Want a healthy meal in a hurry? It doesn’t get any easier than this.
Microwaves tend to get a bad rap. Some home cooks dismiss microwave food as rubbery and tasteless, while others worry that microwave radiation isn’t safe.
But both of those assumptions are wrong. When cooked properly, food can retain plenty of flavor and moisture in the microwave. And as long as your microwave is clean and in good condition, it’s safe, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
No one can argue the fact that microwave cooking is much faster than most other methods, and that it usually yields less mess.
We’re not saying you should trade in all of your tried-and-true stovetop and oven recipes for microwave alternatives, but it’s definitely worth having a few quick, easy microwave recipes up your sleeve.
Nutrition experts certainly do. In fact, we asked some of them to share their go-to microwave meal ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Hope you’re hungry!
Friendly reminder: Be sure to use microwave-safe bowls, plates, and plastic wrap.
Microwave Meal #1: Vegetarian Brown Rice Bowl
“This ready-in-minutes rice bowl allows you to get in your whole grains, along with your veggies and healthy fat from the olives,” says Amy Gorin, R.D.N., owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area.
The recipe works with just about any fresh or frozen vegetables that you have on hand. Here, Gorin uses frozen okra, a staple in many Southern dishes that comes in at 33 calories per cup.
Adding chickpeas to the mix will help keep you satisfied longer, thanks to a duo of protein and fiber that slows digestion.
- 2 cups microwave-ready brown rice
- 2 cups frozen cut okra
- 1 can (15 ounces) no-salt-added chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup sliced black olives
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
What to do: Microwave brown rice according to package directions, and set aside.
In a medium bowl, spread okra in an even layer. Microwave on high until defrosted and heated through, about 3 minutes, stirring once. Pat dry, and set aside.
On a plate, spread chickpeas in an even layer. Microwave until just warm, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Divide brown rice, okra, chickpeas, tomatoes, and olives among four bowls. Top each bowl with feta cheese, and drizzle with olive oil. Season with freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Microwave Meal #2: Simple Salmon Pouches
These make-ahead freezer pouches are great for when you have no time to prep, says Michelle Dudash, R.D., chef and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families.
Salmon is a great source of lean protein. A four-ounce serving has about 30 grams of protein and just over 1 gram of saturated fat. Your favorite steak? That clocks in at about 33 grams of protein—but 5 grams of saturated fat.
It’s also a good source of B vitamins, including B12, which plays a key role in the formation of healthy red blood cells.
When salmon is on sale at your local supermarket, buy a pound or two and make several of these pouches to freeze. Or, just start with frozen fillets.
- 1 fresh or frozen salmon fillet (4 to 6 ounces)
- ½ cup fresh or frozen broccoli florets
- ¼ cup fresh or frozen shelled edamame
- 1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
What to do: Place the salmon and vegetables side by side on a large piece of parchment paper (about 15 by 12 inches), leaving a 2-inch border.
Drizzle the ingredients with soy sauce and sprinkle with garlic powder. Fold the parchment over and crimp the seam upward to keep the juices in.
If using frozen ingredients, place the pouch on a plate and microwave on the defrost setting (or at 30-percent power) for 2 minutes, to thaw. Cook 2 minutes more on high power, or until salmon is flaky and cooked through to 131˚F.
If using fresh ingredients, microwave on high for 3 minutes, or until fish reaches 131˚F.
To freeze for future use, do not microwave. Place prepared pouches seam side up in an airtight, freezer-safe container or bag.
Microwave Meal #3: Chicken in Tomato Broth
Who doesn’t need a new weeknight chicken recipe, asks Miho Hatanaka, R.D.N., owner of Zen Integrative Nutrition in Portland, Oregon.
“I like this recipe because it’s a quick main entree that goes well with many side dishes,” says Hatanaka. Some of her suggested pairings: microwave-steamed veggies, whole grain toast (to dip in the broth), microwave-ready brown rice or couscous.
Tomatoes have an impressive health profile—and that doesn’t diminish when you cook them. In fact, the cooking process concentrates many of the fruit’s nutrients, including a compound called lycopene (it’s what gives the fruit its bright red hue), which has been shown to lower the risk for strokes.
- ¼ small onion, finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¾ cup canned diced tomatoes
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 small boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
What to do: In a medium bowl, combine onion, celery, and garlic. Cover and microwave on high for 1½ minutes. Add diced tomatoes and chicken stock to the bowl. Cover and microwave 5 minutes more.
Meanwhile, use a small knife to poke several holes in the chicken. Drizzle chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place chicken in the tomato sauce mixture and microwave, loosely covered with a paper towel, for another 5 to 6 minutes, until chicken reaches 165˚F.
Let the dish rest for 3 to 4 minutes before enjoying.
Microwave Meal #4: Spiced Cherry and Almond Oatmeal
“One of my favorite quick breakfasts? Microwave oatmeal,” says Gorin. “I add in frozen fruit for fiber, as well as almonds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds for satiating healthy fat, protein, and additional fiber.”
This flavorful bowl packs an impressive 11 grams of fiber per serving, more than a third of your daily target.
Cherries have been shown to relieve muscle soreness after exercising. The tart-yet-sweet rubies may also ease arthritis symptoms and help you get a better night’s rest. All thanks their abundance of antioxidants.
- 1 cup frozen unsweetened cherries, pitted
- ½ cup dry instant oatmeal
- 2 tablespoons roasted, unsalted almonds, crushed
- 1 tablespoon flaxseeds
- 2 teaspoons chia seeds
- Dash ground cinnamon
- Dash pumpkin pie spice
What to do: In a small bowl, microwave cherries until thawed and heated through, about 2 minutes, and set aside. Microwave oatmeal according to the package directions.
Combine oatmeal with cherries. Top with almonds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds. Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon.
Microwave Meal #5: Frittata Cups
The next time you have a few leftover cooked vegetables hanging out in the fridge (or fresh veggies that need to be used ASAP), consider whipping up these savory mini frittatas, says Tessa Nguyen, R.D., owner of Taste Nutrition Consulting.
The eggs and cheese deliver enough satisfying protein to keep you going until lunch. And it’s always a smart idea to include vegetables with every meal.
“Don’t be afraid to mix and match the ingredients with what you have in your kitchen,” Nguyen says, adding that she often makes a batch on the weekend and stashes them in the freezer for a grab-and-go weekday breakfast.
- 2 cups diced cooked or raw vegetables of choice
- ½ cup diced cheese of choice
- ½ cup chopped, cooked turkey bacon or chicken sausage
- 1 dozen large eggs, beaten
What to do: Spray 12 silicone baking cups or microwave-safe ramekins* with nonstick cooking spray and set them on four small plates (three cups per plate).
Evenly divide the vegetables, cheese, and meat in the bottom of each cup. Pour beaten eggs evenly into each filled cup. Sprinkle each with paprika, salt and black pepper.
Microwave one plate at a time in 30 second increments until desired doneness is reached (about 90 seconds).
*If you plan to freeze the egg cups, let them cool completely and remove them from the ramekins before freezing. Wrap individually in plastic wrap and place them in an airtight container or bag. When you’re ready to eat, remove the plastic wrap, place the egg cups on a plate, as above, and microwave in 20 second increments until warmed through.
Microwave Meal #6: Potato Salad
Potato salad might feel like a summer party dish, but it’s possible to make it quickly on a weeknight, too—even in the dead of winter.
“When I feel like something is missing from a meal, or I want to add a bit more fun to what I’m serving, potato salad is a quick side dish I often enjoy making,” says Hatanaka.
To lighten the recipe without losing any flavor, she’s cut back on the mayonnaise and added in plain nonfat Greek yogurt. Only your waistline will notice the difference.
- 3 medium Russet potatoes
- ¼ small onion, thinly sliced
- 1 small carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
What to do: Wash the potatoes and wrap each one loosely with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 6 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly. Place onions in a small bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and microwave for 1 minute.
Peel skin off potatoes, cut them in large cubes, and place them in a serving bowl.
Add onions, carrots, mayonnaise, and Greek yogurt. Season to taste, and mix well with a fork, mashing the potatoes just slightly to help them absorb the mayonnaise and yogurt.
This dish is best served chilled, but you can also eat it warm.
Microwave Meal #7: Teriyaki Chicken
Commercially-prepared teriyaki sauce tastes great, but it’s packed with sugar and sodium—sometimes more than a day’s worth, says Hatanaka. Suddenly your light-and-healthy chicken dinner isn’t so light or healthy.
When she’s craving the classic stir-fry flavor, Hatanaka whips up her own marinade, so she can control the ingredients. To round out the meal, serve with microwave-ready brown rice and vegetables.
A healthy dinner is back on the table.
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- ½ tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (3 ounces)
- ½ tablespoon cornstarch
What to do: In a small bowl, mix soy sauce and brown sugar with a fork until brown sugar starts to dissolve. With a small knife, poke several holes in the chicken. Coat chicken breast with cornstarch.
Add chicken to the soy sauce mixture, turning the chicken over a few times to soak the chicken. Cover loosely wrap with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Turn the chicken and microwave for another 2 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 165˚F.
Check Your SilverSneakers Eligibility Instantly
SilverSneakers gives you free, unlimited access to more than 16,000 gyms and fitness centers across the nation, plus classes and tools designed to keep older adults strong and independent. Check your eligibility instantly here.
Already a member? Get your SilverSneakers member ID and exclusive content by logging in to or creating your online account here.