3 Healthy Recipes for Dinner when You’re too Tired to Cook

What’s more frustrating than reaching the end of a long, hard day and realizing you still have to cook dinner and do the dishes? The temptation is to crack out a frozen meal or order takeout, but you can fight the urge! No more preservative-laden ready meals or expensive restaurant orders—you can make something delicious quickly with these easy, healthy recipes for dinner. Unlike so many weeknight recipes that turn out to be busts—either too time-consuming or too bland—these easy, healthy recipes for dinner are guaranteed winners; fast to make and bursting with flavor. 

These three recipes are great for a variety of situations—adaptable to a variety of diets and tastes and easy to add a twist to, so you can keep making them again and again. Whether you need something with meat or vegetarian, dairy or gluten-free, suitable for hot weather or cold—whatever you need, we have you covered. 

1.

Sheet Pan Roasted Chicken Dinner

Grilled chicken on a baking cheet

After a long day, the only thing that’s better than something easy to cook is something that’s easy to clean. Enter the answer to all your weeknight dinner woes: the sheet pan dinner. It’s the perfect solution to avoiding too much dishwashing—prepare everything so it can be cooked on one sheet. 

There are tons of great sheet pan dinners to try out for all types of proteins, but a perennial classic is the sheet pan chicken dinner. Chicken is a lean, white meat, so it’s better for you than red meat alternatives, and it’s cheap and easy to get many different kinds of cuts of. Chicken is also a great protein for baking. It’s our go-to when it comes to sheet pan dinners. We’re proponents of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for roasted chicken as they stay juicier than breasts—as well as being cheaper!

Just as there are many great options for proteins for sheet pan dinners, there are many great options for what to do with your chicken. This simple but delicious chicken recipe is the best starting place to learn. You can also play around with other flavor profiles—teriyaki, barbecue, honey-mustard, the list goes on—as well as what vegetables you have as your sides. The combination of sheet pan dinners you can make by mixing and matching protein, flavor-profile, and vegetable side is endless. 

The secret to a good sheet pan dinner is timing. Your protein and vegetables might need different cooking times depending on the vegetables you choose—potatoes can be put in with the chicken, but green beans, for instance, need a shorter time. However, you don’t want to open your oven too much and risk changing the internal temperature. By making sure all your pieces are cut to roughly the same size you’ll ensure everything cooks evenly, which will help with the timing. 

Sheet Pan Roasted Chicken and Vegetables                                         

Total Time: 45 minutes                                                        Difficulty: Medium

Ingredients:

  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs 
  • 1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 pound green beans
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½  teaspoon dried rosemary, divided
  • 1½ teaspoon dried thyme, divided
  • 1½ teaspoon dried oregano, divided
  • 1½ teaspoon paprika, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 425º. Line a baking sheet with foil. Toss the potatoes and onions together with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon dried rosemary, ½ teaspoon dried thyme, ½ teaspoon dried oregano, ½ teaspoon paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss the green beans with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and another ½ teaspoon of all the spices, with salt and pepper to taste. Mix the remaining spices together and dust it on the chicken, salt and pepper to taste.

2. Layer the potato and onion mixture onto the baking sheet. Lay the chicken skin-side down. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. 

3. Remove the sheet, stir the vegetables and flip the chicken over. Add the green beans to the pan. Replace in the oven and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked through and the potatoes are tender. 

4. Allow the chicken to rest for ten minutes before cutting, then serve and enjoy.

An easy, healthy recipe for dinner is as simple as that! And with all the time you’ll save doing dishes, you can think of other flavor profiles you want to try out, because trust us—once you realize how easy it is to make a dinner this way, you’ll want to add it to your rotation as much as possible. 

2.

Easy Vegetarian Stir Fry

Fresh stir fry vegetables in a wok

This is my go-to simple dinner when I’m too tired to make something more involved, and it never disappoints. I make it on a weekly basis, swapping out veggies as I please and I never get tired of it. Endlessly customizable, a good stir fry is packed with both veggies and flavor, making it as healthy as it is delicious. 

To make your perfect stir fry, you have to choose your vegetables, protein, and stir fry sauce. You can experiment and make alterations until you have something that’s perfect for you. What’s better than a simple recipe you can tailor to your own tastes (and change up every week so you can make it again and again?)

Vegetables

For vegetables, you should only choose a few to include. Too many and you’ll clutter the pan, which in turn releases excess moisture causing the vegetables to steam instead of fry. Luckily choosing only a few each time also means it’s easier to rotate what you’re including. When selecting your vegetables (and the order to cook them in), it’s important to think about their textures. Begin with hard vegetables since they need to be cooked the longest. Softer but dense vegetables (like eggplant or celery) go next, with delicate vegetables added at the very end. 

Hard vegetables (longest cook time): 

    • Carrots
    • Broccoli
    • Cauliflower
    • Green Beans
    • Onion
    • Bell Peppers

Medium vegetable (shorter cook time):

    • Celery
    • Mushrooms
    • Eggplant
    • Zucchini
    • Baby Corn

Delicate vegetable (added at the very end):

    • Bok Choy
    • Kale
    • Snap Peas
    • Snow Peas
    • Frozen Peas

Aromatics

Related to your vegetables—but non-negotiable!—are your aromatics. If you want your stir fry to be packed with flavor, you need to pile on the garlic and ginger. If you’re allergic to one (or just not a fan) you can double up on the other, but in general it’s really best to include a lot of both garlic and ginger. These are the flavors that’ll really spice up your veggies.

You should add your aromatics first to lightly flavor the cooking oil, but if your cookware means you have trouble with them burning, you can add them at the end. Green onions are another nice aromatic that plays well with stir fries, but they should be added to the end and are more optional. 

A woman in a yellow sweater stands in her kitchen, holding two tomato halves over her eyes

Protein

When it comes to the protein of a stir fry, my first choice will always be pan-fried tofu. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, it’s healthier to cut down on meat, and fried tofu is a deeply satisfying way to do that. It’s also a healthier way to enjoy fried food—tofu doesn’t soak in the oil the same way other fried foods do, so it has all the crispy deliciousness without the unhealthy excess oil. 

If you have time, you can marinate the tofu beforehand. After pressing the liquid from the tofu for 15-20 minutes, cube it and lay it in a soy sauce and rice vinegar mixture for an hour, then fry like normal. Or, if you don’t want to wait for the marinade, you can fry plain tofu. With a crispy, chewy texture and coated in your stir fry sauce, it’ll be delicious anyway. 

If you’re not a fan of tofu and are fine eating vegetarian, but not vegan, it’s easy to turn a stir fry into fried rice, and the addition of scrambled eggs will pack a delicious, protein-rich punch. Even if you want to stick to making a proper stir fry, eggs can be scrambled separately and mixed in at the very, very end to make a tasty treat. 

Sauce

Finally, you have your stir fry sauce, the heart and soul of your dish. You can spruce up your sauce with a lot of different additions—I make this recipe so often that it’s been worth it to stock ingredients like mirin, dark soy sauce, and Shaoxing wine—but the basics will serve you just as well. Much like choosing your vegetables, you can experiment with mixing and matching to get the perfect stir fry sauce for you. 

The Necessary:

    • Soy Sauce
        • The main attraction of your sauce.  If you want to cut down on saltiness, use low sodium soy sauce, but you’re going to want that umami flavor.
    • Rice Vinegar
        • Rice vinegar adds a sweet and tangy bite to your sauce. It should probably be your main liquid along with soy sauce. 
    • Corn Starch
        • Your thickening agent! You’ll need this if you want the sauce to adhere to your veggies and tofu. 

But while those are necessary, including them would lead to a pretty sorry sauce. You should jazz them up by picking and choosing other flavors to compliment them. 

The Pizzaz:

    • Sambal Oelek
        • What’s a stir fry without a bit of heat? Sambal oelek is my personal favorite way of adding spice to my sauce. This Indonesian chilli paste is very simple, made of only chillies, salt, vinegar, and water. This simplicity really lets the chillies shine, and is a great way to add a little kick to any recipe.
    • Sesame Oil
        • Sesame oil is great because it’s a strong, toasty flavor that goes great with stir fries, but a little goes a long way. A little splash of sesame oil is usually enough, meaning it doesn’t need to be replaced often. I highly recommend buying sesame oil if you don’t already have it. 
    • (Mushroom) Oyster Sauce
        • Oyster sauce is a classic ingredient in stir fries, and it’s easy to see why. However, it’s not exactly vegetarian. For all you meat-eaters and pescatarians out there, normal oyster sauce will work fine. For vegetarians and vegans, there are mushroom-based oyster sauces that’ll do the trick just fine.
    • Dark Soy Sauce
        • Dark soy sauce has a fairly similar taste to normal soy sauce, but it helps to contribute to a beautiful dark, burnished color in your end result. Maybe not the most necessary ingredient, but certainly a fun one. 

Choose any (or all) of these ingredients to add to your stir fry sauce, and you’ll end with something packed with flavor.

Easy Vegetarian Stir Fry                                        

Total Time: 30 minutes                                                        Difficulty: Medium

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
  • 1 package firm tofu, pressed and cubed
  • 2 inches ginger, peeled and minced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 cups of each vegetable you include, chopped
  • ⅓ cup (low sodium) soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1-2 teaspoons sambal oelek
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon (mushroom) oyster sauce (optional)
  • 1-2 teaspoons dark soy sauce (optional)

Instructions:

1. If you’re going to serve over rice, start preparing that. Press the tofu, using heavy plates if you don’t have a tofu press, for around 15 minutes, until the packing liquid is drained out. Slice the tofu in half horizontally, and then into chunks.

2. Put a skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Wait for your pan to heat up before pouring in the oil to prevent sticking. Add 2 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil is also hot, arrange your tofu in batches, flipping when one side becomes golden brown. Remove to its own plate. Clean your skillet if there’s any burned residue. Add more oil if needed. Change the heat to medium.

3. If you have a kitchen with good heat control, add the garlic and ginger now and stir fry for 30 seconds before scooping out to be re-added later. If you’re afraid of burning your aromatics, skip until later.

4. Add your vegetables in order of hardness, denser vegetables added first to cook longer. Cook each for only a minute or two, ensuring they cook but don’t become soft. If the pan becomes too crowded, cook in batches.

5. Add in your aromatics and stir for 30 seconds. If you didn’t cook them before, cook for a little longer.

6. Mix your soy sauce, rice vinegar, sambal oelek, sesame oil, oyster sauce, and dark soy sauce together. In another bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water together until they make a slurry, then add that slurry to the rest of the sauce and mix completely.

7. Add half of the sauce to the vegetables and cook, allowing the sauce to thicken. Add more sauce as needed, making sure not to allow the veggies to become soggy. Once the sauce has mostly thickened, add in the tofu and stir so it gets a light coating. Serve over rice or by itself.

 

Once you try this out, you’ll have another easy, healthy recipe for dinner added to your weekly rotation! With how many alterations you can make, there’s no way to get tired of it. 

3.

Thai-Inspired Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken curry and noodles in a black bowl.

This last recipe won’t win awards for authenticity, but it will win awards for taste! Warm and creamy without a drop of dairy—this recipe is perfect for dairy-free diets for those who still want to enjoy creamy food without an upset stomach. And on top of being dairy-free, it’s gluten-free as well!

This soup isn’t quite as adaptable as the other two (though the spice can be adjusted and the noodles left out or swapped for another kind) but it’s so delicious that it had to be on the list anyways. And if you use sambal oelek for your stir fry sauce, you’re in luck, because this recipe calls for it too!

When choosing your rice noodles, make sure to pick out something light enough for soup noodles. Pad thai noodles can be used in a pinch, but they’re a bit thick and chewy for the texture you’re aiming for. 

Creamy, mildly spicy, and surprisingly filling—this soup is certain to be a new favorite easy, healthy recipe for dinner. This is a great way to use up leftover chicken (though we have some other ideas for that too), which is another way to make it even easier.

Thai-Inspired Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup  

Total Time: 40 minutes                                                        Difficulty: Medium

Ingredients:

  • 3 teaspoons coconut oil (canola or vegetable oil can be used in a pinch)
  • ½ cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small stalk lemongrass, halved lengthwise
  • 8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 package rice noodles
  • 4 teaspoons sambal oelek 
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 ¼ cups light coconut milk
  • 4 teaspoons fish sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Lime juice to taste

Instructions

1. Preheat your oven to 425º. Lightly salt and pepper your chicken on both sides and lay on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, until fully cooked through. You can start step two as it cooks. When it’s finished baking, let the chicken rest then shred. If you have leftover cooked chicken, you can use it instead of making your own.

2. Heat a thick-bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the coconut oil to the pot and allow it to liquify before adding the garlic and ginger. Cook for 30 seconds, before adding the bell peppers, mushrooms, and lemongrass. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are starting to get soft but not fully cooked through. Add the sambal oelek and cook for another minute, stirring so everything is coated.

3. Add the chicken stock, coconut milk, sugar, and fish sauce. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to low, simmering for ten minutes.

4. As the soup simmers, bring a separate pot of water to boil and cook your noodles as it says on the packaging, draining and rising under cool water when they’re done. If your noodles are too long, cut them in half with clean cooking shears.

5. Once the soup has been simmering for ten minutes, add your chicken and simmer for another minute (or until the chicken has been warmed through.)

6. Place your noodles in your bowls, then ladle your soup on top of it. Top with green onions, cilantro, and lime juice and serve.

Simple, healthy, and delicious. Adding noodles ensures that the soup is filling, and the gentle spice and creamy broth is a perfectly comforting meal. It might not be as adaptable as the other two, but it’s just as delicious. Once you try it, who knows? You might add it to the weekly rotation anyways, just to get another taste. 

Conclusion

Even the most joyous chefs have had nights where they don’t want to cook. It’s nothing to feel guilty about. But if you fall into a habit of frozen meals and takeout, it can be difficult to pull yourself out of it. The times when you have the least energy are the times you need to nourish your body the most. That’s why it’s crucial to find food that’s good for you that you’ll love to eat and to cook. These three easy, healthy recipes for dinner make that possible. 

Hungry For More?

If you’re looking for more simple, delicious dinner ideas, why not check out our barbecue chicken recipe? It’s just as easy and packed with flavor.  

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