19 super easy meal ideas from readers' go-to recipe files

easy lunch & dinner ideas
Tuscan white bean and quinoa salad from Kelley & Cricket

Back in the summer, we featured a call-out to readers for their favorite super-easy breakfasts and you delivered. We even featured a whole roundup of reader-submitted breakfast recipes here. You didn't just give us great brekky recipes, though. You also gave us a ton of awesome lunch and dinner ideas, too! Let's face it, we're also tired after work, amirite? I've divided them into categories: grains and stuff, easy pastas, salads and greens, and sandwiches and toasts.

There are a lot of super easy meal ideas to be had here. More recipes can be found here if you want to expand your recipe haul. But if not, prepare to be inundated with delectable easy meal ideas from your fellow readers that will have you throwing noodles, greens, and bread into your gob in no time.

Grains & stuff

My favorite simple grain dish is quinoa with arugula and white beans, with a simple tahini lemon dressing that takes me 60 seconds to whip up. I feel like you're probably going to read that and say "oh too many weird ingredients and too much work", but if you just buy some cans of beans, a box of quinoa, a jar of tahini, and a bottle of lemon juice, then your pantry is stocked. The only thing you have to buy more often because it needs to be fresh is the arugula. – Alysssa

Make polenta, stir in a shit ton of cheddar or goat cheese and (a) some frozen peas OR (b) just put an egg on it (fried capers are amazing with this one, if you've got the time). – JM

My go to lazy dinner (with many leftovers for lunches): Couscous topped with salad greens and roasted sweet potatoes with a drizzle of Annie's Green Goddess Dressing. Sometimes when I am not wanting to turn on the oven, I do a microwave baked sweet potato instead of roasting them. – Keren

easy lunch & dinner ideas
Sweet potato & quinoa chili from The Simple Veganista

Cook up some quinoa and sweet potato (bite-size pieces, also you can substitute other orange veg like carrot or butternut squash) in some veggie stock. When cooked, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, some tomato puree, a couple of tins of beans (black beans work really well, as do aduki, but any would be fine, and lentils could probably be used too) and all the flavouring — garlic and onion (dried if you can't be bothered to chop and fry!), whatever herbs you have, cumin, paprika, and salt, pepper, and chili powder to taste. The original recipe doesn't use it but a bit of creamed coconut would probably go well too. Once all that's heated through, it's ready. It's so simple and easy I've cooked it in one big pot over a campfire for 20 people. – Cat

Easy pastas

Cooked pasta (I like rotini for this recipe) topped with chopped tomato, lettuce, and sliced deli ham. Then tossed with (bottled) Italian dressing. I got this recipe from the Poor Girl Eats Well, except she used smoked salmon instead of ham (and maybe she used a fancier dressing?). You could also substitute cooked chicken breast, canned beans (like chick peas), hard-boiled egg, or sliced egg omelet. Or substitute cucumber for the lettuce, etc. No cooking needed other than for the pasta which only requires boiling water. Pretty easy and delish! – Gramercy

Cooked pasta topped with olive oil, garlic powder (fry up some minced fresh garlic if you have it, though), and Parmesan cheese (yeah, the stuff from the shaker, or leftover packets from pizza deliveries). Then add sliced cherry/grape tomatoes and chopped green onion, if you have them. It's incredibly delicious, and very simple. You can also add red pepper flakes. – donteatmenooo

easy lunch & dinner ideas
Summer Squash Ribbons with Sage and Manchego from Heather Goesch

My beloved flatmate and I used to have a joking name for our bowl recipes: Pasta With Things! Especially in high summer, one of my favorites is this: throw together minced garlic (a couple of cloves), fresh tomatoes, and if possible fresh herbs to taste. If you're feeling fancy, add chopped zucchini. Add liberal quantity of fresh ground black pepper, drizzle the whole thing with extra virgin olive oil, and let sit — either for a whole afternoon, or for as long as it takes pasta to boil, but the longer the better. Then boil your pasta water, cook and drain pasta, throw delicious tomato mixture on top, add optional cheese (because who doesn't like cheese?).

I also recently found this recipe for summer squash ribbons, which I love.

easy lunch & dinner ideas
Bruschetta pasta salad

Pasta salads are great "bowl food." My fave go to is 1 red onion chopped, 1 red pepper chopped, half a cucumber chopped, a handful of fresh basil (shredded), vinaigrette, chickpeas (1 can), and pasta of your choice. Mix and serve cold. Sometimes I add nuts depending on my mood. – Elisa

Delish salads & greens

easy lunch & dinner ideas
Vegetarian Taco Salad from The Country Cook

My favorite easy bowl is kind of like a deconstructed vegetarian taco salad. Black beans (from a can), rice, tomatoes, black olives, shredded cheddar, avocado and/or sour cream, salsa, and a few tortilla chips crumbled on top. – Clevelandkat

My go-to easy lunch that I make about once a week is a collard greens and black-eyed peas concoction. The only fresh produce I need is collard greens. And to wash it, I use this AWESOME spin top-esque salad spinner. It actually makes washing greens fun! For the rest of the ingredients, I use frozen, pre-chopped onions, a can of black-eyed peas, and a jar of minced garlic. Here's the recipe I use. – Angelle

easy lunch & dinner ideas
Homemade maple curry vinaigrette dressing

Greek salad. Chop up cucumbers so they fit on a fork, some tomatoes, either chopped or buy the little ones. Feta, a lot or a little to taste tossed on top (mozzarella is also good). Olives, (if you like olives, I love olives so it's about half olives, and I put like three kinds on it!)

The dressing can be fancy or not. Vinegar (whatever kind you got) and a little oil drizzled on is where I start, with some black pepper, maybe basil one night, maybe oregano, lemon juice, any combination works. It's different every time I make it. – BBee

Sandwiches & toasts

easy lunch & dinner ideas
Avocado toast with egg and paprika

Avocado and fried egg on toast. Turn on stove burner and crack egg into a skillet. Put a slice of bread in toaster on 4-minute setting. While those cook, cut and mash up half an avocado. When the toast pops up, flip the egg over and take the pan off heat to finish cooking. Spread the avocado on the toast and dot with hot sauce. Move egg to top. – Alissa

Ciabatta bread spread with goat cheese, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with dried basil, slices of tomato on top. Then put it under the broiler for a few minutes. – Alissa

easy lunch & dinner ideas
Avocado & tomato toast from Genius Kitchen
easy lunch & dinner ideas
Toasted cheese from Food52

More easy meal ideas:

  1. Mac and Cheese is my easy meal. No roux necessary.
    Boil pasta, drain. Get some shredded cheese–I like a mix of 3/4 sharp cheddar and 1/4 Guyare (found some on sale at Aldi and stocked up….freezes ok). Layer pasta cheese and a few pats of butter and a couple dashes of salt if you want. I usually do about 4 layers, but you could do just two. Pour about 1 cup of milk in (if you're doing higher layers, maybe about 1/2 a cup if you're only doing 2). Bake at least at 350, but I've gone up to 425 if I am roasting veggies. bake for 25 or so minutes, you'll know when it's done.

    2 agree
  2. Get yourself some frozen rice from Trader Joe's. Get yourself a jar of kimchi. Thaw that rice and then throw it in a pan with some sesame oil. Let it get a little crispy. Toss on a little soy sauce. Mix it up. Take it off the heat and dump in as much of that tasty kimchi as you like. Chuck it in a bowl and throw a fried egg on top. Drizzle with a little bit more sesame oil. Boom, you've got my absolute favorite lunch. I really could eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner any and every day of the week.

    4 agree
    • Mmmmmmm I'm so on that train – love me some kimchi fried rice with a fried egg! Breakfast of champions!

      1 agrees
  3. Start with kale. Bagged, ready-to-use kale is fine. Sautee with olive oil, salt, garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. When thoroughly wilted, add a can of drained chickpeas and heat through. Serve over couscous. Top with Parmesan or similar, and a squeeze of lemon if you happen to have some.

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