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.
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 is the easiest and most delicious way to use leftover spaghetti or pasta noodles hanging out in your fridge.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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 😂
Still need a few more ideas? Here’s a tad more weeknight meal inspiration.
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.
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.
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.
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.