12 Nearly No-Cook Dinners for Busy Nights

Crispy dumplings, tender tamales, gooey pizza, and a dozen other delicious ways to avoid sweating over a stove

Filled pasta shapes on a sheet pan
Plant Dazzler

Whether you’re headed into a busy week or it’s been a draining couple of pandemic years, here’s the thing — you don’t actually have to cook dinner tonight. There are so many local food makers who would love to feed you and your family! With freezer dumplings to the rescue, noodle soups that simmer quickly, tamales that steam in the microwave, and pizza that slides right onto an oven rack. Perhaps surprisingly, prepped foods and dinner kits can actually be both faster and more delicious than delivery: Many heat up in less than 10 minutes, plus one or two finishing touches can go a long way to make sure dishes arrive at the table piping hot and the perfect texture. Here are a dozen delicious ways to avoid cooking dinner.

A bowl filled with beef and noodles
Chiang Beef Noodle

Beef Noodle with Shank & Tendon from Chiang Beef Noodle

Slurpable noodle soup simmers in a few minutes. Justin braises beef bones, shank, and tendon for a total of 24 hours, in nearly 30 different aromatics and spices, so you don’t have to — just pull out a pot and warm through. Then punch it up with pickled mustard greens. The pro move is to get extra noodles to enjoy with any leftover broth.

A package of wontons
Wycen Foods

Chicken & Mushroom Wontons from Wycen Foods

Freezer dumplings to the rescue! Just bring a pot of water to a boil and float on. The oldest Chinese sausage factory on the West Coast also makes plump and juicy wontons studded with silky mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Dunk in a handful of broccoli and dinner is done.

A bamboo plate with a tamale and toppings
Donají

Pork Achiote Tamales from Donají

Tucked away in the fridge, tamales are so easy to steam in the microwave, and unwrap like a gift at the end of a long day. Especially when they’re filled with Isaí’s exceptionally smooth and light fresh masa — so good it made the Michelin guide. Smother in rich mole poblano and pair with pickled onions, if you like.  

A plain pizza on a table
Pizzeria Delfina

Margherita Pizza from Pizzeria Delfina

Any night is a pizza party when you have a Neapolitan-style pie from Delfina stashed in the freezer. Seven minutes! Is all it takes to slide it right onto the oven rack and let that milky fresh mozzarella melt down into the sweet tomatoes and basil leaves.

A close up of sliced chicken on rice
Dabao Singapore

Hainanese Chicken & Rice from Dabao Singapore

Chicken and rice are a classic, but Hainanese chicken satisfies a particular craving for tender poached chicken and rice slicked in chicken fat. Emily serves her version Singaporean style, which means chicken soup on the side and both ginger-scallion and sweet chili sauces.

A bowl filled with noodles, chicken, and sauce
Basil the Bowl

Chewy Curry Noodles from Basil the Bold

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that curry is good the first day and better the next, when the spices have a chance to sink in. PanPan pours beautiful color and texture into this bowl brimming with thick and chewy noodles, golden turmeric chicken, and aromatic red curry sauce.

A knotted bag of pupusas
Nixta Foods

Mushroom & Spinach Pupusas from Nixta Foods

Pupusas flip golden with a quick griddle. Gabriel’s mama used to make them for dinner every week, and now Gabriel’s making it easy to stack them in the freezer. His are rich in nourishing veggies, stuffed with earthy criminis, tender spinach, and porcini powder for umami oomph. Simply slash with salsa and add a vinegary crunch of curtido.  

A vacuum-packed pork chop in seasonings
Fatted Calf

Al’ Diavolo Porterhouse Pork Chop from Fatted Calf

A juicy heritage pork chop is a one-pan wonder. Taylor and Toponia take a porterhouse cut with the bone still in and marinate it in citrus and chiles, so all you have to do is crank up a hot skillet.  While the chop rests, you could toss in any veggies from the crisper, and let them sizzle in the pork fat.

Filled pasta shapes on a sheet pan
Plant Dazzler

Pap Cap Pasta & Pumpkin Seed Pesto from Plant Dazzler

Fresh pasta bobs to the top of a pot within a few minutes, and it’s extra appealing tossed with a gorgeous green sauce. Susie fills stylish caps with “creamy” ricotta, blitzes both spinach and basil into her pumpkin seed pesto, for big color and flavor that happens to be completely vegan.

A thick slice of muffuletta with chips and a beer
Sandy's SF

Muffuletta from Sandy’s SF

A serious sandwich deserves consideration for dinner, no cooking required. Peterson layers three types of meat — mortadella, prosciutto, and soppressata — with provolone and spicy olives. Having grown up in New Orleans, he and his dad Sandy would recommend washing it down with a sudsy beer.  

An overhead shot of a golden pie
Pie Society

Chicken Pot Pie from Pie Society

The comfort of pie for dinner! Without having to roll out dough. Angela pours creamy chicken and veggies into a flaky crust, and fluffy scallion biscuits take it over the top. Pop it in the oven until piping hot, and you have time to pour a glass of wine and kick back.

A small crock of beef stew with rice in the background
Cafe de Casa

Feijoada from Cafe de Casa

Thank the ladies of Cafe de Casa for this smoky stew that freezes and reheats like a dream. It’s a labor of love that takes a full day for Lucimar to soak the black beans, braise the dried beef, fry the pork ribs, and let them all meld together. So all you have to do is defrost, warm through, and ladle over fluffy rice.

Hungry for more? There are so many more tempting options for quick and easy dinners on the site.