May 21, 2024

VITALITY LIFE

LIVING HEALTHY VITALITY LIFE

31 Dinner Recipes for When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking (And It’s Too Hot Anyway)

11 min read

There’s so much to love about summer: the easy, breezy, carefree days, the additional hours of sunshine, and of course, some much-needed vacay. What I love a little less, of course, are the scorching hot, three-digit temps. June through August (and in some places, September) is no time to be turning on the oven. So of course, I’ve kept the best dinner ideas for hot summer nights top of mind. What I’ve found is a variety of mouth-watering dishes that don’t require hours in the kitchen. Score!

As a self-professed, baking-obsessed hobbyist, I mourn the ability to get creative with all my favorite comfort foods. But, in recent years, I’ve learned to accept the weather as it is and make do with a few go-to no cook summer meals kept securely up my sleeve. And while sandwiches and salads are significant parts of the round-up to follow, the fun doesn’t stop there.

Featured image of Helene Henderson’s Malibu kitchen by Teal Thomsen.

Image by Michelle Nash

31 Dinner Ideas for Hot Summer Nights

I shook the internet upside down to find all the best fresh and flavor-packed dinner ideas for hot summer nights that make the most of in-season summer produce. Get ready for vibrant color, delicious crunch, and everything that’ll make your warm-weather dining dreams come true. So turn up the AC and let’s get to some (no-cook) summer cooking!

These dinner ideas for hot summer nights are the ideal way to beat the heat and enjoy your summer nights—happily out of the kitchen.

Sides and Salads

Ricotta with Pears and Honeyed Pistachios

Why We Love It: This simple board with ricotta cheese and fresh pears is absolutely delicious and aesthetically pleasing. The sweet and rich ricotta pairs perfectly with fresh fruit, and the nuttiness from the pistachios is a savory finishing touch.

Hero Ingredient: Honeyed pistachios may just be my topping of the summer.

Grapefruit, Avocado, and Golden Beet Salad with Crunchy Chickpeas and Feta

Why We Love It: This salad is the perfect blend of tangy, juicy, and crunchy. With all of the delicious fruit packed into this summer salad, feta acts as a simple moderator, allowing you to hone in on each individual flavor. Although this salad takes a few more steps than your average Caesar salad, the end result is definitely worth the effort.

Hero Ingredient: Again: feta brings this bowl together.

Watermelon Chopped Greek Salad

Why We Love It: Greek salads are the ultimate summer side dish, and this recipe is no exception. Out of all the dinner ideas for hot summer nights we’ve rounded up, this might just be the best. (Though the final call is up to you.) Juicy watermelon is a refreshing complement to crunchy cucumbers and sweet tomatoes. Top this salad off with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of honey to enhance your tangy and sweet flavors.

Hero Ingredient: Fresh mint goes a long way in this salad.

Easy Bruschetta

Why We Love It: I’m a sucker for bruschetta on a hot summer day, and it just doesn’t get easier to enjoy it than with this recipe. With under ten ingredients, you have a simple and balanced snack or side dish to fuel all your summer fun.

Hero Ingredient: Cherry tomatoes are a must-have for juicy and flavorful bruschetta.

White Bean Radicchio Salad

Why We Love It: If you haven’t yet hopped on the radicchio train, now’s your chance. This salad is a true stunner, filled with a variety of different ingredients that curate an appetizing, texture-filled bowl.

Hero Ingredient: Radicchio, it’s your time to shine!

Mexican Chopped Salad

Why We Love It: This Mexican chopped salad can easily be thrown together with ingredients you likely have in the fridge or pantry. The recipe is bound together with a honey-shallot dressing, which can be used and stored for all your summer salad recipes. Dinner ideas for hot summer nights on the fly? Brilliant.

Hero Ingredient: Chickpeas are a great addition to any salad.

Chaat Masala Citrus Salad

Why We Love It: While winter is technically when citrus is at its best, this salad packs so much additional flavor that you’ll love it in the summer, too. It’s proof that when you combine deliciousness with gorgeous presentation, beautiful things can happen. With just a few ingredients tossed together, you have a meal that’s far greater than the sum of its parts.

Hero Ingredient: With a mix of multi-colored citrus (cara cara and blood oranges, plus the prettiest grapefruits you can find), you can easily create a dynamic meal.

Papdi Chaat

Why We Love It: Camille Styles Food Editor, Suruchi swears by this dish as an easy, streamlined, and make-ahead option for any summer gathering. In her words, “It’s the crispy sweet, spicy, and tangy appetizer you’ve been looking for!” I couldn’t agree more.

Hero Ingredient: Store-bought mint, cilantro, and tamarind chutney let you assemble this dish in minutes. A win for any dinner party planner.

Antipasto Salad From Well Plated

Why We Love It: Think salads can’t serve as a hearty and complete (not to mention delicious) meal? Think again. I take a loose approach to defining what constitutes a salad, and if you agree that a diverse array of ingredient goodness fits the bill, then this filling and flavorful antipasto salad is right up your alley. I’m in love with anything that can be described as a cheeseboard in salad form.

Hero Ingredient: Luxury is a half-cup of salty, briny olives tossed into your summer salad.

Jicama Salad from Three Ways From Alison Wu

Why We Love It: If you haven’t enjoyed the magic of jicama yet, start with this salad. Native to Mexico, it’s just now beginning to gain traction in the United States, and I’m here for the hype. Jicama is somehow both crunchy and juicy, sweet and nutty. The closest thing I can compare it to is a pear, but trust me: it’s so much more. These three recipes showcase jicama at its finest, pairing the root veggie with a medley of fruits, herbs, citruses, and spice. The options for deliciousness abound.

Hero Ingredient: It has to be jicama.

Tomato Salad From The Modern Proper

Why We Love It: If we learned anything from the tomato toast recipe above, it’s that when you’re lucky enough to be working with an ingredient at its finest, let it shine. Case in point, this pile-up of perfect tomatoes. With nothing beyond a simple dressing to complement their flavor, the ruby red cherry tomatoes are displayed at their sweetest, and arguably, best.

Hero Ingredient: While I can enjoy cherry tomatoes straight off the vine, this recipe is just a tad fancier, making them fit for a summer dinner party side.

Shaved Zucchini Salad With Plums, Herbs & Almonds from The First Mess

Why We Love It: No, I will never agree that zoodles are an acceptable substitute for creamy, buttery noodles. But when recipes let zucchini take the stage as exactly what it is (re: a delicious summer veggie), then you better believe I’m on board. This salad is a study in contrasting textures. With the squash’s fresh flavor, a touch of creaminess from the cheese, and the almonds’ crunch, you can bet this salad satisfies.

Hero Ingredient: While this recipe calls for golden plums, any juicy, summery stone fruit will bring the sweetness that seals the deal on this salad.

Asian Cucumber Salad with Chili and Garlic From Lindsey Eats

Why We Love It: I love snappy, spicy sides that are dominated by one of my favorite veggies. Yes, cucumbers might be a humble option, but when thinly sliced and paired with a zippy dressing that knows the benefit of a little acidity, a tasty treat ensues.

Hero Ingredient: If you’re not about heat, ditch the pepper. But, if you fall hard for anything that packs a spicy punch, the Fresno or, alternatively, birds eye chili, brings beautiful flavor to your overall dish.

Pastas and Bowls

Build-Your-Own Soba Noodle Bowls

Why We Love It: A bowl night is a great night, especially with a house full of picky eaters. These soba noodle bowls can be filled and topped with a variety of ingredients—like crispy tofu and crunchy walnuts—that will keep everyone full and happy.

Hero Ingredient: Soba noodles are where the best bowls begin!

Thai Chicken Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

Why We Love It: I’ve been a fan of Thai peanut dressing for years, and this recipe is the perfect chance to try it if you haven’t! This twist on a chicken salad is filled with healthy and nutritious ingredients to help you recharge after a day in the sun.

Hero Ingredient: Roasted peanuts are a must-have added crunch to this chicken salad.

Mediterranean Grain Bowl

Why We Love It: I’ve spent countless hours curating bowls with healthier ingredients—it’s kind of my favorite pasttime. As the base, this bowl uses quinoa as a rice alternative for an added protein that pairs well with plenty of toppings like black olives and cherry tomatoes.

Hero Ingredient: Quinoa can basically do it all.

Hummus, Greens, & Avo Bowl

Why We Love It: Hummus is one of my favorite dip options to put on the table during the summer. With fiber and protein, it’s a great addition to any bowl or dish or to enjoy on its own with carrots or celery. Paired with a delicious vinegarette and a variety of textured toppings, this bowl uses nutrient-filled ingredients like kale and broccolini to create the green bowl of your dreams.

Hero Ingredient: Jammy, fried, or hard-boiled—however you prep them, eggs are another great topping option to add to your bowl.

Mango & Coconut Soba Noodle Salad

Why We Love It: There’s just something about the mango/coconut flavor combination that screams summer. This salad is tropical paradise in a bowl and doesn’t lack filling ingredients or bold flavors. The honey lime Thai dressing is to die for, and I love throwing it on any other bowl recipes I may come up with throughout the summer.

Hero Ingredient: Garnish with toasted coconut and a fresh squeeze of lime.

Spring Pasta Salad

Why We Love It: Pasta or salad? We simply can’t decide which bowl takes the cake for the best side dish of the summer. When I hear the expression “food is fuel,” I think of dishes like this pasta salad. It’s the perfect blend of healthy carbs and nutrient-filled greens.

Hero Ingredient: A bit of parmesan cheese supplies the richness this pasta salad needs.

Burgers and Sandwiches

Sweet Potato Falafel Veggie Burgers

Why We Love It: Sweet potatoes are one of my year-round kitchen staple ingredients. A lighter alternative if red meat burgers aren’t your jam, these sweet potato falafel burgers are a great vegetarian option for pool parties or backyard barbecues.

Hero Ingredient: Don’t worry, even without any meat in sight these burgers still deliver plenty of protein. You have the chickpeas to thank for that.

Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

Why We Love It: Chicken salad has always been one of my go-to meals when I’m not quite sure what to cook. This meatless version of a classic recipe can be eaten alone or thrown together between two slices of sourdough or whole wheat.

Hero Ingredient: A squeeze of Dijon mustard lends the perfect amount of subtle, tangy heat.

Carne Asada Tacos

Why We Love It: Carne Asada is a dish that didn’t exist in my kitchen until I moved to Texas—but needless to say, I’ve been changed since trying this recipe. These beautifully grilled, tender slices of meat are marinated to perfection in a blend with ingredients including honey, soy sauce, chili powder, and cilantro.

Hero Ingredient: Flank steak is a must for juicy, tender tacos. Plus, compared to other cuts, it’s a great affordable option if you’re serving a larger crowd.

Grilled Yogurt-Marinated Chicken with All the Herbs

Why We Love It: If you haven’t tried marinating your chicken with yogurt, summer’s the best time to start. The marinade creates a juicy, flavor-infused chicken breast with zesty lemon and lime and a bit of sweetness from the honey.

Hero Ingredient: Full-fat, plain Greek yogurt is the way to go.

Sriracha Tempeh Spring Rolls

Why We Love It: These spring rolls are the perfect combination of hot and sweet. With delicious tempeh smothered in a honey sriracha sauce, simply roll your protein with veggies of your choice in rice paper and enjoy!

Hero Ingredient: Rice noodles bulk up these spring rolls with a delicious, filling texture.

Chicken Burger Lettuce Wraps

Why We Love It: These wraps are my go-to summer lunch solution. I love how the cool, crisp lettuce provides a contrasting crunch to the herby chicken burgers. If you really want to step it up, enjoy some mint tzatziki on the side.

Hero Ingredient: A teaspoon of curry powder gives your burgers a surprising but welcome touch of warmth.

Club Sandwich with Pesto Mayonnaise From The Modern proper

Why We Love It: In my world, BLTs are the perfect sandwich. They combine a little fatty richness with fruity, fresh flavor. This version is a slight (but significant) step up. If you’re in need of an easy, but oh-so-satisfying lunch option to keep in your weekday repertoire, this club sammie masterpiece is it. I’ll guarantee you have most, if not all, of the ingredients on hand already.

Hero Ingredient: You had me at pesto mayonnaise.

Super Greens Sandwich From Fork In the Kitchen

Why We Love It: This is not your run-of-the-mill sandwich. I love that it stays within the same color palette while still having so much varied texture and flavor. A creamy avocado sauce layered atop crunchy spinach and cool cucumber slices will make you think you’re enjoying a much more indulgent meal.

Hero Ingredient: Never underestimate the power of a little freshly ground black pepper.

Rainbow “Raw-maine” Taco Boats From minimalist Baker

Why We Love It: If there’s one thing to know about me, it’s that I’m a Taco Tuesday girl. Any way I can have ’em, I’ll take ’em—and that includes sans shell. If you’re tired of the hard vs. soft shell debate, settle it with something altogether different. Romaine gives the perfect crunch and bite of fresh flavor, making it easy to go back for seconds, thirds…

Hero Ingredient: Beet hummus adds the perfect earthy and sweet pop of color.

This post was originally published on June 22, 2023, and has since been updated.

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