When you know you’ll spend Christmas Day whipping up a fabulous feast, it’s easy to fall back on Chinese takeout for dinner on Christmas Eve. You want something tasty, but you’ve also got a million other things to do. Before you pick up the phone, consider one of these 21 Christmas Eve dinner ideas, all of which happen to take 40 minutes or less to make.
1. Cacio e Pepe (20 minutes)
A classic Italian recipe that feels fancy (especially if you nail the pronunciation), but it actually requires just four ingredients if you don’t count salt and pepper.
2. One-Pan Roasted Salmon with Potatoes and Romaine (40 minutes)
The main course and side dishes all come together on the same pan, so you can wrap last-minute gifts instead of cleaning up after dinner.
3. Skillet Gnocchi with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe (30 minutes)
Shhh…don’t tell anyone that you started with store-bought gnocchi and they won’t know the difference.
4. Alison Roman’s Swordfish with Crushed Olives and Oregano (30 minutes)
Presenting the easiest way to cook fish at home: This stunner calls for fewer than ten ingredients and the most difficult thing you have to do is toss together the sauce.
5. Goat Cheese Pasta with Spinach and Artichokes (25 minutes)
The secret to a creamy, 30-minute pasta dish? Goat cheese. It melts together with the pasta water for the easiest sauce ever.
6. Citrus, Shrimp and Quinoa Salad with Feta (20 minutes)
If you’re anticipating a gut-busting Christmas feast, why not keep things on the lighter side with a bright, briny shrimp salad?
7. Pan-Seared Scallops with Citrusy Corn Succotash (40 minutes)
Something about scallops screams special occasion, so it’s a pleasant surprise that they require only two minutes of cooking per side (and are actually pretty nutritious).
8. Moules-Frites (Steamed Mussels and Fries) (30 minutes)
We don’t know if Parisians eat mussels and fries on the night before Christmas, but Santa does.
9. Chrissy Teigen’s Cheesy Chicken Milanese (40 minutes)
Pan-fried chicken stuffed with gooey, melty cheese is our idea of festive. Serve it with thin ribbons of Parmesan for good measure.
10. Greek Chicken and Rice Skillet (40 minutes)
Easy, gorgeous and delicious are our three favorite food groups. Plus, there’s feta—need we say more?
11. Whole Roasted Branzino with Shaved Fennel Slaw (20 minutes)
Yes, you can (and should) roast a whole fish at home. Ask the fishmonger at your supermarket to clean the fish, so all you’ll have to do is add citrus and herbs.
12. Firecracker Chicken with Rice (35 minutes)
If you absolutely must eat Chinese food on Christmas Eve, make it this easy, breezy General Tso’s-esque chicken.
13. One-Pot Cheater’s Bouillabaisse (30 minutes)
This Provençal seafood stew normally takes two hours to make, but we’re proving you can do it in less than half that amount of time (and it tastes just as good).
14. Cheater’s Beef Stroganoff (30 minutes)
By the time you pour yourself a glass of chilled red wine, dinner will already be on the table.
15. Pomegranate-Maple Glazed Lamb Chops (40 minutes)
We promise these lamb chops are as foolproof to cook as chicken. The pomegranate molasses glaze is a sweet-and-sour cherry on top.
16. Pistachio-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Apple and Escarole Salad (40 minutes)
If you’re used to dry, boring pork tenderloin, you’re in for a treat. This one is buttery and tender, and best of all, the entire meal is cooked on a single baking sheet.
17. Ultimate Cheese Plate with Roasted Grapes (30 minutes)
If you can’t serve a cheese platter and call it dinner on Christmas Eve, when can you?
18. Pan-Fried Cod with Orange and Swiss Chard (30 minutes)
From fridge to table in 30 minutes is our new mantra. If you’re not into Swiss chard, try kale or collard greens instead.
19. Pork Scallopini with Lemon, Capers and Radicchio (20 minutes)
A well-stocked pantry is all you really need for this quick-cooking dish. It’s as simple to make as chicken cutlets but feels fancy enough for a celebration.
20. Homemade Swedish Meatballs (40 minutes)
Hearty, comforting meatballs are always a good idea. These are best served on a bed of buttery mashed potatoes.
21. One-Pan Steak with Beets and Crispy Kale (40 minutes)
No fuss and no muss here—just a few juicy, impeccably cooked steaks and practically no cleanup. Merry indeed.