5 Healthy Dinner Ideas For When It's Simply Too Hot To Cook
When a heat wave swings into town, it comes time for cooking-free dinners. The name of the game when it comes to heatless dinners is assembly, pairing perfect ingredients to make something that feels like a meal without turning on your oven or stove at all. It's also a great time to dive into your fridge in search of leftovers (that you've already cooked) to repurpose them.
There are a few formulas that bode well for a perfect dinner option sans heat—here are some of our favorites.
A nutrient-dense green salad
Perhaps the most obvious choice for an assembled-without-heat dinner is a salad, but it's all about layering flavors, textures, and nutrients to make a salad that you're excited to eat for dinner. Picking an inspiration point, be it an ingredient or a culinary style, is a great way to develop a perfect salad.
Start with a dark leafy green for a good base, and then focus on adding components for healthy fats, protein, salt, acid, and crunch to make it a filling meal. Some of our favorite dinner-worthy salads are this creamy vegan Greek salad and this Green Goddess salad that relies on leftovers—but you can make sure your salad hits all the right marks with this advice.
A lettuce-less salad
Technically, a salad doesn't have to have a lettuce base. And sometimes, you don't want to eat lettuce, anyway—and that's where a lettuce-less salad comes into play.
While your fridge may be free of leafy greens, it's likely not free of produce entirely, and you can get creative with pairing ingredients—like mung beans with mangos or avocado with fennel—to make something unique and nutrient-packed.
A well-rounded cheeseboard
While it may sound more like hors d'oeuvres (or a dessert, depending on where you are), a carefully planned cheeseboard can be a perfect dinner option for days when it's simply too warm. We'd recommend leaning as much on the fresh accompaniments (like fruit and veggies) as you do on the cheese for a lighter feeling after finishing your meal.
If you're hitting the stores, plan on picking up some of these healthier cheese options, some protein-packed nuts, and your favorite fresh fruits—and maybe pull out a homemade sourdough loaf, if you're one of the many who learned the skill during lockdown.
A fun summer gazpacho
Just like we love to lean on smoothies and smoothie bowls for breakfast in the hotter months, we again turn to the blender for some dinner inspo. Originally an Andalusian recipe, it's traditionally a cold soup made by blending vegetables together and often includes tomato—but recipes can include a wide variety of ingredients including watermelon and more.
This simple avocado gazpacho is a great starter recipe: To make it, just blend an avocado, a cucumber, a handful of cilantro, half a red onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 seeded jalapeño, the juice of 1 lime, and a cup or so of veggie stock plus salt to taste until smooth (add more stock if necessary). Pulse in a few ice cubes to make it extra cold, and voilà: the most refreshing, heart-healthy dinner you can eat, at the perfect cooling temperature.
A simple hummus & veggie platter
We can think of plenty of ways to eat hummus—it's so much more than just a dip, after all! It's a great base on sandwiches or added to salads and can even be flipped into a savory pasta sauce. But we still love having it on a platter with all of our favorite vegetables, and if you feel like doing a bit more "cooking" for your dinner there are tons of great homemade hummus recipes you can make.
These warmer days leave us thinking about fresh flavors. Some other tips? Carefully picking ingredients that are believed to be cooling or pairing your meal with a cooling Ayurvedic beverage are great ways to make a warm-weather meal more pleasant.
Eliza Sullivan is an SEO Editor at mindbodygreen, where she writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She received a B.S. in journalism and B.A. in english literature with honors from Boston University, and she has previously written for Boston Magazine, TheTaste.ie, and SUITCASE magazine.