Sweet Summertime

18 Make-Ahead Summer Dinner Recipes

Because it’s too hot to cook all day long.

The whole idea of summer is to relax, right? Between beach trips and pool days, it’s hard to even *think* about what to make for dinner. With all of the fun to be had, the last thing you want to do is be stuck in the kitchen for hours at a time to prep and make dinner. Make-ahead summer dinners are the solution you need to make sure you can soak up every single moment of fun in the sun this summer.

The kind of summer meals you can enjoy after a long day outside are best when they’re light and refreshing and make use of seasonal summer produce. With that in mind, there are plenty of hearty salads and dishes that feature fresh vegetables. The beauty of many of these recipes is not only in their convenience but in their ability to develop deeper flavors as they sit in the fridge — think Italian-style pasta salads and Thai-inspired dishes. Whether you’re looking for something you can make for you and your kids to enjoy after playing outside all day or want something to serve at a summer gathering, there are some great options here. These summer dinner ideas will help ensure you have stress-free meal times, but can still enjoy fresh and delicious meals all summer long.


Italian Pasta Salad

Cold pasta salad is one of my go-tos for summer get-togethers. In this recipe for Italian pasta salad from A Cozy Kitchen, cooked noodles, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, salami, olives, mozzarella, and more come together with a zesty dressing that stays good in the fridge for up to three days. You can even make it a vegetarian dish by leaving the meat out.


Sheet Pan Chicken Gyros

Thanks to this recipe for sheet pan chicken gyros from Damn Delicious, you can enjoy a make-ahead summer dinner meal and use up a ton of summer produce in one fell swoop. Make the chicken up on a sheet pan whenever you have the time and then just keep it in the fridge and assemble the pitas when you’re ready for dinner.


Morrocan Spiced Chickpea Bowl

I can just imagine digging right into one of these Morrocan spiced chickpea bowls from Pinch of Yum out on my patio on a summer evening while the kids play in the pool. The chickpea mix can be prepped ahead of time and kept in the fridge alongside a cucumber salad, fresh herbs, and a scoop of hummus. Simply toss it all into a bowl and serve with pita slices.


Vegetarian Corn Chowder

This vegetarian corn chowder from Cookie and Kate not only features fresh sweet corn right off the cobb, but fresh peppers, celery, and cilantro, so the flavors are perfect for summer. You can make it ahead of dinner and let it all hang out in your slow cooker to keep warm until it’s time to eat.


Thai Crunch Salad

A huge, refreshing bowl of salad with plenty of protein added in is my ideal summer dinner. With this Thai crunch salad recipe from Gimme Some Oven, you make everything ahead of time and just add the peanut dressing when you’re ready to eat so nothing gets too soggy in the fridge.


Chicken Fajitas

This easy chicken fajita recipe from Averie Cooks comes together on a sheet pan, so you can make it ahead of time and store the cooked chicken and roasted peppers together in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, pop the whole mix in the microwave and then throw them on a tortilla or serve cold on top of a taco salad if it’s too hot out for tacos.


Chicken Enchilada Bake

There’s just something about Mexican food dishes — even those served warm — that makes them feel summer-like to me. (Perhaps it’s the fact that you can serve them with fresh guacamole and chips?) With tortillas, chicken, tomatoes, and cheese, this chicken enchilada bake from Avery Cooks is something you can prep completely at any point in the day and then pop in the oven right before you’re ready for dinner.


Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Pork

If you need a make-ahead summer dinner meal that can feed a crowd at your barbecue or for a Fourth of July picnic, this Instant Pot pulled pork from Gimme Some Oven is a fantastic choice. In fact, if you make it early in the day, you can just leave it in the Instant Pot to keep warm and serve with buns and a variety of toppings for sliders. BBQ pulled pork tacos are another great option.


BLT Pasta Salad

For another tasty take on summer salads for dinner, try this BLT pasta salad from Love and Lemons. With bowtie pasta, fresh arugula, sliced red onions, cherry tomatoes, and sun-dried tomatoes, there’s tons of flavor in this salad. A vegan option for the bacon from Love and Lemons is tempeh bacon, but you can also use regular bacon if that’s what your family prefers.


Taco Soup

Even when it’s hot out during the summer, sometimes you just need a comfort meal. Enter this taco soup from Damn Delicious. Between the tomatoes, corn, onions, peppers, and spices, there are plenty of summer flavors to enjoy in this make-ahead dish. Serve it with hunks of fresh avocado and a dollop of sour cream.


Thai Quinoa Salad

How beautiful and fresh does this Thai quinoa salad from A Spicy Perspective look? It’s exactly the kind of thing I like to have on hand in my fridge and ready to eat for dinner. Between the peppers, carrot slices, cucumbers, onions, herbs, and fresh cabbage all tossed in a Thai-inspired vinaigrette, it’s hard to go wrong here.


Chicken Meatballs

Make these chicken meatballs from Gimme Some Oven if you want a great protein to make ahead of time and enjoy for dinner in a variety of ways. Serve them over some rice, with a side of fresh veggies, chopped up a salad, or even throw them in a sub sandwich for a quick and easy summer dinner meal.


Antipasto Tortellini Pasta Salad

This crowd-pleasing antipasto tortellini pasta salad from Simply Scratch is perfect for serving at all your summer dinner parties. With cooked tortellini, fresh spinach, salami, olives, and more all tossed in a basil pesto vinaigrette, it’s also hearty enough to feed your kids after a beach day when you need to have a refreshing dinner prepped and ready to serve as soon as you walk in the door.


Turkey & Spinach Veggie Lasagna

A lighter take on lasagna that’s also freezer-friendly and chock-full of summer vegetables, this turkey and spinach veggie lasagna from Damn Delicious absolutely needs a place on your list of make-ahead summer dinner meals. Prep and bake it whenever you have time, let it cool, and then portion it out into individual servings that you can store in your freezer for quick summer meals.


Dairy-Free Crustless Quiche

Quiche is my go-to summer dinner when I need to make something easy and nourishing, but don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking. This recipe for crustless quiche from Cook Nourish Bliss is dairy-free, so it’s a lighter take on traditional quiche that’s perfect for a make-ahead summer dinner meal. You can assemble everything ahead of time and it bakes up in an hour, or bake it completely and store it in the freezer for up to three months.


Instant Pot Chicken Nachos

The best way I know to feed a crowd of hungry kids in my backyard pool is with a huge pan of nachos. If you’re going to do the same this summer, make the chicken for these Instant Pot chicken nachos ahead of time and then pile it with toppings on a platter of chips when it’s time to eat.


Mediterranean Pasta Salad

From Gimme Some Oven, this Mediterranean pasta salad is a light and fresh make-ahead summer dinner meal. It’s full of summer veggies like tomatoes and cucumbers, but to really pack in the nutrients, you can even add your favorite protein or a handful of cooked chickpeas for a heartier and more filling meal.


Broccoli Cheese Rice Casserole

Even when it’s warm out, there’s nothing like a hearty casserole for dinner to cap off a relaxing day. Assemble this broccoli cheese rice casserole from Jessica in the Kitchen up to a day in advance and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake it for dinner. You can even add some chicken to make it a more filling meal.

When it’s hotter than you-know-what outside and standing over the stove is the last thing you want to do, these make-ahead summer dinner meals are easy to reach for. Now, you can consider dinner done.