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Cooking for One

Cooking for One: Reliable Recipes, Time-Saving Tips, and Other Helpful Resources

As far as we're concerned, one is far from the loneliest number.
By Published July 17, 2020

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A one-week meal plan featuring recipes from our best-selling book.

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Indulging in the delight of dining alone is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Whether you do it every night or every once in a while, there’s something satisfying about planning what you—and only you—want to eat at any given meal.

It’s easy to reserve your special-occasion cooking for a crowd, but putting the same amount of care into your own meal preparation is just as enjoyable. But cooking for one isn’t without its challenges, from avoiding a fridge full of half-used ingredients to ending up with leftovers that become boring after the third reheat. And scaling down recipes yourself often involves awkward measurements and complicated math. 

When we were working on our new cookbook Cooking for One, we spent months thinking about these things. Here we’ve gathered some of what we learned and some of the recipes that resulted from those months in the Test Kitchen.

About the Book

Spicy Peanut Rice Noodle BowlCooking for One cookbookSkillet Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

Discover the joy of cooking for yourself with Cooking for One's more than 160 perfectly portioned, easy-to-execute recipes, flexible ingredient lists to accommodate your pantry, and ideas for improvising to your taste. Whether you have a partner with different dietary restrictions, a family with a busy after-school calendar, or are one of the 36 million Americans who live alone, this book is for you.

Designed with flexibility in mind, each recipe includes a Kitchen Improv box, which offers ideas for adding an extra layer of flavor, or altering the dish so it works for your tastes (and pantry). Ingredients themselves often lead you to another exciting meal—when you’re left with extra beans or half an eggplant, we direct you to another recipe as a way to use it up. We include guidelines for making a side dish the main event and tips for ingredient substitutions. Sometimes having a particular ingredient—a specific nut or herb, for example—matters less than just having something crunchy or fresh to finish the dish.

Every recipe in the book makes one serving, unless there is a Makes Leftovers tag, which means it can make enough for more than one serving. The only recipes that make leftovers are ones that make good leftovers—they keep well, reheat easily, and/or are easy to transform into a new meal altogether.

As for the recipes, they cover everything: fantastic side dishes, one-pan dinners, 5-ingredient soups, desserts, and lots more. This is your chance to eat whatever you want, however you want. [Save 17%]

Articles About Cooking for One

Broiled eggplant

A Beginner's Guide to Cooking for One

By Nicole Konstantinakos, Senior Editor
These tips—which include how to improve your leftovers and adjust your cooking to single servings—will make you a better solo cook (and make your food taste better).

Fish cooking in smaller skillet

The Best Cooking Gear for the Solo Cook

By Stephanie Pixley, Deputy Food Editor
Cooking for one doesn’t require a lot of specific kitchen equipment, but there are a few items you might not already own that are worth having on hand.

Pantry ingredients

Level Up Your Meals with a Little Help From Your Pantry

By Camila Chaparro, Associate Editor
Having a well-stocked pantry is vital to being a successful for-one cook. The actual items you have on hand will depend on your preferences, but here are some guidelines to follow so you’ll never eat a lackluster meal again.

Lemony Spaghetti with Garlic and Pine Nuts

How to Cook Pasta for One: My Findings After Three Months of Recipe Testing

By Samantha Block, Test Cook
The way we all learned to cook pasta isn’t ideal when you’re cooking just for yourself. Here are some tips to use next time you’re cooking pasta for one.

Cook using a microwave

The Solo Cook’s Secret Weapon: The Microwave

By Camila Chaparro, Associate Editor
The microwave is a solo cook’s secret weapon. Here’s how to use your microwave to make crunchy toppings, bloom spices, and save leftover herbs.

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

Yes, You Can Stir-Fry in Olive Oil (and Other Advice for the Solo Cook)

By Camila Chaparro, Associate Editor
Knowing how to improvise is key when you’re cooking for one and need to tweak a recipe or replace an ingredient you don’t have. Here are some tips for improving your improv skills.

Ice cream toppings

A List of Ice Cream Toppings You Can Make with Ingredients You Already Have

By Sara Mayer, Senior Editor
Ben and Jerry may be our friends, but dessert for one can be so much more than just a pint. Fortunately, you have a veritable sundae bar waiting in your pantry.

Recipes for One

Members of our website now have access to 15 of the more than 160 perfectly portioned recipes from Cooking for One. Here's a selection of that group—you can find all 15 recipes here.

Lemony Spaghetti with Garlic and Pine Nuts for OneSheet Pan Sausage Dinner for OneSweet Potato-Bacon Wrap for One
From left: Lemony Spaghetti with Garlic and Pine Nuts, Sheet Pan Sausage Dinner, Sweet Potato-Bacon Wrap

Lemony Spaghetti with Garlic and Pine Nuts for One: No more pulling out two pots (not to mention washing them) just to get pasta on your plate—this bright, fresh, single serving of lemony pasta is made in a single skillet (not even a heavy pot), cooking liquid and all.

Sheet Pan Sausage Dinner for One: Fennel-studded Italian sausage is often used as a flavoring element, but the links are perfect to keep in the freezer (or, better yet, bought just a few at a time) for the center of a hearty, satisfying meal.

Sweet Potato Bacon Wrap: Sturdy sweet potatoes are the perfect (and unexpected) star of this make-ahead wrap. Salty, crispy bacon to contrasts the tender sweet potato, and peppery arugula and a mashed avocado dressed up with vinegar and fresh herbs give it punch and necessary tang. To keep the sogginess at bay, it was all about careful construction.

Simple RatatouilleCreamy Mashed Potatoes for OneChocolate chip cookies for one
From left: Simple Ratatouille, Creamy Mashed Potatoes, Chocolate Chip Cookies,

Simple Ratatouille for One: This classic Provençal meal celebrating late summer’s bounty of vegetables is usually a time-consuming dish that feeds a crowd, but we streamlined it by focusing on three essential components: eggplant, garlic, and tomatoes. This dish also makes great leftovers (serve it over toast, pasta or grains!), so we designed our recipe to make extra.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes for One: Mashed potatoes are a crowd favorite, but they feel like a hassle to make for just one person. (And who wants gloppy reheated mashed potatoes?) We wanted to eat mashed potatoes year-round (and not have to share), so we found a way to make the creamiest version of the stuff in less than 30 minutes.

Chocolate Chip Cookies for One: Sometimes you just want to treat yourself to some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. (This recipe makes two.) But drastically scaling down a recipe often results in head-scratching measurements like half of an egg, so we did the heavy lifting for you. There’s no need for a mixer or even measuring cups here and, best of all, the cookies can be baked in your toaster oven.