5 Quick Recipes For Busy Weeknights

Life moves fast these days. Between work, family, and other obligations, finding time to prepare a homemade meal on a weeknight can feel next to impossible. Yet cooking at home is often healthier, more affordable, and a nice family activity. The good news is, with the right recipes and tools, making a delicious weeknight dinner doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming.

Recent surveys show that over 77% of Americans wish they had more time for cooking homemade meals but feel constrained by their busy schedules. Especially for families with children, the weeknights are filled with after-school activities, homework, and other demands that make spending an hour or more in the kitchen seem unrealistic. However, with a well-stocked pantry, easy-to-use appliances like the instant pot, and simple recipes, you can significantly reduce prep and cook time while serving flavorful, nutritious meals.

The key is having a roster of go-to dishes that come together quickly. Things like sheet pan dinners, skillet meals, and one-pot meals help streamline prep work. Choosing recipes with short ingredient lists also minimizes time spent shopping and prepping. With the right recipes and a few time-saving tricks, you can have a homemade dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less, even on your busiest nights.

Here are five quick and easy recipes to add to your weeknight dinner rotation:

1. Chicken Fiesta Bowls

Skip takeout and make your own Mexican-inspired fiesta bowls at home using the ease of the instant pot. This is our second favorite instant pot recipe; the first one is, of course, these Instant Pot Chicken Tacos

Simply cook black beans, frozen corn, and chicken breasts in the instant pot. Once cooked, serve the components over rice for a hearty bowl or stuff them in taco shells for a meal to enjoy out on the deck. Add desired toppings like avocado, shredded cheese, salsa, and Greek yogurt. 

Chicken provides lean protein, while beans add fiber and vegetarian protein. Brown rice gives you more nutrients than white. Corn, avocado, and salsa provide vitamin C, lycopene, and other antioxidants. Greek yogurt adds protein, calcium, and probiotics. 

This balanced meal is customizable, so you can load it up with your favorite healthy extras like cilantro, jalapeños, shredded lettuce, etc. Using the instant pot cuts down on hands-on cooking time, making it a perfect choice for busy weeknights.

2. Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

Chicken fajitas cooked on a sheet pan make for a quick, easy weeknight dinner. Simply toss chicken breast, bell peppers, onions, and fajita seasoning onto a rimmed baking sheet. Spread into a single layer and bake at 425F for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the chicken is cooked and veggies are tender. While the fajita ingredients roast, warm tortillas in the oven or microwave so you can assemble the fajitas as soon as the pan comes out. 

This streamlined sheet pan method means you can skip sautéing the meat and veggies separately, significantly reducing cooking time. Roasting brings natural sweetness to the vegetables, and the delicious charred bits add so much flavor. 

Opt for whole wheat tortillas and load up on toppings like guacamole, pico de gallo, shredded lettuce, and queso fresco for even more nutrients.

3. Skillet Eggplant Parmesan

With just a few shortcuts, eggplant Parmesan goes from a labor-intensive dish to a quick weeknight dinner. Simply dredge eggplant slices in breadcrumbs mixed with Italian seasoning and pan fry in olive oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown and crispy. Layer the fried eggplant in a skillet with jarred marinara sauce and shredded mozzarella. Bake at 375F for 12-15 minutes until hot and bubbly. The key time-saving tricks are buying pre-made sauce, breading, and frying rather than baking the eggplant.

Opting for olive oil over vegetable oil adds some healthy fats. For even more veggies, add a layer of sautéed spinach or roasted broccoli. 

4. Instant Pot Chili

With the shortcut of canned beans and crushed tomatoes, classic chili goes from an all-day affair to a weeknight-friendly dinner thanks to the instant pot. Simply sauté onion, garlic, chili powder, and cumin. Add beans, tomatoes, broth, and seasonings. Pressure cook on high for 12-15 minutes for a hearty chili ready in under an hour. Top with shredded cheddar, sour cream, scallions, and tortilla chips for a complete meal.

Opting for lean ground turkey or sirloin instead of fatty ground beef lightens up this protein-packed dish. Add an extra dose of veggies by stirring in corn, zucchini, or spinach at the end. The fiber-rich beans provide a healthy plant-based source of protein. For whole-grain goodness, serve the chili over brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice. And load up on toppings like avocado, Greek yogurt, and cilantro for extra nutrients and flavor.

5. 20-Minute Chicken Fried Rice

With pre-cooked rice, homemade fried rice can be on the dinner table in just 20 minutes, saving you from ordering takeout on busy nights. Simply stir-fry diced chicken and vegetables like carrots, peas, and onion in sesame oil. Add cold, cooked rice and toss everything over high heat until piping hot. Stir in soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and scramble in eggs. The key time-saving tip is keeping batches of cooked rice in the fridge or freezer so it’s ready anytime.

Opting for brown rice adds more nutrients. Chicken provides lean protein, and eggs add protein, making this a balanced one-pan meal. Add extra veggies like edamame, bell pepper, or broccoli to boost vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Cooking in sesame oil instead of vegetable oil adds heart-healthy fats. 


You can enjoy homemade meals on busy weeknights with the right recipes and a few smart time-saving techniques. The key is choosing dishes that use quick-cooking proteins like shrimp, ground meat, and chicken breasts. One-pot meals, sheet pan dinners, and skillet recipes also help minimize dirty dishes. And utilizing appliances like the instant pot eliminates long simmering or baking times. With a well-stocked pantry and freezer, you have everything you need for flavorful meals in 30 minutes or less.