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50+ Family-Friendly Recipes to Solve the “What’s for Dinner?” Dilemma

published Jan 14, 2021
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Credit: Jason Rampe

If there’s one thing harder than deciding what to make yourself for dinner, it’s coming up with easy dinner ideas for your kids. You want to get something on the table that’s fairly quick to make and doesn’t require a lot of effort. And you also want a meal that the kids (and ideally the whole table!) will devour, while contending with food preferences that can ping-pong from week to week. And it can feel even trickier when you have a picky eater on your hands.

Our go-to solution is keeping a short roster of kid-friendly dinner ideas on hand—like any of these from our sister site Kitchn. Whether you have an eater who adores chicken, or one who will always say yes to pasta, these 53 dinner recipes have you covered.

20-Minute Kid-Friendly Meals

When you’ve got a table full of hungry mouths to feed, sometimes you want the fastest, easiest solution for getting dinner on the table. And these meals deliver, as they get a warm and satisfying family-friendly dinner on the table with just 20 minutes on the clock.

1 / 8
20-Minute Bean and Rice Burritos
These four-ingredient burritos are seriously satisfying, and are cheap and easy to make at home.
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2 / 8
20-Minute Coconut Chickpea Curry
Use your favorite curry paste as a base for this one-pot weeknight dinner.
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3 / 8
Huevos Rancheros Tacos
Pile cheesy scrambled eggs, roasted red peppers, and black beans and you've got a kid-friendly dinner made in minutes.
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4 / 8
One-Skillet Salsa Pork Chops
Salsa and zucchini are the secret to turning a pack of boneless pork chops into a quick and easy weeknight dinner.
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5 / 8
Quick & Easy Crispy Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw
These crispy fish tacos start with frozen beer-battered cod fillets, which makes them extra quick to prepare.
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6 / 8
Chicken Teriyaki
Inspired by the takeout classic, this easy chicken teriyaki is made with boneless chicken breast and a simple pantry sauce that comes together in 20 minutes.
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7 / 8
Sheet Pan Crispy Salmon and Potatoes
This sheet pan supper will show you just how quick and simple it can be to get a salmon dinner on the table any night of the week.
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8 / 8
Gnocchi Skillet with Chicken Sausage & Tomatoes
Whether you have just a couple leftover links of chicken sausage or a full pack, here's our favorite way to turn them into a last-minute dinner the whole table will enjoy.
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Kid-Friendly Pasta Dinners

Whether your little ones go for buttered noodles or something made with tortellini, this lineup has it all. These dinners also try to work in a veggie or two.

1 / 13
Cheeseburger Casserole

A one-pot wonder with ground beef and cheddar cheese that channels all the Hamburger Helper vibes.

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2 / 13
Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs is Italian American comfort food at its very best. When it comes to the meatballs, skip the fussy frying and bake them instead for equally satisfying results.

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3 / 13
Lasagna Roll-Ups

Everything you love about classic layered lasagna, only way easier.

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4 / 13
Baked Mac and Cheese

No comfort food satisfies quite like homemade mac and cheese, with its tender noodles tucked into a rich and creamy sauce that’s baked until the cheese is golden, melted, and gooey.

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5 / 13
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

This quick and easy ragù made with ground beef, crushed tomatoes, garlic, and spices, is sure to become a weeknight favorite.

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6 / 13
Chicken Alfredo

Learn the basics of Alfredo sauce and how to use it for making chicken fettuccini Alfredo any night of the week.

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7 / 13
One-Pot Chili Mac

Never cook your chili and macaroni & cheese separately again. Learn how to make one-pot chili mac in your Dutch oven.

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8 / 13
5-Ingredient Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

This stovetop macaroni and cheese is the recipe I grew up on. It’s got a creamy sauce, perfectly chewy pasta, and plenty of cheese. A no-roux method for faster (and tastier!) macaroni and cheese on the stovetop, made with just 5 ingredients.

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9 / 13
Easy Lasagna

A step-by-step guide to making a simple beef and cheese lasagna. There are just three components that make a lasagna great: the pasta, the cheese, and the sauce. Since this recipe starts with a jar of marinara for ease, make sure it’s one that tastes great.

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10 / 13
Broccoli Cheddar Orzo

This one-pot weeknight dinner will remind you of Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup, and it’s so much better.

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11 / 13
5-Ingredient No-Boil Baked Ziti

Tightly covering the baking dish in aluminum foil forces the pasta to steam-cook in the marinara sauce, which eliminates the need to pre-boil the noodles. It's a weeknight recipe win!

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12 / 13
Sausage Pasta with Spinach

This pasta with Italian sausage and heaps of baby spinach is a satisfying 35-minute meal that’s sure to become your weeknight standby.

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13 / 13
Creamy One-Pot Beef Orzo

Everything you love about spaghetti and meatballs made so much easier in this one-pot, no-chop dinner.

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Kid-Friendly Dinners with Chicken

Between crispy chicken thighs, sheet pan honey-Dijon chicken, and the crispiest baked tenders, these weeknight dinners are easy to pull off and budget-friendly, too.

2 / 15
Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

In a ranking of comfort foods, chicken pot pie casserole is at the top of the list. It doesn’t get much cozier than a bowl filled with hearty bites of tender chicken and vegetables baked in a creamy sauce and topped with golden, buttery biscuits.

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3 / 15
Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

A recipe for weeknight-friendly chicken meatballs baked in marinara sauce and topped with lots of melted cheese.

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4 / 15
Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

This cozy classic has everything you love and cooks in just 30 minutes.

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5 / 15
Chicken Sliders

For the best-ever chicken sliders, mix shredded chicken with mayo, sour cream, and scallions. Melty cheese and buttery rolls take things to the next level.

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6 / 15
Easy Sheet Pan Chicken Nachos

Want restaurant-style chicken nachos at home? This is your go-to recipe!

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7 / 15
Creamy Lemon Pepper Chicken Meatballs

This zingy, peppery blend brightens up these chicken meatballs that are finished in a savory but not-too-rich creamy sauce that gives cozy chicken pot pie vibes.

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8 / 15
Extra Toasty Cheez-It Chicken Tenders

These crispy, cheesy chicken tenders are served with a homemade buttermilk ranch.

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9 / 15
Dump Chicken Pot Pie

Make a cozy chicken pot pie with just 4 store-bought ingredients and one dish.

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10 / 15
11 / 15
Chicken Divan

This retro chicken and broccoli casserole is ultra-comforting.

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12 / 15
Creamy Spinach Chicken

This extra cozy one-pan chicken recipe has major creamed spinach vibes.

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13 / 15
Chicken Riggies Recipe

This Italian American pasta dish tosses al dente rigatoni and cubes of juicy chicken breast with a creamy tomato sauce.

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14 / 15
Creamy Chicken Soup with Vegetables

Chicken soup with vegetables and herbs is pure cold weather comfort food, and this version takes it up a notch with a luxe, creamy broth.

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15 / 15
Copycat Chipotle Burrito Bowl

All the signature elements come together in this copycat Chipotle chicken burrito bowl: juicy chicken, cilantro-lime rice, and zesty corn salsa.

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Kid-Friendly Dinners with Ground Beef

Any time dinner starts with a pack of ground beef, you have a big selection of family-friendly options to choose from. From pizza burgers to sloppy Joes, these recipes are sure to be big hits.

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Easy Ground Beef Tacos

These easy ground beef tacos are a winning weeknight dinner loaded with flavorful beef and your favorite toppings.

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2 / 15
Classic Beef Chili

While there are an endless variety of chili recipes to choose from, this classic beef and bean chili recipe is tried-and-true.

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3 / 15
Italian Meatloaf

Marinara and cheese set this recipe apart from traditional meatloaf.

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4 / 15
French Onion Meatballs

Inspired by the iconic French onion soup, this skillet dinner has it all — caramelized onions, juicy meatballs, and gooey, browned Gruyère cheese.

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5 / 15
Cheeseburger Sliders

Sautéed beef and onions, gooey cheese, and the perfect dipping sauce make these the most delicious easy weeknight meal for kids.

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6 / 15
Cheesy Gordita Crunch-Inspired Beef Tacos

These Taco Bell-inspired tacos feature a double taco shell stuffed with a beef-and-bean filling.

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7 / 15
Sloppy Joe Casserole

A casserole with the flavors of a classic Sloppy Joe but with none of the messy eating. A great vegetable side is perfect alongside this cheesy casserole, like broccoli, cauliflower, or asparagus, but a simple side salad also does the trick.

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8 / 15
Cowboy Casserole

This ultra-comforting casserole is packed with lots of melty cheddar and topped with a crispy layer of tater tots.

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9 / 15
Salisbury Steak

In this comforting 30-minute recipe, seasoned ground beef gets shaped into steak-like patties, browned, and then braised in a rich onion and mushroom gravy.

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10 / 15
Quick & Easy Sloppy Joes

A family dinner classic, these easy sloppy Joes are ideal for any night of the week.

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11 / 15
Picadillo

This comforting dish of ground beef, potatoes, and veggies comes together in a single skillet and is endlessly customizable.

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12 / 15
Ground Beef Taco Casserole

This recipe is everything you love about classic ground beef tacos baked into an easy casserole, then topped with lettuce, tomato, and shredded cheddar.

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13 / 15
Hamburger Steak

Similar to Salisbury steak, this recipe shapes ground beef into steak-like patties blanketed in rich mushroom gravy.

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14 / 15
Copycat Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme

The legendary Taco Bell crunchwrap that's filled with cheesy beef and crispy tortilla shells can now be made at home.

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15 / 15
Cheesy Baked Rigatoni with Beef

An easy, cheesy crowd-pleasing casserole made with savory ground beef and baked with tender rigatoni noodles.

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Meat-Free Dinner Ideas

If you’re looking for meat-free dinner ideas, this lineup includes meals that are filling, delicious, and easy to bring to the table.

1 / 10
Grandma Pizza

Skip delivery for this thin and crispy sheet-pan pizza.

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2 / 10
Gnocchi Alfredo Bake

Plump gnocchi are baked in an easy Alfredo sauce that’s loaded with Parmesan cheese.

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3 / 10
Roasted Tomato Soup with Cheesy Crouton

This oven-roasted tomato soup is topped with homemade croutons and cheese, then broiled until the bread is extra crispy and the cheese is melted.

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4 / 10
Spinach Pizza

All the best parts of spinach dip on a crispy crusted pizza pie.

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5 / 10
Creamy Tortellini Soup

Perfect for chilly weather, this vegetarian soup has a creamy tomato-based broth loaded with tender tortellini and spinach.

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6 / 10
Sheet Pan Quesadillas

Use a sheet pan and a few store-bought shortcuts to make a large-format cheesy quesadilla to feed the whole table.

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7 / 10
3-Ingredient Corn Soup

This comforting soup uses canned corn to deliver a sweet-and-savory taste in a pinch.

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8 / 10
Spinach-Artichoke Grilled Cheese

Here is the perfect ratio of melty cheese to crispy bread — with the primary flavors and ingredients of a spinach-artichoke dip.

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9 / 10
Broccoli and Cheese Risotto

A recipe for creamy broccoli-cheddar risotto that's both family-friendly and fit for a weeknight.

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10 / 10
White Bean Chili

With a smoky flavor and subtle heat, this cozy recipe will make you think it has the richness of meat even though (spoiler) it's totally vegan.

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Kid-Friendly Casseroles

The beauty of casseroles is that the options in this lineup don’t require much upfront prep, they’re comforting and delicious, and might leave you with leftovers for lunch.

1 / 8
Cheesy Meatball Casserole
Meatballs take center stage in this quick and easy casserole topped with plenty of melted cheese.
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2 / 8
One-Pot Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole
If you’re looking for a comforting one-pot meal that will please the whole family, look no further than this creamy chicken and rice stovetop casserole.
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3 / 8
Ground Beef Taco Casserole

This recipe is everything you love about classic ground beef tacos baked into an easy casserole, then topped with lettuce, tomato, and shredded cheddar.

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4 / 8
Breakfast Burrito Egg Casserole
It's everything you love about a classic breakfast burrito layered into a cheesy egg casserole.
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5 / 8
Chicken Noodle Soup Casserole
This chicken noodle soup casserole has all the familiar flavors of the classic soup. Instead of a brothy base, egg noodles studded with sliced onions, carrots, and celery make up the bulk of it, as well as some shredded cheddar and Parmesan cheeses.
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6 / 8
Cheeseburger Pasta Casserole
The all-American cheeseburger served casserole-style with all the fixings is a weeknight wonder.
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7 / 8
5-Ingredient Enchilada Casserole
Easy weeknight enchiladas are within reach, thanks to a grocery store shortcut.
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8 / 8
Slow Cooker Baked Ziti
Slow cooker baked ziti is just like the traditional casserole with tender noodles swimming in marinara & mixed with a double dose of gooey, melted cheese.
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This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: 50+ Family-Friendly Recipes to Solve the “What’s for Dinner?” Dilemma