Over the years, the Paleolithic Diet (a.k.a. the Paleo Diet, Stone Age Diet, the Primal Blueprint, Caveman—aliases go on) has gotten a slightly inaccurate reputation for being uber restrictive, cutting every carb out there, and focusing on mountains of meat.
But there’s more to eating like a caveman than turning into a hardcore carnivore. The diet, which incorporates plenty of fruits and veggies, is about ditching sugar-loaded, highly processed, grain-dominated food in favor of the foods of our ancestors. In other words, fresh salads or healthy chicken recipes over frozen pizzas.
Still, it’s easy to draw a blank when you’re not including grains, dairy, or legumes. If you’re stuck in a rut with Paleo dinners, we’re here to dig you out.
Using slightly higher-in-fat skinless chicken thighs makes this recipe juicier (and more affordable!) than if you were to use breast meat. Meanwhile, the butternut squash fills the veggie and fiber quotient. Cooked in three stages (bacon, butternut, then bird) but in one skillet, prep is straightforward and clean-up is quick.
No need to ditch all carbs when eating Paleo. Sweet potatoes give this protein-rich dish some lasting, vitamin-heavy starch to make it a filling meal. Baked up in a casserole dish, the six-portion yield is perfect for a gathering or for a big-batch meal that can serve one for days.
If eating Paleo means ditching the crust, this recipe makes sure you can still get your pizza fix. Toss several traditional toppings (pepperoni, mushrooms, marinara)—plus chicken sausage for extra protein (try getting one with lower fat and sodium)—into a pot to simmer. The resulting cross between a slice and a stew makes perfect comfort food.
Some advice: Make a big pot of this beanless chili on a Sunday. Brimming with protein from ground turkey and extra hearty thanks to two cups of pumpkin puree, it’ll take the thinking out of dinner during a busy workweek.
True to Paleo guidelines, there’s neither cream—nor dairy—in this chicken dish. The velvety texture comes from a healthy, fat-filled combo of coconut milk and sunflower seeds, blended until smooth and poured onto pre-cooked chicken. Drool.
Take stuffed mushrooms from appetizer to entrée by filling large portobello caps (great for bone- and muscle-boosting vitamin D) with a protein-packed mixture of ground turkey, seasoned onions, spinach, and tomatoes. No baking or broiling necessary, either: This one-pan dish is ready in less than 30 minutes on the stovetop.
Beef and Pork
It looks—and tastes—like any normal shepherd’s pie, but zoom in a bit closer for one key ingredient that makes this one Paleo friendly. The creamy mash covering the ground beef is actuallycauliflower, not potatoes, slashing the meal’s carb count while upping the calcium. (Plus, this recipe is easily halved if you aren’t cooking for a crowd.)
It’s all about the addictive glaze here—a tad sweet from honey, kinda tangy from balsamic vinegar, and irresistibly garlicky. Drizzle the stuff generously over a few pork chops and bake to a caramelized crisp. It may become your signature dish (just don’t tell anyone how easy it is!).
Home from work and getting dangerously near the dreaded hangryzone? Let this speedy stir-fry save the day. All it takes is a few minutes for the ground beef to brown and veggies to soften before dinner’s ready and your mood can go back to normal.
Grandmas may have spent hours perfecting their versions of meatballs (and we love ’em for it!), but in these busy times, slaving over a stove may not be on the agenda. Expedite your meatball-making with these breadcrumb-free, baked-not-fried pork and beefspheres, drowned in a homemade marinara sauce. You won’t believe it only takes about 30 minutes for the whole thing to come together.
It looks like a breakfast hash, but as the blogger herself points out, this savory, veggie-filled egg skillet can really be enjoyed for dinner too. Sizzling with ground beef and vitamin C-rich zucchini and topped with soft-cooked eggs, this 15-minute meal is a satisfying option whether it’s a.m. or p.m.
Hankering for pasta but sticking to the no-grain Paleo policy? Usespaghetti squash instead. With 36 fewer grams of carbohydrates than a cup of its starchy counterpart, it’s a much lighter option. Just add ground beef and veggies to make a casserole that will still keep you pleasantly full.
We’re big fans of any recipe where cooking means letting the ingredients sit in an oven. This salmon dish is just that type of low maintenance. Mix up a spiced marinade for the fish before baking it, and you’ve got an easy way to get in those omega-3s. Paired with green beans charred in the same pan, it makes for a pretty and complete Paleo meal.
There’s more to canned tuna than mayo-soaked salad. The fish—which is packed with polyunsaturated fatty acids—easily transforms into patties with the help of an egg and tomato paste. Wrap the burgers with lettuce or crumble on a salad for a no-brainer lunch or dinner.
Known to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, tilapia is as healthy as it is budget friendly. Here, it borrows from both Mexican and Mediterranean flavors, as it sits in a tomato sauce rich with veggies and olives.
Thanks to coconut milk and anti-inflammatory curry powder, making a creamy gravy that’s also Paleo friendly is a cinch. Throw in chunks of your favorite white fish to soak up the bold flavors, and in less than 30 minutes, you’ll be spooning up dinner.
If you want your Paleo diet to be less meat-heavy, but you’re drawing blanks, start with this recipe. A simple tomato andavocado salsa jazzes up a tilapia fillet with fresh flavor, fiber, and heart-healthy fats.
It isn’t quite scampi, but this carb-free dish is an equally delicious take on shrimp pasta. Roasting the fish in a mix of olive oil andcholesterol-lowering ghee (clarified butter) gives them a super buttery flavor—the ideal complement to the lighter zucchini spaghetti.
Paleo may mean ditching the pasta, but who says you need to rule out the decadent sauces that go with it? Here, an Alfredo-like sauce, made healthier with the substitution of avocado and olive oil for the dairy, is stirred into strands of spaghetti squash and kale. It’s so filling you may just forget there are no grains in here.
It looks like risotto… tastes like risotto… but you won’t find a single grain of rice in here. Instead, it’s the ever-versatile cauliflower subbing in, pulsed so the florets reach rice-like size, and sautéed with a handful of dried spices just until soft.
Yet another reason Paleo eaters need cauliflower in their kitchens 24/7? To make this fried rice! It includes the traditional eggs, garlic, and carrots, but also a few twists, such as coconut oil and coconut aminos for a lower-glycemic alternative to soy. You’re not going to find this on any takeout menu.
Before you skip over this recipe because peanuts are a Paleo no-no, rest assured that the blogger actually used almond butter to fit the diet’s requirements. Here, the life-extending stuff is stirred with sesame oil and just a touch of maple syrup before covering a batch of spiralized zucchini. (If zoodles can stand in for Italian pastas, they can get in on Asian-inspired dishes too.)
Cauliflower isn’t the only veggie that can sub for rice. Antioxidant powerhouse butternut squash—or any other winter squash—is a starchier but still grain-free alternative that works just as well. In this rich and satisfying risotto, the sweet veggie goes perfectly with earthy flavors of sage and garlic.
Thanksgiving? Birthday? Random Saturday evening? These scalloped spuds will make any of them extra special. Incredibly creamy from the coconut milk and baked until mouthwateringly golden-brown, this is the stuff that everyone—Paleo eaters, carnivores, vegans, or flexitarians—can agree on.