The 20-Minute Recipes That Will Save Your Weeknights

Between work, school, family and a host of other responsibilities, cooking a meal at the end of a long day can feel like an insurmountable task amid our busy lives. This can leave us in a never-ending cycle of weeknight dinners that are boring, bland, unhealthy and a host of other unappetizing adjectives. But it doesn't have to be this way. 

There are plenty of delicious meals you can make in less than a half hour that will satisfy you and whoever else you're cooking for — friends, family and even the pickiest of little ones. The dishes listed below aren't just quick and easy to make, but they're also hearty and flavorful meals that will seem like they took hours to prepare.

From Chinese food staples to classic pasta dishes to familiar American comfort food, here is a list of 20-minute recipes that will keep your weeknight dinner menu on point. 

Egg roll in a bowl

Between their crispy, crunchy texture and bold flavors, egg rolls are irresistibly delicious. But recreating them at home is one tall task. So why not experiment a little bit? Our egg roll in a bowl has all the same flavors of an egg roll filling but can be made in no time at all.

First, you'll want to season some ground pork by cooking it with ginger, garlic, celery, green onions and sesame oil. If you prefer, you can swap out the pork for other proteins such as beef, turkey, chicken, tofu, or mushrooms. Then, add some shredded cabbage, carrots and any other vegetables you like. Of course, no egg roll is complete without sauce. Fortunately, this recipe's sauce is also easy to make. 

For the sauce, whisk together one part oyster sauce, one part chili paste and three parts soy sauce in a separate bowl. Add the sauce to the pork filling on the stove, cook for another five minutes and you're done. Top with cilantro and sesame seeds and enjoy!

Chicken noodle soup

There are few meals as hearty and comforting as chicken noodle soup. Generally, dishes with those adjectives require a significant amount of effort and time to make — but not ours.

Chicken noodle soup does require a good number of ingredients, but there's still room to play around, which only makes it easier to put together during a busy night. Instead of egg noodles, you could swap in rotini or spaghetti noodles. Mix and match the spices to get a flavor you like. When it comes to the cooked chicken, grab whatever you have — shredded, diced, or full chicken breasts. You can even repurpose that store-bought rotisserie chicken from the other night.

Once you have all the ingredients, it's just a matter of tossing them all in a pot or Dutch oven. First comes the vegetables, then the broth and spices and finally, the noodles and chicken. You'll know the soup is done when the noodles become tender.

Once the soup has cooled slightly, top with green onions or parsley and dig in.

Chicken tacos

It's hard to go wrong with tacos on any night of the week, let alone when you're looking for a quick, delicious meal. While just about any protein can be used in tacos, chicken often gets overlooked, especially when time is of the essence, considering its longer cook time. But our chicken taco recipe creates a delectable meal in just 20 minutes.

In order to cook the chicken quickly opt for a thin cut, such as tenderloins. Cut the chicken into small pieces, cook on one side, flip the pieces over and add taco seasoning (Using a package of taco seasoning is the easiest and quickest method but you can always come up with your own.).

Once the chicken is done, scoop out a spoonful for each tortilla and begin assembling your taco. We certainly won't tell you how to make yours, but as the recipe states, we suggest avocado, red onion, and cilantro. But feel free to add cheese, lettuce, sour cream, salsa and whatever else your taco-loving heart desires.

Lasagna

Lasagna is many people's favorite family meal, but it's often reserved for a night when you have plenty of time to cook. After all, assembling and baking lasagna takes north of an hour. But believe it or not, we have a lasagna recipe that takes just a fraction of the time.

Instead of baking the lasagna in a casserole dish in the oven, we're going to cook it in a saucepan on the stovetop. And to really save time, the dish will essentially be assembled as it's cooking. First, brown the beef in onions, garlic, and butter. Remove half the beef and add a layer of broken-up lasagna noodles to the pan (use oven-ready noodles to save time). Top that with the remaining ground beef and tomato sauce and let simmer for five minutes. 

Add some spoonfuls of ricotta cheese and a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese as a final step. Once the cheese is melted, you're ready to dig in to a creamy, cheesy, meaty, tasty lasagna.

Sesame chicken

Chinese food is a mainstay many people's weeknight takeout routine, but cooking up a Chinese meal at home can be just as easy. There may be no Chinese food dish more popular in the United States than sesame chicken. Our 20-minute recipe may take some liberties from the restaurant meal you're used to ordering, but it delivers the same great flavor you've come to know and love.

The recipe's most notable deviation from traditional sesame chicken is in the frying of the chicken. Most restaurants will deep-fry the meat in order to get a nice crispy exterior, but deep-frying is messy, mistake prone and most importantly, time consuming. Instead, we're going to coat the chicken in a combination batter of cornstarch and rice flour and shallow fry it in a pan. For a bolder flavor, feel free to add spices to your batter, such as garlic powder, back pepper and Chinese five-spice powder.

After about five minutes, add the sauce — a combination of rice vinegar, soy sauce, orange juice, ginger, garlic, light brown sugar, MSG and chili oil. Another few minutes of cooking, and your chicken is done! Serve over rice and garnish with sesame seeds and scallions.

Shrimp Alfredo pasta

There are few things that can make an Italian food lover's heart sing like a heaping bowl of pasta Alfredo. This cheesy, creamy dish will satisfy anybody's appetite, and it all can be yours – along with some tender shrimp – in just 20 minutes.

When it comes to what type of pasta to use, opt for fettuccine. This noodle holds moisture well and its long, flat shape offers more surface area to hold the Alfredo sauce. The other major component, the shrimp, should be fresh and deveined.

Now comes the star attraction. You could buy a jar of premade Alfredo sauce, but that's no fun, not mention completely unnecessary. This delicious sauce is deceptively simple to make: just combine whole milk, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and plenty of Parmesan cheese. 

Let the noodles and shrimp swim in the Alfredo sauce for a bit, and you have a hearty meal that will fill up the entire family.

Beef and broccoli lo mein

It can be difficult to replicate a restaurant meal, but we're so confident in our quick and easy beef and broccoli lo mein recipe that we think it may even be better than your go-to takeout spot.

The only downside to a 20-minute recipe is that everything happens very quickly. Because of this, you'll want to have all your ingredients ready to go. First, cook the noodles to an al dente texture. As for the type of noodle to use, you have a few good choices. Many grocery stores sell fresh lo mein noodles and might even have dried noodles as well. If you can't find them, you can also use instant ramen noodles.

As the noodles are cooking, slice the steak, cut the broccoli into small florets, grate the carrots, and make the sauce by mixing soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, black pepper and red pepper flakes.

Once all the ingredients are prepped, it's time to build the stir-fry. Drop all the ingredients go into a wok or large skillet, let the mixture simmer until the sauce thickens and you're all done!

Chicken picatta

Chicken picatta is a dish of thinly sliced pieces of chicken breaded in flour and served with lemon-caper sauce. Not only is this 20-minute chicken picatta recipe easy to make, it's also budget-friendly. The ingredient list, which includes chicken breasts, capers, and chicken stock, won't set you back much. In fact, you'll probably already have most of the ingredients at home.

To get the chicken down to the necessary thickness, you'll need to butterfly the chicken breast. If you don't feel comfortable with this step, just swap the chicken breast for chicken tenders. Once cut down, coat the pieces of chicken in flour and cook in a large skillet for about three minutes on each side. Remove the meat and then prepare the sauce in the same pan. The sauce consists of dry white wine, capers, water and butter. Once the sauce is done, add the chicken back in, and you have yourself delicious chicken picatta.

This dish is great to have on its own, but if you're looking for a heartier meal, serve the chicken over a plateful of angel hair, spaghetti, linguini, or bucatini pasta.