6 Restaurant Meals You Can Cook at Home

By Lorena Roberts on November 12, 2018

Learning to cook sucks. Especially after you’ve already moved away from home and you’re on your own. As a college student, the subject of food and cooking can be tough. Meals usually ends up being “whatever you can grab” on your way out the door to class, or going without breakfast and binge eating at the “all you can eat” dining hall for lunch. Between studying and running from extracurricular activities to class to study groups to the library, you often don’t even realize you’re hungry or that it’s time for a meal until you’re starving. Suddenly, you’re standing in the library with a stomach that’s growling louder than the study groups around you and you realize it’s time to dart.

But at the same time, finances are tight, so budgeting in money to go out to restaurants can be tricky. It’s a lot cheaper to eat at home, but how do you cook for just one person? Doesn’t it take more effort to cook and clean for yourself than to just dart out to a restaurant really quickly and pick something up? Most students settle for drive-thrus, which is crazy unhealthy, and often that’s why we find ourselves gaining “the freshman 15″ (or 25, depending on how bad you let yourself get).

Part of college means getting to enjoy late-night snacks and unhealthy eating from places like Insomnia Cookies and Cookout. Whether you’re pulling an all-nighter or you’re awake binge-watching your latest favorite show on Netflix, food is often at the forefront of college students’ minds (because it seems like we’re always hungry). Getting care packages from relatives with food in them is like Christmas, even if it’s just Ramen noodles and popcorn.

I remember getting care packages my freshman year. Even when it was for Halloween and all my parents sent was a box of candy, my roommates and I made that last for a week, easily.

Sometimes relatives opt to send you those Hello Fresh packages — where a company has done all of the prep work for you and you just have to slide it in the oven. Sure, this is the perfect option for many college students these days — but it’s pricey. You don’t want to spend your entire food budget on getting a couple of pre-prepped meals at your doorstep. Instead, wouldn’t it make more sense to nail down some recipes that are easy and as equally as good as restaurant-style?

Cooking is hard — especially if you didn’t grow up having to cook often. There are things you have to learn by spending time in the kitchen — such as when a dish is done in the oven. There are little tricks that can be learned from cooking in the kitchen with someone. If your parents didn’t invest in teaching you how to cook, you might be up a creek without a paddle once you get to college.

How do you begin to learn how to cook for just one person? Especially when you’re in college and you’re on a tight budget? Here are six things you can cook that’ll taste like you’re at a restaurant, but most importantly, it’ll save you time and money.

via Pexels.com

1. Stir Fry

Making stir fry at home might seem like a daunting task, but with the right recipe, you’re sure to have a home run night at home. One of the easiest stir fry recipes that you’ll be able to master in your own kitchen is the following:

You’ll need vegetable oil, beef tips, broccoli florets, soy sauce, garlic, red bell pepper, and thinly sliced carrots.

First, you’ll want to brown the beef, then add in your vegetables. Keep moving the veggies around in the pan until you can tell they’ve been cooked thoroughly. For more details on making this at-home beef stir fry, check out this link.

Some of the greatest kinds of restaurant stir fry include:

- Kung Pao Chicken

- Breakfast noodles

- Stir fried chicken with cashews

- Greens and garlic sauce

If you’re getting tired of making the simple “beef and broccoli” stir fry, try to branch out a little bit. Give your taste buds some different experiences. Stir fry is one of those dishes that you can really experiment with. It all depends on what your taste buds prefer. Don’t be afraid to explore different recipes and flavors — you never know what you might fall in love with!

via Pexels.com

2. Bacon, Jack and Jalapeno Quesadillas

Quesadillas are pretty easy to make at home (especially if you have an actual “quesadilla maker”). But you’re probably getting tired of eating chicken and cheese quesadillas, or cheese and black bean quesadillas. Bringing in some new tastes can be intimidating, but doing it with quesadillas can mean finding comfort in a food that’s comfortable. Using things like bacon, Colby Jack cheese, and small jalapenos means you’ll add a little spice and flavor to the “normal quesadilla” you’ve been eating for the past few weeks (or months).

Quesadillas can be one of the fastest meals to make at home — plus, it’s such an easy clean-up, college students across the country love whipping these up before or after class. There are so many options when it comes to making quesadillas.. as long as you don’t get stuck in the rut of making the “same ol’ thing,” you’ll enjoy quesadillas for as long as you’d like.

Some other quesadilla ideas are:

Pizza Quesadillas

Teriyaki Chicken Quesadillas

Sloppy Joe Quesadillas

Spinach-Artichoke Quesadillas

Peanut Butter, Strawberry, and Banana Quesadillas

If you’re coming home from class and heading for the pantry — consider getting creative with your quesadilla options. There are many more than just the “black bean and cheese” regular.

Infographic by Lorena Roberts

3. Oven Fried Chicken

Walking into a restaurant and ordering a perfectly browned, oven fried chicken is one of the greatest parts of going to a restaurant. So how wonderful would it be to enjoy the perfect oven fried chicken in the comfort of your home?

Making oven fried chicken is easy. And you can keep eating on it all week if you live by yourself. Here’s one of the easiest oven fried chicken recipes from AllRecipes.com:

Gather eggs, flour, bread crumbs, paprika, vegetable oil, and salt and pepper.

Coat your chicken in spices and flour, then drag it through the breadcrumbs so the entire piece of chicken is completely covered. After you’ve cooked them (on both sides!), make sure to drain with paper towels and enjoy.

This is one of those dishes you can prepare and then not really worry about it. Once you take it out of the oven, you’re pretty much done. So if you’re studying for a big exam and you don’t have time to make yourself a big dinner- but you’re STARVING, think about baking a chicken in the oven. You’ll likely not be able to eat it all in one sitting, which means all the work you just put into preparing it is going to pay off for the rest of the week.

4. Breakfast Burritos

Breakfast is one of the hardest meals to make when you’re just one person — especially if you work every day. There’s no use in getting up and making eggs and sausage (because let’s be honest, sleeping for an extra 20 minutes is totally worth it). So you end up getting something from the store that can be microwaved and easily eaten en route to work. But is that really healthy? And how enjoyable is your breakfast? You’re starting off your day with a microwaved breakfast? Aren’t there alternatives?

Breakfast burritos are a very simple thing to make – especially if you’re wanting to sleep in as long as possible before heading out the door to class or work. The greatest thing about burritos is that you get to decide what does and does not go into them :)

You’ll be able to make a burrito every morning that tastes differently, depending on what ingredients you use. You can add salsa, to give it a little bit of a kick, or just eggs, cheese, and sausage if you’re looking for something a bit more traditional.

Breakfast burritos are very simple to make, the clean-up is easy, and you’ll be on your way out the door with something delicious every morning you make one.

5. Artichoke Dip

One of the most popular appetizers at restaurants is artichoke dip. Guests love sitting around and chatting while enjoying some chips with a smooth dip. If you’re wanting to imitate a restaurant-worthy meal, start by creating an artichoke dip that your guests (or just you!) will adore. Here’s a good place to start:

You’ll need a little over an hour to prepare and make the perfect artichoke dip. Collect your ingredients first: different cheeses, vegetables, and, of course, artichokes.

When you’re toasting your dip in your oven, what’s important to remember is that you want all the cheeses to melt together — that’s the greatest part about this dip. Be careful– burnt artichoke dip is gross and it’ll stink up your apartment. Keep a close eye on it while it’s in the oven and don’t let time get away from you.

If you’re looking for other types of chip dip to make for guests (or yourself..) here are a few:

- Hummus

- Clam dip (ooooh this could be an interesting one!)

- Salsa (a classic and a favorite)

- Horseradish and Dill

- Chunky Guacamole

6. Hotel Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hotels are known for offering warm cookies in the wintertime — it’s one of the best things about staying at a hotel — all the freebies. But have you ever wanted the perfect “hotel” chocolate chip cookie without leaving the comfort of your home? Did you know that it’s absolutely possible? 

Search for your favorite hotel’s cookie recipe and practice over and over until you can get it just right. The secrets might be in the ingredients or in the way they’re baked – you never know until you try.

Putting your own spin on hotel-imitation cookies can be fun! Consider taking a recipe that you find and adding cinnamon, raisins, or brown sugar. Different additions to the recipe will create entirely different tastes – you can experiment to find out which one is your favorite! But if you’re still stuck on a hotel’s deliciousness in the lobby, keep trying until you get the recipe absolutely perfect. Once you nail it, take a batch to all your favorite people. One of the best parts about cooking is getting to share your creations with people you care about.

You can find the recipe to Doubletree’s recipe here.

Imitating restaurant recipes might seem intimidating at first, but all there is to it is some practice and the perfect recipe. There are certain dishes that are more easily imitated than others. If you’re looking to make yourself a laundry list of items you can cook for yourself or for your guests that will make it seem like they’re at a restaurant — look for secret restaurant recipes on Pinterest.

via Pexels.com

I’m not sure how likely it is that your favorite restaurant will do this — but if you really love a dish, ask your waitress for a recipe. They probably aren’t going to give you the exact specifics, but the chef will enjoy the compliment. You’ll be able to go home and try to replicate your favorite dish at your favorite restaurant and all will be well.

If you’re a college student who struggles with food (like cooking your own, or spending too much money going out to restaurants because you don’t have the energy to cook for yourself and clean up the dishes afterward), consider copy-catting your favorite restaurant meals by practicing different recipes at home until you get the taste just right. It’s popular for people to host dinner parties and try to imitate restaurant dishes — so while you have the time, practice your skills in the kitchen before you have guests over!

After finding what it is about restaurant recipes that makes you crave their dishes, you’ll be able to imitate them at home and be decently pleased. You won’t have spent the time going out to a restaurant, you’ll likely have saved money, and there’s a good chance it’ll be a much healthier option as well!

Lorena graduated from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville last December with a BA in Honors Psychology. After some serious soul-searching, she's decided to pursue a Master's in teaching in order to teach middle school math! In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her Whippet mix, Gio, at the dog park and binge watching Netflix with endless cups of Hot Cocoa.

Follow Uloop

Apply to Write for Uloop News

Join the Uloop News Team

Discuss This Article

College Food Delivery Listings

See all College Food Delivery Listings

Get Top Stories Delivered Weekly

Back to Top

Log In

Contact Us

Upload An Image

Please select an image to upload
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format
OR
Provide URL where image can be downloaded
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format

By clicking this button,
you agree to the terms of use

By clicking "Create Alert" I agree to the Uloop Terms of Use.

Image not available.

Add a Photo

Please select a photo to upload
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format