Make family dinner easier with this master list of dinner ideas for kids…that grownups will enjoy too! These are some of our favorite meals using pasta, chicken, vegetarian staples, pizza flavors, and fast methods to help you feed your family day in and day out.

dinner ideas for kids in grid of 6

Dinner Ideas for Kids

I know that there are loads of lists that call the recipes “kid-friendly” and while I can’t guarantee that all of these will work for your family, I do think that there is a great assortment of options here. And each was developed with little kids in mind AND meant to be easy enough for you to pull off in short spurts of time.

I try my hardest to make recipes that the kids will enjoy and that parents will also want to eat to simplify how much we’re cooking. And I hope this collection offers some ideas the next time you’ve otherwise run out!

I’ve divided these up into sections so you can use the links right below here to go to the one you want, or simply scroll down to see what looks good!

sweet-potato-mac-and-cheese-in-bowl

Pasta Recipes for Kids

Pasta is a staple dinner option and the ones here are some of our favorites. And never underestimate the power of plain buttered noodles with a little Parmesan with a simple side—not every dinner has to be all out complicated!

Easy Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe
This is an easy family dinner or lunch. I like to use Spinach Pesto for this, but any will work if you prefer to buy it pre-made from the store.
Get the recipe
pesto-pasta-salad-in-bowl
Easy Avocado Pasta
Any pasta shape works in this recipe, so choose your family’s favorite! Omit the garlic if you think the flavor might be too strong for your people. My kids prefer this without the garlic. I like it with it for myself!
Get the recipe
avocado-pasta-in-bowls-on-towel
Spinach Pesto Pasta with Peas
This bright green pesto is cheesy and mild, making it a perfect sauce for a quick dinner of pasta and peas!
Get the recipe
spinach-pesto-pasta-in-blue-bowl
4-Ingredient Sausage Pasta (with Broccoli)
This pasta recipe is quick and delicious and the flavor from the sausage is really key. (Just a heads up that you'll need to reserve a little of the pasta cooking water, so keep that in mind BEFORE you drain the pasta.) Chicken sausage is usually leaner than pork, so when making this with chicken sausage, I like to add butter or olive oil before serving.
Get the recipe
broccoli-pasta-in-white-bowl
5-Ingredient Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
Use yellow or white cheese according to your child’s color expectations!
Get the recipe
cauliflower mac and cheese
5-Ingredient Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
Use your family’s favorite shape and type of pasta in this recipe. (We like elbows or mini shells!)
Get the recipe
butternut-squash-mac-and-cheese-with-shell-pasta
Easy Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese
I like to use a small shape to keep this dish as fast as possible.
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sweet-potato-mac-and-cheese-on-counter
Quick Butternut Squash Pasta with Sausage
This easy skillet dinner is super cozy and super versatile. You can use freshly diced butternut squash or precut squash from the store and frozen peas or broccoli according to what you have or prefer. See the Notes for vegetarian options.
Get the recipe
butternut-squash-pasta-in-white-bowl-and-teal-bowls
Easy Pasta with Summer Squash and Beef
This dish is easy to pull together in a short amount of time and is a nice alternative to tomato based pasta dishes.
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zucchini-pasta-in-adult-and-kids-bowl
Creamy Pasta with Broccoli
Feel free to cut this recipe in half to make a smaller portion for your family. (Or make the full batch and enjoy the leftovers!)
Get the recipe
creamy-broccoli-pasta
baked-chicken-nuggets-on-plate-with-ketchup

Chicken Recipes for Kids

Mixing up chicken recipes is an easy way to make dinner more interesting for everyone at the table. And whether the kids like nuggets, tenders, meatballs, or chicken sandwiches, there are plenty of options here.

Easy Baked Chicken Nuggets (SO Crispy!)
These chicken nuggets have simple ingredients and a pleasantly crispy exterior. Aim to cut the chicken into similarly sized pieces so they bake evenly.
Get the recipe
baked-chicken-nuggets-on-plate
4-Ingredient Baked Chicken Meatballs
Serve with Marinara sauce, Pesto, Cheese Sauce, or with a side of ketchup or any other favorite dip. We like to have these on hand to use an easy lunch component or have them with pasta.
Get the recipe
baked-chicken-meatballs
Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders
These crispy Chicken Tenders are fast and versatile. To make these with panko breadcrumbs, use 1 cup and stir ¼ teaspoon salt into the flour before you dredge the chicken.
Get the recipe
crispy baked chicken tenders on white and blue plate
Baked Chicken Meatballs with Sweet Potato
Plan to cook your sweet potato ahead of time. See the Notes at the end of the recipe for options!
Get the recipe
chicken-meatballs-with-sweet-potatoes-on-two-plates
Sweet Potato Chicken Bowls (Easy Meal Prep)
You can meal prep this recipe to have ready for future lunches or dinners to share with the kids or you can make it as a family dinner. Add flavor to your bowl with the optional ingredients.
Get the recipe
chicken-and-sweet-potato-bowls-for-kid-and-parent
Easiest Instant Pot BBQ Chicken
You can double this recipe and use 2 pounds of chicken if desired. Just do your best to spread it into an even layer in the instant pot. (Note: The nutrition facts will vary based on the bbq sauce that you use.)
Get the recipe
instant pot chicken sandwich
Easy Pan-Seared Chicken
Try these quick and easy chicken tenders for a kid-friendly weeknight protein paired with a grain and a veggie (or fruit!)
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pan-seared-chicken-on-polka-dot-plate
Easy Instant Pot Butter Chicken
Forget takeout—deliver this popular Indian dish to your table instead. Shredded chicken thighs are coated in a rich, buttery sauce with hints of tomatoes, ginger, and garam masala—a messy but very flavorful finger food. Adapted from The Multi-Cooker Baby Food Cookbook.
Get the recipe
instant-pot-butter-chicken
Homemade Chicken Nuggets with Sweet Potato
You can double this recipe to feed a family of 4-6. Or make this smaller batch and serve to your toddler throughout the week. Try serving these with ketchup, ranch, or marinara sauce.
Get the recipe
homemade chicken nuggets
Slow Cooker Chicken and Bean Tacos
The combination of vegetables listed below delivers really nice flavor and consistency to the sauce, but if you want to simplify, you can just use 2 of the options. This recipe was updated in September 2019 to add an Instant Pot option.
Get the recipe
family style slow cooker chicken tacos
alphabet-soup-in-blue-bowl

Vegetarian Kids Meals

If you have a vegetarian household or you just want more meatless meals to reduce your grocery budget, here are some of our favs. (Those Tofu Nuggets are so darn delish!)

Crispy Baked Tofu Nuggets (SO Good and Easy)
Tofu is typically sold in 14-16 ounce blocks. If yours is 16 ounces, you may need 1 ¼ cup panko. The garlic powder is optional, but adds nice flavor.
Get the recipe
tofu nuggets
Crispy Baked Fish Sticks (to Share with the Kids!)
We like to have these with simple sides such as Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Broccoli, or Salad. They’re also great in tacos!
Get the recipe
fish-sticks-with-ketchup-and-lemon
20-Minute Stir Fry Noodles with Veggies
Try this quick family dinner the next time you're craving healthy comfort food—and want to please the entire family! You can add a protein to this dish if you'd like. See the Notes for options.
Get the recipe
stir fry noodles with vegetables
Vegetable Stir Fry with Rice and Tofu
I like to use vegetables like carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, and snap peas in this easy recipe. Plan to cook the rice ahead of time or to get it started first.
Get the recipe
sesame-tofu-with-veggies-and-rice-in-bowl
Easy Zucchini Fritters Recipe
We bake these Zucchini Fritters since they are easier to cook and easier to clean up. If you have a lot of zucchini, you can double the recipe to make a full muffin tin's worth!
Get the recipe
healthy zucchini fritters
Make-Ahead Egg and Cheese Mini Muffins
These soft breakfast egg cups are packed with protein and vitamins—and can be made ahead of time! Add any veggie you like, whether carrots, butternut squash, broccoli, or spinach.
Get the recipe
egg-cups-on-plate-with-toast
Favorite Alphabet Soup
You can use ABC pasta, orzo, pastina, or ditalini—or any other very small pasta shape in this Alphabet Soup recipe. And you can start with fresh or frozen veggies. See below for options.
Get the recipe
alphabet-soup-in-blue-bowl
Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup (with Instant Pot Option)
The addition of grains helps to thicken the soup to a nice consistency for little eaters, so don't be worried if it's pretty thin before you add them in before serving.
(This post was updated and the recipe was streamlined November 2020. You can get the
original recipe here.)
 
Get the recipe
slow-cooker-black-bean-soup
Vegetarian Quesadillas with Beans and Cheese
You can make as few or as many of these easy quesadillas as you like.
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cut up vegetarian quesadillas for kids on plate
Easy Baked Salmon Cakes (Salmon Patties)
These tender fish cakes make a quick and easy pantry meal when you haven’t planned ahead for dinner. Recipe updated slightly to ensure moistness in June 2021.
Get the recipe
salmon-cakes-on-parent-and-child-plate
Quick and Easy Shrimp Tacos
If using frozen shrimp, transfer it from the freezer to the fridge the night before or in the morning that you plan to make this.
Get the recipe
shrimp tacos for kids and parents on plates
Italian Lentils with Rice
We like this with rice, but you can also serve this with pasta if you prefer.
Get the recipe
italian green lentils with rice and cucumbers
broccoli-pizza-bites-on-plate

Pizza Recipes for Kids

I know that takeout pizza (or frozen!) is always an easy option, but here are a few more in case you want to try a different pizza flavor. (Sign me up for Pizza Bites!)

Pizza Bites (with Veggies!)
Fluffy pizza bites are a delicious lunch or dinner option—and you can customize the filling to please your kids! We like these with a little side of warmed marinara sauce for dipping.
Get the recipe
pizza-bites-on-plate-with-pizza-sauce
10-Minute Flatbread Pizza (Just 3 Ingredients!)
For delicious homemade pizza without the work and in a lot less time, Flatbread Pizza to the rescue. Adjust this for allergies as you need.
Get the recipe
flatbread-pizza-on-plates-with-apple-slices
Quick and Easy Pesto Pizza
You can use any store bought crust for this recipe, or try my easy Whole Wheat Pizza Dough. I like making these as personal pizzas for the kids since they cook so fast, but you can also make one large pizza. See the Notes at the bottom for that info.
Get the recipe
pesto-pizza-on-pink-plate
Pizza Pockets with Broccoli and Cheese
If you’re using Homemade Pizza Dough, make it at least an hour before you plan to assemble the pockets. If using store-bought, let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes so it’s not super cold when you try to form the pockets.
Get the recipe
pizza pockets with broccoli and cheese
Favorite Pizza Rolls (with Spinach and Cheese)
Be sure to grease your pan well and roll the dough up fairly tightly around the fillings for best results. (But it's okay if they don't look perfect when they go into the pan!) 
Get the recipe
pizza-rolls-on-kids-plate
Homemade Pesto Pizza Rolls
With just 5 simple ingredients, you can bake Pizza Rolls with delicious flavor from pesto. These are versatile, perfect for any age, and a great make-ahead lunch or dinner option.
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pizza rolls on wooden plate
Pizza Muffins (with Veggies!)
These work well to make ahead and warm up for an easy lunch or dinner. These taste best served warm.
Get the recipe
pizza-muffins-on-wire-rack-with-kids-hand
Easy Greek Pita Pizzas
Serve these assembled as shown, or with the toasted pita bread alongside the hummus and toppings depending on how your child will prefer it.
Get the recipe
greek pita pizzas on pink plate with peaches
veggie-nuggets-with-ketchup-on-blue-plate

Veggie-Packed Kids Recipes

Most of the recipes in this post do have veggies in them, but here are some that go a little beyond. Find nuggets, tots, savory muffins and more that pack in the vegetables!

Homemade Veggie Nuggets (with 3 Veggies!)
I like to prep the veggies and rice ahead of time so that the process of making the nuggets is a little quicker. You can of course do it all at once though!
Get the recipe
veggie-nuggets-on-blue-plate
Homemade Broccoli Tots (Better Than the Freezer Aisle!)
Crispy on the outside and tender in the middle, these tots are a seriously fun way to serve broccoli. You can cook the rice up to 5 days ahead of time and store it in the fridge until you're ready to bake the tots.
Get the recipe
homemade broccoli tots
Homemade Cauliflower Tots
With quinoa, cauliflower, and cheese, these healthy little tots are a great finger food for kids. This recipe makes about 20 tots, which is 4-6 servings for toddlers—or 1-2 servings for adults.
Get the recipe
cauliflower tots on white and red plate
Homemade Chicken Nuggets with Sweet Potato
You can double this recipe to feed a family of 4-6. Or make this smaller batch and serve to your toddler throughout the week. Try serving these with ketchup, ranch, or marinara sauce.
Get the recipe
homemade chicken nuggets
Easy Vegetable Pancakes
We like these dipped in sour cream guacamole, salsa, or Cucumber Sauce.
Get the recipe
stack-of-vegetable-pancakes
Easy Veggie Muffins
I like to grate the carrot on a box grater and cut the top of each broccoli floret off and finely dice with a knife. Avoid the stems since they won’t blend into the batter as well.
Get the recipe
veggie muffins on gray towel
Easy Cauliflower Cheese Sauce (4 Ingredients!)
Perfect for dipping and dunking veggies, this recipe makes enough for 2-3 servings, so you can store any leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container. Reheat it for 15-30 seconds in the microwave to serve. You can also toss any leftovers with pasta for a quick and healthy mac and cheese.
Get the recipe
how to make cheese sauce
Easy Marinara Sauce with Extra Veggies
Serve this sauce with 1 pound of your family's favorite pasta for an easy and healthy dinner.
Get the recipe
easy marinara sauce in jar on towel
Healthy Meatballs (with Hidden Vegetables)
With the texture you expect from a traditional meatball but added nutrition from three types of veggies, your whole family will love these.
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healthy meatballs in large bowl and small kids bowl
Best Healthy Mini Meatballs
Classic Italian meatballs with kale tucked inside to help toddlers eat their greens! (You can of course use the more traditional parsley instead of kale if you prefer.)
Get the recipe
mini-meatballs-in-skillet-with-sauce
sheet-pan-quesadillas-on-platter

Easy Dinner Recipes for Family

With skillet recipes, one-pot methods, sheet pans, and short cooking times, these easy family meals are nice options for when you’re short on time and energy.

Easy Stuffed Peppers Skillet
You can use whichever type of rice your family likes best. We rotate through short grain brown rice, basmati, and jasmine. Adults may want to top their portions with shredded fresh basil and/or crushed red pepper.
Get the recipe
skillet-stuffed-peppers-in-adult-and-kid-bowl
One-Pot Pesto Chicken and Brown Rice
Add some warmed frozen peas, whole grain toast, or a side of fruit to add a few simple sides if desired. This recipe was updated in September 2019 to ensure the rice cooks through.
Get the recipe
healthy chicken and brown rice on kids plate
Sheet Pan Black Bean Quesadillas
These easy quesadillas can be made with pumpkin puree, sweet potato puree, or butternut squash puree. You can also skip it and just go with beans and cheese! I make these as half moon shapes since it helps contain the mess a little when feeding these to kids.
Get the recipe
sheet-pan-quesadillas-on-platter
Healthy Baked Sheet Pan Nachos
You can add some of the ingredients to some of the areas—leaving the spinach off, adding more salsa or spice—to customize for everyone at the table. I usually leave about a ⅓ of the pan for the kids with less greens and salsa and then pile it on for my husband and I.
Get the recipe
healthy loaded potato nachos
Easy Cheesy Rice (with Veggies!)
Choose one veggie to add from the flavor options below according to what you have on hand or what your family likes best.
Get the recipe
cheesy rice 4 ways with veggies
Easy Snack Dinner (to Share with the Kids!)
You can do a big family-style platter or individual ones for the kids depending on your preference. Add anything else that sounds appealing and know that the nutrition info will vary according to what you use.
Get the recipe
family-style-snack-plate
Easy Taco Buffet (No-Cooking Required!)
I prefer to make these vegetarian since it’s easier, but you can of course add in cooked chicken, beef, or shrimp if you like! Add another can of beans or additional corn to feed a larger family or appetites.
Get the recipe
taco-buffet-ingredients-in-white-plates
Easy Breakfast Burritos
These are called “breakfast” burritos since they have eggs, but you can serve them for any meal of the day!
Get the recipe
breakfast-burritos-on-purple-plate
Easy Sausage Meatballs
This will make at least two dinners worth of meatballs, depending on how many people are in your family. I like to freeze half of the batch to use in a future meal.
Get the recipe
sausage-meatballs-in-tomato-sauce
Quick Teriyaki Shrimp with Zucchini and Rice
We like this with rice or rice noodles, but you can adjust how you serve it to fit your family!
Get the recipe
easy teryiaki shrimp

Kids Dinner Tips

  • Use simple sides like fresh fruits, applesauce, whole grain crackers, cheese, and fruit cups to round out meals when needed.
  • Aim to include 1-2 foods the kids usually like (even if they are the simple sides above) to help make sure family meals work for everyone at the table.
  • Remember that family meals are about nutrition and filling bellies, yes, but also about being together and connecting—and sometimes the kids just aren’t super hungry.
  • Take all of the shortcuts you need to make dinner happen for your family.
  • Start with small portions to lessen food waste.
  • Remind kids to share before taking seconds (or thirds).

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I’d love to hear your feedback on this collection of dinner ideas for kids, so please chime in below to share!

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