When warm, spring weather hits I immediately lose all appetite for the heavy dinners like chili or pot roast that I craved during winter, and instead, I’m finding myself adding light spring recipes to our dinner roatation, like light pasta salads, cold, fresh gazpacho, and easy grilled meats and veggies.

So, in honor of this (mostly) gorgeous spring weather and my sudden craving to take all meals outdoors, here are some light spring recipes that help you lighten up your pasta, soup, and favorite one-pot meals for the family, bringing in delicious flavors of fresh herbs and veggies in season.

To be clear, these aren’t necessarily lighter in calories. And I’m not including any salads. They’re just creative ideas for classics that are lighter on the stomach, so you don’t walk away from the table ready for bed. Hey, there’s daylight out there to enjoy after 6 PM now!

At top: 30-Minute Asparagus Soup at Clean and Delicious; Carnitas Tacos¬†from Valerie’s Kitchen

Related: 5 more delicious dinners that feel like spring

Light Spring Recipes: Spring Pasta Ideas

My family tends to enjoy heavier pasta dishes, like lasagna, penne pasta with sausage, or spaghetti with a rich marinara sauce during the colder months, but I can’t bring myself to eat like that once it’s warm outside. Instead, I opt for lighter pasta dishes with no heavy sauce, instead using ingredients in-season. Here are a few of my favorites.

Lighter spring recipes; Lemon bucatini with wilted arugula at Food 52, by The Mess I Make
Above: Lemony Bucatini with Wilted Arugula | The Mess I Make, via Food 52

One easy way to make your pasta dishes lighter is to change up the pasta itself — like go for linguini or angel hair instead of thicker fettuccini or tagliatelle noodles. Also, start cooking with all those fresh herbs and veggies coming into the stores! This lemony bucatini with wilted arugula by The Mess I Make, shared on Food 52, ticks all the boxes. It just sounds like “winter is over!” doesn’t it?

Lemon Garlic Orzo with Roasted Veggies | Vanilla and Bean

Just like switching from fettuccini to thinner angel hair, you can also go with super-short cuts of pasta like orzo. The lemon garlic orzo with roasted veggies at Vanilla and Bean really lets those spring veggies like asparagus and tomatoes get all the attention. I love having this recipe on hand as a main course, or a make-ahead side dish if you’re grilling outside in the warmer weather.

Easy 20-Minute Pasta Carbonara pasta | Chef Savvy

You might not think of carbonara as a lighter spring pasta dish, but it’s one of my favorites, especially if you can grab some fresh eggs at your farmer’s market. They make this¬†easy 20-minute carbonara pasta from Chef Savvy even more exquisite than it already is. You can toss in some fresh veggies like asparagus or peas, too, for a bold celebration of spring on your plate.

 Garlic Butter Shrimp Pasta | Basil and Bubbly

Another consideration for a light spring pasta dish to switch from heavier roasts or cuts of meat to seafood. Is it me, or is it always a welcome change to your dinner plate in warmer weather? I’m a fan of the Garlic Butter Shrimp Pasta from Basil and Bubbly if you want a place to start. Add in her recos for spinach and blistered tomatoes and you’ve got a satisfying dinner without the heaviness.

Homemade pesto is an easy way to lighten up pasta for spring and ooh fresh basil!
Homemade Pesto | Simply Recipes
Photo by Artur Rutkowski via Unsplash

Speaking of a spring celebration, yay for cooking with fresh herbs in spring! This is the perfect time to whip up some homemade pesto for pasta. Liz recommends this recipe from Elise at Simply Recipes — though you may want to start with less garlic, then add more to taste. It keeps so well in the fridge or freezer, so you can pull it out for a lighter spring pasta any time.Make extra — it’s also great on toast with a few slices of tomato or fresh mozzarella for lunch.

(Time-saving tip: I have it on good word from pesto snobs that the Kirkland brand of pesto from Costo is impressive and affordable, if you go through a lot of it.)

Related: How to DIY your own Italian, Mexican, Greek, or Asian pasta salad this spring.

Light Spring Recipes: Hot Soup Ideas (Yes, Hot!)

We’ve had a strong rotation of chilis and¬†stews going this winter, but it’s time to lighten those favorites up with some spring soup recipes with lighter bases instead. These soups are all hot because it’s not quite gazpacho season yet — though hey, have at it if you want to make some! — but still honor those spring veggies.

Be sure to check our post on¬†7 ideas for lightening up family dinner for spring¬†— then add these lighter soups to the repertoire.

Lighter spring recipes: Asparagus soup at Clean and Delicious
30-Minute Asparagus Soup | Clean and Delicious 

If you just can’t get enough asparagus during springtime (hand raised!), then Dani’s 30-Minute Asparagus Soup recipe at Clean and Delicious is perfect. It makes use of white beans to achieve that rich, creamy texture without added weight or calories from cream.In fact, it’s entirely plant-based, but so satisfying you might never know it. Serve with chicken salad sandwiches or pair with a couple of these easy spring appetizers for a simple tasty lunch or light dinner, even on a hot night.

Spicy Chicken Lime Soup | Cooking Classy

If you love the Mexican flavors of chili but are craving something lighter, the spicy chicken lime soup at Cooking Classy is a great place to start. Pair with a homemade margarita on the back porch, and you’ve got a perfect dinner in my opinion.

Tom Kha Gai coconut soup | 40 Aprons

Want to spice things up? Oh. My. Goodness. This soup! I made the Tom Kha Gai coconut soup using a recipe from 40 Aprons on a whim the other night, and it was so, so good. Like, text-your-friends-the-recipe good. The coconut milk-based broth is creamy but super light, and it bursts with so many flavors that it leaves you feeling satisfied and not weighed down. I did switch the chicken for tofu for my vegan husband and it worked just fine. Also, the addition of ramen noodles is a fun add-in too.

Related: 3 gazpacho recipes to keep on hand for summer, from totally authentic to quick and easy

Light Spring Recipes: One-Pot Dinner Ideas

One-pot dinner recipes¬†— especially those I can make in my slow cooker or Instant Pot¬†— are a lifesaver in the dark, cold winter months. But they’re not just for pot roast, of course, so don’t put away that instant Pot so fast! There are plenty of delicious, light, spring recipes we love that let you eat inside when it’s not quite grilling season yet.

Here are three must-try, lighter one-pot dinner recipes that lighten up mealtime, and keep things quick and easy so you can enjoy the rest of that daylight.

Lighter spring recipes: Slow cooker carnitas at From Valerie's Kitchen
Carnitas Taco Recipe | From Valerie’s Kitchen.

Taco night is a good bet year-round, and even easier when you put your slow cooker to work with this carnitas tacos¬†recipe at From Valerie’s Kitchen. The pork is tender and just the right amount of spicy. Add a slide of perfect guacamole¬†with some fresh cilantro, plus a bright pineapple salsa¬†or mango salsa to take it to the next level with flavors that feel springy and wonderful.

Creamy Lemon Dill Salmon | The View from Great Island

Remember how I mentioned seafood as a way to welcome spring and lighten up your spring dinner recipes? It doesn’t have to be expensive shellfish. For example, the creamy lemon dill salmon at The View from Great Island is a nice way to change up a plain grilled salmon. And don’t fear the creamy sauce! It’s nice and light thanks to the lemon and dill; and because it’s all whipped up in one pan on the stovetop, clean-up is a breeze. Definitely a spring favorite of ours.

Light Spring Recipes: An Easy Sheet-Pan Dinner Idea

Lighter spring recipes: Greek Sheet Pan Chicken at Killing Thyme
 Greek Sheet-Pan Chicken | Killing Thyme

Sheet pan dinners are one of my favorite easy meal-planning hacks, especially on nice spring nights when we want to hang outside instead of cleaning up but we haven’t yet fired up the barbecue. We’ve shared lots of easy sheet pan dinner recipes¬†worth checking out and I want to highlight one more: The Greek sheet-pan chicken at Killing Thyme, above. It’s perfect for spring, with the flavors of fresh zucchini, artichoke, and bell peppers along with that spiced chicken. Yay for fresh veggies in the markets!