It’s approximately 5:00 p.m., your date will be in your apartment in less than two hours, and you’re knee-deep in Pinterest trying to find a meal you can make fast with stuff that isn’t super expensive or hard to find. Oh, and it also needs to seem somewhat impressive and romantic. Basically, you’re realizing you’re now a finalist on an IRL MasterChef competition that you never signed up for.
Yup, pretty much anybody can light a few cute candles and set the mood with a suggestive, The Weeknd-heavy playlist. No problem there. But if you’re attempting a beef bourguignon (hmm, how about a simple buff chicken bowl instead?) and chocolate soufflé situation—and you have exactly 45 minutes to execute—that’s a problem.
* cue fire alarms, crying, sweating, and emergency takeout *
But don’t panic! This doesn’t mean you have to pass off your secret Seamless order as a homemade Michelin-starred meal (though we have all been there). Nor does it mean you have to cancel the evening and reschedule after you’ve taken a rigorous cooking course. Doable, fancy-looking, delicious romantic dinners DO exist. We know because we scoured the interwebs to find alll the right recipes to make your date night amazing.
So if you’re down to the wire and lacking in Ina Garten-level skills, take a breath, do a shot of tequila, and scroll through this list of romantic dinners you can totally cook. Our menu of date night recipes includes vegan options, lots of Italian things (in case you’re feeling ambitious and wanna whip up apasta dish *and* a truffle oil pizza), a fancy grilled cheese, some Korean BBQ, and so much (drool-worthy) more. You got this!
1. Butter-Basted Sirloin Steak
Steak is the go-to dish for a romantic dinner—don’t fight that. This oh-so-slightly elevated take is a great way to level up your night. Plus, instead of fries, you can get real fancy with ~parsnip wedges~.
Making pizza from scratch looks super impressive, and it’s actually easier than you may think. Try this recipe for straightforward ingredients and instructions and because, let’s face it, truffle oil makes everything better.
Okay, tacos may not be the neatest to eat, so maybe save them for date two (or don’t, we won’t judge). These butternut tacos not only look cute, but are an awesome plant-based option for anyone who doesn’t eat meat. The recipe is 100 percent vegan and 100 percent delicious.
Few things will impress your dinner guest more than a perfectly cooked roast, because it takes a little confidence to cook something that needs a thermometer to tell you it’s done. And nothing’s sexier than confidence.
If you’re lucky enough to have an Instant Pot at home, this pasta dinner is your new best friend. And you didn’t hear it from us, but the secret ingredient is vodka. Prego (that’s Italian for you’re welcome).
Sure, this meal might be what we like to call “project cooking”—a.k.a. it takes more than throwing together a frozen one from Trader Joe’s—but if you can wrap a present, this is a piece of cake. Especially when you’ve got a PIC (partner in cooking, that is) by your side.
19. Eggplant Florentine with Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce and Toasted Ciabatta
This bad boy is ideal when one of you is a vegan and the other one wants to be supportive but really just wants a whole bunch of cheese. Luckily, this main can trick even the most die-hard dairy lover.
Sitcom people are always running into trouble with their soufflés falling. Learn from their mistakes, and cook a dish (in 20 minutes, no less) where ingredients collapsing and falling apart are what make it taste good.