40 Dishes Everyone Over 40 Should Master

God help you if you're still eating TV dinners.

40 Dishes Everyone Over 40 Should Master

Far too many people (yes, largely men) head into middle age failing to grasp the fact that this new stage in life calls for an evolved set of behaviors, a new outlook and, most importantly, an updated—in the immortal words of Liam Neeson—set of skills. That goes for double in the kitchen. After all, cooking is one of those things you might have shrugged off in your teens and 20s. Takeout was only a phone call away, and there was always ramen.

But now you’re 40, and you’re better than that. You need to become the kind of person who can cook more than just grilled cheeses and scrambled eggs. So if you’re ready to brush up your basic culinary skills, here are 40 dishes that befit a successful person at your stage in life. And for more great life advice, don’t miss the 40 Things No Man Over 40 Should Own.

roast chicken meals

Roasted Chicken

Like ventriloquism or asking if your co-worker is pregnant, roasting a chicken may appear simple, but it’s difficult to do exactly right—which is maybe why one Manhattan restaurant can get away with charging $98 for a single roasted bird. Skip that and use the money you save to buy yourself a new set of roasting pans. And if you’re interested in a smaller snack, check out The 5 Best High Protein Snacks For Men.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

meals beef stew

Beef Stew

A good stew looks and tastes impressive because it requires skills that you might not have had in your 20s: namely patience and foresight. This is the opposite of getting stoned and ordering pizza on the spur of the moment. Planning a meal that takes eight hours to cook shows you’ve got it together. Keeping an eye on your heart health? These food combos are great for tickers over 40.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

chicken broth meals

Chicken Broth

Here’s a secret: Soup impresses no one. The main ingredient is literally the thing that comes out of your tap. But homemade broth? That’s another story, and making your own to add to soup recipes should be a skill you pick up. And if you’re trying to shed some pounds and bad habits, take a look at this list of the 40 Worst Foods for People Over 40.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

gazpacho meals


Yeah, we know what we said about soup, but gazpacho is one of the good ones—even if we have the suspicion it’s just an excuse to eat salsa with a spoon.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

marinara sauce meals

Marinara Sauce

Much like chicken soup, marinara sauce can had by simply opening a jar. Don’t do it. A man who’s spent some four decades on this earth should be able to throw together the five or so ingredients that go into a good pasta sauce and come out with something better than Prego. And once you’re a master of the world’s best pasta sauce, move on to these Italian Healthy Living Secrets That Will Change Your Life.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

balsamic vinaigrette meals

Balsamic Vinaigrette

If your go-to salad dressing involves a trip to Hidden Valley, you’re doing it wrong. A delicious salad dressing can be as simple as mixing vinegar and olive oil together. Or experiment with other combinations, tossing any acid (say, lemon juice) with oil at a one to three ratio.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

frittata meals


Can you make scrambled eggs? Nicely done. You’ve made it to second grade. Age 40 requires an upping of your breakfast game and the frittata marks the next step. Learn to make one with a go-to filling.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

pancakes meals


For this breakfast staple, most people turn to a boxed mix. Maybe you do, too. Now go read the ingredients on that box, and you may be surprised to learn that they’re mostly a mix of things you already have in your cabinet with the added bonus of partially hydrogenated oils and crappy preservatives. Master the art of the homemade pancake. It’s past time.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

grilled steak meals

Grilled Steak

The ideas of masculinity have changed over the centuries. We as a society fortunately no longer demand that someone behead his enemies to prove his manliness, for example. But one thing has not changed. Calling yourself a real man requires the massive body of knowledge and experience it takes to perfectly grill a steak. And if you need a little help in the flavor department, try one of the 15 Best Steak Marinades on the Planet. 

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here. 

fresh bread meals


Man has been baking bread for some 30,000 years and yet somehow all that wisdom and practice has managed to lead us to Wonder. Try your hand at your own loaf, made with the best flour you can find (i.e. not bleached white). You’ll look like an ace and your house will smell amazing.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

fruit pie meals

Classic Fruit Pie

If The Great British Baking Show has taught us anything, it’s that it’s super rainy in the UK. If it’s taught us anything else, it’s that even baking a simple fruit pie comes with tons of pitfalls. Figure out how to make a simple shortcrust, fill with the fruit of your choice and you’ll be good to go on one of the classic desserts.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

meals pesto pasta

Pesto Pasta

Like marinara, the homemade stuff is much tastier than store-bought. And on the plus side, even a small batch burns through those bunches of basil everyone seems to have in the summer. On the downside, key ingredient pine nuts are, for some reason, more expensive than cocaine. Trade-offs.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

chicken pot pie meals

Chicken Pot Pie

As they say on Game of Thrones, winter is coming, and you damn well better have a pot pie in your arsenal. A great one can manage to be both comforting and sophisticated.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

veggie chili meals

A Chili Variation

We know: You’ve got a great beef chili recipe. Now that you’ve beaten that staple recipe to death, it’s time to branch out into other varieties. Try a white chicken chili or a vegetarian option.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

brussel sprouts meals

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

You know how everyone hates Brussels sprouts? Maybe that’s because they’re being made wrong. Figure these healthy devils out. Your mom will be so pleased.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

hummus meals


Growing older is about growing wiser, and the sooner you learn that hummus is dead easy to make, the better.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

guacamole meals


There’s a reason those Mexican restaurants put on such a show by making guacamole tableside. It’s to distract you from the fact that they’re mashing a few ingredients together and charging you $17.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

pizza meals


You know what else can be done in 30 minutes or less? Slapping together a delicious homemade pizza. All it takes is figuring out how to make a decent crust (try a dough with yeast that’s allowed to rise) and choosing a few quality toppings.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

roasted potatoes meals

Roasted Potatoes

In Japanese sushi restaurants, the apprentice chefs have to spend literally years just learning the simple task of making rice. Roasted potatoes are a bit like that. Make them right and even your personal trainer wouldn’t say no.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see recipe here.

mushroom risotto meals

Mushroom Risotto

It’s warm and creamy and full of umami, which is like the Tito of tastes—an elusive fifth flavor that’s not well-understood by science or the general public.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

chocolate cake meals


It’s time to appreciate a proper cake, not one that has “Tasty” in its name and comes in a wrapper. Make one with multiple layers and real icing.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

chicken curry meals

Chicken Curry

Every man should be able to cook at least one stellar dish from every cuisine, and it doesn’t get more Indian than a classic curry.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

fish tacos meals

Fish Tacos

The beef versions are so common and bargain-bin that Taco Bell can sell you ones weighing as much as a dumbbell for $1. Fish is the next level.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

chicken marsala meals

Chicken Marsala

Besides being tasty, this dish contains two ingredients that never fail to make something seem like it was more work than it actually was: wine and mushrooms.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

dan dan noodles meals

Dan Dan Noodles

Skip the chicken with broccoli and push yourself to learn something a bit more authentic. Vendors used to sell this dish out of buckets in China, topping the noodles with sauce and pork upon purchase.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

granola bowl meals


Begging Tony the Tiger’s pardon, most cereals aren’t great. They’re loaded with sugar and lacking in fiber and nutritional value. If you’re going to make it to old age, it might be time to change up your breakfast routine and try a bowl of granola that you make yourself. It’s easy and the list of possible combinations and ingredients is endless. And if push comes to shove, you can always sell it in the parking lot at a Phish show.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

ceviche meals


After 40 years, the fear of competently preparing raw fish should have dissipated. Chicken sashimi, on the other hand? Stay far, far away.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

croque madame meals

Croque Madame

Like everything French, it’s a bit classier and sexier than its American counterpart. Magnifique.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

smoked salmon meals

Smoked Salmon

Any idiot can wrap salmon in aluminum foil and bake for a few minutes. Not any idiot can smoke a piece of fish.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

rib roast meals

Rib Roast

There are few things more satisfying roasting a giant, honking side of beef to perfection. Take it from us: it ain’t easy. And adding to the pressure is that when you’re preparing this dish, you’re probably serving a crowd, making failure not an option. With a thermometer in one hand and an eye on the oven, you can make yourself the hero.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

creme brûlée meals

Creme Brûlée

You know a dessert is next level when it’s got accent thingies on the letters.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

avocado toast meals

Avocado Toast

Don’t let a fear of social media overexposure rob you of this divine dish’s many pleasures.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

paella meals


Reportedly, the original paella was made using chicken, rabbit, and snails. For many of us, even four decades isn’t long enough to get over an aversion to escargot, but you can still make a delicious version using seafood and other less slimy ingredients.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

meals veggie burgers

Veggie Burgers

Crafting a meat-free burger is difficult because it requires a proper blend of ingredients that will bind together into a patty. Of course, one thing that does bind easily into a patty is meat, but remember, this is all about stretching yourself.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

pickle jar meals


They’re definitely having a moment with bespoke pickle emporiums popping up across the United States. Time to get on board, lest your hipster credentials get revoked.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

ice cream meals

Ice Cream

As with so many other dishes, you may not want to go through the time and trouble to make your own ice cream every week, but by the time you’re 40, you should at least know how it’s made and that there’s no actual Garcia in Cherry Garcia.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

cheese platter meals

A Decent Cheese Platter

Maybe this one’s more “assemble” than “cook,” but if you can’t put together a respectable cheese plate by now, you’re likely to embarrass yourself.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

pulled pork meals

Pulled Pork

Crock pots aren’t good for much beyond off-registry wedding gifts for couples you don’t know very well. But they are genius when it comes to preparing pulled pork, especially for those living in urban areas where a open mesquite fire problem might be a bit of a problem.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

grilled tofu meals

Something with Tofu

We won’t argue that tofu is delicious. We won’t argue that some of your friends won’t make fun of you for eating it in public. But it does have some advantages—mainly that it’s nutritious and has the added benefit of sucking up whatever flavors you happen to cook it with. This black pepper tofu is like a Mayweather uppercut to your mouth.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

chop salad meals

A Well-Rounded Salad

A bottle of what appeared to be salad dressing was found in a 2,400-year-old shipwreck back in 2007, meaning someone was probably incredibly disappointed with their dinner hundreds of years ago.

But salads can be good. Do yourself a favor and learn to prepare a salad big and packed with enough different ingredients to qualify as a meal. It should have vegetables and grains and maybe some cheese. Just make sure whatever dressing you use is fresher than what was pulled from the bottom of the ocean.

For a Best Life-approved recipe, see here.

In the meantime, maybe some culinary wisdom can be pulled from the world’s most expensive omelette.

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