34 Healthy Dinner Recipes Perfect for Beginner Cooks

For some, “cooking” means boiling water for instant ramen. For others, the mere thought of turning on a stove sends them running to the phone to order takeout.

If you fall into either group, you’re in the right place. Sure, making your own meals—and healthy ones to boot—can seem like a lot of work, but rest assured, it’s nowhere near as difficult as you think. Plus, it’s often much cheaper than ordering in or going out.

To help you get started, we found 34 quick and healthy meals from around the web that keep the equipment and clean-up to a minimum (no fancy blenders or food processors needed!).

Pasta

1. Bruschetta Pasta

Turn a popular appetizer into your main meal with this super easy pasta. You don’t even need a pan to make it! Simply combine the ingredients in a bowl once the linguine and tomatoes have boiled. With so few components, the key is to make sure each item—whether it’s the olive oil or the Parmesan cheese—is high quality. Bonus: Using raw extra virgin olive oil maximizes antioxidant intake.

2. Creamy Greek Yogurt Mac and Cheese

It’s the ultimate comfort food and extremely convenient, but let’s be honest: The stuff from that iconic blue and yellow box isn’t doing you any nutritional favors. If it’s easy and cheesy you’re after, look no further than this homemade dish. Some of the cheddar gets replaced by Greek yogurt, keeping the protein count up, and it boasts spinach for added color and fiber. Did we mention it takes just 10 minutes to throw together?

3. Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

You don’t have to only enjoy pumpkin only around Halloween or Thanksgiving. Packed with eyesight-aiding beta-carotene and fiber, it’s a healthy choice any time of year. Canned pumpkin makes this pasta sauce a cinch to whip together. Seasoned with just a few pantry staple spices and poured on top of your favorite pasta, it’s the lower-cholesterol (not to mention super affordable) answer to Alfredo.

4. One-Pot Pasta Primavera

Whether you’re a total novice or simply a lazy cook, this recipe is your ticket to a low-maintenance meal. Most of the ingredients (there are less than 10!), including the uncooked spaghetti, get dumped into a skillet to simmer until the liquids evaporate. A handful of peas and spinach are stirred in to pump the dish with iron. How’s that for minimal effort and maximum flavor?

5. Fresh and Easy Avocado Pasta

You don’t need a food processor to purée the avocados into silky smoothness. In this recipe, a fork is a more-than-adequate alternative. Use one to roughly mash the seasoned avocado, then toss the heart-healthy green flesh with the pasta so it clings to each noodle—no butter, oil, or cream needed!

6. Garlic Roasted Vegetable Pasta

The only real work you have to do here is stick a pan of produce in the oven and boil some pasta—easy enough, right? Plus, the roasted sweetness from the veggies, coupled with the flavors of 12 whopping cloves of garlic (talk about getting in your antioxidants!), is enough to make this spaghetti totally slurp-worthy without the need for a separate sauce.

7. Pasta Arrabiata

Arrabiata translates to “angry,” a nod to the liberal dusting of fiery chili flakes in this recipe. But we think you’ll be more relieved than riled up with one look at the ridiculously short ingredient list and easy instructions. Cherry tomatoes, which actually have more vision-promoting lutein than regular tomatoes, sautéed in garlic and olive oil are all you need for the sauce. It’ll be ready by the time your pasta cooks!

healthy-essentials-man-cooking

Stir-Fries

8. Chickpea and Vegetable Stir-Fry

Not a usual sighting in Asian-inspired stir-fries, chickpeas get some much-need attention in this colorful blend. Soaking up the sweet and savory soy-based sauce, the legumes give the dish some vegetarian protein—without resorting to the usual tofu—along with some complex gluten-free carbohydrates. Whether you choose to eat it over rice or on its own, you’ll be perfectly satisfied either way.

9. Sweet and Spicy Shrimp and Zucchini Stir-Fry

With one main vegetable, one protein, and just two types of seasoning other than salt and pepper, this is as straightforward as stir-fries get. That’s not to say it’s boring, though! Zucchini and shrimp make a unique pair, providing potassium and iodine, respectively. Add as much or as little chili sauce as you want, and you’ve got dinner that looks, tastes, and is better for you than any takeout dish.

10. Sweet Sriracha Easy Chicken Stir-Fry

A note for beginner cooks: Butter has taken a backseat, and now it’s Sriracha that makes everything better (including sinus problems and blood pressure). A tablespoon of everyone’s favorite chili sauce goes a long way to spice up this quick stir-fry—and we really mean quick! Once the chicken is cooked, the greens barely need to touch the pan to soften without getting soggy, meaning it takes minutes, if not seconds, to come together.

11. Easy Weeknight Vegetable Stir-Fry

While many stir-fries are served on top of plain rice, this recipe puts the unrefined brown kind (for more fiber) right into the pan, so it can absorb all the savory flavors from the soy sauce. Other than that, the hardest part of this recipe is chopping the veggies—so really, not hard at all!

12. Italian Style Stir-Fry

Take a break from Asian seasonings and try out this Italian take on the stir-fry. It’s the perfect introduction to healthy cooking, showing how easy it is to “eat the rainbow” and reap the nutritional benefits of the mantra. Whether it’s the vitamin C from the bright bell peppers or immunity-protecting compounds of the green broccoli, both your eyes and belly will appreciate the dish. Mangia!

13. Chicken Soba Noodle Stir-Fry

Ready in less than five minutes, soba isn’t just one of the fastest-cooking noodles out there. Comprised mostly of the cholesterol-lowering whole grain buckwheat, it’s also a great source of fiber. Try it out in this super easy stir-fry, where it joins chicken, broccoli, and a few pantry essentials you probably already have on hand for a one-pan wonder that will be ready to devour in less than half an hour.

14. Rainbow Vegetable Noodle Stir-Fry

Chop veggies, whisk sauce, boil noodles, and mix them all together—that’s all you need to do to make this addictive bowl. Just a tablespoon of peanut butter (choose an all-natural kind to avoid those hydrogenated oils) gives the dish more depth of flavor than just using regular soy sauce, proving that even a simple addition can make a world of difference when it comes to easy, flavorful cooking.

Soups and Stews

15. 30-Minute Tuscan White Bean and Kale Soup

Creamy soups are decadent and wonderful, but there’s something to be said for the comfort of a brothy bowl brimming with chopped vegetables. This superfood-filled version features sweet potatoes, kale (for some serious antioxidant action), and a can of cannellini beans—a convenient way to pack in some meatless protein and iron.

16. Easy Minestrone Soup

Minestrone is a must-have in anyone’s culinary repertoire. This recipe has fewer ingredients than many out there while being just as hearty and tasty. Frozen mixed veggies, canned beans, and ready-made low-sodium broth make the prep stress free, so that all you really have to do is sauté the onion and carrots for the first five minutes. Easy peasy.

17. Corn off the Cob Soup

This soup leaves hefty chunks of potato and kernels of corn intact so you can appreciate their individual sweet and starchy flavors in every bite. Plus, leaving them as is means you don’t need an immersion blender—a tool that can be pretty intimidating for first-time soup makers.

18. Mom’s Simple Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ready-made rotisserie chicken and a can of seasoned crushed tomatoes make this boldly spiced tortilla soup a breeze to assemble. But the simple recipe doesn’t skimp on flavor. It features all the usual suspects of a classic tortilla soup—garlic, chips (opt for an all-natural baked kind to avoid weird ingredients), and of course, all your favorite toppings—from avocado cubes to sprinkles of shredded cheese.

19. Easy Chickpea Noodle Soup

Don’t wait until you’re sick to make this meatless take on the classic chicken noodle soup. This recipe will give you just as many—if not more—warm and fuzzies as the original, not only because the 10 ingredients are so easy to whip together (no need to cook the noodles separately!), but also because the vitamin B6 in chickpeas has been known to have mood-boosting benefits.

20. Smoky Red Lentil Stew

The super-affordable, fastest-cooking lentils are a must in any first-time cook’s pantry. Here, the red guys simmer along with a handful of sautéed vegetables and basic spices to become a thick, spicy, satisfying stew that boils down to a mere 62 cents per serving! Who said healthy eating had to be expensive?

Skillets and Casseroles

21. Easy Macaroni Casserole

This recipe doesn’t compromise on the gooey, cheesy, carby goodness of a traditional macaroni casserole. Ground turkey adds more lean protein, a few cups of chopped veggies bring in vitamins, and whole-wheat pasta amps up the fiber count to 5 grams per serving, making this version healthier and just as satisfying.

22. Skinny Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

If you’re brand new in the kitchen and need a familiar dish to ease your way into cooking, try this healthier version of cheesy chicken and broccoli. The microwavable, steam-in-a-bag greens save you an extra step (and pot to wash), so all that’s left to do is cook the chicken and veggies in a lower-cholesterol roux (skim milk and non-fat Greek yogurt for the win!). Bake the mix for just 20 minutes before you want to dig into dinner.

23. Vegetarian Quinoa Skillet

We can’t get over how pretty this skillet is! Essentially nothing but sautéed vegetables and grains, it’s all the colors—from the chlorophyll in the broccoli to the carotenoids in the sweet potatoes—that make it so fun to look at. With less than 10 main ingredients, it’s simple enough to make on a busy weeknight but good-looking enough to serve at a dinner party.

24. One-Pan Baked Chicken and Brown Rice Casserole

This dish takes longer to cook than others, but we promise the end results are worth the wait. Also, given that it spends about 65 of the total 80 minutes in the oven, the actual work involved is minimal. Everything cooks in the casserole pan itself—no sautéing beforehand, barely any clean-up afterward—and you can still take all the credit for how amazing it tastes.

25. 20-Minute Taco Salad Casserole

A blanket of cheese is always a good start, but as with all things, it’s what’s on the inside (of the cassserole) that really counts: all the fixins for a classic taco! Make a few healthy tweaks by using lean ground meat and lard-free refried beans, and you’ve got a pretty nutritious meal. Plus, unlike regular tacos, which can be a pain to put together one by one, this casserole layers the ingredients, so you get all the flavors in a single bite without the assembly work.

26. Turkey and Vegetable Skillet

If you want to include more veggies in your diet but don’t want to give up on meat entirely, this recipe is a great way to get the best of both worlds. Lean ground turkey gives you the protein you crave, while a variety of chopped fresh produce (mixed with cheese for maximum yum) cooks in 20 minutes.

27. Vegetable Frittata

The directions in the handy video for this incredible egg-filled skillet recipe are more of a general guide, since the possibilities for ingredients are endless. Choose whichever vegetables you have on hand and your favorite cheese (or none at all to keep this dairy-free).

Salads

28. Winter Wilted Kale Salad

If you’ve never used kale before, this recipe is a great way to start. Lightly sautéing the antioxidant-boasting leafy green with garlic removes some of its peppery bite, while a sprinkling of dried cranberries sweetens things up. Pour tangy Dijon dressing over the top and take a taste—you’ll see why kale is such a superstar.

29. Simple Summer Roasted Vegetable Salad

Just like its name suggests, this salad is super easy. It’s composed mostly of vegetables (feel free to make it with your favorite) that need nothing but some time in the oven to crisp and char to juicy perfection. The hands-on time here is minimal: Just sprinkle on some feta, basil, and olive oil for some added easy-to-digest protein and herby freshness.

30. Easy Salad Niçoise

Yes, it’s possible to get fancy with a French salad even when you’re a beginner! Making a Niçoise is much simpler than you think. Just boil some eggs, baby potatoes, and haricots verts (a dressed-up name for thin green beans); crack open a can of tuna; and drizzle on a simple olive oil dressing for a last-minute, well-rounded dinner that tastes anything but half-baked.

31. Salmon and Spinach Quinoa Salad

It’s advertised as the “perfect pregnancy lunch,” but you don’t need to be growing a tiny human to enjoy this incredible salad (which you can also make for dinner). It’s chock-full of superfoods like quinoa, salmon, and avocado, and the ingredients are so creamy and flavorful, you don’t even need to bother making a dressing.

32. Sweet Potato, Corn, and Feta Salad

This salad relies on robust root veggies and corn to create a fiber-filled and satisfying main meal. A crumble of feta over the top is more than just color contrast—it provides the protein for the dish. A light drizzle of lemon olive oil dressing checks off the healthy fat box.

33. California Cobb Salad

A healthier spin on the traditional, high-fat Cobb salad, this version kills it in the moderationdepartment. Iceberg and romaine lettuce are swapped with spinach for more vitamin K, but the cheese crumbles and bacon slices remain. Once the ingredients are assembled, it’s just a matter of tossing them together before dinner’s on the table.

34. Chickpea and Spinach Salad

Transform a can of chickpeas into a refreshing salad in mere minutes with the simple additions of olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper. Chopped baby spinach leaves give each bean a folate-filled hug, while bell peppers lend a pop of color and crunch to the protein-rich legumes. Stuff the salad in a pita or eat it by the bowlful—it’s satisfying either way!

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