10 Perfect Date Night Recipes

Looking for a romantic alternative to waiting for a table at a crowded restaurant? Whip up impressive dishes that only look and taste like they came out of a five-star kitchen. Whether you're planning the first date or the hundredth one, cooking food for someone or with that person is one surefire way to make the most of your time together. Whether you're cooking up a cozy, comforting meal, or trying your hand at something light and delicate, you'll undoubtedly discover the joy in taking the time to do it.

For your next date night, skip the dinner reservations. Cook a juicy restaurant-caliber steak that's perfect for sharing, prepare a beautiful platter of briny oysters, or bake decadently naughty molten chocolate cakes. From hearty to light to sweet, these intimate dinner ideas are intended to inspire fun times shared over good food and great company. Go on!

Tuscan porterhouse steak with red wine-peppercorn jus

Juicy, satisfying, and perfect for sharing with your date, this steak recipe from Epicurious hits all the right notes. Succulent porterhouse is pan-seared in butter and a few classic Tuscan aromatics like rosemary, thyme, and garlic. Finished in the oven, it's paired with a complex and meaty red wine reduction. The result is a luxurious dish that promises to wow.

Difficulty level: No big deal — you got this.

Wow factor: Major oohs and ahhs. While this dish is easy to prep, the high-quality cut of meat, the meticulous seasoning, and the perfect cook on the steak make it one that's sure to impress. It's a beaut!

Collateral damage: Minor. This one-pan dish is short on cleanup with minimal chances for splattering. Since the garlic is used only to infuse flavor and not for eating, it shouldn't affect your breath negatively.

Vanilla cake for two

Date night is as good an occasion as any for making a stunning layered cake. Try this recipe from JewHungry. It makes a colorful mini confection that serves two people. How perfect! Three cake layers are stacked and decorated with sweet and creamy buttercream frosting. Decorate with chocolate jimmies or technicolor sprinkles for extra personality.

Difficulty level: I'm not going to lie. If you haven't made one before, layered cakes can present a challenge in the kitchen. That said, there's a first time for everything. Give it a go to show your date you care.

Wow factor: Wow, wow, wow.

Collateral damage: Dirty dishes abound with this recipe, but you and your date can cleanup together for extra camaraderie.

Chicken pho

For a culinarily adventurous date, try this recipe from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. This steaming hot bowl of pho uses chicken instead of traditional beef or pork to great success. This classic Vietnamese street food is just the thing to make you feel like you've just taken a trip to Southeast Asia without ever having to leave your home. Tender chicken is served in flavorful broth along with delicate rice noodles. Topped with traditional garnishes like basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, and sweet hoisin sauce.

Difficulty level: A little tricky, but you'll get extra stars for effort.

Wow factor: Very impressive and much cheaper than flights to Vietnam.

Collateral damage: Eating soup or anything brothy on a date presents risk of splattering on your clothes. Wear your napkins tucked into your collars for a charming dinner look.

Arroz con pollo

I love this recipe from Joy the Baker. This pot of arroz con pollo, or chicken with rice, is incredibly warming and perfect for cozy nights in with your sweetheart. Saffron and olives add beautiful color and depth of flavor to a perfectly cooked pot of rice, paired with tender pieces of chicken — dark meat, the good stuff. As Joy points out, the recipe makes enough for leftovers the next day, which is always an added bonus. Make this dinner, then kick off your shoes and watch a movie together for a laidback date night,

Difficulty level: No culinary school pedigree required.

Wow factor: Smiles all around. While this dish may not look stunning, it is just the thing to make when you want to impress your date with your casual everyday cooking skills. It's a meal that requires attention to detail and some finesse in the kitchen, so yes, you will impress in the process.

Collateral damage: Moderate. A little garlic and onion never hurt anyone, but if you're concerned about your breath, just pop a mint after dinner. No biggie!

California lemon chia scones

Sometimes, date night is actually a lovely afternoon brunch. I love it when that's the case. If you find yourself prepping for an early afternoon get together, whip up these delectable scones from The Faux Martha. I mean, fresh pastries for your date? Amazing! These lemony treats are vibrant and speckled with chia, a superfood you definitely want to infuse into your romantic cooking repertoire. A sweet glaze makes for a picture-perfect finish.

Difficulty level: If you've ever baked anything, you'll have no trouble with this recipe.

Wow factor: You'll elicit sighs of admiration and wonder for baking fresh pastries for a date, that's for sure.

Collateral damage: I see none.

Seared scallops and potato celery root puree

Ina Garten's seafood recipe is a pretty dreamy date night dish by any measure. To start with, the Barefoot Contessa is well-known for her unabashed gushing about her husband Jeffrey, for whom she cooks wonderful meals on the reg. They've been married for decades, which bodes well for your using any one of her recipes to achieve date night success. Here, a bed of creamy celery root-potato puree serves as a tender bed for perfectly seared sea scallops.

Difficulty level: Simpler than you think.

Wow factor: Lots of nods of approval. Scallops aren't too difficult to deal with, but everyone perceives them to be super fancy — ergo, you will seem fancy for making them.

Collateral damage: Pureeing the hot vegetables could get a little messy if you're not used to handling a food processor, but that's all part of the fun, right? Work in batches to minimize splattering.

Winter kale bowl with spiralized beets and goat cheese

Serve this nourishing bowl for a casual lunch date or as an appetizer if you and your date both enjoy satisfying food that's as nutritious as it is pretty. Using a spiralizer, you can turn vibrant beets into lovely noodle-like strands of goodness. These roasted "noodles" are served with tender, hand-massaged kale, a kicky vinaigrette, heart-healthy pomegranate seeds, creamy goat cheese, and crunchy walnuts.

Difficulty level: Easy-peasy.

Wow factor: Major points on this one when you opt for high-quality produce and good cheese and nuts. Think local farmers market.

Collateral damage: You might experience a slight dent to your wallet if you don't already own a spiralizer and need to go out and buy one.

Moroccan chicken skewers

For a fun and flavorful date night dinner, try these Moroccan skewers from What's Gaby Cooking because good times always ensue when you enjoy food on a stick. These boldly spiced, tender-as-can-be chicken pieces are a little zesty, a tad citrusy, and delightfully savory. Serve these skewers with soft, warm pita bread, fresh mint, tomatoes, or yogurt alongside for the full experience.

Difficulty level: If you can fire up a grill, you can whip up this dinner.

Wow factor: Your date will love the presentation and you'll both love eating sans utensils.

Collateral damage: Be careful not to lose any chicken pieces through the grill grate — it happens!

Molten chocolate cake

As someone with a relentless sweet tooth, I can attest to the powerful allure of chocolate, especially when it oozes out of a cake. This rich, decadent recipe from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten for The New York Times takes about 30 minutes from start to finish, which means it's a great dessert for preparing with your date after dinner. It requires minimal prep, yet produces results that are decadently rich, elegant, and worthy of a special date night.

Difficulty level: As easy as, well, cake.

Wow factor: Major cred. Chef Jean-Georges is one of the most renown professionals in the food industry, so you can expect a lot of impact from any one of his recipes. Of course, his experience means he makes it all look easy, and so can you.

Collateral damage: No immediate damage unless you count the extra pounds.

Oysters on the half shell with rose mignonette

Long considered an aphrodisiac, raw oysters contain aminos that spark the production of sex hormones. Woah. This easy recipe from Food & Wine shines the spotlight on the premium seafood and keeps it really simple. Fresh oysters are served with a mignonette of delicate sparkling rose, shallots, vibrant vinegar, and pepper alongside, resulting in a starter that is at once romantic and a cinch to prep.

Difficulty level: Stupid easy.

Wow factor: Like scallops, "naked" oysters barely require lifting a finger, but they seem challenging, so you're likely to get high praise. Your date will approve heartily of the beautiful platter ice bed presentation.

Collateral damage: None. Buy the oysters already cleaned and shucked to avoid any potential messiness.

Since the way to a person's heart is through their stomach, try making one of these delicious dishes for your next date night to maximize romance. Enjoy!