Quick Kid-Friendly Dinner Recipes the Entire Family Will Love
The definition of "kid-friendly" certainly varies from child to child, but there are a few common threads you'll find among recipes that appeal to families. First, they're easy for parents to throw together, and, in some cases, for kids to help out with preparing. They often draw on familiar ingredients—like pasta—and favor simple preparations in favor of complex sauces or lots of spices. And they're usually customizable with elements that can easily be left out or swapped in, whether it's omitting the fresh basil garnish or using familiar American cheese in lieu of sharper Gruyère.
The recipes in this collection feature something for everyone: They're accessible for finicky eaters, but hardly boring or bland. Yes, there's pasta (spaghetti with a speedy tomato sauce, penne with broccoli, gnocchi with peas, and a no-fail mac 'n' cheese)—but there's also lots more, including dishes from some tried and true, kid-friendly cuisines, such as Mexican and Chinese.
The breaded chicken cutlets shown here are a fantastic example of how tasty kid-friendly food can be: They're crispy, crunchy, savory, and wonderfully filling. You start by pulsing oats in a food processor until finely ground, then add umami-rich Grana Padano cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. This becomes the breading for chicken tenders, which you fry in a skillet. Cut them into strips for little fingers to pick up, or leave them whole for older diners to cut on their own. They're delicious with a squeeze a lemon, a squirt of ketchup, or whatever else your family's heart desires.
Most importantly, child-friendly dinners don't have to be dull or unhealthy. Here, a collection of ideas that will appeal to family members both young and old.
Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce
In the amount of time it takes to cook spaghetti, you can whip up a delicious homemade marinara sauce to go on top. Simmering the sauce with sprigs of fresh basil gives it wonderful flavor. And you can add more—or not—before serving, depending on diners' tastes.
Test Kitchen’s Favorite Grilled Cheese
The familiar, cozy, easy grilled cheese sandwich is a perfect kid-friendly meal that everyone will love. Slathering the bread with a combo of butter and mayonnaise ensures rich buttery flavor and an uber-crisp exterior.
One-Pot Pasta with Broccoli and Lemon
Busy cooks will adore this recipe: You cook the penne and the broccoli in the same pot (just give the pasta a 5-minute head start). When both are al dente, toss with garlic, oil, lemon zest, and juice some grated cheese.
Cheddar-and-Scallion Savory Pancakes
Is it breakfast? Is it dinner? Does it matter? These savory pancakes are downright delicious.
Sheet-Pan Chicken Fajitas
This recipe for crowd-pleasing chicken fajitas has a smart trick for streamlining the cooking process. While fajitas are usually prepared one at a time on a very hot griddle in stages (first meat, then veggies), this recipe has you cook everything at the same time on one pan in the oven.
Tuna-Salad Hand Rolls
A 15-minute, kid-friendly dinner? Yes, please! Even better, this meal is healthy, convenient, and interactive—everyone gets to DIY their own hand roll.
Gnocchi with Peas and Egg
Here's another recipe where a pot of boiling water does double duty, cooking fresh peas, arugula, and gnocchi all at once. A touch of cream and Parmesan creates a rich sauce, while jammy soft-cooked eggs serve as the perfect finishing touch—though you can certainly cook them however your eaters like them.
Pacific Pork Kebabs with Pineapple Rice
Tropical Hawaii inspired our grilled pineapple-glazed pork and bell-pepper skewers. They're fantastic served alongside rice that's been embellished with chunks of pineapple, scallions, and ginger.
These ingenious preassembled burritos are money in the bank. Fill tortillas with sautéed garlic and beans, cooked rice, cheese, and any shredded meat and veggies you like. Then roll up and freeze until you're ready to microwave or bake for near-instant gratification.
Test Kitchen's Favorite Mac and Cheese
Our ultimate mac and cheese relies on three different kinds of cheese—American, cheddar, and Parmesan. For easier grating, put the block of cheese in the freezer for five minutes first.
Crispy noodles, chicken, and vegetables stir-fried in a flavorful brown sauce is an easy weeknight dinner. You can even make the sauce and chop the chicken and vegetables ahead of time to make it even speedier.
Ground beef, pinto beans, and tomatoes spiced with chili powder bubble under a crunchy, gooey topping of tortilla chips and two cheeses in this quick and easy, kid-friendly casserole.