Impress your dining partner with these restaurant-quality meals you can make in less than 30 minutes.
Cooking for two can be tricky. Crowd-pleasers like soups, stews, casseroles, and big cuts of meat don’t really make sense, but a pieced-together plate of whatever’s in the fridge isn’t ideal either. It’s a dilemma that too often ends with a call to the pizzeria. There’s a better solution.
The six nutritionist-approved recipes below make the perfect amount for you and your dining partner. But that’s not the best thing about them: All offer restaurant-quality flavor and presentation for far less cash, calories, and time commitment.
Pick your favorite, and you’ll have a delicious meal for two on the table in less than 30 minutes.
Meal for Two #1: Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas
This tasty recipe is easy to scale up or down, says Lara Ligos, R.D. The version below yields two servings and fits perfectly on a sheet pan without the ingredients getting crowded.
- 2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced
- 2 medium bell peppers, sliced
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- A few cracks of black pepper
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 4 small whole wheat tortillas
- Optional toppings: sour cream, salsa, guacamole, or shredded lettuce
What to do: Preheat oven to 400°F, and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except tortillas and optional toppings until evenly coated.
Spread fajita mixture evenly over sheet pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
Heat tortillas, and serve with the fajita mixture plus any optional toppings you like.
Meal for Two #2: One-Skillet Not-So-Stuffed Peppers
This tasty mixture of ground beef, rice, vegetables, and seasoning comes together in one skillet for a quick and easy cleanup.
“It’s my favorite recipe on nights when I’m craving stuffed peppers but don’t want to deal with the extra step of actually stuffing them,” Ligos says.
- 1 teaspoon avocado oil or other oil
- ½ yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium bell pepper, chopped
- ½ pound lean ground beef
- ⅓ cup uncooked rice
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
- 1 cup canned pinto beans
- ½ cup chicken broth
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Optional toppings: jalapeno slices, avocado, cheese, or tomatoes
What to do: In a large skillet with a lid, heat oil uncovered over medium heat. When oil is hot, add onion and garlic, and cook for 3 minutes, or until onion starts to cook down and turns translucent.
Add bell pepper, and sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add beef, and sauté until brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add rice and stir to combine, toasting rice for about 1 minute. Finally, add tomatoes, beans, broth, and spices, and stir to combine.
Turn up the heat, and bring mixture to a boil. Cover, then reduce heat to low—making sure it’s still simmering—and cook for 30 minutes.
Once done, stir to fluff rice. If you notice some rice still isn’t entirely cooked, cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Serve with any optional toppings you like.
Meal for Two #3: Curry Chickpea–Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
This meatless dish from Deborah Murphy, R.D.N., blogger at Dietitian Debbie Dishes, is packed with unique flavors from easy-to-use ingredients: sweet potatoes, spinach, chickpeas, and Greek yogurt. It’s perfect for colder months when you want something hearty and comforting, but you can make it anytime, Murphy says.
To get this meal on the table in less than 30 minutes, go with the microwave option for your sweet potatoes, or roast a batch in advance and reheat them for quick meals throughout the week.
For the potatoes:
- 2 sweet potatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, if roasting sweet potatoes
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Optional toppings: Greek yogurt, pomegranate seeds, chopped pistachios, or cilantro
- 2 lime wedges
For the chickpea filling:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 can (16 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 bag (5 ounces) baby spinach
- Dash of salt and ground black pepper
What to do: If roasting sweet potatoes, preheat oven to 375°F. Slice sweet potatoes in half lengthwise, rub with olive oil, and arrange cut side down on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork.
If microwaving sweet potatoes for quicker meal prep, wrap whole sweet potatoes in a damp paper towel, and cook in the microwave for 6 minutes. Let cool slightly, slice in half lengthwise, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Add olive oil and chickpeas to a skillet over medium heat. Stir in curry powder, smoked paprika, and garlic powder. Sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, or until chickpeas are starting to lightly brown.
Stir in spinach, and cook until wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble, add one potato and half of the chickpea-spinach mixture to a plate. Add any optional toppings you like, and serve with a lime wedge.
Meal for Two #4: Teriyaki Tofu Sheet Pan Dinner
Dinner doesn’t get much easier than this recipe. “All you need to do is chop up some tofu and veggies, and toss them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper,” Murphy says. “Near the end of the baking time, drizzle on your teriyaki sauce—and you are all set!”
You can enjoy this light meal on its own or bulk it up by serving over ½ cup of rice or quinoa.
- 1 package (14 ounces) firm tofu, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 small head broccoli, chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1½ cups thinly sliced purple cabbage
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ⅓ cup teriyaki sauce
- Optional toppings: green onion, sesame seeds, or cilantro
What to do: Preheat oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread tofu pieces evenly on it. Add vegetables, spreading them in a single layer on the pan. Drizzle everything with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes.
Add teriyaki sauce, and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with your choice of optional toppings.
Meal for Two #5: Halibut en Papillote with Cherry Tomatoes, Capers, and Garlic
Cooking fish en papillote is a French technique that calls for wrapping the fish in a DIY parchment packet with some vegetables and bit of cooking liquid. The fish picks up all the flavors of the veggies and liquid as it steams, and comes out perfectly tender.
The version below comes from Michelle Dudash, R.D.N, author of Clean Eating for Busy Families, who loves the flavor pairing of capers and tomatoes.
- 2 fresh, boned Alaskan halibut fillets (4 ounces each), blotted dry
- ⅛ teaspoon salt (half on the fish, half on the vegetables)
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for the fish
- ¾ cup halved yellow cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons basil, rolled and thinly sliced (chiffonade), plus extra for garnish
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon capers, chopped
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 lemon wedges
What to do: Preheat oven to 400°F. Meanwhile, season halibut with half of the salt and pepper to taste. In a medium bowl, mix tomatoes, basil, olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, capers, vinegar, pepper, and remaining half of the salt.
Tear off two 15- by 12-inch sheets of parchment paper. Arrange sheets vertically, and place fish just below the center on each sheet. Arrange tomato mixture on top of each piece of halibut, dividing evenly.
Fold parchment paper around edges tightly in ¼-inch folds to create a half-moon shape. Make sure you press as you crimp and fold to seal packets well, otherwise the steam will escape. Repeat with the other pouch, and place both on a large sheet pan.
Bake for 13 minutes for 1-inch fillets, or until pouches make a strong sizzling sound. Adjust cooking time by a couple of minutes for thinner or thicker fillets.
Remove from oven and serve immediately, placing pouches in shallow bowls or on plates. Allow diners to carefully unwrap or cut into their own portions, avoiding direct contact with hot steam. Garnish with additional fresh basil, and serve with lemon wedges.
Meal for Two #6: Curried Broccoli and Chickpea Sauté
This cozy dinner comes together in well under 30 minutes on the stovetop, Dudash says. It’s meatless but packed with plant-based protein and fiber from the chickpeas and broccoli.
- 1 tablespoon rice bran oil, grapeseed oil, or canola oil
- 1 medium head broccoli, cut into bite-size florets with stalks thinly sliced and quartered
- 1 can (16 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- ½ medium onion, grated
- ½ cup dry white wine or broth
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 2 teaspoons liquid amino acids or reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 lemon, zest finely grated and cut into 3 wedges
- Optional topping: toasted sliced almonds
What to do: Add oil to a large soup pot over medium heat. Brown broccoli and chickpeas in oil, about 9 minutes. Add onion, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes, reducing heat as needed.
Stir in wine or broth, curry powder, liquid amino acids, and lemon zest. Cover loosely and simmer until broccoli is fork-tender, about 7 minutes.
Serve with lemon wedges, and sprinkle with sliced almonds, if desired.
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