Recipes for Summer Lunches and Brunches

Posted: August 2, 2021 12:42 pm

When it’s hot and humid, the last thing that you feel like doing is cooking a five-course meal. A better idea is to prepare light and low-effort dishes that take advantage of fresh summertime ingredients and avoid heating up your kitchen with hours of stove or oven use. If you play your cards right, these dishes can also double as finger foods for a brunch, picnic or beach day!

Let’s look at some quick and easy meals for summer that will taste great while also avoiding heatstroke of the chef.

1. Spring Rolls With Peanut Ginger Sauce

Beautiful and bountiful, these spring rolls are stuffed with vibrantly colorful ingredients like carrots, bell peppers and purple cabbage leaves. Then they’re wrapped in transparent rice paper that shows off the rainbow. They’ll make a fun and festive centerpiece for lunch on the deck; just don’t forget the peanut ginger dipping sauce!

2. Grandma’s Classic Potato Salad

Perfect for a backyard barbecue, this potato salad will bring back memories of running around the sprinkles during Fourth of July celebrations. It also has a secret ingredient: Miracle Whip! The creaminess blends perfectly with the tang of the vinegar-tossed potatoes and veggies. This recipe definitely deserves to go in the summer recipe hall of fame.

3. Shrimp Ceviche Tostada

Nothing says summer like seafood, so if you’re looking to bring the day’s catch to the dining room table, consider something like these shrimp ceviche tostadas. Their white, yellow, green and red colors give them a lively summertime feeling, and you can top them with additional avocado slices for an even prettier Instagram photo of your lunch.

4. Lobster Sliders

Creamy and crunchy, these lobster sliders are a great alternative to the traditional sit-down version. The spread is made with celery, dill, mayonnaise, tarragon and lemon zest, and all of the lobster meat that you can eat. Tuck it between a buttery, golden brown roll, and you’ll be ready for a flavorful crunch with every bite!

5. Mediterranean Pasta Salad

You don’t have to get on a plane to experience the Mediterranean. Just find yourself a salad bowl and toss some pasta noodles with bright, colorful additions like arugula, olives, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. This recipe uses rigatoni noodles for their aesthetically pleasing corkscrew shapes, but you can substitute anything from fusilli to farfalle according to your tastes.

6. Instant Pot Summer Soup

Summer soup is distinguished from other types of soup with its thin stock and farm-fresh ingredients. Rather than being a thick, hearty stew that sticks to your ribs, it’s more of a light appetizer or side dish that can whet your appetite for the main meal. This particular recipe makes use of corn, zucchini, carrots, tomatoes and celery, and everything can be cooked in a hands-off way with an instant pot.

7. Easy Kimbap

Kimbap is a popular dish in Korea that’s associated with hikes and picnics. It’s basically a sushi roll, but instead of raw fish, you can use whatever meats or veggies that you’d like. They all get coiled into sticky white rice flavored with sesame oil and wrapped with seaweed paper. When the roll is complete, slice it into small, round pieces, and you have a picnic-ready collection of dainty finger foods.

8. Cilantro Lime Grilled Watermelon

Are you firing up the grill this summer? If so, you won’t want to miss this grilled watermelon recipe. It will create stunning char marks on your favorite summer fruit, and the cilantro and lime juice will give it an unexpected kick that’s slightly sweet and slightly tart. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll probably find yourself grilling the entire watermelon piece by piece!

9. Chicken and Bulgur Salad With Peaches

If you enjoy savory lunches but want to avoid hours in the kitchen for meal prep, you might like this chicken and bulgur salad. It takes just 20 minutes to make, and it uses grilled chicken as the centerpiece of a bulgur and arugula salad that’s also tossed with peaches and cherry tomatoes. It’ll say summertime while also filling you up like a proper lunch!

10. Goat Cheese–Stuffed Heirloom Tomatoes

Perfect for late summer, this dish will let you enjoy tomatoes one last time before they go out of season. You’ll need to roast them for 25 – 30 minutes to bring out the full extent of their goat cheese and creme fraiche mixture, but that’s all. Maybe you can cook them in the cooler hours of the morning before serving them for an early lunch or brunch.

11. Turkey Roll Ups

While the combination of turkey and cranberry sauce might make you think of Thanksgiving, these roll-ups will also serve as wonderful no-cook meals for summer. Just take some deli meat, sliced cheese and lettuce and add it to a tortilla that’s been spread with a mix of cranberry sauce and cream cheese. It’ll be a nice way to spruce up your typical sandwich fare!

12. Acai Bowl

At just 70 calories per serving, acai berries are featured in many light, low-calorie recipes, but the easiest way to enjoy them is with a straightforward acai bowl. Just blend the berries with milk and yogurt before topping the resulting puree with your choice of sliced fruit, granola, coconut, nuts or seeds. It’ll be great for recharging after a visit to the gym!

13. Fish Tacos With Tomatillo-Jalapeno Salsa

Wake up your taste buds with these tart and tangy tacos. The halibut is prepared with lime, lemon, cilantro and garlic, and the salsa is mixed with everything from tomatillos to jalapenos. It’s recommended that you serve the tortillas warm, but if you want a cooler, more refreshing dish, you can also opt for refrigerated tortillas.

14. Buttery Garlic Steamed Clams

Clams can be enjoyed in numerous ways, but it’s hard to beat the old “clam and butter” combo, especially when it’s paired with a velvety white wine sauce that also makes use of garlic and lemon juice. They’re best prepared on the stove with a covered pan that will allow you to steam them like a seasoned chef. When you’re done, use the leftover lemon slices as a garnish for your plate.

15. Zucchini Noodles With Pesto and Parmesan

No-cook recipes are a great way to stay cool in the summer, so if you want to avoid hours in a sweltering kitchen, try some zucchini noodles! They’re easy to prepare and will absolutely pop with color on your plate. You can toss them with pesto and Parmesan cheese to make them a lunch meal on their own, but they’re also great as a substitution for other types of pasta in other types of recipes.

16. 20-Minute One-Pan Pizza

Eat your heart out, Dominoes! This pizza is both cheaper and healthier than anything you can order, and it can be cooked in less time than it takes for delivery, too. The trick is to do everything in a single pan. Not only will it result in less clean-up afterwards, but it will also bring the ingredients together in a harmony of melted cheese and marinara with pepperoni dotting the top.

17. Cheesy Savory Pancakes with Green Onions

Who says that pancakes are only for breakfast? This recipe calls for things like cheddar cheese and green onion in place of syrup and other sugary elements. They’ll be just as thick and fluffy as the real deal, but they’ll have heartiness rather than sweetness. You can also add things like bacon, kimchi, diced ham or grated veggies for further texture and flavor.

18. Chilled Rosè & Watermelon Soup

Another one of those fun summer recipes that combines unlikely ingredients, this rosè and watermelon soup marries its flavors by cooling in the fridge for awhile. When it reaches a slush-like consistency, you can pour it into chilled bowls and garnish it with mint. It’ll be light, breezy and thoroughly dazzling for all of the ladies in your book club.

19. Tofu Tacos

Packed with protein and fiber, these tofu tacos will make a healthy summer lunch that’s also vegan- and vegetarian-friendly. They require just seven minutes on the stove to make the tofu crumble like ground beef, and then you can move to the counter and mix the tofu with a cool and refreshing blend of yogurt, coleslaw and scallions. This recipe turns them into open-faced tacos, but you could easily repurpose them as burritos or lettuce wraps instead.

20. Tilapia With Mango and Lemon

Tilapia is the perfect fish for light summer recipes since it doesn’t have dominant flavors that will take over the entire meal. Instead, it’ll absorb the glaze of olive oil and dill weed that you brush on it, and it’ll look absolutely cinematic with the lemon and mango slices that you place on top. Everyone on Twitter will be so jealous!

21. Grilled Caesar Buffalo Chicken Salad

Buffalo chicken is always a crowd pleaser, so if you’ll be grilling during a pool party or other backyard event, put this buffalo chicken salad on the menu. It’s deceptively simple to make, so much so that you could also prepare it indoors with a stovetop grill. The choice is yours. The warm, sweet, drip-off-the-meat sauce will be delicious either way.

22. Vegetarian Thai Peanut Wraps

Another great recipe for vegetarians, these wraps require zero cooking time unless you’d like to toast the tortillas for an extra crunch. Otherwise, just shred your choice of cabbage, carrots, onions, bell peppers or edamame, and stuff the whole thing into tortillas before drizzling a homemade peanut sauce on top. It’ll be just as tasty as anything from a real Thai restaurant.

These are just a few summer recipe ideas that will take advantage of the season’s vibrant colors and flavors. While we’ve curated this list with lunch in mind, feel free to repurpose them for snacks, dinners, brunches, breakfasts and more. It’s summer! Go nuts!