Bye-Bye, Stress! Try These Easy 10-Minute Meals for Busy Weeknights
We all have those nights: You've got half an hour to cook, eat, and clean up, so you fall back on takeout or boxed mac ‘n cheese. There's an alternative! Try one of these no-fuss, kid-friendly, 10-minute meals.
It’s 6:10 p.m. on a school night. One child has a Zoom lesson at 7 p.m., the other still needs homework help, and somehow dinner is supposed to happen? Yes, of course it is. And since this is likely a weekly occurrence — if not more frequent — you need an arsenal of 10-minute meals in your back pocket to make it all happen.
Luckily, as long as you have some basic pantry and fridge staples on hand — leftover rice or pre-cooked grains, olive oil, kid-friendly standbys like Parmesan cheese, black beans, broccoli, pasta, eggs, and your protein of choice — the following quick and easy (and even healthy!) 10-minute meals come together in, well, 10 minutes or less.
Jump ahead to:
10-minute vegetarian meals (vegan, too!)
If you choose the right veggies — or, gasp!, use frozen — and have a few pre-cooked grains ready to go, 10-minute weeknight meals are truly a cinch. And healthy, at that.
Disregard the part where it says the cook time is 25 minutes — it isn’t. This fried rice is a super quick meal that comes together with about 5 minutes of prep time, and 5 active minutes in the wok or frying pan. You need four cups of brown rice, pre-cooked, and the rest are pantry or freezer staples. What makes this recipe really sing, though, is the fresh herbs.
Black bean soup is warming, filling, and dead-simple to put together: This version has just six ingredients. You can amp up the toppings for a wintry riff on make-your-own taco night.
That’s quite a promise for a recipe title. To be fair, this one only counts as a 10-minute meal if you have pre-cooked quinoa on hand — or one of those bags of microwavable quinoa. Once the quinoa is cooked, all you need are healthy greens, herbs, a leek, and some feta for a satisfying, healthy meal that tastes like a riff on that Greek classic, spanakopita, just without the phyllo dough.
Vegan and packed with protein, this is one hard-working little weeknight 10-minute meal. Start by sauteing cubed eggplant, then add canned cannellini beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, and the secret sauce — tahini — and you have a hearty meal that stands up to whatever starch your little people like best: rice, potatoes, or even little bird tongue pasta.
10-minute Asian meals
A lot of quick and easy Asian recipes — be they Chinese, Japanese, Thai, or Vietnamese — lend themselves to busy weeknight cooking. (Hello, stir fry.) I always order more rice than I need when we get takeout so I have it on hand.
It’s a stir fry to the rescue — with two ingredients (chicken and broccoli) that most kids embrace. If you have leftover rice, this meal takes very little time to come together — and if you’re low-carb, keto, or paleo, just dig in as-is. Omit the hot sauce if you have small people who don’t yet have a taste for spice.
An expedient riff on the classic Orange Beef, this 10-minute meal leans on frozen veggies and (surprise!) marmalade, which you mix with soy sauce to create the sweet, citrusy glaze.
This one is literally faster than take-out — and is equally tasty. Using shrimp (instead of chicken) means the dish cooks lightning quick, and Erren Hart of Erren’s Kitchen says she doesn’t add any veggies. You can always serve steamed broccoli or another kid-friendly veggie on the side, next to the white rice.
I’m lucky — at my local grocery, there are containers of perfect zoodles ready to go. And that’s what makes this a true 10-minute meal. Just add quick-cooking shrimp, a quick Thai sauce, and the secret weapon: salty peanuts. Says one reviewer, “Even my 9- and 11-yr-olds ate it up!” (It’s low carb, to boot).
10-minute pasta meals
Everyone has that go-to 10-minute pasta meal they can make blind, one-handed while texting — and if you have kids, that goes double. But it’s nice to have a little variety, no?
Very few people can say no to butter, cream, cheese, and pasta. While the tagliatelle boils, combine butter, milk, flour, cheese of your choice (I like Parmesan cheese for this), and heavy cream, plus a dash of nutmeg to make it feel more authentically Italian (as opposed to kids menu-y.) Voila! Pasta that feels sophisticated enough for a parent and familiar enough for the preschool set. Add frozen peas if you’re feeling veggie-deficient. Sauté some pancetta while the noodles cook and this easy meal is practically gourmet.
This recipe, from The Kittchen, is a bit sophisticated for some palates, perhaps, but I know plenty of kids who love the funk of mushrooms and goat cheese. Plus, the flavor is rich enough you don’t miss the meat. (If you disagree, you are welcome to add shreds of last night's rotisserie chicken).
This recipe, from The Kitchn — mind your spelling! — is pasta al fresco at its very finest. Combine fresh, raw plum and cherry tomatoes, big leaves of basil, and more garlic than you might expect. (Adjust to taste, obvs.) In my experience, kids love slurping up thin angel hair pasta best of all. But it's not a crime to use ramen noodles if that's all you've got in the cupboard. And parents love it because it’s a 10-minute meal that doesn’t taste like it comes from a jar.
Lasagna? In 10 minutes?! If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is too good to be true. What Ali of Gimme Some Oven means is that it’s a mere 10 minutes of prep — layering no-boil pasta, homemade marinara, ricotta, mozzarella, spinach, and basil. But on a weeknight when you want some filling, no-fail, everyone-loves-it Italian, with a little pre-planning, it’s still just 10 minutes of work (and 45 minutes of waiting).
Risotto is not pasta, I know. But work with me here. I love the therapeutic process of stirring a pot of risotto constantly, as the saffron-spiked broth gets incorporated cup-by-cup. But when you don’t have time for that: risotto cups! In this genius microwave hack, the core ingredients stay the same — arborio rice, onions, wine, broth — but the cooking method is on warp speed. Plus, the single-serve variations are basically endless, so one child can have bacon and mushroom and the other can have squash ... and the cook can enjoy a sip of the leftover wine knowing that everyone is happy.
10-minute Mexican meals
If your pantry is always stocked — as it should be! — with black or pinto beans, some form of tortillas, and a nice Monterrey Jack, Cheddar, or even feta, you’ll always have a lightning-quick Mexican meal to make. Bonus points if you also have cilantro, lime, cumin, red onions, and — for adults — a go-to hot sauce on hand.
Shredded carrots play an unexpected role in this pretty straightforward vegetarian taco recipe, perfect for that hectic Meatless Monday. Bonus: It’s budget-friendly. It can feed a whole family for about $10. Add in red or green bell peppers for a more fajita-like flavor.
Do you need a quesadilla recipe? I mean, not really. But a good base recipe, like this one from Cookie and Kate, will help make sure it’s not just another 10-minute meal of starch and cheese for the littles. This version has enough beans and veggies that you won’t feel guilty serving them for dinner, again. Top with guacamole, or even a fried egg!
Yes, more weeknight shrimp. In this case, in a bowl, with fresh corn, avocado, onions, garlic, chicken stock, and delicious crispy fried corn tortillas. The recipe, as written, is quite spicy with all that chipotle in adobo, so moderate to your family’s liking. Or you can sub a mild salsa and be just fine.
10-minute keto meals (low-carb, Whole30, Paleo, too!)
There are plenty of keto, Whole30, Paleo, and low-carb dishes that not only fit the bill for a quick 10-minute meal but that work for adults and kids alike.
Zoodles are a low-carb mainstay, and here they get a pretty delicious Asian spin that can work as a side or a main. If your zoodles have been zoodled already, this weeknight dinner comes together in seconds. Add a protein — shrimp! chicken! beef! — or additional vegetables — mushrooms! — for a heartier meal.
I usually think of chili as an all-day affair, but it doesn’t have to be. Take this ground beef recipe, which is shockingly quick. “The secret to this 10-minute keto chili is using a prepared salsa in lieu of doing all of that chopping yourself,” says Mellissa from I Breathe… I’m Hungry. And there you have it. Just be sure to have all the chili fixings ready!
Never in my life would I have dreamed up a dish like this, which is why it’s so great that food bloggers exist! What kid, or adult for that matter, doesn’t love nachos for dinner?! And this version subs cheese-covered turkey slices for the chips. Then you just top them as you would any nachos — lots of pickled jalapeños, tomatoes, and crema, for me — and dinner is served.
10-minute fish meals
Fish is truly the king of the 10-minute weeknight meal, because you almost never need more than that for delicious, perfectly cooked fillets.
This dish has a certain "ta-da" factor even though it’s lightning-fast. Twice-broiled salmon with a mild, spicy-sweet rub in Round 1 and a maple syrup glaze in Round 2 is a crowd-pleaser that pairs easily with any pre-cooked grain or a simple salad for a weeknight meal that feels anything but.
The spices really make this dish — which is to say, this is for adventurous young palates only. Ali of Gimme Some Oven says pre-mixing the dry spices beforehand makes the recipe come together even more quickly. Serve with salad or some pre-cooked quinoa and voila, a low-carb adult dinner that lots of older kids will love, too.
Thin fillets of your favorite white fish make this baked dish a legit 10-minute dinner. Safira of Tiffin and Tea is adamant about using non-dairy milk, but you can use cream if you so choose. It’s the combination of garlic, mustard, and lemon that really makes the recipe.
Craving even more quick meal ideas?
Check out these related Yummly articles for more quick and easy recipes that kids really love: