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.
Our favorite recipe from the Cooking Light column, this lightened-up lasagna tastes every bit as flavorful as the traditional version.
Chicken, Spinach, and Mushroom Lasagna
Chicken thighs poach until tender in stock, which becomes the base for a creamy béchamel sauce. No-boil noodles absorb more liquid during baking for a sturdy slice after freezing and reheating.
Southwestern Salmon Skillet Supper
This simple, single-skillet supper is packed with bold flavor, but is quick enough for a busy weeknight. This foolproof recipe for salmon is brightened up with a little spice and zesty cilantro-lime butter that you're going to want to slather over everything from here on out.
Weeknight Lemon Chicken Skillet Dinner
It doesn't get much easier, or more satisfying: a complete dinner in one pan in half an hour. Lemon brightens this cozy winter meal.
Chicken Potpie Skillet Pizza
Try this quick, playful spin to turn pizza night on its head—in a good way. You get all the creamy goodness of chicken potpie, in a fun, eat-with-your-hands way that kids will love. Grown-ups will dig it, too, especially if you offer hot sauce at the table. Cooking the pizza in a preheated cast-iron skillet makes the crust wonderfully crispy so that it doesn’t sog out when the creamy sauce goes on. Be sure to use only 10 ounces of dough (though you’ll likely have to purchase in a 1-pound or larger ball); save the remaining dough to make breadsticks the next night.
Buttermilk-Dipped Crunchy Chicken Fingers
These delicious homemade chicken fingers are perfect for a kid-friendly and easy weeknight meal.
Turkey and Bean Chili
Fruity and mild, the poblano pepper gives this chili flavor but not a lot of heat. Serve this one-pot dish with a wedge of cornbread for a warming weeknight supper.
Ultimate Spaghetti and Meatballs
One-Pan Broccoli-Bacon Mac 'n' Cheese
Butternut squash puree enhances the color here without distracting from the cheesy flavor, and it sneaks in another serving of vegetables. If you can't find frozen butternut puree, swap in an equal amount of mashed sweet potato or canned unsweetened pumpkin.
$8.15 for six servings
Chicken Enchilada Casserole
This creamy chicken enchilada casserole is a cinch to assemble in advance and easy to freeze—just cover one of the pans with foil. If you plan to serve a crowd, you can bake the chicken enchilada casserole in one (13- x 9-inch) baking dish. The chicken stays moist throughout baking and reheating, thanks to a gentle poach and a rich verde sauce. Be sure to include your fresh cilantro stems in the sauce, they have tons of flavor!
Thai Basil Chicken Stir-Fry
Red bell peppers are the star vegetable in this stir-fry, a crisp, sweet counterpoint to the serrano chile heat. Use any vegetables you like, but keep it simple; one or two vegetables, plus the basil and chicken, are all you need.
One-Dish Poached Halibut and Vegetables
Light and healthy, this no-fuss fish supper takes just 15 minutes to make.
Crispy Trout with Warm Parsley-Caper Vinaigrette
Look for farm-raised lake trout, an environmentally friendly choice. If you can't fit all four fillets in one pan, divide the oil in half and cook in batches of two.
Homemade Sloppy Joes
Once you try these homemade sloppy Joe’s, there’s no going back to the can. Sloppy Joe’s have secured their place as a tried-and-true family favorite for good reason—they’re quick, they’re easy, and they’re a weeknight dinner the whole family can get behind. Our homemade version is simply a wholesome, full-flavored rendition of the savory-sweet sandwich you know and love from childhood. A blend of ground chuck and ground sirloin provides just the right level of beefy flavor and richness to stand up to the sweetened tomato sauce. Be sure to chop your onion, carrot, and bell pepper as finely as you can so that they’ll blend seamlessly into the mix (and pickier eaters won’t even know they’re there).
Sheet-Pan Chicken Tikka Masala
With a little sheet pan savvy, flavor-packed chicken tikka masala has never been more accessible. While we suggest marinating the chicken for at least four hours, if you didn’t plan ahead, you can simply marinate the inherently tender chicken thighs for as long as you have time for.
Sheet-Pan Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya
It’s definitely not traditional, but it sure is convenient (not to mention, way tasty). With our trusty sheet pan and a few smart supermarket shortcuts, we keep the prep for this weeknight jambalaya recipe incredibly quick and easy.
Chicken Cutlets with Spring Vegetable Salad and Herb Vinaigrette
Looking to showcase your farmers’ market haul in its finest glory? In that case—you, my friend, are looking for this awe-inspiring spring chicken dinner. Every component brings something special to the table in a salad like this: Your greens create a sweet, crunchy base with a peppery hit from arugula, radishes contribute a pleasant bitter-edged brightness, cucumbers offer a clean crunch, potatoes pack the buttery richness, and a tangy, herbaceous vinaigrette is everything you need to tie everything together. Served alongside a golden-crisp chicken cutlet this lively plate nails the perfect balance of fried and fresh. In other words, this recipe is sure route to dinnertime nirvana.
Shrimp Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Slaw
These easy shrimp tacos are apt to become one of your favorite weeknight dinner go-to’s. They’re ridiculously fast, they’re easily adapted to suit picky palates, and wow, TACO bout flavor. A few pantry spices and about five minutes under the broiler are all it takes to transform raw shrimp into a dynamite taco filling. We add bright crunch with a fresh and zesty cabbage slaw, featuring lime and cilantro, and an element of richness with a simple avocado crema. Of course, feel free to top your shrimp tacos however you choose! You can skip the slaw and opt for shredded lettuce and radishes for a vibrant crispy bite. Or layer on sliced avocado in place of the crema. This is your taco night, after all—do what feels right. And yes, that means that both corn or flour tortillas will work perfectly well here; just be sure to warm them up a bit before layering on your shrimp and toppings.
Charred Okra-And-Tomato Masala
This fun take on okra and tomatoes is super hearty and comes together in a snap, making it a perfect weeknight meal. Plus, the rice is foolproof. If you’d like a little more protein, serve it with chicken thighs braised in the same spices and a little white wine. If you can’t find brown mustard seeds, you can use yellow ones instead.
Our eggplant lasagna is a delicious, crowd-pleasing dinner that results from swapping traditional lasagna noodles for slabs of fresh eggplant. Besides being a great gluten-free and low-carb alternative to classic lasagna, this comforting casserole is the perfect way to put a load of summer eggplant to good use. The best eggplant to use in this lasagna recipe are the most tubular-shaped that you can find, as these will give you the most even planks of eggplant (vs. the eggplants with large, round bottoms). This cheesy eggplant bake also gets bonus points for being make-ahead friendly. You can prepare and assemble the eggplant lasagna and refrigerate for up to two days before baking; just plan on the lasagna needing a couple of extra minutes in the oven.
Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Thighs with Green Beans and Potatoes
Looking for a sheet pan meal that’s just as delicious as it is seamless? These tender, juicy sheet pan chicken thighs have just enough bbq sauce glaze to make them super tasty and beautiful. The potatoes get cooked until they’re tender in the middle, but crispy on the outside, and the green beans cook while the glaze achieves perfection. Everything comes together in an hour, and cleanup is a breeze. Be sure to section off the sheet pan and make enough room for each ingredient so you won’t have to waste time or oven heat.
Speedy Coconut-Curry Shrimp Skillet
These skillet shrimp noodles are super easy to make at home, but their flavor rivals something you’d get at a restaurant. It’s slightly sweet from the coconut, with a mild degree of spice, and has plenty of toppings to keep things interesting, especially with the combination of flavors—but by all means, if you want to go harder with toppings, go for it. Buy the freshest, highest quality shrimp you can source, preferably from a seafood market. They’re the star of this dish, so quality matters. If you’re peeling and deveining them yourself, pat them dry as best as you can before adding them to the skillet. Wet shrimp will add steam, while dry shrimp will get a nice sear, yielding a better appearance and taste.
Single-Skillet Cavatappi Ratatouille
With its roasted vegetables and fresh basil, this gooey, cheesy pasta skillet dinner won a lot of hearts in the test kitchen. This dish is super family friendly, as the vegetables act as a vehicle for the sauce and all the cheesy goodness you can harness in one dish. It’s also easy—all you have to do to the veggies is crush them and give them time to cook down enough so the dish doesn’t get too watery. Either way, it’s a weeknight win.
Taco Mac & Cheese
When taco night meets mac and cheese, magic happens. Melty cheese, hearty ground beef, and a creamy Tex-Mex inspired sauce come together in this taco-mac skillet for a maximum comfort food meal. You can absolutely prep this cheesy dinner bake ahead of time to make for even easier weeknight prep; simply assemble (following the recipe through step 4), then cover tightly and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake (add a few minutes to the bake time if you’re going from the fridge to the oven). You can typically find taco skillet sauce shelved near the dry taco seasoning and tortillas in the supermarket.
Sheet Pan Pork Tenderloin with Broccoli and Butternut Squash
This easy, flavorful supper brings great taste and texture to the humble sheet pan. The juicy roasted pork tenderloin has a nice herb coating, and its delicious creamy tarragon mustard sauce is great with the butternut squash and the roasted broccoli florets. The sweet roasted squash balances the savory roasted broccoli, and the meat is perfect with just a schmear of the sauce. Pork tenderloins typically come in packages of two, so freeze one for later or double the recipe for a larger crowd. Make sure to preheat the oven with the rimmed baking sheet inside—this way, the tenderloin gets a nice sear and color before the vegetables hit the baking sheet.
Easy Roasted Chicken Breasts with Tomatoes and White Beans
This simple baked chicken packs a ton of flavor atop a nice, toasty mixture of beans, tomatoes, and herbs. Since the chicken cooks on top of the vegetables, its juice add to the sauciness of the burst, roasted tomatoes, the buttery olives, and the tender creamy beans. A little bit of lemon zest makes a lovely finish. The entire combination is just as satisfying as it is visually pleasing, especially faro or another grain. This dinner is easy but has a grown-up feel, and the combined ingredients are meant to be together. If you like, you can add in or substitute other olives or vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and onions—whatever fits your palate.
Cauliflower Pizza Steaks
This pizza may not have any dough, but that doesn’t make it any less satisfying. The cheese, meat, and pepperoni come at the forefront, so you get the feeling that you’re eating pizza before you realize you’re eating cauliflower. The crisp, roasted, and slightly salty cauliflower is an easy alternative to a cauliflower-based crust that you can actually pick up with your hands. Plus, no extra equipment, like a food processor, is needed.
Savory Sausage, Veggie, and Gnocchi Soup
Turkey sausage, sweet butternut squash, earthy mushrooms, shallots, and spinach come together to make a big bowl of delicious comfort. The colors stay intact, and the sausage is perfect for sopping up with some crusty French bread. Best of all, it’s fast and easy, and you can dress it up or down. Turkey Italian sausage has less fat, but still retains lots of flavor. Brown the shallots and mushrooms first—since the turkey sausage doesn’t have much fat, it will burn on the bottom of the pot. This soup also works well as leftovers, especially with crusty bread.
Easy Tex-Mex Shepherd’s Pie
Shepherd's pie just got easier. This comfort dish takes advantage of a few shortcuts that don’t lesson the flavor or quality of the meal, like refrigerated mashed potatoes and pico de gallo, so you can get dinner on the table fast. Make sure to brown your meat nicely, since it builds flavor. Substitute cheddar cheese for pepper jack, if you prefer it.