Top 10 basic student recipes

Heading to university this year? If you lack confidence in the kitchen, then get started with our 10 staple dishes, from comforting curries and pasta bakes to speedy stir-fries.

Vegetable caponata in a cooking pot

If you are starting university but your kitchen skills leave a lot to be desired, then fear not – our 10 favourite student basics will see you through your first term and beyond.

Check out our collection of student recipes and read on for easy meals you can master in minutes. Once you've got the basics, try your hand at some more challenging suggestions.


1. Fajitas

Two chicken fajita wraps topped with rocket

Whether feeding friends or whipping up a midweek main, you can't go wrong with fajitas. Add and swap ingredients to accommodate taste and budget.

Simple staple 
Slice, chop and serve – rolling your own fajitas is a fun and fast way to get dinner on the table:
Roll-your-own fajitas
Easy chicken fajitas

Make it more interesting 
With a little effort you can elevate the fail-safe fajita to a Mexican masterpiece using cheap pork cuts, homemade mole sauce and a side of chunky salsa:
Pulled pork with Mexican almond mole sauce

Make it veggie 
Vegetarian fajitas


2. Pasta bake

Chicken, pesto and squash lasagne in a dish topped with basil leaves

A classic student dish, pasta bake doesn't have to be the cheese-laden vision we imagine on hearing the words. Let storecupboard staples like pasta and tinned tomatoes be your base, then get creative with your favourite veg, herbs and reduced-fat crème fraîche for a lovely texture with less of the stodge.

Simple staple 
Full of the good stuff, this bake will be ready in a flash and is healthy to boot. Share with friends or freeze leftovers for easy midweek meals:
Gnocchi & tomato bake

Make it more interesting
A make-ahead lasagne dish designed for entertaining, but won't cost a fortune – perfect Friday food for friends: 
Chicken, squash & pesto lasagne

Find more cheesy pasta bake recipes.


3. Pasta on the hob

Sausage stroganoff in a black cast iron pan

If you are short on time or simply too ravenous to wait out a pasta bake, our speedy hob spaghetti dishes will be your supper salvation. 

Simple staple
This comforting, budget-friendly tagliatelle and sausage dish takes just five minutes to prepare and can be on the table in 20 minutes: 
Sausage stroganoff

Make it veggie
Packed with delicious chargrilled Mediterranean veg, chopped tomatoes and herbs, this fast and flavoursome Sicilian-style recipe delivers three of your 5-a-day: 
Caponata pasta

Make it more interesting
Stir up a large batch of Bolognese on the weekend then divide into plastic bags and freeze, ready for a speedy midweek meal. Our crowd-pleasing dish is perfect for sharing with friends and will be fun to make as a group activity:
Big batch Bolognese

Discover more delicious budget pasta recipes.


4. Curry

Chicken curry and rice in a bowl, topped with coriander leaves

Pack your storecupboard full of spices, curry paste and coconut milk and you'll be ready to whip up a classic Asian curry, whatever the occasion.

Simple staple
Use just a handful of ingredients to make this comforting, creamy curry. Chicken thighs are cheaper and more flavoursome than breast meat, whilst a ready-made tikka spice paste easily provides another layer of flavour:
Easy chicken curry

Make it veggie
Whip up a super-simple vegan curry using smoky roasted aubergines, chopped tomatoes and coconut milk, which adds richness and balances the spices: 
Roasted aubergine & tomato curry

Make it more interesting
Up for a challenge? Roll up your sleeves and make your own Thai curry paste to add to your favourite green curry:
Green curry paste

Check out more easy curry recipes.


5. Traybakes

Halloumi and vegetables roasted on a tray

Traybakes are an ultimate student staple – just throw everything in a roasting tin or pan and let the oven work its magic. You'll also save on washing-up afterwards!

Simple staple
Baste chicken thighs in a super-scrumptious sticky marinade of hoisin, honey, Chinese five-spice powder and ginger for an easy midweek meal:
Sticky Chinese chicken traybake

Make it veggie
This easy veggie traybake is full of goodness, packing in a whole four of your 5-a-day. Combine vibrant cherry tomatoes with peppers, potatoes, chickpeas and broccoli, then top with slices of halloumi before finishing under the grill for a satisfying crunch:
Halloumi traybake

Make it more interesting
Go the extra mile and make your own fresh pesto to spread on this veg-packed traybake. For a veggie alternative, simply leave out the meat and use vegetarian parmesan in the pesto:
5-a-day chicken with kale & pistachio pesto


6. Soup

Minestrone soup in a bowl

Ditch the canned soup and stir up your own nutritious broth – the perfect solution to late nights or when you're feeling under the weather.

Simple staple
Minestrone soup is packed with veg and carbohydrates for energy. A big batch of this cheap and speedy soup is freezer-friendly and full of goodness. Frozen veg also means no chopping, and gets this soup on the table in just 10 minutes: 
Minestrone in minutes

Make it more interesting
This restaurant-standard French recipe is one to try when the folks are visiting, as it's sure to impress:
Pistou soup

More budget soup recipes.


7. Jacket potatoes

Baked beans with jacket potato

Jacket potatoes are a great speedy food when cooked in the microwave, but taste their best when lovingly crisped up in the oven.

Simple staple
While baked beans count as one of your 5-a-day, shop-bought varieties often pack in the salt, so making your own is a healthy and cost-effective way to reap the benefits of an old favourite:
Jacket potatoes with homemade baked beans

Make it more interesting
Fill potatoes with a deliciously creamy combination of Greek yogurt and feta cheese, then add a hint of spice with sumac:
Jacket potato with whipped feta & sumac

Read our guide on how to cook jacket potatoes in the microwave and find more brilliant jacket potato recipes.


8. Stir-fried rice

Kimchi fried rice and ribboned vegetables in a pan

With a bag of rice in the cupboard, you're never more than 15 minutes from a satisfying and speedy supper. Choose brown or wholegrain rice for added health credentials.

Simple staple
Use up your leftovers in this fuss-free, one-pan rice dish. You can have it on the table in under 15 minutes, making for a midweek marvel:
Fast-fix fried rice 

Make it more interesting
Try something different by introducing fermented foods to your stir-fry. As well as boosting gut-friendly bacteria, kimchi adds a spicy kick to this rice and veg dish:
Kimchi fried rice

Get more fantastic fried rice recipes.
 

9. Granola

Bowl of granola topped with fruit

Don't forget breakfast! Make your own granola and add your favourite nuts, fruit and seeds to rolled oats. Store in a sealed container to help keep the crunch.

Simple staple
This recipe is sweetened with maple syrup for a natural energy boost:
Maple-baked granola

Make it more interesting
Bake all the goodness of your granola into chewy breakfast bars – ideal when you need to enjoy breakfast on the go:
Cinnamon berry granola bars

See more granola recipes.


10. Omelettes

Skinny pepper, tomato and ham omelette

Eggs are a cheap source of high-quality protein and are rich in vitamins and minerals. Whipping up an omelette for one couldn't be easier, making for a speedy lunch or satisfying solo supper.

Simple staple
You can't go wrong with classic ham & cheese – add tomatoes for extra health benefits:
Skinny pepper, tomato & ham omelette

Make it more interesting
Practice your soufflé skills with this fluffy and filling supper. Experiment with different fillings to find your favourite:
Cheese & ham souffléd omelette

Try some more omelette recipes.

Discover more student recipes...

Student recipe collection
Essential recipes for university
How to kit out a student kitchen
7 healthy student suppers
10 easy vegetarian student recipes
Top 10 vegan student recipes
Top 10 student baking recipes
A guide to cheap and healthy cooking

What are your go-to recipes at university? Leave a comment below...

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Charlotte Jones
17th Mar, 2015
We got a lot of inspiration for our blog from this website. Occasionally we found the recipes to be a bit too 'studenty'. Omelette, pasta bake and fajitas are made every week in our flat, it started getting repetitive, so we tried to make a twist on recipes to make them cheap and affordable. We can't afford to buy different spices and curry pastes, so don't be ashamed to buy a ready made sauce or the fajita packs - the smoky bbq flavour is amazing! Check out the blog if you're interested: http://studentfoodamentalists.blogspot.co.uk/