12 Deceptively Easy, Elegant, Healthy Dinner Recipes for Valentine’s Day

By Summer Rylander
|
February 7, 2022
scallops with edamame
Image credit: This Healthy Table

Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants. So instead of fussing over reservations and paying high prices for a prix fixe menu — a popular restaurant move during special occasions to help streamline kitchen processes — why not enjoy a quiet, relaxed Valentine’s Day with a healthy, home-cooked meal? You’ll save money, time, and you’ll know exactly what’s going into your food.

1. Velvety Beetroot Soup

Velvety Beetroot Soup

Image credit: Downshiftology

Are we really opening our Valentine’s Day dinner suggestions with a soup that is color-matched to the holiday? We sure are: This lovely beet soup not only makes for an impressive presentation with its vibrant pink-red hue, it also has a smooth, silky mouthfeel. Beets are nutrient-packed powerhouses and their earthy flavor provides a versatile canvas. On a regular weeknight, we’d top this soup with lots of freshly cracked black pepper and serve it with a big, herbaceous salad — but since this is Valentine’s Day, serve it as a first course before a citrusy orange salmon to contrast with the rich beets. You’ll take dinner to the next level. 

2. Pan-Seared Duck Breast

pan seared duck breast

We don’t know about you, but duck isn’t in our regular rotation of proteins we cook at home, which is why it feels like a luxurious choice for Valentine’s Day. In this version, sake, soy sauce, and Sichuan peppercorn serve as a flavorful marinade for the duck that pairs nicely with a sauce made of persimmon and grapefruit. If you can’t find persimmons, try swapping in finely diced plums. And since we know duck isn’t everyone’s favorite, feel free to substitute for chicken — the thighs will be juicier, but breasts will definitely work if you prefer a leaner cut.

3. Roasted Chicken with Lemon

Roasted Chicken with Lemon

Image credit: FamilyStyleFood

It’s hard to top a roast chicken when dinner is meant to impress. It’s simple, satisfying, and adaptable to your favorite flavor profiles. We love a simple lemon roast chicken with garlic, but feel free to use your own favorite herbs and spices. Tuck sliced onions, chunks of sweet potato, and a few quartered potatoes around your chicken before it goes in the oven, and you’ve got a luscious one-pan dinner fit for a cozy celebration. 

4. Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Image credit: Karissa’s Vegan Kitchen

If you’ve never roasted a whole cauliflower before, you’re in for a treat. This works much the same as roasting a chicken: just season to your liking and pop it in the oven. We like this recipe’s use of a vegetable stock-based “gravy” to ensure lots of flavor gets into all the nooks and crannies. To make this a complete meal, we’d sauté sliced mushrooms and shallots while the cauliflower roasts and serve with a crunchy salad of romaine, apple, and sliced almonds. 

5. Honey Mustard Salmon

Honey Mustard Salmon

Image credit: Gimme Some Oven

Salmon may be a healthy weeknight staple, but its versatility means you can always jazz it up to suit the occasion. For a special Valentine’s Day dinner, we’d go for an easy oven-roasted honey mustard salmon. Pair with garlicky green beans, crisp snap peas, or even a butternut squash mash for a restaurant-worthy meal.

6. Steak Salad

Steak Salad

Image credit: Healthy Fitness Meals

A good steak is a classic Valentine’s Day dinner option, but we’re opting to mix things up this year with a healthy-but-hearty seared steak salad. If you’re not into blue cheese, crumbled feta or goat’s cheese would also work well here — or you can leave out the cheese entirely, if you prefer. While the steak soaks in its marinade, why not turn those red onions into a quick pickle? Combine half of a thinly sliced onion with a tablespoon of rice wine or apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar, then shake vigorously and leave to stand for about 20 minutes.

7. Coconut-Crusted Cod

Coconut Crusted Cod

Image credit: Kitchen Swagger

As far as we’re concerned, flaky white fish is always cause for celebration, but we’ll make things extra-lively for Valentine’s Day with the help of panko crumbs and shredded coconut. The result is a delightfully crunchy, healthy meal for two that comes together in about half an hour. Roasted sweet potatoes or sliced and sautéed bell pepper would be a perfect match with the coconut fish. 

8. Gnocchi with Chorizo

Gnocchi with Chorizo

Image credit: Hint of Healthy

While it’s true that sausage probably isn’t the healthiest option for everyday dining, we think it’s fine to splurge a little on Valentine’s Day, and this recipe does a great job of making an indulgent dish a little healthier thanks to the incorporation of fresh spinach, garlic, and tomatoes. Whether you’re making the gnocchi yourself or buying it prepared, a sweet potato version will add a nice little nutrient boost.

9. Mushroom Barley Bowls

Mushroom Barley Bowls

Image credit: Slender Kitchen

While a grain bowl may not sound like the most romantic dinner for two, just imagine the possibilities of being able to cozy up on the couch and watch a movie together while eating said bowl. We’re here for it, and you will be too once you taste the combination of earthy mushrooms, nutty barley, and lots of herbs. We’d for sure top this dish with sliced avocado and maybe even a fried egg

10. Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon

Image credit: The Recipe Critic

This recipe for beef bourguignon calls for using the slow cooker, which — though it does require a bit of forethought — means your Valentine’s Day dinner can come together mostly hands-off. Don’t skip searing the beef before putting it in the slow cooker, though, since this step adds crucial base flavor. You can, however, make this dish in a Dutch oven with your conventional oven tuned to a low temperature if you don’t have a slow cooker. We’d put together a quick side salad for an element of freshness, but by the time this dish is ready, your house is going to smell so good that you’ll probably be happy to plate up with nothing more than a glass of wine. 

11. Pan-Seared Scallops with Edamame

scallops with edamame

Image credit: This Healthy Table

Pan-seared scallops are a treat when properly cooked, and pairing them with peas and edamame is a great way to enjoy a healthful-meets-indulgent romantic dinner. We’d swap the butter for olive oil and throw in some fresh mint along with the parsley, but this is one recipe we’ll turn to again and again.

12. Cauliflower Steak with Walnut Pesto

Cauliflower Steak with Walnut Pesto

Image credit: The Modern Proper

If you’re not into actual steak and roasting a whole cauliflower feels like too much of a good thing, we recommend cauliflower steaks. Cutting thick slabs of cauliflower and roasting, grilling, or air-frying yields a tender vegetable with a just-right amount of crispy bits along the edges. We’re very into the walnut-kale pesto this recipe suggests, but blitzing some roasted red peppers with a spoonful of cashew butter, a little olive oil, and a handful of sliced almonds would also make a perfect sauce for your Valentine’s Day cauli-steaks.

 

Summer Rylander is a freelance food and travel writer based in Germany. Find her on Twitter and Instagram

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