Saturday night is notorious for taking on so many different forms. Maybe your Saturday nights are occupied with get-togethers, movie marathons, spending time with your kids, or a mixture of all three. But no matter how you enjoy your weekend evenings, Saturday night dinner ideas always keep me stumped. Regardless of how much I’ve planned during the week, I find myself spending far too much time pondering what to put on the dinner table when I’m not in the mood to go full-on chef mode. For those of you in the same boat, allow me to share my favorite festive yet simple Saturday night dinner ideas that always reignite my culinary fire.
Featured image by Michelle Nash.
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What makes a good Saturday night meal?
No matter your diet, it’s important to keep your Saturday night dinners balanced and fun. Keeping prep time relatively low means you’ll be less discouraged if you’ve spent the day lounging on the couch. If you’re anything like me, Saturday also means my grocery inventory is limited, so minimal-ingredient recipes are always a good idea. Even though energy levels may be sub-par on this sacred day, Saturday is a great time to try new dishes and incorporate ingredients you may not be motivated to try during the week.
Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or simply putting food on your table for the family, serving a crowd can be intimidating. Big-batch dishes and one-pot meals make being a host less of a hassle. Having a stunning table salad or appetizer and a simple dessert are sure to satisfy.
Below, you’ll find Saturday night dinner ideas for larger groups, vegetarian showstoppers, recipes for two, and quick and easy dishes for those lazy weekend evenings. (Don’t worry, we didn’t forget dessert!) And regardless of your typical weekend mood, I think we can all agree that less is more when it comes to our time off.
After working hard all week, the weekend is reserved for relaxation. The recipes below embrace the beauty of low-effort/maximum reward offerings. Digging it? Keep reading for our picks of Saturday night dinner ideas that help you kick your feet up and savor the weekend.
42 Saturday Night Dinner Ideas for the Family (And Friends!)
Sweet & Spicy Braised Short Ribs
Why We Love It: These braised short ribs pack so much flavor into every bite (your tastebuds will be thanking you). This dish yields a large amount of food, perfect for hungry families. Not to mention that these short ribs pair perfectly with practically any side you can imagine.
Hero Ingredient: Be sure to have a bottle of dry red wine on hand for this savory sauce.
Pesto Gnocchi Skillet Bake
Why We Love It: This cheesy and gooey one-pot recipe couldn’t be easier to throw together on a Saturday night. It requires minimal yet mouth-watering ingredients that you likely have in your refrigerator. What’s not to love?
Hero Ingredient: Store-bought or homemade, pesto is a must.
Why We Love It: This one-pot sausage pasta is downright delicious. With a short ingredient list, each component shines through to complement one another beautifully. Arugula, baby portabella mushrooms, Italian sausage, and lots of lemon juice are the stars of the show, with craveable textures and flavors. And even though this pasta features rich Italian sausage, it’s surprisingly light.
Hero Ingredient: Don’t be shy with the red pepper flakes.
Why We Love It: Danielle Walker shared this cozy turkey chili verde recipe with us and we couldn’t be more thrilled to share it with you all. It’s dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, and paleo-friendly, which means it’s nutritious and enjoyed by all—even your pickiest eaters. The best part? This entire chili comes together in less than 30 minutes. It also freezes and reheats well, so you can make a big batch in advance and slowly reap the fruits of your labor.
Hero Ingredient: Since a paleo diet excludes legumes, it can be tricky to get a chili to thicken properly. The solution? Simmering white potatoes in the base with little bits of cauliflower sprinkled throughout. The starch helps the chili transform from brothy to silky.
Why We Love It: The most flavorful, nourishing, and low-effort/high-reward sheet pan recipe you’ll ever find, these fajitas deserve a spot in your weekly lineup. Marinated chicken, bell peppers, onions, and poblano peppers roast together until slightly charred and caramelized. Then, everything is wrapped up in a warm corn tortilla and finished with as many toppings as your heart desires. Make your Tex-Mex dreams come true at home!
Hero Ingredient: A lot of lime is the secret to success. You might think you’re going overboard but don’t worry. The acidity in the citrus works behind the scenes to tenderize the chicken without you having to lift a finger.
Why We Love It: Chilly early spring nights call for comforting meals, and this recipe provides just that. Since it uses ingredients you probably have on hand, there’s nothing standing between you and total coziness on a Saturday night. Choose your own adventure with the veggies, and don’t be afraid to try something unexpected! With a base as delicious as this creamy polenta, you can’t go wrong.
Hero Ingredient: Roasting a head of garlic alongside the veggies gives it that nutty, almost-sweet flavor and spreadable texture. Be sure to save some for baguette spreading.
Why We Love It: In the world of lazy Saturday night dinner recipes, sheet pan dishes are king. This chicken version with artichokes, cherry tomatoes, garlic, red onion, and green olives is just divine. It’s Mediterranean-inspired and full of bursting flavors you’ll want to sop up every bit of.
Hero Ingredient: Herbs de Provence drives home the savory chicken flavor that you won’t want to miss.
Why We Love It: Pasta al Limone is a lovable classic that never goes out of style. Camille lovingly calls it a pantry pasta, meaning you don’t have to look far for the ingredients. All it takes is a little lemon juice, noodles, heavy cream, butter, parmesan, and fresh herbs to take this one from pot to plate. Once you’ve had a forkful, you’ll come back craving more.
Hero Ingredient: Any herbs you have on hand go well in this pasta. Basil? Yes. Chives? Absolutely. Invasive mint that’s taking over your flower bed? Yes, please.
Why We Love It: When it comes to Saturday night dinner recipes for the family, this one’s a real winner. It couldn’t be easier to make, and kids love it with a cheese quesadilla on the side to soak up all that broth. The best part? This soup uses the entire can of black beans—juice and all—to form the base. It’s seriously that easy and is completely cozy for chilly fall nights.
Hero Ingredient: If you prefer a thicker soup, blend up the mix with an immersion blender or in batches in a stand blender. Silky smooth soup is calling your name.
Saturday Night Dinner Ideas for Two
Butternut Squash and Ricotta Tart
Why We Love It: If you’re searching for a unique main course that’s both delicious AND beautiful, look no further than this butternut squash tart. Ricotta gives a perfect creaminess that complements the squash’s sweet and earthy flavor.
Hero Ingredient: Sprinkle with red pepper flakes for a bit of heat.
Spinach and Ricotta Pizza with Garlicky Olive Oil
Why We Love It: Try your hand at homemade pizza dough and prepare to be amazed. The flavors are impeccable—with spinach, creamy ricotta, garlic confit, red pepper flakes, and fresh basil coming together in harmony. This recipe is dynamic, comforting, and so easy to throw together on a busy weekend. This pizza is the perfect size for two to enjoy, so you don’t have to worry about storing leftovers.
Hero Ingredient: The garlic confit definitely wins the prize. It’s baked low and slow until caramelized and beautifully spreadable. Pro tip: Make a little extra for sandwiches, wraps, toasts, salad dressings, or good old-fashioned bread spreading.
Slow Roasted Cod with Broccolini, Winter Squash, and Mint
Why We Love It: Perfect for date night, an easy weeknight dinner, and quick pan-to-plate offerings—this roasted cod is effortlessly romantic. Your oven does all the work to transform seasonal ingredients into a nourishing meal you’ll want to bookmark. Flaky cod, delicata squash, broccolini, and plenty of herbs and flavors meld together to create a healthy dinner you and your meal partner will love.
Hero Ingredient: Don’t be shy with the lemon juice. All that roasted goodness is made even better with a little citrus.
Shredded Kale & Cranberry Salad with Crispy Tofu
Why We Love It: Sweet, savory, tangy, fresh, and all-around delicious, this kale salad has got it going on. The kale base is loaded with dried cranberries, salted peanuts, refreshing cucumber, and sautéed tofu that’s so much better than you (probably) think it is. To top it all off, a citrus-ginger dressing brightens up everything underneath it. Help yourself to a big serving of this nutrient-dense salad for a dinner that will have you glowing from the inside out.
Hero Ingredient: Thoroughly massaging your kale is key. It breaks down all that toughness and gives you tasty, tender leaves you’ll love munching on.
Why We Love It: Bacon, apples, and sweet potatoes might not be your first thought when it comes to pizza toppings, but the combo might surprise you. The flavors they bring together are nothing short of magical. Smoky bacon meets sweet apple and cozy sweet potato, all working together over a crispy pizza crust. Then, crispy fried sage brings an herbal tone to the mix. Don’t knock it until you try it.
Hero Ingredient: Did I forget to mention the goat cheese? Those flavors are only enhanced by the tanginess of creamy goat cheese that brings things to new heights.
Why We Love It: Kitchari is a combination of lentils (or split mung beans), rice, spices, and ghee that’s pretty much a hug in a bowl. It’s perfect for quiet Saturday nights when you need a little comfort. Bonus: it couldn’t be easier to make. It’s composed entirely in one bowl! With ten minutes of hands-on time, you can go from pot to plate in no time.
Hero Ingredient: Garam masala, red chili powder, turmeric, hing, cumin seeds, and ajwain seeds constitute the spices for your kitchari.
Why We Love It: Get your BLT fix in salad form with this ggrfb BLT (BLEAT?) salad. Crunchy bread, crispy bacon, juicy tomatoes, jammy eggs, creamy avocado, and buttery lettuce come together under a simple vinaigrette in a way that’s almost addicting. You have all kinds of flavors and textures complementing each other in one harmonious salad. I don’t know about you, but my mouth is watering.
Hero Ingredient: The eight-minute egg is not to be overlooked. It’s the jammy yolk that makes each forkful pure perfection.
Why We Love It: This bowl might just be the definition of nourishment. You’ve got fiber-rich kale, protein-packed eggs, fatty avocado, and more coming together to work for your body from the inside out. Plus, it’s just as delicious as it is nutrient-dense! Savory hummus and charred broccolini bring serious flavor that’s only enhanced by the salty sunflower seeds sprinkled over top. It’s a dynamic bowl that gives you that extra boost of goodness on a Saturday night.
Hero Ingredient: Again, the egg is unbeatable on top of this bowl. By soft-boiling it, you’re left with just the right amount of yolk to spread over your greens.
Vegetarian Saturday Night Dinner Ideas
Damn That’s a Keeper Winter Vegetable Lasagna
Why We Love It: Who said it was impossible to enjoy lasagna on a plant-based diet? This recipe uses both fresh produce and fresh pasta (Yes, you can do it. From-scratch pasta is worth it). What better time to whip up a homemade dish like this than Saturday night?
Hero Ingredient: Butternut squash is a perfectly plant-based root veg to incorporate into this lasagna.
Why We Love It: If end-of-winter weather is giving you a case of the blues, the sniffles, or the shivers, this stew is your calling card. It’s a meatless main that’s packed with nutrient-rich veggies and warming flavors that are perfect for this time of year. It’s a one-pot dish that’s gluten-free, vegan, and full of fiber. And don’t think the lack of meat means lack of flavor—garlic, lemon, lots of spices and herbs hold it down in the flavor department. Trust me, even the most dedicated meat lovers won’t miss it.
Hero Ingredient: The variety of veggies in this stew also brings valuable flavor. You’ve got cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, and onions working together to flavor the broth to perfection.
Why We Love It: If you think “creamy” and “vegan” are mutually exclusive, think again. This pasta with tomatoes and basil is coated in a walnut sauce that’s so much more than the sum of its parts. Garlic and onions are sautéed until caramelized then blended with walnuts, lemon juice/zest, and a splash of water until smooth. Then, the sauce is poured over the pasta and lovingly coated over each al dente noodle. Combine that with just-burst tomatoes and lots of herbs, and you’ve got a decadent pasta for Saturday night dinner. Yum.
Hero Ingredient: The finishing touch is a shower of lemon zest, chopped basil, and red pepper flakes. Don’t be shy—these edible accessories finish this dish off beautifully.
Why We Love It: Gone are the days of bland sweet potato mush. These crispy roasted sweet potatoes are roasted in the oven until tender, but the crowning glory is their pan-fried finish. In a big cast iron skillet, warm a little butter and honey before placing the potatoes face-down in the mixture. The flesh crisps up on top and even gets a little charred in the best way. Then, you can top with Greek yogurt, avocado, sriracha, everything bagel seasoning, fresh herbs, or anything else you can conjure up. Each bite is simply blissful.
Hero Ingredient: While the recipe calls for honey, hot honey would be absolutely amazing. The subtle heat and sweetness would complement that charred sweet potato so well.
Why We Love It: Switch up your dinner offerings with a veggie-forward flatbread that’s equally healthy and delicious. Each flatbread is topped with a red pepper hummus that you’ll want to make extra of (trust me) and veggie galore. The hummus is made with roasted carrots, red bell pepper, roasted garlic, and several spices that tie it all together before it’s layered with fresh veg and herbs. Crunchy vegetables fare really well here, so think cucumber, snap peas, radishes, green onions, etc.
Hero Ingredient: For the hummus, all the vegetables are roasted together on a sheet pan, which couldn’t be easier. Hero method, anybody?
Why We Love It: This recipe is all about the creamy pureed soup that boasts zero cream in sight. It uses coconut milk and warming spices to give it that satisfying richness without the extra heaviness that comes from cream. Combine that with cozy butternut squash and carrots, sharp ginger, and sweet honey, and you’ve got a simple, delicious soup.
Hero Ingredient: Fresh orange juice brings a vibrant zing to the party that will wake up all the senses.
Why We Love It: Another unexpected twist on pizza, this flatbread with eggplant and ricotta is the minimal-cook dinner you’ve been looking for. It’s a miracle recipe that takes very little time to assemble and rewards you with a decadent dinner. It uses eggplant, ricotta, garlic, heirloom tomatoes, and more to create something so much greater than the sum of its parts.
Hero Ingredient: If the extra effort involved in eggplant scares you, don’t fear! There’s no salting or drying involved here—just a simple broil that keeps the outside crispy and the inside tender and free of bitterness.
Why We Love It: Bland veggie burgers, be gone. This sweet potato veggie burger brings the flavor and texture to a cult classic dish: the humble burger. It all starts with chickpeas, sweet potato, panko breadcrumbs, and lots of spices, which constitute the patty. Then, smear a little feta yogurt dressing on your buns and top with red onions, charred veggies, tomatoes, fresh cucumber, or anything else that strikes your fancy.
Hero Ingredient: Ground cumin, coriander, and red chili powder bring the flavor to each tasty patty.
Why We Love It: It can be tricky to find a vegetarian taco recipe that’s actually filling, but this recipe proves it is possible and enjoyable. Brussels sprouts, radish, and onion build the foundation here for lots of goodness to follow. They’re roasted until slightly crispy, layered with mashed avocado plus a spicy peanut sauce, then wrapped up in a warm corn tortilla blanket. Top with as many edible accessories your heart desires.
Hero Ingredient: Should you choose to double the sauce (although you’ll likely have some leftover anyway), keep it on hand for stir-fry, spring rolls, crudités, and salad dressings all week long.
Vegetarian Coq Au Vin
Why We Love It: Romantic, cozy, and utterly mouth-watering, this coq au vin is the ultimate comfort dish to spice up your evening. Braised with red wine and served with warm fresh bread or mashed potatoes, this take on a traditional French dish will be the highlight of your evening.
Hero Ingredient: Any red wine will do (even zero-proof!).
Sweet Potato and Chickpea Bowl with Feta Yogurt
Why We Love It: Bowls never fail to make a great throw-together meal that always hits the spot. This chickpea and sweet potato bowl is a great meatless alternative for vegetarians that still includes a good amount of protein and carbs.
Hero Ingredient: The feta yogurt changed my life—seriously.
Quick and Easy Saturday Night Dinner Ideas
Loaded Sweet Potato Fries
Why We Love It: Sweet potatoes in any form have my heart. They’re a super simple way to add substance to any meal, and their mildly sweet flavors pair well with a variety of different flavors and textures. If a full-fledged meal seems too heavy for your evening, give these loaded sweet potato fries a go.
Hero Ingredient: Drizzle a bit of sour cream on top for added richness.
Why We Love It: Interesting doesn’t always mean complicated, which rings true in this salmon. The fish is caramelized under the broiler before being brushed with a vibrant honey glaze that wakes up each and every taste bud. Couple that with roasted sweet potatoes, fluffy rice, and a coconut crunch that’s so addicting you can eat it straight out of the pan. Pure bliss.
Hero Ingredient: That coconut crunch is seriously phenomenal. All you have to do is sauté a little garlic, sliced chili, and coconut flakes until everything becomes sweet, nutty, and fragrant. Your life might just be changed forever.
Why We Love It: Bitter arugula is layered with sweet apple slices, sharp red onion, toasty walnuts, creamy goat cheese, and more in this addictive salad. Coming together in 15 minutes or less, this salad is great to keep in mind for Saturday night dinner ideas, on-the-fly gatherings, or make-ahead lunches/dinners throughout the week.
Hero Ingredient: The sweet/salty flavor combo in salad form is unmatched. Here, you’re getting lots of that with the tart cranberries, toasted nuts, creamy cheese, and spicy red onion working together in harmony. It’s a flavor dynamic to behold.
Why We Love It: Toast for dinner? You betcha. This
Sunday Saturday night avocado toast checks all the boxes on flavor, texture, and comfort. It takes less than 15 minutes to go from bread to dinner (a miracle in and of itself!). With creamy avocado, salty everything seasoning, just-burst tomatoes, and jammy yolk running over top, there’s so much to love.
Hero Ingredient: The jammy egg is not to be taken lightly. It’s like a warm blanket coating all that goodness underneath.
Why We Love It: Cheese kebabs sound like a dream, no? These paneer kebabs are stacked with salty, melty cheese, caramelized bell pepper, and charred red onions for a quick dinner that’s sure to satisfy. The paneer is marinated overnight in a mixture of yogurt and spices that gives it a punchy flavor you won’t want to miss. Ergo, don’t skimp on the spices.
Hero Ingredient: A squeeze of fresh lime juice over each kebab ties all those flavors together perfectly. I’d call it magical, but you’ll have to see for yourself.
Why We Love It: All it takes to make this simple vegetarian pasta is a little garlic, shallot, zucchini, spaghetti, and parmesan cheese. I guarantee: it’ll make your pasta dreams come true. The key to success is the technique, though this recipe deviates from the original to keep things short and sweet. The zucchini is pan-fried with olive oil until golden brown and about a third gets blended with pasta water and basil for the sauce. It’s blissfully simple and equally satisfying.
Hero Ingredient: A pat of butter and lots of grated parm finishes this dish off to perfection. Swirl it in at the end and enjoy the effortless elevation.
Why We Love It: If you need an excuse to empty your vegetable drawer, look no further. This frittata comes together in under 30 minutes—perfect for lazy Saturday nights. It’s simple to make, full of vegetables and is composed entirely of ingredients you (probably) already have.
Hero Ingredient: A heavy sprinkle of fresh herbs over top polishes off the dish. Use whatever you have on hand—you can’t go wrong here!
Why We Love It: Fresh greens, spicy marinated chickpeas/carrots, cucumber, pumpkin seeds, queso fresco, and more come together in salad matrimony. It’s a chopped salad, which means each forkful is loaded with a little bit of everything. Toss it all together in that luscious honey-shallot vinaigrette for a dynamic salad that goes well by itself, topped with protein, or as a side to Taco… Saturday?
Hero Ingredient: Toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds on top bring the crunch factor.
Why We Love It: Five ingredients and one pot are all that stand between you and this low-effort/maximum-reward pasta. It uses simple ingredients to create something more flavorful than you might think possible. The trick is to roast your tomatoes and garlic low and slow with lots of olive oil. Miso in the sauce brings a lovely umami flavor, which is complemented by that caramelized garlic, salty parmesan cheese, and a little pasta water to bind it all together. Simple perfection.
Hero Ingredient: In terms of noodle selection, a bucatini noodle is ideal. The little hole through the middle of each nood gives you ample opportunity to slurp. Let loose and enjoy, people!
Summer Fruit Fools
Why We Love It: Light and refreshing, this dessert is a great way to please a crowd without slaving over an elaborate dessert. With only four ingredients (none that require baking), it’s hard to turn this delicious treat down when the temperature starts to warm up.
Hero Ingredient: The juice and zest of a lemon add a tangy twist to the sweet fruit and cream filling.
Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Brownies
Why We Love It: Brownies never fail to make their way onto my weekly menu. They’re the best bite-sized snack for when you’re a bit too full for a large-scale dessert. This recipe takes brownies to the next level and keeps this delicious treat gluten and dairy-free.
Hero Ingredient: A bit of sea salt is the perfect contrasting bite to the brownies’ richer flavors.
Orange-Walnut Olive Oil Cake
Why We Love It: I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too familiar with olive oil cakes until trying this one, and let me say: I’ve been changed for the better. It’s light and fluffy with a crunchy texture from the chopped walnuts that I would have never thought to incorporate into a cake.
Hero Ingredient: Honey naturally sweetens this treat.
No Bake White Chocolate Lemon Cardamom Slices
Why We Love It: Lemon desserts are one of my go-to ways to create a fruity dessert in a pinch. Plus, with no baking required, these lemon cardamom slices are a quick, light dessert that will save you hours in the kitchen. (Enjoy your evening and thank us later.)
Hero Ingredient: Top this delicious dessert with lemon sugar and whipped cream.
Why We Love It: It goes without saying that tiramisu is a widely-loved addition to any evening meal. This recipe is a breeze to make (no baking required!) and uses rich flavors like espresso and vanilla bean to contrast the fresh raspberries.
Hero Ingredient: Chocolate shavings are a picture-perfect topping.
Double Chocolate Skillet Cookie
Why We Love It: Skillet cookies are highly underrated, but they yield enough dessert to make everyone full and happy. (Kidding, everyone’s going to want more of this after-dinner treat.) This double chocolate cookie skillet is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth without messing up your kitchen late at night.
Hero Ingredient: With ice cream as a topping, there’s no turning down this dish.
This post was originally published on October 22nd, 2022, and has since been updated.