Our favorite healthy meals you can make with minimal cooking in the most poorly-stocked hostel kitchen.
Everything on this list is vegetarian (with a few vegan options marked with an asterisk*) and are dishes that 1.) we’ve tried ourselves; and 2.) can be made in even the most poorly equipped kitchen (the kind you’re most likely to find at any budget hostel!)
No-Cook Overnight Oats* – We fell in love with the Chia Oat Jars at La Princesa Cafe in Tamarindo and found a way to make something similar ourselves that requires zero cooking.
All you have to do is mix equal parts coconut milk and uncooked rolled oats in a sealed jar (1 cup each per serving) with a teaspoon per serving of chia seeds, stir and refrigerate overnight. And don’t forget to label your jars if you’re using a communal fridge. That’s it!
This is our favorite early morning pre-surf breakfast because it has protein and carbs to fuel us for a grueling workout without being too heavy on our stomachs. I like to add cinnamon and honey for sweetness and slow-digesting sugar, but you can flavor it however you like!
Avocado Toast* – This is a favorite I make at home for breakfast all the time. Just halve an avocado and spread each half on a slice of toast. Season with salt and pepper (trust me, it tastes much better with a sprinkle of salt) and you’re done! And all the cookware you need is a toaster, or a frying pan to toast the bread with.
Peanut Butter Toast (+ Honey + Chocolate) – Another thing I love to do with toast that is packed with healthy fat and protein is peanut butter. I also break up a little dark chocolate (I travel with Lindt 90% Dark Chocolate bars, but any chocolate will do!) and add a squiggle of honey for extra sweetness!
Microwave Omelette – I usually beat eggs (2-3 per person) with a fork in a microwave-safe bowl; add cheese, a splash of milk for creaminess, salt, pepper, spices, and whatever veggies I have on hand (onions, peppers, and avocados are my favorite!), then microwave for 1-2 minutes or until the eggs are cooked through. Voila! Breakfast of lazy champions.
Bean Dip and Chips* – It sounds like it should be a snack, but the bean dip we make is packed with protein, carbs, and fat, and actually makes for a filling meal. In a large pan, we heat up canned black beans, onion, garlic, jalapeños, store-bought salsa, canned corn, chili powder, cumin, and salt. Then we move it to a bowl, top it with avocado, and serve with tortilla chips. We made this at our last Thanksgiving dinner with his family and it was a great filling alternative to turkey!
One-Pot Mac and Cheese – I found this great recipe from Macaroni and Cheesecake which has just 3 mandatory ingredients and a few optional ones for flavor. For this recipe, you simmer pasta in milk instead of water for 20-25 minutes until the pasta is soft (stir FREQUENTLY—we burned a little pasta on our first batch by being lazy!) then stir in shredded cheese, salt, and whatever other seasoning you like. To make it healthy, we like to add vegetables cooked separately (my favorite are mushrooms, red peppers, and asparagus!).
Veggie Pasta* – Your standard pasta dish. Boil pasta, drain, warm any store-bought pasta sauce in the same pot and top with your choice of veggies. I like to do a stir-fry of vegetables in olive oil with salt and pepper in a separate pan, and marry it with the sauce right before serving to avoid sogginess!
Grilled Cheese – Two slices of bread toasted in a pan with butter, then topped with cheese and squished together is all you need to make a Grade A, Mom-worthy grilled cheese. To make it healthy, I like to add sliced raw tomatoes and avocado, which is full of monounsaturated fat and lycopene which are great for your skin. Grilled cheeses also taste great with tomato soup if you can find a canned version at the grocery (which you can reheat in a small pot, or in the microwave with a splash-protecting cover).
Rice and Beans* – Gallo Pinto is a dish of beans and rice commonly made in Costa Rica and Nicaragua that is usually served with eggs, cheese, plantains, vegetables, and sometimes another protein. You can start with beans and rice, and easily add things to make it your own!
I like to boil the rice in a large pot (according to instructions on the bag) at a low simmering heat until all the water is gone. Then I’ll add canned beans and mixed vegetables if they’re available, chopped onions, peppers, herbs/spices, and toss it all together until everything’s warmed up. For more specific instructions, Striped Spatula has a recipe for Gallo Pinto that is a bit more refined!
Burrito/Burrito Bowl* – If you’re traveling to any of the America’s (North, South, Central), you can almost certainly find some kind of tortillas at a grocery store. I like to start with rice and beans as the base, and build with whatever veggies and protein I can find depending on seasonal availability.
A burrito bowl is what it sounds like, a burrito without a tortilla! You can layer rice, beans, vegetables, guac, and salsa in a bowl. It’s perfect if you’re trying to go low-carb, don’t want to buy a whole bag of tortillas just to have a couple, or (like me) just have a hard time keeping a burrito together while eating it.
Easy Guacamole* – You may know it as “salsa guacamole” and it’s a college dorm snack staple. A kitchen isn’t even required! Just peel and mash a whole avocado in a bowl with store-bought salsa. My boyfriend makes a great version seasoned to taste with salt, pepper, and cumin.
Pan-Fried Asparagus – I love asparagus because you can throw them in a pan with butter or oil, salt, pepper, (optional) garlic or garlic powder, and cook for 10-15 min in a covered pan until the stalks are soft. Top with Parmesan and you have a delicious vegetable side with barely any work!
Spinach and Mushrooms* – I start with mushrooms because they take the longest to cook. I get them in a sauce pan or small pot with a little oil. Then when they’re starting to brown I’ll add spinach and cover it for about 10 minutes or until the leaves wilt. The spinach themselves have a ton of water which will steam in the pot and basically help itself cook. Drain and serve!
Roasted Vegetables* – This is one of the easiest thing you could do with vegetables. All you need is an oven and a baking pan! You lay out the vegetables on a pan, drizzle oil all over, season with herbs and spices (even just salt and pepper is enough!) and pop it in the oven until they’re done. My boyfriend got a cookbook called “The Food You Crave” from his mom for Christmas a few years ago, and we love making the Jewel Roasted Vegetables recipe (which is actually available online for free here!).
I’ve read that higher moisture content vegetables (think: peppers) should roast at a higher temperature (450°) than denser roots and squashes which should cook at about 425° (Source: NYT, “5 Easy Meals for the Distracted Cook“). Honestly, 375° has always worked fine for us with a variety of vegetables, but you may want to experiment for yourself!
What are some tasty recipes you can think of that would be easy to make in a hostel kitchen?