Are you a fan of no-recipe meals? I am. In fact, I almost always cook without a recipe. I find it easier to look in my fridge, pull out everything I need to use up, and make something out of it. I especially love anything I can dump in the slow cooker and walk away from. However…sometimes I get a bit of a cookers-block and am stumped as to what to make! Have no fear. My new bestie, Alyssa from Good in the Simple, is a no-recipe PRO! I asked her to come share her top 25 no-recipe meals with us today because…well…who DOESN’T need a little simplicity in their lives?? Let’s not delay any longer…here’s Alyssa and her no-recipe magic
Bring on the No-Recipe Meals!
Thanks Jordan! Excited to be here! Because I love to cook, people often assume that I am constantly making dinner from scratch for my family. Not true. Sometimes even the simplest recipe can be too much to deal with on a busy night.
I’ve come to rely on shortcuts a lot when it comes to weeknight meals, but I also make food at home whenever possible for both budgetary and nutritional reasons. I like knowing what’s in our food and having control over the quality of ingredients I’m using. As a result, I’ve developed a list of 25 easy, no-recipe meals that can be quickly put together at home.
Here are some notes about this list:
- These meals can be made using all-natural or organic food. When I make these convenient types of meals, I make an effort to seek out the most natural, high quality food products I can find. These meal ideas do include some processed foods, but in many cases .
- I tried to make each meal as balanced as possible. I tried to include a good variety of seafood/chicken/pork/meat, and to include a veggie, carb and protein in each meal idea. For meals where no veggie is incorporated, I usually just serve some cut up raw vegetables like carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers, a simple side salad, or a steam-in-bag veggie.
- My 5 go-to slow cooker meals are at the end of the post. These are my favorite things to make on nights when our schedules are chaotic or we’re getting home right at dinner time, since everyone can grab a quick, hot dinner at their convenience.
Don’t forget the PRINTABLE LIST!
You can keep these meal ideas in your purse or on your fridge. This printable list is sent to all Good + Simple email subscribers, and you can become one right here!
25 “No Recipe” Meals for Busy Nights (Including 5 Slow Cooker Dinners)
1) Buffalo or BBQ Ranch Chicken Tender Salad
Simply bake your favorite brand of frozen chicken tenders, and when they’re almost done cooking, spread with your favorite hot sauce or BBQ sauce. Return to the oven for a few minutes until the sauce has soaked in and the chicken tenders are crisp. Cut up the chicken and toss with your favorite salad mix and ranch dressing.
2) Sloppy Joes
These days you can find countless options for pre-made sloppy joe mixes, including ones that are all-natural and even organic. Just brown some ground beef or turkey, add the sauce, and dinner’s ready! Serve on yummy rolls with cut-up veggies or a salad.
3) Pesto Pasta with Chicken & Green Beans
I love to make my own pesto when I can (especially in the summer when fresh basil abounds), but you can find great store bought varieties as well. Just grill or saute some boneless/skinless chicken breast that’s been pounded thin and seasoned with salt & pepper. Slice the cooked chicken into strips and toss with cooked pasta that’s been combined with your favorite pesto. I like to toss in some lightly steamed green beans because they go well with pesto, but you could add any veggie of your choice.
4) Seafood Burgers
I mentioned in a past post that one of my favorite things EVER to buy at Trader Joe’s is their mahi mahi burgers. But even if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s in your area, you should be able to find similar seafood burgers made from mahi mahi, salmon or cod in your grocery store’s frozen fish aisle.
Serve piled high with lettuce and tomato, and a quick homemade tartar sauce (just combine relish, mayo, and a little bit of cajun seasoning or hot sauce if you like some kick).
5) Ham Steaks with Roasted Cauliflower
Ham steaks are great because kids usually love them (at least mine do), and they come pre-cooked, so all you need to do is heat them on a stove until the meat begins to brown a bit on the outside. I love to serve ham steaks with some cauliflower that’s been roasted in the oven with a little olive oil and salt.
6) Caprese Paninis
You don’t need a panini maker to make these. Just toast some sliced ciabatta bread or rolls in the oven. Spread with pesto, sliced tomato, a slice of fresh mozzarella, and some fresh basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar and a dash of salt & pepper.
7) Smoked Salmon, Egg & Hash Brown Scramble
There are all different ways to serve “breakfast for dinner,” but this is my favorite. Cook some frozen hash browns or tater tots, scramble some eggs, and combine them in a bowl with some sliced smoked salmon (lox). The combination is delicious!
8) Ravioli with Lemon-Garlic Spinach
Cook your favorite ravioli according to package instructions. In a skillet, saute a package of fresh baby spinach until wilted with a little olive oil, chopped garlic, a pinch of salt, and a squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice. Top the spinach with the cooked ravioli and drizzle a little olive oil and salt over the top.
9) BLT Pasta with Arugula
Boil the pasta of your choice. In a separate skillet, cook a few slices of bacon until crisp; remove to a plate and chop. Toss some halved cherry tomatoes and arugula into the pan and cook in the bacon drippings for a few minutes until arugula is barely wilted. Combine the tomatoes & arugula with the cooked pasta, bacon, and perhaps some parmesan cheese, adding salt & pepper to taste.
10) Kale, White Beans & Sausage
Saute your favorite sliced sausage in a pan until browned. Add some drained white beans, chopped kale and some chicken broth. Cook until kale is wilted. If you want to add a little chopped garlic or lemon juice, that wouldn’t hurt. Serve with crusty bread.
If you haven’t already adopted Taco Tuesday (or another day of the week) at your house, I highly recommend it! We’ve been eating tacos once a week for years, and we never seem to get tired of them. I do mix things up by using different meats, beans, shells, and toppings, but regular old ground beef + taco seasoning + diced tomatoes + lettuce + shredded cheese + hard shells is always a favorite.
12) Tomato Soup w/ Grilled Ham & Cheese
This is a perfect easy dinner, especially on chilly nights. Just heat up your favorite tomato soup and make a grilled ham & cheese using any cheese and bread combination you like. Sharp cheddar and sourdough is my personal favorite. Or skip the cheese altogether. A grilled ham on rye is another winner in my book!
13) Naan Pizza
I consider this the grown up version of the english muffin pizzas I used to eat as a kid. Keep some naan stored in your freezer and some pizza sauce in your pantry. When it comes to toppings, there are no rules. It’s a great way to use up leftover meats, cheese and veggies in your freezer and to allow everyone to customize his/hers however they want.
14) Pasta with Meat Sauce
Sometimes I use chicken sausage, sometimes I use meatballs, and sometimes I just brown some ground beef or turkey and add it to a jarred marinara. If I have frozen spinach on hand, I’ll toss some into the sauce to give it a little extra nutritional boost.
15) Steak & French Fry Salad
This is a great way to stretch a good piece of steak and make it into a lighter meal! Cook or grill a lean steak and slice into thin strips. Bake some frozen fries. Serve the sliced steak & fries over a big salad of lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes, drizzled with your favorite dressing and possibly some blue cheese.
16) Mesquite Chicken or Salmon w/ Corn
I love a good mesquite seasoning because it adds a smoky grilled flavor to food even if you haven’t grilled it (look for one in the spice aisle of your grocery store). Toss chicken or salmon in a little olive oil combined with mesquite seasoning and cook using the method of your choice. Serve with some steamed frozen corn or boiled corn on the cob.
17) Stuffed Baked Potatoes
This can be a great meatless option, or a way to use up leftovers. Cook a russet potato in the oven or microwave until tender. Scoop out some of the center, spread with a little butter and fill with your favorite cooked veggies and/or leftover cooked meat if you have some to use up. Top with your favorite cheese and bake or broil until cheese is melted.
18) Italian Chopped Salad
Chop up some romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and salami. Toss with shredded mozzarella, a drained can of garbanzo beans, and your favorite Italian dressing.
These can be made with rotisserie chicken or any meat you need to use up. Top one half of a tortilla with chicken, diced tomatoes or salsa, and cheddar cheese. Fold and saute in some oil until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is starting to brown. If you want to boost the veggie factor, consider adding some cooked broccoli, onion, or bell peppers.
20) Greek Pitas
Start with some good, soft pita bread. Warm it up, spread with your favorite hummus, and fill it with cooked chicken, sliced cucumber, sliced tomato, lettuce, and red onion. Top with some tzaziki (which can usually be found in the hummus aisle of the store).
No-Recipe Crockpot/Slow Cooker Meals
21) Slow Cooker Burrito Bowls
There are some great pre-made simmer sauces out there to use when cooking pork or chicken in a slow cooker. After the meat is done cooking, serve it over rice, heated canned beans (pinto or black), shredded cheese, and the toppings of your choice.
22) Slow Cooker Ham, Green Beans and Potatoes
I shared this recipe last year, but it’s not actually a recipe as much as an assembly. You simply buy some ham hocks, green beans and potatoes and put them into a crockpot with water. The salty deliciousness of the ham flavors all of the other ingredients and turns the water into a yummy broth.
23) Slow Cooker Hotdogs & Sauerkraut
This is a definite throwback to my Pennsylvania roots. Growing up in central PA, if you went to any sort of large gathering you’d be greeted by the smell of hotdogs cooking away in some sauerkraut in somebody’s 30-year-old crockpot. Even though my kids don’t like to eat sauerkraut, they love the taste of a hotdog that’s been cooked in it. (If you really can’t stand sauerkraut, simply omit it. Pour about 1/2 cup of water in your crockpot instead.)
24) Slow Cooker Meatball Subs
This is a favorite “go to” meal for nights when we can’t all sit down and eat at the same time. Whether you’re using homemade meatballs that you’ve frozen, or store bought frozen meatballs, just toss them into your crockpot with a jar of your favorite marinara and set it on low (or high if it’s just a few hours before you want to eat). Serve with some great crusty sub rolls and parmesan cheese.
25) Slow Cooker Sausage & Peppers
You can always use fresh sliced peppers, but if you want to save even more time, most grocery stores sell a bag of mixed frozen bell peppers. Just toss the peppers in the crockpot and place the sausage on top. Serve “as is,” in a roll, or over pasta or rice.
Hopefully you’ve found at least a few things on this list that your family will enjoy, and that will help make your weeknight dinners a little easier.
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Wow, thanks Alyssa! Seriously inspired. Be sure to check her out at Good in the Simple, and thanks again for sharing your no-recipe ideas with us!
What are your “no-recipe” favorites? Share with us in the comments below!