HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


What do you make for yourself when you eat alone?

I'm reading Deborah Madison's new book she wrote with her husband, Patrick McFarlin: What We Eat When We Eat Alone," in which they interviewed tons of strangers about just that topic. There are great examples in DM's book: everything from polenta with braised greens, to weird stuff like sardine juice on cottage cheese.

What do you make? [[Last time i did, I made the Vegan Omelette from Isa Chandra Moskovitz's new Vegan Brunch cookbook, but put scrambled egg on top, topped it with Kimchi.]]

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Pork chops. Nobody else in my family likes them, and I love them. I buy a couple of relatively thick-cut rib loin chops, rub them with soy sauce, heat a cast-iron skillet blazing hot, sear the chops for 1-1/2 minutes per side, remove from the heat, cover, and let it sit for 6 minutes. I move the chops to a plate and very quickly deglaze the pan with a little white wine and then swirl in a couple of tablespoons of butter and reduce it for a minute, pour it over the chops and CHOW DOWN. A pale ale goes extra fine with this.

    1. My easiest at home alone dish is roasted chicken with vegetables. I love one pot meals that give and give, and a whole chicken gives you at least 3 more meals. Plus I love the way the vegetables taste, having been roasted with the chicken.

      1. My latest thing is couscous with olive oil and tuna. If I'm feeling "ambitious," I add peas.

        1. I'm with Nigel Slater on this - eating alone should be all about treating yourself:


          I particularly like the part about having a glass or two of champagne - few things feel more decadent than popping open a bottle of bubbles when you're the only one around to hear it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: scribacious

            "I particularly like the part about having a glass or two of champagne - few things feel more decadent than popping open a bottle of bubbles when you're the only one around to hear it."

            I like that - alot! :)

          2. I'm not a big cook, so I stick to grilled sandwiches. I usually go to the fridge and use any leftovers I find and combine it with cheese, bread and mayonese... hm.... mayonese... sometimes I also make a tuna spread with mayonese. So fast and easy. Oh... and did I say yummy?

            1. easy.... any shellfish/crustacean. i love these creatures, and also because it's so quick to make. for examples, steamed mussels, Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato/na Cataplana. or just a simple boiled lobster even. wash down with a vinho verde, or cava. bom apetite.

              1. This is my big opportunity to eat the packaged and premade food that nobody else will eat with me -- the good (fancy ravioli), the bad (frozen pizza) and the ugly (Amy's frozen fake salisbury steak). Also I'll make a nice midwestern square meal: steak, broccoli, baked potato.

                1. Well, I cook and eat all day for work so cooking dinner is usually for the benefit of my husband. It's a treat to be alone because then I can eat something bizarre or easy like a bowl of cereal. Uninspired? Perhaps, but at 8pm, I just want to get the job done and then concentrate on enjoying my wine.

                  1. I'm single, so I eat alone all the time. The only thing I don't eat alone, and I love to cook, is paella. But mostly I eat whatever I feel like and love making tv dinners or having leftovers.

                    1. Takeout white rice w/ a huge pile of sauteed greens (or broccoli, as my bf hates the stuff), cooked w/ shoyu, garlic, and Sriracha, and sometimes a fried egg. When he goes out of town I have to restrain myself from eating this every night.

                      1. This is me 90% of the time, and I eat whatever I want. Heavy on the fresh, seasonal veggies. Whatever I don't finish at dinne is usually lunck the next day or two. If anything, err on the simple stuff and save the more complex dishes for when I am cooking for a dinner guest as well.

                        1. Steak (Red meat Fan)

                          Veal - Pounded, wrapped in proscuitto with sage, fried, with a bit of Lemon.

                          Carbonara, with Egg of course.

                          Corned Beef (Wife HATES it)

                          Creamed Chipped Beef (Homemade if possible, Frozen if not)

                          I've heard good things about the book but have yet to read it.

                          1. Same thing I eat when my SO is home - so, basically, whatever ingredients I have on hand with ideas sometimes inspired by CH and tastespotting (thought I admit that a lot of times, my meal ideas come to me on my morning runs!).

                            1. When I was with my ex-husband, which wasn't all that long ago, I would take advantage of anything from the ocean because he didn't like anything from the sea. No fish, no shellfish. Mostly simple, unadorned dishes like grilled salmon where I could really taste what I was eating. If lazy, I'd do take-out but still get some kind of seafood related dish. There was a Chinese place near my home which specialized in a shrimp dish; Black Pepper Shrimp, OMG, so good.

                              Now, my boyfriend and I have very compatible tastes in food (yea!) and I've been cooking up a storm, doing more experimenting than I have in many years. So, we kind of eat everything now.

                              However, if he's not around, which is rare, it becomes more about eating things from my childhood like grilled cheese sandwiches made with Wonderbread and Land O'Lakes American Cheese (he's partial to wheatbreads and any other time, "cheese product" wouldn't be used in cooking), or fast food which I normally don't indulge in any longer like Popeyes (he likes chicken, just that Popeyes wouldn't be his first choice).

                              Baring all that, I'd probably be inclined to cook a some kind of basic risotto. I'll cook that any time, whether with people or for myself. I can eat the whole pot myself and I'm not embarrassed to admit it.

                              1. I almost always revert to making a tomato sauce with just garlic and olive oil, and having pasta with lots of romano cheese. Sometimes, I'll make pastina in chicken broth with lots of pastina so that it is really thick and I'll sprinkle on lots of romano cheese. Romano cheese seems to be the thing, I guess!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: roxlet

                                  I LOVE romano cheese all over spaghetti with oil & garlic. This is an "eat alone" staple for me. Also, I eat a lot of eggs when i'm dining alone. Not sure why - probably because they cook up easily and they are such a treat to have in the evening.

                                  If I decide to put forth a bit more effort, I'll pan sear a steak and eat it w/ a nice green salad and some red wine.

                                2. I'm sooooo easy.
                                  Thick 1+lb (MINIMUM) bone in ribeye, or a boneless top sirloin, sourcream, and a simple green salad with litehouse bleu cheese dressing. If I can get through the steak in one sitting, then it was WAAAAAAY too small.

                                  1. When Mrs H is away, I tend to eat things she doesnt particularly like.

                                    This weekend she's gone to Dubrovnik with friends, so I got a duck out of the freezer (which is the bit of the meal that she wouldnt have liked).

                                    Started with simple steamed asparagus, melted butter, sea salt.

                                    Roasted the duck, made my standard duck sauce - cranberry jelly, red wine, port, orange juice. Had it with Jersey Royals and sugarsnaps.

                                    Then a little Lancashire cheese and celery.

                                    Finished with a few strawberries and creme fraiche.

                                    1. Toss shell on 16-20 wild caught shrimp with some canola oil with seasoning of choice and bake in 400 oven just until done, about 7 min. Mix fresh dill and wasabi with low fat yogurt for dip. Steam some fresh brussel sprouts and top with butter and sea salt. Slice a slightly chilled really fresh beefsteak tomato and open a Russian River oaky Chardonnay and I am the happiest camper you can find. Cook time to table = 15 min...

                                      1. i'm lucky b/c my bf will indulge any cooking whims i might have but, that said, i tend to cook the same meal everytime he's working late - its not that he wouldn't eat it but i'm sure there's other meals he'd prefer: sauteed veggies (usually shallots, red peppers, zucchini, spinach) over grits made with a little fage for creaminess and smoked paprika, all topped with a poached egg

                                        1. The idea to make a meal that is meant just for me is such a treat. It's doubtful that anyone in the house would quite understand the joy I get from eating my concoctions. Or maybe they would.

                                          I tend to get into the quesedilla mode. I will use corn or flour tortillas, I'm not partial to either. I love to make a gooey filled tortilla. Cheeses like monterey jack, or fontina whatever melts, green chiles( fresh or canned), and hot spicy salsa, fresh white onion and cilantro chopped together, and a little lime. Butter it up, grill it til its hot and the tortilla golden and a little crunchy. When the cheese starts to ooze out of the sides, its perfection.

                                          Or, it might be that I'll find a baggie of frozen mashed potatoes. Then it's, gravy time. I make a gravy with either chicken broth or beef (whichever I can find) and add lots of butter to the potatoes and then make a well in the potaoes and pour the gravy on.

                                          The other dish I love to make is if I have some leftover cold rice. Then I'll make a stir fry. All veggies are fair game. A little soy sauce, siraucha, and I'm good. And lastly one of my all time faves is, egg foo young. It's good with chopped cabbage, scallions, perhaps if I'm lucky I'll find a few shrimp in the freezer, and then I'll make a light gravy out of soy sauce, maggi, and chicken stock.

                                          1. Point of clarification: It's Patrick McFarlin (note the correct spelling) who was the illustrator and co-author of What We Eat When We Eat Alone. Thank you.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. Popcorn with a side of steamed broccoli - for the color. My husband is not crazy about popcorn (probably my favorite food) so I wait until he is out of town on business. I eat steamed broccoli just about every day - so nothing different there, it just adds color to the meal. If I'm feeling creative I'll drizzle garlic butter over both the popcorn and broccoli.

                                              1. A prime dry aged steak cooked outside on the Weber, a nice baked potato with sour cream and butter, chives, and a few glasses of nice cabernet.

                                                1. i play with tofu when i'm home alone for a meal (which is rare)
                                                  i also skip it and make popcorn, or just a vodka cranberry with a handful of salted nuts-
                                                  he does not care for tofu (ok, he considers it torture) and he'd be upset with me if i just ate popcorn for dinner but when the goose is away... i eat salty stuff...with chopsticks!

                                                  1. Since I live alone, it's whatever I feel like having or what's in the fridge every night. Last night, I smoked up a bunch of chicken thighs. Tonight I had one cold with a quick cole slaw I threw together and a handful of yellow corn tortilla chips. For dessert, I'll have a slice of watermelon.

                                                    1. 25 years ago, while taking a year-long course and living alone, most evenings I would cook either spaghetti alla carbonara with a salad or a brown rice and curry concoction. I'd roast a turkey, strip the meat from the bones, and freeze it in serving-size portions. (I didn't have the sense then to make broth with the carcass.) So each evening after school, when I got back to my apartment, I would saute some onions, add curry powder, add water or canned broth, brown rice, the turkey, then top it with some thin apple slices, cover it snugly and let it simmer while I took my shower. Sometimes frozen green peas would go in later or I'd top it with thinly shaved cabbage. I short, no recipe. I wanted rice and turkey and the rest was all trimmings. Later, it would have been beans and rice with a small amount of animal protein added. Hoppin John or a lentil dish, maybe. Now, being a borderline diabetic, I am more careful about the rice. Often I cook an egg-beater omelet and grate onto it some fresh parmesan cheese and put on some tomatillo salsa verde.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                        Not the same question, but if I have to whip up a meal in a hurry, my latest is a variation on the trukey theme above. It is a mock mole. I normally cook for 12, so for four or one you'd use a lot less. I take a large onion and a couple of fat cloves of garlic, chop them up and add them to a food processor with a can of tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of chili powder, a pinch of oregano, 1/4 teaspoon of cinammon and maybe 2 tablespoonsful of peanut butter or tahini. (And an optional handful of breadcrumbs for at thickening agent). I then saute the pure in oil for five minutes until the onion tastes cooked. I add some broth and sometimes a bit of apple juice if it needs sweetening a bit. And maybe 2 rounded teaspoons of baker's cocoa, a bit at a time until I am satisfied that the flavor balance is okay, but that it doesn't taste chocolatey. l And then in that sauce I reheat turkey or chicken breasts. Serve it with rice. Fast and easy. If I were eating alone, I'd make enough for several meals. But still basically it would be a smallish onion, a small clove of garlic, a medium tomato, a generous teaspoon of peanut butter or tahini and a bit of the oregano, cinammon, and chili powder, and chocolate and the broth and maybe one precooked chicken breast. Poaching is fine, and the liquid can go into the mole.

                                                        1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                          What an awesome recipe! I'm going to try that. Thanks, Father Kitchen.

                                                      2. linguini, (fresh, if possible Prince brand, if not) al dente, drained, back into hot pot with some of the drained h2o, butter, fresh squeezed lemon juice, fresh black pepper. into bowl with parmesean reggiano. fresh basil or parsley if i have it. been eating this occasionally for 40 years.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: hyde

                                                          You're breaking my heart. However, I might be more likely to use fusilli.

                                                        2. I eat what I call "scraps"- random bits of food that have no real place being together or even make up a real meal, but are around and need to be eaten- e.g. left over curry, a boiled egg, half a cucumber, a piece of toast with ajvar, a brown banana, the scrapes of a yogurt container, etc. It's essential that these be eaten at one sitting, and no attempt be made to create a meal out of them. For some reason, I love scraps meals. Also, I eat solely vegetarian when eating alone b/c the SO can't take more than a few veggie meals in a row without going stir crazy...

                                                          1. Fishies. My SO hates 'em; I love 'em. I broil them in the oven with minimal seasonings.

                                                            I also like to go hang with Yasuda san if I have time to plan ahead. He stuffs me full of all sorts of good fish that the SO can only force down his gullet to be polite.

                                                            Under slightly less ideal circumstances (late night, no desire to cook), I will eat tuna from a can, mixed with salad dressing and rice (not sushi rice, mind you, but leftover white rice), and wrapped up in a sheet of nori, which I suppose is disgusting... but sort of delightfully so. :)

                                                            Oh, yes, and then there are the completely unplanned 'meals' where I take little bites of this or that -- whatever looks good to me in the fridge. A 'meal' will go something like this: a few bites of plain, whole milk yogurt; a few more bites of same yogurt with honey; a bite of feta; a bite of brie; a bite of leftover five bean salad; a bite of leftover Thai lettuce wrap filling; a few bites of beets; handful of cherries; a banana; a few spoonfuls of hummus; etc...

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: cimui

                                                              Funny. Late at night I'll cook up some gohan, make it into sushi rice, and then make thin, tight norimaki using canned tuna and gari, eat it all, and fall over in stupor and pleasure....

                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                Ah, right -- that's totally me on a more ambitious night. ;)

                                                            2. A big bowl salad with chopped meats, cheese, veggies and chick peas.

                                                              1. When I'm not eating whatever needs to be gotten rid of in the fridge, and if I can plan ahead, I have oysters. I pry open 18-24 of them, pour out a glass of chilled muscadet, sit down with a lemon wedge, a loaf of good bread, and the best butter I can find. I put on some music (cello or opera) and wonder most happily at a universe that makes such moments possible.

                                                                7 Replies
                                                                1. re: pilinut

                                                                  Hindi kayong ang tunay ng pilipina, di ba?? Sounds great, good on you!

                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                    I'm not sure how to translate this one, Sam. My understanding of what you wrote is , "You aren't the real Filipina, aren't you?" But I am genuiine 100% Filipino to the bone: a Malay-Chinese-Spanish hybrid living in Calfornia, Can't get more Filipina than that ;-) It totally explains the oysters, doesn't it?

                                                                    1. re: pilinut

                                                                      I know that you're fully Filipina - but oysters, muscadet, lemon, good bread (!!!), best butter, and cello or opera are so great, but not Filipino. So a joke and high back-handed accolade to you.

                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                        Au contraire, Sam. Seafood, sour flavors, bread and butter? Sounds totally Filipino to me! Though I will admit that muscadet is a total upgrade from tuba or the San Mig that I'd prefer with oysters. As for the cello and opera, count me as a recovering-strings-student-turned-classical-vocalist.

                                                                        1. re: JungMann

                                                                          I'm with you JungMann, but my equally excellent experiences in the Philippines ran more to: broiled tuna cheeks, cold San Miguels, calamansi & toyo, kanin, and Sakiusa (from Fiji) singing the Waimanlo Blues.

                                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                            Ah, sounds great. If I'm alone in the apartment, though, I prefer to go straight for those pungent foods I normally keep clandestine. If it's not rogan josh season, then I'm making binagoongan with heaps of lechon kawali in a sambal-laced sauce, lumpiang hubad, suka't bawang, Raingpur gin and Ton Koopman (from Holland) blasting the Great Fugue in G minor. And Glade plug-ins for when the roomies come home.

                                                                  2. re: pilinut

                                                                    oh i so envy you, this is something I would dearly love to do. However, I have problems with opening oysters, and need help which would require company etc.

                                                                    This is a meal that I would want (along with the cello) to savour alone. I must practice my oyster shucking skills. I have the knife...wat a motivating post. Oysters are at a decent price right now..

                                                                  3. Most nights I cook for my husband (and whoever else is around) and I make a lot of effort to make a variety of balanced and tasty meals. But when I'm at home by myself, it's often the same thing over and over simply because I love not having to think about what I'm going to make for dinner.

                                                                    There's Spaghetti al cacio e pepe--just some spaghetti tossed with parmeggiano, black pepper and a little bit of extra virgin olive oil. I also make baked macaroni and cheese, spinach and goat cheese omelettes, curry chicken over saffron rice.

                                                                    My husband is not nearly as ambitious. Although he's a good cook, I often come home to find a pristine kitchen which means only one thing--he had ice cream and beer for dinner.

                                                                    1. very simple stuff ; rice with seaweed or sweet potato with radish to eat with raw beef or raw fish or eggs what do I already have or what did I see when out
                                                                      BACON AND TOMATOE SANDWICHES when the season arrives

                                                                      1. My wife has developed a mild allergy to shrimp in the past couple of years, so lately, if I eat alone it's often shrimp, BUT a couple of days ago my 2-1/2 year old son and I spent the day together in Manhattan while my wife was getting together with a friend, and I ordered a shrimp cocktail appetizer at lunch, just to see if he would like it, and he did, so now shrimp doesn't have to be a lonely pleasure anymore.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. Any of several favorite dinners- large (homemade, if possible) cheese ravioli tossed with paper-thin garlic slices lightly sauteed in olive oil with fresh parsley and diced anchovies. Pasta Caruso (a tomato based sauce with chicken livers). Sauteed sweetbreads. Chicken roasted with fennel and citrus. Chicken gizzards and rice (aka dirty rice). Calves' liver alla veneziana. And all with a tossed green salad, simple vinaigrette w/ salt and pepper. A good glass of wine. (If it's been a really bad week, that last might be two glasses and we'll call it dinner with just that if we can have a bit of cheese to nibble, thanks.)

                                                                          1. If I'm not sending out for a big Blue 9 Burger, I might make a goat cheese omelet, or have nova/cream cheese/red onion in a kaiser roll or bagel, or sear up a fat pork chop wrapped in bacon and showered with freshly ground black pepper, or 'wave one of Amy's cheese enchiladas. Most of the above is given a generous scattering of chopped jalapeno or serrano chilies. If I'm feeling a little more ambitious, I might make steak tartare with my processor. But my boyfriend is usually here for dinner, and we love nearly all the same foods.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Tom Steele

                                                                              Agree on the heat aspect...I normally enjoy very hot food, but have to tone it down alot when cooking for others. When its me alone, everything from chilli corn and fried rice to a thai red curry, and even my spanish omelettes get a good amount of finely chopped fresh green chillis. Love that bite and flavour.

                                                                            2. Two words: Top Ramen. Oh sure, I add green onions, cilantro, siracha (sp?) sesame oil...but it's still Top Ramen.

                                                                              1. I haven't had dinner alone in ages but I always have lunch by myself. Cooking just for me is a right bore so I tend to have leftovers or rustle up some nice, healthy salads and fruit to finish on a sweet note.

                                                                                1. Chopped up cucumbers, feta cheese and balsamic sauce.
                                                                                  My boyfriend made it for me once and I was hooked. It's so good. =]