25 Easy Family Dinners for Back-to-School Weeknights|Recipes Spots

  • on August 21, 2023
25 Easy Family Dinners for Back-to-School Weeknights

Plate With a Serving of Buffalo Chicken Tacos Topped With Blue Cheese Crumbles and Green Onion Slices and Next to Two Lime Slices. In the Surroundings, a Platter With More Tacos, Lime Slices on the Counter, a Bowl of Coleslaw, and a Glass
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe

Back to school brings with it a plethora of emotions for the kids heading into another year: excitement, nerves, and some sadness that summer has come to an end. For me though, I mainly feel pressure to keep it all together. Filling out paperwork, buying school supplies, and preparing for busy evenings filled with homework and extracurriculars. 

One of the most important things I can do for myself and my family is to plan easy, comforting meals. This is not the time to push my family to try wildly different dishes. We are all dealing with enough newness right now. But that doesn’t mean we’ll eat the same old thing every night. I keep it interesting by taking our favorites and making minor changes. I make a slightly different stir fry, buy unique pasta shapes, or add different spices.  

Below are dinners that are all on the table in 30 minutes and will hopefully make everyone’s night a little more enjoyable. Lean into these easy, family favorites to help us as we try to keep it all together.

Lemon Pepper Chicken Breasts

Pan of Lemon Pepper Chicken Breasts with One Sliced into Pieces and Garnished with Lemon Slices and Parsley. Next to It, a Plate with a Serving of Lemon Pepper Chicken and a Side Salad
Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera Diaz

Coating chicken breasts in flour is a genius move. It helps keep the moisture in and forms a crust for added texture. The dish is finished with a buttery lemon pan sauce that will wow everyone at the table.

Garam Masala Fish Sticks

Two Plates of Garam Masala Fish Sticks Next to a Bowl of Sauce
Simply Recipes / Prerna Singh

It’s been a minute since I’ve eaten fish sticks. This homemade version beats the freezer section hands down. Cut cod into even pieces, coat in spices, and then bake until crispy. Use the air fryer for an even crispier option.

Burger Salad

Bowl of Burger Salad at a Table Setting With Another Bowl of Salad in the Background, a Mason Jar of Sauce, and Table Napkins
Simply Recipes / Coco Morante

Keep all the parts that make a burger delicious (the patty, toppings, and sauce) and turn it into a dinner salad. Iceberg lettuce adds a nice crunch, but use your favorite lettuce and whatever tomatoes you have on hand. Sit down and enjoy the freshest tasting burger you’ve ever had.

Buffalo Chicken Tacos

Buffalo Chicken Tacos Topped With Blue Cheese Crumbles and Green Onion Slices and Next to a Lime Quarter, All on a Platter, and in the Surroundings, Another Lime Slice on the the Counter, a Small Bowl With More Cheese, and a Glass of Water
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe

Enjoy the classic buffalo chicken flavors tucked into a tortilla, no oven required! Rotisserie chicken and a bag of coleslaw mix make this exactly the type of low effort/high reward weeknight dinner we all crave.

Chop Suey

Chop Suey in a Staub Wok With a Spatula, and Next to It, Two Bowls of Rice on a Grey Kitchen Towel
Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu

Grab your wok and make this satisfying Chinese American favorite. Loads of vegetables and chicken thighs are stir fried and coated in a pantry sauce that will have you licking the plate. Serve with rice.

Microwave Red Curry Poached Salmon

Bowl of Microwave Red Curry Poached Salmon with Rice and Garnished with Cilantro and Lime Wedge, and in the Surroundings, a Kitchen Towel, a Bowl with More Curry, and a Bowl with a Halved Lime and Cilantro
Simply Recipes / Tara Omidvar

Poaching salmon in an aromatic curry sauce sounds like it will require multiple pans and an oven, but the microwave does all the heavy lifting in this family meal. Serve with jasmine rice and chopped herbs.

Ultimate French Bread Pizza

A Sliced French Bread Pizza Topped With Fresh Basil
Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek

Soft, wide French bread is a welcome change from pre-baked pizza crusts. It gives off deep dish vibes without the added work. Top with your favorite toppings and make an extra one for tomorrow’s lunch.

Skillet Cacio e Pepe Tortellini With Wilted Greens

Skillet Cacio e Pepe Tortellini With Wilted Greens in a Pot With a Serving Spoon, All on a White Kitchen Towel on the Counter, and Next to It, a Bowl of Cracked Pepper, a Glass of Water, and a Block of Pecorino Romani Cheese
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe

Make an easy dinner even easier by skipping the pot of boiling water. Frozen tortellini is cooked directly in a skillet with olive oil. Stir in your favorite greens, such as baby spinach or chopped kale, and top with cheese before serving.

Paccheri with Quick Sausage Ragu

Pot of Paccheri With Quick Sausage Ragu With a Spoon, and in the Surroundings, a Glass, a Block of Parmesan, a Stack of Plates, and Basil Leaves
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe

Get the family talking with a new-to-them pasta shape. Paccheri is a thick, tubular pasta that can stand up to thick and meaty sauces like this ragu. In this version Italian sausage is browned and then mixed with spices, tomato paste, pasta water, and heavy cream for a comforting, hearty meal.

Easy Beef Bulgogi

Beef Bulgogi
Ciara Kehoe / Simply Recipes

Salty sweet beef is always a weeknight winner. “Bulgogi, a marinated and grilled beef popular at Korean restaurants, is easy to make at home,” according to recipe developer Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee. Look for marbled beef and let the cast iron skillet get super hot for the best results. Serve with banchan and rice.

Creamy Miso Mushroom Pasta

Creamy Miso Mushroom Pasta on a Plate with a Fork
Simply Recipes / Hannah Zimmerman

Add an flavorful twist to pasta with miso. White miso is made from fermented soybeans and adds a touch of umami without overwhelming the pasta and mushrooms. You’ll find it in the refrigerated section, most likely near the tofu in a grocery store.

Creamy Chicken Florentine

Creamy chicken Florentine in skillet.
Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

Quick, easy, and lusciously creamy, this skillet chicken recipe is a fresh way to serve chicken breasts. As an added bonus, spinach is added to the sauce so you don’t have to make a salad if you don’t want to.

Instant Pot Eggplant Chickpea Stew

Bowl of Eggplant Chickpea Stew from The Instant Kitchen Cookbook by Coco Morante
Dana Gallagher / The Instant Kitchen Cookbook by Coco Morante

The Instant Pot is in heavy use once the weather cools and I need super fast and easy meals. Eggplant isn’t known for being an easy vegetable to cook, so let this be the recipe that encourages you to go ahead and try it. Make the meal vegan by using plant-based feta cheese as a topping.

Sheet Pan Shrimp and Asparagus

Spooning sauce over shrimp to make sheet pan garlic butter shrimp with asparagus.
Simply Recipes / Nick Evans

Both shrimp and asparagus cook notoriously fast. The garlic butter sauce spooned over top brings it all together into a mouth-watering family meal. Serve it with pasta or rice.

BLT Wraps

BLT Wraps on a Plate with Chips
Simply Recipes / Nick Evans

Take advantage of warm weather and ripe tomatoes and make easy back to school meals. Leftovers would make tasty lunches, too. Add sliced turkey for a heartier meal.

Creamy Cavatappi

Bowl of Creamy Cavatappi Topped With Shredded Parmesan Next to a Small Bowl With Blocks of Parmesan and Two Forks, All on an Olive Green Kitchen Linen
Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek

Though it sounds fancy, this is similar to a simple mac and cheese. No roux, just a creamy, cheesy sauce made right on the stovetop. Set a timer once the pasta comes to a boil so that you don’t accidentally overcook it.

Sheet Pan Gnocchi with Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Bell Peppers

Sheet Pan Gnocchi With Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Bell Peppers on a Plate with More on a Sheet Pan
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe

Not all pasta is the same and gnocchi is like none other. Roasting gnocchi on a sheet pan cooks the pasta without it becoming overladen with moisture. Using quick-cooking vegetables ensures that everything is done at the same time.

Antipasto Salad

Bowl of Antipasto Salad With Utensils on a Robin Egg Colored Kitchen Towel, and Next to It, a Bowl of Green Olives and a Jar of Salad Dressing With a Spoon
Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek

This no-cook salad is full of flavor. It’s also a great emergency meal because you can stock all the ingredients in your pantry and have dinner ready in minutes.

Easy Avocado and Black Bean Quesadillas

Black bean quesadillas stacked on a plate.
Alison Conklin

I’m always looking for ways to get my family to eat more beans and spreading them between a crispy tortilla is one of the best ways I’ve found.  This black bean filling will forever banish bland canned beans and have them begging for more.

Sheet Pan Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Sheet Pan Grilled Cheese Sandwich Cut in Half and on a Light Blue Plate Next to a Table Napkin and a Sheet Pan With More Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Simply Recipes / Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

I make grilled cheese on the regular and making them all at once seems like a dream come true. Preheating the sheet pan helps toast the bread quickly and evenly.

Easy Pork Fried Rice

A black skillet with prepared pork fried rice recipe inside. Steam is coming up from the dish and a spatula is resting in the rice on the left side.
Nick Evans | Art Banner Credit: Andy Christensen

Fried rice is a quick and easy option for weeknights. This recipe uses pork loin and frozen veggies, resulting in barely any chopping. Make the rice on the weekend so that it has a chance to chill and dry out before frying. 

Hot Ham and Cheese Sliders

Plate of Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwiches with Chips and a Pickle
Simply Recipes / Ross Yoder

Slider buns get a buttery upgrade in this easy meal. Compound butter is brushed on top of the buns before getting baked until the ham is warm and cheese is melted. Pair it with crunchy carrot sticks and watch dinner disappear in a minute.

Air Fryer Salmon

Air Fryer Salmon on a Plate with Lemon Wedges Next to an Air Fryer
Simply Recipes / Nick Evans

We know that the air fryer can make a mean tater tot but it can also save your weeknight. Buy salmon filets that have the skin on them to help reduce the risk of overcooking. No air fryer? Try this easy brown sugar salmon recipe.


Close up view of a homemade smashburger.
Nick Evans

Get out the griddle and serve up smashburgers for dinner. Have the kids stir together the sauce and get out the toppings. These burgers are done quickly and will need your full attention while cooking. 

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

Grilled chicken caesar salad on a plate.
Sabrina Modelle

School might be in session but that doesn’t mean that you have to put away the grill. I like marinating the chicken and chopping the lettuce the night before so that dinner takes mere minutes when we’re all hungry and tired.

Article Categories:
Dishes · Pizza · Salad · Salmon · Sandwiches · Spices

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