Valentine's Day

Need Romantic Dinner Ideas? Here Are 12 Date-Night Menus

February 10, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

My husband and I are always planning our next meal. Breakfast and lunch and dinner, sure, but more importantly, more excitingly, special occasions. His birthday, my birthday, our new anniversary, our old anniversary, and Valentine’s Day—why not? I’ll take any excuse to plan a fun meal. Below are 12 menus to peruse, to pick and choose from, to mix and match. Just don’t forget the candles.

Menu 1

Steak Au Poivre

This juicy steak is all about the creamy, peppery Cognac sauce. For two, divide the number of steaks in half—but may I be so bold as to suggest that you keep the sauce quantities as is. You can never have too much.

Fake Frites

Steak frites is a classic French combo that’s hard, if not impossible to beat. But you don’t have to fry the fries to get there. In this wily Genius Recipe, all you need are a steamer, oven, and couple drops of oil.

Lettuces With Dill Vinaigrette

This dilly vinaigrette, which earns its creaminess from a soft-boiled egg, can be made days in advance and tucked away in the fridge. Or, to eliminate something off the to-do list, just swap in a simple greens salad with oil and vinegar.

Brown Butter Raspberries

If the raspberries wherever you are look lackluster, feel free to swap in whatever fresh fruit is calling out to you. The template—glittery raw sugar and brown butter—gets along with just about anything.

Menu 2

Pan-Roasted Sea Scallops With Scallop Jus

Tom Colicchio’s method will lead you toward crusty-edged, tender-bellied scallops every time. The jus only uses ⅓ cup white wine, so pick a bottle you love, and drink the rest while you cook.

Roasted Vegetables With Walnut-Miso Sauce

It’s hard to overstate how hugely flavorful this sauce is. Think of it like a vegetarian bagna cauda and pair with the prettiest vegetables you can get your paws on.

Lime Posset

Seafood dinners were made to be followed by citrusy desserts. Feel free to streamline things by skipping the graham cracker and swapping in something crunchy-sweet and ready-made, like granola or nut brittle.

Menu 3

Farro Risotto With Caramelized Apples & Fennel

The creaminess of risotto, but with the nuttiness of farro. (Not to mention powerhouse bonuses like fennel seeds, orange zest, and Parmesan.) Please count me in for seconds.

Radicchio Salad With Manchego Vinaigrette

If radicchio is too bitter for you (or your boo), don’t hesitate to mix or swap in something else, like Belgian endive, frisee, or romaine.

Salted Rosemary Shortbread

One of many gems from our Cookies Chronicles series, this savory-meets-sweet shortbread comes by way of Carla Lalli Music.

Menu 4

Creamy Lemon Spaghetti With Crunchy Bread Crumbs

“I made this exactly to the recipe, and it was FANTASTIC,” community member Jane C. reports back. “My husband and I were both blown away by how easy and incredibly delicious this was.”

Endive Salad in the Roman Puntarelle Style

A no-holds-barred salad—with all the garlic and anchovies—to contrast the creamy-dreamy pasta. Any Caesar would be great, too.

Olive Oil Chocolate Mousse

To really gild the lily, drizzle more olive oil on top just before serving, plus a pinch of crunchy salt.

Menu 5

Roast Chicken With Mustard & Grapes

Yes, this mustardy chicken is simple enough to whip up on a weeknight. But its back-and-forth contrast between zingy spice and jammy sweetness is date-night special, too.

Salt & Vinegar Mashed Potatoes

While the chicken is in the oven, these mashed potatoes will occupy the stove. Salting at every step and adding the littlest splash of vinegar makes all the difference.

Glazed, Glistening Haricots Verts

As simple as a side dish gets. And good! Read this over once, then ditch the recipe and let your instincts lead the way.

Coffee Pudding

Coffee to cap off dinner, but make it pudding. The best part: It can—and should—be made in advance. So all you have to worry about on date-night is finding a couple spoons.

Menu 6

Roast Duck Breast With Green Peppercorns & Tiny Roast Potatoes

The key to crispy-skinned duck is patience. Don’t skip the scoring step (this helps the fat render), then kick back with a drink while it cooks.

Green Goddess Salad

Scallions! Parsley! Chives! Tarragon! I love serving this ultra green dressing on a bright green lettuce, like romaine or little gem.

Apples in Cardamom-Lime Syrup

“Apple compote sounds like a bore, I know,” writes cookbook author Alice Medrich. “But these are spectacular—much better than the sum of its parts.”

Menu 7

Braised Onion Sauce

As a rule, Brand Partnerships Editor Erin Alexander only makes this pasta for people she loves. That’s how you know it’s good.

Radish & Escarole Salad

Some perky, zingy flavors to play off the caramelized onions: raw radishes, leafy escarole, and a very good anchovy vinaigrette.

Drunken Honeyed Figs With lemon Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Dried figs, meet brandy. Brandy, meet dried figs. You two are going to like-like each other.

Menu 8

Brown Sugar & Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Our most popular recipe of all time comes together in a slow cooker. Just right for nights when your biggest priority is: Sit back and relax.

Kale Salad

Another longtime favorite on the site: a Genius kale salad with squash, almonds, and no shortage of crumbled cheddar.

Chocolatey Tahini Cups

Picture peanut butter cups, only with a gooey tahini center. The trick to getting the just-right consistency? Water. You’ll see.

Menu 9

Omelet With Whipped Ricotta

So, you want omelets for two, but by the time you finish the second, the first one is cold-ish. Carla Lalli Music’s solution? Make one oversized, ricotta-stuffed omelet, and lop it in half.

No-Knead Peasant Bread

If you want to be an overachiever (I know one when I see one!), make the bread to make the toast to go with the omelets. This Genius Recipe from Alexandra Stafford couldn’t be easier.

Warm Braised Pineapple

Serve this on any ice cream—or with a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream on top. Or! If you have leftover ricotta from the omelets, use that instead.

Menu 10

Fried Avocado Tacos

These tacos are a project. But do you know who it’s fun to do projects with? Your partner! Split up the tasks, turn on the music, and pop open a couple cold ones.

Black Bean Salad With Mango & Chile Powder

Pinto beans would make a great stand-in here. Same with kidney beans. You could also mix and match.

Dark Chocolate Avocado Truffles

Avocado for dinner and dessert because why not? In this recipe, you won’t be able to pinpoint the flavor—you’ll just notice the buttery-creamy silkiness it adds.

Menu 11

Italian Wedding Soup With Parm Broth

You know, in case you were looking for a subtle way of telling your significant other that you’re ready to lock things down. Not my fault if they don’t think it’s funny though.

Saltie’s Focaccia

Don’t bother with a serrated knife. Tear the bread apart by hand while it’s still warm from the oven. The salt-speckled, oil-smudged fingertips are the best part. (Psst: The dough needs to nap in the fridge for at least 8 hours—or up to 2 days if you’re a planner.)

Citrus Salad With Brown Butter Vinaigrette, Dates & Almonds

With juicy oranges, sticky dates, and crunchy almonds, this salad is as much appetizer as it is dessert. You can skip the greenery if you’d like, but I’m keeping it right where it is.

Menu 12

Marinated Tofu Steak Sandwiches

Picture this: fleece pajamas, squishy couch, knit blanket, rock-climbing documentary (!). If this isn’t romance, I ask you, what is? You can eat this tofu sandwich with one hand, and hold your partner with the other.

Sweet Potato Fries

Crispy, crackly, and extremely eager to be dunked in ketchup. Or, better yet, a ketchup meets mustard meets mayo super-combo. And no, these can’t be baked! It’s Valentine’s Day for heaven’s sake.

Hot Chocolate & Halva Pudding

A Genius chocolate cake (chocolate chunks! halva hunks! tahini swirls!) that comes with its own hot fudge sauce, thanks to a lot of boiling water. Bring your own vanilla ice cream.

What are you dreaming up for Valentine's Day? Share ideas in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Adrianne Herzog
    Adrianne Herzog
  • Sharon
  • Pam Huggett
    Pam Huggett
  • Marie Tobin
    Marie Tobin
  • Pfreemanlynde
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Adrianne H. February 7, 2023
So…. When are you opening your restaurant, because dang! I want all of this! Please please please! :)
Sharon February 14, 2021
Certainly enough ideas here to provide inspiration for many. Our menu has been set for a week, but MY spouse got on my nerves right off the bat this morning and came perilously close to not getting any dinner at ALL. I'll be using this to my full advantage while I labor over his gourmet meal today. Tee hee hee. Evil, ain't I?
Pam H. February 12, 2021
These menus sound delightful; thanks for the effort you put in composing them!
Marie T. February 7, 2021
Wow well done love all of them 🥰
Pfreemanlynde February 2, 2021
Hi, I think I would go with the pork tenderloin. Although I love a good steak, my husband likes his well-done and I like mine rare. It's not even his favorite, really. He's more of a meat loaf guy. We eat vegetarian, too, but some of these main dishes don't seem special enough for Valentine's Day. I'm thinking maybe pasta provencal--or anything with asparagus for him. Could you make carbonara with asparagus? he likes bacon, too. Or maybe the asparagus on the side.
Sharon February 14, 2021
He likes bacon? Creamy carbonara with roasted asparagus on the side sounds like a winner. Bon Appetit!
EudyLuciani January 31, 2020
If you´re looking for an especial dinner at home with your soulmate I recommend make an easy and elegant cheeboard. That's awesome! I'm using the Cheese Board Set in order to make them. I recommend for sure!