Dorm Food Ideas Recipe

A letter from a college student inspired this post. He was wondering what advice or recipes we might have for young readers living in dorms with infrequent access to a kitchen. Looking for ideas on simple, fast and easy foods that are manageable and healthy options for college students.

Dorm Food Ideas

I was hoping I could tap into the collective wisdom here to help a fellow reader and cook. I received the following email from a young man who will be returning to college in New York in a few weeks. You can probably sense where this is headed, here's the email:

"...I have a favor to ask of you. As a college student, I have five weeks until my summer food-nirvana is abruptly ended by the horrors of dorm food and required meal plans. This morning, when looking through 101CB for a recipe or two, I began to wonder what advice, recipes and tactics you might have for those of us in such a position. I'm convinced that your younger readers, many of whom, like me, are stuck in dorms with infrequent access to a kitchen, would benefit greatly from a blog write-up on simple, fast and easy foods that are manageable, healthy and tasty options for the otherwise stomach-cringing college student. Whadda ya say? With lots of appreciate and goodness from N.Y..."

It has been some time since I lived in the dorms - what is allowed? For example, are toaster ovens, crock pots, or panini grills fair game? My guess is no. I remember having access to a microwave, and the bagel toaster in the cafeteria, but I suppose it must vary from college to college. Are there any great books on the topic?

If you have any ideas or suggestions for our epicurean scholar please share them in the comments. Anyone who can work some creative magic at a salad or sandwich bar, let's hear your tricks and tips. Let's send him back to school with some ideas and inspiration. -h

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anything not involving a heating element is usually allowed, and nearly everyone rents a mini-fridge; smoothies for breakfast, salads and raw food recipes would all work. I ran into some good salad ideas here: --though these might not be satisfying once it gets cold. what about a variety of broth-based soups, like miso? small immersion heaters are allowed in dorm rooms, and would work for reheating.


There is a very good book by Australian Womens' Weekly, called: superfoods for exam success, it concentrates on good foods for keeping the brain alert, it gives easy recipes, many heartwarmingly nice others fast and others raw, it is very good, simple and delicious. ... and cheap!


I'd be careful about bringing things that aren't allowed. I've had friends that were kicked out of housing for having banned appliances. Learn to use what you can have.


Totally understand... I chose not to live in the dorms for a couple reasons including dorm food. It is amazing how many amazing dishes can be created in a microwave, and in a hurry. Steamed veggies in the microwave are great. Here are a couple of my other favorites: Cheese sauce- can be used over baked potatoes, ham, steamed broccoli, or add salsa for an improv nacho sauce. This recipe feeds my 5 person family, so you may need to adjust proportions. 1/4 cup canola oil 1/4 cup flour 3/4 cup powdered milk 2 cups warm water stir. Microwave one minute, stir, repeat until the sauce thickens. Add cheese to taste ( I prefer 8 oz for really cheesy sauce). Quick snack dessert: 1/4 cup Chocolate chips 1-2 Tablespoons peanut butter Microwave 30 seconds. Stir. Dip graham crackers in chocolate/pb mix. Eat.


I brought a copy of Carole Raymond's Student Vegetarian Cookbook with me to college and found it indispensable in making simple, real meals. The food at the dining hall never left me satisfied. Some favorite recipes included: black bean sweet potato quesadillas (so popular, it made it to the school newspaper), sauteed zuchinni pita pizzas, lentil soup, avacado-pear salad, post-modern chocolate pudding (made late night studying so much more rewarding!) and really, just about everything else I made (excluding the pancakes). I pick up copies used to give to friends in college whenever I come across this cookbook.


@Cathy: Your niece is probably fine using the microwave provided she uses dishes with lids. For other appliances, she may be able to get a doctor's note about the celiac disease prescribing access to private cooking appliances. I doubt a school will allow her to cook in her room, even with a note, but they may allow her to bring her own appliances for use in the dorm kitchen.


Just to reassure you, the college I went to had wonderful dorm food. There was always at least 2 vegetarian options, a full salad bar with soups, a sandwich bar during lunch, and for brunch on Sunday they had made-to-order omelets. Food service was also open to students' suggestions and requests. So, if the dorm food doesn't meet your needs, speak up! You're paying for it!


Trio bars! Mrs. May's naturals Trio bars are incredibly yummy and would satisfy your epicurean desires. I'm in no way affiliated with them but I now only buy those bars for my family for snacks. They are vegan, gluten free and really satisfying. Really the best in terms of nutrition and flavor that I have found in a warehouse type store (I buy in bulk I love them so much.)


With some cooked rice....the possibilites are endless. You can add some veggies, canned tuna/chicken ect....some mayo based dressing and create some great tasting and healthy wraps.


Wow, this has gotten a ton of comments, so I'm probably repeating, but here are my few NYC-related cents. 1. GREENMARKET!!!! Seriously, use it for fresh fruits and veggies. 2. Trader Joe's for good frozen and prepared foods. I go to the one in Brooklyn, which is much easier to shop in. 3. Fairway is awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome. As for what's allowed, I doubt much is. But if you can 'get away with' a rice cooker and panini grill ("George Foreman"), that would be a great combo set.


I had a micro-refridgerator combo in my dorm room and there was a very, VERY small stove across the hall. My roomie and I had a rice cooker, a small crock pot, and a small sandwich press. I don't know if the sandwich press and crock pot were entirely legal, but we concocted some great toasted sandwiches. We also had a microwaveable egg cooker. Another suggestion, you could keep some of those veggie packets on hand that steam in the microwave.

Cooking Bride

Each college has different rules, but they are always published in the handbook or dorm paperwork. When I went to college, prohibited appliances were anything with an exposed heating element. pots and coffee makers were ok but hot plates/extra burners were not. A rice-cooker/food steamer is probably OK. Electric grills were in limbo depending on how generous your RA was. I also don't think we were allowed individual microwaves, but the dorm had one in one of the public spaces. There was a size limit on fridge capacity, but it did allow for the "large dorm" fridges that actually have a real freezer compartment with it's own door. The other complication is space. There are a lot of appliances that are presumably acceptable, but most dorm rooms have very limited storage space in which to keep them. Another question is how much tolerance you and your roomie have for filling your sleeping space with cooking smells. (Crockpots probably fit the letter of the law, but they are a bad idea unless you have a safe place in the dorm (besides your room) to put them. I think recipes from the raw foods movement and any cold/no cooking recipe would be helpful, as would any recipe on how to dress up canned goods. As I was writing this, and idea popped into my head. If you are a dorm student with mad cooking skills, you might be able to find a student in an apartment with no cooking skills to make a sort of good food co-op. Split the cost of food and exchange your cooking skills for use of the kitchen and make things that will reheat well and keep for a week in your dorm fridge.


One can do relative wonders by combining the cafeteria's soup(s) with all manner of ingred. pickings from the salad bar, and hopefully some rice from the hot-food line, maybe some V-8 juice.. Bring your own (larger? combining) Bowl, plus some sprouts (as mentioned) if you'll have chance to do such dorm-room-cultivating. ... SOON >> You'll meet like-minded foodies there, too, perhaps someone who HAS an off-campus kitchen where you as group can meet sometimes to cook potluck-ingredient style and meet healthier friends. Good vibes and health to you students, all.

MAPP in Iowa City

I loved all the ingenius comments I have read above. Should I ever be in a limited cooking arrangement, I shall try to have a George Foreman Grill and a rice cooker. I am a grandmother now and look back over the food attitudes I have had through life. What i find for myself is that I am so much happier now that I have let go of much of the control I used to need when it came to food consumption. Food no longer rules my life although it still plays a most enjoyable role. I enjoy other creative pursuits more now (I have always found cooking so creative). I prefer my work to cooking and eating. (My work is art.) I have learned to relax and enjoy what life has to offer even when it doesn't fit my idea of comfort. Savor what is right in life instead of what is not. If food is not available to savor, focus on what is available. Learn to relax and be happy no matter what is going on. You have lots of life ahead of you; embrace it all. Flexibility builds comfort. Comfort builds happiness. Happiness builds health.


Dorm room cooking can be tricky not only because of all the restrictions on space and equipment, but also because cooking for one is a lot less fun and cost-effective. If you've got access to a floor or suite kitchen, or if between you and your friends in other dorms/apartments there are a couple of kitchens, I'd recommend scheduling a weekly group dinner and making one person responsible for cooking - or making it potluck. Everyone gets to eat, it's great non-bar social time, and because there's a big group going in on it the cost per person goes down. So if you long to work with recipes that call for good goat cheese or fancy mushrooms or whatever, you have a way to cook with nice ingredients that spreads the cost out a bit. Bring tupperware for leftovers and stick them in your dorm fridge for the next day and you've gotten even more for your money. New York is expensive if you're constantly going out to sit-down restaurants, but the great thing is that you never run out of cheaper options, either. Make a meal out of a fresh bagel with tofu cream cheese and tomato for under $3. (My fave in the city: Absolute Bagels on Broadway and 108th St.) Hit up smaller bodega-style markets (lots in the Columbia U neighborhood!) for interesting produce, including plenty of avacados, at low prices. Go to a market/deli in Korea Town and stock up on tasty snacks and desserts that are easy to store. Pick up your Chinese food and pizza rather than eating at the restaurant or having it delivered - you won't have to dip, and sometimes the exercise is as nice a study break as the meal itself.

Anne could stock your fridge with sliced veggies and avocados for sandwiches. If you get it all prepped and in containers, they are ready to go-to all week. Take some bread, spread some avocado on both slices (instead of mayo) and add some tomato, cucumber, sprouts, carrots, spinach....the next day use slices of cheese or veggie cheese instead of the avocado. All you need for that is a knife, a fridge and some containers.


Small problem for me. No microwaves allowed in dorms. yeah...


I'm from the Pacific Islands and I guess going to college is a little bit like traveling through the Pacific Islands on a cargo ship. So what is the only healthy thing available on a cargo ship? Boiling hot water. Same thing at the College. The hot water dispenser is always at some corner of the mess hall and even in the entertainment areas. So if you have a good deep ceramic bowl, a ceramic soup spoon and your own chop sticks - then just go into China town and find enough dry (even spicy) ingredients (mushrooms, ginger, crispy fried onions etc.) from a chinese noodle shop. These ingredients cook in your bowl of hot water in about five minutes if you can wrap it with a piece of aluminium foil and a table cloth to preserve the heat better. You could even make roasted duck Laksa if you add coconut powder etc... You can also grow your own lettuce in a pot or grow bean sprouts overnight in a wet cloth so you can have these in a soup. All fresh vegetables that you put into the noodle soup should become cooked in less than five minutes of contact with the hot water. I think that if you have a good soup every now and again, you can better manage to stomach college food. And campus bread tastes better in a good soup. You may even toast the bread before putting that into a soup.

Martin Maden

think slow cooker. even if you can't keep in in your dorm room you might be able to use it in a shared kitchen. or you could make friends with the kitchen staff at the college and ask 'em if they'd mind plugging in and unplugging a pre-prepped slow cooker recipe. i've made friends with school kitchen staff and so long as it doesn't add extra things for them to do they're usually fine with making life a little better for friendly students. i wouldn't spread it around though, otherwise it will be too many students asking them to do things like that. i have a slow cooker which has a timer, when it's done it just switches over to warm. you can start a recipe in the evening and it'll be finished in the early morning. a refrigerator would be good in your dorm room so you can store your cooked meals and ingredients. then use a microwave to heat up as needed. good luck.


Stock up on salad toppings like almonds, sweetened cranberries, chow mein noodles, croutons, walnuts, raisins, etc. Having these handy makes it easy to make a delicious salad without having to have much fresh food on hand. Keep your lettuce and salad dressing in the fridge, and voila!


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