Say goodbye to midweek cooking stress, and hello to quick and easy 15-minute meals for the whole family

Stir fries, risotto, fajitas, and stews are all ready and waiting to be made in this collection of the easiest 15-minute family meals...

Black bean quesadillas with salsa
(Image credit: Future)

Family life is busy and the juggle is real, which is where our collection of the best 15-minute meals comes in - as every one of them can be on the table in record time.

When dealing with work, kids, homework tasks, and mountains of both laundry and life admin, easy, healthy family meals are very much the order of the day - and choosing meals that are quick and easy will certainly take the stresses out of midweek cooking.

Dominique Woolf, author of Dominique's Kitchen and winner of Jamie Oliver's Great Cookbook Challenge, swears by speedy, yet nutritious, dinners to get through the week. "Life is really hectic, especially now that the kids are back at school. As a busy working mum. there’s a lot to juggle," says Dominique, of life with her three children Logan, 9, Florence, 8, and Grace, 6. 

No more relying on freezer food like fish fingers and chicken nuggets, nor cooking two separate dinners to cater to kids and more grown-up tastes (though, granted, we all secretly enjoy a fish finger) Dominique suggests expanding young taste buds. "We love a curry in this household and I often make a spinach and turmeric fish curry but omit the chilli for the kids (and instead add it to my and my husband’s dish at the end)," she says. 

Learn how to make a delicious curry in half the time and how to get that pasta bake on the table quicker than ever before, as well as learn the best ways to use up leftovers and handy cheats that will allow you to have time away from the kitchen to be with your family (or, you know, tackle that laundry mountain…).

15-minute meal ideas and recipes

Warm chicken and grain salad with green harissa

A speedy, lively and super health Middle Eastern-inspired meal

(Image credit: Future)

1. Warm chicken grain salad

Serves: 2 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 12 mins

Double up the ingredients to feed more hungry mouths, and it's perfectly acceptable to buy a ready-made harissa paste if you want to cut down the prep time further on this health-giving dish. This zingy, fresh recipe is a real taste bud livener and is packed with protein and whole grains. It could also be made meat-free by swapping the chicken for grilled halloumi.

Get the recipe: Warm chicken grain salad

Spinach and walnut pesto pasta

An interesting spin on your usual shop-bought pesto

(Image credit: Future)

2. Spinach and walnut pesto pasta

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 12 mins

Here's a great way to jazz up pasta with walnuts in place of pine nuts and a slight kick from a generous pinch of chilli flakes. And if you make the pesto in bigger quantities, it will keep in a jar in the fridge for another day, saving you yet more time. The nutrients are in abundance here – spinach (that will be hidden from the kids – always a secret triumph), green beans, and basil, plus protein from the nuts and cheese. If wholewheat spaghetti isn't your (ok, your kids) bag, substitute it for any other pasta of choice.

Get the recipe: Spinach and walnut pesto pasta

Black bean quesadillas with salsa

An easy-to-make treat for the end of a long, busy day

(Image credit: Future)

3. Black bean quesadillas

Serves: 2 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 5 mins

Double – or even triple – up on the ingredients to feed the family or give yourself packed lunch leftovers on this tasty, meat-free recipe (which can easily be made vegan without the cheese). Adjust the number of chilli flakes depending on the family's spice tolerance, and add a side of guacamole for extra nutrition. The kid-friendly veg – ever met a child who didn't love sweetcorn? – and the tortilla wraps make this a slightly exotic midweek winner, that will easily find a place in the recipe repertoire.

Get the recipe: Black bean quesadillas

pitta bread pizza

Super quick and a sure fire dinner hit for the kids

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Quick pitta pizzas

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

"A quick pitta pizza is a brilliant standby dinner option, especially if I haven’t had the chance to meal plan (which sometimes is the case!) as I always have pittas in the freezer and you can add whatever toppings you have to hand. The kids always love them too," says Dominique Woolf. Mushrooms, ham, sweetcorn, and even pineapple (controversial, we know) are a great way to get veg and protein into the kids. This is also a great weekend lunch option.

Get the recipe: Quick pitta pizzas

Greek grain salad

A big old bowl of goodness

5. Greek-style Buddha bowl

Serves: 2 | Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: 5 mins

This Greek-style mix of halloumi, avocado, olives, veg, and a pouch of grains comes together to make a quick and easy meal that's perfectly balanced and overloaded with nutrients, including plenty of good fats. The only cooking needed is toasting the pine nuts and pan-frying the halloumi. You could add a drizzle of chilli oil for a bit of a kick, too. Delicious. 

Get the recipe: Greek-style Buddha bowl

Nutty pea pesto with wholemeal pasta

A creamy take on a classic pesto

6. Pea pesto with wholemeal pasta

Serves: 2 | Prep time: 8 mins | Cook time: 7 mins

The secret ingredient here is that icon of cheeses – a Boursin. Not really technically a pesto, but with a nod to a classic in the toasted pine nuts and basil, this is a creamy version of a classic sauce that is super simple and the kids will love. You could just use regular cream cheese and add a finely chopped clove of garlic, should you prefer. 

Get the recipe: Pea pesto with wholemeal pasta

tortilla cheese turnovers

(Image credit: Getty Images)

7. Tortilla cheese turnovers

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: 5 mins

A quesadilla is a pan-fried sandwich with bells. The whole family will love these vegetarian-friendly tortilla cheese turnovers packed with juicy tomatoes, creamy avocado, and tangy spring onions. They could be turned meaty with some shredded chicken, pork, or beef and, as with all things Mexican, will only be made better with a generous dollop of guacamole and sour cream on the side.

Get the recipe: Tortilla cheese turnovers

Annabel Karmel's fruity chicken curry

A curry even very small kids will love

8. Annabel Karmel's fruity chicken curry

Serves: 2 | Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

"Annabel Karmel’s fruity chicken curry is a flavour-packed dish perfect for the whole family and a great way of introducing children to curry," says Dominique. However young your kids are, they will embrace this sweet and mild version packed with mango, tomato, and carrot. It is excellent served with poppadoms and fluffy white rice, or some naan bread or chapati on the side. Use leftover roast chicken to cut down on the cooking time, and double up to make enough for the whole family. Freeze any leftovers.

Get the recipe: Annabel Karmel's fruity chicken curry

Gok Wan's Vietnamese-style leftover chicken salad

Like nature's medicine

9. Gok Wan's Vietnamese-style leftover chicken salad

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 5 mins

"Gok Wan’s Vietnamese-style chicken salad is fresh and vibrant with minimal cooking - the kind of dish I crave when I’m busy but want big flavours," says Dominique. Perfect for using up leftover chicken, full of veg and topped with a lovely zesty lime and chilli dressing, this salad is bursting with flavour. This dish uses vermicelli noodles which you can buy in larger supermarkets or Asian stores, and we suggest using a ready-prepped bag of stir-fry veggies to keep things simple.

Get the recipe: Gok Wan's Vietnamese-style leftover chicken salad

mango curry

An unusual, and completely brilliant, meat-free curry

(Image credit: Getty Images)

10. Mango and tomato curry

Serves: 6 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

Chunky, sweet mango works wonders in this vegan curry (just use dairy-free yogurt), packed with superfoods. Fresh tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and spices, as well as green chillies, makes for a health-giving dinner that the kids will love thanks to the intense sweetness. Perfect with good, old-fashioned plain rice, or a quick packet of pilau rice for extra speed and extra taste.

Get the recipe: Mango and tomato curry

stuffed mushroom burgers

Elevating a mushroom to a whole new level

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

11. Stuffed mushroom burgers

Serves: 8 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

More nutritious than a meat burger, served on a crispy ciabatta loaf, these burgers are for life, not just for summer barbecues. Topped with goat's cheese (though you could switch for feta if not a fan) and sun-dried tomato pesto (jarred is perfectly fine), this recipe also uses streaky bacon but this can easily be left out for vegetarians or those keen to cut down on fat/salt. Serve with a bag of mixed leaves. 

Get the recipe: Stuffed mushroom burgers

teriyaki pork with noodles

An inventive use of leftover meat

(Image credit: Getty Images)

12. Teriyaki pork

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

"A really tasty way of using up leftovers. It uses a few simple store cupboard ingredients making it super-easy as well," says Dominique of this teriyaki pork. If you've got leftover pork from Sunday's roast, turn it into Monday's dinner with this spicy sauce packed with spring onions, mangetout, and ginger. The recipe uses rice ribbon noodles, but egg noodles or sticky rice both work brilliantly with this dish.

Get the recipe: Teriyaki pork

bacon, tomato, spinach and ricotta linguine

A simple, creamy, flavoursome treat

(Image credit: Getty Images)

13. Bacon, tomato, spinach and ricotta linguine

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

Flavour-packed and delicious, with just six ingredients. Tangy tastes from the sun-dried toms and the smoked bacon, creaminess from the ricotta, and vibrant colour and depth of flavour from the wilted spinach, this sauce is ideal with linguine, but switch for spaghetti or tagliatelle if you prefer. Be generous with the black pepper, and add Parmesan if extra cheese is required.

Get the recipe: Bacon, tomato, spinach and ricotta linguine

Chicken and tomato couscous

The dish that keeps on giving – leftovers are perfect for lunch boxes

(Image credit: Getty Images)

14. Chicken and tomato couscous

Serves: 5 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

A spoonful of curry paste elevates this couscous dish to a new level, with the juice of a fresh lime adding freshness. A great one to double up on and use for packed lunches for the rest of the week. Switch the chicken for grilled halloumi for a vegetarian version and make your own dressing using natural yogurt, cucumber, and mint – leftovers can be used as a dip with toasted pitta bread. 

Get the recipe: Chicken and tomato couscous

turkey and pepper fajitas

If there's a better use for leftover turkey, we'd like to know about it

(Image credit: Getty Images)

15. Smoky turkey and pepper fajitas

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: 5 mins

This recipe uses cooked turkey – or chicken, there are no rules – shredded and stir-fried with sliced peppers and onions in a simple mix of spices guaranteed to be lurking in the store cupboard. Stuff in a warm tortilla with sour cream and salsa. And the cherry on the top? Sprinkling with grated cheddar and sticking it under the grill, enchilada style. Serve with rocket or watercress salad in a lime dressing.

Get the recipe: Smoky turkey and pepper fajitas

Beef and pepper stir-fry

Like a midweek takeaway – but even better

(Image credit: Future)

16. Beef and pepper stir-fry

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

Ideally, you'll use proper steak here – a cut of rump is perfect – though quick-cook stir fry strips are great too. The key to this one is a heady mix of hoisin and soy sauces with a hearty splash of dry sherry. To keep the time down, we suggest throwing a bag of ready-prepared stir-fry veggies in a wok, along with a couple of sliced peppers and your noodles of choice. A step above your average stir fry. 

Get the recipe: Beef and pepper stir-fry

James Tanner seasame chicken and rice

A great one to teach the kids to cook…

(Image credit: Uncle Bens)

17. James Tanner's sesame chicken

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 7 mins

TV chef James Tanner's recipe for honey and sesame chicken is super easy to knock together, and could even be one to get older kids on board with when learning how to cook. After dipping in a soy and honey sauce with some oil, coat the chicken strips in sesame seeds and pan fry. Serve with rice – we suggest stirring through some peas and sweetcorn to make a balanced meal. It sure beats chicken nuggets…

Get the recipe: Sesame chicken

Tagliatelle with pancetta and asparagus

A healthy overhaul of a not-so healthy carbonara-style sauce

(Image credit: Getty Images)

18. Tagliatelle with pancetta and asparagus

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 3 mins | Cook time: 7 mins

Lighter than a carbonara – if you don't want to be asleep on the sofa in a carb coma by 7 – this less creamy version still gives a comfort food fix, using lardons (or sliced smoky bacon works perfectly well) and a hearty dollop of crème fraîche, as well as some fresh lemon zest to cut through the richness. Unlike a carbonara, there is actually some veg involved (hurrah for that) with some steamed asparagus in the mix. If you prefer not to eat asparagus out of season though, this can be switched to frozen petit pois or courgettes.

Get the recipe: Tagliatelle with pancetta and asparagus recipe

Sea bass with orange and tarragon salad

A quick and interesting sauce to add a twist to a fresh fillet of sea bass

(Image credit: Future)

19. Sea bass with orange and tarragon salad

Serves: 2 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 5 mins

Sea bass served simply pan fried in butter, and elevated by a simple tarragon and orange sauce. Tarragon is a wonderful pairing with fish and the orange juice adds citrus-y freshness (it could be switched for a more traditional accompaniment of lemon though, should you prefer). This recipe is served with some quick noodles and shredded cabbage (steamed or, better still, stir-fried), but knocking up a quick mashed potato would work wonderfully, as would a side of rice or polenta.

Get the recipe: Sea bass with orange and tarragon salad

soy and sesame noodles

Who needs a takeaway?

(Image credit: Alamy)

20. Soy 'n' sesame noodles

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

A great veggie noodle dish, perfect for a Chinese fakeaway, simply made with beansprouts, egg noodles, Chinese cabbage, and – the key ingredients – sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds. We recommend adding some fried tofu in the mix for protein, or shredded leftover roast pork, chicken, duck, or beef for the meat eaters among us. Delicious with sliced spring onions or red chilis sprinkled over for texture, flavour, and presentation. Yum.

Get the recipe: Soy 'n' sesame noodles

grilled salmon with ginger, honey and lime

Simple, healthy perfection

(Image credit: Getty Images)

21. Grilled salmon with ginger honey and lime

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 6 mins

You can't beat a fillet of fresh salmon as healthy, simple meals go, and all the better for a punchy marinade – this one is a simple mix of honey, soy sauce, chopped ginger, garlic, and chilli. Ideally, the salmon will marinate for a good half an hour if time allows but will take mere minutes to grill or pan-fry. Steam some rice while waiting, and serve with some quick stir-fried veg – pak choi is your friend because it cooks in literally seconds and marries very well with this style of fish.

Get the recipe: Grilled salmon with ginger, honey and lime

chilli buttered steak

Quick and posh – that's our kind of dinner

(Image credit: Getty Images)

22. Chilli and pepper buttered steak

Serves: 2 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 5 mins

Just because it's quick, doesn't mean it can't be special. And a juicy steak is the ultimate quick cook – particularly if you like it rare or medium rare. A perfect steak doesn't need much adornment and this simple butter, mixed with wholegrain mustard, crushed peppercorns, and a little chilli (which can always be left out) is a lovely complement.  Steak wouldn't be steak without potatoes on the side and the speediest way to make those is to knock up a classic mash with plenty of butter and perhaps a small dollop of Dijon mustard. Don't forget some steamed greens on the side.

Get the recipe: Chilli and pepper buttered steak

salmon broccoli frittata

The ultimate satisfying speedy meal

(Image credit: Getty Images)

23. Smoked salmon and broccoli frittata

Serves: 2 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

A frittata is the ultimate quick meal and this one has just three ingredients (plus herbs and seasoning) – and what ingredients they are. Sautéed broccoli is covered in whisked eggs (splash out on good quality organic eggs from happy hens with vibrant orange yolks if budget allows) and smoked salmon and popped under the grill (which is what distinguishes it from an omelette). It's a high-protein meal in one, but feel free to serve with crusty bread and a green salad.

Get the recipe: Smoked salmon and broccoli frittata

Chicken and spring onion pancakes

Pancake Tuesday, anyone? Or Wednesday, or Thursday?

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

24. Chicken and spring onion pancake

Serves: 1 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

Every day is Pancake Day when you've got recipes like this at your disposal. A novel way to use up leftover roast meat, this is a dish packed full of protein and a good one if you're avoiding too much in the way of carbs. To make for the family, increase all the ingredients, make in one big pan, and serve sliced – or do one at a time, in true Shrove Tuesday style. 

Get the recipe: Chicken and spring onion pancake

guacamole and prawn spaghetti

Guacamole with pasta – the match we didn't know we needed

(Image credit: Alamy)

25. Guacamole and prawn spaghetti

Serves: 2 | Prep time: 2 mins | Cook time: 11 mins

This Italian-Mexican fusion meal is the ultimate cheat's pasta dish. Simply cook up your spaghetti, shallow fry some prawns, and stir through a pot of guacamole by way of sauce. Add some peas and halved cherry tomatoes if you have them to hand. If you find yourself with a little more time, making your own guacamole is always worth the trouble, and actually only takes a few minutes in itself. How did we never think of this dish before?

Get the recipe: Guacamole and prawn spaghetti

Vietnamese prawn curry

How about that for vibrant?

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

26. Vietnamese prawn curry

Serves: 2 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

A perfect, slightly fiery sweet and sour curry, with health-giving Vietnamese influences. Super-quick-to-cook prawns and pak choi are added to a speedy sauce made with lemongrass, fish sauce, sugar, and stock with a dash of curry powder. It could also be made with a robust white fish, such as cod cheeks or monkfish (so it doesn't disintegrate). Add sliced red chillies to the finished dish – yes, raw – for anyone in the family who likes a touch of spice.

Get the recipe: Vietnamese prawn curry

Coconut Prawn Noodles

Just noodling around, making a great, easy dinner

27. Coconut prawn noodles

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins| Cook time: 10 mins

Because Thai curry paste isn't only for Thai curry… It works fabulously for noodle dishes too. The minimal ingredients list makes this one a speedy affair, helped by a bag of ready-prepped stir-fried veggies. Throw in some prawns, ready-to-wok noodles, and some coconut cream and you've got yourself a delicious dinner. Then chuck in some lime leaves, sprinkle over some crushed peanuts, and/or add sliced spring onions and shredded carrots over the top for added visual and taste appeal, should you fancy.

Get the recipe: Coconut prawn noodles

tuna bolognese pasta

Pimp up a simple store cupboard dinner with some cherry toms and a sprig of basil

(Image credit: Getty Images)

28. Tuna Bolognese

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

Nothing in the fridge? Never fear, tuna bolognese is right here. Made from entirely stored cupboard ingredients, this simple and well-balanced dinner cooks far more quickly than a traditional ragu, which requires a good amount of simmering time. Add frozen peas or sweetcorn and any other veg you have around the place, finely chopped – courgettes, beans, and carrots all work well. Grate a heap of Parmesan or pecorino to liven it up when served and be generous with the black pepper. 

Get the recipe: Tuna Bolognese

smoked salmon carbonara with fried egg

Sort of like English breakfast meets Italian dinner – and they make a good match

(Image credit: Getty Images)

29. Smoked salmon carbonara with fried egg

Serves: 2 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

A twist on a classic carbonara – instead of crispy pancetta, it's smoked salmon and, instead of egg yolks in the sauce, there's a fried egg on top. Curious, but, really, it works. The asparagus cuts through the rich sauce (keep it al denté) and marries beautifully with the dippy egg yolk. The smoked salmon can be omitted in favour of flaked fresh salmon, should taste buds prefer. 

Get the recipe: Smoked salmon carbonara with fried egg and asparagus

Thai green curry with prawns

The spice of life – in 15 minutes

(Image credit: Getty Images)

30. Thai green prawn curry with broccoli

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins| Cook time: 10 mins

Yes,  it really is possible to make a Thai feast in a mere 15 minutes. Yes, we do use a cheeky hack of a shop-bought paste, but needs must with a curry in a hurry. If you've got fish sauce, coconut milk, some veg – green beans, courgettes, peas, carrot, baby corn all work as well as broccoli – and protein, in this case, prawns, then you've got yourself a Thai curry. Simple as that.

Get the recipe: Thai green curry with broccoli

Bavarian hot potato salad

Hot salad, Germanic style

31. Bavarian frankfurter and hot potato salad

Serves: 2 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

While this winter salad might feel like one for the grown-ups, we're certain the kids will be on board – because what child doesn't love a frankfurter sausage?  Should they be gherkin or radish averse (though, if they are, they're missing out), then they could be added at the last minute for the adults, as we have full confidence that the potatoes, green beans, and, of course, sausages in a punchy dressing will be fully embraced. Not least by the adults, who will be transporting to the bierkellers of Bavaria. Prost to that. 

Get the recipe: Bavarian hot potato salad

Bacon tagliatelle carbonara

A pasta hug on a plate

(Image credit: Getty Images)

32. Bacon carbonara with tagliatelle

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

A truly authentic carbonara doesn't have cream in it but this speedy version does – and we aren't here to argue with that (though you could use creme fraîche to cut down on the fat content). This dish is very much not a healthy food but is marvellous as a now-and-again comforting dinner treat. We would add a nice mixed salad on the side though, to cut through all that richness. 

Get the recipe: Bacon tagliatelle carbonara

Pizza Express warm Caesar salad

A salad fit for an emperor

33. Pizza Express warm Caesar salad

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

A Pizza Express classic. Make your own midweek 'fakeaway' and save some cash on the restaurant version, to boot. Make sure you buy crisp baby gem lettuces – limp, soggy versions need not apply – and save time on the dressing by cheating with a ready-made one (Pizza Express version preferable for authenticity). You could also add anchovies and/or some crispy bacon and, as this a salad that isn't overly packed with nutrients, we recommend some chopped cherry tomatoes and slices of avocado in the mix. 

Get the recipe: Pizza Express warm Caesar salad

Writer bio pic
Lara Kilner

"I'm guilty of falling into the trap of serving up the same ol' midweek meals. My standard pasta sauce – anchovies, garlic, passata, herbs, and perhaps some chopped cooked sausage and olives or a bag of frozen seafood – is wheeled out at least once a week. There's always a stir fry or a nasi goreng – again with whatever we have in the fridge thrown in – and there's always at least one night when I resort to beige freezer food (with a side of broccoli to appease my guilt over such a nutrient-shy dinner). 

I now have renewed faith that I will mix things up a bit – it might still be pasta, but it'll be different sauces, and it might still be noodles but I'll be jazzing up the ingredients. And I'll be adding some interesting quesadillas in place of the usual chicken fajitas to my Mexican repertoire. Wednesday nights just got more interesting." 

For more inspo on speedy meals for all the family, check out our 20 minute dinners recipe collection or, if you've got a wee bit more time to spare, there are lots of ideas for 30 minute meals. To help you stick to your food budget, try these ideas for cheap family meals, our selection of purse-friendly recipes with ingredients costing under £1.

Lara Kilner
Food Writer

Lara Kilner is a writer and editor with two decades of experience in national newspapers, magazines, and websites. She writes about food, lifestyle, travel, health and wellness, and entertainment, and regularly interviews celebrities and people with interesting life stories and experiences. Her foodie content has included interviews with Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein, Queer Eye’s food expert Antoni Porowski, the Hairy Bikers, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Raymond Blanc, Andi Oliver, Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, and Nadiya Hussain.