95 Semi-Homemade Recipes for When You’re Short on Time

Updated: May 16, 2024

Whether you need a quick dinner, last-minute dessert or easy appetizer, these shortcut recipes will get the job done in a flash.

1 / 95

Chocolate Comfort Cake

This moist and delicious chocolate cake is usually the first dessert to go. People even eat the crumbs. It’s always my top choice for holiday dinners. —Ellen Riley, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Go to Recipe

2 / 95

Cheesy Hash Brown Bake

These cheesy hash browns were so popular at the morning meetings of our Mothers of Preschoolers group that we published it in our newsletter. It's a great dish for busy moms because it can be prepared ahead of time. It's perfect for brunches or to serve on Christmas morning. It's creamy, comforting and tasty. —Karen Burns, Chandler, Texas
3 / 95

Pineapple Upside-Down Dump Cake

No matter the season, this dump cake recipe is wonderful! It works well with gluten-free and sugar-free cake mixes too. —Karin Gatewood, Dallas, Texas
4 / 95

Easy Pesto Pizza

Our Test Kitchen kneaded basil, oregano and Parmesan cheese into packaged bread dough for this full-flavored crust. Purchased pesto sauce keeps it big on taste and convenience.
5 / 95

Tasty Onion Chicken

The secret to this French onion chicken is the yummy, crunchy coating that keeps the meat juicy and tender. Round out your meal with green beans and buttermilk biscuits. —Jennifer Hoeft, Thorndale, Texas
6 / 95

Dutch Oven Chocolate Dump Cake

Looking for a super quick dessert that will make people think you spent all day in the kitchen? This easy dessert will wow your guests. Feel free to use your favorite pie filling in place of cherry. — Rashanda Cobbins, Aurora, Colorado
7 / 95

Cheesy Caramelized Onion Skillet Bread

This appetizer is perfect for a football game or informal party, but it came about because I have two sons who are always hungry. I needed time to get dinner on the table after coming home from work. They love the skillet bread for the flavor, and I love it because it keeps them in the kitchen to chat while I prepare the rest of dinner! If you'd like, you can use homemade biscuits instead of prepared. —Mary M. Leverette, Columbia, South Carolina
8 / 95

Red Velvet Cake Bites

Everyone loves red velvet, but any cake mix can work here. I've even rolled chopped macadamia nuts into pineapple cake and dipped them into white chocolate. Whatever you do, have fun! —Anne Powers, Munford, Alabama
9 / 95

Quick White Chili

This recipe went from a gigantic mistake to a tasty triumph. I created it by accident—and it got rave reviews. Now I whip up this quick-as-lightning dish when I’m pinched for time. —Cynthia Lynn Bloemker, Effingham, Illinois
10 / 95

Eight-Layer Casserole

My sister shared this original recipe with me, but I adapted it for my family's taste. I like that it's a nutritious meal in one dish. When my boys were young, it was a tasty way to sneak veggies into their diet. This is also a perfect dish for potlucks. —Jo Prusha, Omaha, Nebraska
11 / 95

Easy Fried Rice

This easy fried rice recipe really captures the flavor of fried rice served in restaurants. Use leftover chicken for a satisfying meal that's simple to put together. —Lori Schweer, Mapleton, Minnesota
12 / 95

Easy Pecan Pie Bars

I'm always searching for fast and easy recipes to take to the teachers lounge. The staff goes nuts for these shortcut pecan pie bars. —Kathro Yoder, Defiance, Ohio
13 / 95

Quick Tater Tots Bake

I like to make this Tater Tot casserole when time before supper is short. If we have unexpected company, I just double the ingredients and use a 13x9-in. pan. I call it my Please Stay Casserole! —Jean Ferguson, Elverta, California
14 / 95

Cinnamon Fruit Biscuits

Because these sweet treats are so easy, I'm almost embarrassed when people ask me for the recipe. They're a snap to make with refrigerated buttermilk biscuits, sugar, cinnamon and your favorite fruit preserves. —Ione Burham, Washington, Iowa
15 / 95

Shortcut Sausage Lasagna

My family and friends love this great tasting lasagna. The recipe is almost foolproof. Best of all, there’s no need to precook the noodles. —Cindy Moore, Rhinelander, Wisconsin
16 / 95

Enchilada Chicken Soup

Canned soups, enchilada sauce and a few other convenience items make this chicken enchilada soup recipe one of my fast favorites. Use mild green chiles if they suit your taste, or try a spicier variety to give the soup more kick. —Cristin Fischer, Bellevue, Nebraska
17 / 95

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

I didn't start off as a big fan of bread puddings, but one time I found myself with a large surplus of croissants and decided to get fancy with them. This dark chocolate croissant bread pudding became special to me the minute I tasted it. —Jenn Tidwell, Fair Oaks, California
18 / 95

Turkey Biscuit Skillet

My mother always made this skillet while we were growing up. Now I make it for my husband and kids. I use the small-size biscuits because the larger ones don't seem to brown up as nicely on the top. —Keri Boffeli, Monticello, Iowa
19 / 95

Cheesy Wild Rice Soup

We often eat easy-to-make soups when there's not a lot of time to cook. I replaced the wild rice in the original recipe with a boxed rice mix. This creamy concoction is now a family favorite. — Lisa Hofer, Hitchcock, South Dakota
20 / 95

One-Pot Mac and Cheese

This one-pot mac and cheese is a family favorite, and my 3-year-old is always thrilled to see it coming to the dinner table. We love to add sliced smoked sausage to this creamy mac recipe! —Ashley Lecker, Green Bay, Wisconsin
21 / 95

Chicken Biscuit Bake

Golden biscuits cover this homespun dish laden with chicken, broccoli and cheese. It's then topped with a celery seed mixture. My family requests this all-in-one dinner once a month. —Karen Weirick, Bourbon, Indiana
22 / 95

Simple Lime Gelatin Salad

Looking for a festive dish to light up the buffet? This pretty green gelatin salad is eye-catching and has a delightful, tangy flavor. —Cyndi Fynaardt, Oskaloosa, Iowa
23 / 95

Crescent Beef Casserole

This flavorful meal-in-one dish is all you need to serve a satisfying and quick dinner on a busy weeknight. It's on the table in just 30 minutes. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
24 / 95

Baked Swiss Chicken

Canned soup, white wine, Swiss cheese and crushed croutons dress up the chicken breasts in this elegant entree. Ideal for unexpected guests, it requires only a few ingredients. The creamy sauce is excellent with garlic mashed potatoes or rice. —Beverly Roberge, Bristol, Connecticut
25 / 95

Magic Bars

These rich bar cookies will melt in your mouth! They’re ideal to have on hand for a snack. —Pauline Schrag, Theresa, New York
26 / 95

Simple Shrimp Chowder

Shrimp fans will be bowled over by this tasty take on chowder. The creamy broth is chock-full of vegetables. Chop up leftover cooked potatoes or use canned ones. —Carolyn Schmeling, Brookfield, Wisconsin
27 / 95

Quick and Easy Vegetable Potpie

This meatless Monday superstar comes together quickly and is inexpensive as well. My 4-year-old always asks for seconds! You can substitute any canned or frozen beans for the canned lentils in this easy vegetable potpie. We also like using frozen edamame. —Maggie Torsney-Weir, Los Angeles, California
28 / 95

Birthday Cake Fudge

This decadent birthday cake fudge is the perfect thing to make your big day special. Or prepare it ahead and package it as a surprise gift for a friend. —Rashanda Cobbins, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
29 / 95

Ravioli Casserole

The whole family will love this yummy dish that tastes like lasagna without all the fuss. Time-saving ingredients like prepared spaghetti sauce and frozen ravioli make it a cinch to put together. Children can help you assemble this one. —Mary Ann Rothert, Austin, Texas
30 / 95

Fudgy Oat Brownies

These cakelike brownies have a rich, crunchy oat crust and a smooth homemade chocolate frosting. A packaged brownie mix makes the recipe easy to prepare. You can make it even easier by using canned frosting. —Diana Otterson, Canandaigua, New York
31 / 95

Rotisserie Chicken Panini

This ooey-gooey, melty delight is packed with bacon, chicken, cheese and just enough lemon to tickle your taste buds. Other chicken panini recipes don't compare!—Terri McCarty, Oro Grande, California
32 / 95

Shortcut Oven-Baked Chicken Chimichangas

Mimic the crunch of a chimichanga by brushing them with oil and baking them. Our children love to have them when they get home late after school activities. —Johnna Johnson, Scottsdale, Arizona
33 / 95

Cinnamon Monkey Bread

Is it possible for four kids to cook together without total chaos in the kitchen? Yes, with the right recipe! This cinnamon roll monkey bread is a favorite with my bunch. They get to "play" as they roll pieces of refrigerated biscuit dough into balls. —Lisa Combs, Greenville, Ohio
34 / 95

Stuffed Shells with Meat

Here’s a rich and comforting dish that’s terrific right away or made ahead and baked the next day. Pesto makes a surprising filling for these stuffed shells with meat sauce. —Blair Lonergan, Rochelle, Virginia
35 / 95

Shortcut Coconut-Pecan Chocolate Tassies

You can garnish these cookies with pecan halves or a couple of chocolate chips before baking, or drizzle with a little melted chocolate after taking them out of the oven. —Deb Villenauve, Krakow, Wisconsin
36 / 95

Spinach and Tortellini Soup

A simple tomato-enhanced broth is perfect for cheese tortellini and fresh spinach. Increase the garlic and add Italian seasoning to suit your taste. —Debbie Wilson, Burlington, North Carolina
37 / 95

Cake Mix Brownies

These cake mix brownies are a mashup of two of my favorite desserts. A woman I worked with gave me a recipe for chocolate caramel brownies, and I had a recipe for yellow cake mix bars. I wondered what they would taste like together, so I tried it. I've been making them ever since! —Staci Mergenthal, Verdi, Minnesota
38 / 95

Bean Burritos

I always have the ingredients for this cheesy burrito recipe on hand. Cooking the rice and shredding the cheese the night before saves precious minutes at dinnertime. —Beth Osborne Skinner, Bristol, Tennessee
39 / 95

Easy Puppy Chow

This easy puppy chow recipe uses a whole package of cereal, so there's less messy measuring. And it makes enough to feed a hungry crowd. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
40 / 95

Waffle-Iron Pizzas

These little pizza pockets put together using the waffle maker are a fun mashup. Try your favorite toppings or even breakfast fillings like ham and eggs. —Amy Lents, Grand Forks, North Dakota
41 / 95

Berry Brownie Pizza

How could you not love pizza for dessert? A fudgy brownie base is layered with a whipped topping sauce, then topped with fresh strawberries, chopped nuts and a drizzle of chocolate syrup. —Karen Heleski, Ubly, Michigan —Karen Heleski, Ubly, Michigan
42 / 95

Dipped Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

You’ll love to give tins of these chocolate-coated cookies to your lucky friends. The shortcut holiday recipe is almost too simple to believe! Here's how to make peanut butter cookies without eggs. —Jackie Howell, Gordo, Alabama
43 / 95

Cheesy Bacon Ranch Potato Stuffing

Every family seems to have a favorite stuffing recipe. My family and I have been making this one for many years. It’s so delicious that no gravy is required! —Sandra Dombek, Camillus, New York
44 / 95

Amish Breakfast Casserole

We enjoyed hearty breakfast casseroles during a visit to an Amish inn. When I asked for a recipe, one of the women told me the ingredients right off the top of her head. I modified it a bit to create this version that my family loves. —Beth Notaro, Kokomo, Indiana
45 / 95

Peanut Butter Chocolate Dessert

The desserts of my dreams have both chocolate and peanut butter. So when I came up with this chocolate peanut butter dessert, it quickly became my all-time favorite. It's a cinch to whip together because it doesn't require any baking. My family loves this chocolate peanut butter cup lasagna! —Debbie Price, LaRue, Ohio
46 / 95

Contest-Winning Broccoli Chicken Casserole

This delicious chicken and broccoli casserole recipe is a twist on chicken divan that came from an old boss. It’s quick, satisfying comfort food. —Jennifer Schlachter, Big Rock, Illinois
47 / 95

Macaroni Coleslaw

My friend Peggy brought this coleslaw to one of our picnics, and everyone liked it so much, we all had to have the recipe. —Sandra Matteson, Westhope, North Dakota
48 / 95

Fluffy Key Lime Pie

For a taste of paradise, try this no-bake Key lime pie recipe. It's low in fat, sugar and fuss. It truly is the best Key lime pie recipe ever! —Frances VanFossan, Warren, Michigan
49 / 95

Flavorful Pot Roast

On hectic days, this is so quick and easy to prep! Convenient packages of dressing and gravy combine to create a sauce worthy of a fall-apart roast. For a filling meal-in-one, serve with mashed potatoes and ladle the juices over top. —Arlene Butler, Ogden, Utah
50 / 95

Best Chicken Potpie

This is the best chicken potpie recipe! Chock-full of chicken, potatoes, peas and corn, this recipe makes two golden pies, so you can serve one at supper and save the other for a busy night. —Karen Johnson, Bakersfield, California
51 / 95

Corn Pudding

Cornbread mix and canned corn make this southern corn pudding casserole a snap to prepare. Now, this is real comfort food! —P. Lauren Fay-Neri, Syracuse, New York
52 / 95

Creamy Coleslaw

For me, this is the best coleslaw recipe because a package of shredded cabbage and carrots really cuts down on prep time. This coleslaw recipe is great for potlucks or to serve to your family on a busy weeknight. —Renee Endress, Galva, Illinois
53 / 95

Chicken and Dumplings

Perfect for fall nights, my simple version of comforting chicken and dumplings is speedy, low in fat and a delicious one-dish meal. —Nancy Tuck, Elk Falls, Kansas
54 / 95

Chocolate Chip Cookie Delight

This is a simple chocolate dessert recipe for any type of potluck occasion, and the pan always comes home empty. —Diane Windley, Grace, Idaho
55 / 95

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

My daughter has the best sour cream and cream cheese chicken enchiladas recipe I've ever tried. She brought 10 pans of it to my wedding reception and they were the biggest hit of all the food. So many guests wanted the recipe, we sent it out with our Christmas cards. —Pat Coffee, Kingston, Washington
56 / 95

Barbecue Pork and Penne Skillet

I'm the proud mother of wonderful and active children. Simple, delicious and quick meals like this BBQ pork skillet are perfect for us to enjoy together after school activities, especially if I have leftover pulled pork. —Judy Armstrong, Prairieville, Louisiana
57 / 95

Ravioli Lasagna

When you taste this dish, you’ll think it’s a from-scratch recipe—but it starts with frozen ravioli! —Patricia Smith, Asheboro, North Carolina
58 / 95

Root Beer Float Pie

This is the kind of recipe your kids will look back on and always remember. And you don't even need to use an oven! —Cindy Reams, Philipsburg, Pennsylvania
59 / 95

Ham and Swiss Sliders

My next-door neighbor shared this ham and Swiss sliders recipe with me, and I simply cannot improve it! You can make it ahead and cook it quickly when company arrives. The combo of poppy seeds, ham and cheese, horseradish and brown sugar makes it so delicious. —Iris Weihemuller, Baxter, Minnesota
60 / 95

Beef & Tater Bake

The entire family will enjoy this heartwarming, all-in-one dinner. Plus, it offers easy cleanup! —Mike Tchou, Pepper Pike, Ohio
61 / 95

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Need to bring a dish to pass this weekend? This make-ahead strawberry pretzel salad will disappear quickly at any potluck. —Aldene Belch, Flint, Michigan
62 / 95

Honey Chicken Stir-Fry

I'm a new mom, and my schedule is very dependent upon our young son, so I like meals that can be ready in as little time as possible. This all-in-one chicken stir fry recipe with a hint of sweetness from honey is a big time-saver. —Caroline Sperry, Allentown, Michigan
63 / 95

Saltine Toffee Bark

Everyone loves these salty-sweet treasures—their flavor is simply irresistible. The bark is like brittle, but better. Get ready for a new family favorite! —Laura Cox, Brewster, Massachusetts
64 / 95

Cheesy Cheddar Broccoli Casserole

Even people who don’t like broccoli beg me to make this comforting broccoli cheese casserole recipe. It's similar to a classic green bean casserole, but the melted cheese just puts it over the top. —Elaine Hubbard, Pocono Lake, Pennsylvania
65 / 95

Corn Dog Casserole

Reminiscent of traditional corn dogs, this fun main dish really hits the spot on fall days. It's perfect for the football parties my husband and I often host. It tastes especially good right from the oven. -Marcy Suzanne Olipane, Belleville, Illinois
66 / 95

Candy Bar Apple Salad

This creamy, sweet salad with crisp apple crunch is a real people-pleaser. It makes a lot, which is good, because it will go fast! —Cyndi Fynaardt, Oskaloosa, Iowa
67 / 95

Hash Brown Egg Bake

A package of frozen potatoes makes this hash brown egg casserole simple to prepare. Featuring bacon and cheddar cheese, this easy egg bake is tasty breakfast or brunch fare. You can even make it the night before, keep in the fridge and bake the next morning—so convenient! —Cheryl Johnson, Plymouth, Minnesota
68 / 95

Peanut Butter Pudding Dessert

Here's a fun layered dessert that will appeal to all ages. If you want it even nuttier, you can use chunky peanut butter, and if you're not a fan of cashews, substitute your favorite nut. This peanut butter lasagna is one of my favorite pudding desserts. —Barbara Schindler, Napoleon, Ohio
69 / 95

White Chocolate Party Mix

You won't be able to stop eating this irresistible white chocolate party mix. The light, sweet coating is great over cereal, peanuts, pretzels and M&M's. —Norene Wright, Manilla, Indiana
70 / 95

Breakfast Biscuit Cups

The first time I made these cups, my husband and his assistant coach came into the kitchen right as I pulled the pan from the oven. They devoured the biscuits! —Debra Carlson, Columbus Junction, Iowa
71 / 95

Pepperoni Pizza Loaf

This savory stromboli starts with frozen bread dough, so it comes together in practically no time. The golden loaf is stuffed with cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers and olives. I often add a few slices of ham too. It's tasty served with warm pizza sauce for dipping. —Jenny Brown, West Lafayette, Indiana
72 / 95

Caramel Brownies

I love to cook. My family can't possibly eat all the sweets I whip up, so my co-workers are more than happy to sample them—particularly these rich, chewy caramel brownies that are full of gooey caramel, chocolate chips and crunchy walnuts. —Clara Bakke, Coon Rapids, Minnesota
73 / 95

Taco Meatball Ring

While it looks complicated, this attractive meatball-filled ring is really very easy to assemble. My family loves tacos, and we find that the crescent roll dough is a nice change from the usual tortilla shells or chips. —Brenda Johnson, Davison, Michigan
74 / 95

Ribbon Pudding Pie

Cool, smooth and creamy, this pretty pie is a slice of heaven for people with diabetes and anyone who likes an easy yet impressive dessert. The lovely pudding layers feature a yummy combination of vanilla, chocolate and butterscotch. —Doris Morgan, Verona, Mississippi
75 / 95

Easy Salsa Sloppy Joes

I created these sandwiches when I realized I did not have a can of sloppy joe sauce. The sweet brown sugar in this recipe complements the tangy salsa. —Krista Collins, Concord, North Carolina
76 / 95

Green Bean Casserole

This green bean casserole has always been one of my favorite dishes—it’s so easy to put together! You can make it before any guests arrive and keep it refrigerated until baking time. —Anna Baker, Blaine, Washington
77 / 95

Sausage & Vegetable Skillet Dinner

I threw this sausage recipe together one night to use up produce before going out of town. Who knew it was going to be such a hit! Now it’s a recipe I turn to whenever time is tight. —Elizabeth Kelley, Chicago, Illinois
78 / 95

Easy Stuffed Shells

I threw this recipe together one day when we had unexpected guests. It was an immediate hit and is now a family favorite. Get the kids involved when putting together this simple, savory dish. —Dolores Betchner, Cudahy, Wisconsin
79 / 95

Cheeseburger French Fry Casserole

Kids love this cheeseburger french fry casserole because it combines two of their favorite fast foods. And I like the fact that I can whip it up with just four ingredients. —Karen Owen, Rising Sun, Indiana
80 / 95

Pea 'n' Peanut Salad

Even people who don't like peas love this crunchy recipe, including my own children. I love the fact that it's so easy and makes a refreshing alternative to more traditional salads. A friend gave me the recipe years ago and I've been making it ever since. —Laurinda Nelson, Phoenix, Arizona
81 / 95

Italian Mushrooms

Only four ingredients create a rich and flavorful side dish that goes well with beef and mashed potatoes. —Kim Reichert, Fargo, North Dakota
82 / 95

Soupy Chicken Noodle Supper

At least once a week my six-year-old son, also known as Doctor John, hands me a “prescription” for chicken noodle soup. Needless to say, I'm always happy to fill it. —Heidi Hall, North St. Paul, Minnesota
83 / 95

Contest-Winning Easy Tiramisu

This recipe makes a great quick dessert for a special supper…or anytime. It's easily doubled if needed. What a fun use for pudding snack cups! —Betty Claycomb, Adverton, Pennsylvania
84 / 95

Spinach Dip in a Bread Bowl

When we get together with friends, I like to prepare this creamy spinach dip. It's a real crowd pleaser. —Janelle Lee, Appleton, Wisconsin
85 / 95

Easy Taco Pizza

Convenient prebaked crust makes this tasty taco pizza as easy as can be. It's a great recipe, especially if you have teenagers. I keep the ingredients on hand so that we can whip up this filling meal anytime. —Mary Cass, Baltimore, Maryland
86 / 95

Easy Cake Mix Bars

I take this dessert to work for Friday pick-me-ups. It's one of my favorite yellow cake bar recipes. I love to share them because they're so easy to eat, easy to make and easy on the wallet. —Amy Rose, Ballwin, Missouri
87 / 95

Herbed Rice Pilaf

This savory side dish has been a family favorite for years. Our daughter Jennifer became an expert at this recipe at age 12, which was a huge help for a busy working mom like me. We really enjoy this rice dish in the summer with a grilled entree. —Jeri Dobrowski, Beach, North Dakota
88 / 95

Quick Chili Mac

This combines chili with one of my favorite pasta dishes. I often serve it for company or potlucks and occasionally add taco seasoning or use beanless chili and add black beans. —Lee Steinmetz, Lansing, Michigan
89 / 95

Herbed Cheese Sticks

We love the breadsticks we get hot from the oven at our local pizza parlor. Now I can serve that same wonderful goodness at home. —Heather Bates, Athens, Maine
90 / 95

Quick Icebox Sandwiches

My mother liked making these cool, creamy treats when I was growing up in the States because they're so quick to fix. Then I made them for my three kids.—Sandy Armijo, Naples, Italy
91 / 95

Party Pesto Pinwheels

I took a couple of my favorite recipes and combined them into these delicious hors d'oeuvres. The colorful and impressive snacks come together easily with refrigerated crescent roll dough, prepared pesto sauce and a jar of roasted red peppers. —Kathleen Farrell, Rochester, New York
92 / 95

Bacon-Chicken Club Pizza

A chicken club pizza topped with lettuce, tomatoes and dressing? You’re in for a treat! Vegetables give the cheesy crust a cool crunch. —Debbie Reid, Clearwater, Florida
93 / 95

Wild Rice Stuffed Squash

I made this recipe when we invited both our families to celebrate our first Thanksgiving in our new home. There were 37 of us, and those who tried this dish raved about it. —Robin Thompson, Roseville, California
94 / 95

Chicken Tostada Cups

Several years ago I tried a version of these cups at a restaurant in Santa Fe, and I wanted to make my own spin. They're perfect for gatherings where you can let everyone add their own favorite toppings. —Marla Clark, Moriarty, New Mexico
95 / 95

Deluxe Hash Brown Casserole

My son-in-law gave me the recipe for this hash brown casserole, which my kids say is addictive. It's an amazing make-ahead dish.—Amy Oswalt, Burr, Nebraska