The definition of “kid-friendly” certainly varies from child to child, but there are a few common threads you’ll find among recipes that appeal to families. First, they’re easy for parents to throw together, and, in some cases, for kids to help out with preparing. They often draw on familiar ingredients—like pasta—and favor simple preparations in favor of complex sauces or lots of spices. And they’re usually customizable with elements that can easily be left out or swapped in, whether it’s omitting the fresh basil garnish or using familiar American cheese in lieu of sharper Gruyère.
The recipes in this collection feature something for everyone: They’re accessible for finicky eaters, but hardly boring or bland. Yes, there’s pasta (spaghetti with a speedy tomato sauce, penne with broccoli, gnocchi with peas, and a no-fail mac ‘n’ cheese)—but there’s also lots more, including dishes from some tried and true, kid-friendly cuisines, such as Mexican and Chinese.
The breaded chicken cutlets shown here are a fantastic example of how tasty kid-friendly food can be: They’re crispy, crunchy, savory, and wonderfully filling. You start by pulsing oats in a food processor until finely ground, then add umami-rich Grana Padano cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. This becomes the breading for chicken tenders, which you fry in a skillet. Cut them into strips for little fingers to pick up, or leave them whole for older diners to cut on their own. They’re delicious with a squeeze a lemon, a squirt of ketchup, or whatever else your family’s heart desires.
Most importantly, child-friendly dinners don’t have to be dull or unhealthy. Here, a collection of ideas that will appeal to family members both young and old.