One Pot Meals: The Best of Winter Cooking

[Vegan Cassoulet]

Now that the weather is cooler and the days are shorter, many of us experience the urge to hunker down at home (a roaring fireplace and some hot apple cider in the picture wouldn’t hurt, either).  On days like these, who feels like cooking?

The good news is that winter is tailor-made for big-batch, one-pot meals.  Just throw everything in a saucepot or casserole dish—a single prep, and a single cleanup–then trot off to do other things while your dinner essentially takes care of itself.

dirtyriceplate2

 [Seven Grain Dirty Rice and Beans]

Here are some tips to optimize the ease and benefits of one-pot meals: 

  • Cook more than one meal at a time and prep them all of them together.  If you have two or three favorite casseroles or big-pot meals in your repertoire, chances are they contain some of the same ingredients.  Chop up onions, grate garlic, or dice tomatoes all at once for two or more recipes.  The extra prep time involved is minimal, but it saves hours on the other end of the task!
  • Cook once, freeze for later. Another great trick is to make large batches and then freeze leftovers for a later date.  I always double every recipe so I can portion out the remainder in single-serve, freezer-friendly containers.  Labeled with date and number of servings, these make quick and easy weekday dinners or grab-and-go lunches to take to the office.
  • Adapt the meals to your preferences. While it makes sense to stick fairly close to a recipe the first time, one-pot meals are easily adaptable to your preferences and ingredients on hand.  No rice available? No problem—you can usually use an equal amount of quinoa, millet, or oat groats instead! If a recipe calls for chopped carrots and you don’t have any on hand, other yellow or orange root vegetables (or even squash) will make an admirable substitute. Since most one-pot meals are made with sauces or gravies, it’s easy to add more veggies or protein to your basic recipe.
  • Enjoy a full spectrum of nutrients in a one-pot meal. Most one-pot recipes combine protein along with grains or legumes and a variety of veggies, so it’s easy to obtain all the essential vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and amino acids you need in a single pot—which translates to a single plate or bowl on your table.
  • Take comfort in your one-pot meal! Something about a thick, warm sauce blanketing bits of your favorite ingredients makes for a warming, comforting and very satisfying wintertime meal. A great way to enjoy the frosty season!

[Tofu Mole]

Here are some links to get you started on great one-pot meals: 

What’s your favorite one-pot dinner? 

Ricki Heller is the author of Sweet Freedom: Desserts You’ll Love without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy or Refined Sugar (one of only three cookbooks endorsed by Ellen DeGeneres on her website) as well as three e-cookbooks. She writes the popular food blog Diet, Dessert and Dogs, where, for the past three years, she has chronicled her journey with candida and posted almost 600 sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan, whole-foods recipes.

29 Responses to One Pot Meals: The Best of Winter Cooking

  • Kim Maes says:

    Ricki! I love all of your ideas for one pot meals. In the winter, I try really hard to make lots of these types of dishes. And right now with the boys in Tae Kwon Do, tennis, and now even as baseball is starting up, we have busy afternoons. And I love being able to make these types of meals in the afternoon and then have them ready when everyone walks back in the door from their activities! Great tips!!

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Kim Maes, Thanks! I love them in winter, too. And it sounds like you could really use the time-saving ideas with all thos activities!! :)

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  • Ricki Heller says:

    @Billy Carson, Thanks so much! I hope they help with the health goals. :)

    [Reply]

  • Great post, Ricki! Love all your tips! That Dirty Beans and Rice dish is calling my name for sure. ;-)

    Shirley

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Shirley @ gfe, Thanks so much, Shirley! It’s a favorite in our house. Hope you like it! :)

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  • Audelle says:

    Wow! I literally just turned off the stove from one of my favorite one pot meals – your African Sweet Potato Stew. Even though it’s been a warm winter so far, I know this will hit the spot. It’s kind of ridiculous how it has so many things I love in one pot so the house smells amazing…and it’s good for me!! Yeah! Will definitely have to check out some of your other ideas, Ricki.

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Audelle, Thanks so much, Audelle! I’m so glad you like the sweet potato stew! Lots of ingredients, but it really hits the spot as a full meal–all in one bowl. :)

    [Reply]

  • Ricki,
    You are a constant source of inspiration to me.
    I love your one pot ideas.
    I am grabbing the ingredients for that seven grain, dirty rice and beans. YUMMO!

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Tess Masters @theblendergirl, Aw, thanks so much! :D Hope you love the rice and beans as much as I do! :)

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    Tess Masters @theblendergirl Reply:

    @Ricki Heller, I am sure I will!!!! Thanks :)

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  • Alta Mantsch says:

    I adore one-pot meals. I’ve been focusing on them even more this winter as I am “breaking in” my new enameled cast-iron Dutch oven! It makes them even more inviting, I think. Great tips, Ricki.

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Alta Mantsch, I agree that a favorite vessel can make food so much more inviting! I have a clay baker that I got as a wedding gift that I just love. Whenever I make something in it, it tastes extra good. :)

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  • Vicky says:

    Such a lovely selection of choices! I love one pot meals! It’s truly a sign of Winter when these appear on the menu! Thank you for all the ideas!

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Vicky, They do seem to say, “winter,” don’t they? Glad you found something you like here! :)

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  • Hallie says:

    Awesome tips, Ricki. Long live one-pot meals! :)

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Hallie, Thanks, Hallie! And yes, All Hail One-Pot Meals! ;)

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  • Johanna GGG says:

    thanks for the link and the reminder of a few dishes from your blog I must try – love one pot meals even in summer esp those I can make on the stovetop – they also seem to often keep very well so are great for make ahead – you only need to “beef” up a soup (if you will excuse my language) to make it into a one pot meal – which I often doo

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Johanna GGG, I find that often, one-pot meals actually taste better the next day, once the flavors have time to meld. And great idea about the soup! Thanks. :)

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  • Maggie says:

    My favorite one-pot meal is soup! So easy and just throw it all in. I’m definitely trying something from your list though, what a perfect post for this time of year Ricki.

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Maggie, I have to agree–I can easily make an entire meal out of a bowl of soup! Thanks, Maggie. :)

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  • Alisa says:

    That tofu mole looked far too meaty for a Ricki recipe – it kind of tripped me out!

    I need to do more of these one-pot meals and have never frozen meals. Sounds like a really good idea.

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Alisa, Ha, ha!! Yes, it does look meaty. . . but it’s really tofu in there, promise. :)

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  • Cara says:

    Ricki, these are such great ideas! I’m all over the mole tofu.

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Cara, We absolutely loved it. Even my meat-eating hubby! :)

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  • “Cook once, freeze for later” is such a good concept. It’s really not hard to eat well if you use tips like you have here. Making a big batch of something and freezing serving-sized portions is a great time-saver! Sweet potato and black bean chili sounds wonderful. I’ll be putting that one on my “to make” list.
    Great post!
    Melissa

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Melissa @ Gluten Free For Good, Thanks so much! I tend to freeze almost everything I make for “later.” That way, I usually have enough leftovers so I don’t have to cook every night. . . so much easier!

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  • Carol says:

    I love one pot meals and I really don’t think I could pick just one. But I can say that looking at this post has made me very, very hungry! :)

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Carol, Ha, ha!! That’ must be the effect of winter. . . we tend to want to eat more then, right? ;)

    [Reply]

  • Getting over to this post a little late, but now I see (as I thought) so much I’d like to try! May I ask which are your favorites? :-) .

    [Reply]

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