My Favorite No-Cook Meals for Super Hot Summer Days (My Kids Love Them)

published Jun 24, 2024
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italian sub with a slice taken out and laid down
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

You know the old saying, “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity?” Well, I guess it doesn’t really matter which one it is because, when it comes to summer, it’s swampy and sweltering, and there’s no way I’m turning on the stove or, heaven forbid, the oven, to feed my family of four.

So how do we stay cool and still manage to eat dinner without bankrupting the household on takeout? Enter the No-Cook Summer Supper, a category I’ve refined over several meltingly hot summers with my kids. Not only are these meals a clever way to beat the heat, they’re also kid-friendly and fun to eat, with a little something for everyone.

Party Sub

Hands down, our favorite option for a no-cook dinner is a big family-sized hoagie. I find that when you call a hoagie a ‘Party Sub’ it unleashes some sort of fun chemical in everyone’s brains so that the whole family actually feels like they’re partying hard when really they’re just eating dinner. 

To get the party started, I take a few hoagie rolls and load them up with my family’s favorite toppings—salami, turkey, prosciutto, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, and a bit of mayo. Then I put toothpicks in the hoagie at strategic intervals to hold everything together and cut individual servings. The key is to arrange the sandwiches together in one long sub to really hit that Party Sub vibe. Serve with chips and pickle spears, and enjoy the party!

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Cold Salad Plates

Cold Salad Plates are well-known in the South, and I wrote about my love of them for Eater, but here’s the tl;dr: They’re those plates you can find in diners and delis that have three or four scoops of mayonnaise-based salad-y things and, occasionally, some Jello. 

This is where having a stockpile of chicken, tuna, or egg salad comes in handy. We usually always have one or more of those in the fridge, plus things like pimento cheese, pasta salad, and potato salad. I use an ice cream scoop to serve the salads on a bed of lettuce and then add Ritz crackers for scooping and a bunch of pickled things to cut through the richness of the salads and, if we’re lucky, a cup of strawberry Jell-O to keep things even cooler. One key is to serve it on a chilled plate (pop some plates in the fridge for 10 minutes) to ensure everything (including your family) stays nice and cool.

Credit: Faith Durand

Caprese Skewers

A classic for a reason—the combination of tomato, mozzarella, and basil is unassailable. This is definitely a lighter dinner, but I like to add a loaf of crusty bread for soaking up the extra olive oil, which really pulls the whole thing together. To make these, I add cherry tomatoes, little balls of mozzarella, and fresh leaves of basil to bamboo skewers. I make a big pile of skewers and then drizzle them with good olive oil and a sprinkle of Maldon salt.

Credit: Lauren Volo

Hummus Bowls

I’m so glad that both of my kids love hummus because it’s an affordable, plant-based protein that always feels like a smart choice. To turn hummus into dinner, I like to serve a big dollop of hummus in individual bowls and then let my family add their own toppings. I set out a mish mash of marinated peppers, canned chickpeas (yes, chickpea on chickpea action!), cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, and kalamata olives, plus a bunch of fluffy pita or crunchy pita chips. Everyone designs their own bowl, so there’s no complaining about the ingredients.

Credit: Kristina Vanni

Charcuterie Board

Cured meats and cheese are always going to get rave reviews from my family, and they love seeing my big Boos butcher block on the dining room table because they know it’s going to get filled up with all their favorites. My older kiddo gravitates toward prosciutto and Genoa salami, while my younger daughter likes all kinds of cheese, especially soft, washed-rind cheese (yes, an erudite 6-year-old). Adapt your charcuterie board to whatever your kids like—cubes of cheddar, pepperoni, there are no wrong answers on a charcuterie board. And don’t forget the crackers!

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk


Our favorite way to do no-bake nachos is something we call ‘guac-chos’ because they are basically an excuse to eat copious amounts of guacamole. We like a nice sturdy chip, like Matt’s, to which we add shredded cheese, canned beans, salsa, sour cream, and all the guacamole we can handle, which is…a lot.