Abstract An accurate prediction of displacements and stresses for laminated and sandwich plates is presented using an enhanced first-order plate theory based on the mixed variational theorem (EFSDTM) developed in this paper. In the mixed formulation, transverse shear stresses based on an efficient higher-order plate theory (EHOPT) developed by Cho and Parmerter [Cho, M., Parmerter, R.R., 1993. Efficient higher-order composite plate theory for general lamination configurations. AIAA Journal 31, 1299–1306] are utilized and modified to satisfy prescribed lateral conditions, and displacements are assumed to be those of a first-order shear deformation theory (FSDT). Relationships between the modified EHOPT and the FSDT are systematically derived via both the mixed variational theorem and the least-square approximation of difference between in-plane stresses including the transverse normal stress effect. It is shown that the transverse normal stress effect should be considered in predicting the in-plane stresses when the Poisson effect is dominant. The developed EFSDTM preserves the computational advantage of the classical FSDT while allowing for important local through-the-thickness variations of displacements and stresses through the recovery procedure. The accuracy and efficiency of the present theory are assessed by comparing its results with various plate models as well as the three-dimensional exact solutions for thick laminated and sandwich plates.