Cooking for one can be fun, easy and delicious. Here’s how.

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The new season of “The Bear” is coming soon, and one memorable scene from the last season starts with chef Sydney Adamu, played by Ayo Edebiri, cracking a few eggs into a bowl. She then enters the meditative bliss that is making a perfect omelet. Watching her nudge the golden disk over and around a line of creamy cheese brings to mind the sandwich scene from the 2004 movie “Spanglish,” where Adam Sandler, playing a chef alone in his home kitchen after a long night at the restaurant, slides a fried egg over bacon and tomatoes shingled on a thick slice of toast.

What they have in common is how well they capture the culinary ecstasy of making dishes best prepared as single servings in the quiet of the kitchen. In those moments, all of your senses are attuned to creating this small, simple, beautiful thing.

It works only when cooking for one.

This isn’t to say that’s what the experience is always like. If you’ve been cooking for only yourself for years, you’ve already lived this reality. But if you’re new to it, on your own after crowded college dorms or packed family homes, know that preparing single-serving meals can feel more challenging than cooking for a crew.

Klancy Miller celebrated the joys of cooking for one in her 2016 book “Cooking Solo: The Fun of Cooking for Yourself,” but at a certain point during the pandemic, she burned out in the kitchen and turned to takeout.

“Eventually, I kind of did get back to cooking for myself,” she said, “but in a much more basic way.” She still believes in “going all out for yourself,” but now prioritizes figuring out how to simplify dishes to make regularly.

The key to cooking well for one is choosing the right recipes. These tips will help you navigate what will work for you:

Figure out what you like.

It may seem obvious, but there’s a lot of noise on social media to try, say, eating only meat or surviving on snacks. If you examine what you truly want — and then stock those ingredients — you may be less tempted to order in.

“When you think about what you eat over the course of a week, what do you enjoy?” Miller suggested asking yourself, “and what are the very easy things?”

That second question is critical: Whatever you make should be worth its cost in time, energy and dollars. If you’re craving fries or a complex fine-dining dish, you’re better off going out. The recipes that make the most sense are streamlined, even if they’re as fancy as steak or scallops.

For simple daily sustenance, consider how many times a week you’d be happy having the same dish. Oatmeal for breakfast all week? Quesadillas for dinner once? And maybe once more if stuffed with mushrooms?

Stock up where you can, and relish smaller trips to the store otherwise.

Build a shopping list based on the above, then choose the right quantity of each item. Unless you already make yourself three meals a day or know that you will, stick to buying smaller amounts of groceries, especially fresh items. If you still end up with food on the verge of spoiling, cook it right away to extend its life and avoid having to waste it. (Even lettuce can be stir-fried!)

Larger packages of food generally cost less per ounce, so it’s worth getting them if you can. Pantry staples such as pasta, rice, canned goods, spices and vinegars last, as do freezer foods like shrimp and peas, so you can get those in bulk. And if you know you want yogurt every morning, go for the big tub instead of the small cups.

Making multiple grocery runs a week for perishables doesn’t have to feel like a chore. Miller views going to the grocery store as “Yay! I got out, and it’s the excuse I need to get out of the house.” She buys meat and produce, including herbs, which can give life to pantry ingredients like grains.

Rethink ‘meal prep.’

It’s hard to know what that term even means, but it sounds like an obligation more stressful than making a meal start-to-finish — or ordering delivery. To set yourself up to cook without the anxiety of planning, make dishes that can stretch across multiple meals.

One option you may already be practicing is preparing recipes for four or more servings when you have time. But if you know you’ll be bored of the same thing by Day 3, portion and pack the dish into individual servings to freeze.

If you’re not into big-batch cooking, throw together easy recipes that can be enjoyed just once more in a different dish. Instead of a whole chicken, buy a half bird to get white and dark meat without having to eat it all week.

Make the great meals that are meant for one.

Miller finds that she now cooks the most ambitiously and creatively when hosting dinner parties, but she is returning to doing the same for herself too.

“I believe fundamentally that you should be just as generous to yourself as you are to others,” she said. “You are worth the extravagance. You deserve nice things too, like a really lavish breakfast.”

A hot sandwich with a runny egg ranks high in this category. Eating one right after it’s stacked ensures that the cheese stays melty, the egg oozy and the bread toasty-crisp yet soft. This meeting of egg-in-a-hole and grilled cheese stretches the delight as a fork-and-knife meal to eat leisurely with a cup of coffee. With a cold beer, it’s just as satisfying at dinner. It captures the spirit Henry David Thoreau describes in the opening line of his chapter on solitude in “Walden”: “This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through every pore.”

Cooking for one may seem like a chore, but when you make yourself meals you love, it’s also deeply gratifying.

Tzatziki Tuna Salad

Tzatziki tuna salad. Keep a container of this tuna salad in the refrigerator to turn into sandwiches or enjoy as a salad or dip any time of day. Food styled by Rebecca Jurkevich. (Linda Xiao/The New York Times)

By Genevieve Ko

Tuna salad often includes mayonnaise, but this version delivers a similar creaminess with Greek yogurt, which imparts a freshness to the mix. Here, the yogurt is seasoned with the classic garlic-dill combination of tzatziki, which goes surprisingly well with sharp yellow mustard. Cucumber is traditionally used in tzatziki, but for this tuna salad, celery is also a fun, crunchy variation. (You also can add celery to the salad if starting with store-bought tzatziki.) If you have only tuna packed in water on hand, simply drain the tuna well and stir olive oil into the salad for richness. Sandwich the tuna between bread, mix it into a salad or enjoy it as a dip with chips or crackers.

Yield: 1 Serving

Total time: 10 minutes


For the Tzatziki (or use 1/4 cup store-bought):

1 very small garlic clove
3 tablespoons plain full-fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons finely diced cucumber or celery
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

For the Tuna Salad:

1 (5-ounce) can tuna packed in olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard
Salt and black pepper
Bread, lettuce, cucumber slices or chips, for serving


Make the tzatziki: Smash the garlic, remove the peel, then sprinkle with salt and chop very finely. (The salt helps the garlic break down and tempers its sharpness.) Transfer to a medium bowl and add the yogurt, cucumber, dill and lemon juice. Stir, taste and add more salt.
Make the salad: Add the tuna with its oil and mustard to the tzatziki, and mix well. Taste and add salt and pepper. The salad can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Eat on its own or as a sandwich, salad or dip.

Curry Roasted Half Chicken and Peppers

Curry roasted half chicken and peppers. This sheet-pan chicken starts with a three-pack of peppers, which will deliver a lot of vegetables with your dinner while saving you money. Food styled by Rebecca Jurkevich. (Linda Xiao/The New York Times)

By Genevieve Ko

A half chicken, cut right between the breasts and back, is sold in most supermarkets and just what you want when cooking for one, offering both light and dark meat, and the juiciness that comes with all the bones. After it cooks — quickly, relative to a whole bird — it leaves you with two meals or one very hearty dinner. Here, this curry-rubbed chicken roasts over peppers and onion, which release their natural sweetness into the pan juices. It’s great over rice or with bread, and leftovers can be simmered with coconut milk for a stewed curry, or chopped and mixed with mayonnaise for a chicken salad sandwich.

Yield: 1 to 2 servings

Total time: 50 minutes


4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons Madras or yellow curry powder
3 sweet bell peppers (red, orange and yellow), diced
1 large onion, diced
Salt and black pepper
1 whole half chicken (about 1 1/2 pounds), patted dry with paper towels
Lemon or lime wedges, for serving (optional)


Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil for easy cleanup.
In a small bowl, mix the oil, garlic and curry powder. Toss the peppers and onion with 2 tablespoons of the curry oil. Spread in an even layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Set the chicken over the vegetables and rub the remaining curry oil all over the bird and under the breast skin. Sprinkle the chicken all over with salt and pepper.
Roast until the chicken juices run clear when you stab the drumstick with a paring knife, about 35 minutes. If you’d like, squeeze lemon or lime juice all over before serving.

Egg-in-a-Nest Sandwich

Egg-in-a-nest sandwich. The best solo cooking recipes are meant to be prepared one at a time, like this hot sandwich, a cross between egg-in-a-nest and grilled cheese. Food styled by Rebecca Jurkevich. (Linda Xiao/The New York Times)

By Genevieve Ko

An egg cooked in an egg-size hole cut out of butter-sizzled bread feels like a treat. But it’s not quite enough to make a meal. Here, the classic egg-in-a-nest merges with a grilled cheese and a breakfast sandwich into a meal for one that’s meant to be savored leisurely. It’s as delightful with coffee at the beginning of the day as it is in the middle for lunch, or ending it, whether at supper or at midnight. The bread slices — one cradling the egg, the other holding cheese — cook at the same time over relatively low heat so that they end up perfectly golden brown while the egg sets and the cheese melts. If you’d like a little heat, add hot sauce or any chile powder or flakes.

Yield: 1 serving

Total time: 10 minutes


2 slices brioche, challah or sandwich bread
1 to 2 slices cheddar or other cheese
1 egg
Salt and black pepper
1 to 2 slices ham or cooked bacon (optional)


Using a biscuit cutter or a glass, cut a 2- to 3-inch hole out of the center of one slice of bread.
Melt a pat of butter in a large nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the bread slices and swipe to soak up the butter. Cook until golden, 1 to 2 minutes, then flip. Run a thin pat of butter on the skillet under the whole slice of bread and drop another little pat in the hole of the other slice.
Put the cheese on the whole slice and crack the egg into the hole. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the egg, then cover the skillet, leaving a small gap. Cook until the egg white is set but the yolk is still runny, 2 to 4 minutes. If the bottoms start to brown too much, turn down the heat.
If using, lay the ham or bacon over the cheese. Top the cheese slice with the egg slice, sunny side up, and eat immediately.

This column originally appeared in the New York Times.

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