Speedy 20-minute dinners that will change family mealtime for the better

Dinner on the table in 20 minutes? Yes, please. Feed the whole family with these quick dinners. From burgers to pasta to curry, we've got the midweek rush covered...

Creamy salmon tagliatelle
(Image credit: TI Media Limited/Woman's Weekly)

Our selection of speedy 20-minute dinners is perfect when you're looking for something quick and easy to rustle up for the family at dinner time. 

From risotto to pasta, burgers to steak, we've got lots of delicious, healthy family meals for you to try recreating at home during the midweek family rush that is dinner time.

"I need midweek meals that are not only quick but nutritious as well," says Dominique Woolf, mum of three children Logan, 9, Florence, 8, and Grace, 6, author of Dominique's Kitchen, and founder of The Woolf's Kitchen sauces, chilli oils, and pastes. "My Thai sweet and sour fish is loaded with fresh veg and always goes down well, and my stir-fried pork with basil is another go-to."

We've got stir-fries, stews, and even some healthy takeaway alternatives to stop you from reaching for the Deliveroo app when you're too tired to spend hours in the kitchen. These meals can be prepared and cooked in under half an hour, leaving more time to chill out – or, more likely, tackle that ever-increasing mountain of laundry, right?

20 minute dinners for all the family

Greek inspired bean burgers

A riot of colour and flavour

(Image credit: Future)

1. Greek-inspired bean burgers

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

A great meat-free choice packed with healthy proteins, a welcome change from the usual ketchup-smothered cheeseburgers. Packed with flavour from the lemon zest, mint, and a hint of chilli, they're simple to throw together and delicious topped with the tzatziki-style dip (you could buy a pot of that to save even more time). The pickled red onions are a winner – though they could be left aside for kids who are not keen on onions, and the pitta can be switched for wholemeal burger baps.

Get the recipe:  Greek-inspired bean burgers

Cheat's steak bearnaise with rosemary fries

How's that for a midweek pick-me-up?

(Image credit: Future)

2. Cheat's steak Béarnaise

Serves: 2 | Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

Using oven chips as a cheeky hack gives you more time to focus on your steak because, it might be midweek, but you blimmin' well deserve a treat. Double up for the whole family, and knock together this cheat's take on the classic French sauce, using jarred mayo with mustard and white wine vinegar. The fresh tarragon is the key ingredient here and what differentiates it from a hollandaise sauce. Serve with a punchy watercress side and throw in some more kid-friendly salad bits, like cucumber, cherry tomato, and avocado.

Get the recipe: Cheat's steak bearnaise

Spaghetti with sardines, lemon and crispy breadcrumbs

Transporting us on Italian holidays on a dreary Monday

(Image credit: Future)

3. Spaghetti with sardines

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

This inventive treat of a pasta dish is pretty much whipped together from store cupboard ingredients and is a real taste and texture sensation of a dish. Using tinned sardines, fennel seeds, and lemon zest, there's crunch from the crumb and the toasted pine nuts and punch from the chilli flakes. Perfect with spaghetti (and a nice crisp glass of dry white wine, in an ideal world).

Get the recipe: Spaghetti with sardines

Potato, pea and pesto frittata

If you've got eggs, you've got a meal…

(Image credit: Future)

4. Potato, pea and pesto frittata

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

A superb Italian frittata – with nods to a Spanish tortilla, given the potatoes. Just seven ingredients, including jarred pesto and a generous grating of Parmesan, make this simple and uber-tasty dish. Supplement the peas with any other veg you've got lurking in the fridge – broccoli, green beans, or courgettes work particularly well here. Serve alone for a protein-packed meal, or add a side of crusty bread and/or a rocket salad with a balsamic dressing. 

Get the recipe:  Potato, pea and pesto frittata

Sticky Yakitori chicken

How appealing does this look?

5. Sticky Yakitori chicken

Serves: 2 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

"A heavenly combination of flavours that the whole family will love," says Dominique Woolf. This Japanese classic is the perfect marriage of sweet, sour, and sticky, thanks to the soy, honey, sherry vinegar, and sesame oil marinade. If you prefer, you could use chicken thigh fillets instead of breast. Serve with plain steamed rice, trimmed spring onions, and any other veggies, stir-fried – different coloured peppers would work well. Double up on the ingredients to feed the whole family.

Get the recipe: Sticky Yakitori chicken

Tangy beef and mushroom noodles

Flat noodles with tangy tamarind sauce

(Image credit: Charlie Richards Photography Lim)

6. Tangy beef and mushroom noodles

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

If you're bored of steak (ok, no one ever got bored of steak), put your sirloins to more innovative use in this dish, served with flat rice noodles in a southeast Asian tamarind sauce and mushrooms – grab yourself a mix, if you can, everything from shiitake to chestnut works well here. Perfect topped with toasted cashews or crushed peanuts, should you prefer.

Get the recipe: Tangy beef and mushroom noodles

Sweet and sour sausage meatballs

Trust us, it works

7. Sweet and sour sausage meatballs

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

Give your sausages a new lease of life, by turning them into meatballs to serve with a sweet and sour sauce, and rice instead of the usual mashed potato or pasta. An inventive fusion dish with an Asian twist, this punchy sauce is a real winner, particularly with the addition of pineapple for a classic hit of sweetness. Adding extra veggies like carrots or peppers is a winner, too. "Sweet and sour meatballs are a family winner! The kids can’t resist a meatball and this sweet and sticky sauce would definitely hit the spot. I love that it’s loaded with veg as well," says Dominique.

Get the recipe: Sweet and sour sausage meatballs

Cheesy chorizo quesadillas

Cheese on toast, with bells on

8. Cheesy chorizo quesadillas

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

And you thought cheese toasties couldn't be bettered. The kids will love a quesadilla, a Mexican version of a grilled cheese sandwich, and this one has delicious chorizo and spring onions to add to the flavour. Adding peppers for another veg hit would work well, too. Serve with guacamole, sour cream, and hot salsa, as well as a green salad on the side. And a cold beer, if you feel like treating yourself. This recipe serves one, so just increase the quantities for more people.

Get the recipe: Cheesy chorizo quesadillas

Bacon and -pea cheesy risotto

How inviting does that look?

9. Bacon and pea cheesy risotto

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

Using a mere four ingredients, this cheat's risotto is the perfect economy meal and a proper comfort food, to boot. Cook the risotto rice in boiling water (adding a stock cube, and a few splashes of wine wouldn't go amiss if you have either to hand) and fry the lardons before stirring in the peas and adding a big heap of grated Parmesan or pecorino. Stirring through some melted butter will make it extra rich and creamy. A hug in a bowl.

Get the recipe: Bacon and pea cheesy risotto

Cheesy pesto gnochhi

For when you've had enough of pasta

10. Cheesy pesto gnocchi

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

As much as we all love a bowl of pasta, it can get a little, well, pedestrian, so we're livening things up by switching the usual penne for a bowl of steaming potato gnocchi. The sauce is simple – cream cheese, pesto, and a grating of nutmeg and Parmesan. We suggest stirring in a generous helping of stir-fried garlic broccoli for a fully balanced meal. Delicious.

Get the recipe: Cheesy pesto gnocchi

Sweet chilli fish with broccoli and potatoes

Sweet-chilli marinated swordfish – would work equally well with a tuna steak

11. Sweet chilli swordfish with broccoli

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

Swordfish is an underused and underrated fish, perfect for fans of a meaty tuna steak. It's perfectly nice served simply, but, here, is complemented with a sweet chilli marinade with garlic and jarred or fresh peppers. This recipe is served with a side of new potatoes, but it would also be great with a side of plain rice – or, even better, egg-fried rice. Delightful. 

Get the recipe: Sweet chilli swordfish with broccoli

Polenta with pancetta and garlic mush

A comforting take on stew with mash in this creamy polenta dish

(Image credit: Future)

12. Polenta with saucy mushrooms

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

There is pancetta for a salty flavour hit in this mushroom ragu, but it can easily be left out to keep things vegetarian (or replaced with some chopped sundried tomatoes). Equally, if you'd like things meatier, there's always the option of adding in some mini meatballs or chorizo. It's a simple sauce and perfectly complements the creamy polenta, which is a welcome change from the usual mashed potato. Try it, you might like it. You will like it.

Get the recipe: Polenta with saucy mushrooms

Giant cous cous with lamb

A Middle eastern lamb for a dreary Monday

13. Pan fried lamb with giant couscous

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

Lamb doesn't always take hours on end to cook. This dish uses lamb neck (an affordable cut, as well as a quick cooking one) to make a speedy dish with loads of flavour and a Middle Eastern influence. Keeping the lamb pink will make sure it is soft and tender. Serve with giant couscous (though regular couscous is also fine if you can't find the huge variety), tzatziki, and a side of wilted spinach or some green beans.

Get the recipe: Pan-fried lamb with giant couscous

Sausages with sweet potato and squash mash

Turning sausage and mash into an art form

14. Sausages with red onion gravy and sweet potato mash

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

Give that same old sausage and mash a new lease of life. Sweet potatoes make a speedy, sweet, and creamy mash and one that is far more nutritious than a regular spud. It works perfectly alongside rich onion gravy with a little sweetness from the balsamic. Pile a big serving of steamed greens on the side for a perfect winter warmer of a dinner. 

Get the recipe: Sausages with red onion gravy and sweet potato mash

Thai prawn curry noodles

Restaurant standard, in 20 minutes

15. Thai prawn curry noodles

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

We tend to think of making a Thai curry as a labour of love, but it can be done in a hurry too. Instead of all the laborious paste making – which is what takes all the time – it can be made with three basic ingredients: a jar of curry paste, a can of coconut milk, and some fish sauce. This one adds ready-cooked prawns, a selection of veggies (courgettes, peas, carrots, and beans are all great too), and some rice noodles. Rice itself can be the accompaniment instead of noodles, should you wish.

Get the recipe: Thai prawn curry noodles

Salmon and pea tagliatelle

Simple perfection in this comforting hug of a food bowl

16. Creamy salmon tagliatelle

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 20 mins

Salmon is oh-so versatile, working wonderfully with everything from potatoes to rice, and many kinds of sauces. Here, it's kept super simple in a six-ingredient pasta dish. The crème fraîche, added at the last minute, brings everything together in a smooth sauce. We'd add the zest of a lemon in there as well, to bring a touch of sharpness to such a creamy dish.

Get the recipe: Creamy salmon tagliatelle

Mexican steak fajitas

Fajitas are always a family dinner winner

17. Mexican steak fajitas

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

Steak fajitas are a real treat of a midweek evening, loaded with creamy guac, sour cream, and salsa. Make your own spice mix, or cut down the time even more by using a ready-prepped fajita mix (or a Cajun spice that works pretty well, too), and add grated cheese for a family crowd-pleaser. Leave your steak pink and juicy for added flavour – well-done meat is never a good idea…

Get the recipe: Mexican steak fajitas

Sweet and sour pork

This quick dish will hit a sweet spot

18. Sweet and sour pork

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

Sweet and sour is always a winner for a family meal. This pork dish (chicken breast would work perfectly well too) is a super speedy stir fry, using pineapple (buy ready prepared from the supermarket for ease), fresh tomato, sugar, lime, and fish sauce. Fabulous with steamed or egg-fried rice for a midweek fakeaway. 

Get the recipe: Sweet and sour pork

Bacon squeak frittata

The ultimate one-pot, chuck it all in dinner

19. Bacon squeak frittata

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

A brilliant use for Sunday lunch leftovers, this fabulous frittata is a twist on a classic bubble and squeak, pouring eggs over the fried-up leftover potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and whatever else you have in the fridge. Adding some lardons or chopped smoked bacon gives a perfect salty flavour hit. A meal in one – just add ketchup, brown sauce, or mustard. 

Get the recipe: Bacon squeak frittata

Creamy coronation chicken

An icon of British food, on the table in 20 minutes

20. Coronation chicken

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

A slight riff on a classic, this iconic recipe switches out the usual mayo for cream cheese and offers punchy flavour from the mango chutney. Instead of the usual sandwiches, it is served warm with rice – pilau rice would be ideal. The kids will love the creamy, light curry flavour. Some fluffy, warm naan bread would work well, too.

Get the recipe: Creamy coronation chicken

Herby pork steaks

Enhancing a pork steak with this simple crust

21. Herby pork steaks

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

Well, this is a tasty one. The pork is topped with a flavoursome olive tapenade and a basil crust (which would also work beautifully with lamb), pan-fried, and then popped under the grill. Served with a delicious stir-fried veggie medley and potato wedges (which could be switched to sweet potato for an added nutrient kick). Sublime. 

Get the recipe: Herby pork steaks

Goat's cheese saffron risotto with smoked salmon

Rice as nice as this cheat's risotto

22. Goat's cheese saffron risotto with smoked salmon

Serves: 3 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

Using a great cheat's hack of packet saffron risotto (Gallo do one, available in most supermarkets), this simple Italian rice dish uses goat's cheese, salmon, and pesto (though if that sounds too rich for your tastes, the cheese or salmon alone could carry the dish perfectly). Add some fresh or sub-blushed tomatoes for a tangy touch. A hit with anyone who loves a creamy rice dish.

Get the recipe: Goat's cheese saffron risotto with smoked salmon

Penne pasta with spinach and cream

Simple perfection

23. Penne pasta with spinach and cream

Serves: 2 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

This creamy spinach pasta uses just 7 ingredients that are pretty likely to already be in the fridge for a quick and easy sauce. A few superfoods thrown in for good measure with the fresh tomatoes and spinach, garlic, and onions, then all you need is a packet of penne and some fresh cream or crème fraîche. We recommend the latter for keeping down the saturated fat content. A rich sauce, balanced out by the tangy tomatoes. 

Get the recipe: Penne pasta with spinach and cream

Quick chickpea and sweet potato curry

A rainbow of health in a curry

(Image credit: Getty Images)

24. Quick chickpea and sweet potato curry

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 15 mins

A perfect vegan-friendly, budget curry, made with protein-rich chickpeas and nutrient-heavy sweet potatoes, and a proper rainbow dinner packed with goodness. As curries go, it's very quick to knock together and use mostly store cupboard ingredients – we suggest adding in a few more spices such as turmeric and cumin too. Serve with rice and a side of smugness for serving up such a wonderfully healthy dinner. 

Get the recipe: Quick chickpea and sweet potato curry

Mushroom and leek omelete

This isn't just any omelette…

25. Mushroom, leek and cheese omelette

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

Omelettes are the ultimate for a nutritious, speedy dinner, and this one is a step up from your bog-standard offering. Using brie in place of the more classic cheddar, it's a lovely oozy combo with the silky mushrooms and the subtle flavour of the leek. Spinach would work well in here too, for a nutrient boost. Mop it all up with some crusty bread, should you wish and, if you feel the need for meat, a few slices of good quality ham would be perfect. 

Get the recipe: Mushroom, leek and cheese omelette.

Writer bio pic
Lara Kilner

"I'm always rushing around and, you know what they say – if you want something doing, ask a busy person. Right? So, on top of trying to make a living, keep my house and life in order and basically be my kid's PA, I am tasked with making about 95% of our family meals (my husband is that person who either makes his staple spaghetti with jarred pesto or cooks the 'wow' food when people come over – and nothing in between). So, this recipe collection is a useful tool to jazz up midweek dinners in minimum time and with minimum faff."

For more inspiration on speedy family meals, check out our 15 minute meals recipe collection. If you've got slightly more time on your hands, there's also our 30 minute meals roundup and our selection of cheap family meals, for when you're watching the pennies. 

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.