Making dinner in less than 30 minutes seems impossible unless you're making a sandwich or boiling some pasta. But if you know which ingredients to use and how to prep them efficiently, 20-minute dinners are incredibly easy to make. The most important thing to remember when making recipes with shorter cook times is that the fastest meals often have a pre-cooked base, a quick-cook protein, and simple toppings.

For example pre-cooked pasta, salad, or rice makes for an easy base. And ground chicken, shrimp, tofu, or beans are proteins that cook quickly. To add a final dash of flavor to any dish, sprinkle on some cheese, avocado, pre-made sauce, or steamed veggies and tuck in. This organization simplifies the cooking process and minimizes the time you have to spend in the kitchen. Don't believe me? These simple 20-minute dinner recipes walk you through the steps. 

1. Thai Turkey Lettuce Cups

I love lettuce wraps more than I love most other foods – I order protein-style burgers (lettuce instead of the bun) and try to make everything into a huge messy salad. This recipe is super easy to follow and is quite healthy. Ditching the bread and opting for lettuce adds some crunch and freshness to your meal, which is perfect for those craving Asian-Mexican fusion.

2. Spinach, Chickpea, and Chicken Pitas

Pita bread is just meant to be stuffed to maximum capacity, that's all there is to it. And with a recipe like this, it's so easy to customize. You can enjoy it however you want – whether it be vegetarian (replace the chicken with falafel or grilled vegetables) or replace the chicken with turkey or ground beef.

3. Pork Ragu with Ravioli

This recipe is the best of both worlds. It uses store-bough ravioli, but shows you how to make a simple pork ragu using ground pork, tomato paste, and white wine. 

4. Chicken Sausage Spaghetti Squash Skillet

This 20-minute dinner is guaranteed to satisfy. Replacing grain pasta with spaghetti squash is an easy way to sneak in extra nutrients. The squash is cooked in the microwave, which helps this dish come together quickly.

5. Cobb Salad

This salad is the kitchen sink and then some. It has eggs, chicken, bacon, avocado, blue cheese, and tomatoes, so let's just say you need a pretty big bowl and an even bigger appetite to demolish this. If you don't like one of the toppings on this salad, you can so easily change it and keep the cook time under 20 minutes. And if you're really trying to make your life easy, you can make this salad in bulk and add dressing when you're ready to eat it.

6. Honey Garlic Glazed Salmon

The spice from the garlic and red pepper flakes, the saltiness from the soy sauce, and the citrus from the orange all perfectly come together to bring out the sweetness of the honey in the fish. Gourmet dinner in just 20 minutes!

7. Turkey and Swiss Sloppy Joes

This sloppy joe recipe uses lean ground turkey instead of ground beef, and Swiss cheese instead of the traditional barbecue-like sauce you find on this sandwich. It's easy to make, and super flavorful.

8. Risotto with Brussels Sprouts

This quick risotto recipe uses pre-cooked brown rice instead of traditional risotto rice to cut down cook times. This recipe calls for Brussels sprouts, but you can add any extra veggies you want. 

9. Turkey, Brie, Green Apple, and Watercress Sandwich

The green apple in this sandwich adds crunch and flavor and pairs perfectly with the Brie. I'm a huge fan of everything going on in this quick recipe. 

#Spoon Tip: Consider investing in a panini press. Sandwiches are such an easy food to make and eat, and for this recipe, it'd be so much easier to skip the oven and go straight to pressing the sandwich.

10. Pad Thai

pad thai, chicken, pasta, rice, sauce, noodle
Bailey Bromm

You can put down the phone if you were planning on ordering takeout, because this 20-minute recipe has you covered. This pad Thai is easy, quick, and super filling. The shrimp, peanuts, and eggs add protein and healthy fats, and the vegetables inject lots of nutrients.

11. Shrimp Scampi

spaghetti, pasta, sauce, basil, vegetable, angel-hair pasta, scampi, macaroni
Natsuko Mazany

This recipe tops a bowl of angel hair pasta with plump shrimp seasoned with fresh garlic and lemon juice. The crushed red pepper flakes add a kick of spice to this recipe without overpowering the dish.

12. Caprese Zoodles

This 20-minute recipe is super basic without sacrificing taste. It's fresh and light, while still being quite filling. Zoodles are lower in calories and carbs than ordinary pasta, while also holding a lot more nutritional value without the gluten.

13. California Burger Bowls

Have the burger without the bun! It's pretty much protein style, but instead of having it fall apart in your hands, it's already apart on your dish. This way, you can arrange the perfect bite every time. You can even make this recipe vegetarian by cooking up a veggie patty instead of a beef one.

14. Crack Noodles

Classic, addicting Asian-inspired noodles. They're spicy and sweet, and full of texture thanks to the shallots and onions. Definitely consider throwing in some tofu or chicken for additional protein to make this meal more filling.

15. Pineapple Chicken

=Turn your kitchen into a Panda Express in 20 minutes! Cashews add a crunch, jalapeños add some heat, and the chicken itself is the perfect amount of sweet. Layer it over a bed of rice or lo mein, and if you're feeling fancy you can serve it in a pineapple bowl.

16. Mexican Street Corn Tostadas

Mexican street corn (known as elote) is essentially corn slathered in mayo, cheese, spices, and seasonings. It's usually served on the cob or in a cup, but this recipe is bringing you it on a tostada, or a crispy tortilla. You can also use the corn as a fun salad topper (ditch the dressing!) for some added texture and flavor.

17. Beef Taco Skillet

The fork and knife taco is delicious. You just throw it all together, top it with whatever you're craving, and you're set. It's also hard to get tired of because of how easy you can change the toppings and customize the recipe to satisfy your cravings and work with what's already in your kitchen.

18. Croque Monsieur

Take a trip to France in 20 minutes or less. The egg is optional, but it's a great source of protein and healthy fats. And pretty much anything that has melted cheese is a yes from me.

Who knew you could make so much delicious food in so little time? I know nothing is better than takeout after a hard day of work, but these 20-minute dinners will get the job done in probably less time and definitely will cost less.