Bet you didn't know you could microwave caramel corn.
To save space, I tried going without a microwave for a few years. My kitchen isn't very big, and it's not designed for a microwave over the range. But as my kids got older, I expected them to make snacks and meals on their own when I wasn't home. It became clear to me: a microwave oven made it much easier for them to reheat leftovers, make popcorn, and most importantly to them, whip up a quick mug cake. I made room for a microwave.
For many, microwave ovens are an essential piece of kitchen equipment. They make reheating leftovers quick and easy, but they can do so much more—like bake a layer cake or poach salmon—that you'll be saying, "I didn't know my microwave could do that!" These 24 recipes show you just versatile the oft-overlooked microwave can be.
You don't need any candy making skills to create fresh, hot caramel corn in the microwave. But you do need a big, brown paper bag. Make a quick, 2-minute microwave caramel sauce and pour it over popped corn—1/3 at a time—in a paper bag. Microwave the whole bag for 45 seconds, dump the caramel corn, and let cool. So simple. So good.
Get Recipe: Microwave Caramel Corn
Leave the husks on for the easiest microwaved corn on the cob ever. When it's cooked, cut the bottom off and the husk slips right off.
Get Recipe: How to Microwave Corn on the Cob
Yes, you can make an entire 3-layer cake in the microwave, one layer at a time. This recipe won't work for all cake recipes. The ingredients for this white cake are chosen specifically for cooking in the microwave. But, instead of a half hour or more baking time, your cake will cook in 10 minutes.
Get Recipe: 3-Layer Cake In the Microwave
If you need perfectly cooked rice on the table quickly, this is the way to do it. This method works with jasmine, basmati, or plain old “long-grain white rice” as well as sushi rice. Place rinsed rice and water in a microwave safe bowl. Cook uncovered, and then covered, and then let it rest till it gets fluffy. If you're looking for flavorful microwaved rice, try our microwave Mexican arroz verde recipe.
Get Recipe: Microwave Rice
Yes, you can cook CRISPY bacon in the microwave. The trick is placing the slices between paper towels to soak up the grease as they cook. You'll have bacon in no time for a BLT, to top a salad, or as a side for your favorite egg dish.
Get Recipe: Microwave Bacon
In just 2 minutes, you'll have a salad dressing worthy enough to be on a French bistro's menu. Traditionally, this dressing takes a lot of time and some dirty dishes, but you don't have to use a pan to sauté shallots in our version. Rather, you microwave them in oil to extract their flavor. The addition of Dijon, vinegar, salt, and pepper finishes off this hard-to-resist salad dressing.
Salmon gently poached in a Thai-inspired curry is on the table in under 30 when you do it all in the microwave. First, cook an aromatic oil mixture in the microwave. Add it to a pie plate with coconut milk, curry paste, and a few other ingredients to make the poaching liquid. Top with salmon, cover with plastic wrap, and cook.
Get Recipe: Microwave Red Curry Poached Salmon
Satisfy your chocolate craving in minutes with this microwave brownie in a mug that takes 10 minutes from start to first bite. The hardest part about making this brownie for me is waiting a few minutes for it to cool so you don't burn your tongue. A cold scoop of vanilla ice cream on top can speed up that process.
Get Recipe: Brownie in a Mug
Really? Wings in the microwave? Yes. I'll be honest here. They won't be as crispy as they would be if they were fried. But they will be fast and deliciously sweet, with much less cleaning up when you're done.
Get Recipe: Microwave BBQ Chicken Wings
Much simpler and quicker than making it on the stovetop, this garlicky creamed spinach recipe contains coconut cream, Parm, garlic, and plenty of seasoning. In 10 minutes, this side dish will be ready for your steak, pork chops, or vegetarian meatloaf dinner.
Get Recipe: Microwave Garlicky Creamed Spinach
Make a perfectly cooked sweet potato in your microwave in about 5 minutes, with an optional blast in an air fryer to crisp up the skin. Serve it as a side, or use it as the base for chorizo stuffed sweet potatoes.
Get Recipe: Microwave Sweet Potato
This microwave broccoli with sesame dressing takes steamed broccoli up a notch. It takes just 15 minutes to make, and it's a good accompaniment for bulgogi, braised short ribs, and gochujang chicken thighs served with a big bowl of rice.
Get Recipe: Microwave Broccoli with Sesame Dressing
Just as delicious as an oven-baked potato, this microwave baked potato takes a fraction of the time. Top it with cheese, sour cream, and chives. Or, cook it in the evening, refrigerate it, and slice it up to quickly cook home fries in the morning.
Get Recipe: Microwave Baked Potato
Microwave adaptations of traditional Korean steamed eggs have become common for their speed and ease—not to mention their power to comfort. Serve them with rice and kimchi for a meal you can pull together on the fly.
Get Recipe: Gyeran Jjim (Korean Steamed Eggs)
This recipe is perfect for when blueberries are in abundance because it makes one jar of jam at a time that you store in the refrigerator. This simple, teeny batch of jam takes just 10 minutes to cook from start to finish. If you have an abundance of strawberries to use, try our microwave strawberry jam.
Get Recipe: Blueberry Jam in the Microwave
A combination of cocoa powder and 60-percent dark chocolate chips yields a deep chocolate flavor and a dreamy texture in this microwave chocolate pudding. When it's hot, pour it into four bowls, let it cool, and devour, topped with homemade whipped cream on top for added decadence.
Get Recipe: Easy Chocolate Pudding in the Microwave
Need a quick, healthy, simple side dish for dinner? Steamed broccoli is the answer. This easy method takes just 10 minutes, including cutting up the fresh broccoli.
Get Recipe: How to Steam Broccoli in the Microwave
You can make an amazingly light and fluffy omlette in a mug in just 4 minutes. Add grated cheese and finely chopped red pepper and chives for extra flavor.
Get Recipe: Omelette in a Mug
With a little forethought, you can have hot, perfectly cooked, steel-cut or old-fashioned rolled oatmeal in just minutes. The trick is to let the oats and water soak in the fridge overnight. In the morning, heat the softened oats in the microwave and top them with your favorite toppings.
Get Recipe: The Best Microwave Oatmeal Ever
The rice in question here is not actually cooked in the bowl. It's served alongside the oyakodon, a filling and simple Japanese dish of chicken and eggs. You scoop the soft, custardy, savory eggs over the rice and dig in.
Get your apple pie fix (without the crust) in a jiffy with these microwave baked apple slices. Cut up apples, and sprinkle them with sugar, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Then microwave. Eat as is, or top with cinnamon ice cream.
Get Recipe: Microwave Baked Apple Slices
Chocolate chips don't always melt as smoothly as chocolate bars. The microwave method cooks them for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between every 30-second interval, until they're smooth and ready to use for chocolate covered strawberries or pretzels.
Get Recipe: How to Melt Chocolate Chips
Seriously, you can make super fast homemade tortilla chips in the microwave with way less of a mess (and less calories) than frying them.
Get Recipe: How to Make Homemade Tortilla Chips
Mug cakes had their moment as a trend, but don't forget their potential to sweeten your day (or night) on an impulse to satisfy a sweet tooth emergency. This one offers moistness from bananas and pockets of melted chocolate.
Get Recipe: Banana Bread Chocolate Chunk Mug Cake