Solo Eating: Tips on Cooking for One

updated May 11, 2022
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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

Eating alone can be an immensely pleasurable, gratifying thing. We wouldn’t want to do it every night, although many do, but once in a while it’s nice to eat what we want and enjoy it without conversation. What to fix, though, is a different matter. Not many recipes are created for a single serving…

It’s sometimes hard for us even to cook for two, since so many recipes serve four or six. We like leftovers, but a full lasagna or an entire pork shoulder, well, that can take a while to eat on your own. But the single-size alternatives that are so often peddled to solo eaters (frozen dinners) can definitely be improved upon. Here are a few of our tips.

Consider the egg. A fried egg over some sautéed vegetables or on top of soba noodles gives it dinner importance far beyond its breakfast beginnings. It’s even packaged as a single-serving item. Scramble it with some greens and put it over toast like the tartine pictured above.

Avoid recipes that have rare ingredients you won’t use often. It is, of course, easy to cut a recipe in half or in quarters to serve just yourself. But if the recipe calls for a bunch of an expensive ingredient that you can’t buy less of, you may waste it. If, for example, a recipe calls for several different fresh herbs, just buy one that you love and use more of it.

So shop in bulk bins. We love bulk bins that allow us to buy a tiny scoop of nuts or a little bit of a few different grains. You get fresher ingredients that you can use up on a single meal, and you save money.

Make soup or pasta. We know, not a groundbreaking idea. But both are great warmed up (sometimes cold, in the case of pasta), so no harm in having extra. See our archives, which are full of good soups and pastas.

Use greens in more than one way. Greens are the first thing to go in our refrigerator, and yet you can’t really buy half a bunch. So if you have a lot of spinach, make it a salad and also add it to your main dish. Lay some in a foil packet and cook one piece of fish, or stir it into soup.

Roast a cornish hen or a chicken breast. Buy a little bird or just one bone-in chicken breast and roast it in a pie plate or a small gratin dish with a potato, carrot, turnip, or other vegetable cut up underneath. It’s like a downsized roast chicken.

Make dessert in a ramekin. We do this all the time. Cut up one apple or pear, put it in a ramekin, then follow this template for cobbler dough, which goes like this: equal parts flour and sugar, with enough melted butter to make a dough. For one ramekin, we’d say start with 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar (brown sugar is great, too), and 2 tablespoons of melted butter (maybe three). Mix, pat, lay on top of your fruit, and bake.

Cook without recipes! Cooking for one allows you to use a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and adapt to your liking. After all, you’re the only one eating it.

What are your tips for cooking for one?

Related: Julie Powell On Cooking for One

(Image: Faith Durand)