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17 Healthy Quick Recipes for Busy Weeknights

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You may be looking for some healthy quick recipes to cook when life gets busy. Here are some quick and easy ideas for healthy plant-based and vegan lunches and dinners that you can easily make even on a weeknight.

FAQs About Quick Recipes

Q: Which appliances are the best for cooking quick meals?

3 slices of grilled tofu on orange plat with grilled red peppers and zucchini

A: Try an Instant Pot, sheet pan meal in the oven, or slow cooker (if you plan ahead).
Look for meals made all in one pan for the stovetop.
Another appliance I really like is an indoor grill. I use the flat top side of it several times a week.

Q: How can you keep quick meals healthy?

A: First, just the fact that you are making it at home is usually a better option than take-out, eating out, or having a prepared meal. This study of over 11,000 adults in the United Kingdom found that eating home-cooked meals more than 5 times per week was associated with having more vegetables, fruits, and were 24% less likely to have too much body fat.
Here are some tips for cooking methods:
-Bake foods instead of frying – brush with a little oil or spray with non-stick spray first.
-Add whole grains by using whole wheat pasta or flour
-Include vegetables in dishes like pasta and casseroles
-Use frozen or low sodium canned beans if you don’t have time to coak and cook them….or cook them in an Instant Pot.

Q: What can I cook in only 15 minutes?

Vegan chili on potato with cashew yogurt and green onions

A: You can absolutely make a quick and healthy vegetarian or vegan meal in 15 minutes! Here are some ideas:
-a panini with grilled tempeh and vegetables
-black bean burritos
-a salad with nuts and seeds
-tacos with cooked lentils, mushrooms, and walnuts (OK, you have to have cooked the lentils first)
-felafel from a mix: saute or bake in the oven: and stuff in whole wheat pitas with tomato slices, lettuce, cucumber, and plant-based yogurt.
-Microwaved potato topped with leftover chili

Also, check out these 15-minute recipes from EatingWell.com (most are vegetarian – a few are vegan and a few contain seafood).

Healthy Quick Recipes for Lunches and Dinners

Thai peanut tempeh with rice on white plate with chopsticks
Thai peanut tempeh with rice

Italian Recipes

Whole grain pasta is a great start for healthy quick recipes. Fresh pasta especially cooks quickly. You may want to cook some extra to save for up to 3 days in the refrigerator (or for a few months in the freezer) and use it in the next recipe. To make pizza, I use rapid rise yeast for pizza dough, or you could buy pre-made dough.

eggplant with zucchini and spaghetti

Try this Mediterranean-style eggplant pasta – an Easy Instant Pot recipe for a ratatouille-like comforting pasta entree that you can cook fast.

Kabocha Squash and Collard Greens with Whole Wheat Pasta
Easy and flavorful vegan pasta dish with nutritious veggies!
Kabocha Squash and Collard Greens with Whole Wheat Pasta
bowl of KABOCHA SQUASH AND COLLARD GREENS WITH PASTA

Use a pre-made pizza dough to make vegan pizza or flatbread quickly. Or, prepare the dough ahead of time using rapid-rise yeast.

Cheesy Vegan Pizza with 00 Flour
Here is the best vegan pizza: made quickly at home with rapid rise yeast, authentic Italian flour, and melty cashew cheese!
Cheesy Vegan Pizza with 00 Flour
Cheesy Vegan Pizza with 00 flour on white plate
Savory Butternut Squash Walnut Flatbread
This vegan butternut squash walnut flatbread is the perfect party appetizer or savory light meal. It is quick to make and bursting with flavor.
Butternut Squash Walnut Flatbread
3 pieces of butternut squash walnut flatbread on white plate
Vegan Broccoli Pesto Pizza
A delicious twist on pizza – go green with broccoli and vegan pesto sauce. Quick and tasty family meal, once you have the dough ready.
Vegan Broccoli Pesto Pizza
vegan broccoli pesto pizza with pizza wheel
Lentil Pasta with Tempeh and Spinach
Easy and healthy pasta meal with tasty tempeh and garlic. Quick for a weeknight and high in protein and fiber. Vegan and gluten-free.
Lentil Pasta with Tempeh and Spinach
lentil pasta with tempeh and spinach in bowl with bread.

Mexican and Tex-Mex Recipes

Add some spice to your life with these tasty recipes inspired from south of the border.

Vegan Mexican Pizza
Try this easy melty vegan version of a Mexican pizza for a healthy meal or snack!
Vegan Mexican Pizza
vegan Mexican pizza
Quick Pinto Bean Tostadas with Mango and Cilantro (Vegan)
Tasty beans with veggies and bright fresh mango on crispy corn tortillas make an excellent Mexican-style meal or snack.
Quick Pinto Bean Tostadas
pinto bean tostadas with mango and cilantro on white plate
Arroz Colorido – Colorful Mexican Rice
This Mexican style rice recipe is an easy and flavorful side dish. Add your favorite protein for simple meal prep.
Arroz Colorido
Arroz Colorido colorful Mexican rice on red plate with fresh thyme
Easy Spicy Lentil Chili – Instant Pot Recipe
This lentil chili Instant Pot recipe is easy to make and packed with flavor. It's hearty and filling with fiber from lentils, pinto beans, and veggies. Make it for a quick family lunch or dinner.
Easy Spicy Lentil Chili
Instant Pot next to spicy lentil chili in glass mug with spoon
Easy Mexican Lasagna with Black Beans
Learn how to make this satisfying vegan Mexican lasagna with black beans, avocados, corn tortillas, and salsa. Made with avocados instead of cheese!
Easy Mexican Lasagna with Black Beans
Mexican lasagna in white souffle dish next to avocado and cilantro with colorful lights
Slow Cooker Vegan Chili
Slow cooker vegan chili is an easy, satisfying meal. It's so nice to toss ingredients into the slow cooker and not need to worry about them until you're ready to eat.
Slow Cooker Vegan Chili
Vegan chili with green onions, bell peppers, and onions

Time-saving cooking tip: chop and cook extra onions and peppers to use in burritos, tacos, or enchiladas.

Asian Style Recipes

Thai Peanut Tempeh with Rice
Try this quick Thai peanut tempeh with rice for a tasty lunch or dinner with a bit of spice. It is a vegan recipe and high in protein and fiber. It's perfect for a quick weeknight meal!
Thai Peanut Tempeh with Rice
Thai peanut tempeh with rice on while plate with light aqua napkin and chopsticks
Baby Bok Choy with Tofu Stir-fry
Try this light and flavorful Asian inspired stir-fry for a quick and delicious vegan main dish. Excellent lunch to pack for work or dinner for your family or guests!
Baby Bok Choy with Tofu Stir-fry
baby bok choy stir fry on white plate with chopsticks and green napkin

Breakfast for Dinner

Ultimate High Protein Breakfast Burritos
Tasty breakfast burritos with tofu, turmeric, black beans, walnuts, apples, and avocado. A delicious and filling start to the day!
Ultimate High Protein Breakfast Burritos
breakfast burrito with tofu and sliced kiwis on the side.
My Favorite Pumpkin Spice Quinoa Waffles with Pecans
Tasty waffles with pumpkin, warm spices, whole grains, and quinoa for a delightful fluffy waffle and pecan crunch
Pumpkin Spice Quinoa Waffles
Pumpkin quinoa waffle with pecans topped with raspberries and blueberries
Vegan Gingerbread Banana Waffles
Fresh and zippy with ginger and spice: these waffles are a festive start to a holiday or a delicious breakfast or brunch anytime of the year.
Vegan Gingerbread Banana waffles
vegan banana gingerbread waffles on white plat with syrup and sliced bananas

How Can Meal Planning Help with Healthy Quick Meals?

There are many ways that a little planning can help. if you choose what you want ahead of time, you can check to see what ingredients you need, then make a shopping list and pick things up ahead of time.

Or, you can work in the opposite direction. See what you have in the house or what looks good at the store. maybe you find some fresh seasonal produce at the Farmers’ market (check out my Farmers’ Market Tips for the Best Produce), produce store, or grocery store? Or maybe catch a good sale on something.

Sometimes I have planned meals around a delicious vegetable gifted from a neighbor or friend, or the contents of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box. Then try quick recipes for meals like pasta with vegetables and lentils, tacos, salads, chili, etc.

Can you cook extra? Then you can save the leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. Or cook even more and freeze to pull out and enjoy in the future. Extra ingredients like beans, lentils, and whole-grain pasta can also easily be saved to use in quick recipes.

2 white bowls of spicy lentil chili on wooden cutting board
spicy lentil chili

Tired of Chopping Vegetables?

You can try a food processor, mini food processor, or push chopper depending on the vegetable and what you’re making. For soups or sauces, some recipes call for cooking the vegetables first, and then blending them.

Keeping a Well-Stocked Food Pantry

If you have the space, cooking healthy meals at home is easier when you have plenty of ingredients on hand. Check out my tips for How to Stock a Plant-Based Pantry with Thrive Market and list of good foods to keep on hand. When you’re shopping, look for sales on items you use frequently and stock up.

Reference

Mills, S., Brown, H., Wrieden, W. et al. Frequency of eating home-cooked meals and potential benefits for diet and health: cross-sectional analysis of a population-based cohort study. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 14, 109 (2017)

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Please let me know which recipes you have tried and how you liked them in the comments below:

2 thoughts on “17 Healthy Quick Recipes for Busy Weeknights”

  1. Love this round-up… and any recipe that can be done in 15mins is a gamer-changer! But they all sound delicious. I’m trying the Thai Peanut Tempeh with Rice. Thanks 🙂

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