It's not just for reheating leftovers – a microwave can be used to cook a range of quick, easy meals in just minutes, from mug cakes to mash. As well as saving on time, microwaves provide a cost-effective cooking method as they are far more energy efficient compared to conventional ovens, grills and hobs.
When used in the right way, microwaves can also reproduce more intricate cooking methods, from delicate steamed fish to fluffy, baked sponges. So prepare to venture beyond the realms of frozen ready meals and put your machine to good use with our range of delicious, wholesome microwave meals and satisfying desserts.
Want to equip your kitchen with the very best kit? Check out our review of the best microwaves on the market for every budget. We even have a list of handy gadgets for your microwave to make the fluffiest microwaved scrambled eggs and classic sticky rice. Get tips from the experts and learn how to cook in a microwave.
20 best ever microwave meal ideas
1. Microwave chilli
One of our most popular microwave recipes, this hearty kidney bean chilli from Jack Monroe makes a satisfying veggie dinner. What's more, it's ready in just 15 minutes and counts towards two of your five-a-day. If you think you'll miss the meat in this chilli, add a little chopped chorizo or salami at the beginning of cooking.
2. Microwave mug cake
For those evenings when you need dessert in a dash, this decadent chocolate mug cake does the trick. Simply whip up the cake mixture with a few storecupboard ingredients and microwave in a mug for 2 mins. Like magic, you'll be rewarded with a soft and fluffy sponge – it's even more delicious served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
3. Microwave risotto primavera
The great thing about making a risotto in the microwave is that you cut out any pesky stirring that might normally keep you stuck in the kitchen. Using frozen veg also makes this a budget meal without sacrificing any of the taste or flavour of a more traditional recipe. It is high in fibre, folic acid and low in fat.
4. Fastest-ever lemon pudding
Being without an oven and time needn't stop you from whipping up a homemade pudding. This microwave-friendly sponge is ready in just 10 minutes and you will find yourself with a light, luscious, lemony pudding that is hard to resist.
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5. Microwave kale & chilli eggs
This tasty dish from Jack Monroe is just as good for breakfast, brunch, lunch or even a solo supper.
6. Leeky salmon in a parcel
Tender salmon, creamy leeks and peas certainly doesn't feel like your average microwave meal – serve with microwaveable new potatoes for a deluxe and satisfying dinner, bound to give everyone a midweek lift.
7. Microwave mac 'n' cheese
If you thought pasta always goes mushy in the microwave, think again. Jack Monroe's mouth-watering meal for one can be easily doubled. You can even take it to work: simply pack the components separately, then pop in the microwave. Using just four ingredients, it couldn't be easier – serve with a handful of spinach for a touch of greenery.
8. Microwave banana pudding
Warming, soft and sweet banana pudding makes a lovely treat for the whole family, and is bound to become a favourite. Want to up the comfort factor to the next level? Heat up some ready-made custard for an ultimate treat.
9. Microwave butternut squash risotto
This cheat's version of a butternut squash risotto is completely delicious, a good source of vitamin C, counts as one of your five-a-day and is ready in under 20 minutes. Top with lots of grated cheese for a comforting and hearty supper.
10. Tuna sweet potato jackets
If you're often cooking with your microwave then you are probably going to find jacket potatoes become a bit of a staple. Try switching to sweet potatoes and a fresh, spicy topping for a budget-friendly and low-fat lunch or dinner.
11. Super-quick Scandi supper
This speedy Scandi supper just involves microwaving some salmon, and the rest of the light, fresh flavours will simply speak for themselves straight from the fridge. Pop it all on the table and let everyone help themselves.
12. Microwave peanut butter & jam brownies
Fancy a freshly baked brownie without the long wait? A few storecupboard ingredients and just 15 minutes are all you need to make this chocolatey sweet treat. The addition of peanut butter and jam give it a beautiful sweet and salty flavour twist.
For another gorgeously gooey bake, try our microwave chocolate cake.
Try this simple and speedy version of a classic Middle Eastern dish. Our healthy microwave shakshuka takes just 10 minutes to prep and cook, making it a quick and affordable brunch, lunch or dinner for one. Enjoy served with a warm pitta bread for mopping up that runny yolk and tomato sauce.
14. Microwave crab risotto with chilli crab toasts
Who said microwave dishes can't be refined? This delicate crab risotto takes less than half an hour to rustle up, making for a deceptively simple dinner party dish. Using a microwave saves you time stirring away over the hob so you can instead make some dainty chilli crab toasts and zesty rocket salsa to serve on the side.
15. Microwave penne pappa al pomodoro
This perfect personal portion of pasta can be on the table in a mere 25 minutes, with a rich garlic and herb tomato sauce that would have any Italian mama fooled into thinking you'd been slaving over a hot stove.
16. Spiced hot choc
Okay, so it isn’t exactly a meal, but this simple treat will always be appreciated.
17. Microwave bacon & bean casserole
Get two of your five-a-day in one seriously speedy weeknight dinner. Shop-bought baked beans make a delicious addition to this solo stew with streaky bacon, and they thicken the sauce while adding flavour.
18. Apricot & orange rice pudding
Healthy, homemade pudding in under 20 minutes? Try this beautifully creamy and comforting recipe. Delicious!
19. Microwaveable jambalaya
This recipe feels like a proper meal, rather than just heating something up in the microwave. The end result is a really fresh, fragrant and healthy supper that everyone will enjoy.
20. Microwave coffee & walnut cake
Craving a teatime treat? This cake takes just 10 mins to cook in a microwaveable tray, yielding a beautifully moist and springy sponge. Finish it off with a silky smooth coffee buttercream and scattering of walnut pieces.
Still not sated? Discover all of our microwaveable recipes.
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What's the best thing you have ever cooked in the microwave? Leave a comment below...