Easy One-Pot Meal Recipes are a great way to deliver a fantastic meal in short order. Plus, cleanup is a breeze!
Why Easy One-Pot Meal Recipes Rock
One of my favorite strategies for delivering dinner during busy times is
reaching for a take-out menu making the entire meal in the same pot. Not only are these one-pot meals easy and quick, but they also avoid a "chefnado"-caliber mess in the kitchen.
1. One-pot meals can be very nutritious...
The original one-pot meal...
Do you know what I mean when I say "smiling oven mitt"? My mother's pantry was full of boxes bearing that logo. You dumped the contents into a pot along with a few "real ingredients" like meat and milk. Dinner emerged from the pot about a half hour later.
The convenience of these meals was king. The flavor and nutrition was...NOT.
In fact, these meals all fell under the category of GLOCK: my father's term to describe any meal of a "casserole" or "hot dish" nature. A "Glock 1" meal wasn't bad, while "Glock 5" meals were the culinary inner circle of Hell.
Dinner in a box: the original one-pot meal isn't healthy eats.
See, these boxes harbor mysterious "flavor" and "sauce" packets, containing substances that are...let's just say, not found together in nature. They're loaded with sodium and processed, simple carbohydrates (along with dubious-sounding, unpronounceable ingredients). In short, they're not very good for you.
2. Easy one-pot meal recipes can be healthy one-pot meal recipes!
If I told you that you could get almost the same convenience, but with better results and using natural, wholesome ingredients, would that get your attention?
One-pot dinner recipes and the mission of Flipped-Out Food
Flipped-Out Food is all about "real, good food—really fast". By real, of course, I mean wholesome ingredients rather than the aforementioned flavor packets or cream-of-nasty soup. The rest speaks for itself.
Easy one-pot meal recipes are the ultimate fuss-free, fast dinner. I've made it my goal—whenever possible—to make my one-pot dinner recipes healthier than most recipes you'll find out there on the web. Plus, if you keep a well-stocked pantry and have a few key items in your refrigerator and freezer, many of these meals will be right at your fingertips without a grocery run! For more, see Easy Pantry Meals – Living Out of Your Pantry (and refrigerator and freezer).
3. One-pot meal recipes are incredibly versatile.
Depending on the type of carbohydrate you use, cooking times for a one-pot meal can vary from about an hour to as little as 15 minutes. And the possibilities for one-pot dinners are practically endless!
You can make your one-pot dinner vegetarian, or use chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, sausage...and on and on. You can use grains or pasta, or go with veggies to minimize the carbs.
THEN, there's the flavor profile! Along with the choice of carb and protein, herbs and spices let you tailor your one-pot meal to just about ANY cuisine.
The trick is to learn the master technique for the particular type of one-pot recipe you're making. Then you can learn how to riff on it and make it your own!
4. One-Pot Meals are ideal for hiding veggies
Our kids are anti-herbivores, by which I mean that 2 of our 3 will not voluntarily eat vegetable matter of any kind. My kids are also pretty savvy at sleuthing out vegetable matter in any form other than a purée. I can slip pureed veggies into most of these dishes without any issues.
5. Cleanup is easy
Since you only use one pot, pan, or skillet to cook the meal, easy one-pot meal recipes simplify cleanup considerably. The meals involving foil and parchment paper are even simpler to clear up afterward!
My Favorite Easy One-Pot Meal Recipes
There's something extra special about bringing a one-pot dinner to the table in its pot for a family-style meal. So, although I do often cook these one-pot dishes during the week, I also break them out for special occasions and Sunday dinner.
Let's break down our easy one-pot meal recipes by category. For each category, I'm showing my two most photogenic dishes and providing links and descriptions for the rest.
One-Pot Meal Recipes: rice/grain dishes
Seasoned meat sits atop rice, barley, or the grain of your choice, along with aromatics and herbs for a roast in the oven. By the time the meat cooks through, the rice is done—and full of flavor from the juices of the meat.
For grain-based one-pot recipes, I like to give the grains a sauté along with my aromatics in olive oil or butter. This gives the grains a toast first imparts a beautiful, nutty flavor. For cooking liquid, I often use the "mushroom broth" that's left from rehydrating dried mushrooms (think of it as an earthy, umami-filled tea). Other liquids could be coconut milk, various meat broths, vegetable broth, wine—or a mix.
The cooking meat deliciously flavors the rice, as does the broth and the combination of herbs and spices you choose.
The ratio of cooking liquid to rice should be approximately 2:1 (plus extra for dishes with a sauce), keeping in mind that any juicy ingredients like diced tomatoes will add to that liquid content.
Dishes with rice and other grains generally require the most time to cook. However, the cooking time is still only about an hour—most of it hands-off.
My favorite grain-based, easy one-pot meal recipes:
One-pan Meyer Lemon Chicken and Rice is impressive enough for Sunday dinner—especially presented right in the pan. The herb-marinated chicken and sliced Meyer Lemons infuse the rice during the bake. This is one of F-OF's most popular recipes.
One-Pan Arroz con Pollo: An easy, one-pot recipe for the Latin American classic. This version is a symphony of flavors, colors, and textures. This is one of the most popular recipes on the blog!
Cajun Sausage-Rice Skillet is a one-pan wonder of spicy rice in a tomato and vegetable-filled sauce with delicious Andouille sausage. Meal-prep the veggies in advance!
One-Pot Meal Recipes: pasta dishes
For one-pot pasta recipes, I often tend toward comfort food dishes. Cooking the starchy pasta in the same pot with all of the other ingredients creates the basis for a creamy sauce. Therefore, it's often not necessary to thicken the sauce with a roux (butter and flour) or to add extra cream, though you can always adjust with a little extra milk as needed.
As a result, the finished dish is generally lighter on calories than many similar comfort food recipes for which the pasta is cooked separately.
As with the grain-based one-pot dinner recipes, I give the pasta a quick sauté first. To build even more flavor into the dish, I use a mix of water and various broths to cook the pasta. For example, my One-Pot Ground Beef Stroganoff capitalizes on the rich, earthy umami flavor or rehydrated mushroom broth.
I use a liquid to pasta ratio of 4–5 cups liquid to a pound of pasta (saucier dishes are closer to 5 cups liquid per pound of pasta). If you're not sure, start with 4 cups of total liquid for a pound of pasta, but keep an extra cup on-hand to adjust later, if needed.
Some of the creamier pastas involve milk (usually less than half of the total cooking liquid). Do stir occasionally with a wooden spoon for this type of one-pot dish to be sure that you don't get sticking/scorching.
Because pasta cooks more quickly than rice, these dishes are more on the order of 35 minutes or less from start to finish. In the case of Ramen Ginger-Chili Tilapia Packets, aluminum foil is the cooking vessel, so you'll hardly have any clean-up at all!
My favorite pasta-based, easy one-pot meal recipes:
One-Pot Ground Beef Stroganoff is an easy meal that tastes decadent enough to satisfy your naughtiest craving. The dish is infused with delicious flavor from rehydrated porcini mushrooms and their broth.
One-Pot Macaroni & Cheese is a creamy, decadent spin on the comfort food classic that gets its smoky flavor from bacon and smoked gouda cheese.
One-Skillet Taco Pasta is a quick and tasty solution for busy weeknights. It’s full of your favorite taco flavors—without pre-made taco seasoning.
amen Ginger-Chili Tilapia Packets are quick, a cinch to put together, and packed with flavor. The sauce is a perfect balance of acidity, salt, sweetness, and heat.
|One-Pot Turkey Tetrazzini is pure, delicious comfort food. It’s fast, easy, and the perfect way to use up turkey or chicken leftovers.|
|Creamy One-Pot Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese: this is comfort food on demand, folks! If you grate the cheeses in advance, you'll finish the meal in just about 15 minutes!|
|One-Pot Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese: my latest addition! Pub food meets comfort food in this spicy, tangy spin on macaroni and cheese. Use up your leftover cooked chicken or turkey!|
One-Pot Meal Recipes: vegetable-based dishes
The seasoned meat of your choice roasts in the oven with root vegetables. Or, it stir-fries along with your favorite chopped or spiralized vegetables. In the case of Mediterranean-Style Fish en Papillote, the fish cooks inside parchment paper covered with tomatoes, capers, and olives.
The first step in this type of one-pot meals is to sauté the protein and aromatics. This builds flavor in short order. I use less broth, instead flavoring veggie-based one-pot dinners with herbs or a sauce.
As far as cooking goes, stir-fried, vegetable-based dishes are the quickest of all. This is because you only have to quickly cook the veggies through (of course, the roasted dishes take quite a bit longer). The most time-consuming aspect of these dishes is prepping the vegetables. BUT, meal-prepping the vegetables in advance saves you loads of time.
Separate sauce...still one pan?
A few of these veggie-based one-pot meals do involve mixing a sauce in a bowl or a jar, so I guess that you technically use another item of cookware. On the other hand, you could mix the sauce in a bowl that you plan to use for serving!
My favorite vegetable-based, easy one-pot meal recipes:
|Kielbasa-Cabbage-Fennel Skillet is an easy, healthy meal that’s perfect for weeknights. Meal-prep the ingredients for a lightning-fast dinner!|
|Inside-Out Pork Egg Roll Bowls deliver the deliciousness of the cravable appetizer, but without the calories and fat of restaurant-variety, deep-fried, wonton-wrapped egg rolls.|
|One-Skillet Mustard-Herb-Crusted Roast Pork Tenderloin takes a bit more time because root vegetables have to roast in the oven. Cover a pork tenderloin in an herby mustard crust and roast with shallots, carrots, potatoes, and fennel.|
|Kohlrabi Noodle Stir-Fry is a healthy, satisfying dinner that substitutes kohlrabi for actual noodles or rice, thereby cutting the carbs and calories.|
|Vegetable-Turkey Lo Mein with Zoodles: because you’re eating zucchini noodles instead of pasta noodles, this meal has lower carbs and calories than a traditional lo mein.|
|Mediterranean-Style Fish en Papillote is a healthy, incredibly tasty meal that's done in under 30 minutes. Because you cook the fish and vegetables in parchment paper, there's no cleanup.|
One-Pot Meal Recipes: microwave dishes
Meals that cook entirely in the microwave are ideal for anywhere that kitchen space is at a premium. My go-to cooking vessel is the Fasta Pasta pasta cooker, but really any large, BPA-free, microwave safe, steep-sided dish will do. Because these dishes are cooked in the microwave, they're even faster than the one-pot dinners we've discussed before. On the other hand, you're usually cooking smaller quantities (e.g., only enough for 1 or 2 people).
My favorite microwaveable easy one-pot meal recipes:
|Healthy Dorm-Room Microwave Pasta only requires a microwave and a microwave-safe pasta-cooking dish. You make the (mostly) no-cook sauce right in the pasta cooker.|
|Creamy Microwave Macaroni & Cheese is an incredibly easy way to deliver a single-serving of the comfort food classic in just about 10 minutes, whether you’re in a college dorm room or an office break room.|
|Dorm-Room Microwave Queso Spaghetti involves just a few ingredients and is done in under 15 minutes. A creamy, delicious meal that is perfect for office cubicles and dorm rooms.|
Using up leftovers
One-pot meal recipes are an ideal way to use up leftover meat, veggies, and carbohydrates. For example, the One-Pot Turkey Tetrazzini was written specifically with Thanksgiving Dinner Leftovers in mind. You can also easily substitute turkey for the chicken in One-Pot Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese.
Or, this Leftover Vegetable Fried Rice uses up not only the veggies languishing in your crisper, but also your day-old rice and cooked meat. Also, since you're only quickly stir-frying the ingredients, you'll finish this one-pot meal in 25 minutes!
I hope that this roundup of one-pot dinner recipes has inspired you to give one-pot cooking a whirl. After mastering the technique, branch out and try your own creations!
I'm linking my guide for Mastering Easy One-Pot Meal Recipes with
- #CookBlogShare, a fantastic link party where bloggers from all over the world share their favorite recipes. I have the pleasure of hosting it here at Flipped-Out Food this week!
- #CookOnceEatTwice, a monthly linkup where bloggers share recipes that are just as good (or better!) leftover as on the day they were cooked. Hosted by Corina at Searching for Spice.
- Delicious Dishes Recipe Party, a weekly link party where bloggers share their most delicious recipes and check out other bloggers' amazing recipes, hosted by Walking on Sunshine.
- The What's for Dinner Sunday Linkup at The Lazy Gastronome.