4 Copycat Takeout Recipes That Are Better (And Cheaper) Than The Real Thing

There are two types of people who order takeout: people who have a craving for a certain type of special takeout food, and people who are hungry af but don’t really feel like cooking.

I am often both of those people at once. I love food, and I love cooking it too, but in my laziest and hungriest hour, I become extremely tempted to order Pad Thai and call it a day.

To remedy this, I decided to keep a running file of easy-to-replicate recipes for my favorite comfort-food takeout dishes. I try my best to refer to this list (okay, Pinterest board) of recipes when I feel myself gearing up to ask Siri to find sushi near me. It works (most of the time), and I feel like a genius each time I cook one of my takeout favorites in a creative, healthy way that only come out to a couple bucks per serving. So here are my top four that I refer to the most. (Psst — I might be eating #2 right now.)

1. Chipotle-style chicken

I know my takeout-taste isn’t exactly sophisticated, but I’m a basic bitch who loves Chipotle. However, it actually feels kind of expensive for the quality (which is pretty low, tbh, however delicious), and I also have a lot of questions for the chain after that whole food poisoning situation they had a year or two ago. Mexican food in general is my absolute favorite, and something I crave all the time –- so much so that I refuse to live in a home where there aren’t tortilla chips and salsa on-hand at all times. So when the burrito bowl craving hits, this is a go-to recipe to make something close to the real thing. This chicken is delicious, and can be served in a burrito, bowl, or any other way you fancy. I prefer it in bowl-form, with some veggies, beans, and rice. Bonus: guac doesn’t cost extra when you’re making it from scratch with the avocado collection I know you already have.

2. Make-ahead Egg McMuffins.

Okay, so these aren’t exactly a luxurious breakfast treat, but I’m 22, and after the more-than-occasional night of partying, I get the realest cravings for greasy breakfast sandwiches. Sandwiches like this are, in general, actually pretty affordable. But I love this recipe anyway, because it makes them even more affordable, and more convenient. It only costs a couple bucks for a bag of English muffins, a carton of eggs, some cheese, and meat (if desired – I usually prefer to go without it). These are easily made in a bulk batch and frozen to be heated up on busy mornings when you’re running out the door. I love anything that gets a delicious breakfast in my belly without me having to resort to a McDonald’s drive-thru.

3. At-home fried rice.

I know I can’t be the only one who gets sudden, all-consuming cravings for Chinese food. It is one of those weird things that gets into my head and I can’t forget about until I get Chinese food inside of me. It is rough, too, because ordering Chinese takeout is actually so expensive, and pretty terrible for you. In an attempt to make a slightly-less-salty and way-less-expensive version of a favorite dish –- fried rice –- I found this recipe. It is so good, I even made it for my boyfriend on Valentine’s day. I personally chose to cut the sugar out of the recipe, and I thought it tasted just fine without it. If you’re careful about your sugar intake, give it a shot –- it doesn’t seem to make a difference, because the rice was still amazing.

4. Easy chicken tikka masala.

I could probably eat Indian food every night of the week. I seriously love it all so much although my boyfriend actually hates it, so we eat it approximately never –- boooo. For that reason alone, I have a hard time spending money on Indian takeout. I obviously am not going to a restaurant where he won’t eat with me, and if I’m going to shell out the cash to buy takeout food and bring it home, I want to do it from somewhere we both like. So, if I want to eat any Indian food, I’d much rather prepare it myself with ingredients I have on-hand, then savor the leftovers by myself for many days after. I discovered this recipe after messing around with too many flavorless jarred sauce that cost $10 for one use, Amy’s organic frozen meals (which actually taste pretty good, but a little pricey for the amount of food you get), and also a very sad Lean Cuisine which I immediately regretted. This recipe will actually cost you a little bit up-front if you don’t already have a killer spice collection, but if you do, it is a pretty simple and classic recipe that yields a shit-ton of food, so you’ll have leftovers to snack on for days.

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

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  • Summer

    Tikka masala also does super well as a slow-cooker dish. Throw all that ‘ish in the pot and let it do its thing for a few hours. Chicken so tender it’ll sing you a lullaby as you fall asleep that night.

    Also let me give a hella shoutout to Chelsea’s dan-dan noodle recipe, which I’ve made more times than I can keep track of at this point. I like it so much I even “save” it for special nights when my husband is out of town and I can theoretically eat whatever I want. I’ve taken to throwing a 6-minute egg in my bowl too and topping with crispy onions and mannnn let me tell you WHAT.