5 Easy Ways to Switch Up the Chicken and Veggie Dinner

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Chicken and vegetables will never let you down for dinner. This combination probably graces your table two to three times a week, and perhaps all too often it’s some iteration of chicken breast and broccoli. If you’re my brother, J, this is what you eat seven days a week. Some people can handle that kind of routine and repetition, but for those of us who that need constant variety — even within the confines of chicken and vegetables for dinner — here are a few easy ways to remix the chicken and veggie dinner.

J, I hope you’re reading this.

The Chicken Diet

Dear J,

I admire your dedication to what we call in our family call the “Chicken Diet.” Because of it, you are now an expert on cooking boneless, skinless chicken breast and broccoli to perfection. I think you’ve logged your 10,00 hours at this point, so even Malcolm Gladwell would surely cosign your expertise on cooking these two foods. As a result of the Chicken Diet, you’ve managed to turn meal planning and grocery budgeting into an art form I now benefit from, and have learned how to care for a cast iron pan like a pro. But J, it’s been at least five years at this point. While the occasional filet of salmon joins the party and glimpses of quinoa can be found on the plate, the chicken and broccoli remain.

I support you in this choice, but also offer an invitation for some innovation on this duo. This is my invitation to make your chicken and veggies a little more exciting.


(Image credit: elena moiseeva)shutterstock

5 Easy Ways to Switch Up the Chicken and Veggie Dinner

1. Well-cooked chicken breast is a game-changer.

J already knows how to bang out an expertly cooked chicken breast. Numerous years of cooking this night after night will make you very good at cooking it. If you’re still unsure or need a refresher on how to cook chicken breast, this is our most trusted method. Learn it, try it, and don’t worry if you have to refer back to it every now and again when you can’t remember what temperature to cook the chicken to (psst: it’s 165°F).

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

2. Cooking the vegetables right makes a difference.

Same as chicken, if you’re going to stick to something, you might as well do it well. If you’ve been halfhearted about making your roasted vegetables, your steamed vegetables, or your sautéed vegetables, it’s time for a refresher. Even if you know a method like the back of your hand, it can be grounding to reaffirm what you know. I can’t tell you how many times I double check the timing for hard-cooked eggs — and I make a batch at least every week!

(Image credit: Andrea D’Agosto)


If you’ve been doing a lot of frozen broccoli, try swapping for fresh to very gently mix things up. It makes a world of difference when it comes to steaming and roasting in particular.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Green Beans

Sometimes simply changing the way you cut green beans makes all the difference. Leave them whole, dice them into little nuggets, or cut them on the bias for a low-effort change.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

3. Consider the sheet pan.

Now that you’ve mastered the cast iron skillet, I encourage you embrace the versatility of the sheet pan. This method provides you with a hands-off technique for making your chicken and vedge all together and all at once. Go on, try it out on the old standby of chicken breast and broccoli, but don’t forget that chicken thighs are an option. They are especially easy to eat once you remove the bone, and crisp up beautifully next to other vegetables like cauliflower and asparagus.

More Sheet Chicken Meals Pan Meals

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

4. Time for a flavor boost.

At this point, I am confident that most people (my brother included) are aware of the exponential difference lemon and garlic make on chicken. Together, they are a gateway to flavor, uncharted. Even if you are a shameless lover of the chicken breast like my bro, or someone who cooks a whole chicken one night, thighs another, and chicken strips the next, you know chicken is ready and willing to take on just about any flavor. Here are some ideas for you.

Lemon + Garlic + Herb of Choice

The beauty of the lemon + garlic gateway is how easily it lends itself to every herb that grows in the garden.

  • Add oregano and take chicken to Greece.
  • Add sage and suddenly your chicken is earthy and elegant.
  • The addition of rosemary makes this combination feel utterly French. Take that sentiment even further with lavender or herbes de Provence.

Raid the Spice Cabinet

You don’t have to switch up the method to bring some elements of other favorite dishes to a quick-cooking meal of chicken and veggies. A sprinkle of turmeric does not a curry make, but turmeric along with black pepper and garlic is an easy enough way to upgrade a previously unadorned chicken breast. Here are a few ideas.

  • Turmeric + black pepper + garlic
  • Chili + cumin
  • Dried rosemary + garlic
  • Garam masala + garlic
(Image credit: Andrea D’Agosto)

5. Cast iron crispy chicken thighs + veggies and sauce.

Crispy chicken thighs and a veggie of choice cooked in the cast iron pan, all wrapped up in a fast and fancy sauce — this is what you graduate to when you’re a chicken and broccoli person day in and day out. We run plenty of recipes that feature this technique of cooking skin-on chicken thighs until crisp and then finishing them in the oven because it’s easy to take this method to clever and creative places without upping the skill level or time it takes to pull it off. Here are our favorite ways to do cast iron crispy chicken thighs.

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