10 No-cook Meals

Sandwiches are an easy no-cook solution. See more pictures of healthy soups and sandwiches.

No-cook meals are the perfect solution on days when it's just too hot to cook. They also come in handy during kitchen renovations, if your cooking range is on the fritz or on those busy days when you just want to sit down and eat with as little effort as possible. It can be tempting to eat out or order in on days like these, but this is also beyond the budget of many families, and no-cook meals can be a way to save money without sacrificing flavor.

But can you really create a meal without turning on the oven or heating up a skillet? You might be surprised to see just how many great dishes you can create without cooking, from cold soups to pasta. Rather than nuking TV dinners, you can make these no-cook meals for about the same effort. And it's all healthy, too -- we're not asking you open cans of premade chili or use any sodium-laden packaged foods. Read on for 10 easy no-cook meal options you can throw together without breaking a sweat.


10: Green Smoothies

green vegetable smoothie
You don't need a fork for this salad.

Smoothies aren't just for breakfast anymore -- and they don't have to be sweet, either. If you've been making them with fruit and yogurt all these years, you're in for a taste (and nutrition) change with a savory green smoothie. Just blend up some tomatoes, celery, parsley, avocado, spinach and lemon juice and enjoy a salad in a glass! We admit it sounds a bit odd, but it's refreshing and delicious -- and packed with vitamins and minerals.


9: Sandwiches

Sandwiches are a great way to get creative while avoiding cooking. Make your sandwiches more interesting by starting with good bread. Consider croissants, pitas, wraps, rye, sourdough or pumpernickel to give sandwiches a kick. You can add deli meat, or make tuna or chicken salad with ingredients you have on hand. Leftover beef or pork can also be turned into a yummy sandwich. Use unique cheeses like mozzarella, provolone and swiss. Layer tomatoes, spinach, sprouts, artichokes, avocados and apple or pear slices between the meat and cheese. Skip the regular mustard and mayo and jazz up your creation by adding barbecue sauce, spicy mustard, pesto or hummus. Experiment with flavors and ingredients for your own signature sandwich.


8: Salads

The possibilities are endless for dressing up your salad.

Salad is not only an easy, no-cook meal, but it's also one of the most versatile dishes out there. Don't settle for the same old lettuce and croutons; be creative! Start with a spinach base or a mix of exotic greens. Add chopped fruit, vegetables or avocados for flavor and extra fiber. Consider thawing some frozen shrimp, or use leftover pork, beef or poultry to add protein; canned tuna or salmon also works well.

Want to add protein and flavor without meat? Use beans, peas or nuts. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are another option, as are soft and hard cheeses such as parmesan, feta and goat.


7: Dips

Many people love finger foods and appetizers, but they often find themselves holding back to save room for the meal. For an easy and delicious no-cook dinner, try making a meal out of your favorite dips. Blend olive oil, spices and a can of chickpeas to create your own hummus. Purée a jar of roasted red peppers and a bit of cayenne pepper with yogurt and sour cream for a creamy spread with a spicy kick. Chop a few tomatoes and stir in some basil, salt and pepper for a chunky bruschetta topping. Serve with pita chips, a sliced baguette and a variety of fresh veggies to complete the meal.


6: Nachos

plate of nachos
Nachos don't take any longer to make for a crowd than they do for one person.

If you happen to have leftover chili -- or ground beef or shredded chicken -- in the fridge, what better use for it than as a topping for nachos! But if you don't have already-cooked meat on hand, no worries; nachos are just as bueno without it. Add cheese to a heap of tortilla chips, and microwave for a minute or so to melt the queso (nuking cheese doesn't count as cooking). Then, just pile on the toppings -- think guacamole, black beans, salsa, chopped green onions, sour cream and jalapeños -- and it's dinnertime!


5: Tapas

Too sweltering to cook on a hot summer evening? Turn your kitchen table into a tapas bar. Grab a loaf of crusty bread and set out plates of cured chorizo sausage and serrano ham, manchego cheese, olives and marinated chickpea salad. Or give things an Italian twist and serve an antipasto platter with provolone and Asiago cheeses; cured meats such as prosciutto, capicola and soppressata; marinated artichokes and olives; roasted red peppers; anchovies (totally optional); and giardinera (Italian pickled vegetables). For the complete tapas experience, serve Spanish or Italian wines and dine al fresco.


4: Pasta

You can find pre-cooked pasta in your grocery store for an easy meal.

Want to create a delicious dinner without having to cook? Start with some Asian rice noodles or couscous -- two pastas that require nothing more than a short soaking in water to prepare them. Boiling the water isn't required; hot tap water works just fine. After the soak, toss with whatever meats, veggies, cheeses, seasonings and dressing that you have on hand, and serve family-style.


3: Soup

Soup might not be the first thing you think of when considering no-cook meal options, especially on a hot day, but cold soups are common in many parts of the world. Variations on Spanish gazpacho -- made from crushed tomatoes and fresh veggies -- can make a light, savory no-cook meal for your family. For creamier soups, yogurt and puréed fruit or cucumbers are traditional Mediterranean variations. Add a salad and loaf of fresh bread or bakery rolls to turn these dishes into a satisfying meal.


2: Lettuce Wraps

If you're watching your carb count, sandwiches and tortilla wraps probably aren't high on your list of mealtime options. Enter the lettuce wrap. A perennial favorite among health-conscious Asian food lovers, lettuce wraps are often filled with spicy meat, soy and other seasonings. If you have leftover chicken, beef, pork or turkey -- or a store-bought rotisserie bird -- shred the meat and add in some grated carrots and chopped water chestnuts. Toss that together with soy sauce, chili paste, chopped peanuts or cashews, ginger and cilantro, and wrap it all in big leaves of lettuce. It doesn't get much easier -- or yummier -- than that.


1: Ceviche

Chiles and onions are common additions to ceviche.

For ceviche, acid does the cooking instead of the oven. In this Latin American-inspired dish, raw fish is marinated in citrus juice, and its acids cook the meat proteins without heat. Chop a fillet of firm-fleshed fish such as snapper, halibut or sea bass (shrimp and scallops are also great) and let it marinate in the refrigerator in a mixture of citrus juice and seasonings. After an hour or two, the fish will be opaque and ready to eat. Serve over salad greens, wrapped in tortillas or with chips for scooping. A few slices of avocado and some salsa are delicious accompaniments.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Bon Appetit. "A Week of No-Cook Dinners." August 2009. (Dec. 28, 2011) http://www.bonappetit.com/tipstools/slideshows/2009/08/no_cook_dinners?slide=1#showHeader
  • Chow. "Play It Cool: A Menu of No-Cook Recipes for the Hottest Days." July 23, 2008. (Dec. 28, 2011) http://www.chow.com/stories/11218
  • Elise. "Ceviche." Simply Recipes. Aug. 13, 2009. (Dec. 20, 2011) http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/ceviche/
  • Fitness. "The Lazy Girl's Guide to No-Cook Meals." July 2009. (Dec. 28, 2011) http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/recipes/quick-recipes/dinner/quick-meals/;jsessionid=J4SUD3EA2NZB0CQCEAQSCAQ?page=3
  • Machnak, Amy. "No-Cook Recipes." Sunset. (Dec. 28, 2011) http://www.sunset.com/food-wine/healthy/no-cook-dinners-recipes-00400000050124/page9.html
  • Morales, Tatiana. "How Good is Your Salad?" CBS News. Jan. 3, 2003. (Dec. 28, 2011) http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/01/02/earlyshow/health/main535035.shtml
  • Nguyen, Andrea. "Recipe: Rice noodles with Chinese chives, shrimp and pork (banh pho xao he)." Los Angeles Times. Jan. 6, 2010. (Dec. 28, 2011) http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jan/06/food/la-fo-toptenrec8-2010jan06
  • Raichlen, Steven. "Gazpacho: Themes and Variations." The New York Times. Aug. 30, 1989. (Dec. 28, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/1989/08/30/garden/gazpacho-theme-and-variations.html
  • Real Simple. "22 Quick, No-Cook Recipes." (Dec. 20, 2011) http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/quick-easy/quick-no-cook-recipes-00000000035688/index.html
  • Roderner, Kara. "No Cook Summer Soups, Salads, and Sandwiches." Delish. (Dec. 28, 2011) http://www.delish.com/recipes/cooking-recipes/no-cook-summer-soups-salads-sandwiches-recipes
  • World's Healthiest Foods. "Romaine Lettuce." (Dec. 20, 2011) http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=61