Keep the heat out of the kitchen with these summer dinner ideas! We've come up with over 40 of the best dinner, side, and dessert ideas to keep you cool this summer. Plus, most of them are using ingredients that you already have!

easy summer dinner chicken kebabs on a plate, from Shelf Cooking

Tired of cooking meals that use the oven and completely warm your house up during the heat of the summer? Enter our favorite summer dinner ideas. You're already enjoying your time spent outside, so you might as well cook while you're out there.

*Note: When you click the links in this post, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Oh and don't worry, we've got our favorite summer side dishes and dessert ideas, too! If you're having a hard time figuring out where to begin, just start with what you've got then move on from there! That is why we love shelf cooking! It's so versatile and it keeps you from having to run to the store. Score!


BBQ chicken wrap on a plate, from Shelf Cooking

Okay, shelf cookers, let's get started with our favorite summer dinner ideas!

  • Hawaiian Chicken and Rice – You can't go wrong with this easy Instant Pot recipe!
  • Zucchini Boats – Put that delicious summer squash to work in our easy Italian-stuffed zucchini boats recipe! (P.S. There are six other zucchini boat variations you can make, too!)
  • BBQ Chicken Wrap – Bring the restaurant home with this easy copycat Red Robin wrap!
  • Tuna Salad – This light, yet filling meal idea is easy to throw together in a snap. Grab some canned tuna, mayo or miracle whip, relish, and hard-boiled eggs and you've got a delicious meal! Serve on some bread, a croissant, or with some crackers.
  • Taco Salad – You'll love how simple this is to make! It's the perfect way to use up that frozen, pre-cooked ground beef. Simply warm it up and add taco seasoning and your favorite beans (such as black or ranch-style). Add to a bowl with lettuce, tomatoes, corn, cilantro, and salsa. Or make it a tangy-sweet by adding some Catalina dressing.
  • BLT Sandwich – You can never go wrong with a simple BLT! Or you can take it up a notch by adding some grilled chicken.
  • Chicken Salad – Here's another of our favorite summer dinner ideas because it's so refreshing after being outside all day! All you need is some canned or shredded chicken, miracle whip, relish, hard-boiled eggs, apples, and grapes. So yum!


whole chicken in a smoker, from Shelf Cooking
  • Smoked Meats – A smoker is a delicious and different way to cook your meats with very little difficulty! The Traeger is our favorite and we love cooking smoked chicken, pork, ribs, and sausage on it.
  • Fajitas – Chicken, beef, shrimp, fish, pork, you can't go wrong turning any cut of meat into delicious fajitas on the grill! Wrap them in a tortilla, turn them into a rice bowl, make them into quesadillas, they're delicious no matter what.
  • Kabobs – Cut your chunks of meat into bite-sized pieces. Slice veggies, such as onion, bell pepper, mushroom, and anything else you may have on hand. Stick them on a skewer and throw them on the grill until the meat is done!
  • Burgers – Does anything scream American summer dinner like a good ol' fashioned hamburger?! Fold an ice cube in the middle of your patty and it'll keep your burger from drying out while on the grill.
  • Hot Dogs – These go hand-in-hand with burgers! Take your hotdog game up a notch by throwing your buns in a buttered skillet to toast the buns. And you can never go wrong with some chili on top!
  • Foil Packs – These are one of our favorite summer dinner ideas because of how easy and versatile they are! You basically take whatever meats and veggies you have, wrap them in a foil pack, and throw it on the grill. Our favorite combination is sausage, green beans, onions, and diced potatoes, but you can also use chunks or slivers of chicken, beef, or shrimp.
  • BBQ Chicken – Pull out the chicken legs or breasts, it's time to get saucy! Season your chicken and get to grilling. Smother in barbecue sauce the last 10 minutes of grilling and you'll end up with some lovely, glazed chicken.
  • Bacon Ranch Chicken Kabobs – Chicken, bacon, and ranch… How can you go wrong with that?! This recipe won't disappoint!

Pro Tip: Kabobs are so easy to make and they make summer grilling a breeze. If you're using wooden skewers, soak them in water for about 10-30 minutes before adding the food to them. This will help to keep them from burning on the hot grill!


grilled corn on the cob summer side dish, from Shelf Cooking

The main dish doesn't have to be the feature when you've got these easy summer side dishes on deck!

  • Roasted Corn on the Cob – This is easily one of our favorite summer side dishes because of how cheap and simple it is to make! Shuck the corn, smother it in butter, add your favorite seasonings, such as garlic salt and Tony Chachere's, wrap it in foil, and throw it on the grill for about 20 minutes. Turn them every so often and you'll end up with perfect corn every time!
  • Baked Okra – There's nothing like some fresh okra! Smother it in oil and lay it out on a sheet pan. Season with garlic salt, onion powder, and pepper and bake at 400°F for 20 minutes. YUM.
  • Grilled Zucchini – Zucchini-lovers, unite! This will be your go-to recipe from our ol' pal, The Pioneer Woman, all summer long because of how simple and delicious it is.
  • Summer Squash Casserole – This is so easy to put together and it's a lot healthier than other versions, which is why it's one of our favorite summer side dishes.
  • Fresh Green Beans – You can never go wrong with some fresh green beans! Rinse them, snap both ends off, then boil, steam, or bake them in the oven.
  • Grilled Pineapple – Yep, you read that right. Grilled pineapple is a great way to make that underripe pineapple taste delicious.
  • Fresh Salsa – Make some salsa to go along with your fajitas using all of your delicious garden veggies!
  • Cheesy Scalloped Zucchini – If you like cheesy scalloped potatoes, then you're going to love this healthier alternative! Just sub the potatoes for sliced zucchini!
  • Grilled Sweet Potatoes – Oh man, your world is about to be changed for the better! Once you try these, you'll never want to go back to life before them.


summer strawberry spinach salad in a bowl, from Shelf Cooking
  • Strawberry Spinach Salad – Talk about a killer summer side dish! Once you make this, you'll want to eat it every night.
  • Pasta and Veggie Salad – You can't go wrong with this easy dish. Grab a box of pasta salad or easily make your own by boiling some noodles, rinsing in cold water, and adding Italian dressing. Then add in whatever diced summer veggies you have, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and anything else. Add more Italian dressing as needed.
  • Avocado Salad – Avocados, bell peppers, sweet onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper are all that you need for this easy, summery side!
  • Watermelon Feta Salad – This salad is so refreshing and tasty, your taste buds will be on cloud 9 while you're chowing down on it.
  • Tomato Cucumber Salad – Get those garden-fresh veggies ready to take a trip to the Greek isles with this recipe!
  • Caprese Salad – Fresh mozzarella slices, tomato slices, basil leaves, and a homemade balsamic glaze? Please and thank you!

Pro Tip: Don't let your delicious summer veggies go to waste before you can eat them! Store them properly and they'll last for much longer, giving you enough time to enjoy them.


angel food cake summer dessert with berries, from Shelf Cooking

Whether you're team cobbler or team pie, you won't be disappointed with these refreshing and easy summer dessert ideas. Just wait for your mind to be blown with all of these yummy treats.

  • Cobbler – This is the perfect way to use those summer fruits that may be starting to get a little bit overripe!
  • Pie – The same goes for a pie! Use those delicious summer fruits or make a chocolate meringue, we won't judge either way. 😉
  • Fruit Pizza – Sugar cookies + icing + fruit = sorta-kinda healthy, right? Regardless, it's all kinds of tasty!
  • Peach Dumplings – Crescent rolls meet peaches in this super simple dessert. The crescent rolls make them totally breakfast-appropriate, right??
  • Angel Food Cake – Whip up a light and fluffy angel food cake or grab one at the store, either will taste good! Don't forget to top with homemade whipped cream and berries.


S'mores with a campfire, from Shelf Cooking
  • Homemade Ice Cream – Break out the ice cream machine, because it's time to make your favorite homemade ice cream!
  • Grilled Peaches – Better yet, grill some peaches, top them with your homemade ice cream and a little homemade caramel sauce!
  • Cheesecake – Are you a plain, fruity topping, or chocolate cheesecake lover? We don't discriminate here, so give us all the cheesecakes!
  • Summer Berry Lasagna – Here's a no-bake summer dessert that you definitely don't want to miss! You just need a little time and you'll have this refreshing treat to cool you down on a hot day.
  • Ice Cream Sandwich Cake – Ice cream sandwiches, pudding, Oreos, whipped cream, and hot fudge… Need we say more? This dessert is always a crowd pleaser!
  • Mini No-Bake Key Lime Pie – Mini versions just make everything better and this recipe is so easy to make using silicone cupcake liners.
  • Homemade Popsicles – Grab your popsicle mold and get to filling them! They're such fun and refreshing treats that are so versatile and easy to make.
  • No-Bake Strawberry Pie – You'll be the life of the party when you show up with this! Or stay at home and keep it all to yourself, we wouldn't blame you!
  • Smoothies – There's never a bad time for smoothies! Use premade smoothie packs to make this easy treat even quicker.
  • S'mores – Grab your roasting sticks, graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows. It's time to make some s'mores!

Pro Tip: No fire? No problem! You can still make s'mores in the microwave. Build your s'more and pop it in the microwave for 15-30 seconds until the marshmallow is soft and the chocolate is just starting to melt.

Alright, shelf cookers, now that you've got some great summer dinner ideas, what are you going to make first? Let us know in the comments!

image that reads "easy summer dinner ideas", from Shelf Cooking

Looking for more great ideas? Then you definitely want to try these out!

Go soak up some sun!