Make These No-Cook Recipes Ahead of Time and Dinner Will Be Ready When You Want It

Our five favorite no-cook recipes include a chilled soup, mains, and even a dessert. They're the ultimate summer dishes for those hot July and August days.

Spanish Gazpacho
Photo: Dana Gallagher

Light, bright, and refreshing, no-cook recipes hit all the right notes you want for summer cooking without adding to the heat or much preparation at all. What's more, these no-cook recipes have a make-ahead component, meaning they are the type of dishes that can be ready to go in the refrigerator for those days when you need a quick and easy meal. Plus, they travel well to summer gatherings, too. No oven, no stovetop, no grill: With fresh and thoughtfully selected ingredients and a make-ahead mentality, these filling and delicious no-cook dishes come to life in your own kitchen.

To highlight the best of the no-cook category, we picked techniques that build flavor rather than just get the job done. Chilling a blended Spanish soup in the refrigerator melds simple ingredients into a more complex bowl. Different marinating techniques achieve bold flavor in lentil, summer squash, and tomato recipes, and help to transform raw vegetables into smoother, almost cooked-like bites. Last but not least, a super easy cheesecake lends a sweet finish to any meal without any cooking. Beat the heat and try these recipes that are well suited to busy summer agendas and hungry appetites.

Spanish Gazpacho

Blending brings together tasty summer fresh ingredients like tomatoes, bell pepper, onions, garlic, and more in our take on the quintessential Spanish chilled soup, Gazpacho, pictured above. However, the real flavor builds as the soup chills in the refrigerator and each individual ingredient becomes one. Fresh breadcrumbs contribute body and creaminess to this soup and orange juice adds just the right amount of acidity and sweetness to balance the tomatoes and provide a bite. Factor in at least two hours before serving or this keeps up to a few days in the fridge.

Refreshing as a main or appetizer, serve the soup as is or garnish with chunky toppings like the boiled egg and jamon iberico that we included in this recipe. Also delicious are nuts, canned tuna, croutons, herbs, or anything crunchy that you love.

Bryan Gardner

Kale and Lentil Bowl with Avocado Dressing

Hearty and filling, the stand-in protein in this main dish salad is precooked lentils, which can be found cryovaced in the produce section of most grocery stores,. In this Kale and Lentil Bowl, they're served along with a creamy avocado dressing, good-for-you kale, and nutty aged cheddar. It's a complete meal, and only takes 20 minutes to put together. While the dish can be enjoyed right away, allowing some time for the lentils to absorb the dressing pays off big in flavor. You can dress them up to five days in advance and have the salad ready to go on the fly.

If you can't find precooked lentils or just want to mix it up, try using chickpeas or any canned bean that has been rinsed and drained.

Sardinian Tomato Salad
Christopher Testani

Sardinian Tomato Salad

For a refreshing and filling meal, try this Sardnian-inspired salad that takes canned tuna and tomatoes to the next level. Marinating the tomatoes with fennel, olives, and onions in a tangy vinaigrette for at least 15 minutes or up to two hours draws tomato juices out into the dressing and in turn infuses the ingredients with the flavors of the dressing. To serve this Sardinian Tomato Salad, break up canned tuna into large flakes (we like high quality oil-packed tuna) and scatter over top of the marinated tomato salad. Top with crispy croutons and spoon any extra juices left in the bottom of the bowl over top.

While green heirloom tomatoes create a beautiful monotone look in this salad, any colored heirloom will create an equally stunning presentation and delicious summer flavor.

zucchini-and-squash salad
Linda Pugliese

Zucchini-and-Squash Salad

Salting and marinating summer squash, transforms this popular vegetable into a tasty and beautiful side with a tender, silky texture that feels like it has been cooked, though it's never touched the heat. Salting the squash removes extra moisture, softening each slice. Marinating infuses flavor right through to the center of each bite.

Make this Zucchini-and-Squash Salad into a main by spooning marinated beans, such as this White Bean Salad (another great no-cook dish that is better made ahead) over the dish or stirring in your favorite already cooked protein such as precooked shrimp, rotisserie chicken, or whatever you might have leftover from the evening before. Or use this technique with your favorite dressing for a different flavor profile; we think it's fantastic with pesto, too.

no-bake key lime cheesecake
Armando Rafael

No-Bake Key Lime Cheesecake

The most refreshing summer sweet treats are served chilled and don't require an oven. Sure, we love ice cream and popsicles, but an ice box treat that you can slice up, like this No-Bake Key Lime Cheesecake, really hits the spot. Easier and less intimidating to make than baked cheesecakes (not to mention a lot cooler), this recipe combines the richness and creaminess of traditional cheesecake with a lighter warm weather-friendly texture and zesty Key lime flavor. Floral Key lime lends a unique flavor, however this harder to find citrus can easily be replaced with regular lime juice.

Chilling the cake properly is key for easy slicing and the correct consistency, so factor in at least two hours or make up this no-bake wonder up to a few days ahead.

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