See how a few clever shortcuts can take the stress out of everyday cooking.

By Vanessa Greaves
April 08, 2021
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If you're feeling a little burned out from cooking every night, Nicole McLaughlin, aka NicoleMcmom, is here to help with 10 easy dinners that take only 5 ingredients (or less) to make. But, she's doing it a little differently by using convenience foods as shortcut ingredients.

Let's face it: Convenience foods like jarred sauces and boxed rice pilaf come with a lot of flavoring built right in, while a bag of frozen mixed vegetables can give you a load of different kinds of produce in one package (and it still counts as one ingredient). What are not counted as ingredients? The usual salt, pepper, and olive oil.

Scroll down and get 10 satisfying family dinner ideas that you can make with no more than 5 ingredients each, thanks to the clever use of shortcuts. And be sure to watch the video up top to get all of Nicole's tips.

1. Air-fried breaded pork chops with mashed potatoes and green beans

pork chops + croutons + green beans + mashed potatoes + eggs

breaded pork chops with mashed potatoes and green beans
Credit: Allrecipes

Crushed cheese and garlic flavored croutons makes a tasty crust for Breaded Air Fryer Pork Chops (minus the Cajun seasoning). Refrigerator mashed potatoes and simple sautéed green beans complete the meal.

2. Dijon salmon with asparagus and rice pilaf

salmon + asparagus + breadcrumbs + rice pilaf + Dijon mustard

baked salmon fillets dijon with rice and asparagus
Credit: Allrecipes

This easy recipe for Baked Salmon Fillets Dijon is flavored with Dijon mustard and seasoned bread crumbs, and can be baked on a sheet pan along with the asparagus. (Add the asparagus about halfway through the baking time). Note that the recipe calls for drizzling melted butter over the salmon before baking but Nicole uses olive oil instead. While the salmon is baking, prepare the box of rice pilaf — all the ingredients are right in the box.

3. Sliced ribeye and arugula over Texas toast with roasted carrots

steak + carrots + arugula + lemon + Texas toast

sliced ribeye steak and arugula salad served on a slice of Texas toast and roasted carrots on the side
Credit: Allrecipes

Try this easy date night meal idea. Season a steak with salt and pepper, and use your favorite method to cook your steak (Nicole uses a cast iron skillet). Slice into strips. Drizzle carrots with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast them in the oven. Dress arugula with lemon juice and olive oil. Layer the arugula and steak strips on slices of Texas toast and serve with carrots.

4. Spaghetti squash casserole

spaghetti squash + Cheddar cheese + tomatoes + ground beef + frozen pepper stir-fry mix

baked spaghetti squash with beef and veggies casserole
Credit: Allrecipes

Nicole cuts down the ingredient list for this Baked Spaghetti Squash with Beef and Veggies recipe by using seasoned Italian-style canned tomatoes and frozen pepper stir-fry mix.

5. Easy enchiladas

ground beef + salsa con queso + salsa + tortillas + Cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese

close up of easy enchiladas casserole
Credit: Allrecipes

This recipe for Easy Enchiladas really is that easy. A jar of salsa con queso adds creaminess and flavor to ground beef so all you have to do is roll it up in tortillas and bake it with tomato salsa topped with cheese.

6. Tomato feta pasta

cherry tomatoes + feta cheese + basil + garlic + pasta

tomato feta pasta topped with chopped basil
Credit: Allrecipes

This super easy dinner recipe comes straight from Tik Tok. Place tomatoes in a baking dish, oil them up, and season with salt and pepper. Nestle a block of feta cheese smack dab in the middle of the baking dish and bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 30 to 35 minutes. Add minced garlic and chopped basil, stir to combine all that melty, cheesy goodness, and stir in cooked pasta to serve.

7. Buffalo chicken lettuce wraps

chicken breasts + ranch seasoning + Buffalo hot sauce + lettuce + blue cheese

shredded buffalo chicken topped with hot sauce and crumbled blue cheese in a lettuce wrap
Credit: Allrecipes

It might take you all of 30 seconds to put the chicken breasts, ranch seasoning, and hot sauce in your slow cooker to make these Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps. Serve the shredded chicken in lettuce leaves and sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese and a little more hot sauce.

8. BBQ chicken pizza

pizza dough + rotisserie chicken + mozzarella cheese + BBQ sauce + red onion

bbq chicken pizza on a cutting board
Credit: Allrecipes

So simple! You can change up your pizza by switching out the sauce and using a different vegetable instead of the onion.

9. Chorizo street tacos

chorizo + corn tortillas + onion + cilantro + wild card

easy chorizo street tacos topped with cilantro and chopped onions with roasted sweet potato wedges
Credit: Allrecipes

There's so much flavor in the chorizo sausage for these Easy Chorizo Street Tacos that you don't really need a lot of ingredients to make a terrific meal. The recipe calls for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce but Nicole made a side of roasted sweet potatoes instead to complete the meal.

10. Thai Coconut Pork Curry

pork + Thai coconut curry stir-fry sauce + rice + bell pepper + sugar snap peas

Thai coconut pork curry with vegetables served over rice
Credit: Allrecipes

Ready-to-cook stir-fry sauce is the key to this Thai Coconut Pork Curry dinner. Stir in bell peppers and snap peas and serve over rice, and you have a quick, satisfying 5-ingredient dinner in minutes.

You can connect with Nicole as NicoleMcmom on Allrecipes and on Instagram @nicolemcmom.

More tips, tricks, and ideas from Nicole: