Turn Off the Oven: 25 No-Cook Meals


Making a meal in the summer doesn’t mean you have to cook. For many delicious meals, you need only “assemble.” Below are 25 cool, easy options. A few of the recipes below require just a little bit of cooking: boiling some pasta, making hard-boiled eggs, or frying bacon. Don't let that scare you off! It's maybe 15 minutes of range cooking at most, with no turning on the oven required. (See also: 25 Great, Cheap, and Easy Crock Pot Recipes)

1. Cold Avocado Soup With Sweet Corn and Bacon

This cold avocado soup with sweet corn and bacon from Joy the Baker is absolutely delicious. You can cheat a little and use frozen, defrosted corn, or canned corn and bacon bits, if that tiny bit of cooking is daunting. We liked it with some tortilla chips on the side. 

2. Gazpacho

Fire up your blender for this classic cold soup recipe.

3. Cold Russian Beet Soup

This is a very refreshing, pretty soup. The author suggests serving this cold beet soup with pumpernickel bread, and I agree — that’s the perfect thing. 

4. Simple Mexican Salad

I have already made this salad four times this summer. I am completely hooked on it! I also made the main recipe (the corn cakes with eggs), which was fabulous. Check out, though, the simple side salad (scroll down). Not only is this a very pretty salad, but it can be made “main dish” with the simple addition of bacon, ham, chicken or shrimp. 

5. California Wrap

Wrap it up! This California wrap sandwich from the Food Network is made extra-delicious with the homemade ranch dressing. The possibilities for wraps are pretty much endless.

6. Cool Veggie Pizza

When my friend Nancy Jo makes this veggie pizza, it is a work of art. Me...not so much, but it still tastes great. My modification, because either you love Miracle Whip or you don’t — leave out the Miracle Whip. (Apologies to those of you who love it.)

7. Spring Rolls   

A little more labor intensive are spring rolls. I must confess that mine never come out looking very pretty, although they taste good. Just about the time I get the hang of rolling them, I am out of ingredients! If you are good with your hands, these are really popular at potlucks. I love that I don’t feel guilty for eating them, because they are so packed with healthy goodies. We especially like the peanut sauce for dipping. 

8. Red Pepper Hummus

This is one of my daughter’s favorites. She doesn’t really enjoy cooking and complains about the heat, so it’s red pepper hummus and crackers to the rescue. Hummus is very healthy, cool, and easy to make. It’s also very inexpensive!  

9. Cereal

Also from my daughter — CEREAL! Yes, it's easy. It’s cool. It's nutritious. She isn’t the only one I know who eats cereal for dinner occasionally, so I had to include it. I am too much the traditionalist to eat cereal for dinner, but I know folks who will defend it.

10. Beans

Inexpensive, protein-rich, easy. Try rinsed black beans with canned corn, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, a dash of olive oil and salt. I like the fat-free refried beans with chips, a little fat-free sour cream, and salsa. Rinsed cannellini beans, cold pre-cooked shrimp, and canned green beans sprinkled with feta — YUM! 

11. Speedy Salade Nicoise

This Salade Nicoise is so delicious that I have taken to cooking extra red potatoes whenever I cook potatoes, just to have some on hand for this salad.

12. Cobb Salad

The best Cobb salad I ever had was at Bob’s Ranch House, in tiny Etna, California. I hope it’s still on the menu. Fortunately, they are easy to make at home. 

13. Chef's Salad

Another popular no-cook salad that really has it all is the chef's salad. I like this very traditional version. You can dress a chef's salad up or down, and give it an Italian flair with deli meats and cheeses. 

14. Salmon Spread

Salmon spread is something I could devour all by myself. I really have to watch it! Serve with crackers and grapes.

15. Chicken Pesto Croissant

I usually reserve sandwiches for lunch, but I will make an exception for delicious sandwiches like this chicken pesto croissant

16. Curried Tofu Salad

I have admitted it before — I am not a big fan of tofu. Add curry, though, as with this curried tofu salad, and I’m in!  

17. Pasta Salad

Pasta salads are another area where you can have endless combinations, especially if you have cooked ham, chicken, roast beef, shrimp, and beans around. Pick up some herbs to add in. Yes, you have to boil the noodles and chill them, but it’s worth the steam. I like to double the recipes and then we have lunch ready to go, too. Here is a good pasta salad recipe

18. Sardines or Oysters

Chill, and then open, a can of sardines or smoked oysters. This makes a refreshing dinner with some crackers, cheese, and fruit. Enjoy a glass of white wine and feel elegant.

19. Asian Noodle Salad 

Here is another popular potluck salad — cold Asian noodle salad. Yes, I know, you have to boil the noodles, which is technically cooking. It’s worth the 15 or so minutes.  

20. Curried Rice Salad

Curried Rice-a-Roni salad, in fact. Again, a minimum of cooking is needed, and this salad needs to chill. When I was a kid, my mother made it, and I just LOVED it.  

21. Stuffed Tomatoes

We cannot end this without the stuffed tomato! Scoop out a large, chilled tomato and fill with tuna salad, chicken salad, or ham salad. (Beginner cooks — to make these salads, add a little mayo to chopped, cooked meat. Add some sliced green onions, pickle relish if you like it, and a little chopped celery.) Serve with Triscuits.

22. Cheese Board

I love a cheese board with fruit and crackers. You don’t have to buy gourmet cheeses — just buy whatever is on sale, and slice. Serve with grapes, apples, and a little Dijon mustard.

23. Smashed Chickpea Sandwich

If you follow food blogs on Pinterest or Twitter, you would have definitely seen Two Peas & Their Pod’s smashed chickpea sandwich. This recipe went viral, and WOW is it delicious!

24. Cottage Cheese

Talk about lazy, but it’s cold and it’s satisfying — cottage cheese. Toss it into a big scooped-out tomato, pour salsa over, add fruit, top with hard-boiled eggs...whatever. I love cottage cheese, and it is a good source of low-fat protein. My mom used to slather cottage cheese over a Rye-Krisp cracker, top with sliced tomatoes, and liberally salt and pepper. It is very cool and delicious.

25. Chicken With Tarragon Caper Sauce

I saved my favorite no-cook meal for last — chicken with tarragon caper sauce. As you can see, this recipe was published by Bon Appetit in August, 2003. I bet I have made it three or four times a year, since. If you cannot get fresh tarragon, you can use dried. This is also a fantastic use for a cold rotisserie chicken. Serve with French bread, because you will want to get every bit of sauce off of your plate (as long as Letitia Baldridge isn’t at the table).

There you are — 25 easy ways to stay cool at mealtime, with a minimum of fuss. Readers, any easy ideas to add?

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Guest's picture

I'm gonna try some of these. Thanks. :)

Marla Walters's picture

Glad to hear that -- and you're welcome!

Guest's picture

I've been eating hummus with almost everything these days! I love Roasted Garlic and Roasted Red Pepper hummus with broccoli, celery peppers, and even on grilled chicken. Its also very filling so this is a perfect cool ingredient to center a summer dinner around. I also just clicked on that smashed chickpea sandwich recipe, and um, it looks amazing! I'm definitely going to have to try it out I LOVE avocado. Thanks for these cool recipes!

Marla Walters's picture

Hi, Kelly, and thanks for the comment. I now have to try the red pepper hummus on grilled chicken. That sounds great. Doesn't that sandwich look beautiful! Almost too pretty to eat. Almost. ;-)

Guest's picture

These all sound good. Especially the cheese board.

Marla Walters's picture

Hi, Victoria! I know . . . cheese boards, YUM. I try to eat more fruit than cheese, but am rarely successful.

Guest's picture

Red pepper hummus is my favorite choice here! I take mine with left over pita bread that gets warmed up and its a real frugal treat. Thanks for the list!

Marla Walters's picture

Thanks for the comment, John! I love pita but every time I try to stuff them, they tear! Maybe I should be warming them up!

Guest's picture

Cool Veggie Pizza sounds interesting. I have to try this. And thanks for your useful article.

Marla Walters's picture

I just wish that when I made it, it turned out as pretty as my neighbor's. I'm like, Pinterest Fail. :-) Tx for commenting; hope you tried/enjoyed it.

Guest's picture

I am going to try the avocado/chick pea sandwich but would like suggestions as to what to substitute for cilantro which I don't care for.

Marla Walters's picture

Peggy, you won't be sorry. That is one popular sandwich.

People seem to be pretty evenly divided over cilantro - love it, or hate it!

If you like chives, I think those would work nicely.

Thanks for your comment!

Guest's picture
Jim H

I like a tomato sandwich. Fresh cut tomatoes, Bread, Mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Basic and easy. Tastes better if the tomatoes are from your garden (or your neighbors...).

Marla Walters's picture

Hi, Jim! That is one of my brother-in-law's favorites, too. I agree, the tomatoes are best home-grown, neighbor-grown, or from a farmer's market. Grocery store tomatoes - ugh.

Guest's picture

I love the California Wrap! Its so nice to be able to quickly make a meal without the oven... especially in the hot summer months.

Guest's picture

My favorites are hummus with pita bread or guacamole with tortilla chips! Quick and easy snacks.

Marla Walters's picture

Not to mention cheap, cool, healthy . . . all-around excellent. :-)

Guest's picture

Link to #4 Simple Mexican Salad is not working. Would love to have the link...sounds like something I'd like.

Amy Lu's picture
Amy Lu

Sorry about that, Guest! You can find that recipe republished here:


The salad starts at Step 5.

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