Family-Friendly Sheet Pan Dinners

It doesn’t get much easier than cooking on a big rectangular pan in the oven, which is why sheet pan meals are uber-popular for busy families. You can make healthy and crowd-pleasing complete meals with a few simple ingredients and some important flavor boosters. Break out the sheet pans and get the whole family fed with a reasonable amount of effort in a manageable amount of time.

Sheet Pan Success Part 1 – Choose Your Ingredients Wisely

When planning out a sheet pan meal, keep these five important concepts in mind.

Think Seasonally
Choose your ingredients with the seasons for the most nutrients and the best flavor. For example, opt for root veggies in the winter, asparagus and radishes in the spring, tomatoes and zucchini in the summer, and mushrooms and pumpkin in the fall. Eating with the seasons ensures variety—no one will ever get bored.

Consider Cooking Time
Pair up ingredients that will cook in a similar amount of time or add foods in layers. If you want to match up foods with short varied cook times, stagger their addition to the pan to allow for the proper amount of time for each ingredient. For example, add broccoli in with potatoes and chicken for the last 10 minutes of roasting for the right amount of broccoli bite.

Cut to Size
Along the same lines as cook times, cut ingredients in similar sized pieces so everything cooks evenly.

Prevent Sticky Situations
Before food hits the pan, make sure it won’t get stuck there. Utilize aluminum foil, parchment paper, and nonstick cooking spray if needed to ensure food won’t need to be violently scrapped off the pan. As an added bonus, clean-up will be extra easy if all you need to do is toss a few layers of foil. 

Know When It’s Done
Keep your food safe and cooked to perfection. Check veggies with a fork for tenderness before turning off the oven. The only way to really know if meat is cooked to the proper temperature is to use a thermometer!

Sheet Pan Success Part 2 – Turn Up the Flavor

Use these tricks to add major flavor to your sheet pan creations without a ton of extra calories.

Get Spicy
A drizzle of oil along with salt and pepper is a must, but you can also boost flavor with a squeeze of fresh citrus or a few shakes of the right spice. Choose spices that can stand up to the high heat of the oven like chili powder, ground cumin, fennel seed, or garlic powder. Make or buy a few spice blends and get your sprinkle on before roasting.

Slather Protein With Sauces
Spike the flavor of meat, chicken, fish, or tofu by basting with sauces towards the end of cooking. Try chicken thighs with BBQ sauce, salmon with teriyaki, or pork chops with honey mustard.

Garnish With Fresh Herbs
To finish your sheet pan masterpiece, garnish with handfuls of freshly chopped herbs for a burst of flavor and pop of color. Tossing the herbs onto hot food will help release the herbaceous flavors. Some winning combinations include shrimp and scallions, beets and chives, and chicken with cilantro.

Recipes to Try

The versatility of sheet pan meals may surprise you. Breakfast for dinner anyone? From pancakes to seafood and, of course, chicken, here are three meals that anyone can master and everyone will love.

Greek-Style Drumsticks With Sweet Potatoes

(Serves 3 to 4)

  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried Greek seasoning mix
  • 2 cups broccoli florets

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and then top with a piece of parchment paper. Place drumsticks on one side of the sheet pan and the sweet potatoes on the other. Season everything with olive oil, salt, pepper, and then sprinkle with seasoning mix. Place in the oven and cook for 25 minutes. Add the broccoli on top of the sweet potatoes and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender and chicken is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Sheet Pan Sesame-Ginger Shrimp With Carrot Noodles

(Serves 4)

  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 12 oz sugar snap peas
  • 4 large carrots, spiralized or thinly sliced into long strips.
  • 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger root
  • 1 clove garlic, mined
  • 3 scallion, finely chopped
  • Sesame seeds (optional)
  • Sriracha for serving, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Place shrimp on one side of the sheet pan, place sugar snap peas in the middle, and carrots next to the peas. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, ginger, and garlic; whisk to combine. Pour sauce over shrimp and vegetables. Place in the oven and roast for 10 minutes or until shrimp is pink and vegetables are crisp-tender. Remove from the oven and garnish with sesame seeds and chopped scallions. Serve with sriracha, if desired.

Sheet Pan Pancakes

(Serves 6)

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips (optional)
  • Seasonal fruit and 100% maple syrup for topping

In a large bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Whisk well. In a large measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and melted butter. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly in the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until puffed and set—you can check with a toothpick to make sure it is completely cooked. To help the top turn slightly golden, turn on the broiler for a minute or two to carefully toast. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then slice and serve with maple syrup and seasonal fruit.

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Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture; SNAP-Ed Connection. Seasonal Produce Guide. 2020.

  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures Charts. Updated April 12, 2019.