The New Way to Cook Light Recipes
Fresh, Light, Fully Delicious Food
"Fully delicious is what interests us: food that proves that a desire to eat healthfully need not sideline you from what I call the revolution in American eating. Millions of Americans are now excited about food that is local, global, authentic, fresh, slow, organic, heirloom, heritage, artisanal: real food. Our nation’s fantastic stew of cultures has put more and more global ingredients onto store shelves, and more global dishes onto restaurant menus. At the center of all this fun and ferment stands you, the home cook, who wants to turn out great food for the people you care the most about." -Scott Mowbray, Cooking Light Editor
Classic Fudge-Walnut Brownies
Crowned our best chocolate recipe ever when we did a 25-year look-back, these deliver that intense, back-of-the- throat chocolate satisfaction from the first bite.
Marinated Peppers and Mozzarella
Use a beautiful olive oil here. With peppers at the base, the hint of lemon, heat, and salt develops into a complex, satisfying appetizer. Reserve excess oil from the marinade, then toss it with pasta and grape tomatoes or sautéed shrimp. The best fresh mozza, made with whole milk, is fantastically creamy and slightly sweet.
Chickpeas and Spinach with Smoky Paprika
Do not make this until you’ve located real sherry vinegar (nutty and complex) and Spanish smoked paprika (almost bacon-y).
Lattice-Topped Blackberry Cobbler
Bubbling fruit topped with flaky pastry—it’s stunning and deliciously healthy, with more than 8 grams of fiber per serving.
Pan-Fried Egg Rolls
This Chinese menu staple gets a makeover with a cooking method that yields crispy egg rolls without the fuss, fat, and mess of full-on deep-frying.
Peanut Butter Caramel Corn
Just enough butter for caramel goodness. Peanut butter for heart-healthy richness.
Barcelona Hot Chocolate
Cocoa and espresso together: not as sweet, deeply flavorful.
Pinto, Black, and Red Bean Salad with Grilled Corn and Avocado
It’s a three-bean salad with a reason to be—spicy, creamy, beany.
Fennel Salad with Meyer Lemon and Goat Cheese
A Meyer lemon is not your average lemon. It’s sweeter and less acidic and has a floral essence. It also has a brief season. Grab a good one (usually plump, bright, and thin-skinned—not hard) when you see one. If you can’t find Meyers, use tangerines or oranges, maybe with a spritz of lemon juice.
Grilled Tilapia with Smoked Paprika and Parmesan Polenta
This fish is like the chicken breast of the sea: an American favorite. It’s lean, mild, and pleasantly firm. Creamy polenta complements spice-rubbed fish. Cooking polenta in milk and cheese enriches it with both flavor and calcium.
French Frisée Salad with Bacon and Poached Eggs
Lighter, yes, but we did not deviate from the classic ingredients that define this dish. Frisée, also known as curly endive, has lacy leaves and a bitterness that marries with the creamy yolk. If you can’t find frisée on its own, it’s often included in mesclun combinations, along with radicchio—and that’s fine.
Ranch Steak Bruschetta Salad
We’re not above reaching for a bottle of supermarket ranch dressing, if we can jazz it up with horseradish and ancho pepper. Top the toast slices with the salad mixture if you like. Ancho chile powder is made from a dried poblano chile; it has mild to medium heat and a slightly sweet fruit flavor, with hints of coffee.
Prosciutto and Melon Salad with Cantaloupe Vinaigrette
Rice vinegar and cantaloupe in the dressing completely reset this ham-and-melon classic. Peppery arugula adds bite.
Bayou Catfish Fillets
Crispy-crusted catfish without deep-fat frying—brilliant. Fried catfish is one of the genius dishes of the South. Banish the thought of dull-tasting fish: Today’s farmed catfish is sweet and meaty, with a hint of earthiness.
Spicy Shrimp and Grits
Pour the bacon drippings into a cup; measure 2 teaspoons and pour back into pan to cook shrimp. This recipe offers options for how to spice up the dish: Use hot pepper sauce for bright, vinegary heat, or chipotle chiles for a fruity, smoky burn.
Crab Cakes with Spicy Rémoulade
Crab cake lovers are fierce about the ratio of crab to filler. Our light cakes put the crab forward—and lose calories and fat—by using just enough mayo and breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together. Plus, we skip the deep-fryer and sauté in oil to ensure crunch.
Tofu Fried Rice
A fast version of a take-out classic: American-style fried rice is paired with peas and carrots and crisped cubes of tofu.
Fall Vegetable Curry
Madras curry powder is worlds away from the slightly musty regular stuff—it’s brighter, more fragrant, and packs much more heat.
Stuffed Whole Roasted Yellowtail Snapper
Many home cooks avoid the whole-fish routine, thinking it tricky. It’s not. Just as cooking meat on the bone makes for richer flavor and extra succulence, so does cooking fish this way. Scoring the fish helps it keep its shape during cooking. Select whole fish with clear eyes, shiny scales, pink gills, and moist skin. Use this versatile preparation with almost any small, whole fish and your favorite fresh herbs. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds.
Carne Asada Tacos with Avocado Pico de Gallo
If you haven’t tried skirt steak, prepare to have your world rocked. It’s one of the richest, beefiest cuts. When you have a very long piece of steak, it’s OK to cut it into smaller pieces so they’ll fit in the pan; just be sure to slice against the grain once it’s cooked.
Simmered Cabbage with Beef, Shan Style
This is one of the most delicious dishes we tested in 2011—a sublime Southeast Asian riff on beef and cabbage from Naomi Duguid. Slow simmering like this is favored in northern Thailand and among the Shan people in Myanmar. Ingredients that have been combined with very little water and little or no oil are cooked under a tightly sealed lid. The result is ethereal.
Walnut and Rosemary Oven-Fried Chicken
Fast, easy, and terrifically crunchy: the taste of fried chicken for less than 300 calories. It’s versatile, too—use as a stand-alone entrée, perch atop salads, or use as a base for chicken Parmesan. Add kid appeal with a honey-mustard dipping sauce.
Lemony Chicken Saltimbocca
Saltimbocca means “ jump in the mouth”—apt for a fast dish that marries woodsy sage, bright lemon, and salty prosciutto. Serve over a bed of angel hair pasta or polenta.
Old-Fashioned Chicken Potpie
Sometimes you just want pure, homey comfort. Our version hits all the flaky, creamy, potato-rich notes of the classic but is much lighter in calories and sodium.
Arctic Char with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes
The fish is sautéed to create a beautiful browned crust, then finished in the oven. Wild arctic char from the northern seas is available only for a few weeks in late summer, when the ice has melted enough for fishermen to reach them. It’s a sought-after delicacy, and one that will cost you. If you find fresh, it’s worth the splurge.
Apple-Poblano Whole Roast Turkey
A hint of Southwest spice and chile heat blend with sweet apples for a crowd-pleasing change from traditional turkey. Brining is the key to a moist bird.
Sausage and Cheese Breakfast Casserole
Pop a prepared casserole in the oven and let it bake while you sip coffee—that’s the way to wake up on a lazy Sunday. Seems like every family has a beloved version of this type of breakfast strata. This one is much lower in fat than most.
Fresh Cherry Galette
Spectacular and ridiculously easy—just pile fresh cherries over store-bought crust, and bake. Rainier cherries have delicate, white flesh and yellowish-red skin—they're larger and taste sweeter than Bings. If you can’t find them, add an extra tablespoon of sugar.
Creamy, Light Macaroni and Cheese
We set out to make a serious dent in the calorie and fat content of good old mac and cheese, while preserving the creamy comfort-food texture. Solution: Butternut squash. Combined with milk and Greek yogurt, it adds rich flavor, sneaks in a vegetable, and gives color to a three-cheese sauce that contains no cheddar.
Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion, and Spinach Lasagna
Sage and butternut bring out the best in each other. Caramelized onions, fontina cheese, and sautéed spinach complete the fall festival of flavors. A béchamel-style sauce creams the dish up.
Soy-Citrus Scallops with Soba Noodles
Robust Japanese buckwheat noodles and seared scallops get coated with a marinade that has been reduced to a glaze. Serve with still-crunchy snow peas or sugar snap peas. You can toss them right in with the noodles.
Pepperoni Deep-Dish Pizza
Here’s your knife, fork, and two napkins kind of deep-dish pie, invented at Pizzeria Uno in Chicago more than 60 years ago. We retained all the gooey-cheesy-crusty deliciousness of this dish while lightening it significantly.
Multigrain Pilaf with Sunflower Seeds
This is about as healthy—and tasty—a side as we can cook up: whole-grain goodness plus sunflower seeds and dried fruit.This recipe calls for long-cooking barley and brown rice (both whole grains), but if you’re in a hurry, substitute instant brown rice and quick-cooking barley. Just be sure to adjust cooking times according to package directions.
Bursting with the goodness of seven vegetables. Make it vegetarian with vegetable or mushroom broth.
Loaded Potato Soup
All the appeal of a loaded baked potato, delivered in a hearty soup. It’s about that simple. If you aren’t in a rush, you can chop the onions and cook the bacon in a skillet or baking sheet in the oven.
Meaty, juicy, moderately spicy, very delicious. Top with thinly sliced radishes for a bit of crunch.
Peanut Butter–Banana Bread
This easy bread, with far less of the drenching saturated fat than most recipes, is one of the tastier treats to come out of our Test Kitchen. Peanut butter is whipped into the basic recipe for a moist bread with a hint of nutty flavor. A small amount of chopped roasted peanuts offers crunch and more nutty goodness.
Spicy Jalapeño Corn Bread
Zing goes the chile, pop goes the fresh, sweet corn, for those who like their corn bread busy. When cutting corn from the cob, corral the kernels in a bowl so they don’t fly all over your counter. You’ll likely have leftovers; seal extra portions in plastic wrap, and store at room temperature for up to one day.
Slow-Roasted Grape and Yogurt Parfaits
It’s absolutely worth the time to cook grapes for three hours. Low and slow heat concentrates the grape-y sweetness and turns fruit buttery-soft with almost no effort. This is a restaurant-quality dessert, easily made. The yogurt holds the layers together. Chopped walnuts on top add crunch and a dose of healthy fat.
This is a simply amazing recipe—layers of crisp phyllo interspersed with mixed nuts and hazelnut-chocolate spread, with just enough butter to enhance the flavor yet keep the sat fat low. Lightly spiced honey syrup gives the gooey, sticky quality that makes baklava so heavenly.
Burgers with Blue Cheese Mayo and Sherry Vidalia Onions
Sharp cheese plays against sweet onions in a seriously delicious sandwich, made lighter with lean beef. Lean sirloin has about the same amount of saturated fat as ground turkey. With blue cheese mayo and tangy-sweet onions, it makes a mighty juicy burger—if you’re careful not to overcook.
Bell Pepper, Tomato, Cucumber, and Grilled Bread Salad
Bread salads put day-old loaves to brilliant use. The crunchy bread (it needs to be good, chewy bread) sops up the dressing, softens, and makes a counterpoint to the vegetables. Toss in grilled shrimp or chicken.