21 Dishes Even Picky Eaters Will Love
These family-friendly foods have simple, straightforward flavors built on pasta, chicken and other popular ingredients.
Photo: Jennifer Tyler Lee
Another Option for Burger Lovers
Ground meat is often more approachable to anyone with a finicky palate than, say, a chicken drumstick or bone-in pork chop. But for nights when you just don't feel like having burgers again, Bolognese is a great option. This slow-cooker turkey version, from Jennifer Tyler Lee, of the healthy-eating site 52 New Foods
, is easy to make (prep takes just 15 minutes) and is a delicious way to turn noodles, or roasted spaghetti squash, into a hearty meal.
Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Turkey Bolognese
Photo: Jennifer Tyler Lee
The Tropical, Dessert-y Stir-Fry
Hearing the word "coconut" before anything else might be just the thing to lure in someone who's wary of shellfish. For this dish, Lee cooks shrimp (along with cherry tomatoes, sweet onions and baby spinach) in coconut oil to add a subtle flavor to the dish, then garnishes everything with toasted coconut for an extra taste bum— and terrific crunch, too.
Get the recipe: Coconut Shrimp
Photo: Jennifer Tyler Lee
A Reinvention of Pasta with Butter
A bowl of buttery noodles is awfully tasty yet low in nutritional value—which is why this veggified twist is so welcome. Lee prepares the rainbow chard-and-cheese filling ahead of time, then makes the ravioli with her kids, letting them roll out the dough and cut and shape the dumplings. They cook in minutes, and don't need more than some melted butter and a dusting of grated Parmesan to be ready to serve.
Get the recipe: Rainbow Chard Ravioli
The "How Did You Get Me to Eat That?!" Broccoli
Marina Delio, whose book is The Yummy Mummy Kitchen: 100 Effortless and Irresistible Recipes to Nourish Your Family with Style and Grace
, has figured out how to make broccoli something her kids actually love—and she does it without drenching the vegetable in gooey cheese. She steams the florets until tender-crisp and combines them with sweet red grapes and creamy honey-mustard dressing.
Get the recipe: Broccoli Antioxidant Salad
A Genius Rebuttal to "I Only Eat Fish If It's Fried"
Chances are, if a picky person will eat fish, it must be fried. But instead of beer-battering tilapia or halibut fillets and dunking them in a big pan of oil, Delio coats them in egg and seasoned panko and bakes them in a 450-degree oven. Wedges of russet potato go on the same baking sheet, which makes clean-up easy.
Get the recipe: Crispy Baked "Fish and Chips"
Cauliflower for Naysayers
Nutrient-rich (though bland-looking) cauliflower can take on a strong sulfury taste when cooked too long, but the cruciferous vegetable is actually a brilliant substitute for cheese in baked pasta dishes, as this preparation from Jessica Goldman Foung, author of Sodium Girl's Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook
, shows. When you puree it, it binds the dish's various elements together with a subtle flavor that goes nicely with pasta shells and peas.
Get the recipe: Baked Macaroni and Peas
The Fully Customizable Soup
Let fussy diners have it their way with this veggie-rich bowl from Delio. Set out an array of toasted tortilla strips, diced avocado, chopped cilantro, grated cheddar, sour cream and lime wedges—and everyone will be happy, whether their palates prefer creamy, crunchy, tart or sharp flavors and textures.
Get the recipe: Veggie Tortilla Soup with Quinoa
A Stir-Fry with Some Surprises
Tofu can be a tough sell for a finicky crowd, but when it's dressed in Delio's sweet soy-maple sauce and then sauteed with a bit of oil, its edges crisp up and brown, making it an (almost) indulgent treat. With carrots, broccolini, baby bokchoi, red bell pepper, sugar snap peas and mandarin oranges, this bright dish is hearty, tasty and good-looking, too.
Get the recipe: Mandarin Tofu Stir-Fry
Honey-Mustard Chicken Breasts
Honey and mustard have become popular partners over the years, and here they work their magic on the ever-popular boneless chicken breast.
Get the recipe: Honey-Mustard Chicken Breasts
Smoked Turkey, Apple and Cheddar Quesadilla
Knowing how to make a proper quesadilla opens up all kinds of possibilities for meals and snacking. Here's chef Art Smith's method with one of his favorite combinations: a trio of crowd-pleasing ingredients.
Get the recipe: Smoked Turkey, Apple and Cheddar Quesadilla
Orecchiette with Creamy Broccoli Sauce
Orecchiette pasta—shaped like little ears—is available in most supermarkets. Though many kids don't like broccoli, it sneaks in here: You puree it with its cooking liquid plus a touch of heavy cream.
Get the recipe: Orecchiette with Creamy Broccoli Sauce
"Condiment" Iceberg Wedge Salad
This creamy, crunchy dish has the ability to win over salad skeptics. Crumbled bacon and avocado seal the deal.
Get the recipe: "Condiment" Iceberg Wedge Salad
Veggie-Stuffed Twice-Baked Potato Boats
Chef Cat Cora, mom of four boys, knows sometimes you have to jazz up healthy food to make it more appealing. For this healthy dish, she scoops out the insides of baked potatoes and then mixes the removed portion with grated cheese, herbs, broccoli, peas, carrots and tomatoes. She spoons that mixture back into the potatoes and bakes it until the cheese is melted.
Get the recipe: Veggie-Stuffed Twice-Baked Potato Boats
Chicken and Rice Soup
Jessica Seinfeld says her kids, whose tastes vary wildly, can't get enough of this soup. In addition to the customary carrot and celery, it also has cauliflower and carrot purees, making it even more nutritious.
Get the recipe: Chicken and Rice Soup
If your family loves burgers but you don't want to serve beef all the time, try switching to turkey. You can form this meat mixture—which gets its texture from oatmeal—into burgers (kids love minis) or bake it in a loaf pan.
Get the recipe: Turkey Burgers
Creamed Parmesan Spinach
Much more appealing to veggie-phobes than a leafy green salad, this steak house classic—a perfect balance of spinach and cream—is easy to make at home.
Get the recipe: Creamed Parmesan Spinach
Cristina Ferrare uses shredded rotisserie chicken meat for these enchiladas, plus salsa, refried beans, Cheddar, Monterey Jack, sour cream and Kalamata olives (which you can just omit if your picky eaters won't touch them).
Get the recipe: Chicken Enchiladas
Build these turkey or ham sandwiches on country-style bread with a smear of whole grain or sun-dried tomato mustard. The finishing touch: a sprinkling of shredded Italian Fontina cheese. Fontina has a rich, nutty flavor; if it's too much for your family, substitute Havarti or Gouda.
Get the recipe: Open-Faced Sandwiches
Matzah Ball Soup
If you don't have a family recipe, this is an excellent introduction to the traditional Passover soup, which is mild and soothing.
Get the recipe: Matzah Ball Soup
Baby Carrots with Orange Glaze
Baby carrots are one of the quickest shortcuts to making an easy side dish. Cooked with orange juice and zest and a smidgen of butter and honey, they end up crisp-tender with a sweet-tart glaze that will make them appealing to anyone who thinks carrots are just for bunnies.
Get the recipe: Baby Carrots with Orange Glaze
Linguine with Tomatoes and Basil
This pasta sauce is uncooked, but the heat of the pasta warms and brings out the flavors of the basil, Brie, olive oil and tomatoes. The Brie mellows as it melts into the sauce.
Get the recipe: Linguine with Tomatoes and Basil
Casseroles for every taste