When the lockdown first started, I was cooking at least 4 or 5 times a week for me and my roommate (we’d have leftovers the other nights/meals). Then my roommate started doing Daily Harvest for lunch and dinner and I suddenly found myself with lots of leftovers. And little desire to eat said leftovers for like 4-6 meals in a row. So, on weeknights, I started experimenting with making dinners for one.
Before I dive in, dinner is my meal. I friggin love dinner. Breakfast is usually coffee and/or a protein shake (efficient but boring). Lunch is usually a salad, and sandwich, or another protein shake (also efficient but boring). Dinner is where I shine. And indulge. I love to cook and to experiment with cooking. And seriously I just love food.
For a while, I was cooking through The Defined Dish cookbook. Every recipe in the cookbook is what I would call healthy-adjacent. Plus, they’re great for weeknight dinners as they’re generally pretty quick. But most of the recipes make 4 portions. That’s fine if you’re dining with others or want leftovers, but I wasn’t about to let my one exciting foodie time of the day become leftovers. So I started playing around and trying to figure out what the best weeknight dinners for one were (both in the cookbook and like… generally). Here are some of my faves that I discovered:
Weeknight Dinners for One: Delish’s Cilantro Lime Shrimp Tacos
I’ve made these tacos a few times this summer and OMG they’re so good. And in the event you want to make the regular recipe without adjusting for one portion, you should know that the shrimp and cole slaw are both awesome the next day on a salad.
For the original recipe that yields 4 servings, click here. It’s a family favorite of ours – I made it several times this summer for my parents!
Cooking for One: Cacio e Pepe
I love cacio e pepe. Like seriously. Love.
Fun fact: on New Year’s Eve of this year, I was out with my best friend and nothing was open after the bars closed. Not even McDonalds. And we were ravenous. So we came back to my house and I whipped up some cacio e pepe for the two of us. And it was perfect.
Cacio e pepe is awesome because of how simple it is. It’s traditionally just 3 ingredients: pasta, freshly ground black pepper, and pecorino romano. Even a “dressed up” version (like the ones below) are just 5 or 6 ingredients. This dish takes less than 15 minutes to make and it’s one of the most perfect weeknight dinners for one.
Best part? You almost certainly have the ingredients in your pantry already. It’s the ultimate no-fuss dinner!
My favorite recipes for Cacio e Pepe are:
Those are all outstanding and I promise you won’t be led astray. Just note that the first two recipes are for 2 servings (and the NYT recipe makes 4 servings) so you just need adjust them if you want to make dinner for one.
I recommend adding a fried or poached egg on top (if that’s your jam) for some extra protein in the dish. You can also stir in some spinach or arugula for a bit of greenery in your dinner.
Most of all, I definitely recommend tossing some breadcrumbs with a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat and pouring that on top of your cacio e pepe. The breadcrumbs add a fun crunch (plus who doesn’t love carbs on carbs?).
Easy Meals for One Person: The Defined Dish’s Steak House Caesar Salad
This is one of the few recipes in The Defined Dish Cookbook that makes just 2 portions… and it’s exceptionally easy to halve that if you’re looking to cook dinner for one. Head’s up though: you might have extra caesar dressing leftover afterwards. But there are worse things in life.
The first time I made this dish, I think it changed my roommate’s life. I say that because she asked me to make it again 2 nights later. And again the next week. And once again the next week. Since coming out to Colorado, I’ve made it a few times for my parents and it’s definitely a crowd-pleaser here too.
This dish is awesome because it’s quick, easy, flavorful, and filling. It’s rapidly become one of my favorites (and it was instantly one of my roommate’s favorites!).
Buy The Defined Dish Cookbook here for the recipe (page 120).
Weeknight Dinner Ideas for One Person: Poached Salmon with Lemon Asparagus
I’ve previously shared my Sesame Ginger Salmon with Lemon Asparagus recipe (makes 4 servings). This dish – Poached Salmon with Lemon Asparagus – is a little different. It’s lighter, fresher, and much quicker to make. AKA it’s perfect for a warm, summer night or for a night when you only have a few minutes to whip something up for dinner.
Salmon has always been a frequent dish at my dinner table. Even when I was a little kid! My mom loves salmon, so we had it pretty frequently growing up (like once a week or so). This dish was also one of the very first meals I learned how to cook in college. And I really haven’t tweaked it that much over the years. It’s the ultimate weeknight dinner to cook for one (or for a big group) because it’s just so quick, easy, and healthy.
As a note: if you don’t care for asparagus, serve this dish with some sautéed spinach. Still super easy and super healthy: win-win!
Quick and Easy Weeknight Dinners for One: Shakshuka
Let’s say you’re in the breakfast-for-dinner mood, but pancakes, cereal, or avocado toast just isn’t going to cut it. On these kinds of nights, I like to make my favorite shakshuka recipe. I always keep the ingredients stocked, just in case!
Despite the fact that my recipe makes 6 servings, it’s actually really easy to adjust to have weeknight dinners for one (especially since most people have 2 servings as dinner!).