If you’re looking for a perfect bonding activity (or just a way to save some cash), there’s really nothing better than breaking bread with your housemates. Of course, differences in taste and dietary restrictions can make collective mealtime seem daunting. But with the right recipes and a shared desire to cook, it’s all too easy. That’s why we threw together this list of our top meal ideas! So quit researching and get to the fun stuff — cooking up delicious food and conversation with your roomies. Here are our four favorites:
1. Teriyaki-Glazed Chicken & Shrimp Stir Fry
Better than your most coveted Chinese takeout, this memorable shrimp stir fry can be whipped up, right in your own kitchen. It’s a flexible dish that can be easily modified for vegans by replacing the chicken and shrimp with tofu, seitan, or more veggies. Get creative and swap out new veggies every time you make it. And if you want to get really crazy, you can trade in the rice for vermicelli rice noodles or udon noodles. The ingredients are straightforward: Chicken breasts, jumbo shrimp, bell pepper, broccoli, baby corns, scallions, oil, and chili pepper. If you have a few hands in the kitchen, one person can make the rice, another can make the teriyaki sauce and prepare the wok, and a third can organize the remaining tasks and get choppin’. Once the roomie on rice and teriyaki duty is ready to move on, they can assist with the other prep and take the lead from their roommate or begin cleaning up some of the mess that’s accumulated so far. Before you know it, everything is sizzling together in the wok and you’re all ready to start working through your delicious collaboration.
2. Pizza (Obviously!)
Pizza made at home with friends is basically the most fun meal imaginable. And who doesn’t like pizza? When it comes to dough, there are so many choices that even a gluten-free keto vegan can join the (pizza) party.
Start by picking up one of those lovely balls of fresh dough in the refrigerated section of Whole Foods or Trader Joes. There are also pre-made crusts available that cater to many dietary needs in the bread aisles and frozen sections of most any grocery store. Then you can mosey on over to the produce section for nutritious toppings. To make things easy, you can grab ready-made pizza sauce, shredded dairy or non-dairy cheeses, and any preferred toppings. Once you start putting the pizzas together at home, you can do different topping schemes on each half, or agree on the perfect combination of toppings for the whole pie.
Professional pizza ovens are hotter than most ovens get at home, so make sure to preheat at your highest temp (usually 500 or 550 degrees) so the cheese melts and the crust cooks through evenly.
3. Loaded Sheet Pan Nachos
Nachos are an incredibly versatile dish for so many reasons. They’re gluten-free by default and can be made with any variety of toppings and alternative meats and cheeses if necessary. Nachos aren’t actually an authentic dish of Mexico (even though it’s often categorized as Mexican food), so you’re probably not going to offend anyone if you don’t follow this recipe exactly.
What’s important to keep in mind is the base: tortilla chips, refried beans, and dairy or non-dairy cheese (or sauce) to melt (or drizzle) on top. Whether yours go with ground beef, seitan, tofu, chicken, or some other kind of main protein, it doesn’t really matter. Same goes for avocado, onion, diced tomatoes, sour cream, cilantro, or other kinds of more popular nacho toppings. Want to experiment with diced pineapple instead of corn? We say go for it! (This isn’t pizza – you won’t end up in a fight about it.)
4. Grilled Cuban Sandwiches
The best way to justify having a sandwich for dinner? Grill it! We don’t know about you, but we find there’s something about those beautiful grill marks that make an ordinary sandwich totally next-level. Whether you stick your stacked concoction on the grill or in an iron skillet, heating up all of your ingredients together between the bread seems to magically draw out a new dimension of savory and tang—like in this ridiculously delicious Sandwich Cubano.
For something less complex you can always begin with the simpler concept of a grilled cheese sandwich and build up from there with things like pickles, thinly sliced tempeh, arugula, artisan cheeses, peppers, or whatever combinations you and your roommate have a hankering for. Don’t be afraid to experiment with other sandwich types too.
Although not grilled, a popular sandwich of Vietnamese cuisine like the bánh mì is a definite crowd-pleaser for all types of eaters as well.
The Bottom Line
Once you and your roommates find some common ground on meals, cooking and enjoying them together will feel less like a chore and more like a blessing. It’s a great way to time and money when you’re living on a budget. But more importantly, it gives you a chance to catch up and connect over a glass of wine and some relaxing prep work.