comfort food and embracing the flavors of the season as we gear up for the holidays (even if they do inevitably look different this year, it’s hard not to get a little excited about the prospect of pumpkins and turkey and pine trees).Autumn is all about warming
When the air gets cooler and hectic summer schedules wind down, weeknight cooking can still be a struggle to fit in—because now there’s school, and there’s always work and other personal obligations…or at least plenty of doomscrolling to consume you. These 15 easy fall dinner recipes are quick and uncomplicated without compromising flavor. Who says you can’t get festive on a time constraint?
They also happen to spotlight some of our favorite fall ingredients that are starting to flourish in markets right now.
Few fall ingredients appeal like apples. Whether you’re using up your apple-picking bounty or picked them up from the corner store, they shine in sweet and savory recipes.
For a quick dinner, our Pork and Apple Burger recipe is a delicious alternative to store-bought beef patties and only takes 30 minutes or fewer (and the only tools you’ll need are your hands and a frying pan). Pork and shredded apples are combined with rosemary and parsley for deliciously fragrant patties that are great on buns or served over grain bowls with a crisp salad or slaw.
Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron Fry Pan in Flame, $180-$200 from Williams Sonoma
Cook your meals in a skillet the color of the leaves outside.
If you’re carving a pumpkin, save the seeds and roast them yourself—you won’t regret it. But the store-bought pepitas work just as well in all sorts of dishes.
Simply scattering roasted pumpkin seeds over soup is a great way to bring extra flavor, texture, and nutrition to a dish, but make our Savory Pumpkin Seed Rye Granola recipe and it’s even more interesting. The seeds join rolled rye flakes, parmesan, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard seeds for a crunchy topper for soups (like our Roasted Butternut Squash Soup recipe—or a can of Amy’s tomato), salads, or just to eat as a snack.
Eggplant, at peak season in October, is one of the most versatile pieces of produce and an excellent meat substitute for vegetarian dishes.
This Charred Eggplant Salad recipe only involves 15 minutes of active time and yields a flavorful, healthy fall meal. If you don’t have a grill (or it’s already too chilly to use it), roast the eggplant on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Related Reading: How to Char Eggplant without a Grill
A classic stuffed squash dish like our Roasted Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing recipe looks complicated, but only takes about 20 minutes of active prep time. Even better, the rice mixture can be made up to two days in advance (or you can use leftover rice from another meal as the base for this one).
But don’t forget about roasting squash on its own in order to use it in salads (like our Roasted Delicata Squash Salad recipe or our Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Salad recipe), pasta (like our Fresh Pappardelle with Butternut Squash recipe), and soups!
Related Reading: Why Roasted Vegetables Taste Sweeter
Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, and kale taste sweeter and even more like themselves in the fall (unlike many more delicate veggies, a little frost is good for them, which is why you can grow them in a fall garden of your own).
Cauliflower can be used in lots of ways, but cauliflower tacos are the perfect healthy, easy weeknight dinner for when you’re craving those summer Taco Tuesday vibes but need something heartier than delicate zucchini. This quick recipe yields 12 tacos—if you don’t have that many mouths to feed, use the extra filling for leftovers (toss them into quesadillas or on top of a salad or rice bowl). Get our Cauliflower Tacos recipe.
Meaty mushrooms are good all year, but especially so in fall.
Related Reading: Creamy Mushroom Recipes That Don’t Require a Can Opener
Figs are great in sweet and savory meals—see our guide to figs for more on different varieties and how best to use them.
For a quick weeknight meal, try our Bacon, Onion, and Fig Flatbread recipe (pictured at the beginning of this article). But if you want to get a jump on the week with some meal prep, our easy Chicken with Goat Cheese and Figs recipe embraces one of autumn’s favorite ingredient pairings. It yields six servings of chicken—perfect for pairing with different sides throughout the week, or turning into salads and sandwiches for lunch.
A perfect autumn pear is good for so much: slicing onto salads, eating out of hand, poaching, or baking into desserts.
But it’s also a great partner to savory roast meat, particularly pork—which also welcomes the addition of fellow fall fruits figs (and apples). Use a mix of fruit or a single type, as you prefer. Our Easy Roasted Pork Tenderloin recipe only takes about 40 minutes, and while it’s in the oven, you have time to whip up an easy side salad and maybe even mashed potatoes.
Related Reading: What Is the Difference Between Pork Loin and Pork Tenderloin?
Kale is incredibly healthy, but it’s also delicious—and versatile. You can use it raw in salads (pro-tip: massage it with the dressing to soften it up a bit); roast it for a crisp garnish (aka, homemade kale chips); or steam or saute it until tender.
This Kale and Potato Mash with Romesco Sauce recipe is the ideal weeknight meal: filling, easy, and healthy. It’s gluten-free and vegan, but more importantly, incredibly satisfying on every level, including flavor. The Spanish romesco sauce adds the extra kick to put this dish over the top.
Related Reading: 13 Amazing Vegan Sauces to Put on Everything
10. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are at their best in the cooler months, but don’t save them just for Thanksgiving.
This incredible Baked Sweet Potato with Molasses-Clove Butter recipe only requires five minutes of prep time—perfect for those scrambling weeknights (or, yes, a stress-free Thanksgiving contribution). It takes care of itself in the oven while you tend to other things, and will pair well with just about any grain or vegetable side you have in the kitchen—or partner with any meat you might want, or work on its own as a light meal, though a salad would be welcome. If you’re craving something a little more dressed up, try our Twice Baked Sweet Potato recipe with cheese, green chiles, and bacon.
Often thought to be a summer fruit, pomegranates’ peak season is actually October through May.
The crunchy, juicy, sweet-tart arils are great scattered in salads or stirred into grain bowls or rice dishes. This particular Chicory, Tangerine, and Pomegranate Salad recipe is an easy, light option with a bracing bitterness from chicory plus juicy sweetness from tangerine segments and piquant pickled shallots. Try serving it with crunchy toasts spread with goat cheese, or alongside a simple roast chicken.
Fresh cranberries start popping up in stores come autumn, and we recommend buying several bags to stash in your freezer (pretty much indefinitely, or at least until next year); you can easily make small batches of fresh cranberry sauce for using on sandwiches or alongside Swedish meatballs whenever the urge strikes.
However, we also recommend keeping a bag of dried cranberries on hand for all your fall favorite recipes: breads, cookies, pastas, pies. This light Wild Rice, Pecan, and Cranberry Salad recipe gets even better as it sits, so it can easily be prepared on Sunday and enjoyed all week. It also makes a fine stuffing for roasted squash.
The grape harvest lasts into the fall season, adding sweetness to cheese plates and roasted meats (try roasting grapes along with chicken or with pork sausages, or throw some into a hot pan when sauteing pork chops).
In our Grape and Taleggio Grilled Cheese recipe, grapes are bathed in grappa and added to a classic grilled cheese sandwich for a luxurious twist on a simple comfort food. Just add a green salad on the side and you’re good to go. OK, and a glass of wine too. If you can find Moon Drop Grapes, they’ll taste just as good but add a slight crunchy texture.
Related Reading: The Best Grilled Cheese You’ve Never Had
14. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are one of the most versatile autumn ingredients around, pairing with just about any protein.
Roasted Brussels sprouts alone are great and only take about 30 minutes, but this filling Warm Quinoa Salad recipe is an easy vegetarian option that turns them into a main dish with the simple additions of quinoa and even more roasted veggies.
Related Reading: Are Brussels Sprouts Just Baby Cabbages?
While not as widely known as other fall fruits, persimmons are well worth seeking out. They were a staple for Native Americans and early European settlers in North America (they’re also extremely popular in Japan) and have a lovely flavor that peaks in fall.
There are two types of persimmons you may see in markets: Hachiya and Fuyu. Hachiya persimmons are more elongated and are astringent if not completely ripened and soft (they should feel something like a water balloon when they’re ready to eat), but Fuyu persimmons have a flat bottom and can be used while still a bit crunchy—so they’re great for this Persimmon Salad with Sesame Vinaigrette recipe. You can also add persimmons to roasted meats like you might apples, pears, or figs.
Related Reading: Ingredients to Forage for This Fall
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