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Mediterranean Sandwich

Easy, vegetarian Mediterranean Sandwich comes with a bit of a kick!  Pile fresh basil pesto, lots of veggies, and creamy feta cheese on some hearty bread.

Close-up view of the Mediterranean Sandwich, cut in half.

Mediterranean Sandwich

This sandwich is my sister’s specialty. She’s been vegetarian for the better part of a decade and this is one of her go-to meals. I finally decided to try her recipe and I’m hooked! We’ve had this sandwich on repeat for lunches lately, so I thought it was time to share it here.

She says she adapted it from Panera’s® Mediterranean Sandwich, which is one of her favorites. While the ingredients are a bit different than Panera’s, we wouldn’t want this sandwich any other way! The veggies get nice and tender, the feta melts down a bit into an amazing creamy layer, and the Sriracha mayo + pesto add loads of flavor to every single bite.

Process shots: make the special mayo by combining Sriracha and mayonnaise; Spread on one slide of bread, and put pesto on the other; add baby spinach to one slice and onion to the other for this Mediterranean Sandwich.

This sandwich lives up to its goal; it’s quick and tasty and it can be on the table ready to eat in about 10 minutes! True to the quick-prep theme of this Mediterranean Sandwich, we use prepared pesto. Of course, if you have some homemade or want to whip it up fresh, that will work great too!

Mediterranean Sandwich spreads

I recommend using freshly made basil pesto, not the preserved or jarred kind. You’ll find freshly made pesto near the fresh (not dried) pasta or in the produce section of the store. My absolute favorite on these pesto pizzas is Rana’s® Basil Pesto (not sponsored).  There is a good amount of pesto — 2 tablespoons per sandwich– which really gives these sandwiches loads of flavor.

The other side of the sandwich is spread with a Sriracha mayo. If you’re worried about the heat, you can reduce the Sriracha or omit it entirely, although I find it gives the sandwich a great kick and nice flavor. Keep in mind, though, that a little Sriracha goes a long way. If you’re sensitive to spice, add it very slowly.

Lastly, we’ve got feta which is not a spread per se, but as the sandwich is toasted, it melts down a bit into a nice, creamy layer. I use crumbled feta cheese, and while it seems like a lot goes into the sandwich, remember, it melts down along with everything else.

Mediterranean Sandwich veggies

  • Baby spinach: I like to quickly pull off the stems and rip apart big pieces of spinach so it’s not falling out the whole time you’re eating this sandwich.
  • Red onion: Very thinly slice the onion or give it a quick dice. A very thinly sliced red onion has less of a “bite” to it, but you can certainly leave out this veggie if you aren’t a fan.
  • Campari tomatoes: These tomatoes are known for their juiciness, low acidity, high sugar level, and non-mealy texture. They’re perfect for these sandwiches. Roma tomatoes or vine-ripened tomatoes will also work well. I like to add a pinch of salt and pepper here; a little goes a long way (remember the pesto is also salted).
  • Roasted red peppers: You can buy jars of roasted red peppers at the store; they are usually near things like pickles, capers and artichoke hearts. We love the soft texture and smoky flavor of roasted red peppers in this sandwich! Make sure to drain them thoroughly before adding to the sandwich or they will water down the bread.

Let’s talk bread

Any good, hearty, whole grain bread is idea for Mediterranean Sandwiches. My personal favorite is Dave’s Killer Bread® (not sponsored). It has a subtle sweetness and seed-coated crust with a hearty texture that holds everything together.

Process shots: Add spinach to one side of the bread and feta cheese to the other; add tomatoes and salt; add roasted red peppers; toast in a panini press.

QUICK TIP

This Mediterranean Sandwich is filling and fueling! That said, if you’d like to add in some additional protein, add in a layer of chickpeas or deli turkey.

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Mediterranean Sandwich

5 from 3 votes
An easy vegetarian Mediterranean Sandwich with a bit of a kick! Hearty bread is piled with fresh basil pesto, lots of veggies, and creamy feta cheese. This recipe is for one sandwich, but can be scaled to make as many sandwiches as you'd like!
Print Recipe

Mediterranean Sandwich

5 from 3 votes
An easy vegetarian Mediterranean Sandwich with a bit of a kick! Hearty bread is piled with fresh basil pesto, lots of veggies, and creamy feta cheese. This recipe is for one sandwich, but can be scaled to make as many sandwiches as you'd like!
Course lunch, Protein Shake, Sandwich, Vegetarian
Cuisine Mediterranean
Keyword Mediterranean Sandwich
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 1 sandwich (easily scaled up!)
Calories 493kcal
Cost $2.21

Ingredients

  • 2 pieces hearty wheat bread (I like Dave's Killer Bread)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil pesto (I like Rana's fresh basil pesto)
  • 1 tablespoon real mayo (I like Best Foods/Hellmans)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed baby spinach
  • 10 very thinly sliced red onion strips
  • 3-4 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 slices Campari tomatoes
  • Small sprinkle fine sea salt and pepper
  • 6 strips jarred roasted red pepper, well drained (See Note 1)

Instructions

  • SANDWICH SPREAD: Set out two slices of bread. Spread one side of one slice with the pesto. In a small bowl, stir together the mayo and sriracha (add slowly and to heat preference). Spread this mayo on the other slice of bread on one side.
  • FILLING: Gently press the baby spinach on top of the mayo and Sriracha to secure it in place. Gently press the thinly sliced red onion strips on the side with pesto to secure in place. Sprinkle the feta cheese on top of the red onion and gently press it in. Remember this melts down a bit, so don't skimp! Add the thinly sliced tomatoes on top along with a tiny sprinkle of salt and pepper. Add the well-drained red pepper strips on top. Bring the sandwich piece with the spinach on top of the other.
  • COOK: Add sandwich to a panini press or electric grill. Alternatively, add to a dry skillet. For the electric grill: close the lid and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the bread is fully toasted with defined char marks and the cheese is melted. For a panini press: Add the sandwich and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions until golden and cheese is melted, about 3 to 5 minutes. In a skillet: Preheat a dry skillet to medium low. Add the sandwich, then set a pan on top to weigh it down. Cook for 2-3 minutes, flip and cook another 2-3 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: You can buy jars of roasted red peppers at the store; they are usually near things like pickles, capers and artichoke hearts. We love the soft texture and smoky flavor of roasted red peppers in this sandwich! Make sure to drain them thoroughly before adding to the sandwich or they will water down the bread.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1sandwich | Calories: 493kcal | Carbohydrates: 30.8g | Protein: 13.8g | Fat: 32.8g | Cholesterol: 30.8mg | Sodium: 942.6mg | Fiber: 7.9g | Sugar: 9.6g

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Zucchini Boats

Easy, loaded Zucchini Boats start with hollowed-out zucchinis and are filled with a flavor-packed marinara and sausage filling. Zucchini Boats are topped with melty Cheddar cheese and baked to tender perfection.

We are obsessed with Zucchini Boats! Next time try these Mexican zucchini boats.

Overhead image of the zucchini boats fresh out of the oven

Zucchini Boats

When asked what type of recipes you wanted to see this year, low-carb meals was the resounding number 1 request. So I’ve worked hard to bring you some of the best low-carb meals I’ve ever had, and loved every minute of it (which is no small feat coming from this self-proclaimed carb-a-holic)!

As a quick re-cap, these unstuffed peppers, this turkey taco skillet, this egg roll in a bowl, and this ground turkey sweet potato skillet have been the most-popular low-carb recipes shared this year. And I have to admit, I didn’t miss the carbs one bit in those meals. Zucchini Boats are another one to add to the favorites list — they are low carb heaven.

They’re also insanely tasty — a meal no one in my family could get enough of!

Process shots: sauté onion and garlic; add sausage; brown and crumble; measure seasonings; add seasonings, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce to the pan.

Zucchini Boat tips

  • Don’t forget the fresh herbs; they cut through the richness of the sausage and cheese, while adding a burst of freshness.
  • For the marinara sauce, I highly recommend Rao’s® marinara sauce: (not sponsored). This marinara has a deep, intense flavor, tastes homemade and is thick and hearty. A good marinara sauce makes a huge difference in this recipe.
  • Freshly grate the cheese if you’re able. Pre-shredded cheese has a cellulose coating (to keep it from clumping) that resists melting or can make the Zucchini Boats greasy. If you have a food processor, many come with an attachment that will grate the cheese in a flash!

Zucchini

Aim for even-sized zucchini. The bake time on these Zucchini Boats can be tricky if the zucchini are all different sizes. While it’s hard to control what comes out of your garden, if you’re buying zucchini for this recipe, take an extra minute to grab four equal-sized smallish zucchinis.

QUICK TIP

If the zucchini halves don’t all fit in the 9×13-inch pan, grab another smaller pan like an 8×8 or 9×9-inch pan to add the leftover zucchinis and sauce that didn’t fit.

Process shots: sauté sausage and seasonings; add marinara sauce and simmer; prep the zucchini; stuff zucchini with meat mixture; top with Cheddar cheese; bake.

Do you eat the skin on Zucchini Boats?

Before starting this recipe, wash, scrub, and dry the zucchini. The skin on properly cleaned zucchinis are perfectly fine to eat, and they actually have a lot of nutritional benefits!

Often, large zucchini can have tougher skins with a slightly bitter taste to them, which is why I recommend small-to-medium zucchini for this recipe.

Variations

  • Heat: for spicier Zucchini Boats, opt for hot Italian sausage or add a few red pepper flakes.
  • Different meat: If you’d rather not use sausage, try lean ground beef or ground turkey instead. You will likely want to increase spices with beef or ground turkey since they have less flavor than ground sausage.
  • Vegetarian Zucchini Boats: Make this recipe exactly the same, but replace the sausage with 2 cups of a cooked and seasoned grain (such as brown rice, white rice, or quinoa), add in 1 large diced carrot and 1-2 diced sweet bell peppers (along with the onion). Top with extra-sharp Cheddar cheese and enjoy!

Overhead view of the baked Zucchini Boats, with melted cheese.

Can you freeze Zucchini Boats?

Zucchini Boats don’t freeze or thaw well; the zucchini gets exceptionally mushy once thawed. So, while I wouldn’t recommend freezing this recipe as a whole, the meat filling mixture can be frozen for 2-3 months. 

  • Pack the completely cooled filling (without cheese) into a heavy-duty freezer-safe bag or container, leaving space for the sauce to expand once it’s frozen.
  • Thaw the filling in the fridge overnight and then reheat on the stovetop over low heat for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Fill Zucchini Boats, add cheese, and bake.

More recipes using zucchini 

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Zucchini Boats

5 from 6 votes
Easy, loaded Zucchini Boats start with hollowed-out zucchini and are filled with a flavor-packed marinara and sausage filling. Zucchini Boats are topped with melty Cheddar cheese and baked to tender perfection.
Print Recipe

Zucchini Boats

5 from 6 votes
Easy, loaded Zucchini Boats start with hollowed-out zucchini and are filled with a flavor-packed marinara and sausage filling. Zucchini Boats are topped with melty Cheddar cheese and baked to tender perfection.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Zucchini Boats
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 584kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (165g) finely diced yellow onion ~1 large onion or 2 small ones
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic ~3-4 cloves
  • 1 pound (16 oz.) mild (or hot) Italian sausage
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons beef bouillon powder
  • salt and pepper to taste (I use 1/2 teaspoon of each)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups (496g) good-quality marinara sauce (We're obsessed with Raos Marinara in this recipe!)
  • 4 small to medium-sized zucchini
  • 1 and 1/3 cups (135g) freshly grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish, optional

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  • ZUCCHINIS: Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Use a small spoon to carefully scoop the flesh out of the zucchini, leaving a good border along the edges of the zucchini. Place the zucchini halves in the prepared baking dish (See Note 1) and drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the zucchinis. Rub the oil into the zucchini and add a small sprinkle of salt and pepper (the filling is salted, so just a pinch here!). Bake for 5 minutes and remove.
  • SAUSAGE MIXTURE: Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the onion and cook, 3-5 minutes or until onion is beginning to become translucent. Add in the garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Move onion and garlic to edges and add sausage to the middle of the pan. Cook and stir, breaking up with a wooden spoon into small crumbles, until cooked through and no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes. Drain off any grease if needed.
  • SAUSAGE MIXTURE CONT.: Add all the seasonings (oregano, thyme, Italian seasoning, beef bouillon powder, and salt and pepper to taste), tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Stir, cooking over medium heat, for 1 minute or until very fragrant. Add in the marinara sauce and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • FILL ZUCCHINI SHELLS: Spoon the meat mixture evenly into the zucchini shells, it should fill 8 medium-sized zucchini halves. Add the freshly grated cheese evenly on top.
  • BAKE: Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until zucchini is crisp tender (it should still have a bite too it, not be mushy!) and cheese is melted. If desired, add fresh parsley and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: If all the zucchini won't fit into one pan, no worries! Either fit zucchini along the sides of the pan or use another pan such as an 8x8 or 9x9 pan to hold the overflow.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 584kcal | Carbohydrates: 20.3g | Protein: 25.7g | Cholesterol: 112.7mg | Sodium: 1551mg | Fiber: 3.7g | Sugar: 10.2g

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Zucchini Pasta Sauce

The creamiest, most flavor-packed Zucchini Pasta Sauce! Shredded zucchini, shredded summer squash, and fresh basil pesto make for the ultimate 30-minute summer pasta dish, wonderful for a weeknight dinner.

 

Up-close view of Zucchini Pasta Sauce, served with spaghetti.

Zucchini Pasta Sauce

While I don’t have a garden bursting with zucchini right now, I have wonderful neighbors and friends that do. Luckily for us, we’ve been gifted with plenty of zucchini and it’s ended up in everything I’ve been baking and cooking, from these gluten free zucchini muffins to this healthy zucchini bread and these enchilada stuffed zucchini boats.

So when my family requested this creamy pesto pasta, I thought I’d put a spin on it and sneak in some veggies. No one was the wiser; in fact, there were rave reviews all around the table for Zucchini Pasta Sauce!

This pasta dish practically screams summer: it’s vibrant, fresh, lively, and loaded with great summer produce like corn, summer squash, zucchini, and basil pesto. 

Process shots: Sauté butter, onion and garlic; grate zucchini and summer squash; add to skillet and sauté; add seasonings and sauté; add Parmesan, corn, cream and chicken broth; simmer to blend flavors.

Basil pesto

Of course, if you want to make your own pesto, homemade is always best. That said, the idea for this recipe is to be on the table as quickly as possible, so if you don’t have homemade pesto whipped up, store-bought works great.

As far as packaged pesto goes, I recommend using freshly made basil pesto, not the preserved or jarred kind.

You’ll find fresh pesto near the fresh (not dried) pasta or in the produce section of the store. My absolute favorite in this zucchini pasta sauce is Rana’s® Basil Pesto (not sponsored). 

Feel free to add extra pesto to individual servings if you’re a huge pesto fan (like I am!).

Process shots: Cook and drain spaghetti; add to the sauce; mix with tongs; stir in pesto.

Ingredient notes

  • Good Parmesan cheese makes a big difference to overall flavor in Zucchini Pasta Sauce. Avoid canned Parmesan and go for a block of cheese to grate directly onto this dish. We love Parmigiano Reggiano best in this dish. If you’re a cheese lover, I highly recommend this cheese (While a bit pricey, a little goes a long way, it lasts a good amount of time, plus it is seriously incredible!).
  • If you have access to fresh corn, cut it off the cob and use in place of the frozen corn. 
  • Add in some protein if you wish; we recommend adding chicken. I typically add in some shredded or sliced rotisserie chicken (it’s quick and easy and already seasoned). Leftover grilled chicken would also be delicious; try this grilled chicken marinade!
  • Thin spaghetti is our favorite pasta to pair with Zucchini Pasta Sauce. Regular spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine will also work great.

Close-up view of Zucchini Pasta Sauce, served with spaghetti.

Zucchini Pasta Sauce Tips

  • Salt the pasta water. I add 1 tablespoon fine sea salt to the pot of boiling water right before adding in the pasta. Salting the pasta water is how the actual pasta gets seasoned.
  • Increase the sauce as desired: I like to keep the heavy cream, pesto, and chicken stock by the pot and will occasionally add an extra splash of cream and/or stock and an extra spoonful of pesto after tossing everything together. Sometimes the pasta absorbs more sauce, or you just want an extra saucy meal. Alternatively, you can add in some reserved pasta water (see next tip).
  • Reserve pasta water. When cooking pasta, I always like to save out about 1 cup of cooking water right before draining the noodles. Adding small amounts of this reserved pasta water can thin the zucchini pasta sauce if needed when tossing the pasta with everything. 

Overhead view of a bowl of spaghetti topped with Zucchini Pasta Sauce.

Zucchini Pasta Sauce tips, continued

  • Grate Parmesan on a microplane: A microplane gives the Parmesan an amazing, super-light texture. It melts beautifully into the sauce and makes a wonderful garnish.
  • Grate zucchini and summer squash on the large holes of a grater. If grated too finely, they practically disappear in this sauce.
  • Slightly undercook the pasta; it will finish cooking as it gets tossed with the sauce. If the pasta is fully boiled, it will end up getting over cooked and lose texture (possibly even become mushy).

QUICK TIP

Fresh herbs cut through the richness of this dish and add a great lively flavor. We enjoy fresh basil best, but flat-leaf Italian parsley is also great!

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Zucchini Pasta Sauce

5 from 3 votes
Shredded zucchini, shredded summer squash, and fresh basil pesto make the ultimate 30-minute summer pasta dish, wonderful for a weeknight dinner.
Print Recipe

Zucchini Pasta Sauce

5 from 3 votes
Shredded zucchini, shredded summer squash, and fresh basil pesto make the ultimate 30-minute summer pasta dish, wonderful for a weeknight dinner.
Course Dinner, Main Course, Vegetarian
Cuisine American
Keyword Zucchini Pasta Sauce
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 645kcal
Cost $6.12

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (~3 cloves)
  • 1 cup (110g) finely diced yellow onion (~1 medium onion)
  • 2 cups (227g) grated zucchini (~2 small zucchinis)
  • 1 cup (147g) grated summer squash (~1 small squash)
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: paprika, fine sea salt, fresh cracked pepper
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1/2 cup (30g) finely grated Parmesan cheese (See Note 1)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (198g) frozen corn
  • 10 ounces (290g) thin spaghetti NOT the whole package
  • 1/3 cup (70g) fresh basil pesto (See Note 2)
  • For topping: extra Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs like fresh basil or Italian parsley

Instructions

  • PREP: This dish goes quickly once it's started, so shred the zucchini and summer squash ahead of time. Grate both on the large holes of a cheese grater. Dice the onion, mince the garlic, and we're ready to start!
  • PASTA: Bring a large pot of water to the boil with 1 tablespoon of fine sea salt. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions, subtracting 2 minutes (the pasta will finish cooking later). Drain the pasta and set aside (don't run it under cold water).
  • ONION AND GARLIC: While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a very large skillet or large pot over medium high heat (we'll add the pasta into this pan later, so use a big one). Once butter is mostly melted, add in the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is becoming golden, about 3-4 minutes.
  • ZUCCHINI AND SQUASH: Add the shredded zucchini and squash. Stir over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add seasonings: 1/2 teaspoon of each -- salt, pepper, and paprika. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid is absorbed and veggies are tender.
  • CREAM AND CHEESE: Add in the chicken stock, heavy cream, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and frozen corn. Stir and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened a bit, about 2-3 minutes.
  • PASTA: Add in the hot drained pasta and toss vigorously for 2-3 minutes, over medium heat, with tongs or two kitchen spoons. Continue to toss until the pasta is well coated and the sauce thickens. Once pasta is well coated, add in the pesto and toss again to combine. Taste and adjust, adding more salt and pepper, if needed. Add an extra splash of heavy cream, chicken stock, or pesto to thin the sauce a bit if desired.
  • SERVE: Serve immediately garnished with fresh herbs and add additional parmesan to each plate.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Grate Parmesan cheese on a microplane. A microplane gives the Parmesan an amazing, super-light texture. It melts beautifully into the sauce and makes for a wonderful garnish.
Note 2: You’ll find fresh pesto near the fresh (not dried) pasta or in the produce section of the store. My absolute favorite in this Zucchini Pasta Sauce is Rana’s® Basil Pesto (not sponsored).

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 645kcal | Carbohydrates: 72.8g | Protein: 19.7g | Fat: 31.8g | Cholesterol: 56mg | Sodium: 396.1mg | Fiber: 5.3g | Sugar: 9g

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

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Vegetarian Sushi Bowls

Quell your sushi cravings without any meat! Vegetarian Sushi Bowls start with sushi rice and are topped with ripe avocado, shelled edamame, carrot ribbons, chopped mangoes, and crisp cucumbers. Add in some seaweed sheets and a creamy Sriracha mayo as the perfect finishing touch!

 

Overhead view of Vegetarian Sushi Bowls.

Vegetarian Sushi Bowls

My husband is obsessed with sushi, but to be honest, it’s not my favorite thing to make. However, Vegetarian Sushi Bowls? These I can get on board with making very frequently!

Not only do they take mere minutes to whip together, they don’t require any shaping or rolling. And while it might seem like they’re in need of some protein, they’ve actually got plenty of it, thanks to the edamame and seaweed. Edamame is an incredible source of plant-based protein. One cup of cooked edamame provides about 18.5 grams of protein. And unlike most plant-based protein, edamame is a whole protein source. This means, these innocent-looking beans provide all the essential amino acids your body needs. Not bad for a seafood-free “sushi” bowl!)

Keep the protein coming with seaweed sheets, which are basically thin, mini nori sheets (what is typically used in sushi). These sheets are salted and lightly roasted — they’re delicious on their own, and the perfect addition to Vegetarian Sushi Bowls. 

And while there are plenty of fruits and veggies in the bowl, we’ve still got sushi quintessential elements, starting with sushi rice and finishing with a delicious (four-ingredient) spicy sushi mayo. 

Image of sushi rice before and after cooking.

Sushi Rice

Sushi Rice is steamed, short-grain rice that’s flavored with a vinegar-based seasoning (rice vinegar, salt, and white sugar).

Unfortunately, not any rice works here, you’ll want to get a short-grained rice to make sushi rice. Sushi rice is very different from long-grain, jasmine, or basmati rice, and has a higher content of moisture to delivery that unique texture and stickiness of sushi rice.

I use Calrose® rice in these vegetarian sushi bowls, but you can also look for short grain white rice or Japanese short-grain rice (“sushi rice”).

A couple tips:

  • Make sure the rice has been thoroughly washed and rinsed a few times (until no more starch comes out which means the water is running underneath). If you have extra time, soak the rice for 20-25 minutes before cooking, to get a better texture.
  • Once the rice is steamed, we’re looking for a fluffy texture with a firm bite. Each grain of rice should be sticky, but still retain its shape (if it’s mushy, it was overcooked or had too much water).

Making the spicy mayo: Assemble mayonnaise, Sriracha sauce, lime and sesame oil; stir and drizzle over Vegetarian Sushi Bowls.

Vegetarian Sushi Bowls spicy sauce

This spicy sauce is the perfect finishing element that ties everything in these Vegetarian Sushi Bowls together. It has only four ingredients and is as easy as whisking everything together in a small bowl. If you love lots of sauce, I recommend doubling the recipe.

  • Mayo: the better the mayo, the better the sauce tastes. I love Hellman’s/Best Foods® (not sponsored) since it has a rich flavor without being overly sweet.
  • Sriracha®: This ingredient adds flavor and spice! A little Sriracha goes a long way (both in adding flavor and spice). If you’re concerned about the heat, add very slowly and keep in mind, this sauce gets hotter as it sits.
  • Sesame oil: It adds a depth of flavor to the sauce.
  • Lime juice: This acid balances the spicy from the Sriracha and tanginess of the mayo.

Overhead view of the spicy sauce being drizzled on Vegetarian Sushi Bowls.

Vegetarian Sushi Bowls toppings

Mango and Avocado

  • Ready and fully ripe mangoes and avocados are game changers for Vegetarian Sushi Bowls; these bowls are far more flavorful and creamier if both ingredients fully ripe. (See Quick Tip below)
  • I recommend honey mangoes for this salad (also known as Ataulfo or yellow mangoes). They’re sweeter and creamier than regular mangoes and don’t have the typical fibers throughout. Also, here’s a great guide on how to cut a mango!

QUICK TIP

To tell if an avocado is ripe, press gently around (not on) the stem and if it gives, the avocado is ripe (the “give” should feel like pressing the tip of your nose). No part of the avocado should be mushy to touch (this means its overripe). To tell if a mango is ripe, always judge by feel! Squeeze the mango gently; a ripe mango will give slightly (overripe will squish down).

Cucumber and carrots

  • I recommend Persian (sometimes labeled as mini cucumbers) or English cucumbers for Vegetarian Sushi Bowls. The Persian cucumbers are nearly seedless and very crisp (instead of watery). They have a sweet, mild flavor and a great crunch; they’re the perfect complement to the creamy sushi rice, smooth avocado, and juicy mango.
  • The carrots also add a nice contrasting texture. I like to shave the carrot into ribbons — not only is it visually appealing, it also means you don’t need to cook the carrots and they aren’t overly crunchy. 
  • To make carrot ribbons: Lay one large carrot (baby carrots won’t work) flat on a counter or cutting board. Using a vegetable peeler, peel along the length of the carrot to create a ribbon. Repeat the process, rotating the carrot as necessary, until the carrot is too thin to peel.

Edamame

If you aren’t familiar with edamame, it’s the same soybean that makes tofu. It’s somewhat similar to baby lima beans, but butterier, with a hint of nuttiness and a touch of sweetness. The texture is firmer than a pea, but soft with a bit of a bite.

Edamame is sold fresh or frozen in the store, but I typically grab the frozen shelled soybeans since it’s hard for me to find fresh in my area. The recipe details how to prepare frozen edamame, but don’t forget to salt it!

View of a Vegetarian Sushi Bowl.

QUICK TIP

Want to add in some seafood? Try adding in some imitation or lump crabmeat that has been chopped into bite-sized pieces.

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Vegetarian Sushi Bowl

0 from 0 votes
Quell your sushi cravings without any meat! Vegetarian Sushi Bowls start with sushi rice and are topped with ripe avocado, shelled edamame, carrot ribbons, chopped mangoes, and crisp cucumbers. Add in some seaweed sheets and a creamy Sriracha mayo as the perfect finishing touch.
Print Recipe

Vegetarian Sushi Bowl

0 from 0 votes
Quell your sushi cravings without any meat! Vegetarian Sushi Bowls start with sushi rice and are topped with ripe avocado, shelled edamame, carrot ribbons, chopped mangoes, and crisp cucumbers. Add in some seaweed sheets and a creamy Sriracha mayo as the perfect finishing touch.
Course Dinner, Main Course, Salad
Cuisine Japanese
Keyword vegetarian sushi bowls
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 417kcal
Cost $6.71

Ingredients

Rice

  • 2 cups (426g) sushi rice (or short-grain rice or Calrose rice)
  • 2 and 1/4 cups (482g) water
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • fine sea salt

Sauce

  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup (44g) regular mayonnaise (I love Hellman's/Best Foods)
  • 1 tablespoons Sriracha sauce (scale up or down to personal heat tolerance)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice

Toppings

  • 2-3 honey mangoes, chopped (also called yellow or Ataulfo) (See Note 1)
  • 1 bag (12 ounces) frozen shelled edamame
  • 1 large avocado, thinly sliced or diced
  • 2-3 Persian cucumbers, cut into half moons
  • 4 large carrots, sliced into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce + 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • Optional: drizzle of soy sauce, seaweed sea salt snack

Instructions

  • SUSHI RICE: Place rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water until water runs clear. Tap out excess water to throughly drain and then transfer the rice to a medium-sized pot. Add in the 2 and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a full boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, keep the lid on, but remove from heat and let stand for a full 15 minutes.
  • SUSHI RICE SEASONING: In a small bowl, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt. Microwave for 15-20 seconds to warm the mixture, then stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Once the rice is finished cooking and standing, pour about 1/3 of this mixture into the rice. Gently fold into the rice to combine. Repeat the process until all of the vinegar seasoning has been incorporated into the rice. Set aside.
  • EDAMAME: Meanwhile, bring a pot of 6 cups of water to boil, then add in 1 tablespoon fine sea salt, and the bag of frozen and shelled edamame. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until edamame is tender. Drain thoroughly and toss with salt to taste.
  • SRIRACHA MAYO: In a small bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, mayo, Sriracha sauce (add slowly to taste preference), and lime juice. Whisk and taste, adding more Sriracha for a spicier sauce.
  • VEGGIES: Slice cucumbers in half lengthwise and then cut into thin half moons, about 1/4 inch thick. To make carrot ribbons, lay a large carrot flat on a cutting board. Using a vegetable peeler, peel along the length of the carrot to create a ribbon. Repeat the process, rotating the carrot as necessary, until the carrot is too thin to peel. Repeat with remaining carrots. Avocado: Remove peel and pit; thinly slice or chop. Mango: Peel with a vegetable peeler, cut the two halves off the large center pit. Dice the halves into small, bite-sized pieces.
  • SOY SAUCE MIXTURE: In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1 tablespoon rice vinegar. Stir.
  • SERVE: Divide the rice evenly among four bowls. Top with edamame, carrots, avocado and cucumber. Drizzle everything evenly with soy sauce and rice vinegar mixture. Top with Sriracha mayo, along with seaweed snack sheets.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Perfectly ripe mangoes and avocados are game changers for these sushi bowls. To tell if an avocado is ripe, press gently around (not on) the stem and if it gives, the avocado is ripe (the “give” should feel like pressing the tip of your nose). To tell if a mango is ripe, always judge by feel. Squeeze the mango gently; a ripe mango will give slightly (overripe will squish down). 

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 417kcal | Carbohydrates: 59.3g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 17.9g | Cholesterol: 5.8mg | Sodium: 143.4mg | Fiber: 7.3g | Sugar: 22.8g

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Lemon Cheesecake Cookies (Soft-Baked)

Lemon Cheesecake Cookies are thick, soft, and chewy with a cheesecake-like texture and a simple lemon glaze.

The ultimate BEST EVER Lemon Cheesecake soft-baked cookies! via chelseasmessyapron.com

Lemon-flavored cheesecake cookies that are soft and chewy with a simple lemon glaze. via chelseasmessyapron.com

Lemon Cheesecake Cookies

These aren’t your typical cookies, but they may just become your new favorite dessert! If you like cheesecake, lemon, and thick, chewy cookies you are going to go crazy for Lemon Cheesecake Cookies!

They taste like a miniature cheesecake in cookie form and are so different from your typical chewy chocolate chip cookies or peanut butter cookies.

While I believe every second of effort is worth it for these cookies, they do take a bit more time than your average cookie recipe. It’s important for the cream cheese and butter to get to room temperature before starting, and then, these cookies need some chilling time before baking. Plan on a good three hours from start to finish for these treats, even though most of that time is hands off.

Process shots for Lemon Cheesecake Cookies: cream butter and sugar; beat in cream cheese; add vanilla, lemon, lemon juice, zest and egg; mix until smooth; combine dry ingredients; add to the wet ingredients; mix until just combined; use a tablespoon to measure out cookie dough.

Lemon pudding mix

These cookies use dry, unprepared lemon pudding mix–not an entire mix, but just 2 tablespoons of it. This pudding mix is important for flavor, consistency, and softness of the cookies, so I don’t recommend leaving it out.

If you aren’t familiar with lemon pudding mix, here’s a picture of the box. Not lemon Jell-o®, and not vanilla pudding mix, these lemon cheesecake cookies need lemon instant pudding and pie filling mix.

What is lemon extract?

Not to be confused with lemon juice, lemon extract is a flavor enhancer (just like vanilla extract) that gives these cookies an intense citrusy lemon flavor. We use lemon extract to pack in as much lemon flavor as possible without messing up the consistency (like lemon juice would) of these cookies.

While there is also lemon juice and lemon zest in the dough, I found these lemon cheesecake cookies still needed a little more lemon flavor so that’s why we add the extract. 

Lemon extract can usually be found near other baking extracts and spices in the grocery store; I recommend using a pure lemon extract.

Process shots: Add cookie dough balls to the tray; bake; mix glaze together; drizzle glaze over cooled cookies.

Lemon Cheesecake Cookie tips

  • Use room-temperature ingredients. It’s really important that the cream cheese, butter, and egg are at room temperature. You don’t want to melt the butter or cream cheese or these cookies won’t set up and bake properly. Leave cold ingredients out for 45 minutes to an hour, or use some of these tricks to bring them to room temperature quicker.
  • Slightly under-bake the cookies. If Lemon Cheesecake Cookies are baked even a minute too long, the taste and texture will be off. They turn into biscuit-like cookies without a lot of flavor. By keeping them slightly under-baked, they will remain soft and have a texture similar to cheesecake. Not sure if they’re done? Check out the photo below showing a baked cookie right out of the oven; it should be set and the top no longer glossy or gooey looking.
  • Measure 1 tablespoon cookie dough balls. If the unbaked dough balls are too large, the cookie’s flavor and texture will be off. Measure the size of cookie dough balls by adding the dough to a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon and leveling it off. Use this dough to roll into a ball. (These cookies are actually really small! They may look larger in these photos, but that’s because I have a macro (closeup) camera lens.
  • Allow the cookies to cool completely. Most cookies are the best right out of the oven, but these ones are not. They really are best when they are completely cool and finished “setting up” which they do as they cool (similar to cheesecake). Wait for these cookies to thoroughly cool before serving.
  • When measuring dry ingredients, spoon and level the measurements or weigh them for accurate measurements. If you scoop a measuring cup into a bag of flour you will pack in too much flour (drier/less flavorful cookies).

A stack of three Lemon Cheesecake Cookies with a bite taken out of the top cookie.

QUICK TIP

When zesting the lemon, be careful to avoid the white part directly under the yellow peel. This is called the pith of a lemon and is very bitter. 

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Lemon Cheesecake Cookies

0 from 0 votes
Lemon Cheesecake Cookies are thick, soft, and chewy with a cheesecake-like texture and a simple lemon glaze.
Print Recipe

Lemon Cheesecake Cookies

0 from 0 votes
Lemon Cheesecake Cookies are thick, soft, and chewy with a cheesecake-like texture and a simple lemon glaze.
Course Dessert, Snack, Vegetarian
Cuisine American
Keyword lemon cheesecake cookies
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Getting ingredients to room temperature and dough chilling 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings 24 cookies
Calories 99kcal

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 3/4 cup (142g) white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons; 56.8g) unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces (112g) full-fat cream cheese (I don't recommend reduced-fat or Neufchâtel)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 and 1/4 cup (146g) white, all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons lemon-flavored pudding and pie filling mix (See Note 1)

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup (59g) powdered sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  • 1 HOUR IN ADVANCE: Set out the butter, cream cheese, and egg to get to room temperature. Make sure these ingredients are all at room temperature before starting. Don't melt any of these ingredients in the microwave or the texture will be off. (See Note 2)
  • CREAM BUTTER AND SUGAR: In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter with an electric hand mixer until light and fluffy. (Alternatively, cream together in a stand mixer).
  • REMAINING WET INGREDIENTS: Add in the cream cheese and continue to beat until the batter is completely smooth. Beat in the egg, vanilla extract, lemon extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest. When zesting the lemon, be careful to avoid the white part of the lemon; this is called the pith and is very bitter; just get the very outside yellow part.
  • DRY INGREDIENTS: In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cornstarch, and pudding mix. Stir together and then add to the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined, being careful to not over-mix (to avoid dense cookies).
  • CHILL: Cover the dough tightly and chill for 45 minutes.
  • MEASURE COOKIE DOUGH BALLS: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon, measure in the cookie dough to just fill up the measuring spoon (not heaping; these are small cookie balls). Place cookies 2 inches apart on a parchment or Silpat- lined baking sheet. I bake 8-10 at a time.
  • BAKE: Bake at 350 degrees F for 9-11 minutes (10 minutes is perfect in my oven) and then remove from the oven. Remove to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Be very careful to not over-bake these cookies as they go from a thick soft cheesecake texture to a biscuit-like texture very quickly.
  • GLAZE: Once cooled, prepare the glaze by whisking together the lemon juice and powdered sugar. Add the lemon juice just until a thick glaze can come together. Spoon the glaze over the cookies and allow to set.
  • STORAGE: Store cookies in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. These cookies don't freeze or thaw very well.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: If you aren't familiar with lemon pudding mix, here's a picture of the box. Not lemon Jell-o® and not vanilla pudding mix, these lemon cheesecake cookies need the lemon instant pudding & pie filling mix. Do not prepare the pudding mix; just use the dry powder.
Note 2: Don't have time for these ingredients to get to room temperature? Use some of these tricks to bring them to room temperature quicker.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 24cookies | Calories: 99kcal | Carbohydrates: 14.7g | Protein: 1.3g | Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 17.6mg | Sodium: 18.3mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 8.9g

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Flank Steak with Corn Salsa

This fresh and lively spice-rubbed Flank Steak with Corn Salsa is simple to make and packed with flavor. The ultimate summer weeknight meal!

With a veggie-loaded salsa, the healthy fats in the avocado, and a protein-packed steak, this meal doesn’t require much in the way of sides. That said, if you’d like to add some more greens, this mandarin orange salad is a great pairing. Or serve alongside this refreshing peach lemonade for a meal that screams warm weather!

Overhead image of Flank Steak with Corn Salsa.

Flank Steak with Corn Salsa

Sometimes the recipes I share here need several iterations before they’re ready to be photographed and shared. This flank steak with corn salsa, however, was a total hit the first time I made it for my family. I adapted the corn salsa from this crazy-popular grilled chicken & corn salsa recipe and served it up to my husband and boys. The whole meal was gone within minutes!

A few days later, when I made it it again to photograph (at 10 am in the morning, no less), the entire thing was inhaled again by the boys and my sister who was over at my home. To say it’s been a hit is an understatement! While it might seem like a fancy dish, this recipe couldn’t be easier to make. It comes together quickly, and we keep the heat out of the kitchen by using a grill to do all the cooking.

While the steak is cooking, the corn salsa can be whipped together, and dinner will be ready on the table in about 30 minutes or less! No steak marinating time and a short cook time — about 8-10 minutes total is all that’s needed for a perfect medium-rare flank steak.

Process shots-- images of the seasoning rub being prepped; then rubbed all over the steak; then it being grilled and cut into thin slices.

Flank Steak Tips 

A few overall steak cooking tips:

  • Make sure the grill is completely heated before you add the steak. High heat sears the surface of the meat, resulting in a juicier steak with an amazing char.
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure the meat is perfectly cooked to your personal preference (more on this below!)
  • Let the steak rest before cutting into it. Once the steak is grilled, it needs a bit of time to rest so the juices can re-distribute evenly throughout the meat. By letting the meat rest, you will have a juicier steak! I recommend loosely covering the steak in foil and letting it sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting into it.
  • Cut the cooked steak against the grain. Here’s more on that! Once it’s sliced, it’s ready to go.

Flank Steak with Corn Salsa: steak temperatures

I prefer flank steak cook to medium rare and find it loses flavor and texture when cooked beyond medium. To each their own though, cook the steak exactly how you like it!  Below are the temperatures for cooking steak to your personal preference.

Fully preheat the grill to 450 degrees F. Aim to keep the grill that consistent temperature throughout the grilling process.

  • Rare: 120-125 degrees F
  • Medium-Rare: 135 degrees F (about 4-5 minutes on one side and another 4-5 minutes on the other side)
  • Medium: 140 degrees F (about 5-7 minutes on one side and another 3-5 minutes on the other side)
  • Medium-Well: 150 degrees F (about 8-10 minutes on one side and another 3-5 minutes on the other side)
  • Well-Done: 160-175 degrees F.

**Time depends on the steak’s thickness, your grill, and actual temperature of your grill**

QUICK TIP

Pull the steaks off about 5 degrees below the desired temperature — the steaks will “cook” those last 5 degrees from carryover heat as they rest.

Process shots-- images of grilled corn; corn cut from the cob; all the salsa ingredients added to a bowl; mixing it all together; seasoning to taste; serving salsa over the steak.

Avocado Corn Salsa how-tos and tips

  • Grilling the corn adds pizzazz to this salsa and since the steak will already be on the grill, you may as well grill the corn at the same time! 
    • How to grill corn: Peel back husks and remove the silk. Rub vegetable or olive oil on all sides of the corn and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place on heated grill (400-450 degrees F) and rotate every 3-4 minutes or until charred. (This also works on a grill pan!)
  • Let the corn cool a bit before cutting it off the cob. The corn should be at room temperature for the salsa, so it doesn’t “cook” the other ingredients.
  • The ripe avocado adds so much to this flank steak with corn salsa. It gives a delicious creamy element and nice subtle flavor. For best results, use a good ripe avocado.
    • To tell if an avocado is ripe, press gently around the stem (not on the stem) and if it gives, the avocado is ripe (the “give” should feel like pressing the tip of your nose). No part of the avocado should be mushy to touch (this means its overripe).
  • Don’t forget the fresh lime. This hit of acid and flavor pulls everything together and keeps the avocado from browning too quickly.
  • Adjust the salt. Salt does amazing things for chicken and the salsa. If you feel like anything is lacking flavor, add a quick sprinkle of sea salt. It’s also important to season as you cook and taste often. Since the steak rub has salt in it, the corn is salted, and the salsa should be salted, add slowly, to personal preference, so you don’t overdo it.

Up-close overhead image of sliced Flank Steak with Corn Salsa about to be eaten.

Flank Steak with Corn Salsa tips

  • Worried about heat? Use McCormick® chili powder for the steak rub (I find it very mild) and omit the jalapeno and/or red pepper flakes from the salsa. (Overall, as the recipe is written, I would consider this is a fairly mild dish, but it does have a bit of a hit.)
  • Save some time. To save yourself some overall prep time, use pre-minced garlic and this citrus juicer to make juicing the limes a breeze!
  • When preparing the salsa, aim to cut each ingredient into similar sizes for uniformity and the best texture. 

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Flank Steak with Corn Salsa

5 from 1 vote
This fresh and lively spice-rubbed Flank Steak with Corn Salsa is simple to make and packed with flavor. The ultimate summer weeknight meal!
Print Recipe

Flank Steak with Corn Salsa

5 from 1 vote
This fresh and lively spice-rubbed Flank Steak with Corn Salsa is simple to make and packed with flavor. The ultimate summer weeknight meal!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Flank Steak with Corn Salsa
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 32 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 501kcal
Cost $20.51

Ingredients

Steak

  • 1 and 1/2 up to 2 pounds flank steak
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: garlic powder, ground coriander, ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon EACH: sweet paprika, ground chili powder (McCormick is not very spicy)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons EACH: fine sea salt and pepper
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Corn Salsa

  • 3 ears sweet corn
  • olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • 1 very large (or 2 small) ripe avocados, peeled, seed removed, and diced
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 3/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon EACH: finely minced jalapeno and minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • Optional: additional cilantro and lime wedges, for serving

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat the grill to 450 degrees F. Once heated, clean the grill grates with a wire brush. Liberally oil the grill (I do this by drenching a paper towel in canola or vegetable oil and, holding tongs, rubbing the paper towel over the grill).
  • CORN: Shuck corn and discard silk. Drizzle corn with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Rub the oil and salt/pepper into all sides of the corn. Add the corn to the heated and oiled grill over direct heat. Grill corn about 10-12 minutes total, rotating every 3-4 minutes until bright in color and lightly charred. Let grilled corn cool before cutting it off the cob.
  • STEAK: Prepare the rub by mixing together the garlic powder, ground coriander, cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Remove the flank steak from packaging and blot dry with a paper towel. Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil on the top of the steak. Sprinkle half the rub on top and gently press in. Flip the steak over. Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon oil on the bottom of the steak and sprinkle on the remaining rub mixture. Gently press in. Place the spiced-rubbed steak directly on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature is 130-135 degrees F for medium rare or 145 degrees for medium. (I use a meat thermometer here. My grill takes exactly 4 minutes per side at 450 degrees F.) Remove the steak from the grill to a cutting board. Tent with foil and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes. Once the steak has rested, slice it very thinly against the grain (See Note 1).
  • SALSA: While the steak cooks, prepare the salsa. Slice the cooled corn off the cob and add to a large bowl. Dice the veggies -- the avocados, red onion, red pepper and cilantro and add to the corn. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/4 cup lime juice, 1 teaspoon cumin, minced jalapeno, minced garlic, and, if desired, crushed red pepper flakes to the veggies. Gently toss together. Add salt and pepper to taste (I add 1/4 teaspoon of each). Toss again and serve over steak. If desired, drizzle everything with 1 more tablespoon olive oil. Serve with extra cilantro and lime wedges if desired.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Find the fibers on the steak and determine how they are running along the steak. Once you find that grain, slice perpendicular (here's a visual). This will keep the meat juicier and much more tender. It's easier to chew when cut against the grain.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 501kcal | Carbohydrates: 30.2g | Protein: 41.1g | Fat: 25.8g | Cholesterol: 102mg | Sodium: 112.3mg | Fiber: 5.3g | Sugar: 12g

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Stuffed Shells with Sausage

The ultimate BEST EVER stuffed Italian Sausage Shells -- easy and delicious!! via chelseasmessyapron.com

Delicious, extra-cheesy, Stuffed Shells with Sausage use a few shortcuts to make this dinner so fast and easy to make. 

 

Overhead view of a pan of Stuffed Shells with Sausage, topped with melted cheese and basil chiffonade.

Stuffed Shells with Sausage

My kids love red sauce and noodles — they ask for it just about every single day so I have to get a little creative in the way I’m dishing up those red-sauced noodles.  Sometimes it’s this turkey bolognese or this spaghetti bolognese and other days I rely on these tried-and-true Stuffed Shells with Sausage or these chicken parm stuffed shells.

They’re the perfect easy weeknight dinner, thanks to a few shortcuts, which I’ll share below!

Process shots: sauté onion and garlic in olive oil; add beef, sausage and seasonings; brown well; mix cream cheese, cheeses and egg; add beef mixture into the cheese mixture.

Recipe Shortcuts

  • Marinara sauce. The main shortcut is using store-bought pasta sauce. While making homemade is simple, it still takes time and dirties another dish. Our two favorites to use in this recipe are Classico® Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce or Rao’s® marinara sauce. A good marinara makes a huge difference and give you an authentic Italian flavor without any extra effort. And because a good marinara sauce has so much flavor, we don’t need to add many additional seasonings and spices to these Stuffed Shells with Sausage.
  • Seasoned cream cheese. No need to chop onions for this Italian dish! Try using green onion & chive cream cheese, which brings out the traditional onion flavor in an Italian dish without any extra work.
  • Pre-shredded cheese. I’m usually all about shredding cheese off a block, but for this recipe, it works to use pre-shredded. I recommend an Italian blend so it further intensifies the Italian-inspired flavors in this dish.
  • Pre-chopped or frozen yellow onion. If you’re looking to save even more time, you can generally buy pre-diced onions in the produce section of the grocery store or even in the frozen aisle.

QUICK TIP

If you’d like to sneak more veggies (and flavor) into these stuffed shells with sausage, saute some finely diced carrots, celery, and/or diced green pepper along with the onion. You can buy these veggies frozen, typically the combination is labeled as “mirepoix”

Process shots: spread marinara sauce on the bottom of the pan; cook and drain shell pasta; stuff shells with the meat and cheese mixture; cover with marinara sauce and bake; add cheese and continue baking; add fresh herbs and serve.

Stuffed Shells with Sausage Tips

  • Cook a few extra shells. Occasionally a shell (or a few!) will break, so boil a few extra shells to use just in case that happens. Any leftovers can be chopped up and eaten with marinara sauce.
  • Salt the pasta water. Make sure the jumbo pasta shells are well salted as they cook, since salting is the only chance you have to season the actual pasta and the entire dish can taste bland with un-seasoned pasta. Read about how to properly salt your pasta water here. As a general rule of thumb, I add 1 teaspoon salt to 4 cups of water.
  • Stuff the shells efficiently. Add the cheese and sausage mixture to a gallon-sized zipper-top plastic bag. Press the cheese mixture to one side of the bag and using scissors, cut off a 1-inch opening in the corner. Squeeze the cheese mixture into each shell and gently press the mixture down to fill the shells.
  • Completely cover the shells with sauce. Aim to cover every part of the shells with marinara sauce so you don’t get tough, overcooked edges of pasta.
  • Make ahead. Stuffed Shells with Sausage can be made up to a day in advance and then baked when you’re ready. If you make this recipe ahead of time, prepare them fully but do not bake. Once ready to bake them, bake for 30 minutes, covered with foil, and then uncover the shells and finish baking according to the recipe directions.

Up-close image of a serving spoon scooping out Stuffed Shells and Sausage.

How to freeze Stuffed Shells with Sausage

I don’t recommend freezing the entire baked casserole. Instead, freeze the shells without sauce, right before baking:

  • Fill all the boiled shells with the cheese and sausage mixture and place on a large sheet pan. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and then foil and allow to freeze completely. Once frozen, transfer the shells to large freezer bags. Remove any air and return to the freezer. You can freeze these stuffed shells for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to eat: Add 1 cup marinara to a baking dish. Place the frozen shells on top and cover with the remaining marinara sauce. Bake at 400 degrees F (uncovered). Check that the shells are hot and cooked through at about 30-35 minutes and add additional time as needed. Add the cheese on top and bake for 5-10 minutes to melt.

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Stuffed Shells with Sausage

5 from 4 votes
These delicious, extra cheesy, Stuffed Shells with Sausage use a few shortcuts to make this dinner fast and easy to make. 
Print Recipe

Stuffed Shells with Sausage

5 from 4 votes
These delicious, extra cheesy, Stuffed Shells with Sausage use a few shortcuts to make this dinner fast and easy to make. 
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Sausage Stuffed Shells, Stuffed Shells with Sausage
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4 adult servings
Calories 659kcal
Author Chelsea

Ingredients

  • 24 jumbo pasta shells uncooked
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup (140g) yellow onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 pound (204g) extra-lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound (227g) ground Italian sausage
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 jar (24 ounces; 680g) marinara sauce (We love Rao's or Classico's Tomato Basil)
  • 1 container (7.5 ounces, 212g) chive and green onion cream cheese (soft, spreadable)
  • 1 bag (2 cups, 218g) shredded Italian cheese blend, separated
  • 1/2 cup (25g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • Optional: fresh parsley, fresh basil

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Spray a 9x13-inch ceramic or glass baking dish with nonstick spray. Spread 1 cup (245g) of the pasta sauce on the bottom of the pan and set aside.
  • SHELLS: Salt the water once it's boiling (I add 1 teaspoon fine sea salt to every 4 cups of water). Cook the jumbo pasta shells according to package directions for al dente, boiling for 1 minute less than the package says. I recommend boiling a few extra in case some break. Drain, rinse in cold water, and set aside.
  • MEAT MIXTURE: Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add in the onion and stir for 3-5 minutes or until softened. Add in the garlic and stir for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Move veggies to the side of the pan and add in the ground beef, Italian sausage, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste (I add 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Stir and break up the meat. Cook until browned and then remove from the heat (drain any grease if needed) and set aside.
  • CHEESE MIXTURE: In a large bowl, mix cream cheese spread, 1 and 1/2 cups of the Italian cheese, the Parmesan and egg. Mix until combined. Add in the cooked beef/sausage mixture and stir to combine. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the mixture into each shell. (See Note 1.)
  • BAKE: Place the stuffed shells on the sauce in prepared pan and then pour the remaining sauce over top, covering the shells completely. Bake for 35 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Italian cheese and cook for 10 more minutes.
  • ENJOY: Remove and top with fresh parsley and basil if desired. 

Recipe Notes

Note 1: To stuff the shells easily, add the cheese and sausage mixture to a gallon-sized zipper-top plastic bag. Press the cheese mixture to one side of the bag and using scissors, cut off a 1-inch opening in the corner. Squeeze the cheese mixture into each shell and gently press the mixture down to fill the shells.
Make ahead: These stuffed shells with sausage can be made up to a day in advance and then baked when you're ready. If you make this recipe ahead of time, prepare them fully but do not bake them. Once ready to bake, bake for 30 minutes, covered with foil; then uncover the shells and finish baking according to the recipe directions.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 659kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 151mg | Sodium: 931mg | Potassium: 603mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 345IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 397mg | Iron: 4mg

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BBQ Chicken Sandwich

This show-stopping, flavor-packed BBQ Chicken Sandwich is made with slow-cooked saucy chicken. Add the sweet BBQ chicken to a toasted bun with a quick guac and easy coleslaw.

Pair this barbecue favorite with a corn salad or potato salad.

Image of BBQ Chicken Sandwich, on a plate, ready to be eaten.

BBQ Chicken Sandwich

These easy sandwiches have been on major repeat at our house this summer; they’re crazy-simple to make, loaded with flavor, and everyone in my family is obsessed with them!

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that we use a slow cooker to cook the meat. No worries if you don’t have a grill or smoker, you can enjoy delicious BBQ chicken with this recipe.

Process shots-- images of the sauce ingredients being added and combined; chicken and onions being added; everything being mixed and covered; cooked until tender; then shredded.

Let’s talk sandwich buns

Our favorite way to serve these BBQ chicken sandwiches on is toasted brioche buns. (Here’s how to toast buns — on a grill, in a pan, or in the oven). Before toasting the buns, I recommend buttering both of the insides with softened butter or butter in a tub.

QUICK TIP

Toasting the buns also ensures that the sandwich toppings don’t make the bread too soggy.

The chicken on these BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

In a lot of my recipes, chicken thighs and breasts can be interchanged fairly easily. This recipe, however, does not work well with chicken breasts. The breasts dry out quickly and don’t absorb the sauce as well.

I recommend boneless, skinless chicken thighs for these sandwiches. The thighs stay juicy and succulent, shred easily, and absorb the sauce nicely.

Trim off the major fatty parts on the thighs, without worrying too much about removing all the fat; the fat will contribute lots of flavor.

Process shots-- images of the coleslaw dressing being poured over the salad; everything being mixed together to combine.

Quick “guac”

Nothing compares to a layer of guacamole underneath the saucy chicken — it adds an amazing creaminess to the BBQ Chicken Sandwich!

That said, you don’t need to spend too much time making guacamole. I usually just mash up a ripe avocado and add a pinch of salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lime juice. Easy!

You could also buy prepared guacamole for a quicker prep time.

Overhead image of the coleslaw being scooped up by the tongs for BBQ Chicken Sandwiches.

Coleslaw

Guac — BBQ chicken — and finally some coleslaw! The coleslaw adds the perfect contrasting crunchy texture to the tender chicken and creamy guacamole.

I recently shared this coleslaw recipe, so you can absolutely use that recipe to top these BBQ Chicken Sandwiches. That said, if you’re wanting a quicker prep time, grab a bag of coleslaw mix and some fresh (refrigerated) coleslaw dressing (I like Marie’s® best; not sponsored) and toss the two together until the coleslaw mix is sufficiently mixed.

Add a generous scoop of coleslaw right on top of the BBQ chicken, top with a bun, and dig in!

Image of the BBQ Chicken Sandwich on a plate with potato chips on the side.

BBQ Chicken Sandwich tips

  • I can’t recommend Heinz® ketchup enough — it’s so good in this homemade BBQ sauce (not sponsored).
  • Watch the cook time closely; not all slow cookers cook at the same rate. We’re looking for chicken that shreds easily (if it falls apart or disintegrates, it’s likely overcooked and will taste dry) or internal chicken temperatures that register 165 degrees F. 
  • Use a 6-quart slow cooker that has been generously greased with cooking spray.
  • Allow time for the sauce to thicken. When the chicken is done cooking, the sauce can be a bit thin, so allow time to thicken up a bit and coat the chicken.
  • This is a great meal to make ahead of time. The chicken gets more flavorful and the sauce continues to thicken as they stand. This dish reheats nicely — we’ll make sandwiches throughout the week with this recipe!

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BBQ Chicken Sandwich

5 from 1 vote
A show-stopping, flavor-packed BBQ Chicken Sandwich made with slow-cooked saucy chicken. Add the sweet BBQ chicken to a toasted bun with a quick guac and easy coleslaw.
Print Recipe

BBQ Chicken Sandwich

5 from 1 vote
A show-stopping, flavor-packed BBQ Chicken Sandwich made with slow-cooked saucy chicken. Add the sweet BBQ chicken to a toasted bun with a quick guac and easy coleslaw.
Course Dinner, Main Course, Sandwich
Cuisine American
Keyword BBQ Chicken Sandwich
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 25 minutes
Servings 6 -8 sandwiches
Calories 450kcal
Cost $7.12

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (153g) Heinz ketchup
  • 1/3 cup (75g) apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons (40g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (59g) tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons paprika (sweet not smoked)
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: fine sea salt, freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced (or 2 small onions)
  • 3 pounds (~11-13 total) boneless skinless chicken thighs, excess fat cut off (don't use chicken breasts)
  • 6-8 hamburger buns + butter (we love Brioche buns)
  • Serve with: coleslaw (see Note 1) and 2 large avocados with lime juice

Instructions

  • SLOW COOKER: Spray slow cooker with nonstick spray. Add the ketchup, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, tomato paste, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, mustard powder, onion powder, and salt and pepper. Whisk to combine.
  • CHICKEN AND ONION: Remove the fatty parts of the chicken thighs (some fat is fine; just cut out the majority of the fat). Add the chicken thighs right to the sauce. Thinly slice the onion. Add to slow cooker and stir to combine everything. Spread the mixture evenly in the slow cooker, making sure everything is generously coated with sauce.
  • COOK: Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours or until chicken shreds easily (this is about 4.5 to 5 hours for me). I don't recommend cooking on high; it tends to dry out the chicken.
  • FINISH CHICKEN: As soon as the chicken shreds easily with 2 forks, it's done! Shred the chicken right in the slow cooker and stir it in the sauce. The sauce is a little thin at first, but will absorb and thicken a lot, once the chicken has shredded and it cools. Leave the crockpot uncovered, turn to warm, and let stand for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to continue thickening the sauce as you prepare everything else.
  • COLESLAW: Use store-bought or make your own (See Note 1).
  • BUNS AND QUICK GUACAMOLE: Spread butter on the insides of the buns. Add to a skillet or griddle and lightly brown the buns over medium heat. Set aside. In a small bowl, add the ripe avocados and mash with a fork. Add a pinch of salt and pepper (garlic powder if you'd like) and a squeeze of lemon. Mash to make a quick guac. Spread the guacamole along the bottom of the buns.
  • ASSEMBLE: Using tongs, scoop out chicken and onions to go on top of the guac. Add a generous spoonful of coleslaw. Top with the other bun half. Enjoy immediately!

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Use a bag of coleslaw mix and Marie's® coleslaw dressing and toss to combine (add dressing gradually until mix is sufficiently dressed; you won't use all of it) or make this homemade coleslaw recipe.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1sandwich | Calories: 450kcal | Carbohydrates: 39.3g | Protein: 40.9g | Fat: 10.7g | Cholesterol: 193.1mg | Sodium: 562.9mg | Fiber: 2.3g | Sugar: 14g

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Baked Falafel

Herb-packed and chickpea-filled Baked Falafel overflows with nutritious ingredients, tons of flavor, and baked in an irresistible herbed olive oil blend.

We love falafel! Eat them plain, serve them in a falafel bowl, in a pita sandwich, or on top of a salad; the possibilities are endless!

 

Overhead image of Falafel in a bowl with pita bread, tzatziki sauce, olives, onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

What is Falafel? 

Traditionally, falafel is a fried patty made from blended chickpeas, herbs, and seasonings. You can eat them plain or served in myriad ways (more on this below). Tradition says these delicious patties originated in Egypt as a meat replacement during long seasons of fasting or lent. Today, they’re popular in Egypt and throughout the Middle East. And, over the years, falafel has become one of the most popular foods worldwide.

These delicious vegetarian patties are one of my favorite menu items to order and I love making (and meal prepping) them.

Process shots of the chickpeas being prepped and soaking overnight before being used.

Baked (not fried) Falafel

High in nutrients, a great source of protein and fiber, naturally vegetarian, and loads of health benefits–what’s not to love? However, falafel are typically fried in oil, which detracts from the healthy benefits. Don’t get me wrong, I love fried food as much as the next person, but with something so naturally nutritious, I wanted to keep it that way as much as possible.
 
So, I set out to create a slightly healthier baked version of falafel that tastes just as good as the fried versions. The secret to achieving this? Baking the falafel in a mixture of olive oil, the liquid surrounding pepperoncini (the real MVP in this recipe), and a few dried herbs. Truly, I like these even better than the fried counterpart!
 
Process shot-- image of the falafel being made by adding all the ingredients into a food processor.

What’s in falafel?

  • Dried chickpeas: For best flavor and results, we use dried chickpeas (AKA garbanzo beans) that have been soaked overnight until tender. Not only are dried chickpeas much more economical, they’re also important to get the right consistency and taste.
    • Tip: Add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to the soaking water to help soften the chickpeas.
    • If the chickpeas aren’t softened enough, the falafel will end up with tough pieces of chickpea, creating an overall unpleasant texture.
  • Herbs: I like a blend of flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, and green onions — 1 cup of each. Mix and match herbs to personal preference; you can also add in dill.
  • Garlic: We like lots of garlic, so feel free to reduce (or even increase) the amount in this recipe.
  • Seasonings: Again, adjust the seasonings to personal preference. I like cumin, coriander, paprika, salt, and pepper best. If you’d like a little bit of heat, add in some cayenne pepper (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon).
  • Baking powder: It seems like a strange ingredient, but this baking agent gives falafel a more fluffy and airy texture.
  • Flour, oil, and vegetable broth: These all contribute to consistency and flavor, but feel free to swap out the vegetable broth for chicken broth (no longer a vegetarian meal) or even water. Whole wheat flour or chickpea flour can be used in place of the white all-purpose flour.

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Canned chickpeas won’t work in this recipe! They’re too wet and won’t form into workable patties.

Image of all the ingredients in the food processor, blended up and ready to be baked.

Baking the falafel

This is the part of the recipe I get the most excited about! I’ve always felt that baked falafel was missing something, so when I read in a restaurant menu that they fried their falafels in pepperoncini liquid and dried herbs, I knew I had to try it.

So instead of frying the falafel in the liquid, I tried baking them in it, and it made a huge difference! Not only does it infuse the falafel with an incredible slightly tangy flavor, it also contributes to browning, giving them a great golden brown and crispy “crust” similar to what you’d get from frying.

Here’s what we bake the falafel in:

  • Olive oil
  • The liquid surrounding jarred Pepperoncinis
  • Garlic powder
  • Dried oregano
  • Pepper

Process shots-- images of the herbed oil you dip the falafel in before baking; falafel mixture packed into a measuring cup for consistent sizing; falafel being placed on a tray and baked.

How to serve Baked Falafel

There are countless delicious ways to serve Baked Falafel.  Some of our favorite ways to serve them:

  • In a bowl: Start with a base of cooked couscous, rice, veggies, or a salad. Then, add the falafel and bowl toppings like chopped cherry tomatoes, chopped Persian cucumbers, halved Kalamata olives, thinly sliced red onions, feta cheese, and toasted pita bread. Add sauces such as hummus, tzatziki, baba ganoush, or tahini. This is our favorite way to serve falafel!
  • In a wrap: Fill a large pita or tortilla with lettuce, cherry tomatoes, veggies, feta cheese, and a sauce (I’d suggest hummus and/or tzatziki.
  • In a salad: We love this Greek salad with Baked Falafel added in.
  • As an appetizer: Serve Baked Falafel with a bunch of different sauces for dipping! Use sauces such as hummus, tzatziki, baba ganoush, or tahini sauce.

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Are you familiar with the sauces we mention? Tzatziki is made with yogurt, cucumber and lemon;  tahini is like peanut butter, only made with toasted sesame seeds instead of peanuts; and baba ganoush is made with eggplant, tahini and sesame seeds.

Up-close image of Baked Falafel in a bowl, ready to be eaten.

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Baked Falafel

0 from 0 votes
Herb-packed and chickpea-filled Baked Falafel is loaded with nutritious ingredients, tons of flavor, and baked in an irresistible herbed olive oil blend.
Print Recipe

Baked Falafel

0 from 0 votes
Herb-packed and chickpea-filled Baked Falafel is loaded with nutritious ingredients, tons of flavor, and baked in an irresistible herbed olive oil blend.
Course Dinner, Main Course, Salad, Vegetarian
Cuisine Healthy, Mediterranean, Moroccan, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword falafel
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 20 -22 falafels
Calories 43kcal
Cost $4.12

Ingredients

Falafels

  • 1 and 1/4 cups (8 oz; 234g) dried chickpeas (don't use canned chickpeas)
  • 1 cup (28g) coarsely chopped Italian flat-leaf Parsley
  • 1 cup (26g) coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup (91g) thinly sliced green onions (only the white and light green parts)
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (we like 6 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: sweet paprika, freshly cracked pepper, ground coriander seed, baking powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon white all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth (or water)

On the tray

  • 1/4 cup (55g) liquid surrounding pepperoncinis
  • 1/4 cup (47g0 olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: garlic powder, oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • See Note 1 for serving suggestions

Instructions

  • SOAK CHICKPEAS OVERNIGHT: Place chickpeas in a large bowl (they will expand a lot) and add lots of cold water. Leave out to soak overnight (8-12 hours) or until tender. They can soak for longer (2 days)--just keep them covered in the fridge for longer periods of time.
  • FALAFEL: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Drain chickpeas well and add to a large food processor. Add in the loosely packed and coarsely chopped parsley, cilantro, and thinly sliced green onions. Add in the chopped garlic cloves, cumin, paprika, pepper, coriander, baking powder, salt, flour, olive oil, and broth (or water). Pulse/blend for 3-5 minutes on high speed, scraping down the sides as needed. Blend until the chickpeas are broken down and herbs are well incorporated (see picture in post).
  • PREP THE TRAY: Set out a large sheet pan. In a small bowl stir together the 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup pepperoncini liquid, garlic powder, oregano, and pepper. Whisk and then pour on the sheet pan. Tip the tray until the mixture coats the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
  • FORM PATTIES: Using a 1/8th measuring cup (2 tablespoons), scoop the dough and shape into discs about 1/2-inch thick and 2 inches wide. If the mixture is too hard to work with, refrigerate it for 20-30 minutes. Place the patties on the oiled tray. You should get about 20-22 falafel patties.
  • BAKE: Bake for 25-30 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the pan and turn all the patties to the other side (using a metal spatula). Patties should be golden brown on both sides.
  • SERVE: Serve fresh out of the oven with sauce of choice. Make falafel wraps or bowls. (See Note 1)
  • STORAGE: Baked Falafel stores well in the fridge for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for 3 months.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: There are lots of ways to enjoy Baked Falafel! Our favorite is in a falafel bowl with red pepper hummus and tzatziki sauce (my favorite tzatziki sauce is in this Greek chicken recipe and pictured in these pictures).
  • In a falafel bowl: Start with a base of cooked couscous, rice, veggies, or a salad. Add the Baked Falafel patties and any other toppings such as chopped cherry tomatoes, chopped Persian cucumbers, halved Kalamata olives, thinly sliced red onions, feta cheese, and toasted pita bread. Add sauces such as hummus, tzatziki, baba ganoush, or tahini sauce.
  • In a wrap: Fill a large pita or tortilla with lettuce, cherry tomatoes, veggies, feta cheese, and a sauce (I suggest hummus and/or tzatiziki).
  • In a salad: We love this Greek salad with a few falafel patties added in.
  • As an appetizer: Serve falafel with a variety of different sauces to dip in! Use sauces such as hummus, tzatziki, baba ganoush, or tahini sauce

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 22falafels | Calories: 43kcal | Carbohydrates: 2.5g | Protein: 0.8g | Fat: 3.5g | Sodium: 46.3mg | Fiber: 0.8g | Sugar: 0.2g

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Rice Krispie Treats

The ultimate BEST EVER Rice Krispies Treats! Read the rave reviews!! via chelseasmessyapron.com

These thick, chewy, and marshmallow-filled Rice Krispie Treats are easy to make and loved by adults and kids alike. I’m sharing all my tips and tricks to make these treats taste even better than what you’d get from a bakery!

Rice Krispies Treats® make for the perfect treat to jazz up for a special occasion or holiday by drizzling on chocolate and/or adding sprinkles on top. They’re the ideal last-minute treat to make and can be ready in less than 30 minutes, and everyone loves them. If you’re looking for an inexpensive dessert that is dressed to impress, make these bars! 

After you’ve gotten hooked on this original version, be sure to try these fun variations: peanut butter rice krispies treatsscotcheroos, chocolate rice krispies treats, or fruity pebble rice krispies treats.

 

A stack of three Rice Krispies Treats, topped with multi-color sprinkles.

Rice Krispie Treats

If you’re not familiar with this fun dessert, Rice Krispie Treats are made by using Rice Krispies® (or any crisp rice cereal), marshmallows, and butter. These treats became so popular that Kellogg’s actually began to make and market these treats in stores beginning in 1995. 

While you can buy these treats from just about any grocery store, there is nothing like a homemade Rice Krispie Treat!

Of all the treats my mom made growing up, Rice Krispie Treats or these carmelitas were the two treats she made most frequently. My mom had a drawer filled with festive sprinkles for every holiday and she would always jazz up the tops of the treats with sprinkles based on whatever holiday was coming up. Occasionally the treats would get a chocolate drizzle and sprinkles which was always the most popular combination at my home.

Over the years, I’ve learned how to perfect Rice Krispie Treats to make them more flavorful and gooey. Read on for the process and all my top tips!

Process shots: melt butter; stir in and melt marshmallows; add vanilla and salt; pour in cereal; stir to coat.

How do you make Rice Krispie Treats from scratch?

  1. Melt butter and marshmallows. Fully melt the butter and then add in the marshmallows. Stir constantly until the marshmallows are just melted and then remove from heat to avoid burnt or tough mallows.
  2. Add other ingredients. Add the remaining ingredients into the melted marshmallow mixture. Stir gently, but ensure all the ingredients are well coated in the marshmallows to avoid any potential dry sections in the bars. Work quickly, though, so that the cereal gets coated before the marshmallow mixture firms up.
  3. Press into pan. Very gently press the mixture into a pan. If the mixture is pressed into the pan with too much pressure, the treats will end up hard and dense.
  4. Optional step — decorate! Add a drizzle of chocolate to the top of your bars. Before the chocolate sets, you can also add on some sprinkles. See below for more fun ways to jazz up your treats!

Rice Krispie Treat Variations

  • Top with chocolate: Add white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, or even colored candy melts. The chocolate can either be drizzled on the bars or spread into a smooth layer on top.
  • Make ’em festive: Decorate them for different holidays (see our favorite Halloween krispie treats here!). The decoration can be as simple as adding festive sprinkles (think red and blue for the 4th of July, black and orange for Halloween, green for St. Patrick’s Day, pastels for Easter, etc.).
  • Add coarsely chopped mix-ins: We love adding about 1 cup of coarsely chopped candies to our treats — Kit-Kat Bars®, Oreos®, Reese’s Cups®, chocolate bars, etc. 
  • Check out this fun list for more variation ideas!

Process shots: add additional marshmallows and stir to mix in; gently press into pan; let cool slightly; melt optional chocolate; drizzle over bars; add sprinkles.

Why are my Rice Krispie Treats hard?

There are a few reasons: not enough marshmallows, old or hard marshmallows, heat was too high when melting the marshmallows, or the bars were compressed too tightly.

Here are my top tips for keeping your Rice Krispie Treats soft, chewy, and delicious.

  • Keep the heat low. When marshmallows are exposed to high heat, they harden and that will make your bars rock hard. Keep the heat as low as possible and remove the marshmallows as soon as they’re melted. Remember to stir constantly as the marshmallows melt down.
  • Use extremely FRESH marshmallows. The fresher the marshmallows, the softer and more enjoyable the Rice Krispie Treats will be. When purchasing marshmallows, feel the bags to find the softest marshmallows.
  • Avoid compressing. Don’t push the mixture into the pan. Instead, place them in the pan and gently press them down. The less compacted the bars are, the better they taste and easier they are to eat.

How do you keep Rice Krispie Treats from sticking to your hands?

The “secret” here is cooking spray! Pour the mixture into the pan and then give both your hands a quick spritz with cooking spray (we like coconut oil-based cooking spray best, but any will work). Then, gently press the bars in and watch the magic happen — nothing will stick to your hands!

How long does it take for Rice Krispie Treats to harden?

About 30 minutes. While its very tempting to eat these immediately, give these bars at least 30 minutes before cutting into them. Once the marshmallow mixture has cooled and melted with the cereal, these bars are much easier to cut and won’t fall apart.

Picture of one treat being taken from the pan; a stack of three Rice Krispies Treats on a plate.

Do homemade Rice Krispie Treats need to be refrigerated?

I don’t recommend (and it’s really not necessary) to refrigerate Rice Krispie Treats. If you’re in a huge hurry, the pan can be cooled in the fridge for a short time, but otherwise, I’d steer clear of chilling these bars.
 
Rice Krispie Treats are a dessert that is truly best the same day they’re made. These bars harden and become stale quickly, so I recommend eating them on day 1 or freezing the leftovers. Note there is a slight loss of texture when freezing and thawing.
 

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How to freeze these treats: Wrap each treat individually in a square of wax paper and then wrap with plastic wrap. Place the individually wrapped treats in a resealable freezer bag, press out the air and freeze for up to 6 months. Enjoy a treat by thawing on the counter at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

Up-close view of the gooey Rice Krispies Treats.

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Rice Krispie Treats

5 from 1 vote
These thick, chewy, and marshmallow-filled Rice Krispie Treats are easy to make and loved by adults and kids alike. I'm sharing all my tips and tricks to make these treats taste even better than what you'd get from a bakery!
Print Recipe

Rice Krispie Treats

5 from 1 vote
These thick, chewy, and marshmallow-filled Rice Krispie Treats are easy to make and loved by adults and kids alike. I'm sharing all my tips and tricks to make these treats taste even better than what you'd get from a bakery!
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword Rice Krispie Treats
Prep Time 15 minutes
Setting Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 16 bars (a 9x9-inch pan)
Calories 393kcal
Author Chelsea

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons (70.8g) unsalted butter
  • 1 bag (16 oz.; 453g) miniature marshmallows divided
  • 6 cups (174g) Rice Krispies or other crispy rice cereal
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

OPTIONAL TOPPING

  • 1/3 cup white chocolate chips (or use milk, semi-sweet, or dark chocolate)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • Optional: Nonpareil sprinkles

Instructions

  • PREP: Line a 9x9-inch pan with parchment paper (or foil) with an overhang, and lightly spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
  • MELT BUTTER AND MARSHMALLOWS: In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the butter is melted, reduce the heat to low. Add in 8 cups (339g) of the miniature marshmallows. Stir constantly until the marshmallows are JUST melted.
  • FLAVOR ADDITIONS: Remove from the heat and stir in the salt (reduce if sensitive to salt), vanilla extract, and cereal. Stir to coat in the cereal. Once well coated, pour in the rest of the marshmallows (2 and 1/2 cups). Stir to coat until ingredients are well incorporated.
  • ADD TO PAN: Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Lightly spritz your hands with cooking spray and then press the mixture gently into the prepared pan. Don't press too hard as you'll get a denser/harder treat. Set aside to cool for about 30 minutes.
  • OPTIONAL WHITE CHOCOLATE TOPPING: Meanwhile, add the white chocolate and vegetable oil to a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in bursts of 15 seconds stirring in between each burst for 10 seconds until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Transfer the melted chocolate to a plastic bag, cut off the tip, and drizzle evenly over the bars. Immediately add the sprinkles and allow the chocolate to harden at room temperature.
  • ENJOY: Use the parchment overhang to pull the bars out from the pan. Use a sharp knife to make cuts (run a knife under hot water, then dry with a towel for easier cutting). These bars are best enjoyed the same day.

Video

Recipe Notes

How to freeze these treats: Wrap each treat individually in a square of wax paper and then wrap with plastic wrap. Place the individually wrapped treats in a resealable freezer bag and press out the air. Freeze for up to 6 months. Enjoy a treat by thawing on the counter at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 393kcal | Carbohydrates: 78g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 508mg | Potassium: 122mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 6017IU | Vitamin C: 56mg | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 27mg

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Soft Sugar Cookies

These chewy Soft Sugar Cookies have an amazing cream cheese frosting and lots of sprinkles!

After you’ve tried Soft Sugar Cookies, be sure to try these snickerdoodle cookies, these peanut butter cookies, or these oatmeal cookies!

 

Large bite out of a Soft Sugar Cookie sitting atop a container of milk.

Soft Sugar Cookies

It doesn’t get much better than these super-chewy Soft Sugar Cookies piled high with the best cream cheese frosting and a rainbow of sprinkles. These are the ultimate chewy sugar cookies and I hope you love them as much as we do!

This cookie dough isn’t mean for cut-out sugar cookies (my favorite sugar cookie dough for cutout cookies here); these are meant to be big and soft “bakery-style” sugar cookies.

Process shots, making Soft Sugar Cookie dough: combine and mix butter and sugars; add eff, yolk and vanilla and mix until smooth; mix dry ingredients and add to wet ingredients; mix until smooth; roll cookie dough balls in sugar; chill dough balls; bake.

Soft Sugar Cookie tips

  • Start with melted and cooled butter. If the butter is hot when added to the sugars it will melt the sugar and cause greasy cookies. Allow the butter to cool to room temperature before using.
  • Measure the flour accurately. If you press a measuring cup into a bag of flour you will pack in way too much flour (which will result in cake-like cookies with poor texture). To accurately measure the flour, spoon it into the measuring cup until its overfilled. Then use the back of a table knife to level the measuring cup at the top. You’ll have a perfect flour measurement!
  • Use room temperature eggs. This ensures the eggs disperse more evenly into the batter giving these cookies a lighter texture since the eggs trap air. Soaking refrigerated eggs in a bowl of warm (not hot) water for about 10 minutes is a quick way to do this. Otherwise, remove the eggs from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before use.
  • Roll tall cookie dough balls. Instead of rolling a perfect ball, I’ve found if you roll the dough so it’s taller and skinnier when the cookies bake, you’ll get that perfectly thick and chewy center AND the crisp edges. Using this technique, the bottom of the cookie ball bakes first, which will push out and become the crisp edge. The top of that tall cookie dough ball then becomes the thick and chewy center. Perfect texture every time!

Why chill the dough?

Chilling cookie dough can definitely be a pain. I mean, when you want cookies, you want them now, right?! That said, chilling this dough is especially important. It’s like marinating meat; the wait is worth it! Here are a few reasons why we chill the dough:

  • The dough becomes more flavorful as it sits. The baking extracts intensify the flavor of the dough.
  • For texture reasons, the butter is melted. If the dough is baked immediately with melted butter in it, the cookies will spread and become thin, hard, and crispy while baking. This is because the fat (butter) hasn’t had a chance to re-solidify. The longer the fat stays solid, the less the cookies will spread.
  • The sugar in the dough also gradually absorbs liquid so when you chill the dough, the sugar has a chance to absorb more liquid and further prevents spreading. 

Process shots for making the frosting: cream together the butter and cream cheese; add vanilla, salt and powdered sugar; mix until smooth.

Cream Cheese Frosting

We are obsessed with cream cheese frosting and it’s our favorite to topping for Soft Sugar Cookies. If you love cream cheese frosting, you’ll love it with these cookies! That said, if you prefer a more traditional sugar cookie, you may want to use a vanilla buttercream frosting, instead.

Here’s my go-to vanilla buttercream frosting recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (or 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste)
  • 1/16 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3-5 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions

  • In a large bowl or stand mixer with bowl attached, beat the butter until soft and creamy. Add in the powdered sugar, vanilla and salt.
  • Beat, scraping frequently with a spatula as needed, until all the powdered sugar is fully incorporated.
  • Once everything has come together, gradually add in the heavy cream (1-2 tablespoons at a time) until the desired consistency is reached. Spread over these soft sugar cookies!

QUICK TIP

Set out the butter and cream cheese about an hour before baking so they reach room temperature. If these ingredients are cold, they won’t combine smoothly, and there will be unpleasant cream cheese chunks in the frosting, which make for less-enjoyable cookies. Here are some tips for bringing the cream cheese and butter to room temperature quickly.

Close-up view of a Soft Sugar Cookie with a large bite taken out.

Storing Soft Sugar Cookies 

Instead of freezing already-baked cookies, freeze the dough! Drop the cookie dough balls on a large sheet pan and freeze until solid. Once solid, transfer the frozen cookie dough balls to an airtight container or bag and freeze for up to 3 months.

To bake: You can bake these soft sugar cookies straight from the freezer. There is no need to thaw, but you may need to add a few extra minutes onto the baking time. Bake until the edges are lightly browned, and the center is still soft.

Cream cheese frosting doesn’t freeze and thaw well, so I recommend making that fresh.

QUICK TIP

Keep these cookies soft after baking. After baking the cookies, let them cool completely on a wire rack (this will keep the bottoms from getting soggy from the steam). Once cooled, place unfrosted cookies in an airtight container and store at room temperature. When frosted, the cookies need to be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before eating.

More Delicious Cookie Recipes

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Soft Sugar Cookies

5 from 4 votes
Chewy Soft Sugar Cookies have an amazing cream cheese frosting and lots of sprinkles!
Print Recipe

Soft Sugar Cookies

5 from 4 votes
Chewy Soft Sugar Cookies have an amazing cream cheese frosting and lots of sprinkles!
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword chewy sugar cookies
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 11 minutes
Chilling Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 46 minutes
Servings 25 -28 cookies
Calories 343kcal
Author Chelsea

Ingredients

  • 16 tablespoons (1 cup; 227g) unsalted butter melted and cooled
  • 1 cup (232g) white granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (72g) light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk (discard or save the white for another use)
  • 1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 3 cups (405g) all-purpose white flour (See Note 1)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Optional Sugar Coating

  • 1/4 cup (49g) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) white sparkling sugar (or additional white sugar)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces (226g) full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3-1/2 cups (385g) powdered sugar
  • Rainbow sprinkles

Instructions

  • OPTIONAL COATING: Stir the white sugar and white sparkling sugar together in a small bowl (optional but gives the cookie a nice crunchy exterior and extra flavor!).
  • WET INGREDIENTS: Place the melted butter in a large bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature before adding sugars. If butter is hot it will melt the sugars and cause greasy cookies. Add in the white and brown sugar and stir until smooth. Add in 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk (reserve the white for a separate recipe or discard), vanilla extract, and almond extract. Stir until just combined and smooth.
  • DRY INGREDIENTS: In another bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and baking soda. 
  • COMBINE: Add all of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until JUST combined. Do not overmix the dough.
  • CHILL: Roll tall balls of dough (see the photos in the post). If you have a kitchen scale, the balls of dough should be about 1.2 ounces (each ball should be full 2 tablespoons of dough). Roll the balls of dough generously into the white sugar/white sparkling sugar mixture. Cover and refrigerate the balls of dough for 1 hour.
  • BAKE: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place dough balls on a parchment or Silpat-lined sheet pan, spread far apart (I only bake 6-8 cookies at a time, they spread a lot) and bake for 9-14 minutes. Watch carefully, being sure to not overbake. Slightly underbaked sugar cookies are the BEST! Remove and let stand on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a cooling rack with a spatula.
  • FROSTING: Prepare the frosting while the cookies bake. In a large bowl, beat together the room-temperature butter and cream cheese until completely smooth. Add in the vanilla and salt. Mix to combine. Add in the powdered sugar and then beat until the frosting is smooth (it will seem like you need more liquid, but just keep beating; it will come together!)
  • FROST COOKIES: Frost each completely cooled cookie and add with your favorite sprinkles. Store any leftover cookies in an airtight container in the fridge. Cookies are best enjoyed within 2-3 days.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: If you press a measuring cup into a bag of flour and scoop, you will pack in way too much flour, resulting in the wrong texture of cookie. To accurately measure the flour, spoon the flour into the measuring cup until its overfilled. Then use the back of a table knife to level the measuring cup at the top. (Video visual here).

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 343kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 46mg | Sodium: 172mg | Potassium: 65mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 32g | Vitamin A: 380IU | Calcium: 44mg | Iron: 1mg

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The ultimate BEST EVER soft and chewy sugar cookies with the ultimate cream cheese frosting! via chelseasmessyapron.com #cookies #sugar #desserts #easy #quick #dessert #sprinkles #soft #cookie #lofthouse #treat #kidfriendly #cream #cheese #frosting

Potato Soup

A delicious and fully loaded cheesy potato soup made with red potatoes instead! All the flavors you know and love stuffed into a potato and made into a soup! via chelseasmessyapron.com

A delicious loaded potato soup — all the flavors you know and love from a baked potato are channeled into an ultra creamy, cheesy, and robustly flavored soup!

Pair this comforting soup with homemade dinner rolls or a light garden salad like this roasted veggie salad or Olive Garden salad.

 

Overhead image of the potato soup in a bread bowl

Potato Soup

This soup tastes channels the flavors of a cheesy baked potato loaded up with all the good stuff! It’s incredibly filling and the perfect kind of comfort food — there really is nothing better on a chilly day! That is, unless we’re eating this soup and enjoying a pumpkin spice steamer 🙂

One of my favorite things about this recipe is how much it makes. There is a good amount of prep that goes into this soup, so it’s only fair to have a big yield which is what you’ll get with this recipe. This recipe makes a lot of potato soup and is a great thing to have in your fridge for lunches all week long.

Process shots-- images of the bacon being cooked, veggies being cooked, potatoes and veggies being added, and all of it being cooked together

How to make potato soup from scratch

While this potato soup is a fairly straight-forward recipe, it does takes a good amount of up front prep time with chopping veggies and potatoes. Below are a few time saving tips:

  • Try freshly made mirepoix (a combination of finely chopped onions, celery and carrots) in the produce section of the grocery store. You can even find it in the frozen vegetable section of the store; this is a huge time saver for veggie chopping!
  • Use jarred garlic. While nothing compares to fresh, sometimes it’s just not practical! Save some time and effort by using pre-minced refrigerated garlic.
  • Use room temperature milk. If the milk isn’t straight from the fridge and cold, it will heat much quicker in this soup. Before starting this soup, I measure the milk and then set it aside to come to room temperature.
  • Save time on the potatoes. Another thing that can take a good amount of time is scrubbing potatoes clean and then peeling them. For this soup I recommend keeping the peels on; not only does it save time it also adds extra texture and color. To further save potato prep time, grab potatoes that have already been washed and scrubbed in the produce asile (usually these are the packaged baby potatoes). 

Process shots-- images of the chicken broth and cream mixture being added to the soup and mixed together. Then the sour cream, cheese, bacon, and chives being added and mixed together

How to add flavor to potato soup

  • Mirepoix: is a French cooking term for a flavor base of evenly cut onions, carrots, and celery. This flavor base is used to increase flavor, aroma and balance in the dish. Truly, a mirepoix is where we begin to build the flavor for this potato soup. Take your time sautéing these ingredients, they are forming the foundation of the flavor in this soup.
  • Bacon Grease: instead of discarding the grease rendered from cooking the bacon, we use it to saute all the veggies in. This add such a depth of flavor adding a meatiness and smokiness to the soup.
  • Seasonings: a little bit of seasonings go a long way in adding flavor to a potato soup. In this recipe we use dried thyme, dried oregano, salt, pepper, and a tiny bit of cayenne pepper. Feel free to increase the cayenne pepper for more of a kick to this soup. Don’t underestimate the power of salt and pepper — if the soup is tasting flat or bland, it could be as easy as adding a bit more of each of these seasonings.
  • Sharp cheddar cheese: the cheese adds so much flavor, but be sure to use a sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese as opposed to a mild cheddar.
  • Chives or green onions: fresh herbs always add loads of flavor and a cut through the richness of the soup. Chives or green onions are the perfect complement to all the ingredients in this potato soup and a nice flavor addition.

How to thicken potato soup

While the potatoes are simmering and getting tender, we use a different pot to whip up a quick roux. Roux is flour and fat cooked together and is used to thicken this soup and give it body.

Between the roux, cheddar cheese, and sour cream, these three ingredients work well to thicken up this soup nicely. 

We also mash up some of the potatoes which also helps to thicken the soup.

Overhead image of the dish in a bread bowl with a spoon in it

Recipe tips

  • Freshly grate the cheese if you’re able. Pre-shredded cheese has a cellulose coating (to keep it from clumping) that resists melting in this soup or can make it end up a bit greasy.
  • Use 2 types of potatoes. While one type of potato works just fine, we love the combination of red and Yukon golds. The Yukon golds are sweet and buttery and the red potatoes are more firm with a more mild and earthy flavor. The combination of the two is amazing in this potato soup.
  • Dice veggies into small and even sizes. This way everything will cook evenly and integrate into the soup nicely. 

Overhead image of the potato soup

Storage Notes

  • Because this soup is cream-based it is not a great candidate for freezing. The milk solids will separate as the soup thaws, resulting in a grainy texture with a lot of separation.
  • To reheat leftovers: Add leftover Potato Soup to a pot and slowly increase the heat while stirring frequently. Don’t boil the soup or reheat it at a high temperature; this will likely cause the ingredients to separate or potentially curdle.

More delicious soup recipes:

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Loaded Red Potato Soup

5 from 3 votes
A delicious loaded potato soup -- all the flavors you know and love from a baked potato are channeled into an ultra creamy, cheesy, and robustly flavored soup!
Print Recipe

Loaded Red Potato Soup

5 from 3 votes
A delicious loaded potato soup -- all the flavors you know and love from a baked potato are channeled into an ultra creamy, cheesy, and robustly flavored soup!
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Keyword potato soup
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 10 -12 servings
Calories 400kcal
Author Chelsea
Cost $6.12

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (910g (~6-1/2 cups) cubed potatoes (We love a mix of red and Yukon gold potatoes)
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced (1 cup; 140g)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced (3/4 cup; 85g)
  • 1-2 large carrots, diced (1 cup; 125g)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (~3 cloves)
  • 1 package (12 ounces) smoked bacon (12 slices of bacon)
  • Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon EACH: dried thyme, dried oregano
  • 1/16 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, optional
  • 6 cups (1453g) chicken stock/broth
  • 2/3 cup (11 tablespoons; 151g) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup (88g) white all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk, separated
  • 1 cup (8 oz; 247g) sour cream (I use reduced fat/lite)
  • 2 and 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, separated
  • Chives or green onions, optional

Instructions

  • PREP: Wash the potatoes and peel if desired (we like to leave the peel on -- it adds texture, flavor, and is easier!) Then cut into small cubes (1/2 inch in size). Dice the onion, dice the celery, dice the carrot. Mince the garlic. Thinly slice the un-cooked bacon (this is easiest with a very sharp knife and very cold bacon).
  • BACON: In a very large pot, over medium heat, cook all of the bacon to desired doneness, about 6-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon on to a paper towel lined plate and dab off excess grease. Set bacon aside.
  • DRAIN BACON FAT: Drain off all the bacon fat except for 3 tablespoons. I do this by lining a small bowl with foil and then pouring all the rendered bacon fat into the bowl. Quickly wipe down the pot and then measure out 3 tablespoons bacon fat from the foil lined bowl and add back into the pot. Once the bacon fat hardens, you can ball up the foil and save for another recipe or discard -- no mess 🙂
  • VEGGIES: Add in the onion, celery, and carrot to the pot and saute, stirring frequently, over medium heat, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic in the last 30 seconds. Add in the diced potatoes and toss to coat. Add in the seasonings: salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, and ground cayenne pepper. (I add in 1/2 teaspoon EACH of salt and pepper here.) Toss to coat and cook for 1 minute.
  • SIMMER: Cover everything with 6 cups chicken stock. SEE NOTE 1 to finish in crockpot. Heat to boiling and then reduce the heat and cook for about 10 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.
  • MASH: Using a potato masher, mash down some of the tender potatoes, leaving some still in chunks.
  • CREAM MIXTURE: In another pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and whisk until smooth. Cook for one minute over medium heat. Very slowly, while whisking constantly, add in 2 cups (463g) of milk. Whisk until thickened. Very slowly, while whisking constantly, add in the remaining 2 cups (463g) of milk. Again, stir until thickened. Add in a generous amount of salt and pepper (I add another 1/2 teaspoon of each, but add to your preference!)
  • FINISH THE SOUP: back to the soup, pour in the cream mixture. Stir until thickened, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the sour cream, chives or green onions if using (we add about 1/4 cup), 2 cups (193g) of the cheese, and half of the cooked bacon. Stir until the cheese is melted.
  • SERVE: Top individual bowls with remaining 1/2 cup cheese, remaining bacon, and any more chives/green onions as desired. Enjoy warm!

Recipe Notes

Note 1: To prepare this potato soup in the crockpot: Follow steps 1-5 and then put everything into the crockpot (besides the cooked bacon). Cook on low for 5-7 hours or high for 3-4 hours. Mash the potatoes in the crockpot and then continue on with step 7. Add everything in the crockpot and cover for 15-20 more minutes on high to heat everything through and then serve. You'll want to use a 6 quart crockpot for this potato soup.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 400kcal | Carbohydrates: 29.9g | Protein: 16.1g | Fat: 24.1g | Cholesterol: 67.2mg | Sodium: 444.1mg | Fiber: 2.5g | Sugar: 7.8g

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