Effortless Single-Pan Meals for Fast and Flavorful Cooking


Busy modern lifestyles make it difficult to find the time and energy to prepare healthy homemade meals every day. Fast food and expensive takeout are tempting options, but they’re not the most nutritious or affordable choices. Single-pan meals offer a convenient solution for enjoying delicious, customized home cooking with minimal effort.

This article explores the concept of single-pan cooking and provides you with a treasure trove of quick and tasty recipes requiring minimal cleanup. Get ready to revolutionize your time in the kitchen!

What is one-pan cooking?

One-pan cooking is a culinary approach that involves preparing entire meals using just one cooking vessel, such as a skillet, sheet pan, or Dutch oven. It offers a range of benefits that make it an attractive option for busy individuals. 

Read more: How to Plan Healthy Meals That Meet Nutritional Needs 

Utilizing a single pan gives you full control over ingredients to make meals tailored to your tastes and dietary needs. Additionally, one-pan cooking is time-efficient. It minimizes the number of dishes to clean and reduces cooking and prep time. It also promotes cost-efficiency since you can make the most of ingredients without wasting anything. 

One-pan cooking simplifies the cooking process and is accessible to even novice chefs. Whether you’re a college student, a working professional, or a busy parent, one-pan cooking is a game-changer in the kitchen.

Read more: A Practical Guide to Maintaining Cleanliness and Safety in the Kitchen 

The best single-pan meals

To help you embark on your journey of effortless cooking, here are a few easy and healthy single-pan recipes: 

One-pan lemon garlic chicken with roasted vegetables

Best for: Dinner


  • 4 chicken breasts or thighs
  • 2 cups assorted vegetables (such as 2 carrots, 1 broccoli head, and 2 bell peppers)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C).
  2. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and minced garlic.
  3. In a large oven-safe skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook until browned on both sides.
  5. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set it aside.
  6. Add the vegetables, lemon juice, and more minced garlic in the same skillet.
  7. Toss the vegetables and coat them evenly with the oil and seasonings.
  8. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables in the skillet.
  9. Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven and roast for 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.
  10. Serve the lemon garlic chicken with roasted vegetables, and enjoy!

One-pan Mediterranean Shakshuka

Best for: Breakfast or brunch


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz/400g)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet or pan over medium heat. 
  2. Add the chopped onions, bell peppers, and garlic. 
  3. Season with kosher salt, coriander, paprika, cumin, and crushed red pepper flakes. 
  4. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce to the skillet. If using fresh tomatoes, bring them to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. 
  6. Bring canned tomatoes to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the sauce simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. 
  7. Uncover and cook for an additional few minutes until the sauce thickens slightly.
  8. Using the back of a spoon, create small wells or indentations in the sauce. 
  9. Crack one egg into each well, being careful not to break the yolks. 
  10. Cover the skillet and let the eggs cook in the sauce over medium-low heat for about 5-7 minutes, or until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny.
  11. Once the eggs are cooked to your desired level of doneness, remove the skillet from the heat. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley.
  12. Serve immediately, either directly from the skillet or transfer the shakshuka to serving plates. It is commonly enjoyed with crusty bread or pita for dipping.

One-pan meals for special diets

If you follow a special diet, such as a vegetarian diet or keto diet, there are plenty of delicious one-pan recipes for you. Here are a couple of recommendations:

Vegetarian option: One-pan veggie stir-fry

Best for: Dinner


  • 2 cups assorted vegetables (such as 1 bell pepper, 1 broccoli head, 2 carrots, and 1 cup snap peas)
  • 8 ounces firm tofu, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Sesame seeds (for garnish)


  1. Heat sesame oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the minced garlic, grated ginger, and red pepper flakes (if desired) to the skillet and sauté for a minute.
  3. Add the cubed tofu and cook until golden brown on all sides.
  4. Add the assorted vegetables to the skillet and stir-fry until they are crisp-tender.
  5. Drizzle soy sauce or tamari over the stir-fry and toss to coat the ingredients evenly.
  6. Remove from heat and sprinkle with sesame seeds for garnish.
  7. Serve the one-pan veggie stir-fry over steamed rice or noodles.

Keto option: One-pan baked salmon with roasted asparagus

Best for: Dinner


  • 400 grams of new potatoes, halved if they are large in size.
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • 8 asparagus spears, trimmed and halved.
  • 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes.
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.
  • 2 salmon filets, each weighing about 140 grams (5 ounces).
  • A handful of basil leaves.


  1. Preheat your oven to 220°C (or 200°C for a fan oven) or Gas Mark 7.
  2. Place the halved new potatoes in an ovenproof dish. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss until the potatoes are coated.
  3. Roast the potatoes in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until they start to brown.
  4. After 20 minutes, add the trimmed and halved asparagus spears to the dish with the potatoes. Toss them together and return the dish to the oven for another 15 minutes.
  5. Next, add the cherry tomatoes and balsamic vinegar to the dish, mixing them with the potatoes and asparagus. Nestle the salmon filets among the vegetables.
  6. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the salmon and vegetables.
  7. Place the dish back in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the salmon is cooked to your desired level.
  8. Once cooked, remove the dish from the oven and scatter the basil leaves over the top.
  9. Serve the dish directly from the ovenproof dish, scooping out portions of the roasted potatoes, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and salmon onto plates.

Tips for cooking one-pot meals

One of the primary reasons people gravitate towards one-pot meals is the convenience they offer. Following these additional tips for cooking enhances your preparation and makes the process even more enjoyable and efficient. Here are some additional tips for cooking more one-pot meals:

  • Plan your one-pot meals. Browse recipes online or in cookbooks to find dishes you can make in a single pot or pan and add them to your weekly meal planning. This prevents decision fatigue during busy nights.
  • Add protein. Consider easy proteins like chicken breasts, pork chops, or salmon filets that you can toss into the pot, along with veggies and sauce. They don’t require browning separately.
  • Use the proper pan. Use a large skillet, Dutch oven, or stockpot to fit everything comfortably in a single vessel with some room to spare. Crowding leads to steaming rather than browning.
  • Chop veggies into the same size. Chop veggies into similarly sized pieces so they cook at the same rate. Groups like potatoes, carrots, and parsnips only need one prep bowl.
  • Layer ingredients. Separate ingredients from longest to shortest cooking times, like meats, then hard veggies, then soft ones. This method ensures everything finishes together.
  • Don’t stir too quickly. Resist the urge to constantly stir one-pot meals after the initial sauté or sear. Let the food simmer undisturbed so flavors mingle.
  • Reheat. Consider making extra to freeze portions for busy nights. One-pot recipes reheat beautifully straight from the freezer to your stove or oven.
  • Improvise. Don’t be afraid to improvise dishes on the fly with what you have on hand. Many ingredients can be substituted in one-pot formulas.

Sheet pan dinners: Delicious and nutritious

Sheet pan dinners are a fantastic option for those looking for a hands-off approach to cooking. Below is one of the easy recipes you can try: 

Sheet pan chicken Fajitas

Best for: Dinner


  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced (against the grain) into 1/2-inch thick strips
  • 3 bell peppers (you can use green, yellow, and red), cored and sliced into strips
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons oil (vegetable or canola oil)
  • 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 8-10 small flour tortillas
  • Desired fajita toppings: Sour cream, sliced avocado or guacamole, pico de gallo, shredded cheese

For the Fajita seasoning:

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Lightly grease a large sheet pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Cut the chicken breasts and bell peppers into strips. Thinly slice the yellow onion.
  3. Spread the sliced vegetables evenly on the prepared sheet pan and place the chicken strips on top of them.
  4. Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C).
  5. In a small bowl, combine the fajita seasoning ingredients (chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, cayenne pepper if using, salt, and black pepper). Stir well to combine.
  6. Sprinkle most of the fajita seasoning over the chicken, ensuring it is evenly coated. Sprinkle some of the seasoning over the vegetables as well.
  7. Spoon the minced garlic over the chicken and drizzle the olive oil over the entire pan.
  8. Toss everything well. Make sure the chicken and vegetables are coated with the seasoning and oil. Spread them into an even layer across the sheet pan.
  9. Place the sheet pan in the preheated oven and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. A meat thermometer should read 165°F (74°C) to check the doneness of the chicken. 
  10. While the chicken and vegetables are cooking, wrap the flour tortillas in foil and place them in the oven during the last 5 minutes of cooking to warm them up.
  11. Once the chicken is cooked, remove the sheet pan from the oven. Squeeze fresh lime juice over the chicken and vegetables and sprinkle them with chopped cilantro.
  12. Serve the chicken and vegetables in warm tortillas, and garnish with any additional desired toppings such as sour cream, sliced avocado or guacamole, pico de gallo, or shredded cheese.

Note: Feel free to customize this recipe by adding other ingredients, such as sliced zucchini, mushrooms, or corn. You can also adjust the spice level to your preference by adding more or less chili powder.

Tips for sheet pan meals

Another compelling aspect of sheet pan recipes is their versatility. The possibilities are endless when it comes to ingredient combinations, flavors, and cuisines that can be incorporated into these dishes. By following these tips, you can create sheet pan meals that are not only delicious but also nutritionally balanced, visually appealing, and enjoyable to eat. 

Here are some tips to create delicious and nutritious easy sheet pan meals:

  • Choose a variety of vegetables. Include a colorful assortment of vegetables such as broccoli, bell peppers, zucchini, and sweet potatoes. This adds nutritional value and enhances the visual appeal of your meal.
  • Cut ingredients uniformly. Ensure that the ingredients are cut to similar sizes to ensure even cooking. This helps prevent some ingredients from being overcooked while others are undercooked.
  • Season generously. Use a variety of herbs, spices, and marinades to infuse flavor into your sheet pan meal. Experiment with different combinations to find your favorite.
  • Monitor cooking time. Keep a close eye on your sheet pan meal as it cooks to prevent any components from burning or becoming too dry. Adjust cooking times as needed based on your oven’s temperature and the size of the ingredients.
  • Add protein. Consider adding protein sources like chicken thighs, salmon filets, or tofu to make your sheet pan dinner more satisfying and nutritious.
  • Finish with a fresh touch. Sprinkle fresh herbs, such as cilantro or basil, over your finished sheet pan meal to add a burst of freshness and vibrant flavor.

In conclusion

Effortless single-pan meals provide a practical solution for individuals who desire to prepare their own healthy and delicious food without the time-consuming hassle of extensive clean-up. By embracing one-pan cooking, you also gain control over your recipes, save time, and enjoy cost-efficient and flavorful dishes.

With the one-pan meal recipes provided in this article, you can embark on a culinary adventure that simplifies your cooking routine and allows you to savor homemade meals without sacrificing time or taste. Give these easy recipes a try! They’re perfect for busy nights and weekends. Start exploring the world of single-pan cooking and enjoy the benefits of effortless and enjoyable meals! 

Happy cooking! Remember to bookmark this page for easy reference during your next cooking adventure.

If you would like to see more resources on swift cooking, check out the Personal Productivity Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Visit the Personal Productivity Science Labs today.

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