10 Easy Exotic Meals You Should Be Making


Looking for some big taste without the big budget? These simple meals might be just the thing you need in your life. From my experience, cooking more exotic dishes in the kitchen isn't necessarily more difficult. Instead, it's all about knowing how to work with new flavors. Once you master certain techniques and familiarize yourself with uncommon ingredients (and their substitutions), you're set. (See also: 10 Recipes for Kitchen Newbies)

Here are 10 budget-friendly exotic meals you should be making.

1. Chicken Teriyaki

From pan to table in 15 minutes, this Chicken Teriyaki dish has a much shorter ingredients list than other, similar recipes I found in my search. And if you're really in a pinch, you can use garlic and ginger powder for the flavor without the fuss. (See also: Chicken Leg and Thigh Recipes From Around the World)

2. Miso Soup

Another fast Japanese recipe, this vegetarian Miso Soup is warm and ready in just 10 minutes. Worried your tub of miso will go bad if you don't use it up right away? Think again: Some have kept miso for "as long as 20 years without spoilage." I had no idea it lasted that long!

3. Chana Masala

I recently reviewed a friend's newly released cookbook — and her basic method for Chana Masala is now a new favorite of mine. Exotic foods are all about spices, which can be bought on the cheap in bulk at many grocery stores. Once you accumulate your own collection, they last quite a while and give meals a much-desired kick. (See also: The Best Ways to Store Herbs)

4. Thai Red Curry

File this one under fix-and-forget! You can make a delicious Red Curry Soup using your slow cooker — and this mix makes nine (!) frugal servings. Vegetarians can omit the fish sauce and leave out the chicken in this recipe to replace with more veggies or even tofu as a protein source. (See also: 5 Great Slow Cookers)

5. Doro Wat

This popular Ethiopian Chicken Stew can be made on your stovetop! I love how the author offers alternatives to more unique ingredients, like substituting white wine and honey for Tej, an Ethiopian honey-wine. And if you'd prefer to make your own blend of berbere, this recipe has you covered and uses many spices you might already have hiding in your kitchen cabinets.

6. Varenyky

The author of this family Varenyky (Pierogi) recipe explains this traditional treat can go sweet or savory. Fill with some potato mash or with fresh fruit, depending on your tastes. And if you make a larger batch (the basic recipe makes around 24), they stay fresh for a long while — just follow the instructions in the link.

7. Pad Thai

One of my favorite meals to make at home, I use the hacks in this Pad Thai recipe to make it easy and lighter on my wallet. Sub in Sriracha sauce for sambal oelek and omit the fish sauce. I also substitute fried tofu for eggs or vice versa, depending on what's in my fridge on any given night. (see also: 20+ Ways to Use Sriracha)

8. Summer Rolls

Rice wrappers are inexpensive, and so are the fillings — carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, etc. — you stuff into these fresh Summer Rolls. By now, you might notice that fish sauce is a common ingredient — so if you'd rather invest than skip it yet again in this recipe, now you have several uses to justify the initial cost.

9. Toovar Dal

Another amazingly simple slow cooker recipe, this Toovar Dal (Indian spiced lentil) recipe uses very few ingredients and is way tasty. Cook the lentils in your crockpot and temper the spices on the stove, combine, and enjoy. The recipe calls specifically for split pigeon peas, but I see no reason you couldn't substitute whatever you have on hand. (See also: 35 Delicious Lentil Recipes)

10. Batinjaan Zalud

What I love about this Moroccan Eggplant Salad recipe is that it sounds complicated, but uses common foods to make up its bulk. Pair this flavorful mash with some couscous, tomato, and black olives. The author even gives traditional plating instructions, as well as recipes for several other components of a full Moroccan dinner.

Do you have any exotic, budget friendly, go-to recipes? Please share in comments!

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