Learning to cook often means learning how to multi-task, prepping and cooking different parts of the meal and hoping they are all ready to be served at the same time. I don’t mind multi-tasking but I’m not a huge fan of having a pot cooking on every burner on the stove. More often than not, I use one pan to make dinner. Ok, sometimes two if I need to make rice or pasta for the meal but I find the best meals are the ones I can make with just one pan. Look, our time is limited as it is with work, family and all our responsibilities. Do we really need to come home tired and pull out every pot and pan in that beautiful 10-piece cookware set we got for Christmas? No, we don’t. Do we need to have a sink filled with pots, pans and dishes to wash after dinner? No, we don’t. Here are 10 complete dinners you can make in a skillet for easy cooking and easy clean-up.
1. Mac and Cheese
Let’s start with a favorite – mac and cheese. While you could use two pots to make it – one for the mac and one for the cheese – you can just as easily make this comfort food dish in one skillet. Use the largest skillet you have to cook the macaroni and use a small shape like elbows so you can fit more in the pan. Cook the macaroni in water and salt until al dente. While it’s cooking, prepare your béchamel sauce in a bowl or measuring cup and add it to the pan when the macaroni is ready. Let it thicken and then melt the cheese into it. Season to your liking and serve. Get tips in How to Make the Most Decadent Mac and Cheese and then try this Extra Creamy Mac and Cheese, Cheesy Vegan Mac ‘N Yeast or Very Vegan Mac and Cheese.
2. Tofu Piccata
Believe it or not, it only takes one pan to make an elegant dish like Tofu Piccata. There is an easy formula to making multi-part dishes in one pan: cook the tofu, remove it from the pan, cook the sauce, return the tofu to the pan and serve. My Tofu Piccata is one of my most special dishes. It has crispy pan-fried slices of tofu topped with a sauce of white wine, lemon, garlic and capers. You can also make it with tempeh like this Tempeh Piccata or use veggies like mushrooms, chickpeas or cauliflower as in this Cauliflower Piccata.
3. Tofu with Sauteed Vegetables
Using that same formula, we can make tofu (tempeh or seitan) with sauteed veggies all in one pan. One of my favorite dishes is my Tofu Georgia, a veganized version of a decadent southern dish. To make it, you pan-fry tofu slices or chunks in a skillet and then transfer them to a plate. In that same skillet, saute onions, bell peppers and mushrooms. When the mushrooms are browned, season them with salt and pepper, return the tofu to the pan and melt vegan cheese shreds over everything. Add ¼ cup of water to the pan and put the lid (or a piece of foil) over it so the cheese melts. Serve hot. Dishes that uses a similar method include this Pan Fried Tofu tossed with Ginger Spinach and Mushrooms, Delicious Casbah Tofu, Vegan Orange ‘Chicken’ With Zucchini Noodles and Moroccan Tofu in Lemon-Olive Sauce. You can also skip the tofu and just make a bounty of sauteed veggies like this Skillet Asparagus and Tomato Medley.
4. Chinese Food
If we don’t count the rice, most Chinese food dishes can be made in just one pan. If you are using tofu, tempeh or seitan, cook that first to make it crispy, remove it from the pan to cook the veggies and then return it before adding the sauce. Read How to Make Your Own Chinese Dishes at Home and Secrets to Sautéing and Stir-Frying Chinese Style for tips and recipes. Then use one pan to make Vegan Sweet and Sour “Chicken,” Sweet and Spicy Vegan Pork, Orange Cauliflower, Chinatown Sweet and Sour Bok Choy, Carrot and Courgette Noodle Stir-Fry, Kung Pao Tofu, and Pomegranate Sweet and Sour Tempeh.
When I don’t really feel like cooking or I need something fast and easy to make, my go-to meal is a scramble. It couldn’t be easier – just saute your veggies, add the tofu, mix in the seasoning and you’re done. Check out these Tips for Making Killer Tofu Scrambles and then feast on this Summertime Tofu Scramble, Southwestern Tofu Scramble with Greens, Curried Tofu Scramble, and Tofu Scramble with Broccoli Noodles.
6. Skillet Pizza
Did you know you can make pizza in a skillet? It’s true. Just make your favorite pizza dough recipe and let the dough rise in a covered bowl for up to a whole day in advance. When you’re ready to make your pizza, punch down the dough and press it into an oiled skillet. Let it rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Add your favorite toppings and either put the skillet in a 400 degree oven to bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes or cover the skillet and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes until the crust is brown and your cheese has melted. Read my 10 Tips and Tricks for Rockin’ Vegan Pizza and then try making any of these 27 Vegan Pizzas that will Blow Your Mind in a skillet. Skillets are also ideal for making yeast-free pizza crusts like this Healthy Quinoa Pizza Crust.
One of the best-known Spanish dishes is paella, which is rice mixed with seafood, chicken, sausage, vegetables, paprika and saffron. Paella was originally a dish cooked over an open fire on farmland in the countryside and it’s a one-pot dish that is amazing. The ingredients used were whatever was available, so it varied dish to dish. I love to make paella with rice, vegan sausage, tofu and lots of vegetables. Instead of saffron, I use turmeric to give the rice that golden yellow color. Try this authentic recipe for Artichoke Paella and this Campfire Paella Primavera and you’ll understand why this paella is such a popular dish.
8. Risotto and Fried Rice
Usually we make rice in a large saucepan because it has to cook in several cups of water. However, when we make risotto, we only add a cup of liquid at a time and wait until it’s absorbed before adding another. That makes it a perfect skillet dish. Learn How to Make Risotto 5 Different Ways and then try this Vegan Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto or this Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash. Similarly, since the rice for fried rice dishes is already cooked, you only need one skillet to cook up a delicious dish. Use cooked rice to make this Rainbow Veggie Lentil Fried Rice, Vegetable Fried Rice with Tofu or Vegetable Biryani.
9. Omelets and Frittatas
When you feel like having breakfast for dinner (and who doesn’t), try making vegan omelets and frittatas in your skillet. Just saute your veggies in the pan, wipe it out and then cook up your omelet in the same pan. Learn How to Make a Vegan Omelet and then try this Chickpea Flour Omelette with Spinach, Onion and Bell Peppers, Vegan Okonomiyaki (Japanese Omelet or Pancake), Low-Fat Silken Tofu Omelet and Vegan Soufflé Omelet. Frittatas can also be made in a skillet that you put in the oven. Try this Vegetable Frittata, Roasted Vegetable Frittata and this Spinach, Artichoke, and Vegan Mozzarella Tofu Frittata.
10. Skillet Desserts
Who says you can’t have dessert for dinner? Not me! When dessert is this delicious and healthy, you may not want or need any other dinner. Try this Deep Dish Apple Cinnamon Skillet Cake, The World’s Healthiest Zucchini Skillet Cobbler and The World’s Healthiest Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie.
While it’s nice to have a big collection of pots and pans, it’s even nicer to not have to use them all to make a healthy and delicious dinner for the whole family. With these recipes and ideas, your skillet will be your new favorite kitchen tool.
Lead Image Photo: Vegetable Frittata