20 delicious dinner ideas for when you don’t know what to cook

Avoid the supermarket crush and prepare tasty, easy meals to love.

You’re not alone if constantly preparing the same meals on rotation sends your culinary capability on a trip to Snoozetown. No matter how many people you have in your household, finding great dinner ideas can be a constant source of stress, causing a rash of anxiety every night as we try to please everyone and tick all the boxes for nutritional intake.

With meat and poultry prices at a premium these days, take the time to research and gather some vegetarian recipes that your family will enjoy and find to be a good compromise. Where you once used meat you can substitute it with a vegetable. For example, use chopped eggplant and canned brown lentils instead of mince – or you can skip the vegetables altogether and use frozen quorn (frozen meat substitute).

And you don’t have to compromise on flavour – tap into the availability of dried spices and fresh herbs. There are a lot of recipes online that can be made ahead and frozen and, with some herbs now available in pots they can be kept longer for a fresh garnish after reheating.

(Credit: Armelle Habib)

Making the most of your pantry

Think outside the pasta box and mix it up with other ingredients to replace these belly-filling staples for dinner. Use potatoes, mashed pumpkin and sweet potato, cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles, lentils, quinoa, polenta, cannellini beans, chickpeas, barley, buckwheat, freekah, dried noodles, flour wraps and tortillas and bread.

Feeling overwhelmed again? Fear not! We’ve pulled together 20 delicious dinner recipes to help avoid the last-minute scramble for ingredients, help make the most of what you have in the pantry and put some pep on your plates.

(Credit: Gorta Yuuki)

Seafood dinner ideas

Seafood is always in good supply these days at supermarkets and local fish shops can order and supply fresh seafood, or find a fishmonger for a larger variety of options.

Roasted salmon
(Credit: Cath Muscat) 

Coriander seed, honey and lime roasted salmon

This main meal has got the wow factor. You can use the same topping on salmon or fish fillets.

Steamed fish recipe with ginger
(Credit: Nicky Ryan) 

Steamed fish with ginger, chilli and sesame

A fresh and satisfying midweek meal.

(Credit: Foxtel) 

Pocket baked fish

Fresh and simple, one of our best dinner ideas is these parcels of all-in-one goodness.

Soup dinner ideas

Soup is a crowd-pleaser any time of year and perfect for making extra to freeze for later or lunch leftovers. Choose seasonal ingredients and add pulses and legumes for nourishing goodness.

Quinoa and vegetable broth
(Credit: Cath Muscat) 

Quinoa & vegetable broth

A soul-warming broth filled with hearty veg and satisfying grains.

Yellow split pea soup
(Credit: Cath Muscat) 

Yellow split pea, pumpkin & cavolo nero soup

Salads and vegetarian side dishes

There are endless meals that can be made from fresh vegetables, pulses, grains, condiments and continental products found in supermarkets and health food stores. Support small independent grocers for the freshest produce to inspire fresh and easy vegetarian dinner ideas, including recipes with dried beans, pulses, grains, seeds and nuts. Tofu and soy products are also good meat substitutes.

Roasted cauliflower recipe
(Credit: Cath Muscat) 

Whole roasted spiced cauliflower

Good looking and good for you, this is our new favourite way to eat cauliflower.

(Credit: Cath Muscat) 

Sriracha roasted pepita and cashews with buckwheat pumpkin salad

A hearty salad for the perfect main meal with extra crunch and bursts of colour.

(Credit: Cath Muscat) 

Seasoned baked French fries

A tasty snack or delicious side dish.

(Credit: Cath Muscat) 

Roasted cauliflower, haloumi and zucchini with tahini dressing

It’s the tahini dressing that takes this delicious side dish to the next level.

Quinoa warm brunch salad
(Credit: Cath Muscat) 

Quinoa warm brunch salad

Healthy and hearty – perfect for breakfast in bed.

Zucchini and four cheese tart
(Credit: Nicky Ryan)

Zucchini and four cheese tart

A wonderful light main great for lunch or dinner

Baked polenta tart
(Credit: Cath Muscat)

Baked polenta tart with asparagus, mushrooms and feta

The colours of Italy on a sunshine base of delicious baked polenta.

Haloumi stuffed tomatoes
(Credit: Cath Muscat)

Haloumi-stuffed tomatoes

A bright and flavourful meal or sassy side dish to pimp your midweek meal.

Light meals

Chicken soba noodle salad
(Credit: Cath Muscat)

Chicken soba noodle salad with sesame peanut dressing

You can replace chicken with any cooked protein or plant-based substitute. This dressing can also be used over other Asian noodles, Buddha bowls or rice dishes.

Baked chilli jam tofu
(Credit: Cath Muscat)

Baked chilli jam tofu with brown rice, sesame and almond salad

A vibrant vegetarian light that packs in flavour and colour.

Roasted sweet potatoes
(Credit: Cath Muscat)

Roasted sweet potatoes with tumeric spiced chickpeas

Display on a platter for the wow factor. 

Family dinner ideas

Turmeric potato and chickpea curry
(Credit: Cath Muscat)

Turmeric, potato and chickpea curry

Christine Manfield shares her secrets for soul-warming vegetable curry.

(Credit: Nicky Ryan)

Mushroom lasagne

You can use 1kg of button mushrooms as a substitute for Portobello and Swiss brown mushrooms.

Sweet potato, lentil and cheddar sausage rolls
(Credit: Cath Muscat)

Sweet potato, lentil and cheddar sausage rolls

A vegetarian spin on an old favourite – and perfect for the kids! 

Round servings of pizza verde.
(Credit: Photography: Con Poulos / Styling: Steve Pearce)

Pizza verde with green olive tapenade

Light, salty, with a hint of citrus, this pizza verde recipe is perfect for entertaining.

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