After a long day, sometimes the last thing you want to do is cook dinner. Before you order takeout, or subject yourself to leftovers for the umpteenth time, we’ve got another idea. These 30-minute meals are healthy, easy to cook and varied enough to address your every craving. We’ve got Asian-inspired dishes, seafood and vegetarian options — and most importantly, tacos. Did we mention that many of these dinners actually take less than 30 minutes to pull together?
What’s more, these dinners are all low-calorie enough that you could probably justify a glass of wine on the side — and maybe even dessert, too. Stash the menus, turn on some music and prepare yourself for the easiest half-hour of cooking you’ve ever done. (Vegetarians, be sure to scroll down for plenty of meatless options.)
30-Minute Meals for Meat Eaters
1. Miso Glazed Salmon Recipe with Snap Peas
If you’ve ever ordered up a miso-glazed dish at a fancy restaurant, we bet you’d be surprised to know how simple it is to prepare. Just a few minutes under the broiler is all it takes for the pink fish to cook in its sweet-and-savory sauce. Prepare to impress yourself — and maybe some guests — with your cooking skills.
2. Healthy Pork Lettuce Wraps Recipe
Before you order Chinese, it’s worth noting that these lettuce wraps will probably be ready faster than your food would even arrive. Topped with low-sodium soy and plum sauce, you’ll get all the great taste of takeout, without the bloat factor.
RELATED: Crispy Oven “Fried” Chicken Recipe
3. Steak and Cauliflower Potatoes with Sautéed Spinach Recipe
Prep a whole steak dinner in just 22 minutes? Believe it. These super lean top sirloins only need to be cooked for three to six minutes per side. Not to mention that this cheesy, garlicky cauliflower mash can be whipped up in way less time than it takes to mash potatoes.
4. Quick and Easy Taco Salad Recipe
Your hearty salad will be ready faster than you can say, “Yo quiero Taco Bell.” (Well, almost.) In just 10 minutes, you’ll be staring down a steaming plate of lean ground beef, cheese, baked tortilla chips and all the other good stuff that makes tacos so loveable. At less than 500 calories a serving, we won’t tell if you decide to add a spoonful of guacamole on top, too.
5. Mac and Cheese Scrambled Eggs Recipe
The best of both worlds: Scrambled eggs and mac and cheese become one in this lightened up meal chock full of your favorite comfort foods. Despite how sinful it looks, you’ll only find about one ounce of cheese per serving. Take things to the next level by adding turkey bacon and hot sauce to the mix. Sounds like the perfect post-happy hour dinner to us.
6. Quinoa and Shrimp Grits Recipe
By cutting the butter and swapping some of the cheese usually found in grits for nonfat yogurt, this bowl full of Southern goodness gets a healthy makeover. Add a dose of green to your dinner by mixing in four cups of nutrient-packed Swiss chard (some people are saying it’s — gasp — the new kale).
7. Kale Chicken Caesar Salad Recipe
Say adios to croutons and welcome crispy chickpeas to the top of your salad, instead. That’s just one way this plate of greens is different from the Caesar salads you might be used to. Get even crazier by adding hearts of palm, apples and kale (as opposed to less nutrient-dense romaine).
8. Baked Tilapia with Radish Relish Recipe
Healthy food never looked so good. Tilapia is both high in protein and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation. Meanwhile, the radishes in your relish are known to aid digestion and eliminate toxins in the body. You might leave the table feeling better than you did when you sat down.
9. Grilled Pesto Salmon Kebabs Recipe
Did you know that pesto, minus pine nuts, equals fewer calories? These kebabs work well with shrimp or swordfish, too, so feel free to mix it up. Use your leftover spread on salads or sandwiches for the next day or two.
10. Grilled Fish Tacos Recipe
Fish tacos can be sinful if fried. But cook them in a skillet and you’ve got a plate with only 325 calories and 25 grams of protein. Sub tilapia for any other white flaky fish, if you’d like. Don’t forget the margarita, either.
11. Healthy Low-Carb BLT Recipe
We all know BLTs are all about the bacon, so why not scrap the bread? Wrap the good stuff up in lettuce, instead. Add in avocado and egg to give each bite a creamy texture, no mayo required.
12. Sesame Peanut Noodles
Grab your chopsticks. This easy Asian noodle dish is packed full of whole-wheat spaghetti, chicken, mushrooms, peppers, snow peas and zucchini. The sesame and peanut butter-based sauce imbues each bite with tons of flavor.
13. Steak with Chimichurri Sauce Recipe
The tangy chimichurri sauce atop lean steak keeps this red meat dish surprisingly light and refreshing. Need something more? Serve it with a side of sweet potato fries, if you’re in a meat-and-potatoes kind of mood.
14. Pear and Prosciutto Pizza Recipe
Restaurant pizza, meet your healthier cousin. Pop prosciutto (leaner than pepperoni), goat cheese, pear and arugula on top of a whole-wheat pizza crust at home. Slide it in the oven and you’ll have a sweet and savory pie in less than 30 minutes.
RELATED: 7 Delicious Low-Carb Pizza Recipes
15. Roasted Salmon with Cucumber Dill Yogurt
Make this your new go-to dish when you’re feeling rushed. It’s crazy easy to prepare (yes, even that creamy yogurt sauce) and makes an excellent source of vitamin D, vitamin B-12 and lean protein. Dinner. Is. Served.
16. Gazpacho Shrimp Salad Recipe
Shrimp may win the prize for being the fastest cooking source of protein. Just two minutes on the stove and they’re done. The spicy salad has all the great flavor of gazpacho, with none of the extra hours of prep time that the real soup requires.
17. Tequila Glazed Grilled Shrimp
Nothing livens up dinner quite like booze-infused cooking. Skewer some marinated shrimp on the grill, and top it with some mouthwatering tequila sauce to get the party started. Leftover liquor? We’ve got some ideas for that, too. (Try these 15 Cocktails Under 150 Calories).
30-Minute Meals for Vegetarians
18. Spring Green Detox Soup Recipe
Sick of salad but craving something light at the end of your day? This soup is a great way to satisfy your need for greens. Even better: Each sip might help facilitate your body’s natural ability to cleanse and detox. Keep in mind, you’ll need a blender for this one — but even a hand-held option will do!
19. Quinoa Mushroom Risotto Recipe
Risotto doesn’t have to mean hours slaving over the stove. Quinoa will give you the same texture in less time (and with less stirring). Mushrooms fortify your meal with vitamin D and iron, making this hearty combo a filling go-to for vegetarians.
20. Mexican Cauliflower Couscous Salad Recipe
Sub out real couscous for cauliflower to create a gluten-free entrée that’s also full of nutrients (like vitamins C and K). You can throw together this dish in just 15 minutes — and you’ll probably have plenty left over for lunch tomorrow, too.
21. Bulgur Greek Salad Recipe
No finely chopped ingredients here. This hearty salad contains juicy chunks of cucumber, tomato, olives and onions, and a helping of creamy feta cheese. Combine it with a base of bulgur wheat, and you get a salad that’s truly satisfying.
22. Vegetarian Black Bean Burgers Recipe
Whether you’re trying to cut back on saturated fats, or stick to a meat-free lifestyle, this black bean patty is the best substitute for a burger. Go ahead and make yours a double — there are only 115 calories in each three-ounce patty.
23. Corn, Black Bean and Quinoa Salad Recipe
Give your quinoa salad a south of the border twist. The combination of black beans and quinoa hooks this dish up with 12 grams of protein per serving. Cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice add extra mouth-watering flavor.
24. Raw Rainbow Collard Greens Wrap Recipe
Eat the rainbow (no, not Skittles) with this vibrantly colored lettuce wrap. Those collard greens offer up an array of nutrients, including vitamins A, C and K, making it a great source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. It’ll look pretty enough on your plate to be Instagram-worthy, too.
25. Healthier Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipe
Grilled cheese is the perfect solution when you need comfort food, fast. Here’s how to lighten up your sammie, with sprouted whole-grain bread (find out why sprouted grains are good for you here) and a serving of veggies.
26. Miso Vegetable Soup Recipe
This isn’t your average miso soup. Soba noodles, tons of chopped veggies and a hearty serving of tofu turn this from an appetizer into a main course. Miso is beneficial to the immune system; so whip it up next time you feel a cold coming on for added support.
27. Gluten-Free Protein Waffles Recipe
Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner? This recipe incorporates protein powder into the mix, to keep you fuller longer. There are only two grams of sugar per waffle, so go ahead and top yours off with a drizzle of maple syrup.
28. Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burrito Recipe
The complex carbs in this veggie-packed burrito will help stabilize your blood sugar, and the protein and fiber will keep you full until tomorrow morning. Plus, we guarantee you’ll feel better after eating this 220-calorie concoction than you would after eating a 1,000-calorie fast food burrito bomb.
29. Kale and Quinoa Superfood Salad
Salad for dinner can be a drag — but not when it looks as good as this. Veggies, mango, quinoa and a side of avocado come together for a super filling dinner — barely any cooking required.
30. Asparagus Ricotta Pizza Recipe
Turn pizza night into a DIY affair, with these pita-based pies that dinner guests can customize themselves. Folks who love white pizzas will go nuts for this sauce-less mix of ricotta cheese, asparagus, olive oil and red onion.
Originally posted April 2015. Updated March 2016.