20 Minute Dinner Ideas – Easy Weeknight Meals

four 20 minute dinner ideas in bowls, collage


20 minute dinner ideas long pin

I hope these 20 minute dinner ideas will get you cooking! There’s nothing like relaxing on the sofa with a book, my crochet or a favourite TV programme after tea with my husband. The little one has gone to bed so it’s our time now!

It rarely works out quite like that though as there’s so many jobs to do. The dream days are the ones where tea is so quick I can get the jobs done before tea. Then, of course, there are the times where one of us is going out, or the evening doesn’t go to plan. I then have do disappoint my husband – no, we can’t have takeaway pizza, I can cook something quicker!

So here I have a selection of 20 minute dinner ideas both from the busylizziecooks.com files, and from around the web.


Lentils are normally associated with hearty stews and winter comfort food, but as split red lentils will cook in just 15 minutes, they’re a perfect hearty but quick meal. This fiendishly easy lentil chilli is one of our family favourites. Just prep some couscous or grab some bread, and grate a bit of cheese, and you’re sorted.

lentil chilli with couscous and grated cheese

Pasta is an obvious choice for a quick meal as it cooks in little more than ten minutes. So many from-scratch sauces take longer than that to make, though. This red lentil and mushroom bolognese cooks in around 20 minutes, and it’s vegan to boot:

red lentil bolognese tall

Pasta Ideas

And one of the very quickest of pastas, gnocchi, features in this full flavoured weeknight favourite of mine. I love shredded ham to give flavour to a pasta dish, you could even try using leftover roast ham:

QUick gnocchi with ham and mushroom - from busylizziecooks.com

Another gnocchi 20 minute dinner idea is this creamy one, using leftover or precooked chicken, and no rich cream. It’s a great way of dressing up frozen mixed vegetables:

A close up of a small dish of creamy chicken gnocchi from busylizziecooks.com

Michelle from Flipped Out Food uses the quick cooking time as an excuse to retain the vibrancy and freshness of the tomatoes she cooks with the pasta. I’ve never done well growing them. If you’ve had better luck, or just can’t resist the plump, fresh tomatoes at the greengrocers this time of year, this is the recipe for you:

20-minute-tomato-basil-pastaAnd Monica from Nourish and Fete makes another tomato based dish with the opposite approach – roasted cherry tomatoes that look all squishy and sweet, and an emulsified sauce. Not tried that before, I’ll have to give it a go! Here’s her recipe:

20 minute dinner idea - bowl of roasted tomato and garlic spaghetti

Stir Fry and Noodles

Another great way to conjure up a tasty meal in a flash is by getting familiar with some oriental techniques like stir fry. Even without a wok and a lot of special ingredients you can produce some fantastic food in no time at all. And noodles cook so quickly! My Thai style tuna noodles use coconut and lime to add a hint of the exotic to pre-prepared vegetables and canned tuna:

quick thai style tuna noodlesJennifer from because food is love has made this vibrant-looking alternative to fried rice that can be made in about 20 minutes if you use pre-riced cauliflower:

Bowl of cauliflower fried rice with scallion garnish - 20 minute dinner ideaCashew chicken is one of my favourites when I go to the Chinese restaurant of get a takeaway and Rachel from Dishing up Dinner’s version looks at least as good as I’ve tasted in a restaurant. So quick and easy! Definitely one to add to the meal planner:

Cashew Chicken with Vegetables - 20 minute dinner idea


When I’m looking for 20 minute dinner ideas in the summer, my attention naturally turns to salads. Many are hearty enough to be a main meal by themselves, and they have the added advantage that you can make them ahead. Then when you’re having a particularly busy evening or the little one is particularly tired there is no stress, an no expensive takeaway either! This hearty tuna bean salad is a perennial favourite in our house:

Tuna beetroot salad with beans close upThis avocado and shrimp salad from Get the Good Stuff looks so fresh and summery! Shrimp and prawns are so quick they’re ideal when you’re in a hurry, and they always go quickly in this house.

Red and green shrimp salad

20 Minute Dinner Ideas

I hope this quick run down of easy meal ideas has inspired you to make more of your weeknight dinners. There are so many tips and ingredients that can turn cooking from a chore you could do without, to something that takes just a few minutes and produces something really yummy! Happy eating!

2 thoughts on “20 Minute Dinner Ideas – Easy Weeknight Meals”

  • Thanks for including my Cashew Chicken & Vegetables recipe in your roundup. I'm looking forward to trying the other recipes you included!

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