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Photo: Jennifer Causey

These 20 chilled recipes prove that staying cool doesn't have to mean sacrificing flavor.

Hayley Sugg and Jaime Ritter
June 04, 2018

Winter nights usually mean big-batch soups and cozy Crock-Pot meals, but summer ushers in a new style of cooking: easy, effortless, and fresh meals that require little to no heat. Here are 17 of our favorite dishes that will cool you off and keep you fueled this summer. With these easy cold dinner recipes in your arsenal, you'll have no problem eating well all summer long.

Strawberry Gazpacho

Photo: Caitlin Bensel Styling: Claire Spollen

It may be peak tomato season in some parts of the country, but strawberries make a refreshing version of the classic Spanish chilled vegetable soup.

View the Recipe: Strawberry Gazpacho

Watermelon-Peach Salad with Fig Vinaigrette 

Caitlin Bensel

There’s only one thing better than the juicy watermelon and peaches in this salad—the outstanding fig vinaigrette. Jammy and sweet with a subtle savory essence, fig preserves provide a flavor foil for tart vinegar and acts as an excellent thickener for this dressing, which helps it cling to all the ingredients. Peppery arugula adds the perfect spicy bite. Make a double batch of the vinaigrette and use it to marinate chicken or brush over salmon before grilling.

View the Recipe: Watermelon-Peach Salad with Fig Vinaigrette 

Cold Sesame Noodles with Chicken and Cucumbers

Photo: Randy Mayor

Dig into a simple tossed pasta loaded with chicken, cucumbers, and peanuts—and enjoy the ultimate summer supper.

View the Recipe: Cold Sesame Noodles with Chicken and Cucumbers

Green Gazpacho

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Fresh bread is what gives gazpacho its body, making it a more substantial summer entrée soup. Use bread from the bakery section for the best results (supermarket bread can be overly soft and sweet). A whole-grain sourdough, crusts removed, would be fantastic here, adding just enough tang to round out the other ingredients. For a vegetarian main, substitute toasted bread cubes and chopped cucumber for the shrimp.  

View the Recipe: Green Gazpacho with Shrimp

Mexican Corn Salad

Caitlin Bensel

Mexican street corn morphs into an epic salad in this dish. Beautiful to behold, this salad shines thanks to the combination of colors and textures—crisp golden corn, juicy cherry tomatoes, peppery radishes, and creamy nuggets of cheese. This potluck-perfect side is easy to make ahead of time, and it gets even more flavorful when it sits overnight. Simply wait to stir in the cilantro until just before serving for the prettiest presentation.

View the Recipe: Mexican Corn Salad

Striped Yogurt-and-Sorbet "Ice Cream" Sandwiches

Jennifer Causey

Ok, so this isn't technically a meal, but these yogurt and sorbet sandwiches are a summer dessert staple. Best part? They have just 193 calories each.

View the Recipe: Striped Yogurt-and-Sorbet "Ice Cream" Sandwiches

Fig and Greens Salad

Caitlin Bensel

Chickpeas, goat cheese, and walnuts pump up the protein in this arugula salad, making it a hearty meatless main. Dried figs add a big fiber boost—more per serving than any other fruit.

View the Recipe: Fig and Arugula Salad with Walnuts and Goat Cheese

Chicken and Honeydew Salad

Caitlin Bensel

Rotisserie chicken and pre-diced honeydew help get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes; pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) and tortilla strips deliver a satisfying double-crunch factor.

View the Recipe: Chicken and Honeydew Salad

Cucumber and Green Tomato Gazpacho

Vibrant and refreshing, this is the soup you'll crave on summer's hottest days. Adding a little bread soaked in water, a traditional Spanish trick, thickens the soup without muting the flavors or making the final dish too heavy.

View the Recipe: Cucumber and Green Tomato Gazpacho

Cold Noodle Salad with Sesame Crab

Photo: Jennifer Causey

A quick simmer of the noodles and peas is the only cooking you'll do for this recipe. Pay attention to how you cook the noodles: You don't want them too soft or mushy, but with a pleasant, chewy texture. 

View the recipe: Cold Noodle Salad with Sesame Crab

15-Minute Chicken Shawarma Bowls

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

This Middle Eastern-inspired bowl is all about big flavor with minimal effort. A garlicky, tahini-spiked yogurt brings all the elements together and takes just minutes to make. Assemble a few bowls at the beginning of the week for easy make-ahead lunches.

View the Recipe: Chicken Shawarma Bowls

Tuna, Avocado, and Pickled Onion Sandwich

Greg DuPree

This sandwich is all about healthy fats, with omega-3 fatty acids in the tuna and monounsaturated fat in the avocado. The first boosts brain function; the second is great for heart health. Tuna and avocado also happen to taste delicious together, along with pickled onion, roasted almonds, and briny, pea-green Castelvetrano olives. You’ll want a sturdy loaf of sourdough to support the filling; be sure to buy from the bakery section of the supermarket.

View the Recipe: Tuna, Avocado, and Pickled Onion Sandwich

Spinach, Hummus, and Bell Pepper Wraps

Photo: Victor Protasio

Fresh, flavorful, veggie-packed, and ready in a 10-minute snap—now that’s a meal we can stand behind! Hummus delivers a winning combo of protein and healthy fat for staying power, while fresh bell peppers and spinach provide a satisfying crunch. Tomato-and-basil feta cheese adds a kick of salty tang and Mediterranean flair. 

View the Recipe: Spinach, Hummus, and Bell Pepper Wraps

Orange-Almond Chicken-and-Cabbage Bowls

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

This colorful, no-cook chicken and cabbage bowl is the perfect solution: quick, endlessly adaptable, and low-calorie yet completely satisfying. Cutting a fresh orange into segments is a skill worth having; the segments add a juicy pop to any dish.

View the Recipe: Orange-Almond Chicken-and-Cabbage Bowls

Strawberry-Chicken Salad with Pecans

Photo: Jennifer Causey

This main-dish salad features juicy strawberries at their seasonal peak.

View the Recipe: Strawberry-Chicken Salad with Pecans

Smashed Chickpea Toasts

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

A little reminiscent of both tuna salad and egg salad, this combo of coarsely mashed chickpeas, mayo, pickles, celery, and onion is all at once creamy, crunchy, and toothsome. We like serving it as an open-faced tartine or toast, but you can also sandwich it between two bread slices or serve it with whole-grain crackers.

View the Recipe: Smashed Chickpea Toasts

Mixed Grain, Cherry, and Snap Pea Salad

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Bulgur, quinoa, and brown rice make for a nutty, wonderfully textured grain base in this salad, though you can omit the bulgur and double the quinoa for a gluten-free version. Extra crunch comes from fresh snap peas and red onion. Fresh cherries take the place of cherry tomatoes here—they burst on the tongue with a similar tart-sweet juiciness.

View the Recipe: Mixed Grain, Cherry, and Snap Pea Salad

Crunchy Cucumber, Feta, and Almond Salad

Photo: Greg Dupree

Texture is the most satisfying element of a great salad. Crunchy and crisp vegetables signify freshness—they taste as vibrant as they look. Here we dial up the crunch with crisp romaine hearts, sliced cucumber, and coarsely chopped almonds (which lend much more texture than sliced or slivered nuts).

View the Recipe: Crunchy Cucumber, Feta, and Almond Salad

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Tichi's Gazpacho

This is an ideal recipe for ripe, peak-season farmers market produce. High-quality olive oil will make a big difference here. You can find Spanish extra-virgin olive oil at reasonable prices at Trader Joe’s, but any flavorful variety you have on hand will work. 

View the Recipe: Tichi's Gazpacho

Open-Faced Prosciutto and Plum Sandwiches

Photo: John Autry

Sweet fig preserves balance the tartness of the plums. Choose red or purple plums with bright, unblemished skin that are firm and plump to the touch. Best part? You'll be eating dinner in exactly 7 minutes.

View the Recipe: Open-Faced Prosciutto and Plum Sandwiches