20 Minute Dinner Ideas

20 Minute Dinner Ideas

For low-prep meals that don’t require much planning, keep ingredients on hand for these fast-cooking recipes! Our 20 Minute Meals listed below include healthy pantry meals, recipes using frozen ingredients, and other shortcut dinners that can be made within 20 minutes.

  • By Leila Kalmbach
  • June 15, 2021

These 20 minute dinner ideas are a lifesaver when dinner plans fall through (or you forget to make any!). They don’t require a recipe, but are fully homemade. For the most part, they utilize pantry and/or freezer ingredients, so you’ll often have what you need on hand. They can be easily subbed into your weekly meal plan anytime you need something quicker than planned — or include them in your plan on nights you know you’ll be tired, short on time, or just won’t feel like cooking up a time-intensive meal. 

This list is part of our Insurance Meals Series; click here to read more about what insurance meals are, how to use them as part of your weekly meal plan, and get more fast-cooking recipes that require no cooking or take only 10 minutes to make.

1. Rice and Veggie Bowl

What You Need:

  • Quick-cooking or instant rice (leftover rice works great here!) 
  • Frozen chopped veggie mix that includes broccoli and carrots
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Miso paste
  • Lime
  • Green onion

Directions:

Make rice, if you don’t have any left over. Toss frozen veggies with some oil, salt, and pepper, and cook in the air fryer at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, or roast in the oven at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

While the veggies are roasting, mix a pat of softened butter with a small scoop of miso paste and a squeeze of lime. Fry an egg. If you’re using leftover rice, reheat it in the microwave.

Serve the veggies over the rice with miso butter on top, and top everything with the fried egg. Sprinkle with chopped green onion.

Ingredient Swaps:

Instead of rice, use quinoa, couscous, or other quick-cooking grains. Not crazy about miso? Pesto butter — softened butter mixed with pesto — is also tasty in this meal! And feel free to use leftover cooked proteins, such as sliced chicken breast, in place of the egg.

2. Brunch-for-Dinner

What You Need:

  • Eggs
  • Sliced bread
  • Tomatoes 
  • Canned black beans
  • Spinach (fresh or frozen)
  • Garlic
  • Smoked salmon

Directions:

Brunch is the most fun meal of the day — any time of day, any day of the week! We like to sauté a couple of chopped tomatoes, some black beans, and a couple large handfuls of spinach with some chopped garlic, salt, and pepper. 

While the veggies are cooking, toast and butter the bread, and fry eggs in another pan. Serve the egg on top of the toast with the veggies on the side. Serve the smoked salmon on the side, or if you prefer it on top of the toast, let the egg cool for a few minutes before assembling.

Ingredient Swaps:

Use any type of beans in place of black beans, and sub greens of your choice for the spinach. 

3. Simple Stir-fry

What You Need:

  • Extra-firm tofu (learn how to prep tofu with this video)
  • Bottled stir-fry sauce
  • Cooking oil
  • Chopped frozen stir-fry mix 
  • Cashews
  • Sesame seeds
  • Lime

Directions:

Standing over the sink, press the moisture out of your tofu with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels, then cube the tofu. Heat a wok or skillet over medium-high heat with some cooking oil, and sauté the tofu until golden. Add the frozen veggies (don’t thaw them first!) and stir-fry altogether until the veggies are nearly tender. Pour in some stir-fry sauce and continue cooking until the veggies are done to your liking. Toss with cashews and sesame seeds, then finish with a squeeze of lime juice.

Ingredient Swaps:

Use your favorite quick-cooking protein instead of the tofu, or chop leftover cooked protein and serve it on top of the stir-fry. You can also use fresh veggies instead of the frozen veggies; some combination of bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, snap peas, mushrooms, carrots, and baby corn work well — really any odds and ends you find in your fridge! Serve over rice or quinoa for a more substantial meal.

4. Crunchy Tacos

What You Need:

  • Ground turkey
  • Taco seasoning
  • Cooking oil
  • Taco shells
  • Shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocado
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Sour cream

Directions:

Heat a pan over medium heat with some cooking oil. Stir some taco seasoning into the turkey and cook it, breaking up clumps, until cooked through.

Heat taco shells according to package directions, and fill with the turkey, shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, avocado slices, shredded lettuce, and sour cream.

Ingredient Swaps:

Ground beef, faux meat crumbles, or canned lentils would also work well as the protein in these tacos. Bell pepper strips, sprouts, and salsa would make good additions or substitutions.

5. “Baked” Sweet Potato Dinner

What You Need:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Sausage links
  • Bell pepper
  • Onion
  • Butter
  • Salsa

Directions:

Scrub your sweet potato(es) and poke a few steam holes with a fork. Wrap in a damp paper towel and microwave for ~10 minutes, or until soft. Meanwhile, cook the sausage in a pan over medium heat (or according to the package directions), then sauté bell pepper strips and thinly sliced onion with a pinch of salt. Serve the sweet potato with a pat of butter, some salsa, and the veggies on top, with the sausage on the side.

Ingredient Swaps:

Use leftover cooked veggies in place of the bell pepper and onion, and leftover proteins in place of the sausage.

6. Loaded “Baked” Potato Bar

What You Need:

  • Russet potatoes
  • Broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)
  • Tomatoes
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Green onion
  • Sour cream
  • Bacon

Directions:

Scrub and poke the potato(es) with a fork. Cook in the microwave for ~10 minutes wrapped in a damp paper towel, flipping halfway through. Meanwhile, lay bacon strips (ideally room temperature) in a single layer in a cold pan. Turn the pan to medium heat and cook the bacon for 8 to 12 minutes, turning as needed. Let cool slightly, then chop.

When the potatoes are done, steam the broccoli florets in the microwave (around 2 minutes with a damp paper towel over the top). Load up the potatoes with broccoli, chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese, green onion, sour cream, and bacon.

Ingredient Swaps:

Leftover cooked veggies, chives, black beans, or chopped bell pepper also make great toppings! Feel free to use bacon bits instead of strips of bacon to save time.

7. Veggie Burgers

What You Need:

  • Veggie burger patties
  • Burger buns
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Sliced cheddar cheese
  • Frozen tater tots

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (or the temperature indicated on the fries package). Spread the tater tots out on a sheet pan and get them started cooking. Meanwhile, cook the patties according to the package directions, then toast the buns in the pan (if there’s room on the sheet pan, you can also toast them in the oven for 2 to 5 minutes). Top the patties with a leaf of romaine lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a slice of cheese, and serve with the tots on the side.

Ingredient Swaps:

Give your veggie burger an Indian flair by topping it with cucumber slices and mango chutney, or make it Southwestern by topping it with guacamole and pico de gallo.

8. Fish with Pasta and Broccoli

What You Need:

Directions:

Heat water for pasta. While the pasta is cooking, heat a skillet over medium heat and cook lightly salt-and-peppered salmon in the skillet until flaky. In the last 2 to 3 minutes of the pasta’s cooking time, drop broccoli florets into the boiling pasta water, then drain the pasta and broccoli together when they’re done. Serve with jarred pasta sauce on top.

Ingredient Swaps:

Instead of salmon, use tilapia or trout. Sub pesto for the jarred pasta sauce.

9. Fish Sticks Tacos

What You Need:

  • Frozen fish sticks
  • Avocado
  • Jalapeño (optional)
  • Cilantro
  • Mayonnaise
  • Sriracha
  • Corn tortillas
  • Shredded coleslaw mix
  • Lime

Directions:

Bake the fish sticks according to the package directions. Meanwhile, slice avocado and finely chop the jalapeño and cilantro. Mix mayonnaise with a small amount of sriracha (to taste). When the fish sticks are almost finished, heat tortillas in a pan, and assemble the tacos by filling them with a fish stick, coleslaw mix, avocado slices, and jalapeño. Top with cilantro and a drizzle of the spicy mayo, then finish with a squeeze of lime.

Ingredient Swaps:

Add or swap tomatoes or frozen corn. Use shredded romaine instead of coleslaw mix.

10. Rotisserie Chicken with Veggies and Fries

What You Need:

  • Rotisserie chicken
  • Frozen brussels sprouts
  • Oil
  • Frozen fries
  • Lemon

Directions:

Toss frozen brussels sprouts with some oil, salt, and pepper, then spread them on one side of a baking sheet with frozen fries on the other half. Bake them in the oven at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through. Serve with sliced rotisserie chicken and a wedge of lemon for squeezing over the brussels sprouts.

Ingredient Swaps:

Use leftover cooked proteins instead of rotisserie chicken. Swap frozen carrots, cauliflower, green beans, or zucchini for the brussels sprouts. Use sweet potato fries instead of French fries.


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