18 Valentine's Day dinner ideas: What to make for Valentine's Day this year

The best Valentine's Day dinner ideas – romantic recipes to impress your loved one, for starter, main course and dessert...

Valentine's Day dinner ideas
The best Valentine's Day dinner ideas, including lobster, coq au vin pie, beetroot and butternut squash bruschetta, amaretto and chocolate soufflé and lemon and rhubarb posset
(Image credit: Rights unknown)

We've rounded up the best Valentine's Day dinner ideas, from push-the-boat-out options like lobster with saffron mayo to a hearty coq au vin pie as well as delicious ideas for starters and desserts.

"With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I’ve been thinking about the perfect menu. Considerations are the time of year, who I’m cooking for, and what our favourite foods are," says private chef Michaela Hanna, who is opting for a crab linguine followed by a rhubarb crème brûlée - one of her best Valentine's Day desserts

"Any mealtime can be made to feel that extra bit special just by spending time preparing the meal – it really doesn’t matter what it is, time is incredibly precious, so if you are spending yours creating something tasty for the person you love, you're onto a winner. Make them something you know they enjoy or wouldn’t normally cook themselves. Keep it simple – good ingredients speak for themselves; we don’t have to overcomplicate things unnecessarily – seasonality and provenance will get all of us a long way."

Otherwise, it might be that you go for a Valentine's dine in for two deal, though cooking a meal from scratch can be cost-effective, too. Eating seasonally helps with the budget of creating a special dinner. "If we look for seasonal ingredients, we should be paying the best price for them because they’re in abundance and readily available so, if you are on a tight budget, that’s a great way of keeping an eye on your spend," says Michaela, who cooks for luxury travel companies and private estates. "Looking for cheaper cuts of meat that take longer to cook is also a great way of saving money, and a pressure cooker or slow cooker will help with energy bills."

Valentine's Day dinner ideas and recipes

Tarts cut into heart shapes with tomato and pepper

Heart-shaped pastry with tomato sauce and bubbling mozzarella is a perfect starter – though we'd be pretty happy if it was the main attraction

(Image credit: Future / Charlotte Tolhurst)

1. Valentino tomato tarts

Serves/Makes: 4 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 30 mins

"This is such a fantastic Valentine's starter choice," says Michaela Hanna. "You can make the tomato sauce a couple of days ahead to save time on the day. The tarts will taste fantastic at room temperature, so you can bake them and leave them for 30 minutes while you’re having pre-dinner drinks – great if you are feeling a little nervous about cooking. Also, you can omit the salami if you're catering for a vegetarian."

This makes four, so save some for the kids who will appreciate them just as much as you, if not more, plus any leftover tomato sauce will do nicely for a pasta dinner the next day.

Get the recipe: Valentino tomato tarts

Strawberry salad

Salty toasted feta and sweet strawberries are an unusual flavour match that work sublimely well together

(Image credit: NA)

2. Valentine strawberry salad

Makes: 2 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 15 mins

Strawberries? In a salad? Yes, really. The sweetness of the strawberries compliments the salty crumbly feta just beautifully, and it's a perfect light appetizer that won't be too over-facing before your main event. Toasted goat's cheese works wonderfully too in place of the feta, should that be your cheese of choice. 

Get the recipe: Valentine strawberry salad

bruschetta topped with beetroot and butternut squash

Bursting with earthy flavours, and a feast for the eyes, too

(Image credit: Future)

3. Beetroot and butternut squash bruschetta

Serves: 2 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 25 mins

"A delicious, earthy, winter starter that is sure to get the taste buds firing," says Michaela Hanna. "To save your hands from turning purple, wear a pair of gloves while you peel and chop the beetroot. 

Don’t be shy with the seasoning – roasted vegetables have a naturally sweet note, so sea salt is a good balance, as well as adding a squeeze of lemon juice if you have some to hand, which will add a touch of acidity." The addition of chilli and honey is a sweet and spicy flavour sensation, and the pumpkin seeds add another textural layer to a knockout dish.

Get the recipe: Beetroot and butternut squash bruschetta

Heat the grill to medium-high. Put the ciabatta on a tray with a drizzle of oil and the herbs, salt and black pepper. Grill for 2-3 mins to toast. Set aside and add the tomatoes, pepper and olives to the tray and grill for 3-4 mins until warmed through and the tomatoes are starting to burst. Arrange the rocket and mozzarella on plates or a small platter with the warm tomatoes, pepper, olives and the anchovies, if using. In a small food processor, blitz the olive oil and basil. Drizzle this and the balsamic vinegar over the salad. Serve with the toasted ciabatta.

Bright, vibrant, flavoursome and a perfect starter or lunch dish for the big day

(Image credit: Future)

4. Mozzarella and tomato ‘bruschetta’ salad

Serves: 2 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 10 mins

This deconstructed bruschetta is a feast for the senses, and much of it comes from jarred ingredients too, with a fair share of the flavour coming from jarred peppers, anchovies, and olives. Opt for the freshest, best-quality toms on the vine, a decent mozzarella, and a strong extra virgin olive oil to really make those taste buds sing. 

As well as a starter for dinner, this dish would work well as Valentine's lunch dish for your beloved, maybe even with a cheeky afternoon vino. Don't mind if we do.

Get the recipe: Mozzarella and tomato ‘bruschetta’ salad

scallops with basil cream

We sure don't have them on an everyday basis, so fresh scallops are the dream for a special dinner

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5. Grilled scallops with basil oil and cream

Serves: 2 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 10 mins

You don't need to do much to a scallop to make it sing, as it will very beautifully here with the addition of a mere four ingredients. Basil oil is the flavour key – make your own by whizzing a handful of the fresh stuff with half the quantity of olive oil, a clove of garlic, and a pinch of sea salt. 

The butter is important too, though you could omit the cream if you prefer a less rich beginning to a meal, particularly as the scallops themselves are pretty meaty and filling. Three scallops are plenty to get the taste buds a-tingling ahead of your main course. 

Get the recipe: Grilled scallops with basil oil and cream

chilli crab cakes

Packed with lemongrass, chilli and ginger, these crab cakes will deliver a taste of south east Asia to your Valentine's table

(Image credit: Future)

6. Chilli crab cakes

Serves: 2 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 21 mins

"Crab is my most favourite seafood – full of flavour, and decadent without being extravagant," says Michaela Hanna. "To be extra sure your partner is going to enjoy these crab cakes, pick through the crab meat to ensure there is no cartilage or shell in it. 

It is also important the make sure the mix is cool before shaping the cakes, otherwise, it will be too soft – just as it is important to rest them for 20 minutes in the fridge before frying. You can prepare them the day before so they are ready to fry and you can enjoy your evening without having to do all the preparation."

Get the recipe: Chilli crab cakes

coq au vin pie

Making a great dish even greater – coq au vin as a pie filling, why didn't we think of that before?

(Image credit: Future)

7. Coq au vin pie

Serves: 2 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 1 hr 30 mins

The classic French chicken in red wine dish is given a spin as a decadent pie filling, wrapped in shortcrust pastry for a hearty, comforting treat of a dish on a cozy evening for two. 

It's wonderful served with a side of indulgent dauphinoise potatoes but, should you not wish to be stuffed and horizontal (in the non-romantic sense of the word) before pudding, opt for a lighter side of steamed green beans or mangetout. 

Get the recipe: Coq au vin pie

gordon ramsay beef wellington

Because nothing says 'I love you' like a slice of Gordon's beef wellington does

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8. Gordon Ramsay’s beef Wellington

Serves/Makes: 4 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 1 hr 10 mins

A classic special occasion dish made by an iconic chef? That'll be a great big Valentine's day dish tick. If budget allows, Gordon recommends a fillet of prime Aberdeen Angus (and we don't like to disobey Gordon), which is then coated in an indulgent mushroom duxelles before wrapping it in Parma ham and encasing in flaky pastry (and no, you don't need to make your own). 

Pay heed to the cooking times as your showcase dinner must be deliciously pink in the middle, so ensure not to overdo it. Serve with light veggie sides, such as creamed spinach, steamed green beans, and Tenderstem broccoli. 

Get the recipe: Gordon Ramsay’s beef Wellington

veggie wellington

A rainbow of flavours for the (possibly vegetarian) love of your life

(Image credit: Future)

9. Gluten-free veggie wellington

Serves: 8 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 1 hr 15 mins

"This is a great make-ahead dinner, and special enough to serve on Valentine’s Day," says Michaela Hanna. "Two top tips before you start – make sure the beetroot you buy isn’t pickled. You can often find pre-cooked beetroot in fridge salad sections, or cook it yourself – it's easy to do, just peel the beetroot (use gloves) and boil for 30 – 60 minutes, depending on the size of your vegetable. 

If you can find them, mixed up regular beetroot with golden beetroot for contrasting colours. When you have finished piling up your filling, make sure you roll the pastry so it’s nice and tight and will keep its shape when cooked. You could do all the preparation the day before and cook the Wellington on Valentine’s Day – stress-free cooking!"

Get the recipe: Gluten-free veggie Wellington

steak cooking

Because sometimes you just need a damn good steak

(Image credit: Getty)

10. Steak

If there's a better special occasion treat of a dinner out there, we're yet to find it. "I think cooking a really fantastic steak for the one you love on Valentine’s Day is a fantastic idea – I would certainly be delighted!" says Michaela Hanna. "There are excellent tips and tricks on how to cook steak and choose the perfect piece of meat and I would recommend spending a little more for quality and having a slightly smaller portion if budget is a concern. If you can find 100% grass-fed beef, you will be eating some of the finest products available."

And as much as a well-cooked steak can hold its own on a dinner plate with little need for fanfare, as it's Valentine's Day, let's talk about the best homemade steak sauces. "Steak without sauce isn’t steak in my book… even a little garlic and rosemary butter would tick the box," says Michaela. "With so many choices, think about the sides you are serving with your steak and the time of year. Valentine’s Day in mid-winter says dauphinoise potatoes, charred sprouts, and bearnaise, brandy, or peppercorn to me. Seasonality is so important, and will give you the best accompaniments for the time of year."

lobster with saffron mayo

A lobster for your lobster love

(Image credit: Future)

11. Griddled lobster with saffron mayo

Serves/Makes: 2 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 50 mins

It doesn't come much more indulgent and romantic than serving your very own lobster with a lobster. This recipe delivers pleasingly thorough instructions on how to boil and prep for serving but, should that be out of your culinary comfort zone, opt for a ready-cooked lobster. 

Equally, this dish will work beautifully with the equally special use of langoustines or king prawns. Making your own mayo, infused with saffron for extra fancy points, is absolutely worth the effort. Serve with homemade fries or baby new potatoes and a green salad.

Get the recipe: Griddled lobster with saffron mayo

15 autumn Sunday lunch recipes

An extra special salty Parma ham-wrapped monkfish – not something you'd make on your average Tuesday

(Image credit: www.timeincukcontent.com)

12. Monkfish with Parma ham

Serves: 2 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 25 mins

Monkfish is a meaty, robust, yet tender and very tasty fish that we don't use enough of in our home cooking, in our opinion. Bring restaurant-style dining to your kitchen table by wrapping two fillets in Parma ham and infusing them with fresh rosemary. It's that simple. 

Just keep a close eye on the cooking time so as not to overdo the fish. Serve with garlic roast potatoes, and a creamy mash, or push the boat out with a dauphinoise. Then add a side of asparagus, sugar snap peas, or mange tout – or all of the above. Divine.

Get the recipe: Monkfish with Parma ham

One pot salmon pasta

Speedy yet special, there's no need for added extras – this smoked salmon pasta has it all in one

(Image credit: Future PLC)

13. One-pot smoked salmon pasta

Serves: 4| Skill level: Easy | Total time: 30 mins

Given that Valentine's Day is a weeknight affair this year, a dish that feels special without being hugely high on effort – and without the need for added side dishes –could well be in order. "This recipe is ideal for anyone short on time, or who is a little nervous about cooking from scratch. It couldn’t be simpler or quicker to prepare this pasta dish and the flavours are delicate and incredibly tasty. 

My top tip for this recipe is to ensure you boil off the alcohol from the wine when you add it to the pan – the sauce could taste acrid otherwise. Also, make sure all the ingredients are prepared before you start cooking the pasta – time will whizz past as you put this dish together."

Get the recipe: One-pot smoked salmon pasta

Crab ravioli

Pasta from scratch, lovingly made into ravioli by your own fair hands

(Image credit: Future)

14. Crab ravioli

Serves/Makes: 2 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 1 hr 10 mins

Making your own ravioli is a true labour of love, for your love, and will feel extra special, as well as allowing you extra smug points for your achievements. The filling here is simple, with the crabmeat combined with butter, garlic, and a pinch of cayenne, nutmeg, and paprika – yes, our mouths are watering too. 

Topped with cherry tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil, there's no need for a side, though a rocket salad would pair well. A dazzler of a dish.

Get the recipe: Crab ravioli

Arctic amaretto and chocolate flake souffle

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15. Arctic amaretto and chocolate Flake soufflé

Serves/Makes: 4 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 30 mins, plus freezing time

An excellent cheat of a soufflé that takes all the jeopardy out of the usually tricky cooking process. The delicious almond flavour of the cream comes from the amaretti biscuits and liquor, while the egg whites are what make it a soufflé – even if it is going to be frozen rather than baked. 

Plus, anything with a Cadbury's Flake in it can only be marvellous in our book. Don't forget to dust cocoa powder over the top – ideally using a heart shaped cut-out for maximum sense of occasion.

Get the recipe: Arctic amaretto and chocolate Flake soufflé

Valentine's Day dessert recipes

(Image credit: Alamy)

16. Macadamia chocolate mousse

Serves/Makes: 6 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 20 mins, plus chilling

A white chocolate mousse with a hint of brandy is given an interesting twist with the addition of finely-crushed macadamia nuts. Macadamias are an underused nut, but they're readily available in supermarkets including Sainsbury's and Tesco, as well as whole-food stores. 

Though if you struggle to find them, try almonds or pistachios as an alternative. Wonderful served with nutty chocolate shards on the side. 

Get the recipe: Macadamia chocolate mousse

Small glass pot of tipsy 10-minute tiramisu

(Image credit: Getty / Westend61)

17. Tipsy 10-minute tiramisu

Serves: 4 | Skill level: Easy| Total time: 10 mins

"Chocolate, cream, a hint of booze, what more could you want for Valentine’s dessert? Oh yes, it only takes 10 minutes to prepare! This is absolutely delicious, and you can make it ahead of time, and serve at room temperature when you are ready to dive in," says Michaela Hanna. 

"You can of course make it in one dish and serve it in bowls." Hopefully, you'll still have some Bailey's lurking in the cupboard from Christmas but, if not, Michaela recommends Kahlua or dark rum as great alternatives.

Get the recipe: Tipsy 10-minute tiramisu

lemon possets topped with rhubarb served in ramekins

Giving us rhubarb and custard vibes – which can only be a good thing

(Image credit: Future)

18. Lemon and rhubarb posset

Makes: 2 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 30 mins

This seasonal dessert – yes, rhubarb isn't just for summer, folks – is perfect for a posh pudding. "Forced rhubarb is at its peak on Valentine’s Day – and will be a delicious contrast to the smooth, creamy lemon posset. A little crunch from the ginger biscuit, and you really do have the perfect dessert," says Michaela Hanna. 

"Keep your eye on the syrup when it’s reducing as it will evaporate to nothing very quickly!"

Get the recipe: Lemon and rhubarb posset

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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.