20 Low-Effort Winter Dinners for Nights It's Almost Too Blah to Cook
You're in the thick of winter's chilly embrace, and all you want to do once you've gotten through the long day is enjoy a warm, satisfying meal, curl up under a blanket, and spend quality time with loved ones. You're craving something simply scrumptious, but you're not necessarily in the mood to season, marinate, chop, mince, puree, fry, or any of the other time-consuming, dish-dirtying activities you might normally enjoy on the weekends. Your goal: a warm, comfy, easy night at home.
Well, you're in luck because we've rounded up 20 of the tastiest easy-to-make winter dishes. We made sure to include soul-nourishing dishes from an array of culinary traditions, so whether you're craving spicy aromatic Indian, traditional Italian, mouthwatering Mexican, or classic American, we've got a recipe that will hit the spot on your cozy winter night in.
Hamburger Steak with Onions and Gravy
There's nothing like a stick-to-your-ribs meat-and-potatoes classic to leave you feeling like all is right in the world. This hamburger steak with sautéed onions and a rich gravy is a home run. "Traditionally served with hot white rice or potatoes, it's a great way to dress up a pound of ground beef, and you probably have all the ingredients on hand!" says Anne Marie Sweden of the dish she calls an "easy-to-make classic."
Wintertime French Style Split Pea Soup
"With only 15 minutes of required prep time, all you'll have to do is let this savory French-style soup simmer, stopping your favorite show every so often to stir and breathe in its heady aroma. "[It's] a wonderful wintertime pea soup with turmeric, adding a nice, bright, cheerful color to the soup," says JAN. "This recipe is versatile, can easily be doubled, and more veggies and ham can be added as desired. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!"
Thai-Style Turkey Burgers
Coriander, ginger, and garlic lend a Thai-style twist to the classic burger. Plus, this healthy, juicy turkey burger can be made gluten-free with a couple of easy ingredient tweaks: GF soy sauce, GF breadcrumbs and GF bun. Or enjoy it in a generous lettuce wrap for a veggie-packed punch.
Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
Want to forego the meat but not the flavor? This Italian classic is simple yet stunning. Cacio e pepe, meaning "cheese and pepper," consists of five ingredients and takes approximately 20 minutes. "This is a recipe that we have made in our family for many years — everyone loves it," says Jennifer Torrey. "It's a very basic and easy variation on mac 'n' cheese." And just like, mac 'n' cheese, you can gussy it up by simply adding more cheese and rich butter to achieve the decadence your heart desires.
Easy Mexican Casserole
Craving Mexican but don't want to mess with all the moving parts of an at-home taco bar? With seasoned beef and beans, salsa, sour cream, crunchy tortilla and melted cheese, this casserole is like a large taco in casserole form. "This is an easy and very tasty dish," says ANDREALF63. "I often substitute ground turkey and low-fat dairy products and it is still delicious! Serve with chips, salsa, and green salad."
Related: Get More Winter Dinner Recipes
The Best Parmesan Chicken Bake
With 15 minutes of prep and 35 minutes in the oven, this is perhaps the easiest Parmesan chicken recipe you'll ever find. "This chicken Parmesan is done casserole style (so, no breading or frying!), but [it] still offers up that irresistible combination of tender chicken, crunchy/cheesy coating, and flavorful sauce," says Chef John. Buon Appetito!
"This is an easy and exotic Indian dish. It's rich, creamy, mildly spiced and extremely flavorful," says YAKUTA. "Serve with naan and rice." Warm your naan bread in the oven, and if you love garlic, top your naan with minced garlic and a generous rub of butter or olive oil. Plus, to add a sweet twist to the korma sauce — which is a nice juxtaposition to this dish's curry powder, jalapeño pepper, garlic, and ginger kick — substitute the cream with coconut milk or light coconut milk.
Filet Mignon with Rich Balsamic Glaze
If you're trying to create a refined ambience with an impressive (yet easy) dish for your special someone, then this gourmet dinner is just the ticket. "This is an elegant and quick romantic dinner for two ... wonderful served with steamed asparagus and baby red potatoes," says LINDA W. Set a candlelit table or a spread near the fireplace, serve this delectable winter meal to your loved one, and get ready for sparks to fly.
Unstuffed Cabbage Roll
Maybe you have a Polish grandmother who hand-made traditional stuffed cabbage leaves or "galumpkis," and you need these nostalgic flavors minus the time-consuming hand-rolling. This deconstructed version of the traditional dish is just as tasty and a crowd-pleaser to boot. "This is a quick and easy main dish. My kids don't even like cabbage, but they love this," says tlc_adams. "I usually try to serve it with green beans, new potatoes, corn, and a pan of cornbread. They eat over half the pan every time. Also, the longer it stands the better it tastes."
Mongolian Beef and Spring Onions
Simple, straightforward and ready in just 30 minutes, this is the Chinese version of a meat-and-potatoes dish. In this Mongolian rendition, rice noodles or white rice serve as the carb, absorbing the flavorful sauce of ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and brown sugar, along with melt-in-your-mouth morsels of beef and bright slices of crisp-tender green onion.
Balsamic-Glazed Salmon Fillets
"A glaze featuring balsamic vinegar, garlic, honey, white wine, and Dijon mustard makes baked salmon fillets extraordinary," says ISYBEL. Prepared in 10 minutes and baked to perfection in just 20, this super-easy dish is deliciously dizzying. Pair it with your favorite veggie and rice to soak up the sweet glaze for a meal you're sure to put in your regular rotation.
Italian Sausage Soup
"A hearty winter favorite," says SALLYJUN, the maker of this beloved Italian sausage soup with stewed tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, garlic, great Northern beans, spinach and, of course, Italian sausage. With 10 minutes of prep and minimal follow-up as it simmers, you can help with homework or catch your favorite show before savoring a bowl of this tasty soup.
Greek Lemon Chicken and Potato Bake
"I love one-pan meals, especially when no measuring and exact ingredients are involved," says Chef V. "I made this one Sunday when I didn't want to babysit my food in the kitchen! Turned out great, and I served it with tzatziki sauce." Ten minutes of prep, then pop it in the oven, and voila — a simply delicious Greek classic!"
This iconic Lowcountry dish has as many variations as coleslaw and barbecue — everyone has their own spin. However, the structure of the one-pot boil is simple: seafood, sausage, corn, sweet onions, new potatoes, and seasoning spices. "I've been using this recipe for over 20 years, ever since I moved to South Carolina. It can be adjusted to serve any number," says Shirley. The best part? Once drained, serve your spicy-savory boil like a Lowcountry local: dumped onto the center of a newspaper-covered table and served with all manner of dressings — butter and salt for the potatoes and corn; cocktail sauce, lemon-garlic butter and tartar sauce for the seafood — then enjoy a communal chow-down!
A Pad Thai Worth Making
"The wonderful national noodle dish of Thailand ... can be adjusted to your taste," says Fatty Arbuckle. "Add ingredients that you like and make it as spicy or tart as you want to. This is a recipe for those who like it HOT, [so] if you can't handle the heat, go easy on the chile sauce." And with 15 minutes of prep and 15 minutes of cooking for a to-die-for taste, it's a winner. Plus, once you have these Thai ingredients on hand, a new world of easy-to-whip-up, delicious stir-frys, noodle bowls and salads will open up to you!
Beef Stew with Roasted Winter Vegetables
This lean, low-salt winter stew is high in flavor with tender bites of beef and earthy root vegetables like carrots, butternut squash, parsnips, and sweet potatoes. Bay leaves and thyme lend an herbaceous note; while dry red wine (or apple juice) lends a sweetness that heightens the natural sugars in the root vegetables and lends a richness to the beef-infused broth.
"Chakchouka (also called Shakshouka) is a Tunisian and Israeli dish of tomatoes, onions, pepper, spices, and eggs," says Ben. "It's usually eaten for breakfast or lunch, but I think it's tasty anytime. And it's easy to make. It is similar to the Turkish dish 'Menemen' and to the Latin American breakfast dish 'Huevos Rancheros.'" For those who are game for breakfast-for-dinner dishes, this fantastic dish is for you.
Best Tuna Casserole
A super-tasty dish made popular in the '50s, tuna casserole has some serious staying power. And with minimal prep — one onion to chop, noodles to boil, a few cans to open, and a casserole dish to put it all in — it's a favorite of busy cooks. "This is a tuna casserole that even my picky family loves! The potato chips give the casserole a crunchy crust," says JAICARD.
"This is a very easy and no-fail recipe for meatloaf," says Janet Caldwell of her highly-rated recipe. "It won't take long to make at all, and it's quite good!" Ten minutes of prep is all you need. Top your warm slice of meatloaf with a helping of your favorite barbecue sauce or a simple drizzle of ketchup, and serve it alongside your favorite seasonal veggie and creamy mashed potatoes. You can't go wrong with this classic!
Chicken Ramen Bowl
"The holiday hoopla is over, and I'm setting my sights on eating whole. Ramen has been all the rage and I've been dying to try this at home," says Tonja Engen. "This dish is a total flavor bomb, filled with a rich broth, tender meat, and noodles, topped with a 7-minute egg — my new favorite thing in the world. My family went nuts for this; it's complex, easy, and satisfying. You don't have to make the egg, but I think it's so worth it." This low-effort dish yields high-reward flavor, and that's a "comeback" recipe in our book.
Get More Winter Meals
If you're looking for comforting dishes for cold winter nights but prefer a more plant-based approach, our extensive collection of hearty vegan dinners will provide you plenty of inspiration for your mealtime choices. From Spicy Indian Dahl to a vegan Slow Cooker Jambalaya, there's a lot to love in these meat-free meals.