Dorm Chef Guide: Cooking with a Microwave and Sauce Packets

Dorm life. Or maybe your first apartment. You’ve got minimal time, minimal cooking appliances and even more minimal budget. It’s expensive to eat out often or even buy frozen dinners. Not to worry.


This is the ultimate one-stop guide to cooking all the basics in a microwave. Staple recipes you can customize any way you want (like using leftover fast food sauce packets for flavoring). Yes, really.


In this guide

  • How to cook (almost) anything in a mug in the microwave
    • Oatmeal
    • Steamed veggies
    • Pasta
    • Rice
    • “Baked” potato
    • Quesadilla
  • Uses for leftover fast food sauce packets
    • Hot dishes
    • Cold dishes
    • Getting fancy
  • Food staples to keep on hand


Ready? Let’s get into it.


How to cook (almost) anything in a mug in the microwave


NOTE: These are stripped-down, “universal” recipes, so you may need to adjust times or amounts depending on your microwave or the ingredients you choose. We suggest experimenting in smaller time increments. And remember to always use hot pads or oven mitts!


Oatmeal in the microwave (and the fridge)

Rolled oats are cheaper than the instant, individually packaged stuff, and you don’t need a stovetop, just a night in the fridge. Here are some favorite variations.

●      Equal parts rolled oats and milk

●      Cover and refrigerate overnight

●      Next morning, zap until warm, about 45 seconds

●      Stir in fixings of choice – butter, fruit, honey, chocolate chips, another splash of milk if you want it soupier


Steamed veggies in the microwave

Your mom would want you to eat your veggies.

●      Get some fresh veggies – broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans, whatever

●      Place in mug with a splash of water

●      Cover with a plate

●      Zap 4 minutes

●      Let stand 1 minute

●      Add butter or keep reading to fancy it up


Pasta in the microwave

Comfort food, coming up.

●      Equal parts pasta and water

●      Zap 4 minutes or until water is absorbed

●      Add milk and shredded cheese (or butter and your favorite seasonings)


Rice in the microwave

So versatile.

●      Two parts water to one part rice

●      Some butter and your favorite seasonings for flavor

●      Put in big enough bowl/mug to allow rice to expand

●      Cover with paper towel

●      Zap on high 10 minutes

●      Zap on medium another 10 minutes


“Baked” potato in the microwave

No oven needed! Steal some topping ideas from this recipe.

●      Rinse and scrub the potato

●      Stab with a fork 4 times on each side

●      Wrap in a damp paper towel

●      Zap 5 minutes, flip with a hot pad, then zap 5 minutes more

●      Squeeze with a hot pad to see if it gives a little; if it feels too firm, zap in 1-minute increments until softened

●      Add mix-ins of choice – butter, cheese, bacon, sour cream


Quesadilla in the microwave

Quick snack idea!

●      Microwave 2 tortillas on a plate until crispy

●      Spread shredded cheese on one tortilla then top with the other tortilla

●      Zap for another 30 seconds to a minute

●      Spice it up with your favorite hot sauce


Uses for leftover fast food sauce packets

You’re still going to eat out every now and then, and they always give you way more sauce packets than you need. Cha-ching. Free flavor!


Hot dishes

Use them to flavor almost any of the microwave dishes listed above. Just a few ideas:

●      Eggs + hot sauce

●      Oatmeal + honey

●      Veggies + rice + soy sauce

●      Mac ‘n’ cheese + barbecue sauce


Cold dishes

●      Super easy chicken or tuna salad = canned chicken or tuna + plain Greek yogurt + sauce packets of choice

●      “Cream cheese” rollups = tortillas + plain Greek yogurt + sauce packets of choice

●      Veggies and dip = plain Greek yogurt + sauce packets of choice + raw veggies


Wanna get really fancy?

●      Teriyaki sauce = 2 packets soy sauce + 1 packet honey + garlic and ginger powders to taste

●      Thai peanut sauce = 2 packets soy sauce + 1 packet honey + 1 packet hot sauce  (preferably Sriracha) +1 teaspoon peanut butter + garlic and ginger powders to taste


Food staples


For cereal, coffee, smoothies, pasta, eggs, oatmeal, etc. etc. etc. Milk also packs a ton of nutrients for a college-student price – we’re talking at least 10% of your daily value of 13 different nutrients in every glass. But only if you use real cow’s milk! Look for lactose-free milk if you have trouble digesting it.


Plain Greek yogurt

Packed with protein and probiotics, it keeps a long time in the fridge and is one of the most versatile foods out there: From parfaits and smoothies to chicken salad and subbed for sour cream with canned chili – plus, check out all these awesome snacks.


Canned chicken/tuna

Relatively inexpensive and it’s shelf-stable until you open it. Make chicken/tuna salad or add protein to pastas, rice and more.



Use cream cheese or Greek yogurt to make sweet or savory rollups. Fill with eggs, beans, meat or cheese for burritos. Top with sauce and cheese for a thin-crust pizza. Or pair with salsa and string cheese for these funtastic snacks.


Shredded cheese

Let’s face it. You are going to want to put this in everything. Maybe even your oatmeal! Savory bacon cheddar oatmeal anybody? Pro tip: It’s cheaper if you invest in a cheese grater, buy cheese in blocks and shred it yourself.


Bonus: microwave cleaning tip!

·       Add lemon juice to ½ cup of water in a bowl and zap for about 3 minutes

·       Let stand in the microwave for about 5 minutes so the steam can loosen up the mess

·       Use an oven mitt to remove the bowl and turn-table and wipe clean!


Like this? Here’s more!

●      Other efficient meal-planning tips: Eat Lunch on These 8 Ingredients All Week

●      You’re not a kid anymore, but you may enjoy these 11 Easy Recipes for Kids

●      When you gotta get more sauce packets: 5 Tips for Healthier Fast Food

By Jolie Dubois

With a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Wyoming, Jolie Dubois brings six years of experience as a communications and interactive marketing professional. Growing up in a family-run business, supporting farm families with Dairy MAX has been a perfect fit. Jolie currently resides in Colorado and is a member of the Public Relations Society of America.

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