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I Try To Cook Dinner At Home Almost Every Single Night — These Are The 16 Best Recipes I Tried This Past Year

From air fryer apple fritters to sheet pan bibimbap, these dishes are standouts.

I love cooking and I do it often...almost every night, actually. I usually cook for two but whenever I get the chance, I really enjoy cooking for bigger groups of friends and family. When I look for new recipes, I try to mix up my repertoire with dishes from different cuisines and cultures that call for exciting ingredients and flavors. I primarily cook seafood and plant-based recipes at home but I'll also mix things up every once in a while with chicken or meat.

Me in my kitchen with ingredients.
Hannah Loewentheil

While I love scouring the internet for new recipes and making different things, there are a bunch of recipes that are so good, I keep coming back to them. Here are some of the best recipes I tried in 2021 that I'll continue making for a long time to come (and you might just want to give these a try too).

1. Sheet Pan Bibimbap

Vegetable and shrimp bibimbap with a fried egg.
Hannah Loewentheil

I love bibimbap, a Korean rice dish that can be topped with anything from vegetables to bulgogi beef, but I usually order it at restaurants rather than make it at home because it requires quite a few steps. But this sheet pan version simplifies things and makes it a totally realistic weeknight dinner.

Start with whatever rice you like best — even frozen or microwavable if you're trying to save time. Slice and dice whatever veggies you like best from mushrooms and sweet potato to kale and cabbage, and toss them on a sheet pan. Roast everything simultaneously. When you have a few minutes left of roasting, add the rice and a cracked egg to the sheet pan and cook until the rice gets crispy and the egg whites are set. 

Serve everything in a big bowl with kimchi and gochujang for a little kick. Sometimes I keep this dish vegetarian but other times, I'll add some shrimp or thinly sliced soy and garlic marinated beef. 

Recipe: Sheet Pan Bibimbap

2. Salmon Niçoise Salad

Salmon Niçoise Salad
Hannah Loewentheil

I love Niçoise salad, which is usually made with tuna packed in olive oil, so when I saw this recipe that calls for baked salmon (one of my favorite foods), I couldn't wait to give it a try. This is one of those filling dinner salads that doesn't really feel like a salad at all: It's packed with string beans, potatoes, olives, capers, and tomatoes, and topped off with a runny, soft-boiled egg. 

It's really hearty and fills you up but still feels healthy. The dressing calls for a handful of ingredients but I always find that a simple mixture of mustard, lemon juice, and olive oil does the trick. 

Recipe: Salmon Niçoise Salad

3. One-Pot Chicken Tortellini Soup

Chicken tortellini soup in a Dutch oven.
Hannah Loewentheil

This recipe instantly reminds me of home and childhood and everything comforting. It comes together in a single pot and honestly you only need a few basic ingredients: carrots, onions, celery, store-bought cheese tortellini, chicken, and chicken broth. 

Depending on how much time you have, you can start with a whole small chicken, chicken pieces (e.g., breasts, thighs), or even shredded, store-bought rotisserie chicken. It's so good, so cozy, and tastes even better the next day.

Recipe: One-Pot Chicken Tortellini Soup

4. Butter Cauliflower

Butter cauliflower over rice with naan.
Hannah Loewentheil

Sometimes life gets in the way but I try to follow Meatless Monday as often as I can. I'm always looking for new vegetarian recipes to try out and this has been one of my absolute favorites. It boasts all the Indian flavors I love about butter chicken but it's made with cauliflower, which is roasted until slightly charred and crispy before being tossed in the fragrant, creamy, and spicy sauce. 

You can always swap full-fat Greek yogurt or coconut milk for the cream. I know the ingredient list can look a bit overwhelming but if you don't have one or two spices, the flavor won't be drastically different so work with what you've got. I love making this dish with Trader Joe's frozen naan on the side for dunking in the decadent sauce.

Recipe: Butter Cauliflower

5. Horiatiki (Greek Village Salad)

Horiatiki salad.
Hannah Loewentheil

Not all salads require lettuce. Case in point: Horiatiki, a traditional Greek salad made with big chunks of juicy veggies and creamy feta cheese. It's SO easy to make but because it only requires a few ingredients, it's important to go for quality. Grab the ripest, most delicious tomatoes you can find, high-quality feta in brine, and gooood olive oil. 

The dressing is so easy, you probably already have the ingredients in your pantry. Olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper are all you need. I like to add a little bit of lemon juice and dried oregano to the mix as well. Top this salad with your favorite protein like Mediterranean shrimp kebabs or Greek marinated chicken.

Recipe: Horiatiki (Greek Village Salad)

6. Pasta all'Amatriciana

A bowl of rigatoni ama
Hannah Loewentheil

On a recent trip to Rome, I fell completely and utterly in love with classic Roman all'Amatriciana. It's basically a spicy pasta sauce made with canned whole tomatoes, guanciale (or pancetta or bacon), and Pecorino Romano cheese, and it's freaking delicious. Once I got home from Italy, I was determined to recreate my favorite Roman dish at home. 

This recipe is fairly simple and because guanciale can be hard to come by here in the US, it calls for pancetta. This recipe also calls for spaghetti but I personally prefer bucatini or rigatoni. If you really want to pull out all the stops, get your hands on some freshly made pasta. And remember to reserve some of that liquid gold starchy pasta water for the sauce!

Recipe: Pasta all'Amatriciana

7. Apricot Chicken

Apricot chicken over rice with broccoli.
The Recipe Critic

I can't say this is a new recipe for me, per se, because apricot chicken is a dish that my mom always made growing up. But last year, I made it for the first time myself and it's already become one of my go-to, easy yet impressive dinner recipes. This meal is a perfect dinner party recipe because it's easy to make in a big batch and such a crowd-pleaser.

Four ingredients are really all you need: apricot preserves, Russian dressing, onion soup mix, and bone-in chicken parts (a mixture of thighs and breasts are best). I love serving it over rice pilaf with a roasted vegetable like broccoli. 

Recipe: Apricot Chicken

8. Blackened Fish Tacos

Air-fried, blackened fish tacos with slaw and avocado.
Hannah Loewentheil

Fish tacos are one of my absolute favorite weeknight dinners and this recipe is one of my go-tos. It calls for tilapia but you can use any white fish you'd usually see in tacos like grouper, cod, snapper, or mahi-mahi. It also called for Cajun seasoning but you can always just coat the fish in a handful of whatever spices you have such as paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and chile powder. 

After about 12 minutes in the oven, the fish is flaky and golden brown. Toss it into tortillas topped with cabbage slaw. The avocado sauce is pretty easy to make from scratch but I often just pick up some store-bought guacamole instead if I'm looking for a shortcut. 

Recipe: Blackened Fish Tacos

9. Vegan Mushroom Bourguignon

Vegan mushroom Bourguignon over egg noodles.
Hannah Loewentheil

Another plant-based recipe I've been loving is this vegan mushroom bourguignon. It has all the flavors I love about beef stew: It's savory, hearty, and warms you up from the inside out. But this version is totally vegetarian, calling for mixed mushrooms instead of chuck steak or short ribs. The vegetables are simmered in a stew of vegetable broth, red wine, tomato paste, tamari or soy sauce, Dijon mustard, and maple syrup. 

I love eating it over egg noodles or mashed potatoes to sop up all the delicious broth. Best of all, while beef stew can take quite a while to make and simmer until the meat is tender, this mushroom version is quick and no fuss, ready in about 40 minutes.

Recipe: Vegan Mushroom Bourguignon

10. Vietnamese BBQ Shrimp and Rice Noodle Bowls

Vietnamese BBQ shrimp vermicelli bowls
Hannah Loewentheil

These Vietnamese-inspired bowls are so versatile because you can pretty much use whatever protein or vegetables you have on hand. Start with rice noodles — I personally like using the plumper udon vermicelli noodles — and add your protein. This recipe calls for shrimp but you could use anything from chicken or pork to tofu or beef in the same marinade. 

Jazz it up with whatever toppings you like best: crushed peanuts, scallions, sliced cucumber, sesame seeds, avocado, etc. A few simple ingredients like fish sauce, chili-garlic sauce, and lime juice make this dinner taste just as good as your favorite takeout. 

Recipe: Vietnamese BBQ Shrimp and Rice Noodle Bowls

11. Sesame Seared Tuna

Sliced, seared tuna steak.
Hannah Loewentheil

I used to think seared tuna must be difficult to make at home because it seems pretty fancy, but it turns out it's deceptively easy. In fact, all you really need is 10 minutes. Start with sushi-grade tuna because you're going to sear it, leaving it rare and pink on the inside (although, of course, you can leave it on the pan for longer if you prefer your tuna more well done)

You can either spoon the sauce over the tuna or you can actually marinate the fish in it for an hour or so before coating it in sesame seeds. Serve it over salad, rice, in poke bowls, lettuce wraps, or really however you like best!

Recipe: Sesame Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna

12. Spicy Braised Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Spicy braised chicken lettuce wraps
Food52 / Via

I'm a big fan of lettuce wraps containing just about anything but this braised, shredded chicken in spicy, tangy tomato sauce is one of my favorites. The chicken comes together in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot in about 30 minutes. I serve it in DIY style with Bibb lettuce, radishes, shredded cabbage, fresh herbs, and the creamy avocado vinaigrette. 

Recipe: Spicy Braised Chicken Lettuce Wrap

13. Emily Mariko's Salmon Rice

Hannah Loewentheil

When I first saw Emily Mariko's viral salmon rice recipe, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. It didn't seem like anything so groundbreaking. But once I gave it a try, I understood what all the hype was about. This meal is so easy, especially if you start with microwavable or frozen rice to cut down on cooking time.

You can use baked salmon, leftover salmon, or my favorite — Fishwife smoked Atlantic salmon. For me, this recipe is all about the condiments. In addition to soy sauce, Sriracha, and Kewpie mayonnaise, I also drizzled my plate with Japanese barbecue sauce. And as for garnishes, get as creative as you want with avocado, scallions, pickled veggies, kimchi, and nori sheets for creating the perfect bite.

Recipe: Emily Mariko's Salmon Rice

14. Shrimp and Corn Stir-Fry

Shrimp and corn stir-fry with tomatoes.
Hannah Loewentheil

Granted this is more of a summery recipe but bookmark this one for warmer weather. In August, during peak corn and tomato season, there's nothing quite like it. This dish is as easy as any other stir-fry but it feels way fancier. You just toss all of the ingredients — onion, squash, shrimp, corn kernels, chopped tomatoes, and garlic — into a pan with olive oil and sauté until the shrimp is pink and everything is tender. 

I'll sometimes add a bit of broth or white wine into the mix. Top your plates with some fresh basil and red pepper flakes, and the result is so tasty. I've also used a mixture of different seafoods like shrimp, scallops, and lobster meat, and it's incredible.

Recipe: Shrimp and Corn Stir-Fry

15. Baked Fish With Lemon Herb Sauce

Baked fish topped with a green herb and lemon sauce.
Food52 / Via

What can I say about this lemon herb sauce? It tastes good on absolutely anything from roast chicken or acorn squash to flank steak or (my favorite) baked fish. Start with any white fish like red snapper, halibut, tilefish, you name it, and simply bake it in the oven with some olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Once the fish is flaky and cooked through, drown it in the lemony herb sauce. You can use pretty much any fresh herbs for the sauce, such as a combination of basil, cilantro, and chives. It's zesty and bright, and instantly turns a basic recipe like simple baked fish into something exciting.

Recipe: Baked Fish With Lemon Herb Sauce

16. Air Fryer Apple Fritters

Air frier apple fritters.
Hannah Loewentheil

What can I say about these miracle air fryer apple fritters? When I first saw the recipe, I didn't quite believe it; but after trying them for myself, they're my new favorite crowd-pleasing dessert recipe. Making them is as simple as whipping up the batter (it's a mixture of flour, sugar, eggs, half-and-half, diced apples, and some spices), then adding little mounds of the batter to the air fryer and pressing "start." 

After about 12 minutes, you've got golden brown and crispy-on-the-outside apple fritters that are doughy and gooey on the inside, bursting with tender chunks of fresh apple. Top them with the easy, four-ingredient homemade icing (it's literally just butter, powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract) and you have a dessert that's guaranteed to impress whomever you're cooking for. No one will believe these babies aren't deep-fried in oil.

Recipe: Air Fryer Apple Fritters

The year is almost over, and we're looking back on 2021. Check out more from the year here!