5 Perfect One-Pot Meals

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December 10, 2018
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Spend less time cooking and more time enjoying with these flavor-packed recipes.

Lentil Soup One-Pot Meal

Most people love eating, quite a few enjoy cooking, but it would be hard to find anyone who gets a thrill from washing a tower a dirty dishes.

That’s why one-pot meals are so appealing: You get all the goodness of a homemade meal while saving tons of time, energy, and calories, if eating out or ordering takeout is your alternative.

Plus, one-pot recipes give you more control over the nutritional content. For example, if you’re watching your sodium intake, you can boost flavor, sans salt, by tossing in one or two teaspoons of other herbs and spices instead.

Ingredients like coriander, garlic, ginger, and turmeric are great options for not only adding depth to your dishes, but research shows they also have anti-inflammatory properties that can help prevent various chronic diseases, says Erin Shyong, R.D., M.P.H., a registered dietitian at the Laura Cipullo L’ifestyle Lounge in Closter, New Jersey.

In general, to get the most nutritional bang-for-your-buck, Shyong recommends that most of your meals include the following elements:

  • 18 to 25 grams protein (animal or plant)
  • 34 to 45 grams of whole-grain or whole-wheat carbohydrates (brown rice or whole-wheat pasta, for example)
  • 10 to 13 grams of healthy fats (like olive oil or avocado)

For example, you might have three ounces of chicken with a three-quarter cup serving of brown rice, plus one to two teaspoons of olive oil (mixed with non-starchy vegetables like salad greens, Brussels sprouts, or broccoli), and a small slice of avocado on top.

That’s a standard, well-balanced meal, but if you’d like to branch out and try something new—and even easier to make—add these one-pot (or pan) meals to your menu. All come highly recommended from nutrition experts and require minimal cooking skills and cleanup. Enjoy!

One-Pot Meal #1: Pressure-Cooker Vegetable Stoup

One-Pot Veggie Soup

If you’re looking for a warm, satisfying meal you can make in a hurry, look no further than this pressure cooker vegetable stew-soup, or “stoup.”

Not only do the garbanzo beans, red beans, and quinoa make this dish a great source of plant protein, but “the combo of beans and vegetables deliver fiber and an array of vitamins and minerals that many people don’t get enough of,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table.

Serves: 10

What you’ll need:

  • 8 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil or olive oil (your choice)
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 3 medium zucchinis, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen butternut squash, cubed
  • ½ cup frozen corn
  • 1 can (16 ounces) garbanzo beans
  • 1 can (16 ounces) red beans
  • ¾ cup uncooked tricolor quinoa
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon Turkish or Moroccan seasoning
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (optional garnish)

How to make it: With your pressure cooker on the sauté setting, add oil (avocado or olive) to the pot. Once the oil is hot but not smoking, add the onion and garlic.

When onion is translucent, add carrots, zucchinis, butternut squash, corn, garbanzo beans, red beans, and quinoa to the pot. Mix everything together, and pour in your broth. Add Turkish or Moroccan seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly.

Lock the lid in place and cook for 15 minutes at high pressure. Once cook time is complete, allow pressure to release naturally (will take about 25 minutes).

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When the pressure is completely reduced, remove the lid and portion stoup into individual bowls. Top with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. This recipe makes 10 one-cup servings.

One-Pot Meal #2: Easy Lentils

Lentil Soup One-Pot Meal

Thanks to the lentils and vegetables, this recipe offers a hefty dose of both fiber (12 grams) and protein (14 grams) per serving, says Alix Turoff, R.D., a personal trainer and owner of Alix Turoff Nutrition in New York City. That means you’ll feel fuller, longer, which is always a good thing.

With just 207 calories per serving, these easy lentils could be a small meal on their own or used as a side for soup, salad, or any other small dish.

Bonus: This recipe is freezer-friendly, so consider making a big batch and reheating leftovers to enjoy all week.

Serves: 4

What you’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • ½ cup cooked lentils
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon onion powder
  • Pepper, to taste

How to make it: Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and garlic. Once hot (the garlic will start to look translucent), add carrots, yellow onion, and celery. Cook for three to five minutes, or until everything starts to brown.

Next, add cooked lentils (you can buy these pre-steamed or canned) and broth to the pan. Finally, add your seasonings: bay leaves, salt, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper. Stir the mixture, bring it to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.

Cover the pan and cook for 30 to 45 minutes on medium-low heat. Remove bay leaf before serving. This recipe makes four two-cup servings.

One-Pot Meal #3: Hearty Turkey Chili

Turkey Chilli One-Pot

The addition of extra lean ground turkey makes this chili recipe from Turoff lower in fat than most versions of the classic comfort food. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less satisfying! With 12 grams of fiber and 31 grams of protein per serving, this bowl is sure to fill you up—for only 388 calories.

To make this recipe vegetarian-friendly, Turoff recommends omitting the ground turkey and adding a second can of beans.

Serves: 4

What you’ll need:

  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 pound extra lean ground turkey (or your protein of choice)
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) red kidney beans, not drained
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon, cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water

How to make it: Spray a large pot with nonstick cooking spray, then heat over medium heat. Add the red and green bell pepper, yellow onions, and carrots to the pot. Allow to cook for three minutes. Stir to combine.

Add ground turkey (or your protein of choice) to the pot and break it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook until browned, about five minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes and red kidney beans (not drained) to the mixture and stir. Finally, add your spices and water to the pot: garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin, salt, and water.

Stir to combine everything. If you like your chili with a kick, add a pinch more chili powder or cayenne pepper.

Bring the mixture to a boil for 30 seconds, then reduce to medium heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. This recipe makes four two-cup servings.

One-Pot Meal #4: Peppery Onion Tofu Stir-Fry

Stir Fry One-Pot Meal

Thanks to the tofu and sesame seeds, this stir-fry is packed with plant-based protein and lower in calories and cholesterol than most meat-based stir-fry dishes, says Libby Mills, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Plus, the hefty serving sizes (3 cups) will give you the visual appeal of eating a lot of food, without a lot of fat and calories.

Serves: 2

What you’ll need:

  • 1 container (12 ounces) extra-firm tofu
  • 4 bell peppers (any color), sliced into ½-inch strips
  • 1 large onion, sliced in ½-inch strips
  • 1 hot pepper (jalapeño, poblano, or Anaheim), diced
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon mirin
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 1 can water chestnuts, drained and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

How to make it: Drain the extra-firm tofu and wrap it in a clean, dry dishcloth. Place tofu on a plate, and place another plate on top. Weight the top plate with a cookbook, cans of food, or something of equivalent weight.

Let the tofu stand while you prepare and chop your vegetables. Once chopped, put all vegetables (bell peppers, onion, hot pepper) in a bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, mirin, and sesame seed oil. You’ll use this mixture a little later.

Next, remove the weight and the cloth wrap from the tofu and cut the block into one-inch cubes.

Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high to high heat. Add the avocado oil and use a spatula or large spoon to spread it over the cooking surface. Once the oil is hot but not smoking, add the peppers and onions. Stir constantly for five minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium, and add the water chestnuts and soy sauce mixture, stirring every 30 seconds for two minutes total.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve. This recipe makes two three-cup servings.

One-Pot Meal #5: Black-Eyed Pea Vegetable Soup

One-Pot Meal Black Eye Peas

Black-eyed peas are the star of this simple recipe, which is especially good if you’re extra hungry or have a busy afternoon ahead.

“Black-eyed peas come packed with protein and fiber, so this is going to be a very hearty soup that will really stick with you,” Mills says. While it’s not exactly a low-carb recipe, the fiber will ensure your blood sugar doesn’t spike, she adds.

Serves: 4

What you’ll need:

  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced into ¼-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, diced into ¼-inch pieces
  • 2 bell peppers (any color), diced into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, diced into ¼-inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 bag (1 pound or about 2 ¼ cups) black-eyed peas, rinsed
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • Salt, to taste

How to make it: Add the carrots, celery, peppers, onion, and garlic to a large soup pot. Then, add the remaining ingredients to the pot: black-eyed peas, broth, tomato paste, bay leaf, black peppercorns, and salt.

Bring the ingredients to a boil, then reduce heat to a low boil and cook for 30 to 45 minutes, or until peas and vegetables are tender. That’s it for this easy recipe! You’ll end up with four two-cup servings.

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