Quick-Cooking Proteins for Busy Weeknights

Get dinner on the table in under 30 minutes with these quick-cooking dishes.

Bigger isn't always better. In fact, these small-but-mighty proteins cook up so quickly because of their size. That's because the smaller or thinner a piece of meat or other protein, the faster it cooks.

Add these recipes showcasing petite shellfish; cubed, ground, and pounded meats; and diminutive eggs to your weeknight arsenal to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less.

Fish and Seafood

Small and tender shellfish like scallops, clams, and mussels are perfect for busy weeknights because they cook up in no time. Scallops sear, broil, or sauté in just minutes for go-with-anything Garlic-Lemon Scallops and pan-seared Balsamic-Glazed Sea Scallops. Borrow inspiration from Japan to make Steamed Clams in Butter and Sake, or from the south of France for Mussels a la Mariniere.

Some home cooks are intimidated by cooking shrimp, but the truth is it couldn't be easier. They take just a couple minutes to grill, broil, or sauté, and you can be sure they're done when they no longer looks opaque. Looking to cook something everyone in the family is guaranteed to love? Go for crowd-pleasing favorites like Spicy Grilled Shrimp, Szechwan Shrimp, or Simple Garlic Shrimp.

And if pulling together a restaurant-worthy fish dish seems too ambitious for a weeknight, try Honey Mustard Salmon, Seared Monkfish with Balsamic and Sun-Dried Tomatoes, or Lemon Pepper Cod — which is ready in 15 minutes flat. Choosing individually-portioned fillets is what allows them to cook so quickly.


Whole chicken breasts can be cooked up in less than a half hour thanks to essential recipes like Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts. But by cutting chicken breasts into cubes for classic Creamy Chicken Marsala or pounding them thin for Chicken Katsu or Quick Chicken Piccata, the meat comes to temperature even faster.

And stocking your fridge with quick-cooking chicken tenderloin strips and ground meat means you'll always be minutes away from favorites like sweet-and-sour Lucky's Quickie Chickie and Thai Chicken Basil.


Thin cuts of beef like hangar, flank, and skirt steak cook in a fraction of the time of thicker cuts, so you can get dishes like Grilled Balsamic and Soy Marinated Flank Steak and Grilled Coffee and Cola Skirt Steak on the table in 20 minutes once you've marinated them.

Or, thinly slice your sirloin or round steak to make Broccoli Beef or Quick Beef Stir-Fry.

And we can't forget fast-cooking ground beef for perennial favorites like Quick Chili and Ranch Burgers.


If you only call on that carton of eggs for breakfast, you're missing out on a budget-friendly protein that can be ready in minutes. Add hard-boiled eggs to a colorful Nicoise Salad, or poach a couple for a fancy looking Croque Madame with Poached Eggs.

Vegetarian Options

A major perk of a vegetarian diet is that so many meat-free proteins are pre-cooked, like tofu, tempeh, and seitan. Try them in quick-cooking, nutrition-packed dishes like a Quick Tofu Stir Fry, Tempeh Fajitas, or 10-minute Spicy Tofu Salad Bowl.

Or, see how quickly a can of garbanzo or cannellini beans can create a meal with Indian Channa Masala, produce-packed Swiss Chard with Garbanzo Beans and Fresh Tomatoes, or healthy Arugula Salad with Cannellini Beans.

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