The microwave has been relegated to serve as a simple heater of leftovers, but it's good for so much more. No, we don’t mean they’re also a cancer-causing death trap—there’s little convincing evidence that microwave ovens release enough radiation to harm human beings Food irradiation: a safe and useful technology. Parnes, R.B., Lichtenstein, A.H. USDA/Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University, 711 Washington Street, Boston, MA. Nutrition in Clinical Care, 2004 Oct-Dec;7(4):149-55. Irradiation in the production, processing and handling of food. Final rule. Food and Drug Administration, HHS. Federal Register, 2008 Aug 22;73(164):49593-603. . In fact, microwave ovens have been taking undeserved criticism for way too long: they’re called ovens for a reason, and they can create meals equal to anything from a standard oven.
Skeptical? We’ve put together a list of absolutely delicious meals—breakfast, snacks, dinner, and dessert—that will quickly make you forget all the disappointing, soggy pizza and rubbery leftover meat. Whip up just one of these beauties. You won’t believe your taste buds.
Buckwheat groats might sound a bit intimidating, but they’re a terrific source of complete protein and a great substitute for plain old morning oatmeal. This gluten-free breakfast combines oats, flax meal, and applesauce with fiber-rich buckwheat for a delicious meal that can't be beat in healthfulness or taste.
Here’s a hint: This method doesn’t involve paper towels. If you really like your bacon crispy (and who doesn’t?), try heating the slices on top of an overturned bowl; the extra fat drips down the sides, leaving you with an extraordinarily easy breakfast that no one will believe came straight out of a microwave.
Muffins that taste more like cake aren’t exactly a healthy breakfast choice, but this vegan version is definitely an exception. Made with fresh berries and coconut oil, there’s no need to fight this temptation—dig in!
This versatile recipe delivers perfection time after time, regardless of the ingredients. Instead of a pastry crust, this version mixes torn bread with the eggs, veggies, butter, and milk. This might just be your new favorite on-the-go breakfast!
It’s not quite as crunchy as thick French toast made in a pan, but this very viable alternative is nearly as tasty—and it only takes two minutes to make. Torn bread and whisked eggs remain the primary ingredients, and this breakfast is just as versatile as the traditional version. We like ours with cinnamon and a little vanilla extract!
Ah, poached eggs. The best way to turn a simple breakfast food into a giant pain in the ass. The traditional method requires boiling water, using just enough salt and vinegar, keeping the water swirling at just the right speed, cracking the egg in just the right way... in other words, it's just too easy to screw up. But the trusty microwave can change all that: All you need is a microwave-safe bowl, hot water, and a little salt and vinegar (and, of course, an egg). A short zap later, you’ll have the perfect topper for any healthier breakfast sandwich.
This healthy breakfast imbues quinoa with a creamy, cinnamon-y quality to great effect, delivering a protein-packed, high-fiber breakfast that tastes like a pancake gone healthy.
Crack a couple of eggs into a bowl, scramble with a fork, and microwave in thirty second increments until cooked through, stirring at each interval. Alakazam, scrambled eggs! Throw in some chopped veggies and serve with a slice of toast for a complete, filling meal.
Made with banana, egg whites, oats, and peanut butter, this “cookie” tastes like dessert, but might just be healthy enough to enjoy at breakfast time. (Well, at least occasionally.)
Snacks and Extras
For some slightly unusual chips, this recipe is a great way to use up some veggies. It comes out looking super classy—not to mention, these chips are a great excuse to experiment with some healthy dips!
11. Potato Chips
Few people would put “crispy” and “microwave” in the same sentence, but nuked potato chips are a thing, and they use far less oil than your typical package of Lay’s. These are surprisingly simple; just remember they'll continue to crisp as they cool down.
12. Toasted Nuts
Toasting nuts releases their essential oils, which gives them that oh-so-fragrant scent. But using the oven isn’t always necessary. Microwaving nuts won’t give them the same dark color as using the oven, but this method will give them a crunch and taste that’s nearly identical to the traditional method.
You don’t need to spend entire dollars on store-bought microwave popcorn. It’s easy (and a lot cheaper) to DIY with some corn kernels, a paper bag, and a little tape. Movie night, here we come!
For the pickling spice, use equal parts mustard seeds, celery seeds, and whole black peppercorns, and add a dash of turmeric and chili. Throw everything together in a jar with some vinegar, sugar, cucumbers, and onion, microwave for about eight minutes, and voila!
Single serve meals to the rescue! Even breads can be made in a microwave without much hassle. Simply pour everything into the mug, stir it up, microwave for a couple of minutes, and you’ve got a no-mess afternoon snack for one. Delicious!
16. Frothed Milk
Café quality cappuccinos have been at our fingertips this whole time and we didn’t even know it. All that’s needed is a jar, a microwave, and some milk. Shake it up, heat for a few seconds, and you’ve got all that’s needed for some super classy coffee. Cinnamon optional!
17. Toasted Coconut
Whether it’s for topping a dessert or to nosh on its own (we won’t tell), toasting coconut has never been so easy. Simply microwaving for 30-second bursts and stirring regularly results in picture-perfect toasted coconut in under ten minutes.
Whether you’re eating gluten-free, avoiding grains, or just love almond flour (we don’t blame you!), these English muffins are a terrific addition to a healthy breakfast. Paleo McMuffins, anyone?
Lunch and Dinner
This is a dish that really nails the message that the microwave is an oven and can make dishes so healthy, tasty, and fast that you’ll wish you’d taken advantage sooner. The sriracha mayonnaise adds a lot to this meal, but we recommend swapping the mayo portion for some protein-rich Greek yogurt.
The trick to making really simple corn on the cob is to leave the husks on—there’s no need for stripping, soaking, wrapping, or even a plate! After four short minutes, the corn is perfectly cooked, without the mess.
No need for a steamer here. All that’s required is a microwave-safe bowl with a cover. Don’t be shy—it turns out that cooking vegetables in a microwave may help them better retain their nutrients, due to the shortened cooking time The effect of microwaves on nutrient value of foods. Cross GA, Fung DY. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 1982;16(4):355-81. .
Polenta is a wonderful and filling base for just about any savory meal, and it works especially well as a comfort food during cold, winter months. It turns out the cornmeal-based dish is super easy to make in the microwave, too. This recipe pairs the creamy stuff with sautéed greens for an easy comfort meal that’s rich in flavor and nutrients.
23. Mac and Cheese
No more boxed macaroni with that mysterious orange “cheese” powder! This recipe is about as wholesome as mac and cheese gets, and nearly as easy. It only requires water, macaroni, and your own favorite blend of cheeses—but we’d suggest adding in a few broccoli florets or a handful of spinach, too.
Feel free to swap out the onion soup mix in this recipe for any kind of seasoning mix (or your own personal blend!), and watch this meal come to life. Just be sure to serve it with a salad—or try mixing in some shredded carrot and spinach for an extra dose of veggies!
25. Chicken Fajitas
Super easy, super fast, and super delicious, this Mexican staple is actually a pretty good source of vegetables. Made with a simple mixture of onions, peppers, and chicken, this can be enjoyed on its own or wrapped into tortillas with cheese (and maybe a dollop of Greek yogurt).
It’s a little-known fact that the iron in eggs needs to be accompanied with a source of vitamin C to be properly absorbed Interaction of vitamin C and iron. Lynch SR, Cook JD. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1980;355:32-44. . Here’s a meal that solves that eternal egg dilemma in a delicious fashion: Hollow out a pepper, fill with eggs and spices, microwave ‘til amazing. It’s not a long wait!
They’ve got more fiber than any other vegetable, but actually preparing an artichoke has never quite seemed worth the hassle. That is, until we found this recipe, which takes the vegetable from raw to ready in less than 10 minutes. Don’t forget to add a little lemon juice—it'll keep the innards from turning brown and tone down the bitterness.
28. Garlic Risotto
Wine, butter, broth, and cheese come together to create this simple, French-inspired risotto that's versatile enough to take on any extra vegetables. We’d include some sautéed mushrooms and spinach, but the possibilities are endless.
Some of the dishes on this list are designed to be wonderful in their simplicity, but this recipe is far more complex—and equally rewarding. Made in four distinct stages, the end result is a rich and healthy meal with a variety of vegetables and a thick, sweet sauce. You’ll never think of microwaves as a second class cooking utensil again!
This garlic winds up more steamed than roasted, since the microwave is basically steaming the garlic in its own head, but it works a treat. The flavor isn’t quite as mellow, but the result is so fast and delicious that the difference is barely noticeable. Remember to keep the microwave on 50 percent power for this one.
31. Simple Eggplant
Eggplant is delish, but roasting them takes forever, and sautéeing can require a little too much oil. Fret no more, since it turns out the humble microwave can prepare an eggplant for consumption in about 10 minutes! This recipe adds a protein boost with some cottage cheese and a little tomato, but eggplant makes a terrific, low-carb base for just about any topping.
Part nachos, part quesadilla, all awesome. This super quick, Mexican-inspired meal is so easy that it’s likely to become a late night staple. Made from tortilla chips, salsa, cheese, and egg, it’s a good thing that only one serving can be made at a time—it’s easy to wolf down three! Add some leftover shredded chicken or beef for extra protein.
In less than five minutes, you can have healthy, gluten-free cake in your belly — and with this single-serving recipe, there’s no chance of overeating. This calls for a few tablespoons of xylitol or artificial sweetener, but feel free to sub for sugar or another natural sweetener if you’d prefer. The result—in the form of one larger serving or two more modest ones—is astoundingly good.
A great option for breakfast or dessert, this cookie comes in at under 100 calories per serving (well, if you skip the chocolate chips!). Made from whole-wheat flour, egg whites, and applesauce, this is the perfect choice for a light, high-fiber snack.
Delivering plenty of fiber and pumpkin flavor, this gluten-free cake skips out on regular sugar in favor of stevia. The buckwheat flour is a nice touch, and adds a nice protein boost.
This chewy, high-fiber cookie is so simple and healthy that it’ll probably become a mainstay. Great on its own as a vegan treat, it’s also a great base for cottage cheese, berries, banana slices, or whatever else strikes your fancy.
Mochi is a simple Japanese cake that’s made from a mixture of glutinous rice flour (and is way more delicious than it sounds). This recipe does require small microwaveable donut molds, though it can also be made in a small bowl for those who would prefer a more traditional cake. But why deny yourself the fun of mini donuts?
Cream cheese, sour cream, lemon juice, egg, and a sweetener of your choosing all come together to make this astonishingly simple, delicious, and low-carbohydrate dessert. Top with plenty of fresh berries, and there might be no need for extra sweetener at all!
This bad boy is just the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon cup of Joe, and there’s no risk of downing half a loaf before dinnertime. Plus, it’s cooked in the same dish you eat it from—fewer dishes, for the win!
A healthier chocolate treat that can be made in a microwave sounds like utter nonsense... until you put it in your mouth. This gluten-free, sugar-free, butter-free concoction will certainly be appreciated by those who like their chocolate dark—anyone with a weakness for cocoa beans should definitely give this a shot.
*This article was originally published Dec. 6, 2013