Vegan Sheet Pan Brunch Bowls with Creamy Grits — Hearty, super-easy and gluten-free, this (mostly) sheet pan meal comes together in just over 30 minutes, with very little hands-on time.
Remember when Rachael Ray would discover a new-to-her ingredient, and then it would suddenly show up in the next 13 episodes of 30-Minute Meals? I remember that happening with tomatillos. I get it. They’re intimidating at first, but once she learned she could blitz ’em up in the food processor for a green chili situation or broil them into smoky salsa verde, they were suddenly the basis of an entire season, and then some. (I watched a lot of Food Network in college, friends. Like…a lot.)
Well, that is me and these fantastic orange corn grits. I talked them up on Facebook a little, and then again in one of my past Amazon finds posts, and somewhere along the line I promised a recipe — and here we are. The thing is, the hooks are in deep. So deep, in fact, that I couldn’t choose just one recipe to share — so I went ahead and banged out two. Here you’ll find these Vegan Sheet Pan Brunch Bowls with Creamy Grits — and I also just pressed publish on these Vegan Grits Bowls with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Tomatoes over on The Pig & Quill. Think all the briny, jammy tomato vibes of the viral TikTok baked feta pasta…minus the feta. And, uhhhh, the pasta. But it’s salty, sweet, creamy, tangy, vegan AND gluten-free — it and comes together with about 20 mins of hands-on activity, if that. See? Too good not to write it up, as well.
But that’s not why we’re here today. We’re here to talk about these gluten-free Vegan Brunch Bowls, which, yes, also feature sweet potatoes. And while sweet potatoes are, in no way, new to me, they’re my new favorite pairing with these Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits — which are, in and of themselves, just too cool.
You could, of course, use whatever grits you might have on hand here, or perhaps a little quick cooking polenta, but if your cupboard is bare of grits (the horror!), I can’t recommend these enough. They’re super creamy with a slightly sweet nuttiness, they cook up in 15 minutes, and they’re the perfect silky base for a quick breakfast, brunch or even dinner. Bonus that the non-GMO orange corn was selectively grown to be high in carotenoids and was originally developed (by Professor Torbert, no less) as part of an effort to help alleviate vitamin A deficiencies in Sub-Saharan Africa, where Professor Torbert still works to alleviate hidden hunger today. Such a cool initiative, and the resulting product is so very tasty. More about all of that on their website.
(Is this the part where I need to clarify that this isn’t a sponsored post? It’s not. I’m just realllll excited by grits, and a little bit of a food science fanatic, too. Trust me, I know: the things that excite me as an adult boggle the mind.)
But back to these bowls. You know I like to keep things easy — real easy. Which is why I’m so excited to share that these bowls are also a vegan sheet pan meal! That’s right, we’ve got sweet and savory chili-rubbed sweet potatoes, lightly spiced pecans and even plant-based breakfast sausage (or really any sausage of your choice) hanging out on one roasting pan. Tumble that umami party (sorry, Guy Fieri possessed me momentarily) over a bed of those creamy orange grits and you’re well on your way to mealtime. The only thing left to do? Decide if you want these to be decidedly sweet — in which case I’d recommend a little drizzle of maple syrup over the top — or savory via the addition of peppery arugula and crumbled (vegan or sheep’s milk) feta. In a move that will surprise no one, I did, uhhhh, both with zero regrets. Sweet. Salty. Peppery. Tangy. Loads of plant-based protein. And just…really, really good eating.
Vegan Sheet Pan Brunch Bowls — Tips & FAQs:
As always, I want this recipe to work for you, so let’s talk tips, substitutions and more.
- What can I substitute for the pecans? So here’s the thing: I really love the pairing of pecans and sweet potatoes. It lends the whole dish an almost holiday vibe that makes it feel much more effortful than it actually is. But if you don’t dig pecans or you have a nut allergy, you could achieve similar results with pepitas. Like pecans, they’re similarly nutty with just a hint of pleasant bitterness. If you’re avoiding nuts and seeds in general, you could even go with a chunky granola. Though in that instance, I’d veer this dish clearly into sweet territory and omit the greens and feta.
- What can I substitute for the sweet potatoes? If this is an allergy thing, I’d say go with some kind of winter squash. Butternut, acorn (a personal fave and you don’t have to peel it), delicata if you can still find it. If you’re just not keen on sweet potatoes, have you tried Japanese sweet potatoes? They’re creamier and fluffier in texture than orange sweet potatoes and have a more chestnut-like flavor. (Credit to Okonomi Kitchen for helping me put this unique flavor into words.) I love them as much, if not more than, standard sweet potatoes, and the texture is an easier sell for someone who might find orange sweet potatoes to be too…squishy? (Ahem, my husband.)
- I’m not into fake meat / Can I make this WITH meat? Bummer and absolutely! You can omit the “sausage” entirely, or swap the plant-based sausage for any fully-cooked, heat & eat breakfast sausage. (This is where the freezer aisle will come in handy.) NOTE: If you’re avoiding both animal products and gluten, be sure to check the ingredients — some plant-based meats contain wheat. You can even swap in a smoked link-style sausage — think kielbasa, linguica or chicken apple sausage. (Seemore makes really delicious meat sausages that incorporate loads of veggies!) The point is just to reheat it and get some color on the casing before serving. (If you need to, you can always plate the sweet potatoes and the pecans and return the sausage to the broiler for a minute or two for a crispier casing.) If you’re not vegan, I also love the idea of adding a fried egg, either in lieu of or in addition to the sausage of your choice. And bacon would be an excellent accompaniment, too.
- Ok, I bought the grits. Now what else can I do with them? I thought you’d never ask! In addition to these (and similar) brunch bowls, we use them anywhere we’d use polenta — and also as an easy side dish for beans (these Garlicky White Beans are some of my very favorite meals ever — just swap in the grits for the couscous). They’re also a classic side for eggs and bacon. And let’s not forget that situation with jammy roasted tomatoes we talked about earlier. Or stir in a little butter, brown sugar and any leftover toasted pecans, maybe a dribble of coconut milk or cream, and whew! we are talking breakfast of the orange corn gods.
- What about kiddos? We have a pretty strict policy that our kiddo eats what we’re eating — but that doesn’t mean she has to compose her plate in the same way. (It just means I’m not going to cook her something separate.) My favorite hack for meals like this is to 1) have them assemble their own bowl. Lana is twice as likely to enthusiastically tuck into something she plated herself or 2) plate all the components separately. In this case, I know Lana will eat roasted sweet potatoes and grits — separately — until the cows come home, so that’s how I’ll plate them to start, with a bite or two of the sausage and the nuts alongside. Maaaybe touching, just a little (you think I’m joking). That way, I know dinner will be at least a partial success — and if she chooses to combine the components on her own, which she often ends up doing, swell.
- 1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, scrubbed and diced
- 2 T extra virgin olive oil
- 2 T maple syrup
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup raw pecans
- 6 frozen plant-based breakfast sausage patties or links (see FAQs in post for alternative proteins; and be sure to check the ingredients in your "sausage" if you're avoiding gluten)
- 3-4 servings grits (we love Professor Torbert's)
- flaky salt + freshly cracked black pepper, for serving
- maple syrup and/or arugula + vegan feta, for serving
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- In a medium bowl, toss diced sweet potatoes with olive oil, maple syrup, chili powder, cinnamon and salt. Arrange potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and roast for 25 mins. Reserve any leftover oil and spices in the bowl.
- While the sweet potatoes roast, toss pecans in the dredges of the olive oil + maple syrup in the same medium bowl. Get your quick-cooking grits going according to package directions.
- When the 25 mins have elapsed, schooch sweet potatoes over on the pan (keep them in a single layer) and add the pecans and the frozen sausages (or protein of your choice, see FAQs in the post) in a single layer. Return sheet pan to the oven for another 10 mins, or until nuts are toasty smelling and sausages are browned.
- Spoon grits into bowls, and top with the roasted sweet potatoes, pecans, and sausages. Season to taste with flaky salt and freshly cracked black pepper. For a sweeter take on the bowl, add a drizzle of maple syrup before serving; for a more savory spin, add a handful of arugula and crumbled (vegan or sheep's milk) feta. Or, if you're me, add all three! Enjoy.
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I can’t get enough of meals like this — that feel ALMOST like something you’d get out at some chill bistro but that come together so simply at home. Hope you dig ’em, too!
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