When the heat is on and time is scarce, complicated dishes can be recipes for disaster. Take the easy way out instead. Simpler dishes made with basic ingredients are the way to go. From breakfast to lunch, dinner, and dessert, here are 50 dishes that can be prepared in 20 minutes or less.
YOGURT GRANOLA PARFAITS
This no-cook treat from Rachael Ray can be a breakfast, dessert, or snack. It looks impressive and can be whipped up quickly to feed a crowd in almost no time at all. It's as simple as layering yogurt, granola, and fresh or preserved fruit in a glass and serving. You can also use whipped cream instead of yogurt and cookies instead of granola for a sweeter twist.
Recipe: Food Network
Smoothies can be a delicious utility meal any time of day, made even more filling with the addition of protein powder or protein-packed nut butters and seeds. This berry shake uses all frozen and raw ingredients that just get blended together. You'll even have enough time to wash the blender before heading out the door.
Recipe: Men's Health
There's no need to rely on fast-food restaurants for a good egg sandwich. It takes about three to five minutes to cook an egg. Meanwhile, toast bread or a roll in a broiler with a slice of cheese. Then set the egg on top of the cheese and cover with the other half of the bread or roll, adding seasonings to taste.
Wraps are quick to make and portable, which means spending a few minutes in the morning will save the money you'd pay for a similar convenience food later in the day. Having deli meat or other pre-cooked, sliced meat on hand is what makes this so easy to whip up.
Recipe: My Recipes
Tuna salad comes together quickly after chopping a few vegetables and opening and draining a can of tuna. A batch of tuna salad will stay good in the fridge for a few days, making it quick to assemble meals throughout the week.
Recipe: Betty Crocker
In this dish, eggs are simmered in a spicy tomato sauce and eaten with pita or crusty bread for a satisfying brunch, lunch, or dinner. While you could certainly take your time simmering homemade sauce for hours, this dish can also be whipped up lightning fast with a jar of sauce.
Recipe: Joybilee Farm
Canned chipotles can be a busy cook's best friend. They add a ton of slow-cooked flavor instantly. But once the can is open, transfer the contents to a jar to keep them fresh as you work your way through them. This recipe calls for a chipotle mayonnaise, but substituting one pepper from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce and adding mayonnaise also works well.
Recipe: Tuxedo Cat
Stir-frying quickly on high heat gives ingredients a nice caramelization on the outside while vegetables stay crisp and meat stays tender. The possible combinations are endless, and relying on freezer and pantry staples cuts prep time.
Recipe: Tone & Tighten
Often mistaken for a grain, this budget-friendly pasta cooks in just five minutes. Cooking the couscous in broth rather than water and adding a few spices yields a flavorful result, which can be tossed or topped with practically anything for a quick meal. Canned beets give it a pink color.
Recipe: Food in a Minute
SOBA NOODLE SALAD
Soba noodles, also known as buckwheat noodles, cook very quickly, which makes them a pantry must-have for whipping up meals on the fly. Rinsing them after they boil is crucial and takes only an extra minute. Then toss the noodles with just about anything to make a delicious meal.
Recipe: Woman's Day
CREAMY HERB ZOODLES
Zoodles — noodles made from zucchini — have so many benefits, one of which is how fast they can be prepared. Combine fresh zoodles with a quick blended sauce of avocado and common herbs for a creamy and flavorful meal.
Recipe: Gimme Delicious
PRESSURE COOKER LENTIL SOUP
A pressure cooker is a game changer for anyone who needs quickly prepared meals. It can churn out delicious soups and stews in practically no time. Lentil soup is a particularly fast recipe that starts with dried lentils, a relatively quick-cooking legume taken to lightning speed with this method.
Recipe: Genius Kitchen
PRESSURE COOKER RISOTTO
Many Italian grandmothers may be dismayed to learn a pressure cooker can yield a risotto as creamy and tender as one they spent an hour or more cooking on the stovetop. The estimated cooking time for this dish: just 17 minutes.
Recipe: Hip Pressure Cooking
PASTA WITH CHICKPEAS AND SPINACH
The art of getting a pasta dish on the table in less than 20 minutes is all about making the sauce while the pasta cooks. Relying on ready-to-go and quick-cooking add-ins such as garbanzo beans and spinach ensures a swift process.
Recipe: Aggie's Kitchen
Salmon can be prepared on the stovetop for a quick and healthy meal. Using a condiment that is already rich in taste, such as balsamic vinegar, eliminates the need to spend a long time simmering ingredients together.
Recipe: Eating Bird Food
Nourishing, inexpensive, and comforting, miso soup can be a light and energizing meal any time of day. Fresh miso can be found in many grocery stores and most Asian markets, and it can also be used in salad dressings and marinades.
Recipe: Minimalist Baker
A bowl of mussels can bring a celebratory or festive feeling to a meal, which makes this quick recipe that much more fun to make and enjoy. To keep cooking time down, prepare any side items such as grilled or toasted bread while the mussels are cooking.
Shrimp don't take long to cook, which makes them a good option when in a hurry. A simple Rachael Ray recipe flavors them with a base of herbs and garlic. With this versatile preparation, the shrimp can be enjoyed with a variety of sauces, as a filling for sandwiches, or on pastas and salads.
Recipe: Food Network
A simple pile of greens topped with medium-rare slices of steak and dressing is a healthy and satisfying lunch or dinner. To make this and other salad recipes lightning fast, wash salad greens as soon as they're brought home and store in the fridge wrapped in a dishcloth for maximum freshness.
Recipe: Community Table
Coconut milk and canned chickpeas make this and other similar recipes a breeze to prepare. Because the coconut milk is so rich and flavorful, you can season the dish with powerful aromatics such as ginger and garlic without overwhelming its taste or having to rely on an expensive pre-made sauce.
Recipe: Woman's Day
Tilapia is cheap and very quick to prepare on the stove or in the oven. The stove is faster and also allows for a bit more crispness from a good sear. While the fillets cook, assemble a small salad to complete the meal.
The key to having all the components for shrimp tacos ready at the same time is to heat the tortillas while preparing the shrimp filling. If the oven takes too long to heat up, warm the tortillas on a griddle at the last minute or, in a pinch, heat them in the microwave.
Recipe: Fine Cooking
SMOKED SALMON SANDWICH
This clever recipe swaps out the bacon in a classic BLT sandwich for savory smoked salmon. Since smoked salmon doesn't require any preparation, the sandwiches come together in just a few minutes. If you miss the crunch of bacon, consider layering in a few potato chips.
SPAGHETTI WITH BLISTERED CHERRY TOMATOES
If you have your heart set on pasta marinara but no pre-made sauce, or you simply have a container of cherry tomatoes past their prime, this recipe is an easy go-to. Cook the tomatoes until they burst and caramelize while the pasta cooks separately for a flavorful meal that is fast and low-effort.
Recipe: Food & Wine
Quesadillas are a festive meal that almost everyone loves and can be whipped up in about 10 minutes. Make them plain with only cheese, or layer in cooked meat, vegetables, and herbs. Round out the dish with guacamole, lettuce, salsa, and sour cream.
Recipe: Simply Recipes
ASIAN CHICKEN LETTUCE CUPS
A refreshing meal that's perfect for summer, Asian chicken lettuce cups are meaty and crunchy. Using rotisserie chicken is an ideal way to save time, although a chicken thigh or breast would still be swift to cook in a pan.
Recipe: Woman's Day
TORTELLINI WITH BROWN BUTTER AND SAGE
This sexy and sumptuous dish comes together in the time it takes to cook the tortellini. The pasta comes in dry and fresh varieties and can even be used straight from the freezer by adding an extra two minutes to the cooking time. While the pasta cooks, you can prepare the sauce and even have time left over to open a bottle of wine.
Recipe: Serious Eats
Burritos are a quick-serve food that can be made in a flash and even eaten on the go for ultimate convenience. Because they are so simple to make, they can feed a lot of hungry mouths in less than 20 minutes.
Recipe:The Nutrition Twins
A tostada is basically an open-face taco on a crunchy fried tortilla, although pre-made tostadas are much more expensive than tortillas. This recipe saves money by baking fresh tortillas at home for eight minutes to get them crunchy and layering them with beans, lettuce, and cheese.
Recipe: Yellow Bliss Road
COCONUT SHRIMP CURRY
Shrimp curry is a popular takeout and delivery item, but this recipe can be ready in less time than it takes even the swiftest restaurants to prepare an order. Cooking rice from scratch can slow things down, so people in a real hurry could serve this with noodles or couscous.
Recipe: Green Healthy Cooking
RIGATONI WITH PESTO
Pesto comes together quickly, as there is virtually no cooking involved. It also freezes well, so it's worth making a large batch and freezing in individual portions for later use. Make this dish come together even faster by using pre-made pesto, either store-bought or homemade.
VEGGIE FRIED RICE
Much like a stir-fry, fried rice is all about cooking ingredients quickly on high heat. The best time to break out this recipe is when you already have cooked rice. Rice that has spent a day or two in the fridge will fry up nicely.
Recipe: Pinch of Yum
CHICKEN WITH MUSTARD SAUCE
This dish is so elegant and quick to prepare that it should be in everyone's repertoire for last-minute dinner guests. Using a bit of flour on the chicken and searing it in the pan gives it a crisp texture that feels like it took much longer to prepare.
Recipe: Woman's Day
These skillet-fried salmon cakes can be enjoyed as is, on top of a salad, or on a bun for a delicious salmon burger. Canned salmon is the key to making these in just 20 minutes, and canned tuna or crab could be substituted for a slightly different take.
ONE-SKILLET PORK WITH APPLES
Traditionally, pork with apples and vegetables would take at least 30 to 60 minutes to prepare. This recipe gets it done faster by making everything together in one skillet. Another advantage to this method is that all the flavors meld together, so every bite is flavorful.
HAM AND CHEESE FRITTATA
Ham and cheese are a satisfying combination in many dishes. Combined with nutritious and fast-cooking eggs (and possibly other add-ins), they become a full meal. The key to getting this done quickly is to preheat the oven, so it's hot by the time you're ready to put the pan in.
Recipe: Nugget Markets
This impressive dessert must be made just before serving. It comes together in just 20 minutes, some of which is entertaining to watch and makes the time go by even faster. If you are planning to make this for a dinner party, do the five minutes of prep ahead of time and have the ingredients ready to go.
ICE CREAM SANDWICHES
Ice cream sandwiches are a well-loved treat that are simple and quick to prepare. It's important to let the ice cream sit out of the freezer for five minutes or so to get the right texture before layering it between two cookies.
S'mores are usually part of an outdoor camping experience, but an indoor recipe by pastry chef Gale Gand makes quick work of this sweet indulgence, allowing preparation of a large serving of fresh, warm, and gooey s'mores in no time at all.
Recipe: Food Network
This grown-up dish combines dessert and coffee into one cup. Preparing coffee or espresso and scooping ice cream takes only a few minutes, and this treat will disappear just as quickly.
Recipe: Martha Stewart
Pressed sandwiches are quick to make and can be adapted for every meal, including dessert. This chocolate panini recipe can be modified to include strawberry jam or hazelnut chocolate spread.
Recipe: Midwest Living