Back-to-School Weeknight Dinners
Soon the warm days of summer will turn into cool, windy light-jacket weather. Your monthly planner will fill up with carpools, school project due dates, and PTA meetings. Weeknight cooking always starts off strong at the beginning of the week, with planned meals and pre-packed lunches; however, once hump-day hits, you start to loose some steam and the weekend ahead is calling your name. But you still need to get dinner on the table. This is when one-pot dishes, the Instant Pot recipes, and sheet pan dinners really come in handy. Any recipe that allows you to sort of throw everything together and stir occasionally to yield delicious results is exactly what you need. Here are some of our best weeknight dinners to help you finish even the most hectic weeks strong—with family-friendly, easy, and satisfying meals.
Single-Skillet Crispy Chicken Caprese Dinner
Building incredible flavor in a single skillet is one of the smart tricks pro cooks use to get food on the table fast. That said, you’ll actually need 2 skillets—a 12-inch nonstick for cooking and a 10-inch cast-iron for weight—to make this fabulous chicken-under-a-brick inspired dinner. The heavy cast-iron acts as your “brick,” which is essential to getting glorious crispy skin and helps speed up the cooking. You could also use a large brick or tile wrapped in aluminum foil for the same effect. The result is super juicy chicken, with ridiculously crisp skin, ready in a fraction of the time it would typically take to cook whole chicken breasts on the stovetop. And once you throw marinara saucy and melty mozzarella into the mix… well, you’ve got a weeknight recipe the family is going to beg for again and again. Serve the completed saucy-cheesy chicken over pasta or on toasted hoagie rolls.
Molasses-Soy Glazed Salmon and Vegetables
In just 35 minutes, you can serve your family this incredibly delicious and good-for-you seafood supper. When it comes to busy weeknight dinners, quick and easy is the name of the game; and this tangy salmon with savory roasted vegetables is both full of flavor and hearty enough to satisfy the whole family. Make sure to cut the vegetables in similar sized pieces so they cook in the same amount of time. Couscous or quick cooking farro are both delicious and healthy substitutes for brown rice, and can be prepared while the rest of the meal is cooking. The tangy glaze is a great match for salmon, but it also pairs well with chicken and shrimp. Avoid buying thin fish fillets because they will finish cooking before the vegetables.
Roasted Rosemary Chicken Quarters with Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts
This fantastic sheet pan chicken supper is simple to throw together and packed with robust fall flavor. While it’s a great dish to add into your weeknight dinner rotation, this roasted chicken dinner is impressive enough for casual entertaining. Feel free to swap out the butternut squash for sweet potatoes if you’d prefer. And to find even more inspired sheet pan meals, you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy of One Sheet Eats: 100+ Delicious Recipes All Made on a Baking Sheet.
Five Spice Chicken Thighs with Apples and Sweet Potatoes
The seasoning blend called Chinese five-spice adds a warm note without pushing the apples into pie territory, and the apples are tart enough to balance the flavor too. Cooked fennel bulbs add a warm, aromatic note that makes this sheet pan dinner smell like a cozy, Autumn night. Roasting ingredients together on a sheet pan saves time and reduces cleanup. Make sure to head to your farmer's market between August and November for the freshest, ripest apples that will yield the most flavorful, sweet results.
Garlicky Roasted Spatchcock Chicken
Removing a chicken's backbone—a technique called spatchcocking (or butterflying)—ensures juicy meat and golden crisp skin in less time than roasting a whole bird. Although it does require some simple knife skills, it's the best and fastest way to roast a chicken. Plus, you can save the backbone to make a great chicken stock. This is the kind of sheet pan dinner you'll want to make all fall and winter long.
Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Roasted Fennel and Tomatoes
One pan, a handful of ingredients, and 30 minutes are all you need to put this impressive pork chop skillet dinner on the table. This flavor-packed, single-skillet supper is an easy dinner for two that feels like something special. It’s also an ideal recipe for one, as the leftover chop and veggies reheat well for a next-day lunch worth looking forward to.
This recipe uses half the oil than the classic without sacrificing any of the flavor. If you don't have a meat mallet or small heavy skillet, try using a wooden rolling pin, making sure all the chicken's pounded into an even thinness so it cooks evenly. Try serving the chicken with mashed potatoes, couscous, angel hair pasta, or roasted seasonal root vegetables for a meal that's easy enough for a weeknight dinner, but fancy enough to serve guests.
Slow Cooker Pork Chops with Mushrooms and Carrots
A full-plate dinner simmers to saucy, savory perfection in the slow cooker. To end up with super-succulent pork, don't overcook the chops in the pan before adding to the slow cooker. Just a couple of minutes per side will be enough to achieve nice color. Don't be afraid of the time, you will only be actively preparing and cooking for about 20 minutes as the rest cooks away in the slow-cooker for 7 hours until the meat and vegetables are tender.
Chicken Alfredo Soup
Inspired by the favorite pasta dish, this creamy Chicken Alfredo Soup comes together in no time with the help of a few store-bought shortcuts. Rotisserie chicken, frozen peas, and a jar of Alfredo sauce, which serves as the backbone of this highly comforting pot of soup, keep your hands-on prep to a minimum. This convenience factor, coupled with the fact that it’s is a guaranteed kid-pleasing recipe, makes this soup a perfect go-to for hectic weeknights. While it is undeniably luscious and satisfying, the soup is surprisingly not overly heavy or right. We used Gia Russa brand sauce, but feel free to use your own favorite. Served with a crusty bread, a green salad, and a glass of white wine, this quick and easy soup makes for an outstanding dinner on chilly nights.
Sheet Pan Chicken with Roasted Baby Potatoes
A very hot oven quickly roasts the potatoes and finishes the chicken without overcooking. You can substitute fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise, for the small Yukon gold potatoes.
One-Pot Cheesy Pasta Bake
This easy skillet pasta bake is a surefire family hit. Pasta and meat sauce topped with mozzarella cheese will make everyone at the table happy, and the all-in-one-pot technique will have the cook smiling pretty. Cooking the pasta in the meat sauce not only lessens the amount of dishes you have to do and the time it takes to get dinner done, but the starches in the pasta thicken the sauce—without you having to do a single extra thing.
One-Pot Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes
This pasta dinner is a game changer: You use just enough liquid to cook the pasta--no colander needed. Recipe adapted from our sister publication Southern Living. Cost for 4: $8.43
Grilled Buffalo Chicken Tacos
We took the finger-licking beauty of a Buffalo wing experience and wrapped it in a tortilla--because that's how you win a weeknight.
Crispy Chicken Thighs with White Wine-Butter Sauce and Vegetables
Building incredible flavor in a single skillet is one of the smart tricks pro cooks use to get food on the table fast. That said, you’ll actually need 2 skillets—a 12-inch nonstick for cooking and a 10-inch cast-iron for weight—to make this fabulous chicken-under-a-brick inspired dinner. The heavy cast-iron acts as your “brick,” which is essential to getting glorious crispy skin and helps speed up the cooking. You could also use a large brick or tile wrapped in aluminum foil for the same effect. The result is super juicy chicken, with ridiculously crisp skin, ready in a fraction of the time it would typically take to cook whole chicken thighs on the stovetop. While this chicken skillet supper is an exceptionally elegant weeknight meal, the weighted cooking method is a great technique that you can use for a wide variety of chicken dishes, like this Single-Skillet Crispy Chicken Caprese Dinner. You can serve these glorious thighs and crisp-tender veggies alongside your favorite starch to round out the pate. We particularly love this entree with simple boiled or roasted red potatoes, as they are perfect for soaking up the rich, butter white wine sauce.
Skillet Chicken Thighs with Spring Vegetables and Shallot Vinaigrette
This elegant single-skillet meal for two is deceptively easy to make. Ready in under an hour, this skillet chicken dinner includes your protein (perfectly golden-crisp chicken thighs), green veggies (peas and asparagus), a starch (baby Yukon gold potatoes), and a whole lot of vibrant flavor (hello, shallot vinaigrette). A great recipe for anyone cooking for one or two, this easy weeknight chicken dinner is one you’re sure to come back to again and again.
One-Pan Pasta with Ricotta and Artichokes
One skillet from start to finish--can't beat it on a busy weeknight. The ricotta adds rich creaminess when mixed into each portion on the plate, while fresh mozza creates that ooey-gooey baked pasta feel.
One-Pot Pasta with Tomato-Basil Sauce
This dish is a revelation. Throw all of your ingredients into one pot over medium-high heat, and about 25 minutes later you'll have noodles perfectly coated in a luscious tomato-basil sauce. This is any busy mom's weeknight dinner perfection. If entertaining, serve with one of our easy green salad recipes for the complete dinner experience.
Honey-Soy-Glazed Salmon with Veggies and Oranges
Here's the delicious proof that you can serve a complete, no-mess fish dinner in less than 25 minutes.
Broiled Salmon and Asparagus with Crème Fraîche
This technique cooks salmon perfectly every time. The sauce is flavorful and rich, but not heavy--just right for a weeknight.
Skillet Rice with Shrimp and Chicken
Simple substitutions give these hearty dishes flavorful twists: Swap sausage for chicken, crabmeat for shrimp, or make a vegetarian option by subbing vegetable stock and omitting proteins.
Sausage-Spinach Rice Bowl
This quick and easy sausage and spinach rice bowl recipe is a one-dish meal that can be ready in 10 minutes flat.
Cajun Shrimp Linguine
Classic Cajun flavors--the smoky, spicy seasoning; sweet shrimp; and onion, green bell pepper, and celery trinity--give this pasta toss a New Orleans vibe. A jolt of ground red pepper spices things up nicely, while creamy half-and-half smooths out the edges.
Pan-Seared Herb Shrimp
The size of meat portions is shrinking, leaving more room on the plate for heart-healthy seafood. Eat fish more often, and make it pop with this herb- and lemon-packed dressing.
Greek Pork Chops with Squash and Potatoes
One sheet and dinner is done, thanks to Greek Pork Chops, squash and potatoes.
Pork Chops with Roasted Apples and Brussels Sprouts
For the zestiest flavor, rub the chops with the brown sugar mixture the night before, and let them chill overnight.
A sweet-salty miso, brown sugar, and soy sauce glaze caramelizes in about 10 minutes as it cooks atop rich, meaty salmon.
Pork Chops with Thyme Pan Sauce
Deglazing: The process of using a liquid to lift the browned bits left after cooking meat or vegetables in a pan to incorporate their flavorful essence back into the dish.
Charred Steak Salad with Spicy Dressing
Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Shrimp
Simple, fresh, and perfectly portioned for two, this main dish salad is great for a quiet weeknight. Just you? Enjoy the second portion for lunch tomorrow; it will hold up nicely.
Chicken and Apple Salad with Orange-Mustard Vinaigrette
Tangy Italian Beef Sandwiches
Spicy Chicken Cacciatore
Roasted Shrimp with Mushrooms, Broccolini, and Foaming Chive Butter Sauce
This dish is simplicity itself: Everything cooks on a roasting pan in a very hot oven in stages for just 12 minutes, and the foaming chive butter sauce takes only 2 minutes on the stovetop. Be sure to add the minced chives at the last moment after the pot comes off the heat; cooking will turn the chives bitter.