If the weather by you is anything like New York right now, it's hot. It's there's-no-way-I'm-turning-the-oven-on hot. At times like these, we turn to recipes that require only the bare minimum of cooking—and, moreover, are served cold. We don't want to sweat over a meal these days—we want it to be so close to effortless that we can pretend we didn't make it at all but instead had it served to us on a quiet little stretch of private beach. If you want a tasty dish that can be pulled together with the least possible heat or if you just don't want to spend your precious summer days cooking, let these 20 quick and refreshing recipes come to your rescue.
This icy cucumber soup is an easy and refreshing way to beat the sweltering summer heat. The water-based soup is infused with fresh cucumber flavor while soy sauce and vinegar add bright, savory, and salty notes. For even more flavor, you can add rehydrated and blanched miyeok (wakame) seaweed or even very thinly sliced onion and julienned carrot. It’s a soup that delivers cool, savory results using only a few ingredients.
These Korean cucumbers are tart, spicy, and sweet all at once. To draw out their moisture, the cucumbers are massaged with salt, sugar, and gochugaru (Korean chili flakes) before being drained and squeezed. Then, we toss them with sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, and garlic. Complete with crunch, succulence, and acidity, it’s a revamped version of pickled cukes that works as both a side or a snack.
We guarantee that a dish made up of pantry staples won’t disappoint in flavor or quality. Case in point: this creamy white bean and tuna salad. Here, cooked white beans and rich, flaky oil-packed ventresca (tuna belly) are amplified by ingredients like briny vinegar, pungent red onions, fruity olive oil, fresh parsley, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. This hearty but light salad requires only about five minutes of work, making it a low-effort, warm-weather meal that’s as filling as it is delicious.
For a quick no-cook snack or appetizer, try these light summer rolls. Dip the rice paper wrapper in water before filling to make them pliable and sticky, then add juicy watermelon, crisp jicama, and bright herbs. To balance out the brightness of the wraps, dip them in a rich and funky dressing made with creamy coconut and fish sauce.
When tomatoes are in peak season, one of our favorite ways to show them off is in this simple no-cook salad. The Italian tonnato sauce combines oil-packed tuna, mayonnaise, and fresh tomatoes, mimicking the flavors of a classic tuna sandwich. To balance out the sweet acidity of the summer tomatoes, we add spicy Calabrian chilies and nutty toasted black sesame seeds. The result is a salad that's full of flavor and also happens to be easy on the eyes.
Since shiso is a member of the mint family, we like to use it for a refreshing change of pace to summer salads. Its grassy, peppery, and slightly bitter notes make it the perfect counterpart to sweet raw corn, spicy radishes, tangy feta cheese, juicy tomatoes, and crisp sliced cucumbers. The shiso is what makes this salad special, so the rest of the ingredients and proportions are really up to you.
This recipe adds a twist to the classic gazpacho flavors of tomato, cucumber, and onion with the addition of juicy watermelon. Calabrian chili–spiked crema adds richness and a touch of heat while toasted almonds in place of the traditional bread keep things light, nutty, and creamy. It all comes together with the help of a blender, making it a satisfying no-cook meal that’s perfect for summer.
Sashimi-style fish slices meet the spicy, citrusy flavors of ceviche in this Peruvian and Japanese fusion dish. A wide variety of fish will work here, such as salmon, yellowtail, fluke, or corvina. The yellow aji amarillo chili peppers, ginger, garlic, fresh lime juice, and cilantro make up the chili-citrus sauce, which can be prepared with a blender. Once the sauce is spooned on top of the fish, you’re left with a bright dish that will fulfill any sushi cravings.
For such a quick no-cook dish, this spicy tuna salad brings a ton of flavor. Young ginger is ideal for this recipe, but it's also hard to find in the US, so regular ginger will work fine—just soak the matchsticks in water to mellow them out. Add lemongrass, chilies, lime juice, and fish sauce, and you can turn a blah can of tuna into something refreshing and exciting.
Just like the giant specimens you'll find in the French Quarter, this muffuletta is packed with salty meat, briny olive salad, and provolone cheese. Using a food processor makes it super easy to assemble, it requires zero cooking, and the flavor actually improves if the sandwich is left to sit for a while—so make it an hour ahead of time if possible.
Jicama, pomelo, and napa cabbage form the base of this sweet, sour, and spicy salad. Bean sprouts and peanuts add even more crunch, while shallots lend pungency and cilantro brightens up the whole mix. Top it with a Thai-style lime-based dressing, and your meal is ready in just 15 minutes.
A cold noodle salad makes a light but filling lunch, and shirataki noodles are the perfect choice to make it a quick one, too. They require no boiling and won't clump up, and they also pick up lots of flavor from a sauce of oil infused with Sichuan peppercorns and chilies, black vinegar, garlic, soy sauce, and peanuts. The only cooking required—such as it is—is heating the oil up on the stovetop.
Sure, egg salad is fast and easy, but it doesn't have to be just a humble convenience food. A simple but perfectly balanced egg salad can be a thing of beauty. For an exceptional outcome, steam-cook your eggs before roughly mashing them with fresh mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery, scallions, and parsley. No special ingredients—just bright flavors and textures.
We're not above a packet of instant noodles now and again, but making your own with fresh vegetables, miso, ginger, and rice noodles is so easy and fun that the supermarket stuff hardly seems worth it. Make one big, satisfying soup for dinner, or fill individual jars ahead of time to take to work: just add boiling water, let it sit two minutes, and your adorable lunchtime portion of soup is ready. And best of all, we've got three other DIY instant noodle recipes for you to try.
Chickpeas, carrots, and pumpkin seeds make this salad as protein-packed and healthy as it is cool and refreshing. Use leftover cooked chickpeas, or just rinse and drain canned ones. The nuttiness of the seeds is drawn out with a quick "roasting" in the microwave, and a simple vinaigrette of garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and tons of chopped dill gives the salad more and more flavor as it sits.
For a sandwich that's super flavorful and truly meal-worthy, make your own tapenade by pulsing black olives, garlic, capers, fresh parsley, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice in a food processor. Spread it on an herby focaccia roll and top with spicy salami, arugula, roasted red pepper, and goat cheese. The ingredients pack come together to pack a punch in every bite.
Asian noodles are a great way to bulk up a meal without adding much cooking time. In this case, soba noodles need just a few minutes of cooking before being served with wakame seaweed, kale, bean sprouts, and avocado. A sesame-miso dressing provides a light layer of extra flavor for this healthy dish, and it all comes together in less than 30 minutes.
Marinating kale for an hour in olive oil and salt tenderizes the green while keeping it crispy—and, what's more, it'll remain that way for days afterward. This step eliminates the need to massage your greens. Turn the kale into a simple but flavorful salad by adding chickpeas, red onion, sumac, and a light dressing.
A shrimp salad flavored with dill, lemon, and Dijon is light and simple enough to evoke summer. It only involves a few minutes of cooking, and serving it on pumpernickel bread turns it into a meal. To avoid rubbery shrimp, be sure not to overcook it.
Thai pomelo combines with fresh green beans, raw zucchini, shallots, and mint in this ultra-fresh salad. A Thai dressing featuring garlic and chilies adds hot, sour, bitter, and sweet notes all at once—we recommend pounding them in a mortar and pestle to extract the most flavor. And in a pinch, you can replace the pomelo with grapefruit.
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