June 23, 2024

32 Cheap Healthy Dinner Ideas to Make in 20 Minutes

We pulled together 32 of our favorite recipes for when you’re feeling crunched for time and money. These cheap, healthy meals are packed with vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, and all take 20 minutes or less to make.

To keep costs to a minimum, all recipes here include inexpensive but favorite staples like beans, pasta and frozen vegetables. And each has seasonings or sauces that could be a big win whether you are cooking for yourself or a family. We also provide time-saving ideas in the preparation and storage. Our recipes like the Crispy Gnocchi Pasta with Tomatoes & Leeks and Salmon Tacos with Pineapple Salsa are so delicious we’re sure you’ll want them on your dinnertime rotation, even when time or money is less of a concern.

Chicken Cutlets with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce

Though a chicken cutlet may be a chicken breast cut in half, this recipe shows how to make chicken cutlets with double the deliciousness. A jar of sun-dried tomatoes does double duty for this healthy dinner recipe. The flavorful oil they’re packed in is used to sauté the chicken, and the tomatoes go into the cream sauce.

Pesto Ravioli with Spinach & Tomatoes

Looking for a new way to turn a bag of frozen cheese ravioli into a satisfying and healthy dinner? This easy pasta recipe calls for just five ingredients but is loaded with fresh flavors. By using grape tomatoes, prewashed spinach and prepared pesto, we eliminate all prep work, making this 15-minute Caprese-inspired ravioli the ideal weeknight meal.

Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp scampi is a favorite dish at many Italian restaurants, but our version takes just 20 minutes to prepare, so it’s perfect for a weeknight dinner at home. Large shrimp are cooked with garlic and then served over linguine pasta with a buttery-wine sauce—it’s so good, your family may think you ordered takeout!

Vegan Coconut Chickpea Curry

To make this 20-minute vegan curry even faster, buy precut veggies from the salad bar at the grocery store. To make it a full, satisfying dinner, serve over cooked brown rice. When shopping for simmer sauce, look for one with 400 milligrams of sodium or less and check the ingredient list for cream or fish sauce if you want to keep this vegan. If you like a spicy kick, add a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce at the end.

Salmon-Stuffed Avocados

Canned salmon is a valuable pantry staple and a practical way to include heart-healthy, omega-3-rich fish in your diet. Here, we combine it with avocados in an easy no-cook meal.

Spaghetti & Chicken Meatballs with No-Cook Tomato Sauce

This crowd-pleasing and easy dinner recipe takes just 20 minutes to make, start to finish, so it’s perfect for weeknights! When tomatoes are at their in-season best, just a quick chop and a few ingredients are all you need to make a spaghetti sauce in minutes. Store-bought chicken meatballs keep the low-effort theme going all the way to the table.

Rainbow Veggie Wraps

There’s definitely a sushi vibe to these kid-friendly wraps, which are stuffed with vegetables, cheese and hummus and then rolled and sliced. Serve them with store-bought green goddess, a creamy herb-filled dressing, to easily take it up a notch. The wraps look impressive, but they’re easy enough for kids to assemble themselves for an easy lunch or dinner.

Goat Cheese & Fresh Herb Omelet

The secret to this easy omelet recipe is choosing a really great goat cheese. Luckily most supermarkets have great chevre—Vermont Creamery and Laura Chenel are straightforward varieties you’re likely to find. If you’ve got access to funky local options, bust them out for this quick breakfast recipe. Aside from the goat cheese, eggs and herbs, you need just a few pantry ingredients and 20 minutes for one of the best omelets you can make.

Easy Spicy Salmon Cakes

Looking to add some interest to an easy dinner recipe? Five-spice may be your new best friend. What is five-spice powder? A mixture of these five spices: cinnamon, clove, fennel, star anise and Szechuan peppercorns. (There are regional recipes in China that include more spices, including white pepper, nutmeg and orange peel.) It adds a distinct warm flavor to these healthy salmon cakes. If you don’t have leftover salmon, you can use drained canned salmon.

Zucchini Noodle Primavera

This primavera recipe cuts carbs by swapping out the pasta for zucchini “noodles.” This quick vegetarian dinner is chock-full of colorful vegetables smothered in a light, creamy sauce. We like using prepackaged spiralized zucchini noodles to keep this recipe ultra-fast, but if you have a spiralizer and zucchini on hand, you can easily make your own.

Mushroom & Tofu Stir-Fry

This tofu veggie stir-fry is quick and easy, making it a great go-to weeknight meal. Baked tofu has a firm, toothsome texture that crisps well in a hot pan. You can find it in flavors like teriyaki and sesame, both of which are delicious here. Or opt for a smoked version, which has the same texture with a more robust flavor. Serve over brown rice.

Skillet Ravioli Lasagna

Jasmine Comer

This easy inside-out ravioli lasagna is the ultimate weeknight comfort food—no layering or mixing bowls required. Feel free to swap in ground turkey for the beef. Look for fresh mozzarella balls (also called “pearls”) in the specialty cheese section of your grocery store.

Crispy Gnocchi Pasta with Tomatoes & Leeks

These gnocchi are crispy on the outside, tender on the inside because you sauté them in hot oil. Plus, they leave a little fond (crispy brown bits) in the pan that adds toasty flavor to the tomato and leek sauce, which is cooked in the same pan. Because this easy gnocchi recipe calls for store-bought shelf-stable gnocchi, it’s quick to prepare—just 20 minutes, start to finish. Opt for whole-wheat gnocchi to get 2 extra grams of fiber per serving compared to white. This easy and healthy dinner is simple to customize too: See the recipe’s Tips section for variations with shrimp, pesto instead of butter and pork chops instead of gnocchi.

Baked Lemon-Pepper Chicken

Looking for a quick, easy dinner? This baked lemon-pepper chicken recipe is it. Chicken breasts are cooked in a skillet, then finished in the oven with lemon slices that soften and become part of the sauce, with a touch of maple syrup and butter to carry the flavor. It’s so simple and delicious, you’ll be making this healthy dinner again and again.

Salmon Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

An easy-to-make slaw served on the side of these salmon tacos makes for a filling and fast weeknight dinner. If you prefer more heat in these fish tacos, simply add a pinch or two of chipotle chile powder or cayenne with the chili powder.

Skillet Pork Chops with Peas, Carrots & Pearl Onions

This superfast one-dish dinner is full of classic flavor and is such a crowd-pleaser that you’ll want to work it into your regular weeknight dinner rotation. We call for bone-in pork chops to maximize flavor, but boneless pork chops are a fine substitution. To round out this meal a little more, serve with rice or mashed potatoes.

Two-Ingredient-Dough Margherita Pizza

You won’t believe how quick and easy it is to make this healthy pizza. Thanks to a two-ingredient dough that combines self-rising flour and Greek yogurt, there is no need for a rise time. Just roll, top and bake, and you’ll have a delicious dinner on the table in under half an hour.

Crunchy Chicken & Mango Salad

This Asian-inspired dinner salad has terrific crunch, thanks to sugar snap peas and napa cabbage. Give the dressing a kick of heat by adding a bit of sambal oelek, an Indonesian hot sauce that you can find in most large supermarkets and Asian grocery stores.

Cheese Quesadillas with Peppers & Onions

These 15-minute quesadillas are a notch above basic with the addition of sautéed peppers and onions. Let the kiddos load them up with the toppings at the table.

Creamy Spinach Pasta

This might be one of the creamiest light pasta dishes you’ve ever had! The mascarpone cheese adds a richness to the spinach pasta that’s unexpected—especially in a healthy pasta recipe.

Lemon-Garlic Pasta with Salmon

Wondering what to do with leftover salmon? This is a delicious and easy way to turn it into another weeknight-friendly, quick dinner. Don’t forget to reserve some pasta water—its starch thickens the lemon-garlic pasta sauce and makes it silky-smooth.

Lentil Curry with Cauliflower Rice

Combine precooked lentils (often located in the produce section of your grocery store) with an Indian-style simmer sauce for a super-fast and flavorful curry. Serving it over riced cauliflower bumps up the vegetable count and keeps carb servings in check. This three-ingredient dinner (not counting salt, pepper and oil) is really as easy as it gets. To be mindful of the salt, look for simmer sauces with less than or close to 350 mg sodium per 1/4-cup serving.

Molletes (Cheesy Mexican Bean Sandwiches)

Ali Redmond

These hearty open-faced sandwiches are ready in no time and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They’re typically made with refried beans; here we use pureed black beans scented with cumin and oregano instead for a similar effect.

3-Ingredient Sweet Potato & Brussels Sprout Hash with Chicken Sausage

Carolyn A. Hodges, R.D.

Apple-flavored chicken sausage adds flavor and protein in this quick dinner hash that uses a bag of shaved Brussels sprouts as its hearty, high-fiber base. Steaming the cubed sweet potatoes in the microwave cuts way down on total cook time.

Spinach-Artichoke-Sausage Cauliflower Gnocchi

Hearty and piquant, this quick cauliflower gnocchi dinner incorporates several healthy convenience ingredients, including turkey sausage and tender artichoke hearts, so dinner is on your table fast.

20-Minute Balsamic Mushroom & Spinach Pasta

Antonis Achilleos

This 20-minute veggie pasta dish is super savory, thanks to meaty mushrooms, while the natural sweetness from the balsamic vinegar, basil and pistachios brighten up this quick, healthy vegetarian dinner.

BBQ Pork & Smoked Gouda Quesadillas

These satisfying quesadillas get a smoky flavor from the cheese and pork, sweetness from the sauce and a crisp crunch from the red onion. The pickled jalapeños offer a twist on a typical barbecue sandwich pickle and add a touch of heat.

Black Beans, Rice & Fried Egg

Sara Haas

Using leftover cooked brown rice is a great and easy way to get breakfast on the table fast. To keep things quick, we use canned beans and baby spinach, which don’t require any advance prep. A drizzle of hot sauce brings everything together.

Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup with Soft-Boiled Eggs

Transform canned chicken noodle soup by adding fresh ginger, crunchy vegetables, herbs and a jammy soft-boiled egg. Look for a low-sodium soup that has 450 mg sodium or less per serving.

Chickpea Salad Sandwich

Photography / Caitlin Bensel, Food Styling / Ruth Blackburn

This vegan chickpea salad sandwich is lemony, bright and surprisingly delicious. It’s got all the flavors of a classic tuna salad sandwich—dill, lemon and a bit of garlic—but with chickpeas instead to add a vegan source of protein and a healthy boost of fiber. Celery brings a nice crunch.

BBQ Chicken Bowls

These BBQ chicken bowls are perfect for weeknight dinners. They come together in just 15 minutes and are chock-full of the classic barbecue flavors you love, including saucy beans, coleslaw and potatoes.

Peanut Zoodles with Edamame

Photo by: Carolyn A. Hodges, R.D.

A package of fresh zucchini noodles gets tossed with shelled edamame and store-bought peanut sauce in these 5-minute, no-cook vegetable noodle bowls. Because prepared sauces and dressings are commonly high in sodium, scan the label and opt for those that contain 150 mg sodium or less per tablespoon.