63+ Last Minute Dinner Ideas (Easy and Fast)

I’ll be honest, my biggest pet peeve when you google “easy recipes ideas” or “last minute dinner ideas” is when the results come back with all these suggestions that you really can’t prepare at the last minute. 

frittata - last minute dinner ideas

So my goal for this list was to find dinner ideas and recipes that truly felt like they could be prepared last minute. All with the typical ingredients you have in your pantry, cupboards, and fridge. 

Whether you’re pressed for time on busy weeknights or just don’t feel like cooking, here are 47 last minute dinner ideas. From canned chicken dishes to ground beef to using leftover Chinese takeout for fried rice, don’t ever feel like a quick meal needs to be boring.

Below are a sh*t ton (I mean lots) of ideas for last minute dinners. Choose the one that sounds best to you and adjust it to fit your specific taste (or those of your family, kids, husband, wife, you get the idea…)

Last Minute Pasta Dinner Ideas

There are dozens of shapes and sizes of pasta. There’s also pasta for every taste and diet out there. From wholewheat pasta to gluten-free pasta to grainless pasta, there is pasta for you, me, and my Uncle Joe. Ok, I don’t have an uncle Joe. But if I did, there’d be pasta for him too!

Fried Spaghetti
Fried spaghetti is the easiest and most delicious way to use leftover spaghetti or pasta noodles hanging out in your fridge.
Check out this recipe
fried spaghetti on plate with bowl of marinara
Pasta Topped With A Fried Egg
From linguine to ziti to pappardelle, a bowl of pasta with a crispy fried egg is a mouth-watering and quick meal. Mix into your pasta a cheese of choice, a little butter, or drizzle with olive oil. Season to your taste.
View Pasta Recipe
pasta with egg on top - last minute dinner ideas
Elevated Boxed Mac and Cheese
Box mac and cheese is delicious on its own. But if you’re looking for something different, there are dozens of ways to up your mac and cheese game. From how you cook it to what you include, pick your favorite recipe and enjoy!
View Mac n Cheese Recipes
elevated mac n cheese - last minute dinner ideas
20-Minute Lemon Broccoli Pasta
Whether you use fresh or frozen broccoli, this 20-minute pasta is a fast and simple way to get your veggies on your plate in a pinch. Any time of the year, this dish is a great go-to.
View Broccoli Pasta Recipes
Easy Air Fryer Raviolis
Fried ravioli might not typically be the healthiest dinner idea. But when you make it in the air fryer, it becomes less guilt-inducing. Crisp these puppies up and dip them in your favorite easy marinara sauce
View Ravioli Recipe
air fried ravioli - last minute dinner ideas

Last Minute Vegetarian Dinners

Whoever said dinner needed to include meat was so wrong. Having meatless meals is also good for the environment. Whether you’re doing a Meatless Monday or a frittata Friday, Mother Earth will thank you.

Ricotta Toast
This creamy, savory (or sweet) toast I don’t think gets as much love as, say, avocado toast. Try drizzling it with honey and nuts or layering fresh tomatoes and basil on top with a dash of sea salt.
View Ricotta Toast Recipes
Margherita Baked Polenta
I’m a huge fan of polenta because any way you cook it it's delicious. Make it creamy and soft, or grill or fry it and crisp it up nicely. Either way is delicious. It’s also hard to screw up. So if you’re finishing up work, on a conference call, or juggling a baby on one hip, it’s a perfect call.
View Polenta Recipes
margarita baked polenta - last minute dinner ideas
Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms
A big favorite all around because you don’t need much of a recipe. That means what you have in your fridge is probably good enough. Mix up some cheese, leftover cooked bacon, breadcrumbs, and herbs of choice. If it tastes good in the bowl when you’re mixing it, it’ll be delicious stuffed in a mushroom.
View Mushroom Recipe
cheese stuffed mushrooms - last minute dinner ideas
Loaded Veggie Grilled Cheese
Grilled cheese might not sound like the most exciting dinner (We like to get excited about food in our home!), but when you load it up with veggies like roasted peppers, spinach, or mushrooms, it becomes a heartier, more filling meal.
View Grilled Cheese Recipe
Sheet Pan Nachos
Sheet pan nachos don’t really get any easier. Chips, cheese, veggies, cheese, repeat… And yes, nachos are a more than fine dinner once in a while. Live a little, folks!
See Nacho Recipes
sheet pan nachos - last minute dinner ideas

Last Minute Canned Chicken Dinner Ideas

Before you start hating on canned chicken, hold up. Sure, would it be nice to always have freshly roasted chicken in the house? Or at least a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store? Sure. 

But that’s not life. Life is a lot of busy, tons of errands, and a dash of bullshit thrown in for good measure. So get off your high horse (or don’t and skip to the next section) and crack open a can. Now hold my mic while I get off my soapbox, please.

Creamy Chicken Crescent Casserole
You don’t need to be a die-hard South-of-the-border Taco Bell fan to love this recipe. Egg, potato, cheese, and chicken make this a satisfying meal.
View Casserole Recipe
creamy crescent casserole - last minute dinner ideas
Taco Bell Loaded Potato Grillers with Chicken
You don’t need to be a die-hard South-of-the-border Taco Bell fan to love this recipe. Egg, potato, cheese, and chicken make this a satisfying meal.
View Potato Griller Recipe
loaded potato griller - last minute dinner ideas
Mexi-Chicken Avocado Cups
Stop smashing your avocados on toast and instead slice and fill them with savory goodness. This recipe is also gluten-free, paleo, and keto friendly. Can’t ask for much more than that.
View Avocado Cup Recipe
mexi-chicken avocado - last minute dinner ideas

Looking for more chicken recipes? Check out our list of 36 canned chicken recipes.

Last Minute Chicken Dinner Ideas

Breasts, thighs, wings, oh my! Skinless, skin-on, boneless, bone-in? For one little bird, there are so many options. Below are a few that cover them all.

Air Fryer Chicken Wings
The hardest thing about air fryer chicken wings is remembering to take your wings out of the freezer. (With that said, I suppose you also have to remember to buy them 😉 Season them with a quick mixture of salt, pepper, and garlic powder, or toss them in your favorite BBQ or buffalo sauce.
See Chicken Wing Recipe
chicken wings - last minute dinner ideas
Chicken Hasselback
I’m not sure where the name “Hasselback” came from, but it makes this chicken recipe sound more difficult than it is. Slice your chicken breasts, and stuff them with cheese and any herbs or veggies you have around.
View Hasselback Recipe
chicken hasselback - last minute dinner ideas
Caesar Salad with Rotisserie Chicken
A rotisserie chicken is like an all-purpose Swiss Army knife. It can do anything you need it to. For this recipe, a bottled caesar salad dressing is good enough. There are also some really good bottled caesar salad dressing out there. It’s already a Tuesday night, no need to make your life more difficult.
View Salad Recipes
Caesar Salad with Rotisserie Chicken - last minute dinner ideas
Instant Pot Mississippi Chicken
This recipe is all about Pepperoncini peppers. But once you learn how to perfect boneless skinless chicken thighs in your Instant Pot, your options for sauces are endless. Put this chicken on top of pasta, over rice, or in a tortilla.
View Chicken Recipe
Mississippi chicken - last minute dinner ideas

Last Minute Beef Dinner Ideas

Beef: It’s what for dinner. Seriously, that’s what they say. From sandwiches to casseroles, below are three very different but beef-forward easy meals.

Walking Taco Casserole
Savory and cheesy, made with corn chips or Fritos. Cook's choice!
View Walking Taco Casserole
bowl of walking taco casserole
Hot Roast Beef Sandwich
I’m a roast beef fan. Anyway, you serve it, I’ll eat it. But this hot roast beef sandwich is one of my faves when it’s dinner time. (If it’s lunchtime, I’m more of a roast beef, smashed avocado, and ketchup gal. Don’t judge.)
View Roast Beef Recipe
roast beef sandwich - last minute dinner ideas
Easy Hamburger Casserole
Forget the boxed Hamburger Helper and make your own. It takes about the same amount of time to make it and is well worth the few extra ingredients. Try it out and let us know how it goes.
View Casserole Recipes
hamburger casserole - last minute dinner ideas
Air Fryer Steak Bites
There are dozens of kitchen appliances that you buy, use once, and then collect dust in your kitchen. Trust me, or ask my wife. But then there are a few appliances that once you start using, you don’t know how you ever survived without them. After you purchase an air fryer and make these steak bites, you’ll know what I mean.
View Steak Bites Recipe
air fryer steak tips - last minute dinner ideas

Last Minute Egg Dinner Ideas

Growing up I remember how they used to say that egg yolks weren’t good for you. Cue the egg white trend. Thank goodness we now know better. You won’t find an egg white anywhere on this page. That’s how I feel about that.

Scrambled Eggs with Fresh Corn, Goat Cheese, and Tomatoes
I put scrambled eggs in the same category as food like pasta, rice, and tofu. They’re the perfect food that pairs well with whatever you're in the mood for. Pick a veggie, pick a cheese, and pick an herb.
View Scramble Eggs Recipe
scrambled eggs - last minute dinner ideas
Easy Frittata
Have eggs, veggies, and cheese? You have a delicious frittata. Go Southwest with some Tex-Mex seasoning or go Italian with tomato and basil. It’s your frittata, it’s your choice. Dress it up or down as you like.
View Frittata Recipes
frittata - last minute dinner ideas
Classic French Omelette
The caveat here is that cooking a French omelette is not for a beginner cook. At least when you’re short on time. But once you take the time to learn how to make one, you’ll be hooked for good.
View Omelette Recipe
french omelette - last minute dinner ideas
Fluffy Egg Bites
I first made these fluffy egg bites for lunch one day when my wife and I just needed something different. We’d had enough grilled cheese. But they’re so delicious, like a mini crustless quiche. We now make them periodically for dinner. The hardest part about this recipe? Dragging the blender out from the back of the cabinet 😂
See Egg Bites Recipe
egg bites - last minute dinner ideas
Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Pinwheels
These pinwheels use pre-packaged crescent rolls and a total of 4 ingredients. Roll on a sheet pan, cut them to your desired shape and size, and throw them in the oven. Dinner is served!
View Pinwheel Recipe
bacon egg and sheet pinwheel - last minute dinner ideas

More Last Minute Dinner Ideas

Still need a few more ideas? Here’s a tad more weeknight meal inspiration.

Tuna Melt
My favorite tuna fish salad recipe includes slices of tart apple, dried cranberries, mayo, and dill. A slice of provolone or cheddar on top is a great addition. Throw it in the broiler and wait for the cheese to bubble.
View Tuna Melt Recipe
tuna melt - last minute dinner ideas
Mini Waffles
I’ve always wanted one of those tiny waffle irons. But one woman can only have so much cabinet space in a New York City apartment. So while I continue to make normal-sized boring waffles, enjoy your mini waffles while you think of me.
View Waffles Recipes
mini waffles - last minute dinner ideas
Breakfast for Dinner
Breakfast for dinner always seems a little luxurious to me, even if it’s just cereal or toast. But this list of 14 breakfast ideas is more than your typical oatmeal.
View Breakfast Recipes
bowl of chia seed oatmeal - last minute dinner ideas

Last Minute Cocktail Ideas

Most alcohol doesn’t go back, at least not quickly. Keep a few solid staples on hand, and after any grueling day you’ll feel prepped and ready. More of a mocktail person? Here’s some mocktail inspiration.

Gin and Tonic
I’ve been a die-hard gin and tonic fan for over a decade now. They’re the perfect summer drink and you only need three ingredients. You can also dress them up with a splash of juice, a sprig of herb or by throwing in some frozen fruit.
View Gin and Tonic Recipes
gin and tonic - last minute dinner ideas
Classic Negroni
I don’t know why it took me so long to fall in love with Negronis. But now that I have, I’m never looking back. They’re also another cocktail that everyone seems to think is a lot harder to make than it is. All you need is gin, sweet Vermouth, and Campari. Keep them in your cabinet for when you’re in the mood and want to feel fancy.
View Negroni Recipes
negroni - last minute dinner ideas
Wine Spritzer
When you’re looking for a lighter drink, pair your favorite wine with a sparkling mixer. The combinations are endless. You can even make a red wine spritzer during the summer!
View Wine Spritzer Recipes
Wine Spritzer - last minute dinner ideas

Need more cooking inspiration? Try out these 23 Chicken Tenderloin Recipes or 36 Canned Chicken Recipes.

I hope these last minute dinner ideas help to make your life just a tad bit easier. I’m also always looking to add to this list. So if you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments below. 

Until next time: Stay salty, and sweet 😉

last minute dinner ideas - pinterest pin

More Recipe Inspiration

Ground Elk Recipes

Leftover Ground Beef Recipes

Leftover Shredded Chicken Recipes

Summer Beef Recipes

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