What's for Dinner? 21 Delicious Recipes to Make on Busy Weeknights This October

instant pot chicken thighs
Photo: Bryan Gardner

It's officially fall! We're making dinner with plenty of seasonal produce (cue the butternut squash!) and whipping up soups, burgers, noodle bowls, and our favorite pastas for quick weeknight dinners.

01 of 22
instant pot chicken thighs
Bryan Gardner

It's that time of day again: The kids are home from school, you're home from work (or you've closed your laptop and left the home office), and you're staring blankly into the fridge as you ask yourself, "What should we have for dinner tonight?" When weekdays are busy and minutes fly by, it's easy to order a pizza to-go, but it's more delicious, satisfying, and enjoyable to cook a balanced and healthy meal that you and your loved ones can sit down to. Here, we're giving you some ideas and guidelines to help make preparing a weeknight dinner for your family more manageable.

Every month, we share dinner recipes that serve four people and take less than one hour to prepare (that means prep work, cook times, and any necessary marinating, cooling, or resting are complete in the time that it takes to watch an episode of your favorite primetime drama). We always suggest something meatless on Monday, but feel free to mix in these vegetarian and vegan recipes throughout the rest of the week, too. When Friday rolls around, we're ready to indulge, and that means something like the Instant Pot Chicken Thighs Marbella, pictured here, or a delicious sheet-pan supper.

Throughout the month of October, plan to stock up on hearty leafy greens like Swiss chard, spinach, and kale, winter squashes from butternut to acorn, and wild mushrooms. When you want to make an easy and healthy side dish recipe, roast or sauté any of these vegetables; after all, a healthy side helps to balance all of the extra candy you'll be consuming around Halloween.

Ahead, you'll find weeknight chicken dinner recipes, noodle bowls, stir-fries, and other dishes your family will love.

02 of 22

Chicken-and-Gnocchi Bake with Broccolini

Chicken-and-Gnocchi Bake with Broccolini
Lennart Weibull

Broccolini is less well known than the ever-popular crowns, but it's also sweeter, which is one of the reasons why we love using it in this family-friendly pasta recipe. Use dark meat from pre-cooked chicken to save time when you prep this meal.

03 of 22

Vibrant-Green Broccoli Curry

vibrant-green broccoli curry with tofu
Frank Frances

We're moving gently into fall with this creamy coconut curry that's vegan and gluten free. It's a plant-based power meal with crispy tofu and crunchy broccoli, both are packed with calcium.

04 of 22

Seared-Tuna Taco Bowl

purple power tuna bowl
Sidney Bensimon

Hey there, Taco Tuesday! Here's a one-bowl version of our favorite handheld bite featuring seared tuna. Searing the fish lightly lets the gorgeous purple color shine alongside shredded red cabbage and slices of watermelon radish.

05 of 22

Beef-and-Barley Burgers

beef and barley burgers
Justin Walker

For those times when you can't decide between a veggie or beef burger, there's this recipe. Made with ground beef, barley, grated carrots, and a touch of soy sauce, this tasty bite might just become your new favorite burger.

06 of 22

Stuffed Portobellos with Arugula-and-Bread Salad

Armando Rafael

A sausage and fontina filling for portobello mushrooms hits the spot on a cool fall day. Serve them with an arugula salad, which makes a crisp complement to the warm main dish.

07 of 22

Southern Fried Cabbage with Smoked Sausage

fried cabbage with sausage on orange table
Bryan Gardner

Autumn is cabbage's chance to take the stage. A blend of onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, oregano, and thyme (essentially the kitchen sink of spices) add plenty of flavor to this hearty entrée.

08 of 22

Beet Noodles with Parsley Pesto and Parmesan

beet noodles with parsley pesto and parmesan
Armando Rafael

Once you see (and taste) these purple beet noodles, you'll want to use your spiralizer every week. Topped with parmesan cheese and a fragrant pesto sauce, it tastes like a healthier version of a rich pasta dish.

09 of 22

Spicy Pork-and-Pineapple Stir-Fry

pork and pineapple stir fry
Justin Walker

You'll feel like you're on a tropical island even as the leaves fall with this sweet and spicy pork stir-fry. Brown rice makes it a healthier choice.

10 of 22

Summery Chicken and Rice Soup

summery chicken-and-rice soup
Lennart Weibull

Tonight is one of those nights when we're bridging the seasons with our dinner choice. This flavorful, nourishing soup features summer squash and Swiss Chard, which feels more fall. Using pre-cooked shredded chicken helps you get this hearty soup on the table in under an hour.

11 of 22

Curried Lentil-Salmon Salad

Curried Lentil-Salmon Salad
Con Poulos

Who says salad is only for summer? Not us! This hearty yet luxurious salad makes a stellar fall dinner. Using cooked lentils (we prefer vacuum-packed ones), makes this meal a snap to put together.

12 of 22

Kielbasa, Apple, and Cheddar Pretzel Tart

Bryan Gardner

It's Friday and we're celebrating with slices of this easy fall tart that starts with store-bought pizza dough. From there it goes in a German direction with kielbasa, mustard, and the secret ingredient that takes this dinner into must-make-again territory, the pretzel salt that's sprinkled on the crust. A crisp green salad would be an admirable accompaniment.

13 of 22

Carrot-Chickpea Burgers

Carrot-Chickpea Burgers in bowl
Frank Frances

These burgers don't need a bun! In fact, they're so good we think this plant-based main will give a whole new meaning to burger night (and yes, they're also so right for Meatless Monday). Egg, panko, and cooked white rice work together to bind chickpeas and grated carrots together into a sturdy, flippable patty. Minced garlic and cilantro boost the natural earthy flavors. Serve with lettuce leaves for wrapping.

14 of 22

Beef and Cabbage Tacos

Yuki Sugiura

Let's hear it for Taco Tuesdays. In just 20 minutes, a mixture of spicy sautéed beef comes together, ready to be topped with all the fixings—sliced avocado, sour cream, and pickled jalapeños.

15 of 22

Sweet-and-Sour Chicken-Noodle Bowl

sweet-and-sour chicken-noodle bowl
Lennart Weibull

Sliced, pre-cooked chicken meat gets heat from sweet chili sauce, acidity from lime juice, warmth from freshly grated ginger, and brightness from fresh cilantro in this flavor-packed meal. Thin rice noodles provide body and there's plenty of carrots, cabbage, and cucumbers for crunch.

16 of 22

Baked Scallops

baked scallops
Bryan Gardner

Sweet bay scallops cook for just nine minutes total in this creamy seafood main. It's a versatile course that can be served with seasonal vegetables, atop pasta, or over a crunchy green spinach salad.

17 of 22

Roasted Sausages with Cabbage and Squash

sausages cabbage vegetables on baking sheet
Justin Walker

This sheet-pan supper is just right for October. It's a great way to use popular fall vegetables like kabocha squash and cabbage.

18 of 22

Super-Grain Soup with Watercress and Mushrooms

super-grain soup with watercress and mushrooms
Justin Walker

A blend of mushrooms, such as shiitake, cremini, and oyster give this soup deeper flavor, but using a single variety is great, too. Since grains take some time to cook, prepare up a batch for the week on Sunday, or fast-track it with vacuum-packed, fully-cooked grains, which you can find in most grocery stores.

19 of 22

Grilled Salmon Sandwiches with Herbed Mayonnaise


You can still enjoy healthy grilled fish even though summer is over (just use a grill pan indoors!). Serve salmon on a soft seeded roll alongside roasted Swiss chard or kale, both of which are in season this month.

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Beef-Zucchini Meatballs

bowls of spaghetti squash and zucchini noodles with zucchini meatballs
Kate Mathis

Take a lighter approach to traditional spaghetti and meatballs. To prevent the meatballs from drying out, gently mix the ingredients together with a fork until just incorporated (too much mashing causes them to lose moisture).

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Baked Pasta with Cauliflower and Swiss Chard

cauliflower swiss chard bake
Julia Gartland

This healthy and hearty baked pasta dish will fuel your ghostly crew before you head to the haunted house.

22 of 22

Spanish Cod with Chorizo and Fennel

spanish cod with chorizo and fennel recipe plate
Sidney Bensimon

If you've never cooked fish in parchment paper before, give this amazing, quick, and easy technique a try. Everything cooks together in the oven in the parchment package, which makes for easy clean-up and allows flavors to mingle.

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