12 Recipes if You’re Cooking On Your Own for the First Time

Cooking on your own for the first time? Don't worry. You've got this. Here are 12 easy recipes covering breakfast, lunch, and dinner that you can make in a jiffy, from a fancy tuna sandwich and veggie quesadillas to brownie-in-a-mug and fried rice.

12 Meals for Cooking on your Own for the First Time

During high school, my mom tried to get me to cook dinner and to learn about recipes. As a know-it-all teenager, I just rolled my eyes because I knew it all! I was seventeen and ready to conquer the world! Fast forward to moving out and living on my own for the first time, and I quickly realized that in fact, I didn’t know everything.

I didn’t start off my adult life loving to cook or bake, and it was really hard to find time to make easy, delicious meals for one person. All I’m saying is that this round-up would have been a lifesaver way back when. I’ve had many fails over the years and have really had to work at making delicious meals, but it is possible!

Here are a few extra thoughts:

  • When cooking on your own for the first time, start off slow and easy! Sandwiches are the best because you can really jazz them up and experiment with them.
  • You typically don’t have a lot of kitchen appliances on hand, which is why I chose recipes that require just the basics. No pressure cookers, no slow cookers, no fancy slicing thing-a-ma-bobbers... just the basics.
  • I’ve included a couple recipes that are specifically meant for one person and there are also some that can be easily cut in half, or feel free to make the full version if you want leftovers.

Any other recipes you’d recommend to new cooks?

  • Pan Bagnat (French Tuna Sandwich)

    Nicoise tuna sandwich
    Sally Vargas

    There’s really no cooking involved with this sandwich, other than making hard boiled eggs. All you need to do is slice and assemble the ingredients! Added bonus: This can be made ahead of time and wrapped in parchment paper or plastic wrap for easy storage.

  • Italian Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

    Grilled Cheese Sandwich
    Nick Evans

    Step-up your grilled cheese game by adding in some fancy provolone cheese and using not one, not two, but THREE kinds of Italian meat. Since this won’t use up a ton of meat and you’ll probably end up with leftover cold cuts, think about using them for a meat and cheese tray or some simple sandwiches later on.

  • Brownie in a Mug

    Mug Brownie
    Elise Bauer

    Everyone needs dessert but not everyone wants to eat a whole pan of brownies. This is the perfect single-serve solution! Feeling a little spicy? Add in a dash of cinnamon. Feeling fancy? Add in a pinch of instant coffee. Feeling extra indulgent? Drizzle some melted peanut butter on top.

  • Homemade Pancake Mix

    Pancakes Using Homemade Pancake Mix
    Alison Bickle

    This mix is like using Bisquick but way more affordable. It’ll stay fresh for about six months, which means you can have pancakes on the fly for months to come!

    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • Spaghetti Pasta Carbonara

    Pasta Carbonara ready to serve
    Elise Bauer

    What’s not to love about this dish? It has pasta (win), bacon (double win), and is ready in under 30 minutes (triple win). The recipe is easily halved, but if it’s been a long day and you’re feeling extra hungry, make the full recipe. We understand.

  • Shrimp Fried Rice

    Shrimp Fried Rice
    Elise Bauer

    Fried rice is one of those meals that you can make early on in the week and have leftovers day after day, and it’ll still taste amazing. Don’t feel like shrimp? Use chicken!

  • Joe's Special (Scrambled Eggs with Spinach, Beef, and Mushrooms)

    Joe's Special Scrambled Eggs with Spinach, Beef, and Mushrooms
    Coco Morante

    Serve with a thick slice of sourdough bread on the side! It uses up one pan (can’t go wrong with easy clean-up!) and if you make this for dinner, eat the leftovers for breakfast the next morning.

  • Omelette in a Mug

    Mug Omelette
    Elise Bauer and Guy Michelier

    If you can have dessert in a mug, why not make eggs in a mug? This omelette is cooked evenly and gently, which is exactly what you want!

    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • Homemade Cup Noodles

    How to Make Cup Noodles
    Sally Vargas

    Skip the packaged stuff. This version has endless flavor possibilities.

  • Broccoli and Cheddar Quesadillas

    Cheddar Quesadillas with Broccoli
    Nick Evans

    There is some minimal cooking involved in this ultra-sophisticated quesadilla, but no need to be intimidated. After you master blanching the broccoli, the hardest part will be deciding when to have this again.

  • Poached Egg and Bacon Salad - Salad Lyonnaise

    Poached Egg Bacon Salad Lyonnaise
    Elise Bauer

    If making a salad this easy is wrong, then I don’t want to be right. If you use pre-chopped lettuce, you literally don’t have to cut anything for this salad. You heard me: NO CHOPPING.

  • Tomato and Bread Soup (Pappa al Pomodoro)

    Tomato Bread Soup
    Elise Bauer

    This make take a little time, but it’s really worth it and isn’t difficult once you get the tomatoes simmering. Using high-quality canned tomatoes will make the soup taste even better.