When the days get longer and warmer and you spend long evenings sitting outside eating and drinking with friends and family, then you know summer has arrived!
It’s around this time when you stop craving stews and comfort food and you turn towards light, colorful and zingy summer dishes.
Summer meals tend to be less heavy than winter dishes, with plenty of fresh ingredients. The more colorful your meal the healthier it will be, as there will be a variety of fruit and veg all offering different vitamins and minerals.
Grilled meat, seafood, salads, rice bowls, and plenty of Mediterranean flavors make up the ideal summer menu that will make you feel like you’re on holiday even if you are eating in your own back garden.
There are so many different recipes out there that it can be difficult to choose which ones to try and which ones to avoid. Switching from wintery meals to summertime meals can take a bit of adjusting and you might be lacking in ideas about what to cook.
To make things easier for you, we have put together a list of 40 of the best summer dinner ideas to give you some inspiration.
Whether you are looking for a quick midweek meal, a weekend treat, vegetarian or meaty, there will be something on this list that you will love. So keep reading to find out more and start planning your summer menu.
This meal only takes 20 minutes to cook and uses salty feta, sweet tomatoes, and fresh herbs to create a taste sensation.
Zucchini are readily available in the summer months but you can get fed up with eating them if you keep recycling the same few recipes. This exciting take on zucchini is perfect for a quick meal or could be served to your friends and family as part of a summertime feast.
They look impressive but are actually very simple to make. Make sure you grill the zucchini until it has a nice char, as this will really add to the flavor.
Portuguese mussels, or moules a la Portuguese, are a delicious meal for anyone who loves seafood. The mussels take on the flavor of the incredible sauce, and you can use some crusty bread to soak up any leftover sauce at the end.
They are fairly simple to make and seasoned with garlic, cumin, bay leaves, and honey. Chicken broth or clam juice can be used for the base of the sauce, and choosing the right wine can really bring this dish together.
Burgers are a food often associated with summertime- meat patties fresh off the BBQ served in a soft bun with cheese and eaten outside.
This burger board is a new take on burgers, but still has a communal feel similar to a BBQ as everyone serves themselves from the board and creates their own burger with their favorite toppings.
Build your board and place it in the middle of the table for everyone to tuck in. You can prepare most of the board before the guests arrive, and place the hot patties in the middle just before serving.
This one pan meal is quick and easy but very satisfying. It is flavorsome, nutritious, and vibrant- just what you want from a summer dinner.
The juicy shrimp are cooked with colorful vegetables, sprinkled with crumbled feta, and then finished off with a squeeze of zingy lemon.
The fresh herbs really lift this refreshing meal and you will love the perfect blend of textures. It makes a great meal or can be served as a side dish.
We all get a craving for a meaty steak now again, but steak and chips can get boring and isn’t a very summery meal. These steak fajitas are a great option, as you can satisfy your craving and the Mexican flavors give you the summertime feelings!
The tangy lime and the kick of the chili in the steak marinade provide an intense burst of flavor which is nicely contrasted with the creamy avocado.
Peppers are the classic choice of vegetable in this dish but you can add onions, mushrooms, zucchini- whatever you fancy or whatever needs using up!
This healthy recipe is perfect for people trying to detox or eat clean over the summer. It is packed with Thai flavors and the mixture of proteins, vegetables, and whole grains makes this a wonderfully balanced meal.
The peanut sauce ties all of the elements together and is definitely the star of the show.
BBQ chicken is a classic summer meal. You can use any kind of chicken- thighs, drumsticks, wings- but we have chosen a chicken breast recipe as it is nice and lean and packed full of protein.
The sweet and sticky sauce is delicious and the chargrilled flavor of the chicken is spectacular. This chicken is great served with corn on the cob and green beans, and perhaps some homemade slaw.
Nothing says summertime like Greek food, and this grilled chicken is no exception. The flavors will transport you right to a sunny Greek island with each mouthful.
The yogurt-based marinade is packed with garlic, fresh herbs, and zesty lemon juice. You can use this marinade on any chicken, but it’s particularly good if you marinade chunks of chicken breast and skewer them with onions and peppers.
Remember to soak the wooden skewers in water first so they don’t burn on the BBQ.
This is a light and nutritious meal which is perfect for a summer evening. The fresh, green broccoli pairs well with the stick chicken, and the whole thing takes less than 30 minutes to cook.
You can switch out the broccoli for other vegetables if you prefer. If you want to be extra healthy then you can grill the chicken instead of pan frying it.
You can use store-bought Teriyaki sauce if you want to save even more time. But making your own is not that difficult and it tastes much better.
This Mediterranean-style roasted cod is low fat and high in omega three and packed with wonderful flavors.
The tomatoes are sweet, the olives salty, and the capers tangy- a rich and balanced blend. Serve this dish with orzo and sauteed vegetables or with a tasty rice salad.
There are so many excellent summer seafood recipes, including these pea and salmon fish cakes. They are light and soft and easy to make and you will definitely come back to this recipe time and time again.
Try experimenting with the ingredients like swapping the potatoes for sweet potato and using tinned tuna instead of salmon. The whole family will love this simple but tasty meal.
In this classic southern recipe, the creamy grits cut through the spice of the cajun shrimp. Grits are made from cornmeal, and that sweetness adds another layer of flavor.
If you really want to get the most out of this meal then swap out some of the water in the grits for the stock- chicken stock works well.
Chimichurri sauce is made with garlic, vinegar, olive oil, chili, and fresh herbs. It goes well with vegetables, seafood, beef, pork, or whatever you want to pair it with.
This recipe uses juicy chicken thighs which are cooked to perfection with golden crispy skin. I bet your mouth is watering just thinking about it! Serve with rice or boiled potatoes and salad for a healthy summer dinner.
These kebabs are meant to be eaten on a large platter as the perfect family meal. Cover the table with newspaper, place the platter in the middle and let everyone tuck in.
The shrimp, sausage, corn, and potatoes marinade in the cajun spices for up to 4 hours before they are cooked, so each mouthful will be packed with flavor.
This indulgent meal is perfect for a summer date night as it feels like something you would order in a posh restaurant.
The creamy cheese, the splash of wine in the risotto, and the rich brown butter just lift this dish to another level. Serve with sauteed greens for a fresh flavor that cuts through all the richness.
This meal is simple but so satisfying. It would make a healthy midweek meal or a tasty meal to serve to family or friends on a Friday night with a bottle of wine.
The fresh basil really makes this dish and goes perfectly with the honey balsamic reduction. Mozzarella pearls work best, but if you can’t find them then torn-up mozzarella balls will be fine.
These spring rolls are light and nutritious, packed with vegetables. There are two sauces included with this recipe to suit different taste palates, and this recipe is certain to be popular with the whole family. They are not fried, so they are a healthy choice.
This is a twist on the classic cheeseburger. The sweetness of the caramelized onions cuts through the potent blue cheese and the rosemary adds an earthy flavor that brings it all together.
The star of this Hawaiian dish is definitely the sauce! Pineapple juice, ketchup, brown sugar, and soy sauce with plenty of garlic and ginger create an incredible blend of flavors.
The grilled pineapple adds another level of sweetness to this dish and the acidity is a great match with the lean chicken. If you are looking for a new way to cook chicken this summer, this could be it!
Perfectly grilled meats are a staple part of Greek cuisine and the fresh flavors of the salad make a perfect accompaniment to the steak.
You can prepare the salad in advance which makes it a great option to serve to guests, as you can grill the steak when your guests arrive and the meal is already done!
Serve with some crusty bread for a delicious and wholesome meal.
This creamy tomato chicken with basil is an easy one-pot meal that is easy to make and very versatile. You can serve it with salad, potatoes, pasta, or whatever you fancy.
The cream is optional, so you can leave it out if you are trying to stick to a low-fat diet.
This recipe for Spanish garlic shrimp takes only 10 minutes to make, so you can be tucking into a tasty meal in next to no time. The flavors are bright and fresh and the shrimp is juicy- the perfect combination for a summer meal.
The Greeks are known for their incredible seafood, and this recipe certainly fits in with this reputation. This fish is baked with olive oil and vegetables and a sauce made from tomatoes, celery, leek onions, and plenty of garlic.
The more vegetables you add, the more you will have to serve with your fish when it comes out of the oven. Some bread would go well with this dish to soak up the sauce or sauteed potatoes.
Pesto pasta is a staple dish in many households, and whether you prefer green or red pesto it is a quick and easy meal to make.
This recipe uses green pesto for those zesty summertime flavors and adds shrimp to make it more exciting and satisfying. You can whip up this meal quickly and easily after a long day at work.
Most people eat their mussels with garlic and maybe some lemon juice, but there are so many ways to enjoy this seafood treat.
Whilst mussels aren’t traditionally eaten in the Caribbean, the spices and creamy coconut go really well with shellfish, and this recipe ties all of those flavors together.
Honey is a flavor often associated with summer, and what better way to enjoy it than in this recipe for honey garlic chicken? It is quick and simple with only 5 ingredients needed to make the sticky sauce.
You choose whichever type of chicken you prefer, but if you use chicken thighs then you get the added benefit of deliciously crispy skin.
Flatbread is a fantastic meal for a warm summer evening as it does not take long to prepare so you won’t have to spend too long in the kitchen.
It is also a very Mediterranean food so will instantly make you feel more summery when you eat it. The salty prosciutto is perfect with the creamy cheese and sweet tomatoes, and the fiery rocket gives the whole thing a good kick.
Chicken and beef tacos can get boring. Fish tacos are becoming more and more popular, and these shrimp tacos are bursting with wonderful flavors and textures that the whole family will love.
They take less than 20 minutes to cook and are packed with healthy vegetables. The mango is sweet and tangy and adds an exciting splash of color to the plate.
Cajun spices give this salmon a deep flavor, whilst the mango and avacado salsa cuts through the spice with a sweet and zingy flavor. This recipe is packed with fresh ingredients and is really healthy, so you can tuck in and eat as much as you want.
Lots of people enjoy eating salads in the summer as they require less time over a hot stove and are very refreshing on a warm day. It can get boring eating the same salads all the time- chicken caesar, pasta salad, prawn salad- but this recipe switches it up.
You can cook the steak however you like, but if it is pink in the middle and charred on the outside this creates the perfect flavor and texture to complement the rest of the dish.
The grilled corn is sweet, the balsamic vinegar is sour, and the cheese is creamy. All the elements come together to create the perfect mouthful of summer flavors.
We would all love to be spending our summer sunning ourselves in Tuscany, but this meal will have to do! The soft gnocchi is suspended in a rich and creamy sauce flavored with garlic, basil, parmesan, and sun-dried tomatoes.
It is all cooked in one pan so it is super convenient to make, and the tomatoes and spinach are packed with vitamins and minerals. Salmon is a great low-fat option to counteract the fat in the cream.
If you are looking for a healthy and tasty summer meal that requires very little effort then this is the recipe for you! Cram as many different vegetables as you like into the foil packs with your juicy shrimp and just wait for them to cook. It couldn’t be more simple.
You can even prepare them beforehand and leave them to marinade before cooking for extra flavor.
Cobb salad is a filling meal that is packed with grilled chicken, crispy bacon, boiled eggs, grilled corn, avocado, goat’s cheese, cucumber, and berries.
All of these tasty ingredients are tossed in a simple dressing to create a meal that is light but will definitely leave you feeling satisfied.
Salmon Piccata is the type of meal you would expect to find in a restaurant, but with this recipe, you can recreate it in the comfort of your own home.
If you love the flavors of the sauce but aren’t a fan of fish, you can substitute it for thinly pounded chicken breast fillets.
Poke bowls are becoming a very popular substitute for sushi as they are easier to prepare but taste just as good. The raw tuna in this recipe is marinated and tossed with rice and then topped with various vegetables.
These bowls are very customizable so you can switch out the ingredients for whatever you fancy. Jasmine rice works best for this recipe, but if you can’t find any then any long-grain rice should be fine.
Even in the summer months, you will still get cravings for a comforting casserole. This healthy shrimp and rice casserole makes use of the summer flavors whilst providing a hearty meal that will feel you up and leave you satisfied.
It takes less than 45 minutes, so is perfect for a cozy Friday night dinner. Pour yourself a glass of red wine and sit outside on the patio while you wait for it to cook.
These Sirloin steak bites have so much flavor as they have been marinated with soy sauce, lemon juice, hot sauce, and olive oil then seared in a pan in a garlic butter sauce.
The Zucchini noodles with fresh lemon flavors make a simple but delicious accompaniment and are a great low-carb option.
This soup requires very little preparation and you can leave it cooking while you get on with other things, which means you don’t have to stand over a hot stove on a warm summer evening.
The flavors are fresh and bright and it is packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals for a balanced and nutritious meal.
It is a gluten-free and vegan-friendly recipe, but you have the option of adding soured cream and a sprinkle of garnish if you fancy it.
Ground Turkey is a great low-fat meat option, but it can be challenging to come up with lots of exciting ways to cook it. This Taco salad with creamy avocado is healthy and delicious.
It will satisfy your cravings but is light and refreshing enough to eat when the weather is warm. The beans add extra protein so you will stay full for even longer.
Carne Asada is a delicious meal of marinated grilled beef, thinly sliced and served with tortillas, avocado, and pico de gallo. You can also do it with rice and beans on the side.
It is simple yet flavorsome. The better the steak the better the Carne Asada- skirt or flank works best for this recipe.