By Noah Kaufman
June 22, 2017
From Mug Meals by Leslie Bilderback. Copyright © 2015 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.

We know that you’re all busy people. Or lazy people. Or busy, lazy people. Sometimes you can’t make a labor-intensive meal and you’re definitely sick of all the frozen stuff from Trader Joe’s. Fortunately, Leslie Bilderback gets you. She’s the author of Mug Cakes, which, as it sounds, has the easiest cake recipes you’ll ever find. Just stir up some ingredients in a coffee mug, put it in the microwave and wait two minutes. 

In her new book Mug Meals, she takes the mug and microwave combination up a level with over 100 different similarly simple appetizers and entrees.

You can get the book over on Amazon, but here are three fast, easy recipes to get started. 

Huevos Rancheros


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ scallion, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped tomatoes
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ avocado, diced
  • 2 tablespoons salsa
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Dash of Tabasco sauce
  • ¼ cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 to 6 tortilla chips
  • Sour cream, for serving


1. In a jumbo mug, combine the oil, scallion, tomato, cumin, and heat in the microwave for 1 minute until scallion is translucent and the tomato softened. Stir in the avocado, salsa, cilantro, Tabasco, cheese, egg, salt, and pepper. Insert the tortilla chips and nestle them down into the egg mixture. Microwave for another 1 to 2 minutes until the egg has set. Serve immediately with a dollop of sour cream.


MeatAdd ¼ cup of chopped leftover carne asada, chicken, turkey, or shrimp for a heartier huevo.
Cheese OptionsTry this recipe with Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, goat, feta, or authentic Mexican cotija cheese.


Crab Cakes


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon seeded and minced red or green bell pepper
  • ½ garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • Dash of Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup crushed saltine crackers or bread crumbs
  • ½ cup crabmeat, fresh, frozen, or canned
  • Sour cream, tartar sauce, or remoulade sauce, for serving


1. In a large mug, combine the oil, onion, bell pepper, and garlic and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the mayonnaise, mustard, Old Bay, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper and mix thoroughly. Stir in the cracker crumbs and crabmeat, and mix until well coated.

2. Divide the mixture between two mugs, and press it down to the bottom to form patties. Microwave each for 1 to 2 minutes until firm and sizzling. Turn the patties out onto a plate, and serve immediately with a dollop of sour cream, tartar sauce, or remoulade sauce.


Fish OptionsRecipes like this were historically used to finish up leftovers, because any portion of protein was precious. You can use any seafood you have on hand.
Spicy CakesAdd a teaspoon of Cajun seasoning, a dash or two of Tabasco or sriracha sauce, or a table­spoon of chopped jalapeño or canned green chiles.

White Cheddar Macaroni


  • ½ cup grated white cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup cooked macaroni
  • 2 to 3 crumbled crackers or crushed potato chips


Put the cheese, milk, mustard, butter, salt, and pepper in a large mug. Stir well, then microwave for 1 to 2 minutes until the cheese has melted. Fold in the cooked macaroni and microwave for another 30 seconds to warm through. Serve immediately, topped with the crumbled crackers.


Veggie Mac: This dish can be nutritionally and deliciously enhanced with ¼ cup of chopped broccoli, green beans, peas, asparagus, sautéed mushrooms, onions, or any leftover vegetables you might have on hand.
Meaty Mac: The addition of ¼ cup diced ham, sausage, or other precooked meat makes this mug a extra-hardy meal.

Chicken Satay


  • 1 teaspoon peanut or vegetable oil
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small chicken breast, sliced into bite-size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon soy sauce
  • Dash of sriracha sauce
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ cup finely chopped peanuts


In a large mug, combine the peanut oil, sesame oil, garlic, and chicken and stir to coat. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes until the chicken is half-cooked. Add the peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, sriracha, and scallion. Microwave again for another 1 to 2 minutes until the chicken is completely cooked. Serve immediately topped with the chopped cilantro and peanuts.


Sweeten it upFor a fruitier take on this classic, try adding a sliced banana or plantain, and a drizzle of coconut milk.
VegetarianThis peanut sauce works remarkably well with sweet potatoes, parsnips, and even tofu. Just replace the meat with your favorite vegetarian alternative.

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