On our fifth date, my now fiancé made dinner for me (a perfect meal of salmon, roasted potatoes, and salad with homemade dressing) and it set the tone of our whole food-loving relationship. Now he cooks for me all the time (my specialty is putting vegetables covered in olive oil, salt, and pepper in the oven, which I swear is just as important).
Many couples agree that eating together is one of the best things to do when date night rolls around. Going out to a fancy restaurant can be fun, but when it's Friday or Saturday evening and we want to spend time with our partner, it's much more enjoyable to stay home and cook.
There are so many recipes that we can make... but there's just one thing that we should keep in mind: there's no reason to be a hero in the kitchen and attempt a recipe that is way too tough. Whether it's too long and tough to follow, has too many ingredients, or is too complicated, it's not the best bet for date night. Here are 10 impressive recipes that we should totally make for our special someone, along with 10 that are way too complicated.
20 Impressive: Bruschetta Chicken
If we're looking for the perfect meal to make for date night, we will definitely impress with this recipe for Bruschetta Chicken from How Sweet Eats.
It's got basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, and garlic, plus cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and balsamic glaze. The chicken is served over pasta which is always good news since, come on, who doesn't love carbs?!
This is a great dinner to make since it's a cool way to spruce up regular old chicken breasts but it's not so complicated that we're going to get too stressed out ('cuz that's never a good look on date night).
19 Too Complicated: Macarons
On the other hand, if we're looking to keep things simple and fun when we're cooking for our special guy or girl, we don't want to make macarons.
While these French treats are beautiful and delicious, they're pretty complicated to whip up. As Honest Cooking explains, "Macarons are delicate and finicky French sandwich cookies made entirely of ground almonds, egg whites, and sugar. The possibilities for fillings are endless, but the most difficult feat is achieving the right consistency and presentation of the macaron shells." We still want dessert, of course, so we can grab a pint of our favorite ice cream or a store-bought pie. Phew.
18 Impressive: Crockpot Sunday Sauce
Why not make a homemade pasta sauce when we're cooking for the person that we love? Instead of making regular tomato sauce or simply adding some ground beef, let's go the extra mile and make something truly impressive.
This recipe from Half Baked Harvest couldn't possibly sound more delicious, and we're more than a little bit excited to whip it up for date night. When we want to impress, we should definitely make this sauce with bone-in short ribs, butter, canned tomatoes, carrots, garlic, onion, dried herbs, and a few other ingredients. This recipe includes jalapenos which are optional for those who can't take the heat.
17 Too Complicated: Chocolate Soufflé
Even just hearing the words "chocolate soufflé" is enough to send us into a panic.
The problem with making chocolate soufflés, of course, is that we're worried that the top is going to collapse, thereby ruining the whole thing. According to NPR, protein and fat should stop that from occurring: "When the egg mixture is baked in a 350-degree oven, those air bubbles trapped in the egg whites expand, making the soufflé rise. The heat also causes the protein to stiffen a bit, and along with the fat from the yolk, it forms a kind of scaffold that keeps the soufflé from collapsing."
But these guys are notoriously tricky, and the last thing you want when you're trying to impress your boo is a dessert disaster.
16 Impressive: Grilled Soy Brown Sugar Salmon
Some of us might be skilled at making salmon and it's a typical dinner for us. With rice or potatoes and vegetables or salad, it's simple and good for us.
Salmon is great baked or pan-seared with herbs, garlic, and lemon, but we want something a bit more than that when we're cooking for someone special. But we don't want to get too crazy and complex, of course. House Of Nash Eats has a wonderful recipe for Grilled Soy Brown Sugar Salmon, and we think that it sounds absolutely delicious. It couldn't be better for a date night in.
15 Too Complicated: Paella
Rice, shrimp, chorizo sausage, chicken, mussels, spices: the ingredients that make up paella are yummy and create a truly epic and magical meal. We have probably been treated to paella at least a few times and enjoyed every single bite.
Making paella at home might seem daunting, however, and that's totally okay to admit. Even if we're super skilled in the kitchen and really don't even bat an eyebrow when it comes to cooking, we might think that paella is a bit too complex for most home chefs - you need a special skillet, expensive ingredients like saffron, and there are lots of steps. Best to save indulging in this dish for your next trip to Spain.
14 Impressive: Cranberry Rosemary One Pan Chicken
Chicken is a popular dinner protein and this recipe from 40 Aprons for Cranberry Rosemary One Pan Chicken sounds awesome. Instead of making simple chicken breast or chicken thighs without much fanfare, we can go for this.
We'll make a marinade for chicken thighs with olive oil, soy sauce (or coconut aminos), cranberries, rosemary, garlic, and maple syrup, and then cook them. This is a particularly awesome recipe for this time of year since the cranberries will put us in the holiday spirit if we're not there already. We can even make some hot chocolate with marshmallows for dessert and keep the festive vibes going strong.
13 Too Complicated: Pad Thai
Pad Thai is a dish that many of us order in restaurants and from take-out places. It's sweet and always hits the spot. Sometimes (read: always) we just need a huge pile of noodles and this is the dish that we turn to.
Pad Thai is rice noodles covered in a sauce made from sugar, fish sauce, and a few other ingredients. We might not want to make it at home for date night, though, only because it might be too much work and too complicated - plus, no matter how much effort we put in, the one from our favorite takeaway will probably still be better.
12 Impressive: Carbonara
Everyone loves pasta. There is nothing more comforting on a cold evening. Pasta is also pretty romantic when we think about it - we've all seen Lady and the Tramp - and if we make carbonara on date night, we're going for that sweet spot at the intersection of maximum impressiveness and minimum effort required.
Cooking Classy has an amazing recipe for carbonara. This meal feels super sophisticated and the best part is that it's just a few ingredients: pasta, parmesan cheese, garlic, water, bacon, eggs, and salt and pepper. Oh, and some parsley to put on top. It's going to be great and our partner will definitely want to eat a few bowls (we will too, of course).
11 Too Complicated: Turducken
A turducken is a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken. Yeah, that's a lot going on. And even if we're big time meat eaters and we're cooking for one, too, we might think to ourselves, "this dish is a bit too complicated." To be honest, we're not sure turducken is ever a good idea.
The lesson here, of course, is that making a super complex meal on date night or when we're cooking for anyone else (say a large group at a dinner party or family members), isn't the best way to go. The potential for error and mistakes is too high and we want something that we know we can handle.
10 Impressive: Butter Chicken
Butter chicken is a comforting dinner that we can totally make at home. We're going to be very happy if we make this Butter Chicken from Recipe Tin Eats. We'll marinade chicken thighs in yogurt, chili powder, ginger, garlic, cumin, turmeric, garam masala, and lemon juice. Then we'll add vegetable oil or ghee, sugar, cream, and tomato puree when cooking the curry. Finally, we'll make some rice.
If we're big fans of curries and love anything that can be eaten over rice, then we're going to love this meal. And our date will be thrilled that we made it for them.
9 Too Complicated: Lobster Bisque
As soon as we hear that a recipe has the word "lobster" in the title, we immediately assume that it's too much work.
Have we ever had lobster bisque before? Chances are, we might feel like this is too fancy and complicated to even order in a restaurant... so we're not exactly jumping at the chance to make it at home. Lobster bisque involves making broth and then putting the broth and lobster meat - note, you'll have to boil and de-shell the lobster first - into a blender and, well, that already sounds like too much to handle and like it could be a real comedy of errors. This is another dish that doesn't need to be on our date night list.
8 Impressive: Sweet and Spicy Chicken
Le Creme De La Crumb has this awesome recipe for Sweet and Spicy Chicken that's both easy and delicious. Date night just got so much better.
The sauce for the chicken is minced garlic, hot sauce, brown sugar, water, salt, and apple cider vinegar. It sounds like an awesome combination of flavors and we're so excited to try this recipe out. There are so many side dishes that we can make... all involving carbs, of course. Maybe a nice rice pilaf or some dreamy roasted potatoes.
7 Too Complicated: Lamb Chops
Lamb chops are simply way too intimidating for us to make at home, especially when it's date night. We could burn them, they could end up not cooking at all and be totally raw inside, or any number of cooking mishaps could happen.
Sure, that could be funny and we're sure our date wouldn't hold it against us... but we might not want to have spent all that money on beautiful lamb chops. We might want to try something else instead and order lamb in restaurants if it's something that we really love. Or we could try another cut of lamb which could be easier to cook.
6 Impressive: Ground Beef Taco Bowls
We all love tacos and taco salad is also a fun dinner to make up. Taco bowls are even more fun since we get to put a whole bunch of ingredients into a bowl and enjoy. Assembling is almost more fun than eating it... almost.
These Ground Beef Taco Bowls from Real Simple Good look like so much fun, and we definitely think that we should make these. From spicy taco-flavored beef to cauliflower rice and toppings like avocado, tomato, black olives, and cabbage or spinach, these bowls are also really good for us. We always love hearing that delicious food is good for us, right?
5 Too Complicated: Lemon Meringue Pie
Chances are, we haven't made Lemon Meringue Pie at home before, and there's probably a reason for that. Okay, there's a pretty big reason: we're probably pretty scared of the whole meringue part of the dessert.
We would say that there's no reason for us to be afraid and that we can totally master it... but we have too many nightmares of this pie collapsing in front of our date's eyes or something else happening. We should stick to a pie that is a bit easier to make (or just buy one... hey, we made dinner, no one will mind).
4 Impressive: Slow Cooker Chicken Curry
Chicken curry is the best, and chicken curry made in the slow cooker makes it a total win for date night.
The Lemon Bowl's recipe includes chickpeas, coconut milk, tomato sauce, curry powder, frozen peas, chicken breast, sweet potatoes, and a few other ingredients. We'll put them in the slow cooker for 8 hours on the low setting or 4 hours on the high setting. Our date will not only be impressed but also be thrilled to be enjoying some comforting curry. Chances are, we're going to start making this a lot and not just when we're looking to impress.
3 Too Complicated: Beef Wellington
Sometimes, when we're a true foodie, we get it into our heads that we can get into the kitchen and make anything and everything. We have visions of crazy four-course dinners and a million side dishes. Sure, it's already five-thirty and our date is coming in an hour, but we can totally cook up a masterpiece, right?!
This is why a foodie might get it into their head that they have to try something like Beef Wellington for date night. Basically, this dish consists of beef that is baked in puff pastry. The problem is that this dish is tough to cook well because the beef needs to be cooked but not overdone and the puff pastry is in danger of getting soggy. We might want to stick to plain steak instead.
2 Impressive: Skillet Brussel Sprouts And Bacon Mac and Cheese
Skillet Brussel Sprouts And Bacon Mac and Cheese. We don't really need much more than those words to be convinced to make this.
Making mac and cheese in a skillet is a brilliant idea and this is a brilliant recipe from How Sweet Eats. We'll cook bacon and Brussel sprouts along with garlic and shallot, then make the cheese sauce, then add that with panko and pasta to the skillet. OMG.
1 Too Complicated: Calamari
Fried calamari is truly delicious and it's right up there with french fries and anything else that is breaded and deep-fried as one of our favorite appetizers or sides.
But whether we try our hand at grilled or fried calamari, the truth is that this is going to be pretty tough to make at home. Grilled calamari could be even tougher because there is a huge chance that it's going to end up rubbery and gross. And if we try to deep fry it at home, well, that might not work out all that well.
Let's stick to the awesome recipes on this list that sound like date night dream dinners... and save the others for fancy restaurant meals.