Sheet pan dinners are quick and easy meals that involve combining vegetables and protein on a cookie sheet and roasting them all at the same time.They are perfect for cold winter nights, when it’s nice to have the oven on to warm up the house. Best of all sheet pan dinners are so adaptable that they can be made to work with whatever you have in your fridge. Here’s everything you need to know to design your own sheet pan dinners.
A Quick Week Night Meal
Sheet pan dinners are perfect for busy week nights when you don’t really feel like cooking. Most of the ingredients can be either chopped up and prepared in advance, or quickly chopped up in just a few minutes.
Here’s how to turn a sheet pan dinner into a quick weeknight meal:
1. Wash and chop the vegetables in advance. Most vegetables, including onions, carrots, squash and greens can be chopped up and left in a container in the fridge for up to 4 days. The only exception is potatoes. Potatoes can be pre-chopped, but they will need to be stored in water in the fridge to prevent browning.
2. Sheet pan dinners take about 40 minutes to cook, so to save time, you might want to preset your oven to turn on and preheat to 400˚F before you leave the house. That way all you will need to do when you get home is put everything on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven. Most ovens with a digital clock have a preset feature, but if you’ve never set your oven to automatically turn on, then check the manual for instructions.
3. Make the spice or herb mixes ahead of time, then you will have everything ready to go.
4. Sheet pan dinners are very adaptable. Make a large amount or just a small serving. The trick is to only salt lightly before cooking, then add more salt after cooking.
The Four Parts of A Sheet Pan Dinner
Sheet pan dinners are made up of a few basic parts: protein, vegetables, carbohydrates, and seasoning/sauces.
Protein. For a straight-forward sheet pan dinner, use a protein option that can withstand being cooked for a long time without needing too much attention.
• Chickpeas or butter beans drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with seasonings
• Sausages chopped into bite-sized pieces
• Marinated chicken thighs and legs
Vegetables. All vegetables are delicious when roasted in the oven. The only trick is to add soft, quick cooking vegetables towards the end of baking. Firm vegetables that can be cooked for 30–40 minutes include:
• Root vegetables like carrots, parsnips or beets
• Winter squash (peeled and cubed or sliced)
Vegetables that are best cooked for 15–20 minutes include:
• Cherry tomatoes
• Green beans
• Sliced onions
• Coloured peppers
Greens will only need about 5–10 minutes in a hot oven:
Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are always popular with kids. They don’t necessarily have to be added to the sheet pan. Depending on the type of meal, serve sheet pan dinners with cooked rice, bread or tortillas.
Carbs that can be added to the sheet pan include:
• Sweet potatoes
• Shelf stable gnocchi
Seasonings and Sauces. Flavours are what make sheet pan meals amazing. The vegetables and carbs can be tossed in seasonings or cooked with herbs. Sauces and dressings can be drizzled on top.
Here are a few flavour options:
• Fresh diced garlic tossed with salt, pepper and olive oil is simple and delicious
• Spice mixes like Cajun spice or taco seasoning.
• Fresh rosemary, thyme or oregano, either as whole sprigs or finely chopped
• Cooked vegetables drizzled with your favourite salad dressing
• Grated Parmesan or feta cheese
• Ketchup or mayonnaise for dipping
How to prepare a sheet pan meal:
1. Have all the vegetables washed and chopped up in advance.
2. Toss all firm vegetables and protein (meat or beans) in oil. Then toss with any herbs or seasonings.
3. Spread everything out in a single layer on a baking sheet (or several baking sheets.) Keep the softer vegetables aside, to be added towards the end of cooking.
4. Bake at 400˚F for 40-50 minutes. Stir at least once during the cooking time. Add softer vegetables 20 minutes before the end of cooking, and greens 5 minutes before the end of cooking.
5. Dinner is ready when everything (particularly the meat) is well cooked.
6. Taste before serving, then add salt as needed.
Sheet pan meals to inspire you:
1. Make a taco filling by roasting chicken (or tofu) with onions and peppers tossed in sunflower seed oil and taco seasonings. Serve in corn tortillas with grated cheese, salsa and sour cream.
2. Try a Cajun veggie dinner. Roast chickpeas, sweet potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower tossed in Cajun seasoning. Serve with a creamy ranch salad dressing.
3. A simple oven roasted pasta dinner can be made with Italian sausage, gnocchi and kale, tossed with garlic and olive oil. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
4. Kids love crispy potato wedges. Try roasting potatoes with butter beans, carrots and squash. Season with diced garlic and rosemary, then served with crumbled feta.