55 Healthy Make-Ahead Dinners for Busy Nights

Updated: May 03, 2024

There's no need to rely on fast-food when you're busy, thanks to these convenient healthy make-ahead dinners. Simply throw them together when you have time and pull them out when you're in a pinch!

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Baja Pork Tacos

This delicious pork tacos recipe is my copycat version of the most excellent Mexican food we ever had, when we were visiting Flagstaff, Arizona. The original recipe used beef instead of pork, but this comes mighty close to the same taste. —Ariella Winn, Mesquite, Texas
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Korean Beef and Rice

A friend raved about Korean bulgogi, which is beef cooked in soy sauce and ginger, so I tried it. It's delicious! You'll dazzle the table with this tasty version of Korean beef and rice. —Elizabeth King, Duluth, Minnesota
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Chicken Mole

If you’re not familiar with chicken mole (pronounced mo-LAY), don’t be afraid of this versatile Mexican sauce. I love sharing this chicken mole recipe because it’s a great one to experiment with. —Darlene Morris, Franklinton, Louisiana
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Quinoa Unstuffed Peppers

This deconstructed stuffed pepper dish packs a wallop of flavor. I truly make it all the time, and I make sure my freezer is stocked with single-serve portions to take to work. —Rebecca Ende, Phoenix, New York
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Chicken Pesto Meatballs

These tender, pesto-stuffed meatballs get gobbled up in our house. They're short on ingredients, but packed with flavor. I always make a double batch, freezing the other half for a busy night. —Ally Billhorn, Wilton, Iowa
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Southwest Turkey Patties with Beans

These turkey patties are delicious and low in calories. Skip the rice if you're looking to cut carbs. —Dot Carpenter, Washington, Pennsylvania
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Arrabbiata Sauce with Zucchini Noodles

This popular Italian dish is flavorful and spicy. We decided to re-create one of our favorite jarred sauces and serve over zucchini pasta for a lighter, healthier meal that's naturally gluten-free. The results were amazing! —Courtney Stultz, Weir, Kansas
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Easy Chana Masala

I love this quick and healthy Indian-inspired dish so much I always make sure to have the ingredients stocked in my pantry. It makes weeknight dinners feel a little more special. —Janeen Judah, Houston, Texas
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Sassy Salsa Meat Loaves

Here's a twist on classic meat loaf. You can make these loaves ahead, and they’ll last for a few days. Make meat loaf sandwiches with the leftovers, buns and a little Monterey Jack cheese. —Tasha Tully, Owings Mills, Maryland
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Lemony Chickpeas

These saucy chickpeas add just a little heat to meatless Mondays. They're especially good over hot, fluffy brown rice. —April Strevell, Red Bank, New Jersey
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Roasted Vegetable Strata

With the abundance of zucchini my family has in the fall, this is the perfect dish to use some of what we have. Cheesy and rich, the warm, classic breakfast dish is sure to please! —Colleen Doucette, Truro, Nova Scotia
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Broccoli Tuna Casserole

When I was in the Navy, a co-worker's wife shared this recipe with me. I’ve tweaked it over the years, but it still brings back memories of my family away from home. —Yvonne Cook, Haskins, Ohio
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Shrimp & Broccoli Brown Rice Paella

Years ago my husband and I were vacationing in France and came across an open market where a man from Spain was making paella in a skillet; we've been hooked ever since. I love to whip this up for a large group, but if the gathering is small, I know I can easily freeze leftovers for another time. —Joni Hilton, Rocklin, California
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Tender Salsa Beef

This is my Mexican-style twist on comfort food. To keep it kid-friendly, use mild salsa. —Stacie Stamper, North Wilkesboro, North Carolina
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All-Day Red Beans & Rice

My family loves New Orleans-style cooking, so I make this authentic dish often. I appreciate how uncomplicated it is. And its smoky ham flavor is scrumptious. —Celinda Dahlgren, Napa, California
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Chicken Merlot with Mushrooms

Slow cooked and savory, this dish is perfect for any night of the week, and is sure to become a staple in your home.–Shelli McWilliam of Salem, Oregon
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Artichoke Chicken

Rosemary, mushrooms and artichokes combine to give chicken a wonderful savory flavor. I've served this dish for a large group by doubling the recipe. It's always a big hit with everyone—especially my family! —Ruth Stenson, Santa Ana, California
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Pumpkin Lasagna

I especially like this comforting fall dish because it's vegetarian. Even friends who aren't big fans of pumpkin are surprised by this delectable lasagna. Canned pumpkin and no-cook noodles make it a cinch to prepare. —Tamara Huron, New Market, Alabama
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Lamb Stew

My grandmother used to make this stew as a special Sunday meal. It's an unforgettable treat from Ireland. —Vickie Desourdy, Washington, North Carolina
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Top-Rated Italian Pot Roast

I'm always getting recipe inspiration from newspapers and magazines. Here’s a tender roast with aromatic spices that give it a Moroccan feel. —Karen Burdell, Lafayette, Colorado
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White Beans and Veggies with Couscous

My family loves the simplicity and full-flavors of this meatless entree. With its variety in taste and texture, we can see why they list it as their favorite! —Heather Savage, Wood River Junction, Rhode Island
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Black Bean Turkey Enchiladas

My best friend and I created this recipe together because we wanted a meal that’s easy to prepare, affordable and nutritious. We both have hectic schedules, so when we’re feeling crunched for time, it’s a relief to have these wholesome enchiladas waiting for us in the freezer. —Holly Baber, Seattle, Washington
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Chicken Florentine Meatballs

Served over squash and a chunky, mushroom-tomato sauce, these tender meatballs are tops when it comes to great flavor. —Diane Nemitz, Ludington, Michigan
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Chicken Tacos with Avocado Salsa

A few people in my family have special dietary needs, but luckily, these chicken tacos work for all of us. I toss up a simple green salad and have a meal we can all enjoy together. —Christine Schenher, Exeter, California
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Saucy Indian-Style Chicken & Vegetables

This Indian-style dish seems to develop a devoted following. Prepared sauce makes it easy to bring the rich flavors of Indian cuisine to your family. Feel free to use more or less tikka masala sauce according to your personal taste. —Erica Polly, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
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Slow-Cooker Beef Tips Burgundy

Here's a heartwarming classic that's so simple in the slow cooker. Mushrooms, red wine and tender beef make for an easy, elegant supper. —Deanna Zewen, Union Grove, Wisconsin
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Pork Tacos with Mango Salsa

I've made quite a few tacos in my day, but you can't beat the tender filling made in a slow cooker. These are by far the best pork tacos we've had—and we've tried plenty. Make the mango salsa from scratch if you have time! Yum. —Amber Massey, Argyle, Texas
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Weeknight Beef Skillet

This mild but hearty family fare is chock-full of veggies, Italian seasoning and nutrition. It’s a quick-and-easy meal that just might become one of your family’s favorites! —Clara Coulston, Washington Court House, Ohio
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Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

When my mom made this spaghetti sauce, the house would smell so good that I'd open the windows to torture the neighbors. It even tastes wonderful the next day, when the flavors have really melded. —Vera Schulze, Holbrook, New York
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Oven-Fried Fish Nuggets

My husband and I love fried fish, but we're both trying to cut back on dietary fat. I came up with this oven-baked version. He likes it as much as deep-fried fish, so I know it's a winner. —LaDonna Reed, Ponca City, Oklahoma
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Mexican Pork & Pinto Beans

We've lived in Arizona for decades, so Mexican-style cooking has become the same as "Arizona-style cooking" for us. Nothing tastes better than chili-spiced pork with tortillas. —Anne Fatout, Phoenix, Arizona
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Wintertime Braised Beef Stew

This easy beef stew is incredibly rich. Since it's even better a day or two later, you may want to make a double batch. —Michaela Rosenthal, Woodland Hills, California
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Chili Tortilla Bake

A homestyle Tex-Mex casserole is all it takes to gather the whole family around the dinner table. With its popular flavors and bubbly cheese topping, there is never a need to worry about leftovers. —Celine Weldy, Cave Creek, Arizona
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Meat Loaf with Chili Sauce

I used to serve this meat loaf in my cafe, where so many of my customers asked for it. I adapted the recipe for my slow cooker at home, where it's quite popular, too. —Robert Cox, Las Cruces, New Mexico
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De-Lightful Tuna Casserole

This mild, homemade tuna casserole will truly satisfy your family's craving for comfort food without all the fat! —Colleen Willey, Hamburg, New York
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Contest-Winning Greek Pasta Bake

When I take this dish to potlucks, there's never so much as a morsel left! It’s a simple, healthy, hearty supper made with ingredients that are easy to find. Add a salad and a crusty loaf of bread for a quick meal solution. —Anne Taglienti, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
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Spicy Shredded Chicken

I love Mexican food, but not the high calorie count that often comes with it. This easy dish is healthy, delicious and a definite crowd pleaser! I like to serve the chicken with warm tortillas, rice, beans and salsa. For an equally awesome dish, you can substitute beef or pork for the chicken. —Heather Walker, Scottsdale, Arizona
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Sirloin Strips over Rice

I found this recipe in a movie magazine some 20 years ago. It was the favorite of some male star, but I don’t remember which one. Its great flavor and the fact that leftovers just get better have made it a family favorite! —Karen Dunn, Kansas City, Missouri
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Makeover Easy Beef-Stuffed Shells

Enjoy the convenience of this make-ahead dish or bake right away. Either way, it has half the saturated fat of the original recipe but is just as meaty. —Blair Lonergan, Rochelle, Virginia
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Slow-Cooked Pepper Steak

After a long day working in our greenhouse raising bedding plants, I enjoy coming in to this hearty slow-cooker pepper steak for supper. It's one of my favorite meals. — Sue Gronholz, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin
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Tomato Balsamic Chicken

I came up with this saucy chicken during a particularly busy holiday season. As new parents, my husband and I both appreciate having a go-to dinner that's easy, homemade and delicious. —Anne Colvin, Chicago, Illinois
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Asian Chicken Thighs

The thick, tangy sauce makes this dish one of my favorite Chinese chicken recipes. Serve the chicken over long grain rice or with ramen noodle slaw. —Dave Farrington, Midwest City, Oklahoma
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Greek Pork Chops

My in-laws taught me a lot about cooking, so any time I come across a great new recipe, I enjoy making it for them. These bright, lemony chops quickly became a favorite. —Geri Lipczynski, Oak Lawn, Illinois
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Mango-Pineapple Chicken Tacos

I lived in the Caribbean when I was a child. Every time I make this yummy chicken, the fresh tropical fruits in it transport me back to those happy times.—Lissa Nelson, Provo, Utah
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Chicken Thighs with Shallots & Spinach

What could be better than an entree that comes with its own creamy vegetable side? This healthy supper goes together in no time flat and makes an eye-catching presentation. —Genna Johannes, Wrightstown, Wisconsin
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Sunday Pork Roast

Mom would prepare pork roast for our family, friends and customers at the three restaurants she and Dad owned. The herb rub and vegetables give it a remarkable flavor. It's one of my favorite pork roast recipes. —Sandi Pichon, Memphis, Tennessee
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Hearty Turkey & Rice

We love this tasty dinner. It’s quick to prepare, making it a great (and yummy!) meal when you’re running late. You’ll love the easy cleanup, too! —Joan Hallford, North Richland Hills, Texas
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Taco Stuffed Pasta Shells

Here's a kid-friendly dish so flavorful and fun, nobody is likely to guess that it's also lower in fat. It's a great family supper for busy weeknights! —Anne Thomsen, Westchester, Ohio
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Special Occasion Beef Bourguignon

I've found many rich and satisfying variations for boeuf bourguignon, including an intriguing peasant version that used beef cheeks for the meat and a rustic table wine. To make this stew gluten free, use white rice flour instead of all-purpose. —Leo Cotnoir, Johnson City, New York
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New England Lamb Bake

This dish is hearty and perfect for warming up on a chilly winter evening. The aroma is almost as delightful as the dish itself. —Frank Grady, Fort Kent, Maine
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Red Clam Sauce

This recipe tastes like an Italian restaurant specialty and cooks while you take care of other things. What a marvelous way to jazz up pasta sauce! —JoAnn Brown, Latrobe, Pennsylvania
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Grilled Pork Tenderloins

We do a lot of outdoor cooking during the summer months, and this grilled pork tenderloin recipe is one my entire family loves. —Betsy Carrington, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee
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Saucy BBQ Chicken Thighs

Barbecued chicken gets a makeover in this recipe. The combination of ingredients makes for a mellow flavor that tastes more grown up than the original. It's fantastic over rice, pasta or potatoes. —Sharon Fritz, Morristown, Tennessee
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Chipotle Shredded Beef

This beef is delicious whether you serve it all rolled up in a tortilla, with corn salsa in a burrito, in a bun or over rice or mashed potatoes. So many options! —Darcy Williams, Omaha, Nebraska
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Spicy Pork and Butternut Squash Ragu

This recipe is a marvelously spicy combo that's perfect for cooler fall weather and satisfying after a day spent outdoors. —Monica Osterhaus, Paducah, Kentucky