Simple Gluten-Free Dinners

Grilled fish tacos.

One thing I love about being gluten free is that is has really forced me to step up my game in the kitchen. Most nights, I’d rather make a meal than eat out. Since I rarely get home before 7:30, and usually must closer to 8 than I’d like, I’ve had to learn ways to make great meals that cook fast.

I’ve also learned that it’s absolutely critical to have meals planned in advance, so I have necessary ingredients on hand. This eliminates frustrating trips to the grocery store after work…because it seems like whenever I’m in a hurry, it has never occurred to the person in front me that, you know, groceries require money.

Cooking gluten free requires a few adjustments when it comes to ingredients, but it certainly doesn’t make getting food on the table more complex. I mean, as long as you’re not making an elaborate dish like lasagna with homemade sauce. That takes a bit of time to do properly.

Another trick I employ is limiting my sides to fast-roasting vegetables (like, on those nights when I’m in a hurry, no butternut squash that must be peeled). I keep the starches simple as well: rice or quinoa, both of which absorb flavor like crazy. If you’re so inclined, you can add grits or polenta to your repertoire.

The following ideas will help jumpstart your simple gluten-free dinners. As you can see, the one thing these meals don’t require are special, expensive gluten-free ingredients. In fact, for most gluten-free meals, it’s easy to pull everything together without investing in pricey specialty products.

  • Tacos: I love tacos during the week because they are so simple and always so good. You can make tacos a million ways, with a million different ingredients. Ain’t no ill that savory fillings, a bit of cheese, and a nice sauce can’t fill. In the summer, I go for grilled fish, a lemony topping made with chopped onions, a bit of lemon or lime, and maybe a bit of jalapeno. In cooler months, steak, chicken, or carnitas fill my corn — and gluten-free — tortillas.
  • Pasta: Pasta is pretty much the definition of a simple meal. Boil water, cook pasta, toss with your favorite sauce. You can have food on the table in 30 minutes or less. You can even make homemade pesto and still have food on the table in 30 minutes or less. My advice? Keep a couple of shapes of pasta around to suit every mood.
  • Grilled Meat and Veggies: I am an unabashed carnivore, so most of my meals include meat of some sort. I love to roast vegetables, so I crank up the oven to about 450 degrees. While the seasoning or marinade is doing its magic on the meat, I’ll get potatoes, rice, or quinoa going, and the other vegetables ready for roasting.
  • Curries: For me, the hardest part of making curry dishes is making the curry paste. That* takes some time. Once I’ve made the curry, most meals come together quickly. For example, a shrimp over curried rice is a fast and easy dish.
  • Salads: Salads make great meals, especially if you add a mix of vegetables and proteins. I love steak salads, and, every now and then, have a craving for Nicoise salad that can only be abated by frequent consumption of tuna!
  • Leftovers: Leftovers! My favorite use of leftovers is in fried rice. Basically, it’s a bit of protein, vegetables, cold rice (freshly cooked rice is too soft for this dish — let it spend the night a night or two in the refrigerator), a sauce made with gluten-free soy sauce, a bit of fish sauce (trust me on this!), and a hot wok.

Tip of the Week

Cook for multiple meals. Cook enough rice for tonight’s dinner and Friday’s fried rice. Boil a few extra potatoes for a head start on tomorrow’s chicken curry. Make extra cabbage slaw for a side salad later in the week.

Menu of the Week

Writing about tacos makes me crave tacos, to the point where I’m thinking of scrapping tonight’s menu and throwing some salmon on the grill. I love the way the tangy cabbage slaw offsets the fish. During the week, I’m more likely to used canned beans, so I season them with salt, pepper, and lime juice as they’re heating. The citrus livens up the beans.

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