One-pot cooking used to be the exclusive domain of bachelors, campers and college students just moved away from home. Meals were quick, simple and often right out of the box. The concept was great - just one pot to wash, but the meals could be quite uninspired.

Here are a few variations on the “one-pot” theme, which broaden the possibilities for creative cuisine, while maintaining the simplicity and energy savings of one-pot cooking.

One-Pot Cooking Methods

The three methods described below have one thing in common: substitutions.

You can vary the ingredients to suit your taste or to use up the leftovers. The possibilities are endless, yet the procedure is pretty much the same for each meal. Youngsters and people new to cooking will enjoy the simple instructions and flexibility to make any portion size meal with whatever ingredients are available. They’ll also appreciate the simple clean-up!

Method 1: Rice-Based Meals

one-pot meal, rice base, diagram

  1. Put 3 cups cold water and a pinch of salt in a 2qt saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 cups brown rice, let water return to a boil, then lower heat to lowest setting and cover. Leave lid on and cook for 30 minutes.
  2. Lift the lid and quickly set cauliflower or broccoli on top of the bed of rice. Sprinkle 1 tsp thyme or rosemary. You can also add thin strips of cooked meat, tofu or shrimp – just set on top of the vegetables. Cover immediately and keep cooking for 10 – 12 minutes.
  3. Add grated cheese with thinly sliced almonds. Sprinkle bread crumbs as an option. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes and serve.

Serves 3 hearty portions.

For substitutions, you can use white, brown or basmati rice. A bouillon cube, chicken or beef flavor, can be added to the water if you plan to use strips of chicken or beef with the dish. Any quick-cooking fresh vegetable can be used. Avoid using frozen vegetables. Slower-cooking vegetables like carrots should be thinly sliced. The grated cheese topping can be replaced with tomato or mushroom sauce.

If you’re cooking for more people, use a larger saucepan. The pan needs to be large enough so that the rice, when cooked, occupies no more than 2/3 the volume of the pan.

Method 2: Potato-Based Meals

  1. Put 2 inches of water and a pinch of salt into a 2qt saucepan, and set a steamer basket or pan on top. Peel 3 or 4 large potatoes, cubed into fairly large pieces and place in steamer. The potatoes should only fill the pan halfway, or a little more. Cover and cook on med-hi for 12 minutes.
  2. Add large pieces of fresh broccoli, zucchini or cauliflower, and thinner slices of carrot and onion. Add seasonings such as thyme, rosemary and garlic powder. Set thin strips of ham, cooked chicken or tofu on top of the vegetables. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Test for doneness by piercing a potato with a fork – the fork should slip out without lifting the potato. Add topping of grated cheese, mushroom sauce or just thin slivers of butter. Sprinkle with parsley.

Serves 3.

Substitutions can include carrots cut in larger pieces and started with the potatoes. String beans can be added after the potatoes have had 5 to 10 minutes head start. Mushrooms can be added after about 10 – 12 minutes. Cooked fish, shrimp or tofu can be used as meat substitutions.

Method 3: Pasta-Based Meals

  1. In a large, deep skillet add 1 tbsp olive oil and a pound of meat, cubed or ground. Brown the meat over med-hi heat.
  2. Add equal parts of pasta sauce, water and bite-sized pasta. (A cup per person should do.) Cover, bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Add sliced mushrooms, onion, pepper and broccoli, and cook under cover for 5 min. more.
  4. Stir in one cup of grated mozzarella cheese, let stand for a few minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

Serves 4.

Substitutions include any kind of bite-sized pasta. Chicken strips or diced ham can also be used for meat dishes, or tofu for meatless. Corn, peas, olives or sliced peppers can also be used for vegetables.


Rice Verde

This simple casserole is great for using up leftover rice. Serves 3.

rice verde leftovers casserole


  • 1/4 cup butter or oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 pkg (10 oz) chopped spinach

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese


  1. Saute chopped onion in butter or oil.
  2. Stir in rice, spinach, milk, beaten egg, salt and cheese. Mix well with fork.
  3. Cover and bake until mixture is hot. Uncover and sprinkle with bread crumbs or sliced almonds.

Skillet Sausage Paella

Skillet Sausage rice Paella recipe


  • 3/4 lb hot Italian sausage
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped

  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • One dash hot pepper sauce
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese


  1. Cut sausage into thick slices; cook in a large skillet over med-low heat for 10 minutes, or until no longer pink. Pour off fat. Add onion and garlic; cook until softened.
  2. Stir in stock, then rice, tomatoes, green pepper, bay leaves, turmeric and hot sauce. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until rice is tender.
  3. Stir in peas, and salt to taste. Cook for 3 minutes.
  4. Spread cheese on top and slip into oven for a few minutes to melt and crisp the cheese.

Herbed Salmon

We recommend Wild Alaska salmon, which is produced from a well-managed sustainable fishery. Serves 4.

Herbed Alaskan Salmon recipe


  • 4 salmon fillets
  • 4 potatoes, thickly sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 2 tbsp parsley
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup white wine


  1. Pour oil in large pan. Lay potatoes in oil and cover with half the mixture of onion, garlic, parsley and seasoning.
  2. Lay fish on top of the potatoes. Pour remaining half of mixture over fish.
  3. Mix tomato sauce and wine together, and pour over fish.
  4. Bake at 375 for 60 minutes, uncovered. Baste fish occasionally with sauce in pan.


This recipe is large – serves 8. Many substitutions are possible – use what you’ve got on hand. This dish keeps well, and can be used for meals for several days.

healthy minestrone recipe


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cans chicken broth
  • 1 large can tomatoes
  • 2 cups chopped green cabbage
  • 1 cup sliced carrots

  • 2 tbsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp each-oregano, thyme, salt, pepper
  • 1/4 cup elbow or shell pasta
  • 1 cup each-chopped broccoli, zucchini
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup drained, canned chick peas


  1. Pour oil in 5 qt saucepan and heat.
  2. Add onion and garlic and cook a few minutes over medium heat.
  3. Stir in chicken broth, cabbage, tomato, carrots and seasonings.
  4. Add 1 cup water. Increase heat to a near boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Stir in the pasta, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Add broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms and chickpeas.
  7. Cook uncovered on low heat until pasta is tender.
  8. Taste for salt.


This is a popular everyday dish in India. Serves 3.



  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups washed lentils
  • 1 small can tomato paste or sauce

  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp curry


  1. In a saucepan, saute the onion until soft, then add the garlic cloves.
  2. After one minute, add the lentils and just enough water to cover them, about 1 1/2 inches. Add tomato paste and stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover.
  3. Cook one hour. Serve with chapatis or pocket bread. Leftovers can be made into a nice soup.

Summer Vegetable Medley

This simple dish can be prepared using Method 2, above, or you can leave out the nesting steamer pot and simply toss your ingredients into the one pot with water. This recipe lends itself to substitutions, so feel free to use what you have available. Serves 4 – 6.

Vegetable stir fry


  • 1 lb fresh green beans, cut in large pieces
  • 3 sweet red peppers, cut in large pieces
  • 1 qt cauliflower florets
  • 1 qt broccoli florets
  • 2 cups leeks, thinly sliced

  • 1 lb firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley


  1. In a large saucepan, put the bouillon cube in about 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.
  2. Add all ingredients except the garlic, parsley and cheese. Cover, and steam for 10 – 12 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, mix and cover for another 2 minutes. Add the parsley and cheese, and stir once quickly through the mixture.
  4. Replace the cover and steam just until the cheese begins to melt.
  5. Remove from heat, sprinkle with sesame seeds and dill, and serve immediately.

Skillet Taco Supremo

A great way to use up the broken, crumbly tortilla chips at the bottom of the bag. Serves 4 – 6.

Steak and potato skillet taco


  • 1 pound lean pork or beef, cut into small cubes
  • 1 can (16 ounces) refried beans
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 2 cups iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 2 cups broken corn tortilla chips

  • 1/2 cup black olives
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese


  1. Using a large skillet, cook the cubed pork over medium-high heat for 8 – 10 minutes, until browned and partially cooked.
  2. Add refried beans and salsa, stirring until blended.
  3. Cook until mixture reaches a near boil, then lower heat and simmer, stirring frequently to keep pork from sticking to the skillet.
  4. Check the pork for doneness in 6 – 10 minutes (there should be no pink in the center of the cubed meat).
  5. Remove from heat. Add tomatoes, chips and cheese, in that order.
  6. Cover just long enough to melt cheese.
  7. Add sour cream, lettuce and olives.
  8. Serve immediately.

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