7 Healthy Dinners That Take 15 Minutes or Less — with No Pre-Cooked Ingredients

By Jess Novak
|
August 29, 2022
15-Minute Thai Basil Tofu
Image credit: Drive Me Hungry

Some nights, we have exactly zero energy for making dinner — like last night, the closest we got to “dinner” was snacking on a handful of almonds, some air-popped popcorn, and a container of leftover salad acquired earlier in the day. While technically that’s not exactly an unbalanced dinner, it’s also not what we usually shoot for. Meals, after all, should be enjoyable, nutritious, and ideally, a moment of respite from the rush of the day. 

Read next: The Best Items to Buy from Trader Joe’s for Really Fast, Low-Lift Lunches, According to Nutritionists

But frequently, “quick” dinner recipes we read actually call for a whole bunch of prepared ingredients, like two cups of cooked chicken, which you might have on hand (we love recipes that start with a rotisserie chicken, after all) but you also absolutely might not. These recipes are super delicious, balanced, and genuinely take 15 minutes or less from start to finish — no pre-cooked ingredients required.

1. 15-Minute Italian Chicken and Peas

15-Minute Italian Chicken and Peas

Image credit: The Whole Cook

This dish is so simple that on first glance, you might think it’s not special — but sometimes dinners are more than the sum of their parts, and this is one of those times. With just a handful of ingredients and spices you probably already have, this is a low-lift dinner for days when you really aren’t in the mood for cooking but want a healthful, delicious, low-stress meal. If you want a heartier dinner and you happen to have an Instant Pot, you can also make some incredibly delicious, 14-minute mashed potatoes to go with it. In that recipe, Greek yogurt takes the place of heavy whipping cream, making for a higher-protein, lower-fat choice that’s also super quick. 

2. Steamed Mussels in Wine and Garlic Sauce

Steamed Mussels in Wine and Garlic Sauce

Image credit: The Seasoned Mom

Mussels are affordable, sustainable, a fantastic source of iron, and make a great, quick dinner that’s still elegant enough for date night. Although cooking them might seem a little intimidating, we promise that they’re actually incredibly easy to make and steam up in just seven minutes. One important note: if you don’t want to spend a bunch of time debearding (aka removing the clump of fibers that sprout from the shell) opt for farm-raised mussels, which usually come debearded already; they’re also arguably healthier because they don’t sit around on the ocean floor. Still, you’re going to want to give your mussels a thorough rinsing in a colander before cooking. We’d serve these with air fryer sweet potatoes, which will be perfectly crispy without a lot of added oil — and take only 15 minutes to make, too.  

3. 15-Minute Thai Basil Tofu

15-Minute Thai Basil Tofu

Image credit: Shutterstock

When you want to make a super-fast meal with a complete vegan protein, you know where you’re going to turn: tofu. This protein is incredibly versatile, and also very easy to work with. The extra-firm tofu in this recipe gets drained and then crumbled, so there’s really no way to mess it up — we’re not looking for perfect little “tofu steaks” here. This quick stir-fry includes plenty of vegetables, and thanks to the balanced sauce, it’s super delicious — although we’d replace the brown sugar with a little warmed honey.  This is perfect on its own, but for some more protein and fiber, you can also serve it over steamed quinoa, which you can also prep in just 15 minutes (or nine minutes, if you want to use the microwave). 

4. Quick Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

Quick Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

Image credit: Gimme Delicious

We love getting beef and broccoli when we order take-out, but restaurant food is so much less healthy and more expensive than home-cooked — and in this instance, a delivery order would actually take more time than just whipping up this beef and broccoli at home. If you’d prefer to avoid cornstarch, you can always substitute it with arrowroot powder, which you can replace at a 1:1 ratio. We’d serve with a quick side of stir-fried cauliflower rice.

5. Instant Pot Sweet Potato Curry

Instant Pot Sweet Potato Curry

Image credit: The Fresh and Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook by Megan Gilmore

Using an Instant Pot really does cut cooking time down dramatically, and that’s especially true for plant-based dinners like this sweet potato curry. With protein and fiber from red lentils, healthy fats and rich flavor from coconut milk, and buckets of vitamins from the kale and sweet potatoes, this 14-minute curry recipe is a fantastic weeknight option when you want something that’s full of flavor and takes practically no time to whip up. This would be great served over stir-fried cauliflower rice, which takes about seven minutes.

6. 15-Minute Chickpea Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

15-Minute Chickpea Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Image credit: A Simple Palate

We’ve said it before, but chickpea pasta is a lot healthier than you might think. This plant-based dish comes together super quickly because it makes great use of a convenience ingredient we think is criminally underutilized: a jar of roasted red peppers. For an extra protein boost, you could toss in some vegan Quorn pieces, and we’d be tempted to throw in a handful of baby greens to wilt in there, too.

7. 15-Minute Broccoli and Pea Soup

15-Minute Broccoli and Pea Soup

Image credit: Whole Food Soul Food Kitchen

This broccoli and pea soup uses cashews to create a rich, creamy texture without any added dairy. It’s especially easy to make at the last minute because it uses so many frozen ingredients, making use of freezer staples like broccoli, peas, and spinach. To add extra depth of flavor, we’d recommend sauteeing half a chopped onion on medium heat while the other ingredients simmer, then throwing in two or three cloves of chopped garlic and ¼ teaspoon each dried thyme and rosemary right about 45 seconds before you blend everything together.

Read next: 11 Quick and Delicious Weeknight Salmon Recipes

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