The Mediterranean diet is a blessing for those of us who want to step up our diets without actually having to go on a diet. With its emphasis on eating more of the right foods (e.g., whole grains, good fats, lean proteins) instead of restricting entire groups of macronutrients, it’s a lifestyle that’s both sensible and sustainable.
It’s also all about enjoying your meals–which, let’s be honest, is hard to do if you’re spending too much time making them in the first place. After all, no matter how good for you a recipe might be, who’s going to have the energy to savor it if it takes upwards of an hour to get on the table?
But it's totally possible to put together the fresh, whole-food meals that the Mediterranean diet encourages in a reasonable time frame so that you truly can sit back and enjoy every bite. Drawing on flavors and ingredients from the Mediterranean, these 19 healthy dinner recipes take 30 minutes or less from start to finish.
Most seafood isn’t supposed to be cooked for very long, so it can be a great choice for a meal you need to be ready in 30 minutes or less. This recipe requires only four minutes for pan-cooking the cod and wisely using the remaining 20 minutes for simmering a flavorful paprika and pepper-kissed tomato sauce for the fish.
Nixing the dairy in favor of heart-healthy walnuts and with a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, this peppery and lemony arugula sauce is a vegan pesto lover’s dream. Here, it coats rotini and fresh veggies for a bright and zesty pasta salad, but you can easily use it as a marinade or a spread too.
A light coating of rice flour allows these pollock fillets to get perfectly seared without being burned. Serve it on a bed of semi-pearled farro and veggies for a full meal. Using the semi-pearled grain gives you the best of both worlds: It takes less time to cook than unpearled farro, but still retains more fiber than the fully pearled variety.
Shakshuka has origins in North Africa as well as the Middle East, but it’s just as common a dish in the Mediterranean region too. Plus, the ingredients of this take on “eggs in purgatory”—olive oil, tons of veggies, and protein-rich eggs—are perfectly suited for the produce and lean protein-loving Mediterranean diet.
Looking for a heart-healthy carbohydrate that more antioxidants, fiber, and cholesterol-lowering benefits than many others? Meet kamut, a superfood wheat that meets all that criteria. Make this ancient grain a new part of your diet, starting with these grain bowls, where they’re topped with even more healthy goodness like avocado, baked salmon, and just enough cheese.
With couscous at its base, feta cheese for protein, and hearty artichoke hearts in the mix, this may be a salad, but it’s also got enough substance to qualify as a light main meal. No creamy dressing weighing it down either; true to the Mediterranean diet’s principles, it’s tossed in a much more heart-healthy mix of olive oil, fresh basil, and lemon juice.
After slicing the onions, pretty much the only work you have to do for this recipe is lay out all the ingredients on a sheet pan. That’s it. No cutting the salmon fillet, no stirring the veggies, nothin’. The oven takes care of it all.
Toasting the orzo before cooking it gives it an especially nutty flavor that goes perfectly with the pine nuts in this hearty salad. Other star ingredients include blanched asparagus, savory feta, and creamy chickpeas, all of which are bound by a lemon dressing that enhances the dish without overpowering it.
A handful of dried herbs like oregano and basil makes this simple chicken, Swiss chard, and tomato skillet taste like the kind of meal you’d imagine eating on an Italian coastline. Pro tip: Boil some quinoa while the dish cooks, and you’ll still have a full, balanced meal ready to go in less than 30 minutes.
With multiple components, grain bowls can be time consuming to put together, but this one takes just 30 minutes while still managing to pack in several items. The trick is to pick a quick-cooking grain like pearl barley, which takes just as long to boil as it does for the veggies to roast. Then, top with no-cook ingredients like store-bought hummus and avocado.
Despite having “fritters” in their name, there’s no deep-frying involved in the making of these crispy yet soft shrimp and veggie pancakes. Lightly pan-cooked in olive oil (hey, it’s the Mediterranean diet, after all!), and topped with a refreshing Greek yogurt sauce, they’re a light and easy 30-minute meal—not to mention, a great way to eat zucchini if you’re sick of zoodles.
These may be called salad bowls, but there isn’t a single leaf of lettuce anywhere in sight. Instead, the base will be a protein-packed mix of couscous, feta, and veggies, while broiled beef meatball skewers (lean red meat is OK in limited quantities!) make for a super-satisfying topping.
You can totally still have pizza on the Mediterranean diet, but instead of globs of cheese and meat, opt for toppings that aren’t as hard on your gut (or your cholesterol)! This thin flatbread is piled with fresh veggies, cooked shrimp, and a sprinkling of Parmesan and feta, and is ready in a speedy 15 minutes!
Red meat isn’t exactly the epitome of the Mediterranean diet, but fish sure is! So next time you’re hit with a burger craving but trying to lay off the beef, turn to these salmon patties. Bound with sundried tomatoes, feta, and red onions, they pack way more of a flavor punch than even regular hamburgers, and the creamy tahini sauce is a serious step up from ketchup and mayo.
Peppers are often used in Mediterranean-inspired recipes, but this recipe flips the script, putting the Mediterranean-inspired recipe in the peppers instead. Here, they’re the perfect edible vessels for the stuffing of couscous, marinated artichokes, and baby mozzarella balls; with a sweet and tangy balsamic drizzle on top, they make for a classy vegetarian meal that’s done in just 25 minutes.
Pasta will inevitably make an appearance on the Mediterranean diet (Italy is part of the region, after all!), but if you’re looking for a lighter way to satisfy your need for noodles, zoodles are where it’s at. The spiralized veggie, along with seared chicken, is tossed in a tomato sauce that’s seasoned with pungent spices like ras el hanout and sumac for meal that’s big on flavors and low on carbs.
These incredibly easy quesadillas take a detour from Mexico to the Mediterranean with the addition of olives, roasted red peppers, and hummus. Want to complete the effect? Serve them with a creamy, yogurt-based tzatziki sauce instead of salsa and sour cream.
Once you scoop the seeds out of delicata squash halves and bake them, they become the perfect serving vessels for healthy stuffings. This recipe makes a sweet and savory date, chickpea, and olive filling that perfectly complements the mild sweetness of the veggie.
If you haven’t jumped on board the "eggs for dinner" train yet, this tomato and feta omelet might convince you to. Sweet paprika, dill weed, dried coriander, and fresh mint leaves give it a totally unique flavor that’s different (and healthier) from anything you’d find at your local greasy spoon. And the open-faced choice means you don’t have to deal with the risk of a failed omelet flip.