Girl Dinner is finally getting its spot in the limelight. Something I’m sure everyone’s done at least once, especially when you first move out. I spent so many college nights throwing together these iconic girl dinners. It’s a solo meal, a low-key charcuterie, a hodgepodge smörgåsbord. Girl dinner is for everyone, whether or not you identify as a girl. Think of it like a buffet for one. A slightly upgraded Lunchable.
Honestly, I love girl dinner. It’s pretty clear how much I love snacking — my whole brand is centered around fun food imagery. It’s one of my most common things to eat when I don’t feel like cooking a full meal but I also don’t want takeout. It’s also super handy in an intermittent fasting lifestyle or one meal a day. I usually do an 18:6 fast, which is 18 hours of fasting and a 6-hour eating window. It’s an awesome single meal, but it’s also great in a long-term relationship where you both need a break from elaborate meals and some quality time together.
While a proper girl dinner involves no planning, cooking, or prep, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to do whatever amount feels right for the moment. I believe that girl dinner can even be meal prepped to an extent, so it can feel like a special treat to look forward to at the end of a long day or week. A big part of girl dinner is aesthetic presentation. They say you eat with your eyes first, so take some time to make it look pretty.
No Cook Girl Dinner Ideas
Here's a list of common girl dinner aspects, and some more incorporated no-cook recipes.
Crackers, either store-bought or toast up some leftover bread or bagels to make crackers
Bread or naan
Cereal (Life, Chex, and Cheerios are my go-tos)
Cheeses, like fresh mozzarella, cheddar, brie, cottage cheese, or cream cheese
Cured meats, like prosciutto or salami
Chips & guacamole, queso, salsa, or other dips
Nuts, including flavored nuts like honey-roasted peanuts or sweet chili pistachios
Fresh or dried fruits, like apples, grapes, oranges, peaches, bananas, raspberries, blueberries
Smoothie or açaí bowls, as low-key and deconstructed as possible
Vegetables, like radishes, carrots, avocados, artichoke hearts, olives
Pickles or pickled vegetables
Pretzels, soft or hard
Greek yogurt with honey and granola
Hard-boiled or deviled eggs (they sell pre-hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerated section of grocery stores)
Jams or jellies
Leftovers (cold chicken or steak is a great addition)
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich (cut it into 4 triangles for that bougie tea sandwich vibe)
Even more regular than girl dinner in my house is pseudo-salad. Instead of fleshing out a full Cobb or chef salad, I love mixing up a bunch of different ingredients or leftovers into a salad. Most things will taste amazing with a basic olive oil and vinegar or a balsamic vinaigrette, which ends up being my go-to dressing. You don't even need lettuce or greens for a pseudo-salad, you just need a mixture of foods you like and some sort of sauce to mix it in.
Either eat it super deconstructed or craft it as beautifully as Iowa Girl Eats did. You can get pre-sliced fresh mozzarella or small mozzarella balls to reduce prep time, as well.
Smoothie bowls take a few minutes of prep, but you don't even have to go the bowl route. Just blend it up with a bit more liquid and dump it in a glass if you're too tired to artfully arrange toppings.
Deviled eggs are super filling, tasty, and satisfying. If you purchase pre-hard-boiled eggs, it's nearly no time to make even a small serving of deviled eggs.
Quick Cook Girl Dinner Ideas
Pasta in butter or oil (microwavable bag pasta makes this even faster)
Grilled cheese or melt
Rice (there are single-serve rice containers that microwave in one minute!)
Toasted bread or bagels
One of my guilty pleasures is cold pasta, so turning it into a meal is a delicious treat for me. I'm not a fan of traditional pasta salad, but I love to put a spin on it. My favorite kinds of pasta for salads are ziti, penne, spirals, and bowties because they hold the dressing well. When I make pasta, I often make too much, so I'll toss it in the tiniest amount of olive oil to prevent it from sticking and throw it in an airtight container in the fridge. I find that al dente pasta works best for pasta salads. I love to meal prep pasta salads for lunch, so this is an easy thing for me to find in my fridge and steal lunch from tomorrow-me for tonight-me's girl dinner.
My favorite combos:
Basil, chicken, shaved parmesan, lemon vinaigrette
Corn, garlic, cilantro, ancho chile powder, cotija, mayo, Mexican crema or sour cream, lime juice
Roasted cubed sweet potato, feta cheese, walnuts, hot honey
Shredded chicken, celery, onion, grapes, white wine vinegar, lemon, honey
Chicken, romaine lettuce, parmesan cheese, Caesar dressing
Mozzarella, basil, cherry tomatoes, balsamic glaze, olive oil
Peanuts, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, ginger, edamame, Thai basil, spicy peanut ginger dressing (this is great with soba or ramen!)
Provolone and/or asiago cheese, spinach, chickpeas, greek dressing
Though I'm allergic, I know how much people love a good shrimp ceviche. This doesn't technically involve cooking, but it takes a bit of waiting (around 30 minutes) until you can eat it.
Grilled Cheese or Melts
All it takes is one pan, some butter, bread, and cheese. And maybe ham, some veg, or other toppings to make it a melt and add some intrigue. You can even use one slice of bread and cut it in half so you have more room on your plate for other snacks!
Girl Dessert Ideas
The best part of girl dinner? No one can tell you you can’t have girl dessert, too!
Candy, like taffy, licorice, or caramels
Store-bought cookies or baked goods (a lot of grocery store bakeries offer single-serve desserts!)
Gummy bears or fruit snacks
Fruits with whipped cream or chocolate
Obvi, eating ice cream out of the pint is an acceptable girl dessert, but it can be fun to throw together a baked good in a short period of time. You can snag some fantastic mug cake mixes in the grocery store's baking aisle, so those are a great idea to have on hand if you have a sweet tooth. Below are some quick baked goods for a fresh-baked girl dessert.
This is a super easy single-serve rice krispie treat, making it a perfect quick addition to girl dinners.
Okay, yes, it's GIANT. But you deserve a treat! They review some great variants in this recipe so there's a cookie for everyone. It takes around 12 minutes to bake, so you can eat dinner while your kitchen smells like cookies.
Or...if you're feeling up to it, prep some cookie dough and freeze it for future girl dinners. I've had good success with Tessa Arias' how-to.
If you're willing to spend a teensy extra bit of time, you can eat your dinner while this small pan of brownies bakes for around 20 minutes. This is perfect to share or have an extra brownie or two for tomorrow (or not!).
Bonus Small Batch Baking Tips
Stephanie of i am a food blog has a fantastic write-up on how to easily scale recipes. Do yourself a favor and bookmark that to keep as a reference for all your girl dessert needs.
Girl dinner is more of a feeling than a specific meal. Girl dinner is all about treating yourself and doing what feels right for your body. It’s nourishment, but it’s happy nourishment.
Reward yourself for making it through another day in 2023. You deserve it!