Vegetarian sheet pan suppers that come together fast

Black beans, peppers and tostadas cook on separate sheet pans.
Black beans, peppers and tostadas cook on separate sheet pans.
Published Sept. 27, 2018

Most sheet-pan suppers rely on meat or fish as the anchor. Toss your chicken or salmon fillets on the pan, surround them with vegetables, and roast until everything turns golden brown, a perfect one-pan meal.

But what if you want your choice of protein to come from plants, not animals? It's no harder to build a sheet-pan supper around a vegetarian protein, and there are many options.

Take, for example, beans. While they may not be the first ingredient to spring to mind when you think of a sheet-pan supper, they can work wonderfully, whether you want them crunchy and golden, or soupier and more like chili.

For years, I've been crisping chickpeas in the oven to serve as an hors d'oeuvres or snack. Just coat them in oil and spices, and roast at high heat until they sizzle. To turn them into a sheet-pan supper, I added potatoes. On a separate pan, I roasted chunks of cauliflower strewn with skinny lemon slices. Drizzled with a garlicky herbed yogurt sauce, it's an incredibly satisfying, richly textured meal zipped up by the caramelized bits of citrus.

Cooking beans in the oven is even easier because you don't have to worry about browning. To make a topping for bean tostadas, I spread a mix of canned black beans, chipotle chiles, oregano and garlic on a sheet pan, and let it bubble in the oven as it thickened. It comes out just as it would in a pot on the stove, but with the added appeal of not having to babysit a simmering pot. While the oven is on, I also roasted thinly sliced bell peppers until tender and golden. Then to serve, the beans, sweet peppers and some avocado get layered onto crisp tortillas for vegetarian tostadas that are easy enough for weeknights.

Building a sheet-pan supper around tofu, tempeh and other sliceable plant proteins is fairly intuitive. Start with the protein, add vegetables, some kind of fat for browning, and any seasonings you like.

One of my favorite tofu recipes calls for marinating it in tamari and honey, coating it in cornstarch, then baking it until it's crunchy and brown.

Turning this basic formula into a sheet-pan meal is a cinch: Just stick another pan of veggies in the oven at the same time, and add some herbs and crunchy peanuts as garnish.

Sliced sweet potatoes work particularly well as a pairing. The wedges turn velvety, adding texture to the meal. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms or any number or others can work. Watch them as they cook, pulling them from the oven when they're finished even if that's a bit before — or after — the tofu is done.

A word of warning: The cornstarch coating will most likely cause the tofu to stick to the pan. Using a small metal spatula, either an offset or a fish spatula, will help pry the pieces off for flipping halfway through. You could use nonstick liner here, but it will inhibit the browning and crunch factor. Or skip the cornstarch entirely. What you sacrifice in crunch you gain in ease of preparation.

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Tempeh and seitan can be used interchangeably with tofu, though you don't need to drain them first. And in many cases, they even come marinated and ready to just cut up and bake along with your veggies.

Finally, there is another, even simpler route for a meatless sheet-pan dinner, one I probably use more than any other. Simply roast up your favorite combination of vegetables, then add a protein-packed garnish at the end. Toasted nuts, crumbled cheeses, yogurt sauces, or fried or hard-cooked eggs can round out your plate with style and verve — no added meat whatsoever.