While most of us know that cooking our own food is better than buying ready meals or takeaways, if you live alone it can sometimes be hard to find the motivation to cook. But aside from knowing exactly what you’re putting into your body – and saving money while you’re at it – there are many benefits of cooking for one.
You can eat what you like when you like, you can prep and cook meals faster than if you’re cooking for two or more people, and there’s usually far less waste and clean-up. Plus, cooking for yourself is an expression of self-love – an empowering gesture that can improve your mood as well as your health.
So, if you’re in need of some inspiration to get you into the kitchen, here are 10 easy dinner ideas for one.
1. Prawn and coconut laksa
Laksa is a spicy coconut noodle soup that comes from Malaysia – and though its flavours might be complex, making it for one person doesn’t have to be. Healthy, wholesome, and incredibly comforting, this is an ideal meal to make on a rainy day, or when you’re feeling a little under the weather. Not only will the fragrance of lemongrass, ginger, and garlic lift your spirits, but they’re also great for boosting your immune system – as is the fresh lime juice you squeeze in, too.
This prawn and coconut laksa by BBC Good Food is fresh and delicious – the perfect blend of flavours, and textures. Plus, it only takes 10 minutes to prepare, and eight minutes to cook. If you’re veggie, simply swap the prawns for tofu, seitan, or a mock-meat product – and if you’re vegan, just swap the egg noodles for rice noodles.
2. Creamy lentils and rice
Lentils sometimes get a bad rap; many of us know that they’re healthy but find them dull and uninspiring. But if you’re cooking for one, lentils are the perfect go-to and can be really tasty if you find the right recipe. They’re cheap, filling and very versatile – and if you use tinned lentils, or buy them pre-cooked, they’re quick to cook, too. Plus, they’re also an excellent source of some of the most essential nutrients our bodies need, like B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, protein, and fibre.
If you’re cooking lentils for one, this creamy lentil and rice dish by the BBC will certainly hit the spot – and it takes less than half an hour to knock up. The recipe uses ghee (a clarified butter that’s often used in Indian cooking) but you can also use regular butter or even margarine. If you have any extra lentils leftover, then why not make this lentil salad with beetroot and goats’ cheese, which is another recipe that’s perfect for one?
3. One-pan Spanish garlic pasta with vegetables
Pasta is the perfect go-to meal when you’re hungry and don’t have many ingredients in the house – and if you’re also feeling a little lazy, then a one-pan pasta dish is even better. Not only is it quick to prepare, but it also means there’s hardly any washing up to tackle after, either. Plus, when you cook the pasta along with the rest of your ingredients, the starch in the pasta remains in the dish and gives the pasta a wonderful texture and flavour.
This one-pan Spanish garlic pasta and vegetable dish by Spain on a Fork is ideal for a quick weeknight dinner. It’s easily customisable too, and while this recipe uses peppers, courgette, onions and a tin of chopped tomatoes, you can use any ingredients you might have sitting in the fridge. The recipe serves two people, so there’ll be plenty left for the next day – or just half the ingredients if you don’t want leftovers. To see how quick and easy this delicious recipe is to knock up, have a watch of the video below.
4. Japanese-style omelette (okonomiyaki)
Unless you’re vegan, there’s a good chance you’ll have some eggs in the house. So if you get home from work hungry and tired, yet have no idea what to cook, then why not put those eggs to good use and make a dinner that’s totally different from usual? Okonomiyaki is a Japanese omelette that’s moist like a pancake and packed with flavours; a moreish mix of sweet, smokey and tangy, it’s also very versatile, and you can add in any other ingredients you have that need using up.
This okonomiyaki recipe by Delicious Magazine uses cauliflower, spring onions and pak choi to bulk up the omelette, and adds rich, savoury flavours with soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and chillies – ingredients many of us may have in the cupboard. If you have any meat or seafood that needs using up – whether chicken or prawns – you can add them in too, or keep things veggie by adding more vegetables. If you don’t have cauliflower or pak choi, you can always add onions, spinach or peppers. To find out more about cooking okonomiyaki, have a watch of the video below.
5. Fish in a bag
If you’re in the mood for fish, then why not try making Jamie Oliver’s fish in a bag recipe? Cooking fish in an aluminium foil ‘bag’ allows the fish to steam in its own juices, which helps retain important nutrients – and the fish is protected from the heat of an oven, so you don’t need to add oil, which makes it even healthier. Plus, the foil bag keeps the flavours wonderfully intense – and because you’re cooking everything in one parcel, there’s no washing up, either.
Jamie’s recipe uses a white fish fillet, like sea bass, haddock or halibut, and he also adds potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and black olives – but there are dozens of these types of recipes that are perfect for one person. You might want to try this couscous fish in the bag recipe from BBC Good Food, which uses haddock, couscous, courgettes, and pine nuts, or this salmon recipe by Nourish Nutrition. The salmon recipe is for two people, but just half the ingredients if you don’t want any leftovers.
6. Banh mi
If you’re tired after a long day and don’t fancy cooking on a hot stove, it can be tempting to just make yourself a sandwich for dinner – but if you’re going to make yourself a sandwich, then why not make it a banh mi – a Vietnamese baguette? The late Anthony Bourdain called the banh mi “a symphony in a sandwich”, and it’s no exaggeration. The banh mi is the perfect marriage of tastes and textures: crusty, chewy bread, salty vegetables, crunchy cucumber, fresh herbs, and a sweet, spicy sauce.
This banh mi recipe by Delicious Magazine uses leftover beef, fresh carrot, cucumber, and onion, and a sauce made from mayonnaise, hoisin, and sweet chilli sauce – although the beauty of the banh mi is that they can be adapted for every taste preference and diet. If you don’t eat meat, simply swap the beef for some crispy marinated tofu; this recipe by Cooking Light only requires 15 minutes prep.
7. Leek and sage risotto with bacon
Making risotto is often seen as a bit of a labour of love; the act of repeatedly feeding the risotto with stock and stirring can seem fussy and time-consuming – and for this reason, it’s often seen as a dish you wouldn’t bother making for just one person. But if you love eating risotto, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be a laborious process. You can make and cook yourself a delicious risotto from scratch in under half an hour.
This leek and sage risotto with crispy bacon by BBC Good Food takes only 10 minutes to prepare and 20 minutes to cook – and with only eight simple ingredients, it’s certainly not fussy, either. To make this recipe veggie, simply omit the bacon and add two or three large, grilled mushrooms – and to make it entirely plant-based, just swap the parmesan for a vegan alternative, or leave it out altogether. Quick, easy, and delicious, this risotto is perfect as a comforting weeknight supper.
8. Chicken stir-fry
Stir-fries are also super quick to prepare, and they’re also incredibly easy to adapt to your own taste preferences – or to tweak to ensure you use up ingredients that you already have. This chicken basil stir-fry by Delicious is tasty, fast and easy – and quicker, healthier and cheaper than picking up a meal from your local takeaway.
An even simpler version of a chicken stir-fry recipe can be found on the BBC website, and takes only 10 minutes to cook; just remember to slice your chicken thinly to make sure it cooks evenly and quickly. If you don’t eat meat, you can still use these recipes: simply swap the chicken for tofu or your choice of plant protein. For more quick chicken stir-fry inspiration, have a watch of the video below.
9. Special fried rice
Fried rice is known for being quick and easy comfort food, but it’s also the perfect meal for one – especially if you haven’t got much food in the house or you’re not in the mood to cook anything remotely fussy. It’s also a great way to use up leftover food – whether that’s the leftover rice from your Indian takeaway or any leftover meat or vegetables that are still sitting in the fridge. If you have any eggs that need to be eaten, you can throw them in, too.
You might want to make BBC chef James Martin’s special fried rice for one, which uses chicken, ham, peas, eggs, and spring onions. It only takes around 10 minutes to cook and goes easy on the washing up. You can keep things veggie by making this easy fried rice recipe from One Dish Kitchen, which uses whatever frozen veg you have in the freezer.
10. Berry cobbler
For some reason, dessert is often viewed as something that should be shared – but if you live alone, then why should you need to be with another person to justify a treat now and then? While making a whole apple pie or cheesecake just for you might not be the best idea (unless you have a lot of willpower!), there are many desserts that are ideal for one, and are perfect for those evenings when you’re craving a sweet treat but fancy something a little more extravagant than just chocolate.
This five-minute microwave berry cobbler by Domestic Fits is delicious, yet incredibly simple to make – and as the name suggests, it’s ready in minutes. To make things even easier, you can use frozen berries instead of fresh ones, and if you prefer, you can swap strawberries for raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries.
Not really a cobbler type of person? Just head over to Brit + Co to check out 16 other ideas for indulgent single-serving desserts: from crème brûlée to peanut butter cookies, there’s surely something for everyone.
Do you have any favourite recipes that you enjoy cooking just for yourself? Or do you think you might try any of our suggestions? We’d love to hear about your favourite meals for one! Leave us a comment below, or share your photos and join the conversation over on the Rest Less community.