Cooking for one isn’t always easy. Maybe you don’t have access to an oven, you’re too busy scrambling to get your physics homework done to even think about food, or the no-dishwasher struggle is just too much to bear. In any case, know this: When hanger (hunger + anger) hits mid study session, ramen isn’t the only answer.
Enter microwavable mug meals. In a recent Student Health 101 survey, 71 percent of you said that convenience is important to you when cooking, and mug meals are one of the most accessible ways to eat. They also help with portion control, require minimal prep and ingredients, and are super cost-effective. Bonus? The only thing you’ll have to wash is the mug (and maybe a few measuring cups).
Each recipe can be done in just five steps, with five ingredients, and in less than five minutes. From breakfast to dessert, enjoy an entire day of mug meals.
Breakfast: Omelet in a mug
Omelets are a go-to breakfast choice for lots of reasons—they’re chock-full of protein and veggies, and they’ll keep you full and alert all morning. Here’s one of the fastest, most efficient ways to make one when you’re in a hurry.
- Handful (1–2 cups) fresh spinach
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons cheddar cheese
- 1 chopped green onion
- Microwave the spinach in your mug (sprinkle about a tablespoon of water over it so it can steam) for about 30 seconds.
- Crack eggs into the mug, add 2 tablespoons of milk, and whisk everything together.
- Add cheese.
- Microwave in 45-second increments until the eggs are cooked through.
- Chop up some green onions to add to the top.
Sprinkle a bit of extra cheese on top for maximum enjoyment. Or throw in additional veggies, such as peppers, mushrooms, or onions, or spices such as salt, pepper, garlic, and parsley.
Recipe adapted from https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/5-microwave-breakfasts/
Snack: Mug granola
Many granolas and granola bars come with a high cost—both literally ($$) and nutritionally. They are packed with added sugars and sneak in hydrogenated oils (e.g., trans fats). And that stuff stays with you. A diet that includes a lot of trans fats increases your risk of heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. The advantages of mug granola? You know exactly what’s going in it (and what’s not), it’s dirt cheap, and it comes together in a pinch.
- 1⁄3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1⁄3 cup nuts
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons oil (coconut oil adds depth and flavor, but any oil will work)
- 2 teaspoons water
- Place oats and your favorite nuts (cashews are great here) into a mug.
- Mix in maple syrup, oil, and water.
- Microwave on medium power (50%) for two minutes.
- Continue microwaving on medium in 30-second intervals until oats are golden brown (and not borderline charred, like ours were. #oops)
- Let cool fully before eating.
Lunch: Avocado mac & cheese mug
Most boxed cheesy noodles aren’t going to curb your hunger for long. This twist on your favorite comfort food ups the nutrition and adds avocado, a healthy source of monounsaturated fat, which keeps you fuller longer. Plus, whole-wheat noodles mean a serving of whole grains, which we all know get stellar marks for fiber and nutrient content. Cheese on.
- ½ cup whole-wheat pasta of any kind (elbows, rotini, penne, dinosaurs—we don’t judge)
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup (or more) cheddar cheese (we used a shredded sharp white cheddar)
- 1 splash milk
- ½ avocado
- Pour water and pasta into a mug.
- Microwave on high for one minute and stir.
- Continue microwaving for 30-second intervals until pasta is cooked and no water remains.
- Add your favorite cheese with the milk and mix.
- Mash the avocado in a separate bowl and mix in with the cheesy pasta.
Dinner: Burrito mug
This recipe will keep you satisfied through your night class, group meeting, study session, or couchfest. It’s filled with fiber and good-for-you grains, and it tastes just like the burrito bowl you’d get at your favorite Mexican chain. Bonus points for sodium levels that don’t leave your mouth as dry as the Sahara.
- 3 tablespoons cooked brown rice (you can buy it precooked and save the rest for meals later in the week; just check the label and try to avoid brands with added oil)
- 3 tablespoons canned black beans, drained and rinsed
- 3 tablespoons salsa
- Blue corn tortilla chips
- 1–2 tablespoons cheese (Mexican, cheddar, cotija, nondairy, etc.)
- Place the cooked brown rice in a mug.
- Add the black beans.
- Mix in the salsa.
- Stir mixture and microwave for one minute.
- Top with crumbled tortilla chips and cheese.
Throw on your favorite Mexican-inspired toppings such as avocado, sour cream (or Greek yogurt as a healthy, protein-boosting substitute), green onions, more salsa, etc.
Dessert: Mug brownie
Have you ever made a pan of brownies—only to have them last max two days? Yeah, us too. A perfect size for one, this mug brownie is an easy way to satisfy your sweet tooth and keep it from running the world—unless you want it to.
- ¼ cup flour
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup milk or nondairy alternative of your choosing (all will work!)
- Mix flour, brown sugar, and unsweetened cocoa powder in the mug.
- Add melted butter and milk, and stir until blended.
- Wipe down the rim to prevent burning and microwave for one minute.
- Continue to microwave in 30-second increments until the consistency is to your liking.
- Let the mixture sit for one minute before devouring.
Students share: The benefits of mug meals
“The perfect size—you can’t really go for seconds.”
—Jenny B., fourth-year undergraduate, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
“They’re small enough to not worry too much about being too unhealthy. It’s also simple, easy, and relatively cheap.”
—Kassie C., second-year undergraduate, Dordt College, Iowa
“You get a craving fixed in 5 minutes instead of 50!”
—Yi Tyan T., fourth-year graduate student, University of California, Los Angeles
“Everything needed goes into one cup, so there’s less mess. And it’s fast and really convenient.”
—Kyla B., second-year undergraduate, Capilano University, British Columbia
“Useful for res hall living where kitchen access is limited.”
—Farida B., fourth-year undergraduate, Emory University, Georgia
“It allows for variety because you don’t have a bunch of leftovers to finish like with a regular meal.”
—Olivia K., third-year graduate student, Marquette University School of Dentistry, Wisconsin
“You can prep the night before, which saves lots of time.”
—David H., recent graduate, A.T. Still University, Missouri
“They can be taken on the go.”
—Bijan W., fourth-year undergraduate, University of Alaska Anchorage
“It’s foolproof—anyone can do it!”
—Chloe M., fourth-year undergraduate, University of Alaska Anchorage
Lee, J. (2014). Avocado macaroni and cheese in a mug. Kirbie’s Cravings. Retrieved from https://kirbiecravings.com/2014/10/avocado-macaroni-and-cheese-in-a-mug.html
Ma, E. (2013, October 8). Perfect brownie in a mug—5 ingredient microwave recipe. Eugenie’s Kitchen. Retrieved from https://eugeniekitchen.com/brownie-in-mug/
Mayo Clinic. (2017, March 1). Trans fat is double trouble for your heart health. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/trans-fat/art-20046114
Saulsbury, C. V. (2014, March 26). Shamelessly easy, 5-minute, 5-ingredient microwave mug granola. Power Hungry. Retrieved from https://powerhungry.com/2014/03/5-minute-5-ingredient-microwave-mug-granola/
Snyder, J. (n.d.). On the menu: Make it in a mug. [Blog]. Urban Outfitters. Retrieved from https://blog.urbanoutfitters.com/blog/on_the_menu_make_it_in_a_mug
Stafford, G. (2015, August 20). Top 5 microwave mug breakfasts: Sweet & savory recipes. Bigger Bolder Baker. Retrieved from https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/5-microwave-breakfasts/
Student Health 101 survey, June 2017.