These no-recipe meals are simple, family friendly, and many can easily be made vegan, gluten-free, or low-carb!
So, whether you are looking for dinner ideas for your weekly meal plan, or you’re wondering what to cook for dinner tonight, there is something on this list for everyone!
No-recipe dinners are those go-to meals that don’t require a cookbook or a google search. They are simple, time-saving meals that are infinitely better (and healthier) than take-out. But they don’t require a ton of thought or exotic ingredients.
And they are perfect for busy families on busy weekends. Or on those weeknights when everything seems to be happening at once.
I like to keep most of our family meals simple, frugal, and healthy. And mostly homemade, whenever possible. These yummy, no-recipe required dinner ideas check all the boxes!
What are some of YOUR go-to no-recipe dinner ideas? I would love it if you would share your favorites in the comments when you reach the bottom of this post.
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1) Cheesy Baked Chicken Marinara
Take baked chicken breast up a notch by topping it with marinara sauce prior to cooking. You get SERIOUS bonus points here if you pound the chicken ahead of time (I use this tenderizer) to make it yummy and tender.
Top with shredded cheese and grated parmesan for the last few minutes of baking time. This is a family fave!
Sides: salad, roasted or steamed garlicky green beans
For even more simple dinner ideas and a printable list, see: 100+ Simple Family Meals To Make For Dinner
2) Oven Nachos
Oven nachos are simply tortilla chips topped with pre-cooked meats (we like beef or chicken), shredded cheese, salsa or whatever topping you prefer.
Nachos can be baked on a large cookie sheet at 350° until the cheese is bubbly (just a few minutes!) and then served with sour cream or guacamole on the side.
Sides: salad, baked beans
3) Chicken and Bacon Ranch Wraps
This is a super easy meal with chicken you have already cooked and pre-shredded. Just take soft tortillas or wraps, top with the chicken, cooked bacon, cheese and preferred toppings.
Warm a bunch at one time on a large baking sheet in the oven, or serve cold. Top with ranch dressing or salsa.
Roll ‘em up and enjoy!
Sides: applesauce, steamed broccoli
4) Taco Salad
Taco salad is another fast (and fun!) dinner that covers all the major food groups and can be customized to everyone’s individual tastes. Ingredients are simple and can be prepared ahead of time.
We have used ground beef, ground turkey, and shredded chicken and like them all. But, you could easily do this on a “meatless” night as a vegan dish.
Simplify this dish EVEN MORE by purchasing already prepared guacamole and shredded lettuce, tortilla strips, diced veggies… for nights when you really need dinner to be quick and easy.
Sides: refried beans
5) Olive Oil Pasta with Roasted Veggies
This simple dish is made by tossing cooked pasta (we like this one for a gluten-free option) with olive oil and fresh herbs or Italian seasoning.
Add salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese to taste (this seasoning is a yummy dairy free alternative).
Top seasoned pasta with the roasted veggies and serve up using tongs (the veggies will naturally sort of mix in with the pasta).
This dish is super yummy with oven roasted zucchini and tomatoes, but we have enjoyed it with broccoli or mixed frozen veggies as well.
6) Loaded Baked Potatoes
Scrumptious baked potatoes filled with melty cheese, crispy bacon, sour cream, butter, chives? Yes, please!
Or go vegan with all veggie toppings. Broccoli is a favorite here!
Whatever toppings you choose, loaded baked potatoes are always a hit. And, they can be customized to your liking!
I like the convenience of cooking my potatoes in my Instant Pot. But, they can be roasted in the oven, slow-cooked in your Crock-Pot, or even steamed in the microwave.
TIP: We also enjoy this variation on baked potatoes: Peel and cut chunks of white or golden potatoes and steam them in the Instant Pot. They can be plated right from the Instant Pot and everyone can top them the way they like.
7) Spaghetti Marinara
Combine cooked pasta with a jar or two of your favorite marinara sauce. And, BOOM! Dinner is served.
Want to make this meal a little more exciting?
Here are a few TIPS to fancy up that saucy pasta and give it some pizazz:
- Add ground meat (beef, turkey).
- Put the cooked pasta in a casserole dish. Top with sauce and cheese. Then bake in the oven until the cheese is melty. Baked Spaghetti!
- Add roasted zucchini, sauteed spinach, or other favorite veggies.
- Served topped with slices of grilled or roasted chicken.
- Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Quesadillas for dinner are definitely a fave here! They are so fast and simple to make, especially if you use pre-made tortillas.
You can make delicious quesadillas by topping soft flour tortillas with cooked chicken or beef, shredded cheese, and other fillings. Warm on skillet until the cheese is melty. Using a spatula, fold the tortilla over and to make a half-circle.
Next, remove the quesadilla from the skillet and slice into triangles of yummy gooey goodness.
Serve warm quesadillas with sour cream and/or salsa.
TIP: For a faster, and less labor-intensive way to cook multiple quesadillas, place soft tortillas on a large baking sheet. Top tortillas with your fillings, and place in a 375°F oven until they are just starting to get warm.
Add another tortilla on top of the warm fillings, and return the baking sheet to the oven.
Remove from the oven when the quesadilla is warmed through and the tortillas are just slightly browned.
9) Tortilla Pizza
Or English muffin pizza, or bagel pizza… either way, they’re so fun and easy! French bread pizza is another option.
But, we especially like the way flour tortillas get super crispy and crackery around the edges when they are baked.
Top your tortillas with marinara, pizza sauce, or pesto. Then sprinkle shredded cheese, veggies, whatever you love!
Bake on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet in a 375°f oven until the cheese is melty and the tortillas are beginning to brown around the edges.
TIP: Assemble these ahead of time and store in the fridge or freezer for a fast meal or snack on a busy day! Just take them out and pop them in the oven when you’re ready.
10) Pulled BBQ Sandwiches
Another easy favorite around here is barbecue made from chicken, pork, or other meats that have been cooked in the Instant Pot.
You can shred or chop the cooked meat by hand. Or, you can do what I do and place medium sized chunks of meat, along with bbq sauce, in your food processor. Give it a few pulses until it reaches the texture that you’re going for.
The meat and sauce get mixed up nicely with the food processor method, and you can achieve a “minced” texture this way. But if you like larger pieces, just give it fewer whirs around in the food processor.
11) Tuna or Salmon Salad Melts
Top your favorite bread with tuna or salmon salad and cheese (cheddar or pepper jack are good). Bake in a 350 degree oven until the cheese is melty.
We think these are best when made with English muffins, but you can do them with hamburger buns, pitas, or whatever bread you have available.
Leave them open face, and serve with chips, veggie sticks or sliced apples for a fast, yummy meal.
TIP: For a low-carb option, put your tuna or salmon salad directly on a plate and melt the cheese over it without using bread. Yum!
12) Scrambled Eggs, Bacon or Sausage, and Toast
#1 on my husband’s list for a satisfying meal would be this “breakfast for dinner” combo. Serve with fresh or canned fruit on the side to make this simple dinner something that the whole family enjoys!
TIP: Go meatless! And simplify this meal idea even more by making open-faced scrambled egg melts.
13) Egg Fried Rice
This is the simplest, albeit nontraditional, way of making fried rice super fast!
I start this dish by sauteing mixed frozen veggies in a wok or skillet with a little oil until they start to soften. Next, I crack three or four eggs into the veggies and stir while on medium heat until the eggs are cooked and sort of “scrambled” throughout the veggies.
Then, the veggie and egg mixture gets tossed with cooked rice, coconut aminos and/or soy sauce, a little garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.
Egg rice also makes a great side dish!
14) Buttered Noodles with Steamed Broccoli
Buttered noodles seem to always be a hit with little kids, but big kids love them too!
And, it’s one of the easiest “no-recipe” meals to make!
We like to add a splash of lemon juice, garlic (fresh or powder), and parsley to ours. Top with or serve beside steamed broccoli, carrots, or whatever veggies you love.
You can also add sliced grilled chicken on top for added protein. Delish!
Tacos need no introduction. They’re a win. Every time!
And, since the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time, they can be a fast and simple meal when you don’t have a ton of time to get dinner on the table.
TIP: Instant Pot Chicken is PERFECT for tacos. Batch cook it ahead of time and keep it in the freezer for quick prep on taco night! The same goes for ground beef or turkey.
WARNING: This is NOT a low-carb friendly tip. But, you can really stretch your “taco dollar” by adding rice and/or beans to the meat filling.
My family actually thinks they are yummier this way. And, it allows me to use half the meat than I normally would!
16) Baked Cod with Lemon Butter
Cod is a versatile fish that lends itself to many different flavors and seasonings. But, lemon butter cod is so simple and delicious. And it’s a great place to start if you aren’t experienced with cooking fish.
Arrange cod fillets in a large glass casserole dish or baking sheet. Pour melted butter and lemon juice over the fillets.
Sprinkle salt and pepper to your liking. You can also add garlic powder or other seasonings that you enjoy.
Bake at 375°F until the internal temperature of the fish reaches 145°F, or until thickest part of the filet is white and flaky and no longer translucent.
We like to serve asparagus and gluten-free cornbread with our fish dinner.
TIP: Always buy the freshest fish available. Same day caught or flash frozen is best.
TIP 2: Line your baking sheet with parchment paper or foil for easy clean-up.
17) Rice Bowls
Rice bowls can be made a zillion different ways. Basically, the idea is to add your favorite cooked veggies and meats to a generous bowl of cooked rice.
I always cook my rice in the Instant Pot. It just comes out perfect every time and I don’t have to babysit it on the stove top
Jasmine rice is my family’s favorite for the taste, texture, and fast cooking time.
Rice Bowl Add-in Ideas:
- Cooked Broccoli
- Instant Pot Chicken
- Ground Beef or Turkey
- Cooked Onions or Peppers
- Wilted Greens
- Mixed Frozen Veggies
- Seasoned Steak Bites
- Pineapple and Cashews
- Cooked Egg
- Beans & Corn
TIP: Use quinoa in place of rice for a higher protein dish.
I would love it if you would share YOUR favorite no-recipe required meals in the comments below!
Don’t forget to add these no-recipe dinner ideas to your master list for faster meal prep and planning! Find your free meal master list printable here: How To Make Meal Planning Easy With A Dinner Master List
Looking for more simple dinner ideas? I gotcha covered! 100+ Simple Family Meals To Make For Dinner
Love these no-cook dinner ideas Kim!! Thanks for sharing them. I know I’ll be using them soon, especially during the summer when I need some quick and easy meals like these.
You’re so welcome Diana! It really is great o have go-to quick meals in the Summertime!
We often have a hybrid of tacos/ quesadillas- I take soft taco sized flour tortillas, fill half, fold them over and pan-fry them like quesadillas. I don’t know what to call them- maybe fried tacos?
“Fried tacos” sounds good to me! I know my family would love those – thanks so much for the idea!!!
The salmon melt was new to me, I’m definitely going to try it!
Yes, give it a try! I hope you enjoy it 🙂
Rice bowls sounds much more appetizing when I see your picture, planning to add that to our menu rotation.
I’m so glad!
Our rice bowls are generally pretty basic, but once in awhile we make them pretty 🙂
Thanks for your comment!
Ooh, I am starving now I have read this and looked at your fabulous pictures! Great ideas.
It’s hard not to get hungry when looking for dinner ideas, right? Thanks for the kind remark 🙂