Today, most hostels have functioning kitchen appliances alongside a fair selection of pots and pans – everything you need to prepare a decent meal.
If you’re looking for some easy-to-make food that doesn’t break the bank (and isn’t the common combination of pasta and sauce!), this article is for you.
How to be Successful at Hostel Cooking
If this is the first time you are planning to cook in a hostel, or you haven't had much luck in the past, here are a couple of tips that will help you.
1. Keep an Eye on Perishables
Even though you may be staying a short time, keep in mind how long it takes for certain foods to go bad – especially if you’re planning to take some of it with you to your next destination.
You don’t want food going off and starting to smell in your backpack on the bus on a hot day.
2. Plan your Grocery Shopping
Concerning the previous tip, always plan how much food you actually need. Take into consideration how long you will stay in a hostel.
If you aren’t taking food with you to your next destination, you also don't want to have to throw any food away when it’s time to move on.
Also, keep in mind that you may want to get food you can eat on the go.
If you are sightseeing, you will need something you can carry with you, such as sandwiches.
3. Include Fresh Vegetables
Fresh vegetables are usually a cheap option, and you can find them anywhere you go.
Even sautéed onions or garlic can be used as a replacement for spices if you don't have any.
4. Don't Over-Complicate Things
Recipes that require a million different ingredients are not a good choice…
When you are hostel cooking, keep it simple, and make one-pot or one-pan dishes.
5. Don't Forget about Proteins and Dairy
Often people choose plain rice or pasta with sauce because it is easy to make. Don't forget about proteins from meat, fish, tofu, beans, nuts, etc.
Also, try including dairy in your diet, such as different kinds of cheese. It will keep you full for a longer period of time.
The bottom line: keep your dishes colorful. The unwritten rule is to have at least three colors on your plate.
6. Carry Some of Your Own Equipment
You can carry small necessities like a fold-up knife or a small non-stick skillet, and perhaps food containers.
This will make your life easier in case the hostel kitchen is not well-equipped.
7. Carry Some of the Basic Ingredients, Too
You can always carry some of the things that are light and don't take too much space—for example, oil, salt, rice, pasta, etc.
8. Cook More Than You Need
Having leftovers from one day to the next can be great when you are staying in a hostel. It can save you time from having to cook every single day.
9. Cook During the Off-Hours
When it is time to prepare lunch or dinner, the kitchen can get crowded. It can be nerve-racking if you are cooking in a crowded kitchen.
You can avoid the crowd if you cook before or after a busy time.
When you are cooking in a hostel kitchen, don't forget to always clean up after yourself.
10. Always Check the Kitchen “Situation” in a Hostel Before you Travel
You should always call or ask online what the situation is – do they even have a kitchen? What do they offer?
Do they have any available ingredients such as spices? What cooking equipment and dishes do they have? For example, do they have a mini rice cooker that would make booking rice easier?
Three Easy Recipes
1. Vegetable Stir-Fry on Rice
Cooking veggies is always a good and healthy choice.
What is great about vegetables is that you can play with various combinations to satisfy different tastes.
When you serve it on cooked rice, it will give you plenty of nutrients to keep you full for a long time.
- ¼ cup of Olive Oil
- ½ Large Red Onion – chopped
- 3 Whole Garlic Cloves – minced
- 1 Whole Red Bell Pepper – chopped
- 2 Zucchinis – cut into medium wedges
- 1 head of Broccoli – cut into florets
- ½ cup of Soy Sauce
- 2 tbsp of Chili Flakes
- Cooked Rice – for serving
Prepare the rice
1. Rinse the rice for about 20 seconds under cold water
2. Measure the water – for one cup of rice, you need two cups of water; for two cups of rice, you need four cups of water, and so on
3. Pour the water into a pot and bring to boil
4. Then, add the rice and a little bit of salt
5. Take the heat down, and bring the rice and water to a light simmer
6. Cover the pot with the lid and cook on low heat for about 18 to 20 minutes (30 minutes if you are cooking brown rice).
Prepare the vegetables
1. Prepare all the veggies (chop onion and pepper, mince the garlic, and cut zucchinis and broccoli)
2. Take a large skillet and heat it to medium-high
3. Then, pour the oil, and once it is hot, add the chopped onion, bell pepper, and zucchini alongside chili flakes and soy sauce
4. Stir everything for about two to three minutes
5. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute while stirring
6. Then, add the broccoli and cook for a couple of minutes more, also stirring
7. If zucchinis are soft and broccoli is done (when you can stab it with a fork), then the vegetables are ready
8. Serve with rice and garnish with sesame seeds.
Related: Cheap and Healthy Meals You Can Cook Anywhere
2. Simple Chicken Salad
Chicken is always a great choice, whether you are cooking at home or hostel cooking.
It is simple and easy to prepare, and it can be combined with many different ingredients.
Also, it is an affordable and delicious source of protein. You can make a classic chicken salad and eat it plain.
Or you can make a chicken salad and make it an essential part of other dishes like a tortilla, pasta, rice, or even just simple bread.
Another plus is that you can find chicken anywhere in the world, whether fresh or frozen. Chicken is a healthy choice, especially if you boil it.
- 4 cups of Chicken Breast – diced
- 1/4 tsp of Salt
- Fresh Lettuce
- 1 cup of Mayonnaise
- 1/4 tsp of Ground Black Pepper
- 2 tsp of Lemon Juice
- 1/2 cup of Celery – finely chopped
- 1/4 cup of Almonds (optional)
Cook the chicken
1. Cut the chicken breasts into small, bite-size pieces
2. Take a pot, pour water, and bring to simmer (make sure it is not boiling too high because the chicken might be a little tough)
3. Then, cook for about 10 minutes
4. Take it out of the water and put it in a bowl
5. Let it cool down
6. When the chicken is cooled down, add the remaining ingredients and mix well
See also: Swedish Food – My Best Bites in Sweden
3. Mushroom Risotto
When you are on a budget, and especially if you are hostel cooking, rice is an obvious choice.
However, you don't have to eat plain rice. You can add a little bit of flavor and make a delicious risotto.
With a couple more ingredients, you can have a dish that is not only cheap but delicious and filling.
Here is a recipe for a risotto with button mushrooms.
- 10 button mushrooms – finely sliced
- 400g of Rice
- 1 cup of White Wine – dry
- 2 tsp of Olive Oil
- 1 liter of Vegetable Stock
- 100g of Parmesan or Pecorino cheese – grated
- 1 Onion – finely chopped
1. Take a saucepan, heat it to medium and add the oil and chopped onion. Cook them until they crystallize
2. Add the rice and stir well until it is coated with oil
3. Add the white wine
4. Then, add the vegetable stock slowly, 1/3 at a time
5. Mix occasionally (to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan) for about 15 minutes
6. When the rice is over half-cooked, add the sliced mushrooms and stir well
7. Once the rice is cooked, take the pan from the heat and mix in the grated cheese
Daniela Mora is a trained chef and the founder of CookMomma. Dani has been traveling – and cooking along the way – since 2007, and currently lives in Costa Rica.
Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:
- G Adventures for small group tours.
- World Nomads for travel insurance.
- Hostelworld for booking hostels.
- Rail Europe for train passes.