In retrospect, I wish I’d been a little more motivated to cook in college, especially once I graduated and realized I had some catching up to do. For students who live off campus or decide they don’t want dining hall food, that necessity comes much sooner.
That’s not to say they have to be prepared to make multicourse, elaborate meals. But if you or a loved one are preparing to head off to school, consider making an effort to master a few easy, flexible back-pocket recipes that are just the thing to build cooking confidence. Here are examples from our Recipe Finder that I recommend.
One-Pan Roast Chicken and Potatoes, above. This is one of the very first recipes I shared on Voraciously, and it’s beginner-friendly. All you need is a sheet pan, a few ingredients and patience to make a satisfying, homey meal that will fill your home with amazing aromas. Bonus: Any extra chicken can be spun off into a wide variety of throw-together meals.
Classic Folded Omelet. Omelets are thrifty, fast, customizable and ideal food for any time of day. This cross between French and diner styles is easy to fill with whatever you want.
Better Than Takeout Fried Rice. College students run on takeout, among other things, so be sure all that extra rice is put to good use. You can even freeze leftovers until you have enough for a new meal. Frozen veggies and other pantry staples make this a ready-when-you-are recipe.
Gochujang Skirt Steak. Skirt steak “has all the things going for it that we seek for a midweek dinner: minimal prep, lightning-fast cooking, big flavor and a reasonable price tag,” recipe developer Ali Slagle writes. All those things are ideal for students. Other than salt and pepper, all you need for this recipe are the steak, honey, oil and gochujang, a Korean fermented chile paste that will last a while in the fridge and is found at many supermarkets these days.
Fast Blender Tomato Soup With Cheese Crisps. Okay, so maybe there’s a blender in the kitchen for frozen drinks. Give it even more use with a simple, comforting soup that’s just begging to be served with grilled cheese (feel free to skip the cheese crisps, which are just baked rounds of grated cheese).
Spaghetti Carbonara. Sure, you can pour a store-bought sauce over pasta, no judgment here. But if you want to take your pasta to the next level — or maybe show off for someone — try this classic Italian dish that’s basically just cheesy spaghetti with crisped meat. You get a nice wow factor without a lot of effort or time.
No Food Processor Hummus. Tubs of store-bought hummus probably lurk in a lot of student fridges. Even if you don’t have a food processor or want to cook the beans from scratch, you can still make this versatile dip. (But if you want to learn how to make a pot of beans, we can help with that, too.) Here, a rolling pin — or wine bottle! — and whisk help pull it together.
All-Purpose Muffins. If there’s a risk of spending too much money at the campus coffee shop on meh pastries, consider investing in an inexpensive muffin tin for this recipe alone. You only need one bowl for these tender, fluffy muffins that are ideal for breakfast on the go or an afternoon snack. Feel free to use whatever mix-ins you want and play around with different flours.