We’ve all been there: You’re home late from work, bordering on hangry—if you don't have a meal in less than 20 minutes, you might go into Hulk mode. You think your only quick-fix options are delivery (which starts to cut into your budget) or a frozen entrée (which never seems to satisfy).
New plan: Head to the kitchen. There are plenty of healthy dinners you can whip up with minimal ingredients that you likely have on hand—in 15 minutes tops. Whether burgers are calling your name, soup sounds ideal, or only cheesy pasta will do, you can prep, cook, and devour in no time by choosing one of these fast foods that don't skimp on taste.
Turn the popular caprese salad appetizer into a light main course in a matter of minutes by adding chicken and a side of French bread. Top with vine-ripened tomatoes that aren’t just juicy complements to the mozzarella but may contain more cancer-fighting lycopene than the ones that ripen off the vine. It’s simple, fast, and guaranteed to hit the spot.
Why wait an hour for chicken enchiladas to bake in the oven when you can get the same flavors in minutes by turning them into soup? Pantry items like canned tomatoes and enchilada sauce join spiced chicken and plenty of shredded cheddar for an easy yet authentic dish that requires little more than a simmer before you can dig in. Serve with tortilla chips on top to scoop up the cheesy goodness underneath.
This flavorfull recipe comes together in just fifteen minutes and combines a ton of nutrients for a well-balanced meal. Carrots and onions pack this recipe with veggies while the savory flavors of turkey and black beans balance out the dish. With minimal prep and time in the kitchen, this recipe gets dinner on the table in no time.
With their link to heart disease and metabolic syndrome, ramen noodles have gotten a bad rap over the years. Instant noodle intake and dietary patterns are associated with distinct cardiometabolic risk factors in Korea. Shin HJ, Cho E, Lee HJ. The Journal of nutrition, 2014, Jun.;144(8):1541-6100. But we aren’t talking about the sodium-saturated, pre-fried instant variety—this homemade recipe uses fresh, boiled noodles (found at most Asian grocery stores), turkey breast, and plenty of vegetables in a low-sodium broth for a wholesome, warming soup that screams comfort. Can't find healthy ramen noodles? Use rice noodles or leftover pasta.
The ingredient list may look long here, but most of the items simply get tossed into a mixing bowl for a bright, citrusy sauce to pour over pan-seared chicken. And it's a one-pot dish, so both cooking and cleanup are speedy. Who needs takeout when you can make this in less time—and load it with whichever veggies you prefer?
Chicken's typically a pretty quick meal, and this recipe packs in tons of healthy additions. Once you've got the chicken cooked, this meal is super simple (and tasty). With just six ingredients, this meal packs in tons of taste, from pesto and basil to fresh mozzeralla, that will give you a healthy, but not bland, dinner when you're in a hurry.
A colorful pile of romaine, avocados, roma tomatoes, and more topped with seasoned ground turkey make this protein- and fiber-rich meal fit for a fast dinner. Even the homemade taco seasoning, with metabolism-boosting spices like cayenne and chili powder, is part of the 15-minute deal (though you can use packaged too if you don't want to buy a ton of spices). Effect of spiced food on metabolic rate. Henry CJ, Emery B. Human nutrition. Clinical nutrition, 1986, May.;40(2):0263-8290. Just watch the sodium content.
All you need to do is mix, grill, and assemble these juicy burgers. The patties have salty feta, creamy avocado, and zesty Ranch throughout for loads of flavor. Top with more avo and dressing—because it'd be a shame to douse all this flavor with ketchup or mustard.
Beef and Pork
As your pasta boils, sauté a multicolored mix of zucchinis, tomatoes, spinach, and white beans alongside sausage. Garnish with a generous handful of pine nuts to not only lend a satisfying crunch, but also give the 15-minute meal a simple but elegant finish.
In an Asia-meets-the-Andes fusion of sorts, a soy and sesame-coated ground beef mixture sits on top of fluffy quinoa, which stands in as a protein-heavy, higher-fiber alternative to the usual white rice. Brown and marinate the meat while your grain cooks so that both are ready at the same time. Now you have dinner plus leftovers for lunch!
Brothy, salty, and full of vegetables, this soup recipe can easily be made into a 15-minute endeavor. The two full cups of kale are packed with goodness, from cancer-battling antioxidants to potentially inflammation-reducing vitamin K. Associations between vitamin K status and haemostatic and inflammatory biomarkers in community-dwelling adults. The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Shea MK, Cushman M, Booth SL. Thrombosis and haemostasis, 2014, May.;112(3):0340-6245. You can pick and choose which flavors and ingredients are most important to you and reduce time in the kitchen that way too (Ha, that rhymes!).
Soba is a great option to get in a quick noodle-fix, cooking in less than half the time of regular pasta while carrying more resistant starch than white or wheat for a healthy colon. Topped with medium rare steak and a simple dressing, this recipe is made even more convenient by the blogger’s multiple tips for substitutions if you can’t find some of the more traditional Asian ingredients.
If you're trying to sneak some extra veggies into your cooking, you need to try this recipe. In just a few minutes, the pork soaks up the simple but strong flavors of ginger, soy, and chili sauce. You'll barely even taste the cabbage.
Be efficient with this one-pot meal. Don't toss the water after making the pasta; instead use it to cook the shrimp while the orzo soaks in olive oil and lemon juice. With this simple but tasty dish you'll end up with a presentation that looks elegant but is practically effortless.
Who knew that a dish that tastes so gourmet can be made so quickly? In three easy steps, a gluten-free, vitamin-E packed almond meal coating turns tilapia into a dinner you'd expect from a top restaurant. The crust takes just takes a few minutes per side, leaving you just enough time to throw together a quick side salad to round out the menu.
Regular shrimp scampi is all about the seafood and the pasta swimming in a bath of garlicky butter and cheese—scrumptious for sure, but not exactly everyday fare. This lightning-fast recipe keeps all the garlic for its immunity-boosting powers, but using zucchini noodles rather than regular pasta will keep you satisfied but not stuffed.
No mayo, no cheese—in fact, no dairy at all in this twist on a diner favorite. Instead mix tuna with avocado for that creamy goodness with some lemon and shallot added for extra oomph. For only 15 minutes, this is a recipe that won't disappoint.
The colors in this recipe alone make us want to hop the next flight to some fabulous tropical location. Mahi mahi—with about 400 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids in four ounces—takes all of five minutes to sear. Then a quick dice of fresh mango and pineapple chunks combined with red onion and lime form an irresistibly sweet and savory salsa. Maybe you can’t take that beach vacation just yet, but in less than 15 minutes, this dinner will make sure your taste buds do.
This is a recipe for those who love to mix and match since you can choose the suggested veggies or pick your own. But one thing is for sure: It’s fast. Shred vegetables you have on hand in a food processor, then quick-sauté them with seasonings of your choice to make a nutritious bed for your pan-seared fish. This will give you a quick and especially healthy dinner with minimal time in the kitchen.
Vegetarian and Vegan
Don’t get thrown off by the simple title—this awesome pasta dish is super flavorful, and the one-pot convenience majorly cuts down on cooking time. Mushrooms, spinach, and frozen peas add a ton of veggies so you get your nutrition in along with your favorite comfort food.
Give quinoa and brown rice a break, and experiment with quick-cooking farro instead. Traditionally, this ancient grain takes about 30 minutes to cook (unless you soak it overnight), but quick-cook varieties are ready in 10 minutes. Once it cooks, fold in a simply seasoned vegetable sauté, adding color and more vitamins to your dinner.
Made in literally two steps and one pot, it almost takes longer to say the name of this dish than to actually make it. OK, not really. Still, all it requires is cooking a batch of couscous (ready in about 10 minutes), then tossing in your vegetables and spices. The resulting meal scores high in looks, ease, and health.
Chop veggies, throw in a pot with chickpeas, and heat. For such a straightforward recipe, this colorful stew sure has a lot going for it nutritionally, like the abundance of antioxidants in the kale and the folic acid in the beans. The blend of spices brings complexity to the whole thing—only you’ll know the secret to how simple it was to put together.
This dish gives you a twist on a hearty but carb-filled meal. Mixing riced cauliflower with tons of filling veggies, like peas, broccoli, and carrots with the blend of spices and sauce makes this meal a perfect quick dinner for you or a group. Ready in just 10 minutes, it requires minimal prep but maximum nutritional value and taste.
This dinner may require more ingredients than most recipes on this list, but it’s still a simple four-step process to prepare, and the end product is more than worth it. No need to soak the fresh udon noodles, they sauté up to crispy perfection in the pan along with plenty of spinach and carrots for vision-protecting lutein and beta-carotene. It’s all tossed with a sweet and spicy sauce spiked with fresh ginger that you may want to put on just about everything you eat.
A dish that usually requires lengthy simmering or hours in a Crock-Pot turns into a 15-minute weeknight dinner with this recipe. It's vegan too so no need to add in extra meat since you can rely on the beans for your protein and fiber. How’s that for a time-save that doesn’t cut corners?
Originally published August 2015. Updated July 2016.