21 Easy Summer Dinners You’ll Cook (or Throw Together) on Repeat
When temperatures soar above 80 degrees, it’s OK to use the word “cook” loosely. This time of year, dinners are often made on the fly anyway, tossed together after a day at a park or by a pool. The New York Times Cooking recipes below stick to those unwritten rules of summer cooking: They must be bright and quick, with absolutely no oven required.
This Seville-style gazpacho from Julia Moskin makes the perfect lunch or dinner on days when turning on the stove sounds sacrilegious. This chilled, creamy (but creamless!) soup takes a cool 20 minutes to blend, season and strain.
A well-dressed salad can make for a light but filling summer meal. “Adding to the chorus of folks saying this dressing is stellar!” one commenter wrote of the umami-rich blend of cashews, garlic, mustard, miso paste and caper brine in this recipe from Becky Hughes. If it’s too hot to turn on the oven for the toppings — crunchy chickpeas and rustic croutons — you could make quick work of them on the stovetop.
A crunchy BLT with perfectly ripe tomatoes is a no-brainer in the summer, so allow us to tempt you with a less obvious suggestion: Turn the sandwich into a pasta. This twist on the classic from Colu Henry keeps the vibes seasonal with cherry tomatoes and will take you only 30 minutes to prepare.
Recipe: BLT Pasta
Much like a Bomb Pop or a platter of sliced watermelon, tomato toast is a quintessential summer food. Follow Melissa Clark’s lead and dress yours up with sardines, some sliced onion and torn basil, and you’ve got yourself a classic pantry meal.
A few pantry and fridge staples — garlic, soy sauce, black vinegar, red-pepper flakes, scallions and herbs — do a lot of work in this deceptively simple dish from Hetty McKinnon. Hot oil is poured over wide noodles and the fixings — yo po mian means “oil sprinkled noodles” — pulling complex flavors out of simple ingredients with hardly any cooking.
Recipe: Yo Po Mian
Yewande Komolafe pairs two ingredients that scream summer — shrimp and okra — for a lively one-pot meal. Reaching for sazón, the annatto- and cumin-rich spice blend popular throughout Latin America, when you cook the shrimp keeps the number of spices you have to pull from the pantry to a minimum.
Recipe: Sazón-Spiced Shrimp and Okra
“This recipe will be in heavy rotation for my summer months,” one reader wrote of this simple salad from Hana Asbrink. Because there are only a few ingredients, the cooking techniques are especially important: Plunge the peas and chicken in an ice bath after they are blanched and poached to ensure their textural integrity.
Recipe: Sesame Snap Pea-Chicken Salad
Hot girl summer demands cold noodle summer. Darun Kwak’s kimchi bibim guksu was made for both, as it’s spicy, adaptable and quick to assemble. Bibim guksu, which means “mixed noodles” in Korean, doesn’t usually include kimchi, but, in this case, you’ll be glad it’s there to provide tang and heat.
Recipe: Kimchi Bibim Guksu
Mayonnaise, the condiment of the summer, is the secret ingredient in this zippy grilled chicken recipe. Ali Slagle slathers it on boneless, skinless chicken, which flavors the meat, encourages browning and prevents the other seasonings — grated ginger and lime zest — from burning off on the grill.
Recipe: Ginger-Lime Chicken
This tuna salad, adapted by Tejal Rao from the chef Scarlett Lindeman, isn’t the kind you tuck between two slices of white bread or spread onto a Ritz cracker. It’s bright and fresh and juicy, worthy of the best oil-packed tuna you can find. Cooling cucumbers and creamy avocado round out a meal made for the evenings you resolve not to cook.
Recipe: Scarlett’s Tuna Salad
Yasmin Fahr clearly must have had weeknight summer evenings in mind when she developed this garlicky, herby warm salad. The dish comes together in just 15 minutes, leaving you plenty of time to pull out some patio chairs, make a spritz and enjoy dinner al fresco.
The beauty of a big bowl of rice vermicelli noodles is that it’s good at any temperature: hot, warm, “left out on the counter for 30 minutes” or cold. In this recipe from Genevieve Ko, the noodles, along with sliced pork chops, carrots and a ton of tender herbs, get tossed in fish sauce, maple syrup, shallots, chile, garlic and lime juice.
Using the best produce and seafood summer has to offer means you don’t actually have to do much when it comes time to cook them. These seared scallops and tomatoes from Lidey Heuck are a perfect example of that, requiring little more than shallots, garlic, wine and lemon juice to really shine.
Orzo is a tremendously underrated pantry player and deserves a spot on your dinner roster. Kay Chun uses it as the base of a salad inspired by the flavors of piperade, a Basque dish of stewed peppers, onions and tomatoes. Finishing the dish with crumbled feta adds welcome brininess.
Recipe: Orzo Salad With Peppers and Feta
Inspired by potato salad, this chickpea salad from Lidey Heuck is lighter and packs more protein. Pile on a couple scoops of leafy greens, as you might with a tuna salad, or spread a thick layer in between two slices of lightly toasted sourdough for a picnic-ready sandwich.
This soy milk noodle dish is enjoyed during the summertime in Korea, and for good reason: It’s a cold, refreshing, five-ingredient soup you can make in half an hour if you plan ahead. The prep work comes down to an overnight soaking of soy beans, which serve as the base for a nutty and rich broth. From there, this recipe from Kay Chun is a breeze.
Gently poached fish à la Alison Roman won’t keep you hovering over the stovetop for too long. Choose your own adventure when it comes to the fish: cod, haddock, pollock, halibut, flounder. Any meaty, mild white variety will taste delicious when cooked in brothy tomatoes seasoned with fish sauce.
“One of the best flavor-to-effort ratios of any meal I have made,” one reader wrote of this highly rated and highly adaptable stir-fry from Ali Slagle. While her chicken and asparagus combo is foolproof, you could easy switch it up with cubed pork and green beans, or tofu and peas.
Put those in-season beefsteak tomatoes to work in this nostalgic recipe from Francis Lam. Barely scrambled eggs are added to a ginger-tomato sauce, creating a savory, tart-sweet final dish. Serve it over steamed rice or with a piece of generously buttered toast.
Is a hot dog a sandwich? Yes, and it’s also an incredibly easy dinner any night of the week. In this recipe from Tanya Sichynsky adapted by Genevieve Ko, pico de gallo makes for a fresh and unexpected topping on the cookout staple. Try butterflying the hot dogs before tossing them on the grill or griddle pan to maximize crispable surface area.
Recipe: Hot Dogs With Pico de Gallo