Fast Dinner Ideas: 8 Meals That Will Light Up Your Night

Fast dinner ideas: a Tovala meal with coffee rubbed chicken

No matter where you live or what you do for work, chances are you're always looking for fast dinner ideas that can fill you up quickly, and leave you with more time and energy for all the other things you want to do (like binge-watching the latest Netflix series or planning your next travel adventure). To make your weeknights a little more palatable, here are some easy dinner recipes including one-pot and single-skillet options that take no more than 30 minutes to prep and cook.

Fast Dinner Ideas You'll Love

Short on time but still want big flavor? No problem. These eight tasty recipes are just what you need for an easy weeknight meal to remember.

1. 30-Minute Cod With Lemony Braised Fennel      

Fast dinner ideas: 30-Minute Cod With Lemony Braised Fennel
Image: Food Network

Prep & Cooking Time: 30 minutes

One of the easiest fish to find in the supermarket, cod is a great choice if you don't like "fishy" seafood. We admit that simmered cod with braised fennel sounds a tad fancy, but this 30-minute recipe is deceptively simple. All you need are five ingredients along with some olive oil, plus salt and pepper to taste. Most of the action takes place in one pot, so you can rest assured it'll be an easy path to get this fast dinner idea on your plate.

2. Vegan Soyaki Stir-Fry

Fast dinner ideas: Vegan Soyaki Stir-Fry
Image: Brit + Co

Prep & Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Dinner in 10 minutes, say what? It might seem like an impossible dream, but this vegan stir-fry recipe proves it's possible. Just grab a bag of Trader Joe’s Stir-Fry Vegetables (or any prepackaged stir-fry) and sauté in coconut oil and soy sauce, along with minced garlic and baked tofu.

If you don't feel like a meatless meal, you can also swap the tofu for some ground beef or shredded rotisserie chicken. (Just adjust cooking time as needed.) Serve over brown rice, and enjoy a healthy meal that's ideal for those busy nights when you have almost zero time to cook.

3. One Pan Lemon Garlic Salmon and Asparagus

Fast dinner ideas: One Pan Lemon Garlic Salmon and Asparagus
Image: Gimme Delicious

Prep & Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Lemon, butter, garlic: What more do you need? Oh right, salmon and asparagus. This scrumptious 15-minute meal lets you cook your main dish and side dish in one pan, making it an ideal situation for even the most culinarily challenged. Simply heat up the butter in a pan, add salmon and asparagus, throw in a little garlic and a squeeze of lemon, and you'll have dinner ready in less time than it takes to get takeout. Of course, if asparagus isn't in season, you can easily replace it with green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, or a mix of any veggies you’d like.

4. Garlic Rosemary Pork Chops

Fast dinner ideas: Garlic Rosemary Pork Chops
Image: Delish

Prep & Cooking Time: 30 minutes

You don't need much time for this keto-friendly meal that puts juicy pork chops front and center. The key to keeping them moist is to sear the chops in a hot pan just long enough to get a crisp golden crust before putting them in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Requiring just one skillet, a handful of ingredients, and a few simple steps, you'll want to bookmark this high-protein dish. For added fiber without the high carbs, try serving with low-carb veggies like spinach, asparagus, or zucchini.

5. Sheet Pan Hawaiian Shrimp

Fast dinner ideas: Sheet Pan Hawaiian Shrimp
Image: Cooking Light

Prep & Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Aloha! This easy recipe for sheet pan Hawaiian shrimp is a fast dinner idea that'll give you a taste of the islands without ever leaving home. To start, layer pre-cooked jasmine rice coated with canola oil on a sheet pan. Then top the rice with pineapple and red bell pepper. (The recipe recommends fresh pineapple chunks, but you can always used canned pineapple as long as you strain out the juice.) Next, you'll arrange raw peeled shrimp atop the rice and veggies.

Once that's done cooking, you can drizzle the dish with teriyaki-style sauce for a tropical sweet-and-tangy flavor combo that your taste buds can't resist.

6. Butternut Squash and Bean Tacos

Fast dinner ideas: Butternut Squash and Bean Tacos
Image: Real Simple

Prep & Cooking Time: 25 minutes

Tacos are always a good idea. And this veggie-centric take on the Mexican favorite is about as simple as it gets for those busy weeknights when you're desperate for a fast dinner idea that won't disappoint.

For these butternut squash and bean tacos, you don't need much more than cubed butternut squash (get it precut to save time), a can of black beans, plus corn tortillas and whatever toppings you like — goat cheese, red onion, cilantro, ready-made salsa, fresh pico de gallo, and perhaps a wedge of lime. Whatever you decide, you'll be taco-ing about this meal for days.

7. One Pot Pizza Bake

Fast dinner ideas: One Pot Pizza Bake
Image: Damn Delicious

Prep & Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Far better than calling for pizza delivery, this one-pot pizza bake is a fun and easy twist on the Italian classic. (Seriously, put down your phone right now.) While the recipe recommends mini pepperoni, if you can't find them in your local grocery store simply substitute regular pepperoni. Once you get the meat sizzling in a skillet, you can stir in tomato sauce, seasonings, and pasta to boil. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese and finish in the oven for a few minutes and you've got a winning weeknight dinner any way you slice it.  

8. Quick Chicken Piccata

Fast dinner ideas: Quick Chicken Piccata
Image: Taste of Home

Prep & Cooking Time: 30 minutes

An easy chicken recipe if ever there was one, this single-skillet chicken piccata is a comfort food classic for a reason. Just gather a handful of ingredients — chicken breasts, butter, a little flour, lemon juice, and white wine or chicken stock — and about 30 minutes later you'll have a delicious dinner worth putting on repeat. Serve alongside your favorite pasta, green beans, or quinoa for a yummy chicken dinner any night of the week.

Tovala: The Best Recipe of All

Fast dinner ideas: A man puts a Tovala meal on a plate

When it comes to fast dinner ideas that don't require you to break out the pots and pans, you can't go wrong with Tovala Meals. These chef-created meals are delivered to your door each week fully prepped from an ever-changing menu that gives your favorite restaurants a run for their money. Every meal is made with 100% clean ingredients, and you'll find plenty to choose from whether you follow a low-carb, high-protein, gluten-free, or vegetarian diet.

How does it work? You simply order your Tovala Oven, sign up for one of the flexible meal plans, and boom — you'll have dinner any night of the week in 20 minutes or less. Yes, you read that right. With literally just the press of a button or tap of the Tovala app, you can have dinner ready in less time than it takes to wait in line for a cup of coffee. And as far as prep time, it's one minute max. That's it. Oh, and you don’t have to worry about dirty dishes because Tovala Meals come in fully recyclable containers.

No prep, no cleanup, just delicious, easy dinners at the end of the day. How’s that for a fast dinner idea?