100 No-Cook Dishes to Keep You Cool

Behold, our top 100 recipes and ways to help keep yourself sated while keeping your kitchen cool during the dog days of summer. Includes stuff to sip, to have for supper, and, natch, satisfy a craving for something sweet.

A red retro-style refrigerator for keeping our cold kitchen 100 recipes cool.

This past July, I made the mistake of baking a pie from scratch. It was magnificent. But when the air is so heavy that even a feeble waft from a quick flip of a magazine page offers relief, it’s too hot to turn any oven dial—let alone bake a pie.

If you’re anything like a lot of us, kitchen production comes to an almost screeching halt during these slow-moving dog days of late summer. And while can’t do anything about the heat outside, we can help you turn down—or rather, not turn up—the dial in the kitchen.

We’ve gathered all our no-cook recipes to get you through one sweltering day after another of late summer. Not a single one of these cold kitchen recipes requires you standing and staring down the stove. Not even to boil water. So if you can, peel yourself off that couch and shuffle your way to the fridge. You’ve got some non-cooking cooking to do. Originally published August 2, 2010.—Cynthia Furey

 

Sippers

A little something to keep you company throughout the day, whether you prefer things naughty or nice.

Southern Sweet Tea

Two large glass bottles filled with Southern sweet tea.

(If you don’t have simple syrup already on hand, don’t bother making it. Instead just stir in the same amount of sugar until it dissolves.)

Greek-Style Frappe

Lemon Cucumber Cocktail

Sweet Tea Cocktail

Infused Water of any Sort

Cold Brew Coffee

How to Make a Perfect Smoothie

White Sangria Spritzer

A pitcher and glasses of white sangria spritzer, filled with slices of lemons and oranges

Caipirinha

Peanut Butter & Jelly Smoothie

Buddha-ful Beet and Apple Juice

Cucumber Water

Black Velvet Cocktail

Singapore Sling

Lillet Tonic

Starters (aka shortcut suppers)

All manner of dips and finger foods.

Homemade Hummus

Homemade hummus sprinkled with paprika and drizzled with oil swirled on a grey plate.

Green Goddess Dip

Mango Guacamole

Mint Pesto 

Blue Cheese Dip

Easy Guacamole 

Buttermilk Dressing with Winter Crudites

Vegetarian Summer Rolls

Vegetarian Summer Rolls

Seven-Layer Dip (ignore the part about warming the beans and simply drain, rinse, and mash them)

Herbed Marinated Olives

Portuguese Green Olive Dip

Feta Dip

Salami and Cheese Tapa

Cheese-Stuffed Dates with Prosciutto

Miso with Japanese Crudites
Place some yellow miso in a small bowl. Add a splash of rice vinegar, some hot pepper flakes, and a ton of ground sesame seeds.  Add cold water, whisking constantly, until the mixture has the consistency of a creamy dip.  Serve with veggie sticks—carrots, daikon, snow peas, sugar snaps, celery, green beans, fennel, kohlrabi, and whatever else you find in season at the greenmarket.—Chiyo Ueyama, LC Recipe Tester

 

Salads

We’re not just talking leafy greens here (though of course there’s some of that, too).

Bibb Wedges with Blue Cheese Dressing

Bibb Wedges with Blue Cheese Dressing

Moroccan Salad of Oranges, Red Onion, and Olives

Salmon, Fennel, and Apple Salad

Asparagus and Pecorino Salad

Shaved Fennel Salad

Caprese Salad

Kachumbari Tomato and Red Onion Salad

Endive Salad with Gorgonzola, Pine Nuts, and Honey

Arugula, Fennel, and Orange Salad

Mimolette Salad with Walnuts

Apple, Parmesan, and Mixed Green Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Arugula Salad with Pear and Blue Cheese

Tomato, Watermelon and Feta Salad

Butter Lettuce and Fresh Herbs with Maytag Blue Cheese

Panzanella (forget sautéing the bread and simply use day-old bread drizzled with olive oil instead)

Fennel, Orange, and Watercress Salad

Plate of fennel, orange, and watercress salad on a metal sheet with dressing and a spoon on the side

Chickpea and Spinach Salad with Cumin

Zucchini Salad

Pear, Basil, and Pecorino Toscano Salad

Sliced Tomatoes and Sweet Onion
Slice a Creole tomato (or any kind that you have growing in the back garden) and toss with very thinly sliced sweet onion and your favorite balsamic and olive oil. You can add sliced olives and chunks of any kind of cured sausage you might happen to have on hand as well as sliced mozzarella or feta. Basil is also nice. Actually, this is a blank canvas just waiting for any other toss-ins.—Karen Depp, LC Recipe Tester

The Iconic Watermelon, Mint, Feta, Balsamic Salad
Chop chilled watermelon and feta into chunks and toss with mint, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.—Brenda Carlton, LC Recipe Tester

Not Exactly A Salad Fruit Salad
Slice or dice a Hawaiian papaya away from its peel, scoop out the seeds, and squeeze with lime.—Renee Schettler, LC Editor in Chief

Debbie’s Salad
Tomatoes, cut into bite-size chunks
Raw sweet corn, sliced off the cob
Bocconcini (little fresh mozzarella balls)
Basil, cut into chiffonade
Vinegar, whatever kind sounds good
Olive Oil
Coarse sea salt

Stir all of the ingredients together right before you’re going to serve, because you don’t want to refrigerate the tomatoes and the basil doesn’t improve after being cut.  It might not be the most original but I’ve been making it for a long time and never had a real recipe.—Debbie White, LC Recipe Tester

Cheese!

No one ever said a cheese course can’t constitute supper.

Goat Cheese with Olives, Lemon, and Thyme

A decorative bowl filled with a sphere of goat cheese and a few olives, topped with a thyme sprig.

Cheese Plate 

Pimento Cheese

Peach, Burrata, and Basil Salad

Fresh Figs with Ricotta and Honey

Breakfast Cheese

Breakfast Cheese

Sides

Sometimes a sleeper of a side can surprise you and turn into supper.

Kale Slaw

Shaved Summer Squash

Japanese-Style Cucumbers

A tangle of Japanese cucumber salad, made with cucumbers, mint, cilantro, and an rice vinegar dressing.

Zucchini and Fennel

Tabbouleh

Cowboy Caviar

Salt and Sugar Pickles

Four bowls of salt and sugar pickles; one with watermelon, one with red radish, one with cucumber, and one with daikon radish.

Zucchini Slaw

Cannellini Beans and Tomatoes
(Simply stir raw chopped tomatoes in with the beans in place of the roasted tomatoes on the side.)

Radishes with Butter Dressing
(Let the butter turn into a puddle at room temperature.)

Cucumber and Black Bean Salad
Toss together canned, drained black beans, diced cucumbers, chopped and seeded tomatoes, lime juice, hot sauce, and cilantro.—Chiyo Ueyama, LC Recipe Tester

Simple Italian Kale
Just wash and dry a bunch of Lacinto or Nero di Tosca kale and then thinly shred or slice the leaves crosswise into ribbons, as if for slaw. Toss the kale with a vinaigrette made from a not-too-pungent olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and lemon zest to taste. Refrigerate for at least an hour or two, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.— Marilyn Canna, LC Recipe Tester

Chilled soups (aaaaaah)

No pan. No burner. No sweat. A knife, a cutting board, and a blender are pretty much all you need.

Easy Gazpacho

A bowl of easy gazpacho with ice cubes floating in it on a silver plate with a spoon and a few crostini.

Cantaloupe Soup with Prosciutto-Mozzarella Sandwiches

A square grey plate containing a bowl of cantaloup soup and a prosciutto mozzarella sandwich on a baguette.

Portuguese White Gazpacho with Crab

Something more substantial

Some of these require a little creativity to get into the no-cook category, but we’ve included our tricks to keep you cool.

Steak and Quinoa Salad 
(This requires a little easy forethought in making some extra quinoa and grilling a little more steak than usual next time you do cook and stashing them in the fridge where no one will demolish them)

A grey plate topped with steak and quinoa salad with shaved carrots and mustard vinaigrette.

Vietnamese-Style Chicken Salad

Caesar Salad
(Forget the croutons and use leftover grilled chicken or shrimp to keep it oven-free.)

Pea Shoot Salad with Chicken
(It’s easy enough to rely on leftover grilled or rotisserie chicken rather than cooking anything fresh.)

Chinese Chicken Salad
(Use leftover grilled or rotisserie chicken rather than hearing up the grill or kitchen just for this recipe)

A bowl filled with greens, chicken, cilantro, and mandarin orange segments with chopsticks on the side

Hiya-Yakko
This is a classic no-cook tofu dish for the loooong, hot summer in Japan. Place a block of silken tofu (you can cut it in four or six pieces if you’d like) on a plate. Scatter lots of grated ginger and chopped scallion over the top and drizzle with really good, full-sodium soy sauce.—Chiyo Ueyama, LC Recipe Tester

Leftovers Salad
These days when it hits 90 plus, I’m not very innovative. It’s mostly salads with greens from the garden or farmers market and whatever leftover protein scraps are in the refrigerator. A freshly made vinaigrette with herbs from the garden can change the whole nature of whatever meat or cheese or bean dish we had two nights before.—Cindi Kruth, LC Recipe Tester

 

Sweets

Nothing wrong with some seasonal stone fruits, berries, or melon for dessert. Although sometimes you’re in the mood for something a little more surprising…

Frozen Cookie Dough Balls

Cantaloupe Sorbet

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Pie Milkshake

Homemade Larabars

Portuguese Sawdust Pudding

Vegan Caramel

Guinness and Ice Cream Float

Two Guiness floats with straws on a grey metal try with a few spoons lying beside them.

Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich

Mango Frozen Yogurt

Grapefruit in Moscato

Striped Juice Pops

Three striped juice pops stacked on top of each other.

Chocolate Salami

Vegan Banana Ice Cream

Avocado Chocolate Pudding

Strawberry Mascarpone Tart

Watermelon and Ginger

Girl Scout Cookies
Preferably from that stash you keep in the freezer. (You DO keep your GSC in the freezer, don’t you?!)—Renee Schettler, LC Editor in Chief

Yogurt Pops
Take the ripest fruit on the counter—cherries, berries, bananas, peaches—and mash with a little sugar. Then stir into plain unsweetened yogurt. Freeze the pops in plastic molds using popsicle sticks from the craft store. Serve with some carrot sticks and sliced bell peppers to the little ones for dinner.—Cindi Kruth, LC Recipe Tester

 

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

Comments

  1. I don’t think there is anything more wonderful or refreshing than cold soup on a hot summer’s eve, either as an appetizer or main course with a terrific light salad. Here are a couple from old masters that I have copied from my Cold Soups folder—ENJOY!

    Gazpacho Gelées (Jellied Soup) with Avocado Cream
    Serves 4

    Philippe Braun, who created this soft, slightly spicy tomato jelly topped with an unctuous avocado cream, is the extremely talented executive chef at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Paris. One of Joël Robuchon’s closest associates, Braun travels with the master to keep standards high at outposts in Las Vegas, Tokyo and, later this year, New York City.

    Ingredients
    1/2 cup drained canned tomatoes, chopped
    1/2 cup peeled, seeded and chopped cucumber
    1/2 cup peeled and chopped red pepper
    1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
    1/4 teaspoon very finely chopped garlic
    Dash of Tabasco
    Pinch of ground cumin
    Salt
    3/4 teaspoon powdered unflavored gelatin

    1 Hass avocado—seeded, peeled and chopped
    1/4 cup water
    1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
    2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

    Directions
    In a blender, puree the tomatoes with the cucumber, red pepper, vinegar, garlic, Tabasco and cumin. Pass through a fine strainer into a glass measuring cup. Season with salt.

    Transfer half of the mixture to a small saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the mixture and let stand for 5 minutes. Cook the mixture over moderate heat until the gelatin is melted, about 1 minute. Stir in the remaining tomato mixture. Pour into 4 small glass bowls and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

    Meanwhile, clean out the blender, then puree the chopped avocado with the water, lime juice and olive oil. Season with salt. Spoon the avocado cream over each gelée and serve.

    Make Ahead: The gelées and avocado puree can be refrigerated separately overnight.

    ———————————————————————————

    Strawberry Orange Soup Recipe
    By Rebecca Franklin, frenchfood.about.com
    Serves 8

    Both children and adults love this fresh berry soup. It’s lovely when used to round out an entrée salad for a light, healthy meal.

    Ingredients
    2 pints strawberries, hulled, plus extra for garnish
    1 cup heavy cream
    1 cup plain yogurt
    1/2 cup orange juice
    1/3 cup water
    1/3 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

    Directions
    Using a blender, process all ingredients until smooth. Chill for 1 hour before serving. Garnish with thinly sliced strawberries cut lengthwise.

    ——————————————————————————————

    James Beard’s Cold Minted Pea Soup
    Serves 8

    This spring-inspired soup from James Beard’s 1981 cookbook, The New James Beard, features tarragon, a unique variation on the traditional pea-and-mint pairing. Beard loved the anise-flavored herb; he once famously declared, “I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around.”

    6 cups chicken stock
    1 small onion stuck with 2 cloves
    1 clove garlic
    1 teaspoon tarragon
    3 pounds freshly shelled peas or 3 packages frozen peas

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    3 cups heavy cream or plain yogurt
    Finely chopped fresh mint

    Put the chicken stock in a saucepan with the onion, garlic, tarragon, and peas. Cook until the peas are just tender.

    Remove and discard onion.

    Add salt and pepper to taste and puree in a food mill, blender, or food processor.

    Combine with cream or yogurt and serve well chilled with a generous sprinkling of mint.

  2. Reading all of these wonderful suggestions prompted me to add one of my own. My absolute favorite coleslaw is from a (sadly) now-defunct seafood restaurant. Luckily, I was able to get the recipe for the Bleu cheese/Fuji apple slaw before it closed its doors. I made a few tweaks, but here it is:

    Dressing:
    4 Fuji apples, peeled, cored and small-diced
    1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
    1/2 cup buttermilk
    1/2 cup sugar
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    Salt and pepper, to taste

    Slaw:
    1 head Napa cabbage, shredded
    3 celery stalks, diced
    8 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
    Handful of chopped parsley, to taste
    Handful of candied pecans (as much as you want!)

    In a large jar or tupperware container, combine all dressing ingredients and shake well to combine. Refrigerate while you chop the slaw. Place slaw in a large serving bowl, pour dressing over and toss. Serve!

  3. Why not try this cool vintage recipe for Russian punch, which was originally published in the 1925 recipe booklet “Iced Specialties from Servel.” Servel, along with Norge, Frigidaire, Kelvinator and other refrigerator companies, used to package such booklets with their products to help housewives “cast off the shackles of ice” and take full advantage of their novel appliance.

    4 cups boiling water
    6 teaspoons orange pekoe tea
    1 cup sugar
    juice of two lemons
    1 orange sliced very thin
    1 quart of fresh strawberries, halved
    1 cup cracked ice
    1 pint carbonated water
    a few sprigs of fresh mint

    Steep tea in the boiling water for five minutes. Strain and chill, Add sugar, lemon juice, sliced orange, lemon and strawberries. Cover and place in Serv-el food compartment (though any refrigerator will do, haha). When ready to serve, add chilled carbonated water and the cracked ice. A sprig of mint may be placed in each glass before pouring in the punch.

    1. Chris, I agree! I was telling David you could totally turn it into a postcard or invitation for a potluck or something.

  4. I love the idea of not cooking and just eating cold food. I made a killer Greek Salad the other night. Just combine your favorite crispy lettuces, Persian cucumbers, baby heirloom tomatoes, thin sliced onion, feta cheese, pepperoncinis and charred red bell peppers (you can buy them in a jar if you have none on hand). Throw in some Kalamata olives and toss with a lemon olive oil vinegrette. So yummy and refreshing. Serve it with some crusty bread. Hi Cynthia, so nice to see your name here.

  5. Assuming it’s been a couple of days of avoiding the kitchen due to the heat, sushi rolls are a great no cook meal. If you haven’t been cooking there’s sure to be some leftover takeout sticky rice and along with that, just about any other bits and pieces can be pulled into service to make great, if far from authentic, sushi rolls.

    Season the rice with some sugar whisked into vinegar, rip open a package of nori sheets and raid the fridge for whatever you can find. To keep it simple, just roll up some ingredients with the rice into a cone-shaped handroll. You can even put all the ingredients out and let everyone make their own.

    A few ingredients you may already have around to try include raw slivered vegetables like carrots, cucumbers or radishes, smoked salmon or oysters, cream cheese, sliced deli meats (you can use them as the wrapper instead of seaweed, too), horseradish mayo, frozen peas (they’ll thaw by the time the roll is ready), chopped grilled veggies, fish, seafood or meats, avocado, fruits, peanut butter or chopped nuts and seeds and fresh herbs.

  6. My favorite summer drink: Kir—chilled white wine, black currant, or raspberry syrup, a bit of sparkling water.

    My favorite dip, other than Maionese de Leite :-), Bean Dip – purée beans (white, black, whatever you have) with lemon juice, tahini, salt, chiles, or chili sauce. Serve with raw veggies or pita chips. Much like hummus, just creamier.

      1. And I forgot #75: European Cucumber Salad: Finely slice cucumbers, add salt. Leave for 10 minutes, discard the fluid. Chop a big handful of dill, mix with yogurt and sour cream, pepper, add to cucumbers, eat.

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