25 healthy recipes you can cook in 5 minutes or less

No time? That doesn’t mean you can’t eat something home-made and delicious. Sarah Brealey presents 25 simple suggestions for healthy meals.

1. Pea and broad bean couscous

Carroty couscous salad

Put equal quantities of frozen peas, frozen broad beans and dried couscous in a saucepan. Cover with boiling water and simmer for 3 minutes. Fluff up with a fork and mix in fresh mint, basil and plenty of black pepper.

Or if you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, try our recipe for carroty couscous salad (pictured), or fish and couscous salad.

2. Beetroot and lentil salad

Mix drained ready cooked beetroot (not in vinegar) with a tin of drained puy lentils (choose one with no added salt), a teaspoon of ready-made horseradish sauce and some chopped spring onion for a substantial salad in moments – perfect for packed lunches.

3. Fast home-made baked beans

 Baked beans with poached eggs 

Drain a tin of cannellini or butter beans (choose one with no added salt). Heat with tomato passata, and half a teaspoon of smoked paprika. Serve on toast, with a poached egg on top if you feel like it.

Or if you've got a bit more time, try our even more delicious recipe for home-made baked beans with poached eggs.

4. Porridge

Porridge with fresh berries 

Porridge takes just a few minutes to make in a saucepan, and even less in a microwave. Instead of adding sugar or salt, scatter with a handful (80g) of fresh berries or other fruit to get one of your 5-a-day at the same time.

5. Pasta with cherry tomatoes and rocket

Boil some quick-cook dried spaghetti (or other pasta shape, or fresh pasta) according to the packet instructions. While this is happening, wash a small punnet of cherry tomatoes per person and cut each tomato in half. Drain the pasta and immediately stir in the tomatoes and a handful of rocket per person. Serve straight away. Swap the pasta for couscous, or a pouch of pre-cooked wholegrain rice, if you prefer.

6. Home-made hummus

Beetroot hummus 

Hummus is surely the dip of the decade, with no self-respecting picnic or drinks party complete without it. It’s just as good on toast, as a sandwich filling or a jacket potato topping. But why buy it when you can save money and make a healthier version yourself in minutes? Make our classic recipe for hummus or for something a little different, try beetroot hummus (pictured).

7. Smashed avocado and wilted spinach

Microwave the spinach or heat it in a dry pan for 2 minutes or until just wilted. Peel an avocado, add a squeeze of lemon and mash roughly. Pile the avocado and spinach onto toast. You could add some grilled tomato and poached egg on top if you’ve got the time.

8. Cucumber (or potato) raitha

Potato raitha 

A refreshing dip of yoghurt and cucumber is equally good as a dip for crudités or wholegrain pitta breads, or as a side dish with spicy food. Our recipe for cucumber raitha takes moments to make.

If you have leftover boiled potatoes, you could try our more unusual potato raitha recipe instead.

9. Quick pitta pizzas

Chicken and pepper pitta pizzas 

Toast wholemeal pitta breads lightly (for ultimate speed, do this in a toaster while you pre-heat the grill). Spread each pitta with tomato puree or passata. Top with a little reduced-fat mozzarella, torn from a ball, and some sliced tomato. Optional extra toppings are tinned sweetcorn (no added salt or sugar), sliced spring onion or sliced button mushrooms. Place under the pre heated grill for 3 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Like the sound of this? Check out our recipe for chicken and pepper pitta pizzas (pictured).

10. Mexican salad (or wrap)

Mix a tin of drained black beans with halved cherry tomatoes, chopped spring onion (or red onion) and half an avocado, chopped. Stir in some chopped fresh coriander leaves and a good squeeze of lime juice. Serve as it is as a side dish or for a light lunch, or use as a filling for tortilla wraps.

11. Fresh tuna steaks (pan fried)

Tuna steak by ducan c 

ducan c / Via Flickr

Fresh tuna should only be cooked briefly, so is perfect for meals in a hurry. Get your griddle pan or non-stick frying pan very hot and cook each steak for one to two minutes each side. It should still be pink or red inside. Serve with green salad, or with the pea and mint couscous above.

12. Puy lentil salad

Drain a tin of puy lentils in water. Mix with halved cherry tomatoes, chopped cucumber, and cubes of reduced-fat feta cheese.

13. Special stir fried rice

Egg fried rice 

Heat a teaspoon of oil in a frying pan. Using a high heat, fry thinly sliced peppers or mushrooms, frozen peas, beansprouts, and sliced spring onions for 2-3 minutes. Stir in some leftover or ready-cooked rice and stir fry for a couple of minutes longer or until the rice is piping hot. Add sesame seeds and hot chilli sauce, if you want to liven it up a bit.

Not in quite such a hurry? Get our recipe for easy egg fried rice (pictured) or special vegetarian stir-fried rice.

14. Super-fast bean chilli

Perhaps not the most gourmet chilli ever made, but it does the trick when time is of the essence. Drain a tin of kidney beans (choose one with no added salt), and put in a pan with a tin of chopped tomatoes, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, and chilli powder to taste. Boil for five minutes. Eat on its own, or with either ready-cooked wholegrain rice, wholegrain toast or a (microwaved) jacket potato with some chopped fresh tomatoes and cucumber.

15. Smashed peas on toast with poached egg

Smahed peas on toast with poached eggs 

Defrost frozen peas and mash them roughly (or pulse in a blender). Add fresh mint and black pepper. Pile onto hot toast and top with a poached egg. Great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

16. Sardine pate

A tin of sardines forms the basis for this quick pate which works well for a light lunch or dinner party starter.

17. Egg and tomato wraps

Egg and tomato wraps 

Hard boiled eggs keep for a few days in the fridge. If you’ve got some boiled eggs left over, make these easy egg and tomato wraps (pictured).

18. Tuna and sweetcorn pasta

Boil some quick-cook dried fusilli (or other pasta shape, or fresh pasta) according to the packet instructions. Drain it when cooked, reserving a little pasta water. Over a low heat mix the pasta with low-fat soft cheese, tinned tuna in spring water, tinned sweetcorn (with no added sugar or salt) and freshly ground black pepper, adding a little of the pasta water if you need it. Serve as soon as it is heated through, with a green salad.

19. Beans and greens

Beans and greens 

Shred a Savoy cabbage and boil for three minutes. Drain and mix with tinned beans or lentils of your choice (choose a variety with no added salt), a chopped tomato (optional), a generous squeeze of lemon juice and plenty of black pepper.

20. Gazpacho

Gazpacho by Johnida Dockens 

Johnida Dockens / Via Flickr 

There are many different versions of gazpacho, a chilled Spanish soup which needs no cooking. You won’t have time to chill it, but it’s sometimes served with ice-cubes (or if your ingredients are straight from the fridge it should be cool enough anyway).

Put very ripe tomatoes in a blender with a red pepper (deseeded), a chunk of cucumber, a garlic clove, half a red onion (or a few spring onions), and a small splash of sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar. Blend well and add cold water if it needs thinning down. Serve cold with a drizzle of olive oil. If you can’t get decent fresh tomatoes, use passata instead.

Not sure about cold soup? If you’ve got a bit more time, try one of our other Mediterranean-inspired soups like Italian bread soup or roasted tomato and lentil soup.

21. Green beans with garlic and ginger

Heat a teaspoon of oil in a pan with some French beans, trimmed, chopped garlic and finely chopped or grated fresh ginger. Stir fry under a high heat for a minute, then add a tablespoon of water, cover, and let steam for three minutes. The beans should still be al dente. Serve as a side dish or with our special stir fried rice (above).

22. Home-made tomato salsa

Tomato salsa 

Alan Levine / Via Flickr

Chop fresh tomatoes (red or green) into small chunks and mix with finely chopped red pepper, red onion and fresh chilli (or chilli powder), and a few coriander leaves (optional). Use as a dip for crudités or bread sticks, or to liven up sandwiches.

23. White bean bruschetta

Toast some rustic style bread. Drain a can of cannellini beans (choose one with no added salt), and add a few ready-roasted red peppers from a jar, cut into small strips. Add some parsley and a teaspoon of olive oil drizzled over the top, if you wish.

24. Avocados with tuna

Lemon dressing 

Peel and halve an avocado. Fill the hollow of each half with tinned tuna in spring water (drained). Drizzle with our Heart Matters lemon-herb salad dressing.

25. Sweetcorn, tomato and avocado wrap

Slice an avocado and squeeze a bit of lemon juice over it. Place into tortilla wraps with tinned sweetcorn (no added sugar or salt) and chopped tomato.

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