We’ve all been there. You gotta eat and you gotta eat NOW. Buuut you you didn’t wake up at the crack of dawn, you didn’t soak the beans like you were supposed to overnight, you didn’t marinate the meat in advance, heck you haven’t even been to the grocery store in weeks… You need some shortcuts––last minute meals––because we’re all busy people, but that doesn’t mean that we also don’t like to eat well (and on the cheap), right?
We’ve compiled 25 last minute recipes (plus some bonus tips) that use fast-cooking ingredients: eggs, ground meat, leftover rice, noodles, a pack of tofu and that are designed to meet you when you’re at your culinary “worst”: you’re scrounging for vegetables languishing at the back of your fridge, or pulling together a dinner with just the couple of ingredients you have on hand.
Whatever the circumstances, we’ve got ya covered!
25 Last Minute Meals
When you don’t have the patience for anything other than ground meat…
This luscious mixture is made with easy-cooking ground beef and augmented with green peas to make it into a full meal. If you have picky kids, look no further–it’s delicious, fast, and they’ll be asking for seconds.
Larb is bursting with flavors, and will be on the table as fast as you can chop the handful of herbs and aromatics that go into it.
When you survive off of eggs…
You know a recipe is good, when we pull it out of the “ugly” early years archives, and this one is a standby that we’ve been eating all of my life. It never fails to satisfy, it’s fast, and almost impossible to mess up. Plus, eggs and rice? One of the best combinations out there and probably the fastest and easiest of the last minute meals.
If you’re looking for a lighter way to prepare eggs, this is your man. It’s a classic preparation that’s surprisingly refined and subtle for the amount of effort it takes to prepare.
We almost always have a jar of salted chilies in our fridge just for this dish. It’s as fast as making scrambled eggs (when you’re pinched for time, you can skip the frittata portion of the equation), and satisfies like no other with the addition of the chilies and chives. A simpler version of this is our Chinese Chives (or Scallion) and Egg Stir-fry.
If you’re like us, chances are you have some frozen scallion pancakes sitting at the back of your freezer. This Jian Bing Approximation carried me through allnighters, early mornings when I really wanted something satisfying before starting the day, and late nights when I wanted a simple dinner.
When you just *know* a big bowl of rice will make the world better…
Three key ingredients–eggs, bacon, scallions, and leftover rice. Take it from the pros, you can fudge the rest, and it’ll STILL be good.
When you’re down to bare bones in your pantry, all you need is rice, egg, and scallions. And yes, those scraggly scallions you forgot you had will work just fine.
When you’re craving noodles…
Clean out the veggies in your refrigerator, or just toss in some frozen peas and carrots! Et voila, food is on the table.
Time and time again, when I’m at peak lazy (or peak stress), these cold sesame noodles feed me fast. Make a double batch and you’ve got a great meal planned for the next day too! We have an older version of a sesame noodles recipe that we made in Beijing that is pretty good too.
A favorite on the blog, because it lives up to its name, whilst packing lots of great flavors.
Soy sauce and scallions, and lots of it. And that’s the only secret to this deliciously authentic Shanghainese noodle dish.
Cook the noodles and give them a spin through some sizzly hot oil and sauces, and you’re ready to eat. It’s probably my parents’ favorite of all the last minute meals!
If only you knew how much this dish has been made at our house over the years–busy weeknights, in between Sunday chores, and after school pick-me-ups before mountains of homework–this recipe delivers.
Our favorite entertaining option, because you can put tasty noodles in front of a crowd, and also have the time to enjoy their company.
Too many times, Sarah and I have been down to a half box of pasta in the pantry, a mangled rind of parmesan, and not much else. In those times, we look no further than our spice cabinet for the secret to a good meal with our take on cacio e pepe.
When you’re going for well-rounded…
If you feel like you could eat a whole fish, but only have the inclination to quickly sear up a couple of salmon fillets, this is your recipe.
A simple vegan stir-fry made with a block of tofu and a handful of choice aromatics.
Who needs takeout broccoli drowning in sauce when you can whip up a healthy broccoli tofu bowl in 10 minutes?
Salmon Teriyaki feels like a special indulgence but it only takes 30 minutes to prepare at home.
There’s no simpler way to prepare tofu than heating up a pan with a little oil, and searing yourself a spicy, seasoned tofu “steak.”
Start your rice cooker, chop up some pork belly and kimchi, turn it through a hot wok or skillet, and enjoy authentic Korean flavors.
Modeled after our mom’s recipe for our favorite chicken curry that simmers for a couple of hours on the stove, this version takes just 15 minutes for a similar flavor.
Save time with a rotisserie chicken and some pre-washed mixed greens!
Here are some bonus ideas if you’re in the mood to do a little bit of advanced planning to win your “spontaneous” quick and easy dinner!
If you have these in your freezer, a well-rounded meal is one step closer…
When you make San Xian Wontons, chances are you’re making a big batch (Why? We made it that way.) and you’ll have some in your freezer down the line. Boil some water, add a handful of greens if you so desire, and a delicious meal has magically appeared. It’s one of our favorite family last minute meals.
Why did this make the list? You cook a large pot. You eat one or two bowls, and the rest goes into a few containers destined for the freezer. When you’re ready to feast again, reheat the soup, cook some noodles, and you’re eating a delicious bowl of noodles instead of sad takeout that took over an hour to get to your door anyways.
Pro-tip: when you buy roast pork, buy a spare piece, have the butcher cut it, and toss it into the freezer. Better yet, make your own Chinese BBQ Roast Pork Cha Siu yourself and freeze a portion of it before everyone eats it all! Then when the mood strikes, you can whip up a quick stir-fry with whatever vegetables you have on hand. It’s one of our healthiest last minute meals too.
When you freeze a bag of washed rice, hearty and comforting congee can be made in just 20 minutes!