5 Easy Recipes Perfect for the Traveling Chef


Self-catering while traveling is an excellent way to save money. However, cooking on the road poses a whole set of problems and challenges that can seem impossible to overcome. You don't want to have to buy an entire spice rack to make your favorite recipe and then be faced with the difficult decision of lugging it around or leaving it. Even if you are willing to buy what you need, you cannot always count on foreign supermarkets having the items you are accustomed to. When you finally get a meal cooked, there is often a huge amount leftover that cannot be packed to the next destination.

These challenges have put me on the lookout for simple, good, food that can be cooked with a minimal number of widely available ingredients, and prepared in variable portions. Of course, I am thinking mainly of travelers staying in accommodation, be it a hostel, friend's house, or rental house, with a basically stocked kitchen. (See also: How to Travel Full-Time for $17,000 a Year (or Less!))

Here are five easy recipes for the traveling chef:

1. Fritatta

Like a more-hearty omelet, the frittata is a frugal cooking classic. What makes this dish great for the traveler, in my opinion, is that it is based around eggs, one of the most universal ingredients in the world, and that it can be modified to include any local meat, fish or produce you can find. For a basic introduction to making a frittata, check out this recipe from the New York Times. For an example of how this simple dish can be elevated to something spectacular, have a look at this spinach frittata recipe.

2. Lentil or Bean Stew

Though you probably won't use the whole package in a single meal, a small bag of dried lentils or beans is easy to carry with you. I prefer lentils to beans because they do not require soaking prior to cooking. If you use beans instead and are planning to cook after a travel day, I recommend placing them in a resealable water bottle that you can carry in your bag throughout the day.

Making the lentils or beans into a stew only requires a single pot and can consist of any rooty vegetables, potatoes, and spices you find at the local market. For an example of a very simple lentil stew, check out this recipe.

3. Sauted Noodles

Whether it is a local native or an import from Italy, dried noodles can be found in markets and convenience stores around the world. To quickly cook noodles using a minimal number of ingredients, try sauteeing them (after they have been mostly cooked in boiling water) with some oil, crushed or chopped tomatoes, and any other vegetables or spices you can find.

4. Baked Fish

If you can find fish for sale, this is an incredible recipe that uses very few ingredients. Take some fish fillets or a whole fish, gutted and scaled, cover it with salt and pepper, a pad of butter or some olive oil, and a generous helping of lemon juice. Then put it in a 350 or 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. That's it.

For an example of this popular recipe, check out this version from the Hillbilly Housewife.

5. Drunken Chicken

Nothing gets a hostel full of backpackers excited like the sound of beer cans cracking open. This is why drunken chicken, is a great dinner to make when traveling, even though it typically produces more food than you could comfortably eat yourself in one night. Most simply, this dish requires a chicken, a can of beer, and some basic seasonings. If you roast some local vegetables while the chicken is baking, you will have a feast that will certainly win some new friends. For a fairly simple recipe, look no farther than Paula Deen's Drunken Chicken.

One of the great pleasures of traveling is the opportunity to sample another country's cuisine. Eating out for every meal, however, can add up even in the cheapest of destinations. And cooking for yourself not only saves money, it gives you and excuse to tour some new supermarkets and an opportunity to make new friends wherever you are staying.

What are some of your favorite, simple, recipes? Let us know in the comments.

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Myscha Theriault's picture

I am always on the lookout for these to add to my collection. Thanks, David!

I especially like the frittata and drunken chicken ideas.

Guest's picture

While at home I don't like to use jarred tomato sauce, so making pasta turns into a lengthy meal. But the jarred sauce in Italy is amazing (Barilla makes great sauce over there and is completely different than the sauce they sell in the US). While in Italy I found that simple pasta and jarred sauce was a quick, cheap, delicious meal just about every night. Put a salad of fresh lettuce and tomatoes from a market, sprinkle everything with some local cheese, and its better than Italian food you can get most places in the states.

Guest's picture

If you are taking a pot with you, it might as well be a small pressure cooker. The tiny ones are hard to find, but well worth it if you find one.

The pressure cooker lets you quickly make beans, rice, or anything else that requires a lot of cooking.

Guest's picture

Try baking a packet of Betty Crocker's corn bread (makes an 8 x 8 pan) and serving it with heated canned chili.

A baked potato with chili and grated cheese is also good.

Guest's picture

I always have some dried chorizo in my kitchen. When you pack this, you can spice up lots of dishes with just a few chunks. When you fry the chorizo it releases its juices and fat, so you don't need extra oil or butter.