I like serving light dinners for summer and even late spring. I know it’s not just me! Something about the warmer weather has me craving salads, fish, and light summer pasta salads that don’t leave me feeling heavy and bleh. So I’ve pulled together some delicious lighter dinner recipes for this week’s meal plan ideas, in case you’re craving the same thing.
Grab your meal planning notepad, and set aside a few moments to make a plan for the week ahead. You’ll thank yourself for doing it!
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At top: Spring Pistou Panzanella Salad at Floating Kitchen
Related: 11 spring recipes that lighten up pastas, soups, and one-pot meals
5 ideas for light dinners for summer the family will love
1. A cajun chicken burger
A light dinner for summer nights can definitely include burgers! I suggest you lighten up your burger night with these spicy Cajun Chicken Burgers at Cooking for Keeps. Using a fruit-based salsa, like the fruity mango salsa here, is a clever way to get intense flavor while still keeping the dish feeling light.
If you’re feeding picky toddlers, I’d cut up bites of the burger and serve the mango salsa separately or with cute reusable toothpicks to make eating more fun.
2. Pan seared scallops
I’m a sucker for a delicious scallop, and I love the detailed instructions on how to pan sear scallops at JZ Eats. They take just five minutes to cook perfectly in a good quality non-stick pan, so start some fresh vegetables on the grill before you cook the scallops.
My tip: Veggies taste extra good if you give them a good char using a grill basket made just for vegetables, and this one is on sale right now for under $20!
3. An easy pasta carbonara
A friend recently confessed that she thinks she’s forgotten how to entertain after the past year, and I totally get that! I think this easy 20 minute carbonara pasta from Chef Savvy is a perfect re-entry recipe to cook when friends are coming over. It’s so easy and affordable. And it’s definitely a fantastic light dinner for summer, though you might not think of a traditional carbonara as being light.
Tell everyone that you’ll take care of the main dish, and ask them to pot luck the rest, bringing drinks, dessert, salad or other sides. You could also grill up some salmon or chicken while you visit outside.
Since the pasta is so affordable, I’d also freshen up my table for entertaining with these beautiful Puebla Stoneware pasta bowls at Pottery Barn. Don’t they look so summery and pretty? They take this simple pasta dish and make it feel so fancy!
Plus, who isn’t in the mood for some new serving items these days.
Related: 10 easy spring appetizers for a grazing dinner
4. Panzanella salad. Mmmm….
This bright, herby Spring Pistou Panzanella Salad with Asparagus, Potatoes and White Beans at Floating Kitchen is a nice vegetarian dinner option this spring and summer. It’s enough for dinner all on its own for me, but for my kids I’d probably serve this with some diced ham or (let’s be honest) homemade chicken tenders.
I’ll get my tasty dinner, and they’ll get some veggies on their plate. Win-win, right?
5. Chipotle chicken (the pepper, not the restaurant chain)
Whenever I’m craving a big family-dinner-sized salad, I head over to Halfbaked Harvest. Teighan knows how to make a mega salad that pleases everyone at the table, and this week I’m drooling over this Peachy Chipotle Chicken Tortilla and Avocado Rice salad with Fried Halloumi a little bit.
Again, this is an easy light dinner for summer if you’re compiling ideas, and the recipe easily placates picky eaters when you set all the ingredients on a divided plate like these popular ones. But the rest of us can enjoy this surprising and exciting combo of flavors all together. If I snag this handy portable salad bowl, it makes this a good dinner to bring to a friend’s house or the park, too. Maybe all of the above.