Cooking our meals from scratch is an easy way to be more conscious about what we’re eating, cut down on artificial and processed ingredients, and save money. Plus, it can be relaxing.
But when you’re tired or need to make something quickly, spending ages sweating over a hot stove isn’t always appealing.
The good news is that there are all kinds of delicious and healthy dinners that can be whipped up in half an hour or less – and there’s something for every palate and preference.
1. Coconut fish curry
If you love the bold, fragrant flavours of Asian cuisine and enjoy eating seafood, this coconut fish curry recipe from BBC Good Food might be right up your street.
Though the ingredient list isn’t especially short, this is still an easy one-pot dish that takes 30 minutes to cook, and you can adapt the flavours to your own preferences. For example, you can add less chilli if you’re not a fan of spicy food.
Packed with Thai and Indian-inspired flavours, tender hake fillets, prawns, and creamy coconut milk, this is a warming and healthy dish that’s quick enough to knock up for a colourful midweek meal.
2. Halloumi and Mediterranean veg traybake
Most of us know that when it comes to staying healthy, we should ‘eat the rainbow’ and make sure we’re getting plenty of colourful fruit and veg.
This vibrant Mediterranean vegetable traybake by Olive is packed with red cherry tomatoes, purple onions, and vivid green courgettes – and the salty, squeaky halloumi adds a tasty protein fix. It’s flavoured with garlic, cumin, and chilli, and tastes just as good as it looks.
Because it’s a traybake, this is a simple dish to prepare – and when served with flatbread, hummus, and a dollop of hot sauce, it’s a pleasure to eat.
To find out more about the benefits of eating a Mediterranean diet, you might want to read our article on the subject.
3. One-pot chicken cacciatore
Cacciatore is a rustic Italian dish that’s an easy way to get lots of veg in. Cacciatore means ‘hunter’ in Italian, and though this dish is traditionally made with rabbit, it can be made with chicken.
This one-pot chicken cacciatore recipe by Delicious is quick and easy to make. Packed with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic, then cooked in red wine and fragrant herbs, it’s a healthy, comforting dish that can be whipped up in just 25 minutes.
While the recipe from Delicious suggests pairing your cacciatore with instant polenta, it also goes really well with pasta, rice, or quinoa.
4. Chilli-lime salmon with potatoes and peppers
Another one-pot recipe for fish fans is Eating Well’s chilli-lime salmon with potatoes and peppers. Because this recipe is all cooked together in a single sheet pan, it’s simple and fuss-free – and also saves on the washing up!
The potatoes take the longest to cook, so they go in first, followed by the sweet peppers, and finally, the chilli and lime-coated salmon fillets.
With a healthy mix of carbs, veggies, and protein, this is a well-balanced and flavoursome meal that’s perfect for when you don’t feel like standing over a stove!
To get ideas of other fish and seafood recipes, you might want to check out our list of 9 tasty fish recipes.
5. Light paneer curry
Paneer is a light, firm cheese that’s popular in Indian cooking – and while it’s mild tasting, the ginger, garlic, spices, and tomatoes in the sauce make sure that the dish is packed with flavour. The peas also add an extra protein boost.
Serve with white or brown rice – or quinoa, to make it even healthier. This is a gluten-free dish and if you’re vegan, you can easily swap the paneer chunks for tofu.
6. Seared scallops with white beans and spinach
If you find yourself hosting unexpected guests or need to cook a quick and easy dinner that’s also delicious and looks impressive, Eating Well’s seared scallops with white bean ragu and charred lemon recipe is ideal. Though this dish takes just 25 minutes to make, it’s got plenty of flavour.
Charring the lemons brings out their citrus flavour and gives the meal a slightly sweeter taste, which is perfectly offset by the salty scallops. The white beans are also cooked in stock and white wine, which gives them a lovely flavour.
When you’re buying scallops, try to choose ‘dry’ scallops. This means they’ve not been treated with phosphates and can be seared to perfection!
7. Tomato and pasta soup
For those days where you get home and realise you don’t have anything in the fridge, this delicious tomato and pasta soup by BBC Good Food is perfect.
It’s cheap, quick, healthy, low in fat, and can usually be made using ingredients you have in your cupboard, like tins of tomatoes, chickpeas, and dried pasta.
The recipe suggests orzo, but if you don’t have this at home, other small pasta shapes like ditalini, orecchiette, or macaroni work just as well. Serve with crusty bread and a dollop of basil pesto.
8. Sausage and fennel pasta
On a winter’s evening, enjoying a bowl of tomatoey pasta, succulent sausages, and warming spices is one of life’s unique culinary pleasures. And the good news is that these rich dishes don’t have to take long!
Jamie Oliver’s sausage and fennel pasta can be made in 30 minutes – though, due to the generous amounts of chilli, garlic, oregano, basil, and fennel, it’ll taste as though you’ve been working on it all afternoon.
Jamie suggests using high-welfare pork sausages and adding fresh basil at the end – though you could always swap the pork sausages for veggie ones to make a meat-free version.
9. Chicken and mushroom pie
Pies are one of the ultimate comfort foods – soft, flaky pastry encasing delicious savoury fillings that warm us up from the inside out.
If you love pies, you might want to try making Jamie Oliver’s quick chicken and mushroom pie. Using ready-to-roll pastry and a sauce made from creme fraiche, chicken stock, and mustard, it can be prepared in no time at all.
For maximum health points, serve with a side of greens, like spinach or broccoli. These can be quickly steamed while the pie is cooking in the oven.
Pie lovers might also want to read our article, 10 pie recipes from around the world, to find out how to make everything from Greek spanakopitas to Jamaican beef patties.
If you love Mexican food but think it’s something that can’t be prepared in under 30 minutes, think again!
Tacos are a great weeknight meal when you don’t have much time but want to eat something delicious, satisfying, and nutritious – and because they’re so versatile, you can make them with just about anything.
If you don’t have any fresh meat or fish in your fridge, you can use any tin of beans in the cupboard; these work well as a tasty taco filling and add lots of fibre.
11. Thai salad
Sometimes (especially when it’s warm outside) we might start craving something light and refreshing. When this mood strikes, why not whip up a Thai salad?
Channelling classic Southeast Asian flavours – such as chilli, coriander, sesame, and soy – this salad is the perfect mix of sweet and savoury.
Pinch of Yum has a 10-minute Thai salad with sesame garlic dressing recipe you might like to try.
12. Healthier veggie carbonara
If you’re a fan of creamy, indulgent pasta dishes, you might love tucking into a big bowl of spaghetti carbonara – but as delicious as it may be, this isn’t especially healthy. So why not make BBC Good Food’s healthier veggie carbonara?
Swapping the bacon or pancetta for mushrooms and courgettes is a healthier alternative – and flavoured with garlic, parsley, and lemon, the chances are, you won’t miss the meat.
To make this recipe gluten-free, simply use gluten-free spaghetti. Or, to make it fully plant-based, you can swap the eggs and cheese for a splash of oat cream and vegan cheese.
13. Fried rice
If you have leftover rice in the fridge, knocking up a fried rice dish is incredibly quick. Plus, despite its speed and simplicity, it’s almost always delicious!
Fried rice is also cheap to make and a great way to use up ingredients – whether it’s vegetables or meat that need eating, old frozen veg, or eggs that are about to reach their use-by-date.
This fried rice recipe from Well Plated uses frozen peas, carrots, red and yellow peppers, frozen edamame beans, eggs, and oyster sauce. And despite all this goodness, it’s ready in just 15 minutes.
Fried rice is really adaptable too. You can add chicken or tofu for extra protein, pretty much any vegetables you have lying around, and if you don’t eat eggs, then you can leave them out – just make sure you add plenty of sauce so it’s not dry!
14. Sesame-crusted tuna with miso dressing
If you’re in the mood for a meal that’s a little lighter – but just as tasty – why not try this sesame-crusted tuna with miso dressing recipe from Olive?
Tender tuna steaks are rolled in sesame seeds and served on a bed of crunchy sugar snap peas and edamame salad to make a meal that’s quick and simple, yet high in protein and nutrients.
For maximum health points – and extra taste – add some tomatoes, chillies, radishes, and fresh coriander to your edamame salad.
15. Greek turkey burgers with spinach & tzatziki
Most people enjoy a juicy burger every now and then – but unfortunately, many of us are aware that they’re generally not too healthy. So why not try these healthier Greek-inspired turkey burgers by Eating Well?
Turkey is usually lower in saturated fat than beef, and it’s also one of the lowest-calorie options around for meat burgers. This recipe also adds a refreshing twist to your typical burger by featuring crisp sliced cucumber, minty tzatziki, and creamy, salty feta.
If you don’t have tzatziki at home, you can easily make your own. Just mix Greek yoghurt with mint, garlic, lemon juice, and dill (if you have any). And to make a tasty vegetarian alternative, just swap the turkey burgers for veggie burgers.
A final dish for the seafood enthusiasts among us – paella! As one of Spain’s most famous dishes, paella is known for its incredibly fragrant flavours and cheerful yellow colour – and though it’s traditionally cooked slowly over an open flame, you can make a really tasty version in just half an hour.
This easy paella recipe from BBC Good Food uses a (defrosted) frozen seafood mix to save time, and once you add chorizo sausages, peas, and spices, you won’t be able to tell the difference!
Paella can be easily adapted to your own taste and diet preferences. For example, you might like to add different veggies, use chicken instead of chorizo, or make a meat-free version.
17. Lentil turmeric detox soup
If you feel like you’re in need of a bit of a detox, this lentil turmeric detox soup by Jar of Lemons can be prepared in under half an hour.
It’s packed with wholesome lentils, protein-rich chickpeas, and nutritious broccoli – and the turmeric broth is incredibly comforting.
This recipe uses only six ingredients (one of them being water) and takes just 15 minutes to make. Plus, if you have any other veg lying around – like spinach or courgette – you can add them in too for extra vitamins.
18. Healthy taco salad
If you love tacos but are trying to cut down on carbs (or just want to enjoy a lower-calorie alternative), you might want to make this healthy taco salad by Well Plated.
While it’s inspired by traditional taco ingredients – like meat, cheese, and beans – it’s much lighter and has the added benefit of being much easier to eat!
The turkey is high in protein, the beans and veg are packed with fibre, and the chilli, cumin, and garlic give it a tasty kick. What’s more: it’s ready in only 25 minutes.
To make a veggie version of this dish, just swap the turkey for tofu or a mock meat. Or, try this black bean taco salad recipe by Peas and Crayons, which also takes 25 minutes.
19. Creamy courgette lasagne
There are few people who don’t enjoy tucking into a plate of piping hot lasagne – and if you think this delicious dish can’t be prepared and cooked in under half an hour, think again!
This creamy courgette lasagne by BBC Good Food pre-cooks the lasagne sheets to save time, and because the sauce is made from veggies, cheeses, and jarred tomato sauce, it doesn’t take long to cook at all.
Though it only uses eight ingredients and takes 20 mins, this is a great dish to make if you find yourself with unexpected and hungry guests.
20. Naan pizza
Pizza is a go-to quick and easy dinner, whether that’s popping a frozen pizza in the oven or getting a takeaway. But, there are healthier options available which can satisfy your pizza cravings and be made at home. Why not try making Eating Well’s sausage and kale naan pizzas, which can be ready in just 20 minutes?
This recipe uses whole-grain naan breads for the pizza bases, but you can also use wholemeal pitta breads (although these have a slightly higher sodium level than naan).
While turkey meat and kale are used here, you can choose whatever toppings you most enjoy or already have at home – just make sure to include some protein and veg. These pizzas form a delicious and filling meal but typically have fewer calories than take-away or shop-bought pizzas.
We hope this list has proved that you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen or stirring countless pots to make delicious food from scratch.
Quick cooking doesn’t mean you have to compromise on taste or health. Plus, because this list is so diverse, there’ll hopefully be some recipes for every diet and taste preference!
While cooking can be relaxing and enjoyable, we’re not always in the mood to spend a long time in the kitchen – and the less time you spend cooking, the more time you can spend enjoying your meal!
For further recipe inspiration, why not check out the Food and drink section of our website, which has articles like, 14 healthy and easy vegetarian meals and 15 clean eating recipes that actually taste good?
Are you tempted by any of these quick meals? Do you have any delicious 30-minute recipes you’d like to share with our readers? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!