or leftover roasted broccoli.

Honestly, a bowl of this crispy, garlicky broccoli is all I need as a main course, but if you’re looking for a little more oomph, top it with a fried egg.

High heat browns the eggs’ exterior and crisps up the cheddar, while the kimchi helps keep the insides nice and runny. If it’s been a looong time since lunch, feel free to add another egg in there.

Macaroni, make way for tater tots. For this dish, you smother your tots in cheese sauce, then broil until bubbly and golden.

If steak’s not one of the fastest ways to improve someone’s mood, I don’t know what is.

Creamy scamorza cheese melted obligingly into tomato sauce and slathered onto toast is basically lazy (but oh-so-satisfying) pizza.

“This is a dinner you can fish out of your bare kitchen and cook in 10 minutes that will make you feel whole, with nothing more than modestly proportioned dry pasta, butter, chicken stock, pepper, and lemon.” —The Genius herself, Kristen Miglore

Creamy sweet potato and tangy goat cheese get a little help from chickpeas to make a flavorful, belly-filling meal.

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Okay, maybe you want something really easy, like a sandwich. That’s fine! Make this golden grilled cheese, no regrets.

What do you make when you’re too tired to cook? Share some ideas in the comments, PLEASE.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


HolisticDiva April 1, 2018
Hmmmm, I didn’t realize the request was for critiques and/or criticisms of what someone chooses to make when they don’t want to cook...anyHEW, when I don’t feel like cooking per se, my go to is a bullseye; thick slice of sourdough, egg fried in a little unfiltered extra virgin olive oil AND cultured butter (gasp!) until crisp but yolk deliciously soft. I top it with a generous amount of spicy Hungarian paprika, applewood smoked sea salt and eat it with an avocado and slices of deliciously sweet heirloom tomatoes! Damn! Think I’ll make one now! 😘
Shelley S. March 26, 2018
With all due respect, Wesley, it sounds dreadful. Ketchup is bad for you. So is too much fried food and canned veggies have loads of preservatives. My suggestion? Make risotto (rice) or a fresh veggie omelette (eggs).
Wesley D. March 26, 2018
My go to comfort food is omurice. You almost always have everything you need in the pantry. Rice? Check, just need to steam it. Ketchup? Check. Onions? Yup. Frozen or canned veggies (peas, corn, carrots) or deli meat? Check. Eggs? Check.

Just steam the rice, fry it up with the veggies and meats you have on hand and make an egg "pancake" or omelette/omu and put it on top.

Smear some more ketchup and a dash of curry powder on top if you have it and are feeling fancy. Comfort in a bowl.
Shelley S. March 15, 2018
Great beautifully photographed article and maybe even helpful if it just so happens you have kimchi, scamorza, tater tots, grits or tahini in your pantry.
Annie I. March 15, 2018
Poached eggs! love them with a nice grind of fresh pepper, a bit of proscuitto or speck and some mushed avocado on toast. Yum!
HalfPint March 13, 2018
When I'm too tired, I make cooked spaghetti tossed with a little salted butter and some Maggi seasoning sauce (or soy sauce). This, btw, is my toddler's favorite meal. She asks for it every day.
HomeCookinCrazy March 12, 2018
When I'm too tired and craving comfort food, I make steak and eggs :)!
I start by putting frozen tater tots in the oven.
Season thin cut ribeye or strip steak with salt + pepper.
Add 2 tbsp olive oil + 2 tbsp butter to cast iron skillet. Turn burner to med-high heat. When oil+butter begin to sizzle, place steak in skillet and sear for 1-2 minutes on each side to desired doneness. Plate with juices.
Add 1 tbsp butter to same skillet. Fry 2 eggs over easy or Sunny side up. Add eggs on top of steak, season to taste. Add tater tots to plate. YUMMMMMY
Pete F. March 12, 2018
what do i make when i am too tired to cook? reservations ! (ba-dumdum !)