The Best Cold Dinners For Hot Summer Days

The promise of hot summer days and long, lazy, sunny afternoons is the only thing that gets some of us through the winter months, to be perfectly honest. Maybe it's a reminder of being in school, when looking forward to the endless days of July and August was all you did for months. Those were special times indeed.

They still are! Why not get into the culinary mood now? In the summer, it can be tough to find the motivation to eat, much less cook. There's something about a hot, sweltering day that might make you want to drink a lot of water (or ice-cold cocktails), but the heat isn't great for the appetite. That's where we come in.

We've put together a list of brilliant meals that are all served cold and are just what you need on a hot summer day. Even better, these are the kind of meals that are not going to leave you feeling overstuffed. Instead, these light, chilled dishes are perfect for the hot, steamy days of summer.

Cobb salad is a classic

Cobb salads are a staple on countless restaurant menus, but they're super easy to make at home, too, as we'll show you with our Cobb salad recipe. There's nothing to hate about this and everything to lovee. Not only is it packed with protein thanks to chicken breasts and hard-boiled eggs, but there's bacon, too! Who doesn't love bacon? And while ranch might be the traditional Cobb salad dressing, you also shouldn't be afraid to mix it up with whatever dressing or sauce you please.

Aguachile is a must for summer

If you're a fan of Mexican cuisine, aguachile is a must-try. The heart of our aguachile recipe is raw shrimp, served up with a wallop of incredible flavors that include lime, cilantro, and onions that have been bathed in vinegar. If there's one thing this dish isn't short on, it's flavor! Add some avocado, some cucumber slices, and — if you're really a fan of the heat — some other hot peppers, and you'll have a light, flavorful meal that proves a dish doesn't have to be heavy and filling to be memorable.

Enjoy a summer throwback with Waldorf salad

A Waldorf salad, you might ask? What is this, 1930? It can be!

Waldorf salad is a classic, and we've updated it in our own Waldorf salad recipe that's going to be much lighter — and healthier — than the usual. While most recipes will call for an amount of mayonnaise that is best described as "way too much," ours uses Greek yogurt instead. The result is a salad you can enjoy guilt-free, and one that allows the flavors of all the best ingredients — apples, grapes, and walnuts — to take center stage, rather than getting lost in a goopy mayo mess.

Ceviche is easier to make than you think

If you order ceviche every time you see it show up on a restaurant menu, do we have some good news for you! It's nowhere near as difficult to make as you might expect, and we've made ceviche easy, right down to curing the salmon. Sounds impressive, right? It totally is — the most complicated thing about this dish is going to be planning ahead. This recipe is going to take about two and a half hours from start to finish, so you're going to need to decide you're going to make this well before you want to enjoy it.

Lobster rolls can be enjoyed anywhere

Lobster rolls might seem like something you should be enjoying while sitting on a beach in Maine, but with help from our simple lobster roll recipe, you can serve these delicious rolls in your own backyard. Ours is a mayo-based recipe, although there's less mayonnaise in there than you might expect. Ultimately, it's the lobster that's the star here. Add a dash of spice with your favorite hot sauce, make sure you toast your buns, and you're on the way toward a real New England experience!

Nicoise salad will lighten things up on a hot day

The first reaction to seeing a French dish might be the idea that it's going to be incredibly complicated and time-consuming, but that absolutely isn't the case with our Nicoise salad. In just about 20 minutes, you're going to have dinner ready, and we love this one for a few reasons. Not only is it quick, but it's light and very healthy — just what you're craving on a hot summer day when you really don't feel like cooking or eating. It's also topped with a delicious vinaigrette. This salad is one that you can feel good about eating!

Chips, guac, and pico are ready when you've got a craving

Nacho night in the winter might mean a heavy plate of cheesy goodness, but that's not summer-friendly. Fortunately, we have a super simple recipe for pico de gallo, which is essentially a fresh, flavorful, and raw salsa that's even better in the summer when all the veggies are in season. Next, we have a copycat Chipotle guac recipe that's every bit as good as the real thing. Dish these up alongside your chips and there's your simple, delicious dinner!

A poke bowl is a refreshing summer dish

Love sushi? Our homemade poke bowl is filled with all kinds of light, tropical flavors, as well as ahi tuna. There's one important footnote to this one, though: think carefully about sourcing your fish. You'll need to find a place that sells sushi-grade (or sashimi-grade) tuna, which guarantees that it's safe to eat raw. A little searching and a trip to the fish market isn't such a bad thing, though. This light, flavorful poke bowl is the perfect answer to "What's for dinner?" 

Cabbage salad breaks up the summer salad monotony

Lettuce is great and all, but how about switching it up a bit with our delicious cabbage salad? Cabbage comes with a ton of health benefits, says Healthline, like lots of vitamins and nutrients, and that makes it a win for salads. Ours is finished with a peanut-based dressing that's so good you might just keep some on hand for other meals. Don't worry if someone in your family cringes at the idea of cooked cabbage, as this raw salad is sure to change their minds about this delightful veggie.

Summer calls for classic gazpacho

We have good news for all the soup-lovers out there: just because the temperature outside is toasty, that doesn't mean you have to go months without a delicious bowl of soup. In fact, gazpacho is traditionally served cold. Even better, our gazpacho soup recipe comes together really quickly and is incredibly versatile. You can pretty much add whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand. Or, for a little more kick, throw in some hot peppers or crank up the citrus. Whatever path you choose, you'll have something you'll undoubtedly love!

Tuna salad will be your summertime go-to

Summertime is the perfect time to revisit an old favorite like tuna salad. Don't think that means boring, though, as our tuna salad recipe gives you a few options, including making allowances for leaving out the mayo altogether if you're looking at making some healthy changes. There's also no need to serve it in sandwich form. Plate this tuna salad up alongside a tray of fresh, raw veggies or even on rounds of our super-simple bruschetta. Do that, and you've got a brilliant cold plate that's just what you need on a hot summer evening.

Greek salad is ultra refreshing

Our Greek salad is the perfect summertime dinner because not only is it light and refreshing, but it calls for ingredients that are just better when they're in season. We're talking about things like tomatoes right off the vine and cucumbers right out of the garden. And don't worry if you don't have your own homegrown veggies, as there's bound to be a farmer's market near you that has just the right fresh ingredients. Even though this salad is going to take just 10 minutes to come together, you're going to want the dressing nice and cold. Plan ahead and make that well in advance.

Egg salad gets an upgrade with avocado

Egg salad is one of those old classics that everyone loves, and we've given it a makeover and updated it into our egg salad with avocado recipe. Not only does the avocado add creaminess, but it cuts down on the need for a ton of mayonnaise. If you don't have a fresh loaf of bread on hand, that's all right. Serve this with some nachos or even in a wrap, and you've got a flavorful and healthy version of an old classic that everyone is bound to love.

Wedge salad isn't just for restaurants

The wedge salad is a favorite at steakhouses across the country, and while they might seem like a classy sort of way to kick off a heavy steak meal, they're also a brilliant dish on their own when you're looking for something light. Our wedge salad recipe will help you whip up one of these impressive-looking salads in a snap. There are fewer ingredients here than you might expect, too. Yes, bacon is definitely one of them. When you add blue cheese, too, you've got a definite winner on your hands.

Avocado toast and baba ganoush are key to a summer snack plate

Avocado toast is at the heart of this idea for a light, cold dinner that's guaranteed to hit the spot on a warm, sunny evening, and our avocado toast recipe is so simple you can make it with your eyes closed. (Disclaimer: Don't actually make this with your eyes closed.) In addition to the avocado, you can also whip up our baba ganoush, a low-carb, vegetarian, eggplant dip that's downright amazing. Serve both with toast for a healthy meal that will finish the day off right.

Broccoli salad is a surprising summer treat

Love broccoli? You're not alone. We love it, too, and we really love this broccoli salad recipe. It's big on flavor, yes, but it's big on crunch, too! In addition to the broccoli, we included things like carrots, peanuts, cranberries, and apples. If you have a picky eater in your house that complains about the too-soft texture of cooked vegetables, this is just the dish you need. Add in a sweet, made-from-scratch dressing, and you've got a delicious salad that'll hit the spot when you want something that's not super filling.

Caesar salad is full of summery goodness

When it comes to classic salads, Caesar is definitely on the top of the list — and rightfully so. Sure, it might not be the healthiest salad out there, but if you need to get your family to eat their greens, this is one foolproof way to do it. The tangy Caesar dressing is unmistakable, for one. We make it getting your salad fix easy with our Caesar salad recipe. We've got you covered, from the dressing and the croutons to some ideas for options extras.