Fast food or microwave meals aren’t the only option when you don’t have time to cook. The key to successful meal prep when you have a jam-packed schedule is choosing recipes that are quick and easy to prepare. That might involve using no-fuss ingredients that save time (like pre-cut vegetables or leftovers) as well as focusing on dishes with short cooking times. To get you started, here are five recipes for dinner that can go from counter to table in roughly 5 minutes.
1. 5-Minute Pho with Ramen Noodles
Instant ramen noodles, flank steak, and bean sprouts come together for a delicious, nearly instant bowl of hot faux pho. The steak cooks in the hot broth, so you can enjoy a filling meal without a lot of work. Recipe from Obsev.
- 1 package of beef-flavored ramen noodles
- 2 ounces flank steak
- Juice of ½ lime
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- Pinch of pepper flakes
- Handful bean sprouts
- Basil, for garnish
- Cilantro, for garnish
Directions: Thinly slice the steak. Cook the ramen according to package directions, using about half the seasoning packet to flavor the soup.
Add the sliced steak to the pot of noodles and let cook for a few minutes in the hot broth.
Once the steak reaches desired doneness, transfer the soup to a serving bowl. Stir in the sugar, fish sauce, pepper flakes, and bean sprouts. Add the lime juice and stir. Top with cilantro and basil, then serve.
2. Pan-Seared Salmon and Crispy Tomatoes Over Quinoa
Quick-cooking salmon is paired with sautéed grape tomatoes and served over a bed of already cooked quinoa for a healthy, fast meal. If you don’t have prepared quinoa on hand you can also serve the seared fish over a bed of leftover couscous or rice. Recipe from Shape.
- 3 to 5 ounces salmon
- ½ cup cooked quinoa, warmed
- ½ cup halved grape tomatoes
- 1½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Fresh basil, for garnish
Directions: Lightly coat a sauté pan with olive oil and turn heat to medium-high. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Once oil is hot, sear the fish, skin side down, until it is opaque about halfway through. Flip and continue to cook until fully opaque. As fish cooks, adds tomatoes to the pan and sauté.
Fluff the quinoa and spread it on a plate. Top with the cooked salmon and tomatoes. Add the balsamic vinegar to the pan and increase to high heat for 15 seconds. Pour over fish and quinoa and top with fresh basil.
3. 5-Minute Black Bean Avocado Salad
You only need six ingredients for this hearty and versatile black bean salad. While this protein-packed meal is tasty on its own, you can also serve it in tortillas for quick vegetarian tacos or stir in some cooked chicken if you want a bit more protein. This recipe from Frugal Nutrition serves four.
- 1 (15½-ounce) can black beans
- 2 avocados, chopped into chunks
- 4 ounces feta or cotija cheese
- Lime wedges, for garnish
- Cilantro for garnish
- Mixed greens (optional)
Directions: Drain the can of black beans. Divide the beans between four bowls (add salad greens to each bowl before the beans, if using). Top with salsa, chopped avocado, cheese, and cilantro. Squeeze a lime wedge over each salad, then serve.
4. Tossed Kelp Noodle and Carrot Salad with Mixed Greens
No-cook kelp noodles, which are made from edible seaweed, form the basis of this fast-and-fresh salad, which also features mixed greens, carrots, and a dressing made from pine nuts and tamari. Recipe from Kimberly Snyder.
For the salad:
- 5 to 7 ounces mixed greens
- 1 handful sunflower sprouts
- 1 (12-ounce) bag kelp noodles, rinsed and drained
- 1 carrot, grated
For the dressing:
- ½ cup pine nuts
- ¼ cup water, or as needed
- ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 to 2 teaspoons tamari
Directions: Mix together all the ingredients for the salad in a large bowl.
Combine the dressing ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth and creamy. Pour dressing over salad, toss, and serve.
5. 5-Minute Brown Butter Chicken and Crispy Sage
Bite-sized chunks of tender chicken breast are cooked in butter along with sage leaves for a simple yet delicious dinner that goes great with vegetables, a mixed green salad, pasta, or your other favorite side. Recipe from Kevin & Amanda.
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup fresh sage leaves
- 2 tablespoons butter
Directions: Cut chicken breasts into bite-sized cubes. Season with salt and pepper.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted completely and turned brown and fragrant, add the chicken to the pan in a single layer. Arrange the sage over the chicken pieces. Set a kitchen timer for 5 minutes.
Let chicken cook undisturbed for 2½ minutes, until golden brown in color. Stir chicken and toss with the sage, making sure each piece is fully coated in the browned butter. Flip each piece over and continue cooking until timer buzzes. Remove cooked chicken and sage from the pan and serve with your choice of a side.
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