20 Recipes That Require Basically Zero Cleanup

Jess Richardson | Apr 17, 2019 Food & Party
20 Recipes That Require Basically Zero Cleanup
Image: iStock

fish en papillote
iStock

After a long day -- whether it's spent wrangling kids and keeping the house from falling apart or going to a job outside the home -- the last thing anybody wants is to make a big huge dinner that requires tons of scrubbing. In fact, if there were a recipe that required literally zero cleanup (...and that wasn't just ordering takeout), we would be absolutely all for it. 

These are recipes that are nutritious for the whole family, and the closest we can possibly come to serving a zero-mess meal. Several of them are ideas for wrapping food in tinfoil and throwing it in the oven, or similarly, cooking en papillote, which is a fancy French term for an incredibly simple, easy technique: Just wrapping food in parchment paper and tossing it in the oven. Be careful to only use true parchment paper  -- never wax paper, which will melt in the oven. 

Sheet pan recipes are the classic low-mess meals. If the sheet pan is lined with a silicone mat, parchment paper, or tinfoil, the cleanup is simple -- no splattering on the sheet pan itself, which can need to soak and be scrubbed. Just wash the silicone mat off (stains come off silicone easily), recycle the aluminum foil, or throw out the parchment -- voila, all that needs to be really cleaned are the plates. We have a few sheet pan recipes in this roundup, but a seasonal spring sheet pan meal might be more inspiring when produce is abundant. For those short on time, try a sheet pan recipe that takes 15 minutes of prep, which is exactly as awesome as it sounds. If stove is more the name of the game, a one-skillet dish will keep cleanup to a minimum. 

  • Barbecue Chicken Foil Packets

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    Barbecue Chicken Foil Packets
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    Foil packet meals are freaking incredible. Wrap up all the messy stuff in foil, throw them in the oven, then unwrap the foil packets, plate the dishes, rinse the foil, and recycle it! Aluminum foil is one of the most easily recycled materials out there, as it turns out. Totally a solid reason to try these barbecue chicken foil packets, which are absolutely delicious.

  • Quick & Easy Burrito Bowls

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    Quick and Easy Burrito Bowls
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    Quick and easy burrito bowls are amazing because they're low-cleanup, and also perfect for meal prep -- the ingredients are simple to gather ahead of time, and it's a great use of some shredded pork prepared at the beginning of the week. 

  • One Pot Creamy Tortellini & Smoked Sausage

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    One Pot Creamy Tortellini and Smoked Sausage
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    This recipe for one pot creamy tortellini and smoked sausage is so quick and simple, and it requires cleaning just one pot, which seems like exactly the right number on a weeknight. 

  • Thai Chicken Coconut Curry Skillet

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    Thai Chicken Coconut Curry Skillet
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    We love a one-skillet recipe, and this Thai chicken coconut curry skillet is extra special for its big, beautiful flavors. Adjust the spiciness level to taste, and serve with sticky rice -- or cauliflower rice for a low-carb option.

  • Grilled Pork Chops & Potato Foil Packets

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    Grilled Pork Chops and Potato Foil Packets With Chimichurri Sauce
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    These grilled pork chops and potato foil packets with chimichurri sauce are completely delicious and basically mess-free. They're also fancy-seeming enough that we would serve them at a dinner party or for a little at-home date-night, despite being super simple.  

  • Spaghetti Night Without the Mess

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    Spaghetti Night Without the Mess: Oven-roasted Mini Beef Meatballs
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    Spaghetti night without the mess: oven-roasted mini beef meatballs are a perfect weeknight meal. This would be excellent paired with a little healthy Caesar salad (just use 0% Greek yogurt as a base), too.

  • One Pot Vegan Peanut Sauce Noodles

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    One Pot Vegan Peanut Sauce Noodles
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    One pot vegan peanut sauce noodles is a recipe that's in heavy rotation in our household. It's so versatile because it's great for adding any extra vegetables in that might be taking up room in the fridge -- from some leftover steamed broccoli to baby spinach that's starting to wilt. 

  • Bacon Ranch Chicken Foil Packets

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    Bacon Ranch Chicken Foil Packets
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    We challenge anyone to find a kid who will turn up their nose at these bacon ranch chicken foil packets. They're so tasty, and would be amazing paired with some steamed asparagus or roasted broccoli.

  • Sheet Pan Steak & Veggies

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    Sheet Pan Steak and Veggies
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    Sheet pan steak and veggies is easy, mess-free, and perfect for a weeknight meal, but because it also feels a little fancy, this would make for a great at-home date night dinner. Serve with a hunk of baguette if there's time to pick one up! 

  • Spicy Avocado Tuna Salad Sushi Bowls 

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    Spicy Avocado Tuna Salad Sushi Bowls
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    Spicy avocado tuna salad sushi bowls are a perfect, mess-free dinner for summer due to the fresh flavors and simplicity. While we don't recommend serving leftover sushi the next day, the rest of the bowl ingredients can be kept separately and served again with shredded chicken or crispy baked tofu. 

  • Healthy Loaded Sweet Potatoes

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    Healthy Loaded Sweet Potatoes
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    Healthy loaded sweet potatoes are one of our favorite things in the world. Tidy, yummy, and full of vitamins, they're also incredibly versatile. Have some leftover chili in the freezer? Thaw and serve inside sweet potatoes for added flavor and heartiness. 

  • Easy Baked Italian Chicken & Veggie Foil Packets

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    Easy Baked Italian Chicken and Veggie Foil Packets
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    Easy baked italian chicken and veggie foil packets is a complete meal unto itself (and it comes together so quickly), but for anyone who wants to add some good whole carbs, just throw some baking potatoes onto a foil-covered baking sheet on the rack below. Voila!

  • Rainbow Trout With Salsa Verde Sauce

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    Rainbow Trout With Salsa Verde Sauce
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    Rainbow trout with salsa verde sauce would be great served with some roasted veggies, too -- just put the vegetables on parchment paper on a baking sheet, spray them with avocado oil, and let them roast at 425 degrees until they smell great. 

  • Mediterranean Fish en Papillote

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    Mediterranean Fish en Papillote
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    Mediterranean fish en papillote is the kind of recipe that sounds impossibly fancy, but is actually just like a small handful of ingredients wrapped in parchment paper and then baked. They come out looking like these perfect little gift packets, too, which is a super fun surprise for kids (and a delicious and low-fat method of cooking for adults).

  • Deconstructed Tacos

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    Deconstructed Tacos
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    Deconstructed tacos are a fun play on a traditional taco night, and they're far less messy and require less clean-up, too. We're not seeing any downsides to this one (and we doubt any kiddos will, either). 

  • Instant Pot White Chicken Chili

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    Instant Pot White Chicken Chili
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    Instant Pot white chicken chili is the kind of recipe we like to just have all the ingredients on hand for in case we have no other ideas for dinner one night. Plus, it tastes even better the next day (we love good leftovers).

  • Lemon Herb Shrimp & Broccoli Foil Packs

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    Lemon Herb Shrimp and Broccoli Foil Packs
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    Lemon herb shrimp and broccoli foil packs are so easy, so yummy, so mess-free, and would be beautiful served over pasta or a bed of rice (or cauliflower rice, depending on whether the family is doing low-carb or not). 

  • Easy Instant Pot Butter Chicken & Saffron Rice

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    Easy Instant Pot Butter Chicken and Saffron Rice
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    Easy Instant Pot butter chicken and saffron rice is a recipe that makes this delicious, decadent Indian dish way less intimidating. The flavors come together so quickly in the Instant Pot -- and the saffron rice is fragrant and looks so fun. 

  • No-Mess Taco Casserole

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    No-Mess Taco Casserole
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    No-mess taco casserole is one of those perfect weeknight meals that takes just a few minutes to throw together, but the whole family will absolutely love and ask for for months to come. Plus, the leftovers are excellent. 

  • One Pot Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo With Bacon

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    One Pot Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo with Bacon
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    One Pot chicken fettuccine Alfredo with bacon is the perfect answer to needing a good weeknight meal the whole family will adore. Make the meal fresher with a little side salad or some quick-roasted green beans.

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