40 Great Meal Train Recipes for Someone Who's Sick or in Need
A delicious meal is the perfect way to support someone who's sick or injured. Try one of these meal train ideas to wow them—without putting in hours of cooking.
Bringing over a meal is one of the most tried-and-true ways to help out a family member or friend who's dealing with some life challenges, whether someone's ill or injured, they're dealing with a death in the family, or they're welcoming a new baby. Fortunately, the site Meal Train makes it so much easier to coordinate a response, so they can get exactly the help they need, exactly when they need it.
But figuring out a great and easy meal train recipe to share with your loved one isn't always so simple. Here's the scoop on how to choose a great meal to share—and how to ensure they savor every bite.
Tips for Picking a Perfect Meal Train Recipe
Ask about their preferences, food allergies, and any food restrictions
Most Meal Train listings include some info about any preferences or issues (i.e. hates spinach, allergic to dairy, medication interactions with grapefruit). Be sure to read them thoroughly and follow up with any questions or concerns. Even if they're not listed, ingredients that are often divisive (like raisins or cilantro) may be good to clear with them.
Consider why your friend needs help
Your menu decisions may lean a little toward the healthier end of things if you're trying to help someone who's getting over the flu or getting chemotherapy treatments, while a new mom may appreciate a meal that includes ingredients she wasn't able to eat while pregnant, like soft cheeses.
See what other people in the meal train are delivering
If everyone's going with casseroles or they've already had variations on tacos two times this week, you may want to ensure that they get a little variety.
Plan out how you'll transport the meal
Getting your meal train dish safely to your destination can be the final bit of complexity. Using your own baking dishes or bowls is a more ecofriendly (and stylish) option, but could make things a little more complicated for your friend, as they'll have to keep track of dishes and return them to everyone. (You can help them out by clearly labeling your dish with your name and phone number, and offering to come pick it up in a few days.)
Disposable options like foil pans, food storage containers, or zip-top bags can minimize cleanup, but finding the right type of container for the meal can be a little bit tricky, especially if you're transporting something liquidy like a soup or stew.
Pro tip: I save plastic takeout containers when we get takeout, and use those when I'm sharing meals, so my friends can either recycle the containers or wash and reuse them.
Consider delivering a little something extra with your meal train recipe
While your food train meal is the star of the show, you can always add a little extra something to go with it—whether that's a dessert, some muffins for breakfast the next morning, or a bouquet of flowers or bottle of wine (depending on the reason you're supplying the meal).
Don't be ashamed to share takeout
We've leaned in on easy meal train ideas below, but if you're too busy (or not feeling super confident in your cooking skills), you can still help out—remember, it's the thought that counts. You could drop off a rotisserie chicken with sides and a bagged salad for a fast meal for them, or opt for a gift card to a favorite restaurant or meal delivery service to treat them.
Casseroles and One-Pot Meals
Casseroles are the traditional meal train recipe, with good reason. They're easy to make, include everything in a single dish that just needs a quick reheat, and can often be frozen or stored if they're already drowning in leftovers from other people's generosity.
Simple Shepherd's Pie
If you need to cook for a crowd, this British comfort food classic serves eight to 10 people. It's a perfect meal train idea for a large family (or giving them lots of leftovers)—or you can split the finished product in two so your family and theirs can enjoy the hearty meat-and-potatoes goodness.
Green Chile Enchiladas
This all-in-one vegetarian-friendly meal train recipe comes together in just a half hour—and adds a hint of spice. (Ask ahead about the cilantro, which can be a divisive ingredient.)
Slow-Cooker Coq au Vin
The delicious French classic is so simple to make in the slow cooker—the toughest part is browning the chicken and bacon before popping them in. If you don't feel like making the egg noodles, it's also great served with a crusty baguette on the side.
Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Bake
This vegetarian-friendly meal train casserole is a cheesy, creamy autumnal mix of wild rice, butternut squash, and mushrooms.
Easy Chicken Pot Pie
This pot pie recipe uses a few clever shortcuts (chopped frozen veggies, rotisserie chicken, and and frozen puff pastry) to make it super speedy and simple to make.
Breakfast Tot Casserole
Breakfast for dinner may be a nice change of pace—and this hearty casserole features comfort-food potato tots with a hint of spice from hot sauce and jalapeños. Consider providing the egg mixture and the rest of the casserole ingredients in separate containers, so they can just pour and bake when they're ready to eat.
Skillet Polenta in Creamy Tomato Sauce
You may have everything you need to make this delicious meal train dish sitting in your pantry right now. Prep it fully and just have them bake it at 350 F until warm.
Spinach and Artichoke Quinoa Casserole
If they're hot dip fans, a creamy (and healthy) vegan twist on spinach artichoke dip becomes the perfect casserole.
One Pot Curry Chicken Thighs and Cilantro Rice
If you're looking for the perfect meal train recipe for spice lovers, curried chicken, topped with a flavorful peanut sauce, will be a big hit.
Lasagna or baked ziti are classic meal train recipes, but there are plenty other pasta recipes that'll be a hit with your recipients.
Roasted Broccoli Pesto Pasta
This good-for-them (and delicious!) pasta recipe features roasted broccoli in lieu of basil for the homemade pesto, and additional florets in the pasta.
Chicken Spaghetti Casserole
This pasta dish-slash-casserole is a tasty, cheesy meal train idea—and using rotisserie chicken makes it easy to assemble.
Decadent Macaroni and Cheese
Macaroni and cheese is a meal train recipe favorite for a reason. It's a dish that even the pickiest eater will love, holds up well in the fridge if they aren't ready to eat it right away, and is basically the definition of comfort food. This deceptively easy variation on the classic uses evaporated milk to make it creamy, rather than forcing you to make a roux and bechamel sauce.
Sausage and Fontina Spaghetti Pie
Kick your pasta presentation up a notch (or five!) with an impressive looking (and delicious) spaghetti pie, with a satisfying mix of vodka sauce, sausage, kale, and fontina cheese.
Roasted Eggplant and Olive Pasta Salad
This tasty pasta salad is a perfect one-dish meal for summertime sharing—and it tastes even better the longer the flavors get to meld, so it's a perfect make-ahead recipe.
Cheesy Sausage Pasta Bake
Brussels sprouts and sausage make this cheesy pasta dish a bit more hearty (and an all-in-one recipe).
Pasta With Garlicky Yogurt Sauce And Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
If you want to give a healthier take on a creamy pasta, this tasty option uses Greek yogurt in lieu of butter and cream—and roasted cherry tomatoes lend it a big punch of flavor.
Edamame Pasta Salad
This veggie-heavy, one-dish pasta salad is a take-from-the-fridge meal. (Just put the arugula on the side, so they can sprinkle it in when they're ready to eat.)
Soups and Stews
What's better when you're feeling under the weather than a hearty soup or stew? Bonus: Many of these recipes can come together easily with just a few minutes of prep and some simmering time.
Slow Cooker Classic Beef Stew
A slow cooker is your friend if you need to have a meal train dish ready on a busy day. With a half hour of prep that morning (or the night before), you can have it simmering all day, and pop it over (perhaps with a crusty loaf of bred) later that day. And bonus: If you make this the day before, it's even better reheated the next day, after the flavors have more time to mix.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken soup is the quintessential sick day food—and this from-scratch version shows you just how easy (and delicious) homemade chicken stock can be. This soup also freezes well, so you can have it on hand for whenever the need strikes.
Lemony Lentil Soup
This hearty vegetarian soup recipe features a slew of superfood ingredients, including kale, lentils, and turmeric, for a tasty and healthy meal.
Sweet Potato and Apple Soup with Cheese and Walnuts
This tasty meal train idea is like serving fall in soup form, with blue cheese and walnuts for crumbling on top or enjoying on the side.
Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup
You can customize chicken taco soup for a family of picky eaters. Skip the jalapeño in the slow cooker, and pack up an array of different toppings so they can customize the soup as they please.
Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili With Sweet Potatoes
A touch of cocoa powder gives the chili a mole-like flavor—and you only need to put in 20 minutes of prep for a hearty one-pot dish.
Smoky Corn Chowder
A crusty loaf of bread and perhaps a side salad are all you need to turn a silky (and simple) corn chowder into a stellar meal train recipe.
One-Pot Italian Sausage-Gnocchi Soup
For a satisfying (and simple) soup, try this Italian-style dish that cooks up in under 30 minutes. (A loaf of garlic bread on the side will be perfect for dipping!)
Sandwiches, Tacos, and Pizzas
If they need to grab and go their meals (perhaps because they're off to the hospital or other places), prep things that are easy to carry or pack along with them. (Bonus: they make a great lunch, too.)
Vegetarian Tacos with Goat Cheese
Prep all the ingredients separately, and let them assemble these tasty tacos when it's dinner time. (Red rice or a nice salad on the side will help make it extra hearty.)
Mushroom White Pizza
This tasty take on pizza is just as delicious warm or piping hot. Pair it with a side salad for a full meal.
Load them up with veggies with this pizza-to-go recipe. (You can sub in different veggies or meat to suit their taste.) You can deliver it unbaked, and let them cook it at 425 F for 15 minutes.
Slow Cooker Barbecue Pork Sandwiches
Slow cooking the barbecue pork leaves it tender with a touch of sweetness. Add chips and coleslaw for a casual and delicious meal.
Summer Tacos with Scallion-Peanut Relish
This recipe is more about assembling than actual cooking. Shred the rotisserie chicken for them, mix up the quick pickles and the tasty peanut sauce, then pack everything to go with tortillas.
Sweet Potato and Bean Burritos With Corn Salsa
These tasty veggie burritos freeze really well and microwave up in minutes, so they can have a quick and healthy bite whenever they need it.
Sweet Potato and Gruyere Turnovers
This is another freezer-friendly meal train recipe option that's super simple to make when you use store-bought pie crust.
Pork Banh Mi
For a fast-and-easy meal train idea, opt for an inspired take on the classic Vietnamese dish. Bring the fixings and the rolls and let them build their own sandwiches.
Sharing a little something sweet is a great way to finish off your meal train contribution. Look for items that can easily be frozen (in case they're already drowning in pies and cakes), or opt to provide a half batch of cookies or cupcakes.
These flaky, crispy cookies are a cinch to make with a little frozen puff pastry.
Lemon Berry Parfait
This super easy (and reasonably healthy!) dessert features yogurt, granola, and fresh berries stacked with lemon curd. You can make them up in clear plastic disposable cups, then cover with foil or wrap to protect them for the trip over.
No-Bake Almond Butter Thumbprints
No need to turn on the oven for these no-bake goodies, which can be whipped up in under 20 minutes. (You can use peanut butter instead for them, if there are no peanut allergies.)
Coconut-Lime Crumble Bars
These tropical dessert bars feature coconut and lime—and make a nice light ending to a heavier meal.
Break and Bake Kitchen Sink Cookies
If you need a sweet treat stat, kitchen sink cookies (which feature any snacks and sweets you have around the house) are a smart idea. The cookie base includes plenty of oatmeal, and you can add all kinds of mix-ins—marshmallows, pretzel or potato chip bits, chocolate chips, raisins or nuts—to suit your loved one's tastes. (This dough freezes really well, so you can bring some freshly baked cookies, plus some frozen dough they can bake up when they need a little dessert.)
Chocolate Ganache Tart
It only takes 10 minutes to pull together a sophisticated, sweet-and-salty dessert. (Ritz crackers are the secret ingredient!)
Marshmallow and Chocolate Shortbread Slices
For marshmallow and candy bar fans, chocolate shortbread topped with marshmallow, apricot preserves, and almonds for a gooey, delightful meal train dessert.
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