Best Kitchen Nightlights: Keeping Your Kitchen Open After Dark

I’ve talked a lot in the past about strategies for layering and improving your kitchen lighting. Good all-over lighting is the foundation of good design, and (literally) puts your home in its best light. But what about when you need to use your kitchen after-hours? Late at night or early in the morning, the last thing you want is to turn on the flood lights. But whether you’re grabbing a midnight snack or starting a pre-dawn pot of coffee, you still need a little light to work by. These six kitchen nightlights offer the best of both worlds – enough light so you aren’t stumbling around in the dark, but not so much that it blasts you awake or ruins your night vision.

Use Your Under Cabinet Lighting As A Nightlight

An image of a light colored kitchen, the counters and glass-fronted cabinets lit with a warm, cheery light
Under cabinet lighting is a great way to brighten up your kitchen in the daytime, but gentle enough to be used as a nightlight after dark (by Russell J Milligan)

I’ve been singing the praises of under cabinet lighting for years. It’s inexpensive and easy to install yourself, but makes a big impression. The very things that make them great accent lights also make them great kitchen nightlights; they illuminate your workspace, with enough spill onto the floor to make it easy to navigate in the dark. Better still, the bulbs are usually low wattage; in a dark room, they’re candle-like rather than bright and energizing like standard daylight bulbs. Since they’re below eye-level by design, your upper cabinets will keep the lights from shining directly in your face and ruining your night vision. Depending on the model, they can switch on at the wall or via a cord switch. Low voltage LED lights can even be switched on when you head to bed and left on all night.

Map Your Route With Baseboard or Toe-Kick Under Cabinet Lighting

An image down the length of a kitchen, highlighting the toe-kick lighting along the base of the cabinets and kitchen island
Lighting along your lower cabinets is less common, but excellent for navigating your kitchen in the dark without ruining your night vision (by LMK Interior Design)

Under cabinet lighting for your upper cabinets is a common option for any kitchen, day or night. But under cabinet lighting on your lower cabinets is more specific to nighttime use. The idea here is the same, though. Running a dim, low-wattage light along the bottom edge of your lower cabinets will produce just enough light for you to see the shape of your kitchen in the pitch dark. These are great if you have someone in the home coming and going while everyone else is asleep (or anyone who has a habit of late-night snacking!). At the very least, floor-level kitchen nightlights can save your household a lot of stubbed toes. Now, this type of under cabinet lighting won’t add much flair to your kitchen in the daytime. But LED ropes in fun colors (or remote controlled color-changing versions) can give your kitchen a unique glow after hours.

Choose A Range Hood With A Low-Light Setting

An image of a small white-and-marble kitchen lit by a low light from under the range hood and surrounding cabinets
A low- or night-light mode on your range hood could be all you need if you plan to leave it on all night, but can be hard to turn on in the dark (by Melissa Miranda Interior Design)

Of course, the easiest kitchen nightlight is probably one you already have: the light on your range hood. That said, using your range hood as a nightlight has a few drawbacks. First, you’ll need to turn the light on at the source. Depending on the location of your range, that can mean stumbling around in the dark, fumbling for the switch. The lights are also brighter than you probably want for nighttime use, and placed above head level. That means you’ll get all that light right in your face as soon as you flip the switch. To make this a better option, look for range hoods that have dual level lighting or gentler night-light settings. Bonus for power-saver modes that let you leave them on all night.

Look For Other Appliances With Built-In Lights (But Don’t Go Overboard on LEDs or Screens)

An image of a cheerful white kitchen with stainless steel appliances that are lit from the inside
Many modern kitchen appliances have built-in lighting; look for low-wattage interior or accent lights rather than bright LEDs or screens (by The Kitchenworks)

These days, it’s not uncommon for other appliances to have built-in lighting as well. From the not-so-new (like water dispenser lights on your refrigerator) to a little more surprising (I’ve started seeing baseboard lighting on refrigerators, dishwashers, and ranges!), this is a good feature to keep an eye out for if you’re looking to replace your appliances anyway. They typically don’t produce much light, but that’s a good thing. These kitchen nightlights are meant to direct you to specific points in your kitchen rather than illuminate the whole space. One caveat: be cautious about “smart” appliances with bright blue LED screens or control panels. These can be VERY bright (even during the daytime) and are – a big no-no for nighttime users.

Make Space For A Table Lamp Designed For Night Use

An image of a low-lit kitchen in the evening, with a table lamp casting a cozy glow on the peninsula-island
Table lamps take up more space than you probably want to sacrifice in your kitchen, but can lend a nice homey ambiance and are perfect for nighttime use (by Crisp Architects)

I wouldn’t normally recommend putting a lamp in your kitchen. Lamps with nice-quality shades aren’t a good pair for airborne cooking grease. Besides, who has counter space to spare for a lamp? That said, if you need a reliable kitchen nightlight and don’t want to make a big project out of it? A small lamp isn’t a terrible choice. Look for ones with night-friendly features like touch-on controls, three-way dimmer switches, or even “night modes” that produce a soft, diffuse light from the base. You’ll want something that either looks nice during the day or is small enough to be inconspicuous. If you don’t have an outlet near the entrance to your kitchen, look for night lamps with USB charging capability. Bonus: if you opt for a squishy silicon, cordless “lamp” you can pick it up and carry it with you.

Sacrifice An Outlet For An Actual Night Light (Or Add Some Outlets!)

An image of a kitchen cabinet seen from the underside, revealing a lighted power strip underneath
Short on outlets? Consider installing a lighted power strip to up your plug count and double as a kitchen nightlight (by Kowalske Kitchen & Bath)

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the classic plug-in nightlight. You know the ones: they’re great for kids rooms and bathrooms, and range from simple bulbs to fancy wax melts or air fresheners. But while these have their place (including several in my own home), there’s a reason they’re the last option on this list. Despite their many advantages (low start-up cost, no-effort installation, long life, and plenty of light to brighten your kitchen) they have one very big drawback: they need an outlet. If you have one or more to spare, a regular nightlight is all you need for your kitchen. But if you’re already juggling cords for all your appliances? Consider solving both problems with a lighted power strip instead. These specialized strips need professional installation, but will add between one and eight outlets to the underside of your cabinet, complete with a simple bar light.

Good kitchen nightlights aren’t one- size-fits-all. What will work best for you depends on how, when, and who uses your kitchen at night. But whether you’re trying to ease into an early morning or welcome home someone late at night, you’ve got plenty of good options that won’t interrupt or upset your lighting during the day.