When you cook at home a lot (and we sure do), running out of cooking motivation is almost inevitable, leaving you to brainstorm—or Google—dinner ideas for tonight. Our epic list has you covered!
Coincidentally, the nights you just can’t seem to figure out what to fix for supper are also the nights you’re too busy to make it to the store and are left to rummage through the refrigerator and pantry looking for something you can throw together.
There’s a common misconception that these random throw-together meals are boring and uninspired, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
Just because you create a meal out of ingredients you already have on hand doesn’t mean it can’t be creatively delicious; you just have to know the right combination of things to put together and the right way to season them.
In other words, you just need access to an extensive list of recipes made up of common fridge and pantry items and imaginative ways to use them.
That’s where we come in.
Your brainstorming and Googling days will be over once you try out the Taco Noodle Casserole, Cheesy Ranch Chicken Pasta, Pulled Pork Taquitos, or the Potato Chip Frittata.
We can almost guarantee it.
If the only things left in your cooking arsenal are ground beef, pasta, canned tomatoes, and cheese, then you have the perfect ingredients to make this One-Pot Cheesy American Beef Goulash.
It’s one of the most cost-effective meals you’ll ever make; it’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s a classic crowd-pleaser.
Meatballs may give off the ‘specialty food’ impression, but this recipe consists of staples readily found in almost all kitchens.
It also includes instructions for a red sauce that’s just as accessible, but you can certainly crack open a jar of whatever you have on hand.
This Taco Noodle Casserole is fun, hearty, flavorful, and easily customizable based on your tastes and what you have to work with.
One of the best things about this casserole is that it uses up a lot of those old canned goods that have been lingering around your pantry – and in a pretty tasty way, we might add.
If you have ramen noodles, chicken breast, broccoli, and an assortment of Asian condiments, you have everything you need to whip up this 20-Minute Chicken Ramen Stir Fry.
This recipe tosses the packet flavoring and replaces it with a fresh savory sauce you’ll swear came from your favorite Asian restaurant.
Everyone loves a good stuffed pepper, but this Unstuffed Pepper Skillet is a fun way to mix up a classic.
This recipe makes excellent use of everyday pantry items and uses only one pan, making it simple and convenient.
If that ground sausage has been burning a hole in your fridge or freezer, consider frying it up alongside asparagus in this Spicy Pork Asparagus Stir Fry recipe.
It’s simple enough to make any substitutions if necessary, and it’s a quick and easy way to add some spice and adventure to your repertoire.
Where we come from, nachos are always for the win, so it’s no surprise that we’d include a killer Sheet Pan Nachos recipe on this list.
Most of the ingredients are probably already in your refrigerator or pantry, and you can scale it up or down in size or toppings to suit any circumstance.
If we’re being honest, we almost always have kielbasa stashed away in our fridge somewhere, which makes recipes like this one so handy.
Aside from the fact that the combination of kielbasa, potatoes, and green beans is a match made in culinary heaven, this dish only takes 15 minutes.
Can your dinner tonight beat that?
The keys to orchestrating a successful throw-together dinner are creativity and flavor, and this dish has it all.
Simple ingredients, accessible seasoning, straightforward directions, and effortless eating make this easy fajita chicken bake a great low-key option for what to make for dinner tonight.
Fried rice is the best-kept secret in the culinary world; you can add just about anything to it and season it however you’d like.
This particular fried rice recipe boasts a Hawaiian motif, including ham and pineapple, and is ready in 30 minutes from start to finish.
Some nights your dinner inspo struggles because you’re out of meat, but this recipe solves that problem from the get-go.
It’s a Vegetable Loaded Baked Pasta that includes mushrooms, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, and spinach, creating a unique combination of textures and flavors.
Pulled pork is a fan favorite, but there always seems to be leftovers.
However, leftover pulled pork is more of a blessing than a curse, thanks to this recipe.
The taquitos are decadently blended with pork, sour cream, cream cheese, barbecue sauce, and shredded cheese, and they’re precisely what’s for dinner tonight.
Part of creatively concocting ideas for dinner tonight is combining ingredients that don’t traditionally go together – for instance, smoked sausage and alfredo.
This recipe includes instructions for making your own alfredo, but whatever jar you may have on hand will work just fine; customize it with your choice of pasta and bake it to perfection.
Though we may buy ingredients like cabbage with the best of intentions, we don’t always get around to using it; that’s what makes this recipe a home run on all counts.
The bacon is a nice contrast to cabbage’s usual pairings, and the onion and seasoning blend all but promise mass approval.
Don’t think twice about opting for this Bacon Ranch Garlic Parmesan Pasta if you find yourself with spaghetti noodles but no red sauce.
The name alone is enough to leave you drooling, but the reality of the dish is even more mouthwatering than you can imagine.
Many of us have wondered if we could recreate the magic of a KFC famous bowl, so we feel like we hit the jackpot with this recipe.
You can take your time and do everything homemade, or you can use frozen, canned, or instant versions of all the ingredients and still come out on top, not to mention all the possibilities for customization.
If you’re in the mood for a meaty yet veggie-loaded skillet meal, look no further than this recipe.
While it claims to be a casserole, it’s really more of a layered skillet dish; either way, it’s hearty and full of accessible, delicious ingredients.
When none of the dinner ideas tonight seem like good ones, a classic ham and cheese are just what the doctor ordered.
This isn’t just any ham and cheese, though; it’s a baked pinwheel glazed in a luxurious brown sugar butter sauce.
One word: yum!
If you’re in the mood for Chinese takeout but can’t find the energy to call it in and pick it up, this eggroll in a bed will more than satisfy that craving.
It’s super easy, and you can substitute or leave out pretty much anything but the sausage and coleslaw mix and season it to your liking.
24. Salisbury Steak
Salisbury Steak may be called ‘steak,’ but it’s really nothing more than a hamburger patty smothered in gravy.
One of our favorite features in this recipe is potato chips, which give the Salisbury steak a totally unique quality and taste.
The most adjacent dish to Salisbury steak is beef stroganoff, and we’re proud to include both on this list.
This particular recipe offers a divine cream sauce, but you can, of course, replace it with a jar of brown gravy for convenience’s sake.
26. Broccoli Pasta
Broccoli Pasta is perhaps the best-kept secret of the pasta world, partly because it’s delicious and partly because it’s super easy to pull off.
Any kind of noodles will do, and as long as you have some butter, garlic (or garlic salt), parmesan cheese, and any type of cream, you can make it happen.
This Loaded Chicken And Potatoes recipe will become a favorite from the very first bite.
The bite-size chicken and tender seasoned potatoes topped with a Mexican blend of cheese and crispy bacon will have you throwing together stay-at-home meals more often.
Hamburger Noodle Bake is reminiscent of beef goulash with similar ingredients, but this recipe takes the process a step further and bakes it all together.
The real secret to its success is a sweet little squirt of ketchup before you layer on the parmesan cheese and toss it in the oven.
If you’re wondering what to eat for dinner tonight but not particularly hungry, these Baked Parmesan Zucchini slices will surely hit the spot.
Aside from the surprising crisp of the parmesan and incredible flavor, it’s also a great way to use that last zucchini withering away in your fridge.
Sometimes when you’re not sure what to do for supper, the best course of action is to spice things up; this cajun chicken rice is perfect for that.
Every ingredient is pre-packaged and ready to go, making it a terrific solution for a hungry bunch of kids or adults when you’re short on time.
They had us at cheesy and Tex Mex, but the effortless way this dish comes together is just another reason we love it so much.
Pasta, beef, tomatoes, corn, and a whole lot of satisfying Southwest flavor – what more could we ask for?
Anytime we ask ourselves, “what should I make for dinner tonight,” ordering pizza instead always seems like a solid plan, but ordering pizza won’t solve the problem of using what you have in your fridge.
This pizza Rice Casserole is essentially pizza – same delectable tomato sauce, same cheesy goodness, same toppings you crave – but rice replaces the crust.
It’s absolutely worth staying in for.
35. Cottage Pie
At first glance, you may mistake this dish for shepherd’s pie, but the key differences are enough to set it apart.
Cottage Pie is sweet, rich, tangy, dense, and fluffy all at the same time; it’s exactly the kind of comfort food you need on a low-key night.
Sloppy joes may remind you of your elementary school days, but this Sloppy Joe Biscuit Casserole will revive and elevate the sandwich in one fell swoop.
This is an exciting sloppy joe development for two reasons: you most likely already have the ingredients on hand, and the biscuit-sloppy joe pairing is to die for.
Watch out, burrito lovers – there’s a new use for those tortilla shells in town.
This recipe merges two culinary favorites by encasing a classic (easy) homemade chili in a burrito shell and topping it with cheese.
It’s a win-win.
If you’re out of ground beef but have a lonely packet of taco seasoning taking up space in the spice cabinet and are wondering what to cook for dinner tonight, give this creamy salsa chicken a try.
It’s a foolproof chicken dinner with immaculate Southwest flavor, and it’s easily paired with rice, black beans, or even chips and guac.
39. Stovetop Burgers
Just because burgers on the grill are incredibly delicious doesn’t mean you can’t have them all year-’round.
This recipe for stovetop burgers is nothing less than perfection; it’s simple, easy, and it’s achievable no matter the weather.
Pizza reigns supreme across the land, but when you have a hankering for homemade pizza and no crust, these pizza quesadillas will not feel like settling.
It’s everything you love about quesadillas and everything you love about pizza, all pressed into one fantastic dinner.
42. Tuna Melt
An unspoken pantry rule is that it must always contain at least one can of tuna, and that’s a rule you’ll want to follow so you can whip up this Tuna Melt whenever the mood strikes.
This Tuna Melt recipe is a step above the rest, placing an expertly constructed tuna salad right smack dab in the middle of ooey-gooey grilled cheese.
The bottom line
We know better than anyone that some nights you just can’t figure out what you want to fix for supper, but we hope this list brings a little relief in that department.
Our goal was to bring you a variety of cooking styles and cuisines, all within the parameters of what’s most likely to be in your fridge.
We believe we’ve captured the essence of what’s for dinner tonight in these 42 marvelous meal ideas.
- One-Pot Cheesy American Beef Goulash
- Italian Meatballs
- Taco Noodle Casserole
- 20-Minute Chicken Ramen Stir Fry
- Easy Hamburger Stew
- Unstuffed Pepper Skillet
- Spicy Pork Asparagus Stir Fry
- Sheet Pan Nachos
- Instant Pot Smoked Sausage And Potatoes With Green Beans
- Easy Fajita Chicken Bake
- Cheesy Ranch Chicken Pasta
- Easy Fried Rice With Ham And Pineapple
- Vegetable Loaded Baked Pasta
- Pulled Pork Taquitos
- Spicy Smoked Sausage Alfredo Bake
- Bacon Fried Cabbage
- One Pan Bacon Ranch Garlic Parmesan Pasta
- Mashed Potato Casserole
- Zucchini Ground Beef Skillet Casserole
- Baked Ham And Cheese Wheels
- Quick And Easy Cucumber And Tomato Salad
- Instant Pot Keto Pork Chops
- Eggroll In A Bowl
- Salisbury Steak
- One-Pot Beef Stroganoff
- Broccoli Pasta
- Loaded Chicken And Potatoes
- Hamburger Noodle Bake
- Baked Parmesan Zucchini
- Cajun Chicken Rice
- Easy Cheesy Tex Mex Skillet
- Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs
- Spanish Rice And Beans
- Pizza Rice Casserole
- Cottage Pie
- Sloppy Joe Biscuit Casserole
- Chili Cheese Burritos
- Creamy Salsa Chicken
- Stovetop Burgers
- Easy Pizza Quesadillas
- Potato Chip Frittata
- Tuna Melt
- Take a look at the ingredients needed to make dinner ideas for tonight.
- What do you have on hand? Better go check.
- Create a new favorite recipe!!
- Have fun and tell us what you think on our Facebook page.