How to Make Healthy One-Pan Dinners in Any Kind of Cookware

One-pan meals go way beyond just sheet pans.

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May 27, 2020
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One pan meals can save your sanity on a hectic evening. If you’re cooking at home more than you used to, healthy meals with minimal cleanup are downright essential. Here is the ultimate guide to cooking one pan meals, plus a sneak peek at the Healthy One Pan Dinners cookbook.

One Pan Meal Essentials

Pantry staples and some sturdy, reliable cooking vessels are all you need for making one pan dinners. While sheet pan meals are taking the Internet by storm, they aren’t the only player in the game.

Baking Dish

Casseroles are the original one pan meal. Opt for a 9x13 size glass or ceramic baking dish (preferably one with a cover to store leftovers). Some of the greatest recipes for this one pan wonder include stuffed peppers, baked eggplant parm and chicken enchiladas.


Electric pressure cookers like the Instant Pot turn simple ingredients into complete meals in minutes. Toss into the (easy to clean) pot and turn out batches of creamy risotto, hearty lentil soup and the easiest from-scratch ramen broth.

Slow Cooker

Some one pot recipes are best prepared low and slow in this classic cooker. Splurge for a model that comes with sauté/simmer functions to give you more one pan power. This vessel is best for meals like beef stew, chicken Caccatoire and steak tacos.

Sheet Pan

We must pay homage to the sheet pan. It features more shallow edges and a large surface area than most casserole dishes, making it ideal for roasting and caramelizing all kinds of foods. The best sizes are “half sheet pans” which are 13x18 inches, but you can also find handy 9x13 inch size pans for small batch cooking. Best uses include loaded nachos, meatball sandwiches, pizza, fajitas and roasted goodies for salads. Crunchy chickpeas? Yes please!

Dutch Oven

These one-of-a-kind pots are typically made of enameled cast iron with a tight fitting lid that helps them retain heat amazingly well. A wonderful pot for going from stove top to oven, use Dutch ovens for braised meats, pasta dishes (cook, drain and then back in the pot to add sauce or bake), make chili with a cornbread crust or a lamb tagine.

Argueably the most affordable and versatile one pan cooker and another great pan to make the commute from stove top to oven (just watch that hot handle). Use this magic skillet for baking deep dish pizza, frying up fish tacos, tossing a stir fry, or mixing up a show stopping paella (recipe follows).

Cast-Iron Paella

Paella is a simple, one-pot crowd-pleaser that looks and tastes exotic. Toss up an arugula salad with a lemony vinaigrette and dinner is done! Make a vegetarian version by substituting extra firm tofu for the sausage and seafood.

Serves: 6

1 tbsp olive oil

2 links (about 6 oz) smoked chorizo chicken sausage (such as Aidells), thinly sliced

1/3 cup chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, mined

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

1 cup canned diced tomatoes

3 cups low sodium chicken stock

1 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp saffron threads

12 oz large shrimp, peeled and deveined

8 oz fresh mussels (scrubbed and rinsed)

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Lemon wedges, to serve

1) In a cast iron skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until brown, rendering some of the fat. Remove using a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl.

2) Add onion and garlic to the hot skillet and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add rice and to the skillet and toss to coat with sautéed onions. Add diced tomatoes, stock, cooked sausage, salt, saffron and stir gently. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes.

3) Remove the lid, nestle shrimp and mussels into the rice. Put the lid back on and continue to cook for 4 more minutes or until shrimp or opaque and mussels have opened. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

4) Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Nutrition per serving: Calories: 410; Total Fat: 10g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 122mg; Sodium: 664mg; Total Carbohydrate: 52g; Dietary Fiber: 1g; Sugars: 4g; Protein: 30g

Excerpted from Healthy One Pan Dinners reprinted by permission of Alpha, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2020 by Dana Angelo White

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