An orange Dutch oven on a countertop
Photo: Cooker King/Unsplash

Dutch ovens are known for turning out tender braised meat dishes, like beef stew and pulled pork. But I haven’t eaten meat since I was a teenager, and my green Le Creuset is still the pot I pull out at least three times a week to make dishes like lentil soup, rosemary and garlic braised beans, and the most perfect stovetop popcorn ever. The same features that make Dutch ovens so dependable for meat dishes also make them ideal for meatless meals.

“The difference between a Dutch oven and a regular old pot is how well they seal and prevent moisture from escaping,” says Lourdes Castro Mortillaro, MS, RDN, director of the NYU Food Lab and author (with Guillermo Pernot) of "Cuba Cooks" (Rizzoli, 2018) and other cookbooks. That can help meld flavors and prevent food from drying out. “You can make great soups, stews, even breads in them,” she says.

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Dutch ovens are also hard working multi-taskers that can be used on the stovetop or in the oven, and to sauté, braise, bake, and simmer.  “You can make it in the pot, serve it in the pot, have everyone dig into that one pot,” says chef Eric Adjepong, a Washington, D.C., chef and former Top Chef finalist. “I love the communal aspects of working with a Dutch oven.”

I knew there had to be more veggie enthusiasts thinking beyond brisket so I asked four nutrition-minded chefs for some of their favorite plant-based Dutch oven recipes. If you need convincing, start with my stovetop popcorn (below). My family loves it.

Coconut Chickpea Curry

Coconut Chickpea Curry is a plant based dish you can make in a Dutch oven.
Photo: Rachel Meltzer Warren

Eric Adjepong

“This dish is warm, spicy, has a little bit of acidity and sweetness, and is really simple to make and super-hearty,” Adjepong says. “Make sure the onions and peppers are diced up evenly.” Other than that, this is a relatively fuss-free dish. Refrigerating overnight enhances it; the chickpeas will continue to soak up the flavorful curry.

3 Scotch bonnet or habanero peppers
½ cup white balsamic or apple cider vinegar
Pinch sugar
Pinch kosher salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (any type)
2 medium yellow onions, diced
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
3 tablespoons curry powder
3 tablespoons fresh thyme
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
5 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups vegetable stock
1 14-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
2 15.5-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2½ packed cups mustard greens
Juice of one lemon
4 cups cooked basmati or jasmine rice

Directions

1. In a blender or food processor, pulse the Scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven on medium-high. Add the onions and bell pepper and cook until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the curry, thyme, garlic, and scallions and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, then add the stock and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until reduced slightly, 10 to 15 minutes, then stir in the reserved Scotch bonnet mixture, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you reach your desired spice level.

3. Continue cooking to thicken further, about 45 minutes, then stir in the chickpeas and mustard greens. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes more, then season with the lemon juice. When ready to serve, ladle over cooked rice.

Makes 6 servings

Nutrition information per serving: 515 calories, 24 grams fat, 13 grams saturated fat, 66 grams carbs, 10 grams fiber, 11 grams sugars (0 grams added), 13 grams protein, 660 mg sodium.

Photo: Emmanuel Boakye-Appiah

Fresh Corn Soup With Roasted Corn Guacamole

Fresh Corn Soup With Roasted Corn Guacamole is a plant based dish you can make in a Dutch oven.
Photo: Lucy Schaeffer

Lourdes Castro Mortillaro

“This particular recipe was inspired by a corn chowder. Instead of adding cream and potatoes, I allow the natural starches of the corn to create the creamy texture,” Mortillaro says. Using a Dutch oven helps trap moisture in while the soup simmers, so you don’t risk reducing the soup by too much. 

For the roasted corn guacamole topping:
Kernels from 3 ears fresh corn, or 2 cups frozen corn (defrosted)
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
Pinch black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and chopped
Pinch salt and black pepper

For the soup:
Kernels from 5 ears fresh corn, or 3 cups frozen corn (defrosted)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ red onion, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and chopped
Pinch salt and black pepper
1½ cups vegetable broth
Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Directions
1.
 To make the roasted corn guacamole: Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Place the corn kernels on the baking sheet and toss with the oil, salt, and black pepper. Spread the corn out evenly and roast until the corn turns a golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer the corn to a medium bowl and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, make the soup. Sauté the garlic in the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until the vegetables are soft and translucent, about 6 minutes.

3. Place the corn kernels in a blender. Transfer the vegetable mixture to the blender and purée until smooth. (You may need to pulse the blender or stir the corn mixture to achieve a smooth consistency, but don't add any liquid.)

4. Pour the corn purée into the Dutch oven and heat on medium. Stir constantly for a few minutes, until the soup begins to thicken. Slowly whisk in the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.

5. While the soup cooks, finish the topping. Add the red onion, cilantro, lime zest and juice, and jalapeño to the bowl with the roasted corn. Gently stir in the avocado. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Ladle the soup into bowls. Place a generous spoonful of the roasted corn guacamole in the center of each bowl, and garnish with a sprig of cilantro.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 245 calories, 13 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 34 grams carbs, 7 grams fiber, 14 grams sugars (0 grams added), 5 grams protein, 290 mg sodium.

Photo: Courtesy of Lourdes Castro Mortillaro

Braised Vegetable and Chickpea Curry

Braised Vegetable and Chickpea Curry is a plant based dish you can make in a Dutch oven.
Photo: Jonathan Poyourow

Jonathan Poyourow

This recipe leans on the versatility of the Dutch oven, using it first to sauté and then to braise in the oven. “What's great about this recipe is that it can totally be customized by the user,” Poyourow says. Don’t like a certain vegetable? Replace it with another one you prefer.

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, diced
1 red or green bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger or ½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium yellow squash or zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 small butternut squash, peeled and seeded, or 2 cups pre-packaged, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 13.5-oz. can full-fat coconut milk
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups cooked white or brown rice
½ cup fresh chopped cilantro

Directions
1.
Preheat the oven to 375° F. 

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven on medium. Sauté the onion and bell pepper for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté until the vegetables are translucent and soft, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.

3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil on medium and add the eggplant, yellow squash/zucchini, cauliflower, and butternut squash. Sauté for 4 minutes, then add the onion-bell pepper mixture back in.

4. Stir in the coriander, paprika, turmeric, and garam masala. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, chickpeas, and salt. Cover and place in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the butternut squash is cooked through. Ladle over cooked rice and garnish with cilantro.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 520 calories, 25 grams fat, 14 grams saturated fat, 66 grams carbs, 13 grams fiber, 11 grams sugars (0 grams added), 13 grams protein, 600 mg sodium.

Photo: Courtesy of Jonathan Poyourow

Rajma (Kidney Beans in a Spicy Sauce)

Rajma is a plant based dish you can make in a Dutch oven.
Photo: Karen Shinbaum/Consumer Reports

Vandana Sheth

“Rajma is a traditional North Indian dish,” Sheth says. “It is one of my favorite comfort foods, especially when I serve it with rice. But it works on its own as a lighter meal. I love this recipe. It is bursting with flavor, nutritious, and comes together quickly because I have incorporated some shortcuts."

1½ cups chopped onion
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4-6 cloves
2-3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 28-oz. can tomatoes in juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground red chili powder
2 29-oz. cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup water
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups cooked basmati or jasmine rice

Directions
1.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven on high. Add cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaves. Sauté for 2 minutes.

2. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add onions and sauté until golden brown.

3. Add the tomatoes and their juice, garlic, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and chili powder. Cook for 2 minutes.

4. Turn off heat, and using an immersion blender, purée in the Dutch oven. Or carefully transfer the hot mixture to a blender or food processor and purée.

5. Return the mixture to the Dutch oven if you removed it. Heat on medium high. Add kidney beans, water, garam masala, and salt, and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer on low for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve over rice.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 420 calories, 4 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 80 grams carbs, 18 grams fiber, 9 grams sugars (0 grams added), 19 grams protein, 675 mg sodium.

Photo: Courtesy of Vandana Sheth

Dutch Oven Stovetop Popcorn

Photo: Rachel Meltzer Warren

3 tablespoons olive oil
⅓ cup popcorn kernels

Top with any herb, spice, or blend you like (optional). Some ideas: smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, za’atar, or cinnamon.

Directions
1.
Pour oil into a Dutch oven along with three popcorn kernels. Place the oven on the stove on medium-high heat. Cover with lid.

2. When the three kernels pop, remove the lid. Add the remaining popcorn kernels and cover. Shake the pot gently so that the kernels are all coated with oil.

3. When the popping begins to slow to a few seconds between pops, remove from heat. Immediately remove the lid and pour the popcorn into a bowl. (Be careful not to leave the Dutch oven on the stove for too long, because that can cause the popcorn to burn and damage the bottom of your pot.) Toss with toppings of your choice and serve. 

Makes about 8 cups.

Nutrition information per one cup plain popcorn: 70 calories, 5 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 6 grams carbs, 2 grams fiber, 1 gram sugars (0 grams added), 1 grams protein, 0 mg sodium.


Top Dutch Ovens From Consumer Reports' Tests

Our test engineers put a selection of Dutch ovens through their paces in the lab, boiling water, browning meat, caramelizing scallops, simmering tomato sauce, and baking bread. They also recorded handle temperatures and evaluated ease of cleaning. Here are some of the top performers in alphabetical order.

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Lodge Dutch Oven

Price: $60

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