Most dinner recipes are for two or four. It’s too much food for one person. Making extra is fine at times (especially for soup or chili), but extra servings aren’t always ideal. These dinner recipes for one person make just enough for a single serving.
No leftovers. No fussing. And every recipe has links to similar recipes (so that you have ideas for the rest of the package of chicken, the carton of eggs, or the eggplant you bought. I, for one, hate having food go bad because it didn’t get used.
I may cook quite a few “exotic” or complicated dishes, but sometimes something simple and comforting and nostalgic really hits the spot. And when it comes to nostalgia and comfort food, it’s hard to beat an old-fashioned, but easy, Italian meatball recipe. Just thinking about spaghetti and meatballs makes me smile.
You can serve this the classic way, with spaghetti and marinara sauce, but they’re also great for making a fast Italian wedding soup. If you don’t want the soup right away, just increase the recipe, and make a few extra meatballs and pop them in the freezer. Then days, or weeks later you can defrost them and treat yourself to soup in a few minutes.
I’ve kept this recipe simple, and easy, but you can change it to suit your own tastes and preferences. Check the end of the post for some inspiration. You can make it spicier, swap the bread crumbs for oatmeal or potato starch (to make it gluten-free), or use turkey instead of beef. A mixture of pork and beef is good too.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together, using your hands.
Form the mixture into balls, about 1 inch in diameter.
Heat the oil in a skillet and gently place the meatballs in the pan. Let them cook for a minute or two, then turn them gently (so they don't fall apart). Cook for about 10 minutes.
If you don't mind a two step process, preheat your toaster oven to 350 degrees. Place the raw meatballs on the tray that comes with the oven. Cook for a minute or two. While that's cooking, heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat. Transfer the meatballs to the pan and cook, turning gently, until they are done, about 5-7 minutes.
This helps keep the meatballs from falling apart.
Substitutions and Variations for Easy Italian Meatballs
use a mixture of ground beef and pork, instead of just beef
add more garlic
if you can’t have gluten, use oatmeal or potato starch, instead of breadcrumbs (either grind up regular oats in a mini-chopper, or use quick-cooking oats).
use ground turkey or chicken instead of meat (if you do, I recommend getting the dark meat turkey; it tastes better)
This pasta, broccoli, mushrooms, and chicken sausage recipe is based on a recipe invented by Kimberly Chapman (from Eat the Evidence; she makes astonishing desserts and “Ace of Cakes” cakes too).
She had this wonderful English, locally raised bacon and fresh asparagus and decided to make pasta with it (her recipe is here).
It looked so good I wanted to try it. But I didn’t have bacon (or asparagus). I could have gone out and bought asparagus, but I’m not a huge asparagus fan, unless it’s drenched in Hollandaise sauce. I did have some chicken sausage and frozen broccoli though. So, I decided to follow her technique while changing the ingredients a bit.
I used chicken sausage instead of bacon, kept the mushrooms, added red bell pepper (as I had part of a pepper leftover from something else and had to use it up). Then, I changed the cheese to Manchego instead of parmesan, because that’s also what I had on hand.
Tip: When your chunk of parmesan, Manchego, or other hard cheese gets hard to grate with a box grater, use a microplane instead. You can also save the rinds (or even buy them at the market) and use them for soup. Just put them in a plastic bag in the fridge. They’ll keep indefinitely.
Back to the recipe, you essentially, cook the sausage (or bacon), add the veggies, then the pasta, some chicken broth, and top it all with grated cheese.
Pasta with Sausage, Broccoli, Mushrooms, and Peppers
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Pasta with broccoli, sausage, red peppers, and mushrooms. A quick and easy dinner for one.
1/4 long pasta (such as spaghetti)
2 T olive oil
1 link chicken sausage, cut into one inch chunks
2 large mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 C frozen broccoli
1/4 C red bell pepper, cut in chunks
1/4 C chicken broth
2T grated Manchego (or parmesan cheese)
Fill a medium size saucepan with water and bring to a boil.
Add the pasta, and cook until al dente (about 10) minutes.
While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large frying pan.
Cook sausage, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Remove the sausage from the pan, but don't wipe the pan.
Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook five minutes until they start to brown.
Put the frozen broccoli into the pan and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes..
Pour in the chicken broth, and let the mixture cook a minute or two.
Add the red pepper.
Once the pasta is ready, drain it and add to the frying pan, tossing with tongs to combine all the ingredients.
Grate the cheese over the pasta mixture and serve.
You can use regular sausage instead of chicken sausage; if you do, you'll need less olive oil. Mix and match the ingredients to suit your own taste. Vary the veggies, go back to bacon, or skip the meat and use vegetable broth to make it vegetarian.
I love Buffalo chicken wings, but wings are getting increasingly expensive. The supermarket had a great sale on chicken thighs and legs so I decided to experiment and make a chili garlic chicken thigh recipe instead.
In addition to substituting thighs for wings, I gave the recipe a bit of a twist by replacing hot sauce with chili garlic sauce and making chili garlic chicken thighs.
The great thing about this recipe is that it’s pretty easy, and you don’t have to fuss with it. You get great flavor without a lot of ingredients, no chopping, and very little mixing. Using the chili garlic sauce is best (here’s an image so you can see what it looks like), but if you don’t have it I’ve listed substitutions below.
Since the weather has reverted back to March (brrrr), I baked the thighs rather than cooking them on the stove (I wanted an hour of heat!). However, you can, if you prefer, or you are in a hurry, cook this in a pan (see below).
Melt the butter in a small bowl or ramekin (a microwave is best for this). Add the chili garlic sauce and apple cider vinegar and stir to combine.
Place the chicken in a small roasting pan (I used the toaster oven tray; you can also do this in the toaster oven if you want).
Cook the chicken for 45 minutes.
Pour the sauce over the chicken and cook for another 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and serve.
I used Huy Fong chili garlic sauce (made by the same company that makes sriracha sauce. Your grocery story should have it (it comes in a smaller jar with a green cap)
I served it with microwaved broccoli (cooked for two minutes and seasoned with lemon pepper) and fried potato wedges (parboiled, then fried in a pan like home fries).
Chili Garlic Chicken Thigh Substitutions and Variations
Frying instead of baking: Heat some neutral oil, like canola or vegetable oil and cook the chicken for 10 minutes, skin side down. Turn it skin side up, pour the sauce over the chicken, and then cook for another 10-15 minutes.
Use sriracha.If you do, I would reduce or eliminate the apple cider vinegar, since the sriracha already has vinegar and sugar, and add some minced garlic.
If you don’t have either of those, use hot sauce, the cider vinegar, and garlic.
P.S. My apologies for the awful ad that was appearing earlier. Those responsible have been sacked.
Tools and Ingredients for Chili Garlic Chicken Thigh Recipe
I love this stuff. I put it on chicken, add it to hamburgers, or mix some with scrambled eggs. Basically, use it to add extra kick (and a hit of garlic) wherever you’d usually use Tabasco, sriracha, or ketchup.
Huy Fong, Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, 17 Ounce Bottle If you prefer a bit of sweetness with your heat, use the sriracha instead of the chili garlic sauce. It’s also more spreadable than the garlic sauce (the consistency is closer to thin ketchup, while the garlic sauce is more like salsa).
This pistachio pesto pasta recipe is a bit different from standard pesto recipes. Most standard pesto recipes use basil and pine nuts. A great combination, but it’s tough to use up a whole bunch of basil when cooking for one. Either you have to make a big batch of pesto and freeze it, or it spoils.
I do have a basil plant, but cutting enough off to make pesto would leave me without much of a plant! This is a good compromise.
Plus, pine nuts have gotten awfully expensive. It does have some basil, but I replaced most of it with broccoli. Then I substituted pistachios for walnuts or pine nuts.
Actually, to be entirely truthful, I ‘stole’ this idea from one of Robert Parker’s Spenser novels. Shhh, don’t tell anyone. He seemed to like food as much as he enjoyed mysteries and books (my kind of author).
You get the sweet, summery taste of basil, the earthiness of broccoli, and the crunchiness of the pistachios (use the unsalted kind). And frankly, while I love pine nuts, they’ve gotten awfully expensive. You can use walnuts too, if you prefer.
It’s also quick and easy to make (which is always a plus).
I have loved eggplant parmigiana (or parmesan, if you prefer) since I was a child. Back then, it was a special treat when we went to the dentist. Yes, the dentist!
There was a restaurant near my dentist’s office called Pippo’s (which is now, sadly, gone), that made the best eggplant parmigiana I have ever tasted. Mom tried her best to get the recipe, but without much luck. Drat!
Still, it was an incentive to have good checkups, so we could go out to lunch afterward! I’m sure we were the only kids in the neighborhood who looked forward to going to the dentist!
The restaurant, naturally, made it in huge batches, but this eggplant parmesan recipe is the perfect serving size for one person. It’s quick, easy, and delicious. You can put the whole thing together in about twenty five minutes.
I did “cheat” and use sauce in a jar, rather than making my own, but so what. I do often make my own, but I didn’t have any handy, and I don’t feel the least bit guilty either.
When picking out your eggplant at the store, choose a light one (in weight, not color). The heavier ones have more seeds and are more likely to be bitter.
I know there is controversy about whether or not to salt the eggplant first. Some say it’s a must, to draw out the bitterness, and to cut down on the oil (eggplant does love to soak up oil). Others say don’t bother. I didn’t bother. One reason being that it takes time (and I was hungry), another being that I prefer less salt anyway.
Either way, just slice the eggplant very thin, dip it in egg, then flour (I used rice flour, but you can use the regular kind), and fry the slices in olive oil.
Top those with your favorite spaghetti sauce (I used a Robert Rothschild sauce, which was so thick I had to dilute it with some tomato sauce; Silver Palette sauces are good too), some fresh mozzarella, and pop it in the toaster oven to bake until the cheese melts.
Since it’s an eggplant parmesan recipe for one person, you don’t have to heat up the whole oven (and the whole kitchen).
I served it with some fresh basil on top and a simple side dish of pasta tossed with olive oil and butter.
1/2 beaten egg (don't worry, we'll use this for something else in another recipe)
1/3 C spaghetti sauce (approx, I didn't really measure)
3-4 slices fresh mozzarella
2-3 leaves basil
Remove the tray from your toaster oven, and preheat the toaster oven to 400 degrees.
Rinse the eggplant and cut about 8-10 thin slices. Then, beat the egg in a small bowl and divide into two portions. You'll use half for this recipe and save the rest for something else.
Measure the flour and pour that into a second small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Next, take a medium sized frying pan and set it on medium-high heat. Once it starts to warm, add about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
Dip the eggplant slices twice, first in the egg, and then in the seasoned flour. When all the eggplant slices have been dipped, fry them gently in the olive oil, turning them once, until they are brown on both sides. Add more oil if necessary.
Remove the eggplant slices and set them on the toaster oven tray. Top with spaghetti sauce, then the slices of mozzarella.
Bake for 10 minutes until the cheese melts and the sauce heats up. Garnish with fresh basil.
This single serving of pan-fried tilapia with lemon butter sauce is quick, easy, and delicious. I was never a big fish fan growing up, but I’ve grown to like it as I have gotten older. If you’re a bit wary of fish, tilapia is a good “starter fish.” It has a mild flavor and doesn’t overwhelm your taste buds (or your kitchen).
I got the idea from someone who said she made tilapia with butter, lemon, and rosemary. I thought that sounded good, but that it would be even better with some olive oil and mustard powder (it was).
You can put the whole thing together and have dinner on the table in less than fifteen minutes. Make the fish, steam (or zap) some veggies and you’re good to go.
I made this recently (just as spring is finally showing signs of arriving, after a truly nasty winter), but it would be great in the summer when you want something fast. There’s no need to heat the stove or the oven for an hour.
By the way, the fish came from Trader Joe’s. They have great frozen fish. The tilapia was in a package with individually-wrapped fillets. Normally, I don’t like extra packaging, but in this case it was perfect, since I only had to defrost one fillet, instead of the entire bag.
A quick fish dinner for one with lemon, a bit of mustard, and rosemary.
1 T olive oil
1 tsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch dried rosemary
1 pinch mustard powder
1 tilapia filet
healthy squeeze lemon juice (preferably fresh)
Heat the olive oil and the butter in a small frying pan. Season the fish with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle the tilapia with the mustard and rosemary on both sides. Add it to the pan. Squeeze the lemon juice over the fish. Cook until done, about 3-4 minutes per side (depending on how thick the fish fillet is). It should be lightly colored, but no longer pink.
Serve immediately, before the fish gets cold. I steamed some Trader Joe's string frozen beans and cut up some fresh carrots to serve with it. I felt so healthy and virtuous.
Substitutions and Variations for Pan-Fried Tilapia with Lemon Butter Sauce
If you don’t have tilapia, use another mild, white fish such as cod, flounder, or Dover sole
Swap the rosemary for some capers
Skip the mustard and the rosemary and use dill instead
Nobody knows exactly where Singapore noodles came from. They’re not really native to Singapore, and the curry is more South Asian than North Asian. I suspect they are no more “Singaporean” than fortune cookies are Cantonese. In any case, easy Singapore noodles with chicken is a quick, weeknight dinner that’s a great way to “clean out your fridge.”
They don’t work too well as leftovers (especially if you use rice noodles, which tend to clump when they sit), so a recipe for a single serving is essential. Since it makes just enough for one person, you won’t have leftovers to fill up the fridge again!
I used regular pasta here, because that’s what I had and rice noodles may not be readily available everywhere. If you do use the rice noodles, get the vermicelli kind. Soak them in hot water for thirty seconds to soften them and then add them to the vegetables and chicken once they’re cooked.
The recipe is flexible, so you can use chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp if you have that handy, or if you prefer it.
The vegetables are just suggestions too. I used broccoli, onions, mushrooms, and two kinds of bell peppers (red and green). More suggestions (and variations) at the bottom of the post.
½ bell pepper (use half a single pepper, or a mixture of colors) , diced
1/4 C broccoli florets
3-4 small crimini (also called baby bella) mushrooms, sliced
1 T curry powder
1 t sugar
1 T soy sauce
2 T chicken stock
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles, and use chopsticks to stir them (so they don't stick). Cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes, and drain the noodles into a colander.
Preheat a large frying pan or wok. Add the oil and ginger. Stir fry about 1 minute.
Toss in onions, scallion, broccoli, or whatever veggies you're using, except the peppers. If you are using raw chicken, add it now.
Stir fry 1-2 minutes. Push vegetables to the side of the pan. Add curry powder and sauté for 1 minute. Then add sugar, soy sauce, and chicken stock. Mix together, using chopsticks. (If you're using raw shrimp, add it here).
Add noodles to the frying pan or wok with the vegetable mixture. Use chopsticks to separate the noodles and mix all of the ingredients together.
Add the peppers. I like to leave them for last, since I prefer them to be slightly crunchy. If you like softer peppers, add them with the other vegetables.
If the noodles get too dry, add more chicken stock. If you're using cooked chicken (or other meat), add it to the mixture now and cook until heated through.
Toss the ingredients in the pan so that everything gets thoroughly coated with the sauce.
Easy Singapore Noodles with Chicken Substitutions and Variations
Use leftover roast pork or raw shrimp (or both) instead of chicken
Use a mixture of frozen Chinese veggies, such as Trader Joe’s stir fry, or harvest hodgepodge. Seapoint Farms Oriental Blend is also good; this will also speed up the cooking time
Mix and match the vegetables in the dish. Add snow peas, water chestnuts, or sprouts. Use different kinds of peppers.
Throw in a hot pepper or two (depending on your tolerance for heat)
Lamb is one of my favorite foods and this lamb breast recipe for one is a great meal for a lazy, cold winter weekend. It cooks slowly and heats up the house nicely. It’s mostly set it and forget it, so you can do other things while dinner cooks (and your home fills with the fragrance of lamb).There’s very little fussing.
I’ve updated and changed the recipe since I first posted this. The original version called for boiling the lamb first, and then roasting it. Great for tenderizing, but it meant an extra pot to clean. And boy, that pot sure got greasy. However, you can then add the bones back, some barley, and veggies and make Scotch broth if you want.
If not, do it the easier way! Yeah easy!
Lamb breast is generally a cheaper cut of meat than lamb chops or a roast. I spotted it on sale at the local supermarket for a mere $3.99 a pound, so I pounced!
This dish was inspired by a Jacques Pepin recipe, but naturally, even with a master chef as a guide, I felt compelled to change it a bit. The original recipe called for vegetable oil, parsley, and bread crumbs.
I’m not a big fan of vegetable oil (olive oil has more flavor, and it fits the dish better, I think). I never have parsley around, but I do have a pot of fresh rosemary, so I used that instead. I didn’t want to bother with fresh bread crumbs, so I used panko.
And, of course, I reduced the original amounts to make it for one person (although, the recipe is so good, you may want to make extra and save it for dinner another day).
One Person Slow Roasted Lamb Breast Provencal Recipe
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
Lamb breast provencale for one
Three or four ribs from a lamb breast
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 C panko crumbs*
1/4 tsp fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, peeled, and minced
1 T olive oil
Heat the oven to 225 degrees.
Season the lamb with salt and pepper and place in shallow roasting pan.
Put the pan in the oven, and cook for two hours.
While the lamb is roasting, mix the panko, rosemary, garlic, and olive oil in a small bowl.
After two hours, open the oven, take out the lamb, and spread the panko mixture over the top of the ribs with a spoon or basting brush.
Cook for another 30 minutes, or until the bread crumbs turn a light golden color.
You can use oatmeal (ground up or quick cooking) instead of the panko, if you prefer.
Also, if you can't find lamb breast, this will work with lamb chops too. Use a basting brush to coat the lamb chop in the bread crumb mixture. Then heat some olive oil in a skillet. Add the chop and cook two or three minutes per side. Remove the lamb chop and let it rest for five minutes before serving.
It’s much easier to lift the lamb out of the saucepan and remove it from the roasting pan with these tongs. They lock in place for storage, clean easily, and grip tightly. The ends are covered in nylon so they won’t scratch your pans if they’re nonstick.
I just bought this pan to replace one that gave up the ghost. It’s nonstick, not too heavy, and fairly wide and shallow. It’s the perfect size for the lamb breast or several pieces of chicken. The handles do get hot, but with potholders, it’s easy to transfer from the stove to the oven. I also like that it comes with a clear glass lid. I haven’t used it for the pan yet, but it’s great for covering my large frying pan.
This single serving chicken recipe flavored with tarragon and mushrooms will make you think you’ve gone to a fine French restaurant (without the big bill at the end of the meal).
I adapted the recipe from Pierre Franey’s 60 Minute Gourmet cookbook. Its official name translates to Fricassé of Chicken with Tarragon. My friends and family used to call it “cholesterol chicken.”
The original recipe called for three tablespoons of butter and an entire cup of cream! Much as I love butter and cream, that’s a bit…much.
So, I decided to make it a bit lighter, while also adapting the recipe to make it a single serving chicken recipe instead of the original four. I reduced the amount of butter and used canola oil instead. Then, I replaced the cream with a mixture of Greek yogurt and milk.
It’s still a quick and easy chicken recipe and it still tastes great (though it’s certainly not low fat) and I haven’t sacrificed one bit of flavor.
Let’s call it Tarragon Chicken with Mushrooms for One Person instead.
I made a larger recipe for my parents recently, with a few variations, since mom had different ingredients and onions bother dad’s stomach. I used “better than bullion” concentrate, garlic powder instead of fresh garlic, and dried shiitake mushrooms. My dad is not a big fan of chicken, but he certainly liked this recipe. He licked his plate clean! Mom insisted that I write down exactly what I did so I could repeat it.
Single Serving Chicken Recipe with Tarragon and Mushrooms
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Chicken fricasee with tarragon and mushrooms, cooked with with butter, Greek yogurt, and milk. Or, indulge yourself and use cream instead.
1 chicken thigh, bone-in
1T canola oil
1 tsp butter
1/2 C onion, chopped
1 small clove garlic, chopped
1/8 tsp dried tarragon
1 C mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp flour
1/4 C chicken broth
1/4 C mixture of Greek yogurt and milk (use two thirds yogurt and one third milk; the idea is to get the consistency of cream); or just go for it and use the cream
Wash the chicken and pat dry. Season it with salt and pepper.
Get a medium skillet and heat on a medium flame. Add the oil. Then add the butter. Once the butter melts, add the chicken. Cook the chicken, turning it every once in a while, for about 5 minutes total. Add the onion, garlic, and tarragon
Sprinkle the flour over the chicken and mushroom mixture, and stir it all around to make sure it's spread evenly around the pan.
Add the chicken broth and the mushrooms to the pan. Cover the pot and let it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the size of the piece of chicken).
Remove the chicken from the pan with tongs and put it on your plate while you finish making the rest of the sauce. Cover the chicken with the lid of the pot to keep it warm.
Cook the sauce, and keep stirring it, for 5 minutes.
Add the cream (or yogurt mixture). If you use the yogurt, spoon some of the sauce from the pan into the yogurt and mix it together before adding it to the pan. This will keep it from separating.
Simmer for three minutes. Then, put the chicken back in the pan and spoon the sauce over it.
Tarragon Chicken with Mushrooms Recipe Substitutions and Variations
If you don’t have the yogurt/milk use the cream, or mix butter and milk together and melt it before adding it to the sauce (since butter is essentially solidified cream)
The original recipe called for fresh tarragon. I bought some and found it tasted like licorice. Since I don’t particularly like licorice, I wasn’t too happy about that! On the other hand, if you do like licorice, or fresh tarragon, use one small sprig.
Try using wild mushrooms, like shiitake or chanterelle instead of white button mushrooms; this also works well with dried mushrooms (reconstitute them with hot water to cover and let them sit for five or ten minutes)
Here’s the 60 minute gourmet cookbook I got the recipe from. My copy is battered, beat up, and has been loved to pieces. The meals are all fairly easy to make and fast. In addition to the chicken, I recommend the chicken in red wine sauce, the chicken scarpariello, shrimp in creole sauce, broiled lamb patties, london broil with sauce chasseur, and the tongue in dill mustard sauce (which is both tasty and super-easy to make).
More from Pierre Franey; these recipes were published in his newspaper column but hadn’t been collected in a cookbook. There are plenty of chicken dinners here too, such as baked chicken breasts stuffed with ricotta and herbs, Indonesian chicken breast, chicken with spicy mango barbecue sauce, shrimp with snow peas, and fettucine with goat cheese and asparagus.