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—many 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. And no worries: While they’re ready in a flash, they don’t scrimp on taste.
Photo: Iowa Girl Eats
Turn the popular Caprese salad appetizer into a light main course in a matter of minutes by adding protein in the form of chicken and some carbohydrates in the form of French bread. Top with vine-ripe 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 mere minutes by turning them into soup? Pantry items like canned crushed 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.
In the time that it takes for your rice to cook on the stove top, whip up a fragrant sauté of chicken and veggies with garlic and classic Cajun seasoning (bringing a spicy kick along with cardiovascular and immunity-boosting potential) in a separate pan. Fifteen minutes later, put the two together and you have a balanced meal that provides plenty of leftovers.
With their link to heart disease and metabolic syndrome, ramen noodles have gotten a bad rap over the years.1 But here 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 add leftover cooked 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?
Store-bought rotisserie chicken can be a lifesaver on busy nights. Add more nutrients by combining it with walnuts for heart-boosting omega-3s and beets, which contain everything from antioxidants to folate. Ready in five minutes, this recipe proves that putting a unique spin on your run-of-the-mill chicken dinner doesn’t have to take ages! No time to pick up a bird from the store? Use leftover cooked chicken.
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).1 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
Photo: A Cedar Spoon
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 takes advantage of the convenience of canned beans and prepared, reduced-sodium smoked ham to speed up the prep process. The two full cups of kale are packed with goodness, from cancer-battling antioxidants to potentially inflammation-reducing vitamin K.1 Best of all, the sautéing and simmering takes all of 12 minutes, getting dinner on the table in a flash.
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 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.
Whether you’re trying to cut down on meat or have yet to find a way to love tofu, you need to try this recipe. In just a few minutes, the soy food and pork soak up the simple but strong flavors of ginger, soy, and chili sauce. Even the staunchest tofu skeptics will devour this dish.
A dish that usually requires lengthy simmering or hours in a Crock-Pot turns into a 10-minute weeknight dinner with this recipe. The secret ingredient? Prepared salsa, which eliminates the need for chopping onions and tomatoes while still reaping the cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory benefits from the veggies’ flavonoids. How’s that for a time-save that doesn’t cut corners?
Be efficient with this one-pot meal. Don’t toss the water after making the pasta; instead use it to cook the fish while the orzo soaks in olive oil and lemon juice. The slices of fish are then laid on top of the pasta for 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 six minutes to cook on each 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 with just one tablespoon of butter in the entire recipe and a light sprinkling of Parmesan at the end, it won’t send you into a food coma.1
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. The blogger tops it all off with a slice of vegan cheese, but you can leave that off and your sandwich will still be super satisfying—and even quicker to make.
The colors in this recipe alone make us want to hop the next flight to some fabulous tropical location. Mahimahi—with about 400 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids in four ounces—takes all of five minutes to sear, while 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.
More of a how-to guide than a detailed recipe, this is as easy or as complicated as you want to make it. 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. With no need for fancy sauces or marinades, this customizable “recipe” is proof that fulfilling the twice-a-week recommendation for fish intake is possible for even the laziest of us.
Vegetarian and Vegan
Photo: Euphoric Vegan
Don’t get thrown off by the title—this whole-wheat pasta dish is actually 100 percent vegan, getting its cheesy flavor from an inventive blend of nutritional yeast, flour, garlic, and onion powder. With broccoli added for a pop of antioxidants, the dish resembles a healthified mac and cheese that vegans and non-vegans will love.
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. Sure, they contain less protein and fiber, but they still have a lot of both for a grain. 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 nine other ingredients, from avocado for filling fats to artichoke hearts for tons of fiber. 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. Spices like curry powder and turmeric add a deceptive (but delicious) complexity to the whole thing—only you’ll know the secret to how simple it was to put together.
Featuring an herbed mix of vegetables nestled on top of Parmesan-infused polenta, this dish is gorgeous and good for you—plus the cruciferous Brussels sprouts make it incredibly filling. Full disclosure: Cooking the polenta and veggies side by side is a bit of a juggling act, but even if you prepare them one after the other, the dish will only take about 16 minutes. We’ll take it!
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 slightly 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.
- Immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory effects of garlic compounds. Arreola R, Quintero-Fabian S, Lopez-Roa RI. Journal of immunology research, 2015, Apr.; 2015:2314-7156.
- 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.
- Effect of spiced food on metabolic rate. Henry CJ, Emery B. Human nutrition. Clinical nutrition, 1986, May.;40(2):0263-8290.
- 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.