Anyone who’s ever tried planning (and serving) meals for a whole family knows it can be challenging. It’s tough to come up with meals that please everyone.
Every eater in your household comes to the table with unique preferences for cuisines, tastes, and textures. But that doesn’t mean you have to accept dinnertime defeat.
Enter the deconstructed dinner. Deconstructed dinners take multicomponent recipes like tacos, casseroles, and salads and serve their ingredients individually, allowing each person to build their own signature creation.
Breaking a meal down into its separate parts has some surprising benefits.
Not only will you likely spend less time preparing, but you’ll also promote independence in picky eaters. Kids with a hard-to-please palate can feel good about self-selecting their food, while still being exposed to — and, hopefully, sampling — unfamiliar ingredients.
Meanwhile, everyone in the family may enjoy these dishes as a fun spin on the traditional. Ready to dive into the wonderful (and blissfully simplified) world of deconstructed dinners? Here are 12 ideas to get you started.
1. Deconstructed tacos
Everyone loves a taco bar, where toppings galore let you make your own masterpiece. This sheet pan version of deconstructed tacos involves baking taco shell halves beneath a mixture of ground beef, black beans, and cheese.
Once the whole thing emerges from the oven, let everyone dress up their portion with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, avocado, and more. Get your kids involved by letting them sprinkle toppings over the taco shells before and after they’re baked.
2. Cobb salad skewers
At the mention of salad for dinner, not everyone in your household may jump for joy. But salad on a stick might provide enough novelty to up the excitement about greens with all the toppings.
These unique cobb salad skewers from Clean Food Crush thread grilled chicken, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, and hard-boiled quail eggs on a stick. Can’t find quail eggs? Just cut hard-boiled chicken eggs in quarters.
3. Deconstructed egg rolls
Store-bought egg rolls can be pretty high in sodium. But for dinner on the average weeknight, who has time to roll their own from scratch? Deconstructed egg rolls offer the perfect compromise of flavor and convenience.
These tasty Asian-inspired bowls feature a base of rice layered with ground pork, coleslaw, and a zingy sauce. To allow for extra personalization, serve extras like sesame seeds and scallions on the side and let everyone scoop their own bowls.
Finish things off with optional DIY crispy wonton strips (or purchase them for a shortcut).
4. Mediterranean platter
Want party vibes on a weeknight? Try your hand at a fancy-looking (but secretly simple) Mediterranean mezze platter from The Mediterranean Dish. This smattering of smaller, snack-able foods is edible art at its finest.
Curate your own platter of crackers, hummus, or other dips, fruits, vegetables, and Mediterranean cheeses. With all the options on offer, everyone gets a chance to enjoy their favorites and build their own plate.
5. Deconstructed stuffed peppers
Stuffed peppers are always delicious (and fun to eat, with their edible, self-contained shell). Yet, the multiple steps of stuffing and baking can be a bit of a slog.
Save on time with a deconstructed version. This quick skillet meal serves sliced bell peppers in a beef-and-rice mixture, instead of the other way around.
6. Build-your-own teriyaki noodle bowls
Just because you have picky eaters doesn’t mean you have to forgo grown-up or restaurant-quality meals!
With this recipe for build-your-own teriyaki noodle bowls from The Inspired Home, you start with a batch of cooked noodles tossed in a yummy homemade teriyaki sauce.
Then it’s up to each eater to choose their own culinary adventure from an array of add-ins like pan-seared tofu, veggies, avocado, and sriracha.
7. DIY pizza bar
Olives, mushrooms, green pepper? Sometimes we have to agree to disagree on what makes the best pizza topping. Fortunately, this pizza bar lets everyone DIY their own slice of cheesy goodness.
Start with individual whole wheat flatbreads for extra fiber and nutrients, then get as creative as you like! Invite the family to sprinkle on toppings like veggies, meats, or pineapple. Offer unique sauce options, such as barbecue or pesto, for more variety.
8. Deconstructed sushi bowl with sweet sesame dressing
If your kids have ever turned up their noses at sushi, this deconstructed sushi bowl might get them to come around. Building their own bowl and picking their favorite toppings can help them enjoy this easy dinner.
What’s not to like about the mild flavors of rice and veggies paired with mango and an agave-sweetened lime sauce? (Bonus: No delicate seaweed wrapper rolling required.)
9. BLT bento box
Dinner’s not the only time when deconstructed meals can shine. A lunchtime bento box of BLT ingredients lets kids (or grown-ups) put together a fun sandwich-style meal.
Feel free to think outside the box by adding vegetables like peppers or cucumber, an alternate spread like guacamole or hummus, or cheese.
10. Omelet bar
You’ve heard of taco bars and baked potato bars — but breakfast lovers can have some fun too. With this omelet bar, you’ll set out various fillings like diced ham, cheeses, greens, and cooked vegetables.
Each person gets their own ramekin for filling. Then, using a large measuring cup, pour beaten eggs about two-thirds of the way up the ramekin. Bake for about 20 minutes and voilà— breakfast for dinner!
11. Thanksgiving dinner kebabs
What if you could savor some of the elements of a Thanksgiving dinner in one easy, self-contained recipe? You can, with Thanksgiving dinner kebabs!
These customizable skewers feature many of your favorite Turkey Day components, from potatoes to mushrooms to stuffing (in the form of crusty sourdough bread). Cranberry sauce on the side makes for delicious dipping.
This recipe happens to use seitan, but meat-eaters can easily add turkey to their skewers.
12. Healthy sheet-pan chicken fajitas
Fajitas are one of those rare meals that are already deconstructed, even in their original form. This sheet-pan recipe provides the basics of grilled chicken, peppers, and onions.
Once those are baked together on a single sheet pan, add fixings like sour cream, guacamole, lettuce, and tomato.
Just One Thing
Try this today: Make a deconstructed dinner for your family and get their help! Have older kids help with prep or younger ones help with choosing which toppings they want. Getting involved in the kitchen ensures that everyone is happy with what’s on their plate, and it can also encourage people to try new foods.