Weeknight Cooking

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

Here are their best tips.

December  9, 2020
Photo by Mark Weinberg

A little while back, our Cookbook Club was cooking through three classic tomes: our popular vote, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan; our moderator pick, POLPO: A Venetian Cookbook (Of Sorts) by Russell Norman; and 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, we 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 more than 30 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


  • "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

Additional recommendations from the Food52 Editors

  • Pasta con ceci—also known as pasta and chickpeas—is the carbs-on-carbs meal of our dreams. It’s beyond simple to prepare, and bonus points: you probably already have the (five!) ingredients in your pantry.
  • A vegan-friendly dinner that takes 10 minutes and a collection of pantry staples to prepare? Sign us up! You can serve this chickpea “tuna” salad over greens or on toast—or add some cheese (or vegan cheese!) and pop it under the broiler to make a chickpea melt.
  • Fried eggs and yogurt are one of life’s greatest combinations—and it’s just a good for brunch as it is for dinner. Fry an egg in super-hot olive oil until it’s lacy-edged, then serve over lemony yogurt and top with any fresh herbs you have on hand. It’s especially incredible when eaten with thick sourdough toast.
  • Sometimes for a quick and easy dinner you need look no further than chicken. This weeknight-friendly chicken Parm comes together in just 25 minutes. Thank you, broiler!
  • This 15-minute (!) chicken stir fry packs enough flavor you’ll think it marinated for hours. Set a pot of rice on the stove to serve with it, and add some sliced raw vegetables like cucumbers or radish for an extra crunch.
  • This sweet and spicy salmon and the accompanying blue cheese-flecked kale salad tastes and looks like a painstakingly-prepared entree at your favorite restaurant, yet it comes together in about 20 minutes, and you can eat it on the couch in your pajamas.

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.
Listen Now

Join The Sandwich Universe co-hosts (and longtime BFFs) Molly Baz and Declan Bond as they dive deep into beloved, iconic sandwiches.

Listen Now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • judy
  • Sourdogal
  • Pete Mack
    Pete Mack
  • missymoo59
  • witloof
Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


judy March 25, 2021
Lots of great ideas in the article and comments. Here is my go tos.: pasta noodles, grate parmesan, whatever vegetables I have on hand, fresh or frozen, butter garlic, Italian herbs and any leftover meat I may have, toss and dd black pepper. If I want an Asian-inspired version I use rice noodles, Asian spice, rice vinegar, chicken broth, and whatever meat I have on hand, then poach in an egg. Lastly, if I want Indian, rice, curry powder, coconut milk to cook the rice, add in vegetables such as cauliflower, peas, onion, eggplant. A sprinkle of raisins, chopped apples and coconut flakes. So good. Ina any given week I will do at least one of these, and sometimes two. Inspired by what is in my fridge at the time. It helps that I have a wide variety of spices from all over the world in my freezer so I can pull out something from just about any cuisine that I crave at the time. The basics are the same all over : Starch or carb of some type, broth or coconut milk, chicken, tofu or pork, herbs and spices, and vegetables. One other condiment that I always have on hand is tamarind paste. I buy the brick of tamarind, cut it into 6 pieces and wrap each and freeze. doesn't take much to thaw and use. Great for both Asian and Indian cuisine, and a nice base for club soda to make Tamarindo for those Mexican nights! Enjoy.
Sourdogal January 8, 2021
Asian noodles with peanut sauce --- many variations but the basic is to saute chopped sweet pepper (I use 2-3 small mixed-color peppers, but any will work), garlic and scallions, adding leftover chopped meat, (or not). Add a couple handfuls of frozen stirfry vegetables, and nearly drown all in chicken broth. Throw in clumps of bean thread (rice noodles, even pre-cooked spaghetti work) and cook 'til noodles almost soften. Add 2 T. soy sauce, red chili flakes, 2-3 T. peanut butter (chunky is good), 2T. rice wine vinegar, 2 tsp. brown sugar and a dash of sesame oil. Stir until combined and creamy. I use scissors directly in the pan to cut up the bean thread, which cooks almost instantly. This goes together so fast, and really hits the spot on a cold night.
Pete M. January 7, 2021
Another possibility is greens and beans served on polenta. Polenta is labor intensive, but it doesn't take long, and greens (rabe) and beans (cannellini) with bacon, garlic and onion and a sqeeze of lemon juice makes a nice contrast.
missymoo59 January 6, 2021
One of my go to winter comfort foods is American Goulash. It's made with pantry staples, ground meat of your choice and some sharp cheddar stirred in before serving. I love the fact that this is a one pot meal because the macaroni is added uncooked to the pot and everything is simmered together for about 20-25 minutes or until macaroni is aldente and most of the liquid is absorbed. I usually serve toasted Italian or French bread with it.
To make this meal even easier, I keep chopped onions in the freezer and use already minced garlic from a jar so there's no chopping or pealing or tears to prepare this!
witloof December 10, 2020
Saute a couple of chopped garlic cloves with a couple of anchovies in some olive oil until they just start to color and the anchovies have melted. Then add a pint of cherry tomatoes cut in half, stir them around a few times, turn off the heat, and add a pinch of dried mint. If the tomatoes are kind of bland, add a pinch or two or citric acid or lemon juice and a little sugar. Add some drained very al dente pasta to the pan, turn the heat back on, and finish cooking it. Top with some grated Parmesan.
Anusha J. December 10, 2020
Dal-Chawal or, as the western world calls it, Indian Lentil Soup with Rice :)

Easy to put together with any type of lentil. It's pantry staple - dried or canned. And just a few spices to bring it together with a splash of lemon and fresh herbs to brighten it. I've also gone the extra mile on some days and thrown in some grated/finely chopped veggie with the dal. Anything from carrots to zucchini to butternut squash that's been sitting around. Again, fresh or frozen, doesn't matter. While the lentils cook, you can make the rice. Simple steamed rice would be great, but if you're feeling adventurous you can add sautéed onions/shallots and a few whole spices like cinnamon, cardamom and bay leaf to flavor it. This is the definition of comfort food in our home. The humble Dal-Chawal.
Anusha J. December 10, 2020
Dal-Chawal or, as the western world calls it, Indian Lentil Soup with Rice :)

Easy to put together with any type of lentil. It's pantry stable - dried or canned. And just a few spices to bring it together with a splash of lemon and fresh herbs to brighten it. While the lentils cook, you can make the rice. Simple steamed rice would be great, but if you're feeling adventurous you can add sautéed onions/shallots and a few whole spices like cinnamon, cardamom and bay leaf to flavor it. I've also gone the extra mile on some days and thrown in some grated/finely chopped veggie that's sitting in the fridge. Anything from carrots to zucchini to butternut squash. Again, fresh or frozen, doesn't matter. This is the definition of comfort food in our home. The humble Dal-Chawal.
Pete M. December 10, 2020
Sheet pan chicken (in many forms) or braised chicken. Both are easy and reasonably quick.
gandalf December 9, 2020
Late to the game here, but these are my three:

(1) Stove-top mac and cheese (from Melissa Clark)
(2) Quesadillas
(3) Baked (or regular) spaghetti, using Marcella Hazan's basic tomato sauce
Sher G. February 14, 2019
Saute a package of ground turkey or chicken. Add (to your taste) some Soy sauce, hoisin sauce, Chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce, any combination of those that you want-- plus minced garlic and ginger. Remove to serving bowl. In same pan, saute some fresh green beans (trimmed and cut in half); zucchini, broccoli florets, bell pepper chunks-- whatever you want or have. Serve alongside steamed rice.
Sher G. February 14, 2019
Pita bread pizzas! Coat a pita with a thin layer of spaghetti or marinara sauce (homemade or store bought). top with grated cheese, leftover cooked chicken or meat, veggies, sliced onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers, pesto-- whatever you got! Bake on cookie sheets for 10 min. til cheese melts. Easy, quick, healthy, uses up leftovers-- the pita is just like a chewy pizza crust.
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!

We also regularly do kale caesar - I use Julia Turshen’s Caesar dressing with half Tuscan kale/half romaine and sometimes toasted panko.

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.
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 :)
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!
asbrink November 5, 2018
At least once a week I'm making what I call a "faux risotto." It pulls together 4 things.

(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.

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.
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
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.
1 large avocado, peeled, seeded and cut in half inch cubes, l large cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut same.
1 T plus 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice, 1 T. really good olive oil, 3/4 tsp kosher salt
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!
Don't care what it is served "with", but the salad is the star.
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).
June December 11, 2020
I almost always have soup, stew, and/or chili in the freezer, plus quesadillas and maybe pita pizzas. I'm fortunate to have a full-size freezer, which, I know, isn't an option for everyone. If I cook something fresh, then maybe a baked potato with various toppings.
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,
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!