Easy Cooler-Ready Dinner Ideas to Pack for Busy Summer Nights

Blue igloo cooler, filled with picnic food


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Blue igloo cooler, filled with picnic food

Keep Your Cool

Ball games got you away from home at dinnertime? Sick of leaving the lake early to head home for dinner? Maybe you're just looking for something cold to fill your belly for summertime supper. Check out some of our favorite, cooler-compatible dinner ideas.

Tuna noodle casserole

Tuna Pasta Salad

Not only is canned tuna the pinnacle of cheap protein, it also lends itself beautifully to pasta salad. You might see this as a frequent side dish at potlucks and backyard barbecues, but truth be told, between the pasta, mayonnaise, vegetables, and tuna, it's plenty hearty enough to eat for dinner. If tuna casserole suffices for cold weather supper, tuna pasta salad fits the bill for hot summer nights.

Recipe: Simple Joy

Healthy Packed Lunch

Chef Salad

Ham, bacon, hard-boiled eggs, and veggies join forces to create a scrumptious, light-yet-filling salad perfect for the cooler. Assemble the salad in one container and bring the dressing and croutons along in separate dishes to keep your salad from becoming soggy.

Recipe: Jo Cooks

Pasta salad close-up background
Beef Taco Salad

Doritos Taco Salad

Spending Taco Tuesday outside of the home and away from your favorite Mexican restaurant? Doritos taco salad is your best bet. While tacos might not be best served cold, this salad rendition offers all the flavor of tacos and the refreshing nature of salad. 

Recipe: Life in the Lofthouse

Related: Delicious and Inexpensive Mexican Dishes

Cobb salad, traditional american cuisine
salami sandwich isolated on white

Italian Sub Sandwiches

Sure, the local sub shop slings a mean Italian hoagie, but if you're looking to save a buck, assembling your own Italian sub sandwich is easy as can be.

Recipe: Valentina's Corner

Bacon Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich (BLT)

BLT Sandwiches

Does it get much more simple than a BLT? Pack these up with some chips and pickle spears on the side and you've got yourself a simple summer supper. Say that five times fast.

Recipe: Natasha's Kitchen

Egg salad sandwich on whole grain bread

Egg Salad

Egg salad never misses. It's easy to prepare and as refreshing as it is delicious. This recipe elevates the classic salad with green onions, pimentos, celery, and sweet pickle relish for added flavor and crunch.

Recipe: Southern Discourse

Sandwich with chicken salad

Chicken Salad

Eat it with a fork, throw it on a croissant, scoop some up with crackers — however you indulge, chicken salad is one of the most reliable cold dinners around.

Recipe: Bellyfull

Sushi uramaki inside out california roll

California Sushi Rolls

Takeout isn't the only way to get your hands on sushi. This California roll recipe promises takeout-quality with ease.

Recipe: Masala Herb

Shrimp Ceviche Toast (Camaron Ceviche Toast)

Shrimp Ceviche Tostadas

Packed with bold flavor, shrimp ceviche is a flavor-packed concoction that is particularly tasty atop a salty, crunchy tostada. This dinner bodes well for the cooler, but be careful not to crush your tostadas in the shuffle!

Recipe: Mince Republic


Italian Antipasto Salad

This salad is loaded with flavor. You'll find it all with this one. Bold bites, salty punches, and a dash of spice are all antipasto staples.

Recipe: Seeking Good Eats

Steak and Truffle Tortellini

Steak Pasta Salad

If steak on the grill with a heaping side of noodles and veggies isn't in the cards, you can still harness the same ingredients for this cold pasta salad rendition. 

Recipe: Crave the Good