Family-Friendly Dinner Menus

Cooking one meal that will appease both the simple palates of children and the more refined tastes of adults can be a challenge. Yet there is no need to plan two separate menus to feed the crowd gathered around your table the next time you host the extended family for a celebratory birthday dinner, or have over another family visiting from out of town.

To help you out, we've put together four easy-to-prepare menus that are fit for a dinner party and are sure to calm hungry appetites of all ages. And if you cook with your kids often, be sure to read these tips for engaging your children when they're helping you in the kitchen. 


For a Comforting Winter Meal:

Kid-Friendly, Devil Short Ribs

Inspired by a childhood favorite, these rich and flavorful short ribs will appease both kids and adults.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Toasted Walnuts

A more nutritious alternative to plain mashed potatoes, these creamy spuds are topped with some toasted walnuts for an added crunch. (Photo courtesy of Valaer Murray)

Cream-Braised Belgian Endive

Braising this slightly bitter vegetable transforms the once-crisp leaves into something sweet and tender.


For an Italian-Inspired Dinner:

An Easy, Delicious, and Kid-Friendly Tomato Sauce

A simple, healthy tomato sauce that is plain enough to serve kids, yet flavorful enough to satisfy the adults. Serve with your choice of pasta, be it penne or spaghetti.

Sicilian-Style Turkey Meatballs

For the meat eaters at the table, serve these lighter, greens and raisin-studded turkey meatballs to accompany the pasta on the side.

Un-Mushy Peas

Serve these dressed-up peas as a green vegetable for the kids. If they'd like, let your kids toss the peas in with their pasta for fun. (Photo courtesy of Jason Anello/Kun Kim)

Roast Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts with Prosciutto and Balsamic Vinegar

For the adults, serve a vegetable with a bit more flavor and complexity like these roasted Brussels sprouts and chestnuts that are mixed with some salty prosciutto and a drizzle of sweet vinegar.


For Something Light and Easy:

Juice-Box Salmon

Who knew juice boxes would come in handy for marinating fish? (Photo courtesy of Marcus Nilsson)

Vegetable Tian

Once this easy and delicious vegetable dish is in the oven, you can almost forget about it while it cooks, leaving you free to tend to your dinner guests.

Preserved Lemon and Almond Rice Pilaf

Preserved lemons and crisp almonds add an unusual, aromatic quality to this rice pilaf side dish.


For Something Easy to Impress Out-of-Towners:

Pork Chop Milanese

A variation on veal Milanese; purchase boneless pork cutlets at the store if you're really short on time. (Photo courtesy of Allison Beck)

Sweet and Salty Eggplant

Soy sauce and agave syrup help transform this sometimes boring vegetable into a flavorful and meltingly-tender side dish.

Herb Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

A simple green salad that can be served on its own or atop the pork cutlets. Make sure to choose fresh, flavorful herbs when at the market.


Like what you read? Click here for more adult and kid-friendly menu ideas.