22 Super Easy Father’s Day Recipes for a Happy Pappy
Celebrate Dad with these Father’s Day meals you can put together in a jiffy
With Father’s Day just around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad. He’s fond of counterfactual pronouncements that serve as zen koans — or rather, incendiary devices — for the people that love him. His favorite is this little gem that sends my mother into conniptions every time he says it: “Food means nothing to me.”
This is false. My father cares a lot about food. He has let drop many times that he hasn’t had a decent bagel in maybe 30 years. According to him, no cannoli in the world has ever compared to the ones he had in the East Village in 1969. He has strong preferences on his coffee (hot and black) and on dessert (not worth it, except panna cotta and a very particular chocolate cake). He spends months of the year combing the internet for leads on good restaurants to try in Italy, where he spends weeks every spring traveling on his belly from trattoria to trattoria, leaving a trail of clam shells discarded from bowl after bowl of linguine alle vongole.
So what does he mean when he claims that food means nothing to him? It certainly doesn’t mean he has no preferences. He does, for sure! But I think it means that if he can’t get food that meets his high standards, he’s not going to let it ruin his day … he just won’t eat it.
If your dad’s like mine, the solution to Father’s Day dinner or brunch is to celebrate while limiting your investment in prep time. Dad will be happy just to be at the table with the family. Why spend too much time on the food, after all, when food means nothing to him?
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Impressive yet surprisingly simple Father's Day recipes
Forget the slow cooker. Sometimes the perfect recipe just happens to be dead simple and quick as can be. These dishes will make Father’s Day festive in a half-hour flat.
Start with good mussels, bracing and briny. Add crisp white wine, a knob of butter, and a handful of aromatics to the pot, and let the mussels steam open until just cooked. The broth that gathers beneath the shells is delightful, an ocean breeze in liquid form, just waiting to be mopped up with a crispy baguette.
This is not your classic steakhouse shrimp cocktail. Instead, it follows the Mexican tradition: Chunks of dry-brined poached shrimp are tossed with avocado and cilantro and a tangy tomato ketchup sauce — a mix of salt and heat and sweetness. Perfect for a summer night in the backyard with a frosty bottle of beer.
This pasta hack precedes viral TikTok recipes by hundreds of years. But it’s no less miraculous an exercise in kitchen alchemy than that one weird trick your cousin sent you to make mashed potatoes out of potato chips. Three ingredients only (so buy the best versions you can!): pecorino cheese (not Parmesan), cracked black pepper, and pasta. In this Smitten Kitchen rendition, they come together in the food processor beforehand and then unify with the cooked noodles in a swirl of starchy pasta water. They add up to far more than the sum of their parts.
Does your dad have champagne tastes AND a champagne budget? Spring for a tin of caviar — beluga for high-rollers, salmon eggs for mid-altitude rollers — and whip up these buckwheat pancakes instead of toast points as a platform for the fish eggs. A couple shots of chilled vodka and Dad’ll be grinning ear to ear.
Salmon on a cedar plank absorbs woodsy smoky aromatics and sidesteps the problem of how to keep the fish from sticking. This rendition saves time and hassle by using the oven instead of grilling — you get all the benefits of planked fish with much less prep and cleanup.
Maybe a manly steak is the answer to Father’s Day. Skirt steak, flank, or sirloin flap sears up in minutes and this quick chimichurri is the perfect green counterpoint to this manly meaty meal. Make sure to slice against the grain to keep the steak tender. Throw a couple tortillas on the table and it's taco night, too!
Fun meal-making activities to do with Dad
One way to save labor on celebratory meal prep? Use a little culinary jujitsu (and some cleverly selected ingredients) to put Dad to work on his own meal. Pitch it as some hands-on crafty fun for the whole family. Then sit back and give him the satisfaction of doing it right himself.
Hand Dad a shucking blade and a basket of bivalves, then put on this how-to-shuck video and retreat to the cutting board to prepare a little vinegary mignonette to go with the oysters. Dad’ll get to play with knives and you’ll get to enjoy the fruits of his labor.
Activity: DIY pizza
A little store-bought dough, a quick no-cook sauce, and an array of mozzarella and toppings make for a fun, do-it-yourself pizza bar. Dad’ll be happy to don an apron and top some pies for you to bake off in a very hot oven.
Activity: Roll your own spring rolls
A summer night calls for these fresh spring rolls: They’re a perfect candidate for a roll-your-own hands-on experience. Soak the wrappers briefly and then provide rice sticks, veggies, cilantro, and protein for fillings so Dad (and the rest of the dinner guests) can customize their own perfect roll. Fun and fresh and delicious.
No cooking required
Serving it raw is the ultimate time-saver. These festive meals don’t need any heat before they hit the table. Less sweating over a stove; more time and energy to spend with Dad.
When you’re putting together a charcuterie board, you’re more of curator than chef. Select excellent cured meats and interesting cheeses and lay them out on an oversized board with an eye toward balance and beauty. Throw in some fruits and crispy crackers — maybe a few hard-boiled eggs and a ramekin of grainy mustard — and you’ve assembled a Father’s Day meal for the ages.
Visit a local butcher and let them know what you’re planning. They’ll slice the steak to your specifications leaving you with only the assembly of your platter, some shavings of Parmesan, and a quick drizzle of this mayonnaise/lemon juice sauce based on the recipe from Harry’s Bar on the Grand Canal in Venice. Dad will be wowed!
Here’s another riff on the theme of raw meat. Your butcher can mince it for you, or you can go to town with a chef’s knife. A few judiciously applied mix-ins, some pumpernickel toast, and you’re all set. If your dad’s more into surf than turf, try an oceanic version with tuna tartare or salmon tartare instead!
Hybrid meals: Purchased entrees + homemade sides
Delegation is the key to professional management — and Father’s Day is no exception. Rely on a professional to prepare the main course while you take care of the appetizers or side dishes. Here are a few chef-made/homemade combos that are sure-fire winners.
Hybrid Meal #1: Fried Chicken and Thai-Spiced Coleslaw
Purchased entree: Take-Out Fried Chicken
Homemade side: Thai-Style Spicy Cabbage Slaw with Mint and Cilantro
Time for a true confession. I like Popeye’s Fried Chicken. I like it a lot. I like it better than 99% of the bespoke fried chicken that comes from the hip places around here that all seem to serve Negroni slushies alongside. So my recommendation: Get 15-20 spicy Popeye’s chicken wings or thighs and serve them to Dad alongside this homemade lime and fish sauce-accented coleslaw.
Hybrid Meal #2: Restaurant BBQ and Potato Salad
Purchased entree: Smoked Brisket or Pulled Pork
Homemade side: Bacon Ranch Potato Salad
If you’ve got neither the time nor the inclination to fire up the smoker, pay a visit to a trusted nearby BBQ purveyor. They can spend the 18 hours laboring over a smoked brisket or pulled pork, and you can focus on comfort food side dishes like this bacon ranch potato salad.
Hybrid Meal #3: Sushi and Sesame Spinach Salad
Purchased entree: Carry-Out Sushi Platter
Homemade side: Goma-ae (Japanese Spinach Salad)
There’s a little carry-out-only sushi place near me that will assemble a three-foot-wide platter of fresh nigiri and rolls with a half-hour’s notice that is the perfect answer to the question of how to celebrate your dad. Leave the sushi rice to the pros and focus instead on some strategic appetizers, like this Goma-ae, a cold spinach salad dressed with soy and sesame.
Father’s Day desserts
Jim Zurer doesn’t eat dessert as a class, so if Jim Zurer is your dad you can skip this section. But if your paterfamilias has a sweet tooth, why not skip the distractions of a main course and sides and go right to the best part: dessert.
Where I live, June is the height of strawberry season. So hit up your local U-Pick or farmers market and whip up a batch of towering strawberry shortcakes. It’s a classic for a reason.
Make your own hot fudge sauce and put out an ice cream sundae bar with your dad’s favorite flavors of ice cream and toppings. Banana split, anyone?
Fondue is the charcuterie board of desserts. Your role as fondue chef is to curate a selection of perfect morsels (cheesecake? fruit? marshmallows?) for Dad to spear and dunk in homemade chocolate sauce.
Father's Day cocktails
When you’re all out of time, nothing says “I love you, Dad” like a classic cocktail. Choose from one of the below and whip up a quick drinking snack while your guests drink the first round. Happy hour is a festive gathering without any fuss.
For me, it’s gin, not vodka. Stirred, not shaken. A touch of vermouth but not too much. An ice-cold martini is a great way to show Dad you appreciate him.
The bitter edge of the Campari in a Negroni is a great refresher on a hot summer night. You can sip these classic Italian cocktails all night long.
Cold beer, hot sauce, tart lime: Nothing beats this Tex-Mex beer cocktail. You can garnish your michelada with salami or jalapeño like it’s a fizzy bloody mary or keep it simple with a Tajin rim. It’s a drink that drinks like a meal.
While Dad and the gang are working on the first round, mix up this festive spicy snack mix with stuff you’ve probably already got in the pantry.
More ideas for Father's Day
Keep reading for more delicious ways to celebrate Dad: