4 Family Dinners Kids Can Make

It’s been helpful for our whole family to have our kids get more involved in the kitchen. Here are 4 healthy, hearty family dinners kids can make that our 9 & 7 year olds can do entirely on their own. Read on for these vegetarian recipes that everyone will love!
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chana masala for kids indian food

About 6 months ago, we started having our oldest make dinner one night each week as part of our family economy. It’s amazing now, but it took a little while to get into a good rhythm with these dinners kids can make.

The first couple of months, it felt like a constant surprise when Wednesdays rolled around. I had to scramble to think of something for him to make for which we had the ingredients. Then I had to find a recipe and pull it up on my laptop or print it out. He’d have lots of questions about the wording of different recipes, and substitutions weren’t always obvious. It felt like MORE work for me rather than less.

How I Picked Dinner Recipes Kids Can Make By Themselves

After a few months, I decided I was just going to pick a few recipes that were at his skill level and for which we often had ingredients readily available (or which we could plan in advance). I picked ones he’d made before, so I knew he was capable of putting them together. I was hopeful he’d get better and faster at them with practice. Three of the four recipes could also be made in the Instant Pot, so they wouldn’t take a lot of monitoring and could easily be made after school.

Once I picked the recipes, I rewrote them in very straightforward language with any modifications/simplifications. Then I printed and laminated them so they’d always be available and stay in good condition week after week.

Since he makes dinner once a week, I chose 4 recipes to put in the rotation. That way, it would be easy to master a few meals, and once a month seemed perfectly acceptable to repeat each one.

Filling Vegetarian Family Dinner Recipes

These recipes for dinners kids can make on their own are all vegetarian friendly since our family doesn’t eat meat, but are also delicious for meat eaters (or so I’m told). (And then you don’t need to worry about a kid dealing with meat sanitation.) They all feel simple and doable, and are reasonably healthy and feel like a real meal (i.e., not mac & cheese or PB&J, although zero shame in using those, too! 😉). Plus, they’re recipes the whole family loves.

Vegetable Side Dishes Kids Can Make

At the start of the year, we decided to add our daughter, who is 7, into the family meal rotation. We figured she could help out by making a vegetable side dish on the same day that our oldest makes the main dish. I picked a few vegetables that would require a bit of chopping and preparation for practice, but not so much that it would get overwhelming. Between the main dish and vegetable side dish, these are complete meals kids can make by themselves.

Quick Vegetarian Dinner Recipes

While I wanted our kids contributing to our home, I didn’t want it to take tons and tons of time for them. We have the kids make dinner on our school early release day, so they have a bit more time. Each of the main dish recipes takes our oldest between 10-30 minutes to prepare, and the sides take about 5-15 minutes.

Here are the 4 family dinners kids can make that we chose for their rotation!

family dinners kids can make by themselves

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4 Family Dinners Kids Can Make (for my 9 & 7 year olds)



You don’t need these exact items, and you likely already have most (if not all) of these in your kitchen. These are the basic tools that make it easy to complete these family dinners kids can make by themselves.



¾ cup dry black beans
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground chili powder
1 t salt
1 cup uncooked brown rice
3 cups water
1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn ½ t black pepper

1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese


  1. Combine all ingredients in Instant Pot.
  2. Plug in Instant Pot and cook on manual high pressure for 45 minutes (make sure knob is on sealing, NOT venting).
  3. While filling is cooking, shred cheese.
  4. When Instant Pot beeps when it’s finished, turn the top knob to venting.
  5. When the steam has released, remove the lid.



(adapted from here)

1/2 box jumbo pasta shells
2 cups ricotta
1 large egg
Pinch of salt and pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)
1T  milk

About half a jar marinara sauce

Fresh basil for topping (optional)


  1. Fill water in big pot with water to about 1/2 full. Bring water to a boil (big bubbles).
  2. Pour in shells and cook for 9 minutes.
  3. Ask Mom to help you drain the shells.
  4. While shells are cooking, shred ½ cup Parmesan and 1 cup mozzarella cheese.
  5. Preheat oven to 350F.
  6. Get out a mixing bowl. Mix 2 cups ricotta, 1 egg, 1 T milk, ¼ t salt, ¼ t pepper. Whisk until fluffy and well incorporated. Stir in most of the cheese (leave a couple tablespoons).
  7. Spoon a couple tablespoons of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.
  8. Scoop filling into each shell (the small cookie scoop is great for this). Set each shell in baking dish. Spoon sauce on top. Sprinkle last bit of cheese on top.
  9. Bake at 350F oven for 30 minutes.
  10. Sprinkle with fresh basil if we have it.

easy stuffed shells kids make dinner



(heavily adapted from here)

3-28oz cans of whole peeled tomatoes
¼ cup dark brown sugar
½ t salt
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion
Pinch ground allspice
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 bags frozen tortellini
1/2 cup heavy cream


  1. Dice 1 large onion.
  2. Plug in Instant Pot and press Saute button.
  3. Put in butter and let melt. Add in onions. Cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add in 2 tablespoons of flour and a pinch of allspice and mix well with a spatula. Cook 1 minute, then unplug Instant Pot.
  5. Open cans of tomatoes. Pour two cans into the Instant Pot. Drain the 3rd can and pour in just the tomatoes (without the liquid). Add brown sugar and salt.
  6. Plug Instant Pot back in. Cook on manual (high) for 25 minutes. (Make sure top knob is pointing to Sealing.) When it beeps, turn knob to Venting.
  7. While soup is cooking, cook frozen tortellini according to package directions.
  8. Immersion blend soup until smooth.
  9. Pour in cream and stir.
  10. Serve with a scoop of cooked tortellini.



(adapted from here)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion diced
2 t chopped garlic from a jar
2 t ground ginger
4 t ground cumin
4 t ground coriander
2 t ground turmeric
2 t garam masala
3 t smoked paprika
1 t salt
1 28-oz can tomatoes (diced or crushed)
2 c dried chickpeas
2 cups water

3 tbsp lemon juice


  1. Dice 1 large onion.
  2. Turn Instant Pot on sauté setting and add oil. When hot, add onions and cook until translucent, stirring often (about 3-4 minutes).
  3. Add garlic and stir, then cook for 1 minute until golden.
  4. Pour in all the spices and toast for 1 minute, stirring, then unplug.
  5. Add tomatoes and dried chickpeas and stir until well coated.
  6. Pour in water and plug Instant Pot back in. Change the setting to manual high pressure (make sure top knob is on sealing). Set to cook for 50 minutes. When it beeps, turn top knob to venting.
  7. When pressure is released, open lid and pour in lemon juice.
  8. Serve with rice or naan.


We have two Instant Pots, so our son makes easy Instant Pot rice with this recipe:

2 cups brown rice
2.5 cups water
1 T oil
1 t salt

  1. While chana is cooking, get out black Instant Pot. Pour in rice, water, oil, and salt. Turn knob to sealing and set it to manual/high pressure for 20 minutes. Let pressure release naturally. Fluff with a fork.


4 Vegetable Side Dishes My 7 Year Old Can Make



4 sweet potatoes
1 T oil
1 t salt

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Peel sweet potatoes.
  3. Ask Mom for help with cutting them in slices.
  4. Place sweet potatoes on large baking pan with silicone liner. Drizzle on oil and salt and mix well with your hands.
  5. Wash hands then carefully put pan in the oven. Set timer for 10 minutes.
  6. Ask Mom for help with stirring the sweet potatoes. Set timer for another 10 minutes.
  7. Ask Mom for help in removing pan from oven.



½ bag lettuce, kale, or spinach
2 pieces of fruit (pears, apples, or oranges)
1 cucumber
Crumbled feta, gorgonzola, or goat cheese
2 handfuls of nuts

  1. Pour greens in wood salad bowl.
  2. Carefully cut up fruit into cubes.
  3. Carefully slice cucumber.
  4. Mix in cheese and nuts.
  5. Set out with salad dressing.



2 heads of broccoli (or use pre-chopped broccoli to avoid cutting)
2 T oil
2 t salt

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Get out 2 large pans. Cut off bottom of broccoli and break the rest into bite-sized florets in the pans.
  3. Place broccoli on 2 large baking pans with silicone liners. Drizzle with oil and salt and mix well with your hands.
  4. Wash hands then put pan in the oven. Set timer for 10 minutes.
  5. Ask Mom for help with stirring the broccoli. Set timer for another 5 minutes.
  6. Ask Mom for help in removing pan from oven.



2 lbs baby carrots
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4-1/2 tsp black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 450F degrees.
  2. Add carrots to large baking pan with silicone liner. Drizzle with oil, salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands.
  3. Place pan in oven and set timer for 15 minutes. Ask Mom to help you stir.
  4. Set timer for another 10 minutes. Ask Mom to help you stir and/or remove them.








dinners kids can make by themselves


family dinners kids can make

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