We all have nights when even the thought of making a last-minute dinner is exhausting, but the idea of blowing our food and calorie budget by eating out (yet again) is even less appealing. Everyone needs a stash of emergency dinner options — meals that can be made in minutes with minimal or no cooking, and appeal to most any palate.
Some of the 12 meals here are simple recipes to build a meal around; others are just meal ideas that come together quickly with convenient ingredients you pick up at the store on your way home from work. All of these meals can be completed with a colorful salad, and in keeping with the “emergency” theme, you can use veggies that need no prepping and cutting, including baby greens, baby spinach, pre-shredded carrots, cherry tomatoes, and the like.
Let’s start with three recipes that play with the concept of pizza. Vegan Pizzadillas, above, are a fast and fun dinner idea is a mash-up of pizza and quesadillas.
Next up on the pizza theme are Pizza Potatoes. Marinara sauce, melted vegan cheese, and simple steamed vegetables on a baked potato add up to an irresistible pizza-flavored vegetable dish. Potatoes make for a healthy “crust” that’s low in fat and naturally gluten-free. The kids will love this!
Layer on the Southwestern flavors in this playful Mexican Pizza that uses only 5 ingredients. Boost this meal with a simple salad.
Here are super-tasty Fully Loaded Vegan Nachos that can be made with pantry and refrigerator staples in a matter of minutes. Nachos are fun fare no matter what, and though they often serve as an appetizer or party snack, they make a great emergency dinner, too.
One more with a Southwestern theme, Super-Easy Tortilla Casserole involves throwing together a lot of convenient ingredients like canned beans and tomatoes, and frozen corn, but it’s unbelievably good when you need dinner in a pinch and the fridge is nearly bare.
It’s rare to be able to make a satisfying main dish soup like this Very Quick Black Bean Soup almost instantly, but organic canned black beans do the trick perfectly. They’re packed in a nice thick base, rather than the usual briny liquid that needs to be rinsed away.
BBQ-Flavored White Beans with Sausage and Spinach is the epitome of a good emergency dinner. It’s spicy, hearty, high in protein, and best of all, ready for the table in about 20 minutes.
For a Pasta and Antipasto dinner, there are no recipes to follow, just a suggestion for putting together the kind of comforting meal that most people love. In the time it takes to cook the pasta, an antipasto platter of fresh vegetables and other items that need little or no prep can be arranged.
For this Instant Middle Eastern Feast, pick up some hummus, pita, tabbouli (or if you have some cooked grain on hand it's not hard to make your own Tabbouli), olives, and grape leaves at the supermarket for a fraction of the cost of take-out mezze platters when you need to feed a whole family.
A Tortilla Fiesta needs just a few key ingredients, including tortillas, refried beans, nondairy cheese, and other embellishments. It's a simple and satisfying Southwestern meal in which everyone assembles their portion right at the table.
“Tofuna” Salad or Sandwich Spread needs just three basic ingredients (two ingredients are optional), to become the centerpiece for a kind of brunchy-y evening meal. To warm things up, you can also add some quickly microwaved potatoes or sweet potatoes.
This veggie burger meal might be the laziest of all of these dinner ideas, so no need to link through to any further explanation or recipes! Look for all-natural vegan veggie burgers and organic sweet potato fries. Add big batch of wilted baby spinach and you have a tasty and easy meal that’s hardly any work at all.