Weeknight Cooking

We Asked 25,000 Home Cooks for Their Trustiest Weeknight Dinners

Here are their best tips.

October 19, 2018
Photo by Mark Weinberg

This month, our Cookbook Club has been busy cooking through three books: our popular vote, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan; our moderator pick, POLPO: A Venetian Cookbook (Of Sorts) by Russell Norman; and our bonus year-long book, Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables. But in between all that pasta and pizza and Parmesan-smothered eggplant, members are also cooking all sorts of weeknight wonders.

Curious to learn from their vast wealth of cooking know-how, I asked the club to share their go-to, trustiest weeknight dinner recipes. They chimed in with hundreds of tried-and-true dishes—and we’re sharing 25 of our favorites to help inspire you:

One-Pot & Pan Wonders

  • "Chicken curry with coconut milk and vegetables, over rice—fry minced garlic in a little olive oil, add a good curry powder, then add a can of whole tomatoes and an equal amount of water to the pot. Turn heat up high, and use a stick blender to purée everything. Add cubes of chicken breast or thighs, and any vegetables you might like (carrots and butternut squash are good). Simmer till the vegetables and chicken are cooked. Add a can of coconut milk and simmer for another 5 minutes. Super easy and really quick." - Siobhan Passmore
  • "My favorite speedy pasta at the moment is the Penne alla Vodka that is attributed to Amanda Hesser's husband in A New Way to Dinner. Simple to put together and delicious...all you need are butter, heavy cream, tomatoes, Parmesan, and, of course, vodka. My other go-to dinners are often sheet pan suppers. EmilyC on Food52 has some great riffs on this idea...as does Melissa Clark and Jessica Battilana in Repertoire (my new favorite cookbook)." - Paula Marchese
  • "Rice & beans. I also probably make these sheet pan meatballs with crispy turmeric chickpeas from Smitten Kitchen every week or two (but with chicken, and doubled)." - Kristy Oliver Jones

  • "Cold Oven Chicken!! I may be biased but it is my go-to, all-time favorite recipe and can be adjusted for whatever herbs/citrus you have in the fridge!" - Jennie Levitt

Speedy Superstars

  • "Tacos! These are a staple in our house. Flour tortillas, leftover cooked or fresh vegetables, and any leftover meat if we have it. If we need to stretch out the leftovers, I will make rice, beans, or both. Fresh pico de gallo, cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack, and mozzarella all work), hot sauce, and lettuce or whatever greens we have on hand. Voila! Dinner is ready in no time and everyone gets to make tacos the way they like. These are a win for all of us." - Dorrena Ortega

  • "Clam fettuccine. I always throw in canned clams and juice, olive oil, garlic, onion or shallots, and herbs. A little milk, or not. So easy, so quick." - Janet Winans Kennedy

  • "A great veggie chili—chock full of fresh and frozen veggies, canned beans canned tomatoes and cracked wheat or quinoa. Comes together fast and easy. Serve with tortilla chips, guacamole, sour cream, and shredded cheddar." - Rachel Mandel Berger

  • "Stir fry with sliced steak, broccoli, green onions, and a bag of shredded cabbage. Mix it with ramen noodles and certain non-veggie-loving family members don’t even realize how many they are eating!" - Leslie Dunkin Adair

  • "A frittata. I can make one with any kind of veg and cheese. Super easy and satisfying. I'll admit I've had two in the last week—one with tomato, green onions, and cheddar (would have added bacon if I had any), and a second with garlic, spinach, tomato, and Parmesan." - Shawna Ernst

Short-Ingredient Lists

  • "Shakshuka! I always have eggs, canned tomatoes, and onions on hand to make a basic one. I then add in chickpeas for extra protein and top with Greek yogurt. You can keep most staples in your cupboard or staples in the fridge." - Madeline Buitelaar

  • "Buttery leek soup with lemon. Only three ingredients, all in salty chicken stock. Drop some bread in, sprinkle over some cheese. 10 minutes!" - Kristen Fink

Freezer-Friendly

  • "I always keep a supply of Ashley Thomas' onion masala in the freezer, and our go-to meal is chicken or shrimp curry." - Rebecca Story

  • "When I have no plan, and don’t have much on hand, I make Cowboy Beans from Rick Bayless. And pair it with whatever I have: Links of chorizo from the freezer, quickly thawed in warm water, fried up, and served with chopped onion, cilantro if I have it, and lime and tortillas. Or a fried egg, and a sautéed veg mix of whatever I have, (tomatoes and zucchini in the summer, cabbage in the winter) also with chopped onion, cilantro, lime, and tortillas. Or, empanadas that I make and freeze for later." - Lisa Guitar Komoroski

  • "Everyday pork meatballs from Kathy Brennan’s Keepers cookbook, great in a lettuce wrap with scallions, cucumbers, carrots, and soy sauce, or as a slider on Hawaiian rolls with her magic-miso mayo. It's also great to toss into fried rice or even cooked ramen noodles. I always keep a batch in my freezer for those weeknights when I’m short on time!" - Tammy Wolf

  • "Deb Perelman’s sausage, kale, and crouton sauté from Smitten Kitchen Every Day. I keep bread cubes and chicken sausage stocked in the freezer so it’s become the perfect backup for when life happens." - Emma Scott

  • "A 'make your own salad' bar—greens with an assortment of toppings in bowls. This routine started as my kids were in finger food territory and has continued for years and years after. Also, when we’re really in a crunch, spicy roasted shrimp and broccoli over rice. You can use frozen versions of all those ingredients and still end up with a really fresh-tasting meal." - Lindsey Bickers Bock

Cozy Comfort Foods

  • "The Mexican Chicken Soup on Food52. Easy and great flavor. We serve with tortilla strips, avocado chunks, and grated Jack cheese. I use Ina’s method for baking the chicken: 30 minutes at 375°F." - Beverly Kovarick Scofield

  • "Inferekeh (ground veal and scrambled eggs) with ground turkey, even if that is a sacrilege, served with brown rice and Israeli salad! Even my college-age daughter makes it. My recipe is a riff on the recipe found in the best Syrian cookbook ever: Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews" - Susan Murai Raider

  • "I make Sarah Jampel's stewy white bean recipe from Food52, but with kale, at least once a week! Everyone loves it and it's dead simple." - Aleksander Meyer

  • "Pizza. Not the most exciting thing to say, but I make it every which way. Thin crust on the grill, Grandma pie, Detroit style, white pies, etc. I’m best known for pizza, I think." - Beth Wareing

  • "I live with a very picky eater. Buttered noodles and cheesy broccoli are the things that happen most often with the least resistance." - Evelyn Vindue-Åbent

What are your go-to weeknight dinners? Share in the comments below, and if you’re new to the Club, head here for a primer on how to participate.

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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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34 Comments

Lindsay S. November 9, 2018
Ground pork or shrimp lettuce wraps are a lightning fast favorite. I sauté a whole bunch of chopped scallions in coconut oil, then add the protein and season with fish sauce (soy works too). Serve with butter lettuce, mayo mixed with chili garlic sauce, cucumbers and cilantro. Peanuts or fried shallots for crunch!<br /><br />We also regularly do kale caesar - I use Julia Turshen’s Caesar dressing with half Tuscan kale/half romaine and sometimes toasted panko. <br /><br />Some version of beans & greens are always good/fast/cheap/nutritious: on toast, in tacos, over pasta, in a baked sweet potato, with eggs or sausage, you name it.
 
Author Comment
Katie M. November 11, 2018
All of these sound like such delicious options! Thank you for sharing :)
 
CeeBee November 6, 2018
A baked potato bar! It’s so easy and unassuming I can’t believe it took until now to figure it out. Basically no cooking (and I do love to cook!) and barely any clean-up, PLUS everyone can have it a little different and use up leftovers for toppings. Oh, and let’s not forget to mention salted butter :)
 
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Katie M. November 11, 2018
YES to less cleanup! YES to salted butter!
 
Adam E. November 5, 2018
Grilled chicken tacos are super easy and delicious. I season a pounded chicken breast with adobo Sazon seasoning and grill till done. Open a can of refried beans. Dice some tomatoes, an onion, and/or an avocado if I have them. Slice the breasts and serve deconstructed on the table with flour tortillas and hot sauce of choice (chalula in my case). All stuff I have on hand and DELICIOUS!
 
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Katie M. November 5, 2018
YUM
 
asbrink November 5, 2018
At least once a week I'm making what I call a "faux risotto." It pulls together 4 things.<br /><br />(1) Leftover cooked rice, whatever I have on hand--jasmine, sticky, brown white, takeout--brought to a boil in (2) about an equal amount of broth. Again, whatever is around: homemade chicken, vegetable, from the carton, a ramen seasoning packet with water. Clean out your fridge by throwing in (3) bits of orphaned veg and/or cooked protein: a handful of chopped broccoli, baby spinach, shredded chicken, sausage slices. Let it all cook until the rice soaks up all the broth and gets super plump. Then add (4) cheese to make it creamy and bring it all together. I tend to tailor this to my ingredients--maybe shredded cheddar if I've added broccoli, or grated parm if I've used spinach. Honestly, American works best due to meltability, and I use Velveeta with zero shame. Let it stew for a few minutes more until all the cheese melts in and you're left with gooey, cheesy rice. If I'm feeling extra ambitious, I'll throw on a soy sauce-cured egg yolk or fry an egg to layer on top at the end. It's also good without cheese--then it's more like a faux rice porridge. <br /><br />I like to ingredient prep rather than meal prep over the weekend (roast and portion out a chicken / make a pot of rice / chop up veg) so I have these ingredients on hand to throw together quick and fresh meals during the week.
 
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Katie M. November 5, 2018
I'm a big fan of weekend prep, too! Thank you for sharing your meals!
 
Catherine L. November 4, 2018
Ok, today was one of those days. I had garlic, black olives and red onion, chopped it up. Pan fried quick in olive oil, added one can of chopped sardines and one can fire roasted diced tomatoes with the last few tbsp of pesto in the fridge. Over linguine. It was SO good. All in the back of my RV in the time it took to boil the pasta. Yum! Then...we went to sleep for an hour
 
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Katie M. November 5, 2018
Sleep is the perfect way to end a meal ;)
 
Urvi November 7, 2018
This looks delicious! I’ve been searching for a sardine recipe. Thanks!
 
amazinc November 4, 2018
Pulled this recipe off an internet site and have made it dozens of time. Love, love, love it.<br />1 large avocado, peeled, seeded and cut in half inch cubes, l large cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut same.<br />1 T plus 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice, 1 T. really good olive oil, 3/4 tsp kosher salt<br />Put veggies in a large bowl, and in a small jar shake liquids and salt to emulsify and pour same over veggies and stir. I make a larger batch of the dressing, as I love it on everything!<br />Don't care what it is served "with", but the salad is the star.
 
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Katie M. November 4, 2018
YUM—sounds like the perfect last-minute dinner!
 
Michael C. November 4, 2018
With the cold weather coming make a freezable soup or chili (or both, there are thousands of recipes on line). Freeze portions in the size you prefer. Need a quick meal? Reheat the soup or chili in the microwave add a salad and a warm piece of crusty french bread with a glass of wine . A meal in minutes that your friends would be jealous of when they are eating their dry over done chickens from the grocery (admit every grocery cooked chicken is overcooked and dry).
 
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Katie M. November 4, 2018
My coworker Emma was just telling us how that's her favorite way to eat dinner when she's testing recipes all day and just can't bring herself to cook even more! Thanks for sharing :)
 
Leslie November 4, 2018
Best quick and easy when in need of a comforting dinner is what my family calls my pasta potpourri. I first melt anchovies in a little olive oil, then add capers over low heat with a little more oil and butter. Squeeze in a little lemon juice and a few shreds of lemon zest and pour over a bowl of angel hair pasta. Add lots of pepper and some freshly grated Parmesan and for a few moments you forget about the dark and dreary world outside. It was my mother who first introduced me to this dish after I’d had a very dramatic disagreement with my best friend in elementary school and later it served as the comforting bowl of warmth after a bad breakup or any time we needed food to wrap us up in a reassuring hug. Every time we have it I feel as though my mother is sitting with us offering up not just the pasta but her wisdom and love along with it,
 
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Katie M. November 4, 2018
I love the story behind this dish! Thank you for sharing :)
 
Heidi B. November 4, 2018
My go-to easy dinner, no time or energy to make anything else, is leftover rice, rotisserie chicken and a can of green peas in a skillet, usually either a little curry powder. You might be surprised how much of a comfort food it is!
 
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Katie M. November 4, 2018
I had almost this exact dish (but sub turkey for chicken) Friday night—it is *so* comforting!
 
Kate R. November 4, 2018
We have a dish that my husband and I have dubbed DD....as in Disaster Dinner. It earned the name after creating it during times when all in the world was going completely awry. Examples are when you finally get home at 1:00 a.m. after 3 unexpected layovers and haven’t eaten for nearly 24 hours; living through Hurricane Irma and cooking on the single appliance your teeny generator will power up when all electricity is cut off for 10 days...I think you get my point.<br />I grab a large pot. Toss 20 or so garlic cloves and a big glug of olive oil right in. Get that all hot and bubbly to make them nice and golden and then throw a whole head of chopped cauliflower on top. Fill the pot halfway with cold water, salt and black pepper and bring to a boil. Right when it starts to boil, put a whole box of dry bucatini in, cover and lower the heat to a quick simmer.<br />At this point I have been known to pour a healthy glass of vino as the whole pot does the work. 15 minutes or so later, depending on your pasta and heat, you are ready to grab some large bowls, a huge chunk of parm, that pepper grinder for a few more turns over each serving and the bottle of olive oil to drizzle over top. You have before you a stewy, steamy, cheesy bowl of comfort and suddenly all seems NEARLY right in your world again.
 
Kate W. November 4, 2018
This sounds intriguing! I have to try it.
 
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Katie M. November 4, 2018
This sounds like a miracle dish! I'm definitely going to try it disaster or not ;)
 
Kate R. November 4, 2018
Hope you love it Miss Katie! Here’s to disasterless days and delicious dishes;))
 
Michael C. October 25, 2018
A slow cooked omelet (low heat to keep the eggs a golden hue), warm, buttered, crusty French bread, small green salad, with a cool glass wine (red or white your choice). Some soft music and turn down the lights...very relaxing.
 
denise M. October 23, 2018
Blackened Salmon filets....piled on top of a fresh Ceasar salad with fresh made croutons and fresh made dressing....love it.
 
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Katie M. October 23, 2018
That sounds so good! Thank you for sharing :)
 
Eric K. October 21, 2018
I feel like I only ever talk about weeknight dinners here, but...I haven't said this!: I love me a good, celery-heavy potato soup in the fall/winter. Lots and lots of celery AND celery seed, celery root if I have it. What a comforting dinner w/ bread and cheese. Leftovers I take to work the next day in a thermos.
 
Mihaela P. October 21, 2018
This sounds so good! I would love to try your recipe for it (however loosely defined)
 
Ttrockwood October 21, 2018
Would also love your recipe, especially what kind of potatoes to use for a creamy texture
 
Ttrockwood October 21, 2018
I’ve been making “hippie bowls” since maybe forever- some version of greens with grains and/or beans, more veggies, avocado or nuts, and whatever sauce or dressing sounds good at the moment. Infinitely flexible as to what is on hand - i’ve added everything from kimchi and pickled daikon with tofu, bok choy and miso dressing to serious california hippie with sprouts, brown rice, broccoli, hemp seeds and avocado. Great for any leftovers or to use various ingredients i prepped earlier in the week like a tray of roasted veggies or baked sweet potatoes.
 
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Katie M. October 21, 2018
This sounds like my kind of dinner! Thanks for sharing, Ttrockwood :)
 
Melissa W. October 19, 2018
A bowl of buttery spinach with parmesan topped woth a poached or soft boiled egg.
 
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Katie M. October 20, 2018
Yum, sounds great!
 
Eric K. October 21, 2018
Delicious.