Here are 30 Weeknight Dinner Menu Theme Ideas to make meal planning easier! Use this list to help narrow down what to have for dinner using theme nights and browsing over 100 different dinner recipes.
What is a Dinner Menu Theme?
A dinner menu theme is a specific subject or topic of food and recipes that helps provide a more narrow list of meal ideas. For example, for Burger Night, all meal ideas would be related to burger recipes.
What’s on this list?
This is a list of 30 Weeknight Dinner Menu Theme Ideas. Each theme on the list has 3-4 recipe ideas included, so you’ve got a place to start if you’re trying to decide what’s for dinner.
How do I use this list?
The most important thing this list can do is provide you with dinner ideas so you’re less stuck when trying to decide what to eat every evening.
There are a few different ways to use this list of Weeknight Dinner Menu Theme Ideas. Here are my ideas:
- If you’re simply trying to decide what to make for dinner, this list provides tons of options. It’s easy to scroll through and find a topic or area of food that might interest you, because recipes are organized by theme.
- If you’re meal planning for the week and need a place to start, this list of dinner menu theme ideas can be referenced in order to add variety and think of new meal ideas when planning ahead.
- Some people meal plan for an entire month at a time. In that case, this list of 30 Weeknight Dinner Menu Theme Ideas can help add variety to the month of meals and can help ensure you never repeat a dinner meal.
- If you need some inspiration for general cooking, this can also be a helpful list of themes and recipes ideas to get you started.
30 Weeknight Dinner Theme Menu Ideas & Recipes
Meatballs theme might narrow it down, but there are so many different kinds of meatballs out there, and quite a few different ways to cook them.
You can cook meatballs on the stove top in sauce, bake in the oven, use your air fryer, or Instant Pot. You can make turkey meatballs, chicken meatballs, or classic pork and beef meatballs. I promise there's a meatballs recipe for you!
Meatballs Sub Sandwiches
Easy Freezer-Friendly Pesto Meatballs
Baked Turkey Spinach Meatballs
Baked Potato Night
Potatoes are wonderful and they can serve as the base for a variety of meals! Make the potato the main event instead of just a side by piling on the protein and veggies.
Topping ideas are endless. You can go with classic russet potatoes, or try a sweet baked potato base. Creating a baked potato bar is a great idea to let people customize their dinner!
Loaded BBQ Baked Potatoes
Buffalo Chicken Ranch Stuffed Baked Potatoes
Black Bean Stuffed Potatoes
Shepherd's Pie Loaded Baked Potatoes
This is one of the more broad themes on this list, but it still helps you narrow it down to which appliance you're using. Sometimes that's all you need!
You can make full meals in the slow cooker, or just the main course protein. I like to make sure I've got my slow cooker recipes planned out ahead of time since you may need to start the meals well before dinner time. But it's usually hands off the rest of the way!
Slow Cooker Peanut Chicken & Noodles
Chicken Cacciatore Slow Cooker Recipe
Slow Cooker Chicken Teriyaki Bowls
If you've never had gnocchi, you're missing out on an excellent, versatile base for meals. Gnocchi are small dumplings made out of potatoes. They work in pasta dishes, baked on a sheet pan, in soups, and more!
Gnocchi are very pantry/shelf stable and are a great thing to keep on hand for dinner time emergencies. You can serve gnocchi in vegetarian dishes, or alongside meat main dish recipes. It's quite versatile!
Sheet Pan Gnocchi and Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Gnocchi with Pomodoro Sauce
Crockpot Chicken & Gnocchi Soup
Giant Salad Night (also known as B.A.S. night) is one of the most versatile ideas on the list, because pretty much anything can go on a salad! Embrace all the toppings, delicious dressing, and get creative!
Ideas for toppings include any and all kinds of greens, cucumber, tomato, radish, sprouts, snap peas, carrots, shredded cheese, seasoned ground meat, sliced chicken breast, bacon bits, chopped nuts, berries, and more!
Loaded Ground Turkey Burger Salad
Everything Bagel Baked Salmon Salad
Ranch BLT Chopped Salad
It's Meatless Monday, but it can be any day of the week! If you don't normally cook vegetarian meals, it can be a good way to expand your skills and try something new.
Vegetarian meals do not include any beef, pork, chicken, seafood or other meats, however you can still enjoy animal products such as cheese or eggs, depending on what kind of vegetarian restrictions you prefer!
Veggie Loaded Lasagna Roll-Ups
Creamy Kale Pasta
Vegan Teriyaki Stir Fry
Buffalo Chicken Night is definitely one of the more specific themes on this list, but there are still plenty of ideas to try! Keep it totally classic with a dinner like buffalo chicken wings, or try something new like buffalo chicken mac & cheese. My favorite buffalo chicken recipe of all time is this Buffalo Chicken Casserole from PaleOMG!
P.S. The best compliment to buffalo sauce is ranch dressing, so if you've got some picky eaters, just add ranch and I bet they'll enjoy the buffalo flavor more!
Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Bake
Easy Buffalo Chicken Salad
Baked Buffalo Wings
Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese
Pesto is a wonderful flavor base to lots of different meals, and there are lots of different kinds of pesto. You can make your own at home or use store-bought pesto. There's classic basil & pine nut pesto, there's sun-dried tomato pesto, cilantro pesto, and more!
Pesto is great with pasta, but there are lots of other ways to use it too. Pizzas, sauces, rice dishes, on veggies, it's quite versatile!
Pesto Chicken Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Pesto Chicken Mozzarella Sandwich
One-Pot Pesto Chicken & Rice
Pesto Parmesan Pork Chops
This is another one of those categories that's a little more broad, but can still help you seriously narrow down the dinner ideas and land on the perfect meal.
There's ground pork, pulled pork, pork tenderloin, pork chops, oh and BACON! I always opt for sustainably raised & heritage bred pork from my ButcherBox meat delivery service.
Spicy Peanut Ground Pork Stir Fry
Everything Greek Pork Pitas
Crock Pot Pulled Pork
Instant Pot Pork Roast & Mashed Potatoes
Tex-Mex food is a fusion of Mexican and American flavors that originated at the southern border of the United States by the Tejano people. It's not authentic Mexican food, but it is incredibly delicious!
This includes things like nachos, queso, taquitos, fajita bowls, and these very non-traditional air fryer chimichangas, just like the ones from the freezer section!
Air Fryer Chimichangas
Air Fryer Chicken Taquitos
Rotisserie Chicken Nachos
Vegan Mega Burritos
What comes to mind when you hear the word stew? What kind of stew do you think of? When I hear the word stew, I get a very specific image of rustic hearty beef stew, full of potatoes and warmth.
In reality, there are several kinds of stew, and I'm sure you can find one your family would love. Stick with traditional, or try something new!
Old-Fashioned Beef Stew Recipe
Sicilian Style Fish Stew
Persian Beef Stew
Lasagnas come in ALL shapes and sizes - I think you'd be surprised! The fillings, the protein, the sauce, it's all up to you! There are literally tons of recipes for classic layered lasagna, but there are other ways to have lasagna too!
Did you know lasagna soup is a thing? What about stuffing lasagna into other things? Yes! It's all possible on lasagna night.
Leftover Vegetable Italian Chicken Lasagna
Instant Pot Lazy Lasagna
Lasagna Stuffed Peppers
Everyone does chili their own way, and I'm here for it! Chili is a top notch meal prep dish because it makes absolutely perfect, if not better, leftovers on day 2. Make some chili for chili night, and then have leftovers for the week's lunches!
There's vegan chili, meaty chili, bean chili, no bean chili, turkey chili, chicken chili, chili con carne, chili mac! and everything in between. Customize it to your family's taste buds!
Easy Slow Cooker 4-Bean Turkey Chili
Instant Pot Chili Mac
Roasted Corn Queso Chicken Chili
Okay, I know tofu isn't for everyone. If you're one of those people, you can skip this one and move right along. But if you like tofu, the door is wide open for tons of dinner ideas!
You can air fry it, bake it, marinate it, stir fry it, and more. I think the options are nearly as endless as the meat themed nights on this list. Some of my favorite food bloggers are really good at tofu, and here are some of their recipe ideas!
Crispy Baked Tofu & Hot Honey Glaze
Peanut Ginger Tofu Stir Fry
You have my permission to turn this into barbecue night, or BBQ sauce night! Whatever your family is in the mood for. It can be as simple as burgers and hotdogs, or get a little fancy with something creative like a spatchcock chicken!
If you want to keep it indoors, you can go for bbq theme with recipes like bbq chicken pizza, bbq pulled pork,
Habanero Barbecue Grilled Chicken Wings
Loaded BBQ Pork Potato Casserole
Homemade Chipotle Grilled Chicken
Juicy Grilled Pork Tenderloin
Sheet Pan Meal Night
Making your entire dinner on a sheet pan can save you serious time and dishes! There are so many ways to do a sheet pan meals and customize with your favorite proteins, sides, veggies and sauces.
My favorite proteins for sheet pan meals are chicken thighs and wild salmon. As long as you know the cook times and required temperatures of each ingredient, it's easy to make up your own sheet pan meals too!
Sheet Pan Hawaiian Chicken
Vegetarian Sheet Pan Quesadillas
Sheet Pan Greek Chicken & Vegetables
Mediterranean Salmon Sheet Pan Dinner
Possibly my favorite night on this list!! I love mac and cheese, and the good news is it can be made in so many different ways, as well as vegan! I promise there's a mac and cheese for everyone.
You can keep your mac and cheese basic, or add different cheeses, protein, and chopped veggies. You really can't go wrong when you start with noodles and cheese sauce!
Kimchi Bacon Greek Yogurt Mac & Cheese
Best Classic Mac & Cheese
Gruyère and White Cheddar Mac and Cheese
Lobster Mac & Cheese
Seafood night has tons of options, and most of them make a pretty quick dinner! Seafood main proteins, especially fish fillets and shrimp, are super quick to defrost and cook up even faster.
Some of my favorite seafood dishes include baked wild salmon, cilantro lime shrimp, and lobster rolls! You can go as complicated or as easy with seafood recipes as you want. Check out the examples!
Lemon Butter Seared Salmon
Crunchy Baked Shrimp
Garlic Basil Barramundi Skillet
This is one of the most narrow menu theme ideas on the list, but a great one if I do say so myself. Spaghetti squash can serve as the base of your grain-free casserole, turned into veggie pasta, or simply served as a side to the rest of your delicious dinner!
I seem to have a thing for spaghetti squash casseroles. You should try one of mine! Spaghetti squash is really good at taking on the flavors of the rest of the ingredients you use, so it can fit in with a variety of flavors!
Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti Bake
Meat Lover's Spaghetti Squash Pizza Casserole
Pesto Chicken Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Is casserole night possibly one of my favorites nights on this list? Maybe! Casseroles can be made with any flavor combo, any proteins, and any vegetables. You just have to find the kind of casseroles you like!
We already covered spaghetti squash casseroles on this list, so for legit Casserole Night, let's get back to some classic casseroles and some new casseroles that might be totally new to you!
Veggie Loaded Rotisserie Chicken Casserole
Creamy Pesto Pasta Chicken Bake with Peas
Cheesy Chicken Bacon Ranch Kale Casserole
Meatloaf might sound super specific, but there are actually lots of different kinds of meatloaf out there. If you can get the family to agree on a recipe, it can go in your permanent rotation!
You can opt for a classic meatloaf with multiple kinds of ground meat, or opt for a leaner ground turkey meatloaf! Or something with a totally different flavor profile - check the list below!
Unbelievably Moist Turkey Meatloaf
Extra Delicious Meatloaf Recipe
Cheddar Stuffed Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf
Wild Rice Meatloaf
This one is ALWAYS a hit around here! Everyone pick out their favorite apps, cook them in the oven, air fryer, stove top, whatever, and bam! a dinner that everyone loves.
No one said this was going to be a healthy night, but it's certainly an easy one. Every app is fair game. Homemade or frozen. Easy or difficult. You call the shots.
Hot Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese Dip
Buffalo Deviled Eggs
Pesto Goat Cheese Dip
Chili Cheese Dip
This is another more specific dinner menu theme, but it's easy to put together and loved by all! Go wild on toppings, or keep it simple. Try walking tacos, soft tacos, hard shell tacos, taco bowls, there are lots of options!
When I make tacos at home, I usually go for soft flour tortillas, and lots of sauteed veggies! And of course, do not skip the cheese 🙂
Air Fryer Flour Tortilla Bowls
Sweet Potato Black Bean Tacos
Carne Asada Tacos
It can be so much fun to recreate your favorite takeout dishes at home! While there are certain dishes I will leave to the professionals, making some yummy orange chicken at home can be so satisfying!
This can really be any kind of dish inspired by your favorite restaurant orders. I absolutely love noodle and chicken dishes, so I tend to go for those.
Air Fryer Trader Joe's Orange Chicken & Broccoli
Black Pepper Stir Fried Udon
Instant Pot Honey Garlic Chicken & Rice
Soup options are endless. You probably don't even need my help figuring out soup recipe ideas! But of course, I've got some for you just in case.
One of the best things about making soup for dinner is that generally, leftovers are meal prep and freezer friendly. I love using Souper Cubes Trays to freeze individual portions. Soup night can be zero hassle if you've got freezer meals ready!
Instant Pot Ginger Chicken & Rice Soup
Minnesota Wild Rice Soup
Easy French Onion Soup
Burger Night is a classic, but you also have the opportunity to reinvent with something a little funner. Even adding some sauteed mushrooms and melty cheese on top of your burger can take it to the next level!
Try black bean burgers, chicken burgers, turkey burgers, or fancy beef burgers with all the toppings! My favorite way to make a black bean burger exciting is to add pesto goat cheese and avocado!
Freezer Friendly Black Bean Burgers
Feta Basil Turkey Burgers
Sweet Chili Chicken Burgers
Canned tuna is a classic pantry staple and something you might already have on hand. You'll be surprised at how versatile it can be! A little more specific that seafood night, but possibly a little easier to accomplish with pantry items.
Some of my favorite ways to prepare canned tuna are in tuna noodle casserole, tuna melts, and classic tuna salad.
Tuna Melt Pita Sandwiches
Easy Tuna Patties
Tuna Salad Lettuce Wraps
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Pasta is a dish that can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be. You can go all the way to basics and try making your own pasta, or used box and then fancy it up!
There are so many ways to customize pasta night. Choose your sauce, pasta shape, proteins, veggies and more. Always top with some shredded parmesan!
One Pot Italian Sausage Pasta
Roasted Veggie Pesto Pasta Salad
Easy Homemade Garlic Bread
Date Night Mushroom Pasta
The absolutely most classic thing on this list. Pizza Night has been around since pizza has been around, I'm pretty sure. This night can be as easy or as challenging as you want! Make your own everything, or put a frozen pizza in the oven. Your call.
If you want to do something in between, you can purchase premade pizza dough and then make it into your own pizza at home. So much easier than dough from scratch!
Freezer Friendly Premade Mini Pizza Crusts
Sausage & Pepper Personal Pizzas
Homemade Pizza Dough for Beginners
I always get excited when I realize breakfast for dinner is an option! Since it's not traditional, I tend to forget about it. Putting it on this list as a reminder to myself! I rarely cook a huge full breakfast, but there's more time to do that for dinner. Breakfast burritos coming up!
Go sweet, go savory, go with something in between! Maple bacon pancakes would fit that bill nicely! But for real, you don't have to get fancy. But you can if you want!
Crispy Air Fryer Breakfast Burritos
Peanut Butter & Jelly Baked Pancakes
Veggie Packed Breakfast Fried Rice
Have Weeknight Dinner Theme Ideas helped you when it comes to trying to decide what’s for dinner? What’s your favorite theme night? I want to know how you use Dinner Theme Nights to help you meal plan. Share below!
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