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How To Cook Great Meals In Hostels


by Hendrika Villa



Traveling is a delightful adventure that allows you to explore new cultures, meet interesting people, and try exotic cuisines. And when it comes to food, nothing immerses you in a destination’s culture more than indulging in its local delicacies. However, eating out for every meal can quickly become expensive, especially if you’re traveling on a budget.


That’s where cooking in hostels can be a game-changer. It not only helps you save money but also gives you the opportunity to experience the local culinary scene in a unique way. Imagine whipping up a delicious bowl of pasta with fresh local produce or savoring a flavorful stir-fry made with ingredients from the nearby market. Cooking in hostels enables you to create your own mouthwatering meals while learning about the local produce, flavors, and culinary customs.


In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of cooking in hostels, the essential cooking equipment you’ll need, tips for grocery shopping in unfamiliar places, and some easy and tasty recipes you can easily prepare in hostel kitchens. So get ready to become a culinary explorer and make your taste buds dance with joy as you embark on a food travel adventure like no other!


Benefits of Cooking in Hostels

Cooking in hostels offers a plethora of benefits that go beyond just saving money. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of preparing your own meals while traveling:

  1. Cost-Effective: One of the most significant advantages of cooking in hostels is the cost savings. Eating out for every meal can quickly drain your travel budget. By cooking your own meals, you can significantly cut down on expenses and allocate your money to other experiences or attractions.
  2. Flexibility and Control: Cooking in hostels gives you the freedom to choose what you eat and when you eat. You are not bound by restaurant timings or limited menus. It allows you to cater to your dietary preferences and restrictions, ensuring that you have a satisfying and nourishing meal.
  3. Exploring Local Markets: Grocery shopping in local markets is an adventure in itself. It gives you the opportunity to interact with locals, discover unique ingredients, and experience the vibrant culinary culture of the destination. You can buy fresh produce, spices, and other local specialties, adding a touch of authenticity to your homemade meals.
  4. Health and Dietary Considerations: When you cook your own meals, you have better control over the ingredients and cooking methods used. This is particularly beneficial if you have specific dietary considerations or allergies. By cooking in hostels, you can ensure that your meals are prepared according to your health needs and preferences.
  5. Socializing and Cultural Exchange: The communal kitchen in hostels provides an excellent opportunity to connect with fellow travelers from around the world. Cooking and sharing meals together can foster friendships, create memorable experiences, and facilitate cultural exchanges. You can try cooking traditional dishes from your home country and learn about new recipes from other travelers.

These are just a few of the benefits of cooking in hostels. It not only saves you money but also allows you to have a more immersive and personalized culinary experience while traveling. So, pack your chef’s hat and get ready to embark on a gastronomic journey during your next backpacking adventure!


Essential Cooking Equipment

When it comes to cooking in hostels, having the right tools is crucial. While hostel kitchens may vary in terms of equipment provided, here are some essential items that will come in handy and make your cooking experience easier:

  • Cooking Utensils: It’s always a good idea to pack a compact set of cooking utensils, including a spatula, wooden spoon, tongs, and a can opener. These versatile tools will assist you in a variety of cooking techniques and make meal preparation a breeze.
  • Cutting Board and Knife: A small, lightweight cutting board and a sharp knife are invaluable when it comes to chopping vegetables and fruits. Look for a knife with a protective sheath for safe storage.
  • Pots and Pans: Depending on the size of the hostel kitchen and the number of people using it, you may need to bring your own pots and pans. Opt for a medium-sized saucepan and a frying pan with a lid. These will be sufficient for most recipes.
  • Portable Stove: While many hostels provide cooking facilities, some may not have stovetops or burners. In such cases, a portable camping stove would be a valuable addition to your cooking gear. This allows you to cook your meals even in places without a well-equipped kitchen.
  • Storage Containers: It’s essential to have a few airtight storage containers to store leftovers or meal prep ingredients. Look for collapsible containers or ones that are stackable to save space in your backpack.
  • Spices and Condiments: Carrying a small selection of your favorite spices and condiments can elevate the taste of your meals. Consider bringing salt, pepper, chili flakes, garlic powder, and any other essential spices to add flavor to your dishes.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Hydration is key while traveling, so don’t forget to pack a reusable water bottle. Keeping hydrated not only supports your overall well-being but also helps in cooking and cleaning.

Remember to check the hostel’s website or contact them in advance to inquire about the kitchen equipment available. This will help you determine what you need to bring and what is already provided.


By having the essential cooking equipment with you, you’ll be well-prepared to whip up delicious meals in hostel kitchens and satisfy your culinary cravings during your travels.


Tips for Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping while traveling can be an exciting experience, but it can also be a bit challenging, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar location. Here are some tips to help you navigate the grocery aisles and make the most of your shopping experience:

  1. Research Local Markets: Before heading out to stock up on groceries, do some research to find local markets or supermarkets near your hostel. These markets often have a wider selection of fresh produce, regional specialties, and lower prices compared to touristy areas.
  2. Shop Like a Local: Take cues from locals when it comes to shopping habits and food choices. This can help you discover new ingredients, learn about regional cuisines, and make your meals more authentic. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from locals or hostel staff.
  3. Make a Shopping List: Plan your meals in advance and create a shopping list to avoid unnecessary purchases. Having a list will help you stay organized, save time, and ensure you have all the ingredients you need for your recipes.
  4. Stick to Basic Ingredients: Opt for simple and versatile ingredients that can be used in multiple dishes. This will help you save money and reduce waste. Staples like rice, pasta, canned beans, and spices can go a long way in creating a variety of meals.
  5. Consider Local Specialty Items: Don’t miss out on trying local specialty items or unique ingredients that are specific to the region you’re visiting. These items can add depth and flavor to your dishes and give you a taste of the local culinary scene.
  6. Be Mindful of Portion Sizes: Keep in mind that hostel kitchens may have limited storage space, so it’s advisable to buy smaller portion sizes, especially for perishable items. This will prevent food wastage and make it easier to keep your groceries organized.
  7. Check Expiration Dates: Before purchasing any items, check the expiration dates to ensure that you’re buying fresh and safe-to-consume products. It’s also a good idea to inspect fruits and vegetables for freshness.
  8. Bring Your Own Bags: In many countries, using reusable shopping bags has become the norm, and some stores even charge for plastic bags. Be environmentally conscious by carrying your own reusable bags to hold your groceries.
  9. Keep an Eye on Special Deals: Look out for special deals, discounts, or promotions that can help you save money. Some supermarkets offer discounted prices on certain days or have loyalty programs for frequent shoppers.
  10. Embrace Meal Prepping: Consider meal prepping to save time and effort during your travels. Prep ingredients in advance, such as washing and cutting vegetables, to make cooking easier and more efficient.

Grocery shopping while traveling can be an adventure in itself. By following these tips, you’ll be able to navigate the aisles with ease, discover local flavors, and create delicious meals in your hostel kitchen.


Recipes for Cooking in Hostels

When it comes to cooking in hostels, simplicity and versatility are key. Here are some easy and delicious recipes that you can prepare with minimal ingredients and equipment:

  1. Pasta with Tomato Sauce: Cook your favorite pasta according to package instructions. In a separate pan, sauté garlic and onion in olive oil. Add canned tomatoes, salt, pepper, and any desired herbs. Simmer for a few minutes and toss with cooked pasta. Top with grated cheese, if available.
  2. Vegetable Stir-Fry: Chop a variety of vegetables, such as bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms. In a hot pan, stir-fry the vegetables in oil or soy sauce for a few minutes until tender-crisp. Serve over cooked rice or noodles.
  3. Omelette with Veggies: Beat eggs with salt, pepper, and any desired spices. Heat oil in a pan and sauté diced vegetables like onions, bell peppers, and spinach until softened. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cook until set. Flip and cook the other side. Serve with toast or bread.
  4. Quesadillas: Spread a tortilla with refried beans or mashed avocado. Top with grated cheese and any desired fillings like sautéed onions, bell peppers, or leftover cooked chicken. Fold the tortilla in half and toast on both sides in a hot pan until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is crispy.
  5. One-Pot Curry: In a pot, heat oil and sauté diced onions and garlic until fragrant. Add curry powder or paste, along with vegetables like potatoes, peas, and cauliflower. Pour in coconut milk and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Serve over rice or with naan bread.

These recipes are just a starting point, and you can customize them based on your preferences and the ingredients available. Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with flavors while cooking in hostel kitchens. Remember to adapt the recipes as per your dietary restrictions and the availability of ingredients.


By preparing these simple yet tasty dishes, you can discover the joy of cooking in hostels and enjoy delicious homemade meals during your travels.


Pasta with Tomato Sauce

Looking for a quick and satisfying meal while cooking in a hostel? Look no further than pasta with tomato sauce. This classic dish is simple, versatile, and can be easily customized based on your taste preferences. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Cook the Pasta: Start by cooking your favorite pasta according to the package instructions. Use a large pot of salted boiling water to ensure well-cooked and flavorful pasta. Different types of pasta, such as spaghetti, penne, or fusilli, can be used depending on your preference.
  2. Prepare the Tomato Sauce: While the pasta is cooking, you can prepare the tomato sauce. In a separate pan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add minced garlic and diced onions, and sauté until they become soft and translucent.
  3. Add the Tomatoes: Once the onions and garlic are cooked, add canned diced or crushed tomatoes to the pan. Season with salt, pepper, and any desired herbs or spices, such as basil or oregano. You can also add a pinch of sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.
  4. Simmer the Sauce: Let the tomato sauce simmer over low heat for about 15-20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together. If you prefer, you can add some diced vegetables like bell peppers or mushrooms to the sauce for extra texture and flavor.
  5. Toss with Pasta: Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the pan with the tomato sauce. Gently toss the pasta with the sauce to ensure it is evenly coated. Cook for an additional minute or two to allow the pasta to absorb some of the flavors of the sauce.
  6. Serve and Garnish: Transfer the pasta with tomato sauce to individual serving plates or bowls. You can sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese or fresh herbs like basil on top for added flavor and presentation.

Pasta with tomato sauce is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed as is or customized to your liking. You can add protein like cooked chicken or shrimp, or throw in vegetables such as spinach or cherry tomatoes for a more nutritious meal. Feel free to experiment and make it your own!


This recipe is not only delicious, but it also allows you to experience the flavors of the local produce and create a comforting homemade meal while cooking in hostels. So, grab a plate and indulge in this simple yet satisfying pasta dish!


Vegetable Stir-Fry

When it comes to quick and healthy meals, a vegetable stir-fry is always a winner. Packed with colorful veggies and bursting with flavor, this dish is a great option for cooking in hostels. Here’s how you can whip up a delicious vegetable stir-fry:

  1. Prepare the Vegetables: Start by selecting a variety of vegetables for your stir-fry. Bell peppers, broccoli florets, carrots, mushrooms, and snap peas are all excellent choices. Wash and chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces for even cooking.
  2. Heat the Pan: Heat a large pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil – vegetable or sesame oil work well for stir-frying.
  3. Sauté the Aromatics: Once the oil is hot, add minced garlic and grated ginger to the pan. Sauté for a minute until fragrant. These aromatics will infuse the stir-fry with a delicious flavor.
  4. Add the Vegetables: Next, add the chopped vegetables to the pan. Stir-fry them for a few minutes until they start to become tender, but still retain a vibrant color and slight crispness. Keep the vegetables moving in the pan to ensure even cooking.
  5. Season the Stir-Fry: Season the vegetables with soy sauce, oyster sauce, or any other stir-fry sauce of your choice. Be mindful of the flavors and adjust the seasoning to suit your taste preferences. You can also add a pinch of salt and pepper for extra flavor.
  6. Optional Additions: If you have any additional ingredients on hand, such as cooked chicken, tofu, or shrimp, you can add them to the pan at this stage. This will add protein to your stir-fry and make it more filling.
  7. Serve and Enjoy: Once the vegetables are cooked to your desired level of crispness, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the stir-fry to a serving dish. You can sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds or chopped green onions on top for added texture and freshness.

A vegetable stir-fry is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed on its own or served over steamed rice or noodles. It’s a fantastic way to incorporate a variety of veggies into your meal while providing a burst of flavor and nutrients.


Feel free to experiment with different combinations of vegetables and sauces based on your preferences. With a vegetable stir-fry, you can create a delicious and nutritious meal in no time, even in the limited kitchen space of a hostel.


So grab your wok, chop up some vibrant veggies, and stir-fry your way to a tasty and satisfying meal during your travels.


Omelette with Veggies

Looking for a quick and protein-packed meal in a hostel kitchen? An omelette with veggies is the perfect choice! It’s a versatile dish that allows you to incorporate your favorite vegetables and create a delicious and filling meal. Here’s how you can make a flavorful omelette with veggies:

  1. Prepare the Vegetables: Start by choosing your desired vegetables for the omelette. Some popular options include diced onions, bell peppers, spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Wash and chop the vegetables into small pieces.
  2. Heat the Pan: Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add a small amount of oil or butter and let it melt and coat the pan.
  3. Sauté the Vegetables: Add the chopped vegetables to the pan and sauté them until they are softened and lightly browned. Season with salt, pepper, and any desired herbs or spices for added flavor.
  4. Beat the Eggs: In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until well mixed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Pour the Eggs into the Pan: Pour the beaten eggs over the sautéed vegetables in the pan. Allow the eggs to spread evenly and cook for a few minutes until the edges begin to set.
  6. Flip or Fold the Omelette: Once the edges of the omelette are cooked, you can choose to either flip the omelette or fold it in half. Use a spatula to carefully flip or fold the omelette, ensuring that it is cooked through but still slightly moist in the center.
  7. Cook a Little Longer: If you prefer a firmer omelette, you can cook it for an additional minute or two until it reaches your desired level of doneness.
  8. Serve and Enjoy: Carefully slide the omelette onto a plate and serve it hot. You can garnish with fresh herbs like parsley or chives, and pair it with toast or bread for a complete meal.

An omelette with veggies is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s not only delicious but also a great way to incorporate nutritious vegetables into your meal while traveling.


Feel free to experiment with different combinations of vegetables, cheeses, and herbs to create your own unique omelette. With a few simple ingredients and a hot frying pan, you can whip up a tasty and satisfying omelette in no time, even with limited cooking equipment in a hostel kitchen.


So, get crackin’ and enjoy a wholesome omelette with a colorful medley of veggies during your travels!



When it comes to quick and delicious meals, quesadillas are a go-to option for many travelers. Simple yet satisfying, they can be made with minimal ingredients and are easily customizable to suit your taste preferences. Here’s how you can make mouthwatering quesadillas in a hostel kitchen:

  1. Gather Your Ingredients: Start by gathering the key ingredients for your quesadillas. You’ll need tortillas, shredded cheese (such as cheddar or Monterey Jack), and any additional fillings you desire, such as sautéed onions, bell peppers, leftover cooked chicken, or sliced avocado.
  2. Assemble the Quesadillas: Lay a tortilla flat and sprinkle a generous amount of shredded cheese on one half of the tortilla. Add your desired fillings on top of the cheese. Fold the other half of the tortilla over the fillings, creating a half-moon shape.
  3. Cook the Quesadillas: Heat a non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Place the assembled quesadillas in the pan and cook them for a few minutes on each side until the tortilla is crispy and the cheese has melted. You can use a spatula to gently press down on the quesadillas while cooking to ensure that they stick together.
  4. Slice and Serve: Once the quesadillas are cooked to perfection, remove them from the pan and let them cool for a moment. Use a sharp knife to slice them into smaller wedges. Serve them hot, and enjoy them as is or with a side of salsa, guacamole, or sour cream.

Quesadillas are incredibly versatile, and you can experiment with different combinations of fillings to suit your taste. Whether you prefer a classic cheese quesadilla or want to add a variety of fillings for a heartier meal, the choice is yours!


With just a few simple ingredients and minimal cooking equipment, you can savor the delightful flavors of quesadillas while cooking in a hostel. They make for a quick and satisfying meal that you can enjoy any time of the day.


So, gather your ingredients, heat up the pan, and get ready to indulge in a hot and cheesy quesadilla during your travels!


One-Pot Curry

Craving a hearty and flavorful meal while cooking in a hostel kitchen? Look no further than a delicious one-pot curry. Packed with aromatic spices and a medley of vegetables, this dish is easy to prepare and perfect for satisfying your taste buds. Here’s how you can make a mouthwatering one-pot curry:

  1. Gather Your Ingredients: Start by gathering the key ingredients for your curry. You’ll need vegetables of your choice, such as potatoes, peas, carrots, cauliflower, or spinach. Additionally, have some diced onions, minced garlic, ginger, curry powder or paste, coconut milk, and rice or naan bread for serving.
  2. Sauté the Aromatics: In a large pot or pan, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the diced onions, minced garlic, and grated ginger, sautéing them until they become fragrant and slightly browned.
  3. Add the Vegetables: Once the aromatics are cooked, add your chosen vegetables to the pot. Stir them well to coat them with the flavors of the aromatics.
  4. Add the Curry Seasoning: Sprinkle your desired amount of curry powder or add curry paste to the pot, depending on the level of spice and flavor you prefer. Mix well, ensuring that all the vegetables are coated with the curry seasoning.
  5. Pour in the Coconut Milk: Once the vegetables are coated in the curry seasoning, pour in the coconut milk. It will add creaminess and richness to the curry. Stir well to combine all the ingredients.
  6. Simmer and Cook: Reduce the heat to low and let the curry simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the flavors have melded together. Stir occasionally to prevent the curry from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  7. Serve and Enjoy: Once the curry is cooked to your desired consistency, remove it from the heat. Serve it over rice or with naan bread for a complete meal. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired.

A one-pot curry is a fantastic option for a satisfying and flavorful meal while cooking in a hostel kitchen. It allows you to make a delicious and wholesome dish using minimal ingredients and equipment.


Feel free to customize your curry by adding protein such as chicken, tofu, or chickpeas, and adjusting the spices according to your taste preferences. Experiment with different combinations of vegetables and spices to create your own signature one-pot curry.


So, dive into the aromatic world of curries and enjoy a delectable one-pot curry during your travels!



Cooking in hostels can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, allowing you to save money, have more control over your meals, and immerse yourself in the local culinary scene. By following the tips and recipes provided in this article, you can create delicious and satisfying meals with minimal ingredients and equipment.


The benefits of cooking in hostels go beyond just cost savings. It offers flexibility and control over your dietary preferences, the opportunity to explore local markets and ingredients, and the chance to socialize and exchange culinary knowledge with fellow travelers. Cooking in hostels allows you to have a truly immersive and personalized food travel experience.


Remember to pack essential cooking equipment, such as utensils, pans, and a portable stove, to ensure that you have everything you need to prepare your meals. And when grocery shopping, research local markets, shop like a local, and be mindful of portion sizes to avoid food wastage.


Try out a range of easy and delicious recipes like pasta with tomato sauce, vegetable stir-fry, omelette with veggies, quesadillas, and one-pot curry. These dishes can be customized based on your preferences, dietary restrictions, and the ingredients available, allowing you to create memorable meals wherever your travels take you.


So, don’t hesitate to embrace the culinary adventures that cooking in hostels can offer. With a little creativity and a sense of exploration, you can savor the flavors of your destination, connect with other travelers, and create delightful homemade meals that will nourish both your body and your soul.