If you think about it, students in dorms aren’t usually afforded the budget or kitchen gadgets that most apartments and homes have. Most college-aged kids also have limited access to food sources, so sometimes they need to dig into their ingenuity and get creative if they want to change things up when hunger strikes.
We found a few popular recipes that use typical college foods like ramen, cereal bars, Jell-O pudding, and mac n cheese, and we decided to put some of these recipes to the test. For the preparation and taste test, we enlisted a team member—Dan K. a man in his twenties with an average amount of kitchen training—to make them. We had him shop with $35, to purchase all the simple ingredients that were available from coast to coast to make this process fast and easy. There were a lot of products like hot sauce and the peanut butter that are going to last for weeks, so that’s a plus. As you can see from the images, the process for each did get done rather quickly, with surprising results!
Low-Tech Pad Thai - 3 out of 5Dan K: “This dish was definitely a surprise. It tasted much closer to the Pad Thai I’d order at a restaurant than I assumed. Stirring in the peanut butter is definitely an easier-said-than-done task, and the dish itself is a bit on the dry side. And by a bit, I mean, a lot. However, this recipe from a PDF titled “Jail House Recipes” is definitely going to be haute cuisine during the zombie apocalypse.”
Want a more luxurious Pad Thai recipe? We’ve found this one, Bon Appetit’s Pad Thai on Epicurious.com.
Institutional Cheesecake - 4 out of 5Dan K: “This dessert from the author of “Orange is the New Black,” Piper Kerman, was published on NPR. When I made it, it was a little more on the citrus cheesecake side than regular cheesecake, but that may be due to user error–I was a bit overzealous with the lemon juice. However, this ended up being really good! I even shared some with my neighbors, and they couldn’t tell it was made with these basic ingredients. Actually, presentation seems to be the only issue with this dish, and that’s not the cheesecake’s fault!”
Want a more presentable cheesecake recipe for a special occasion? Check out this Lemon Cheesecake on Epicurious.com.
College Ramac & Cheese - 2 out of 5Dan K.: “Once again, dryness was an issue in this recipe from SeriousEats, and I’m beginning to suspect it’s due to the quality of the noodles. Perhaps upgrading to a better brand of ramen might remedy that. Also, the cheese sauce was exhaustive to make and takes far too long. When it was time to eat, the whole dish congealed too fast–in the middle of consumption!–and was just far too cheesily rich.”
Ready to make an appetizing version of mac n cheese? Try this recipe for Mac and Two Cheeses with Caramelized Shallots from Epicurious.com.
On-the-Go Breakfast Cereal Bars - 4 out of 5Dan K: “These cereal bars from Taralynn McNitt’s tumblr certainly look complicated, but they were a breeze to make. Also, they taste great! It says you need 2 tablespoons of mini marshmallows, but I packed as many as possible into those 2 tablespoons, which explains the big chunks of white in the cereal bars. Once again, presentation is not the food’s fault; rather, it’s because of these claws I call hands.”
Want a more traditional version? Try adapting the recipe using these Chewy Granola Bars from Epicurious.
Taco In a Bag - 5 out of 5
Dan K: “This Betty Crocker recipe was definitely the best of the bunch that I prepared. It’s very easy to make, and the novelty of eating it out of the chip bag was really fun. Eating this with friends with each of us having our own individual chip bag would be a sight to see. I wonder if it was the inspiration behind a certain fast food chain’s idea to use nacho-cheese-flavored tortilla taco shells for their tacos…”
Is it Edible or Just Plain Ridiculous?
Calling them “delicacies” may be pushing it, but the recipes we tested aren’t exactly revolting either, despite the circumstances from which they were created. The great thing about them is that these recipes are made with some really inexpensive ingredients, that stay in your refrigerator or pantry for a long time. You don’t have to be a college student to attempt to recreate them, and if you use them as a guide and get creative, you may just develop some food hacks of your own.