Weeknight Cooking

11 Easy Dinner Recipes for When It's Been a Loooong Week

Realistic weeknight dinner options that are also delicious.

January 26, 2023
Photo by Rocky Luten

As a line cook, I spent most of my time making dinner for other people, some time thinking about cooking for myself, and no time ever actually preparing dinner at home. When I stopped cooking in restaurants, this equation changed, slightly. While I now give myself time to make dinner at home, most nights I’m not that interested in spending more than thirty minutes in my kitchen. (I guess Rachael Ray had it right all along.)

For me, weeknight dinners should be enjoyable to eat, but always easy to make. Though the possibility of the occasional weeknight kitchen catastrophe will never quite disappear, I can confidently report that the 11 recipes below will make easy, delicious meals after even the worst of weekdays.

Our Favorite Easy Weeknight Meals

1. Pesto Risotto for One With Shrimp

This risotto requires you to stand and stir for 18 minutes, and—according to the recipe developer—that pretty much counts as meditation. If mindfulness always produced a pesto and shrimp risotto, I’d practice it a lot more.

2. 30-Minute Roast Chicken

“A roast chicken! In 30 minutes!” This sounds like a scam, but it doesn’t taste or smell like one. A roast chicken is my perfect weeknight meal: It's my immediate dinner, tomorrow’s lunch, and likely tomorrow’s dinner as well. Roasting a chicken is meal prepping, the relaxed way.

3. Overstuffed Chicken & Broccoli Quesadillas

Re: roast chicken being the gift that keeps on giving. This is the perfect recipe to turn your leftovers into something equally delicious, but completely different. If you don’t have roast chicken in your fridge, I implore you to try one of my signature moves: Pick up a rotisserie bird from the grocery store and claim to have made it from scratch.

4. Chickpea, Spinach & Chorizo Frittata

Go ahead, call the meal police—I am having breakfast for dinner forever. This will remain especially true if “breakfast” is a frittata where chorizo, chickpeas, and spinach get to mingle.

5. Spicy Garlic Noodles with Crumbled Tofu & Cucumber Salad

I like this recipe because noodles are comfy, easy, and likely already in your pantry. Also, the contrast between the warm, garlic-heavy noodles and cold, bright cucumber salad makes each bite balanced and exciting. We like that.

6. Noodles with Tuna & Peas ("Tuna Pea Wiggle")

According to the recipe developer, this dish was originally designed to be made with minimal equipment on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean. After a few grueling weekdays, my kitchen often shares similar utility. Make this dish when you think all is lost.

7. Weeknight Salmon With Baby New Potatoes & Fresh Dill by Joanna Gaines

Using just one sheet pan, make yourself perfectly tender potatoes and salmon. Top with dill and lemon for acid and freshness.

8. Chickpea Vegetable Bowl with Peanut Dressing

This bright, crunchy chickpea veggie bowl serves four and costs between $7 and $10 to make. It’s perfect on its own or as a base for fish, chicken, or tofu.

9. Weeknight Chicken Parm

Like a hug from a loved one, no one outgrows the comfort of chicken parm. This particular recipe comes together quickly (just 25 minutes), but doesn’t sacrifice any of the flavor you’d expect from homemade chicken parm.

10. One-Pot Kale & Quinoa Pilaf

I love this one-pot, veggie-forward pilaf because I can easily make a ton of it and then eat it for days on end without ever getting bored.

11. Chopped Kitchen Sink Salad with Yogurt Dressing & Bottarga

This recipe works as a template to transform any vegetables you have in your refrigerator into a bright and crisp salad. Top with bottarga—or even parmesan—to add a bit of umami.

Let us know what your favorite easy weeknight meal is in the comments below!
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Pomme D. January 12, 2024
Thanks Paul! Definitely some intriguing ideas. The part about preparing the tuna dish on the galley of a sailboat especially made me smile.
Lin February 9, 2023
Thank you for these recipes. So nice to have them on hand for smaller servings. Please consider offering the option of adding a photo when printing the recipes. I like to see what I am aiming for. Thank you so much.
Tessie F. February 5, 2023
Just have to say I detect a distinct Yankee bias among all these recipes. For the most part, I don’t relate to these ingredients. As a Cajun/Texan, I am not inspired by kale, quinoa, tofu or many of those other bland ingredients.
Lucy B. February 5, 2023
I agree!
jfed March 31, 2024
I'm a Texan, too. I'm curious about what your Go-To ingredients are! We all gotta eat, right?
gingerarie7 January 29, 2023
Thanks for the great ideas, I plan to try the pesto dish, and the chickpeas with veg.
I always seem to get stuck in a rut, thanks again!

BakerMary January 26, 2023
Wow. You think I have shrimp and whole chickens on hand. Just wow. How about quick dinners from pantry ingredients?
Gloria W. January 26, 2023
Its not that far fetched
jax January 29, 2023
I have shrimp and chicken on hand. Or, depending where you live, it’s something you can pick up on the way home.
Smaug January 30, 2023
People who cook for one person regularly are very likely to have shrimp, especially, in the freezer. I like to keep shrimp shells in the freezer too- when you get enough, they make a nice stock that would be good with this.
I miss Eric Kim- didn't always agree with him about food, but he was always positive and was able to see disagreement as something other than a personal attack.
HalfPint January 30, 2023
Agree. I always have frozen shrimp (raw & peeled) as well as boneless skinless chicken thighs or bone-in chicken parts.
HalfPint January 30, 2023
I was agreeing with Gloria W.
Danielle February 5, 2023
Maybe that’s a different article? The title of this article wasn’t Dinners from a Can.