I gave my TikTok FYP the power to decide what I cooked for dinner every day this week, and found some new favorite (and fit for fall) recipes.
Even though TikTok already controls more of my life than I’d like to admit, this week I allowed my For You Page to determine one of my favorite parts of the day: dinner time. As someone who relies on takeout a little too often (and is far from an expert chef), cooking for five days straight was bound to be a challenge on its own—let alone trusting an app to make decisions for me.
As it turns out, TikTok is quite the sous chef. I quickly fell into a satisfying routine—I turned my daily morning scroll into an intentional recipe search, headed to the store midday for extra ingredients, and spent some quality time in the kitchen every evening. The rules were simple: I scrolled until I found a recipe, and whichever video came across my feed first, I had to make. I only skipped a few if I didn’t already have the tools to make the recipe in my kitchen. Other than a couple minor modifications (like turning meat-based dishes to mostly vegetarian), I was bound to the creators’ will.
Overall, TikTok delivered: The meal ideas were deliciously autumnal, not too difficult to make, flavorful, and affordable. Read on to see what I made, what missed the mark, and why I might be turning to the Clock App more often for mealtime inspiration.
Monday: Spaghetti with Crispy Zucchini
The first recipe I came across served as the perfect introduction to my week of cooking.
Because spaghetti is known for being a relatively simple plate to throw together, I was more than ready to tackle this delectable-looking dish by creator @pinchofyum. A simple pasta with tomato sauce topped with panko-coated zucchini and sprinkled with cheese, it didn’t require too many ingredients or excessive prep. Plus, @pinchofyum said she’s “not above eating this cold straight out of the fridge, it’s just so good”—I had to give it a try.
I already had most of the ingredients, so I quickly ran to the store to stock up on the rest: zucchini, panko, and shredded cheese. @pinchofyum’s recipe, had me cook the spaghetti as instructed on the box while preparing the zucchini; tossing it in egg, panko, and herbs, it took a matter of minutes. And, as the video says, not every piece of zucchini had to be breaded individually—it turned out as more of a crunchy crumble.
I popped the zucchini mixture into the oven (after topping with olive oil) for about 20 minutes, added the cheese and put it back in for an additional five. To finish it off, I topped the sauce-covered spaghetti with the crispy zucchini, added some red pepper flakes and dug in. A perfect mid-fall dish, this was an ideal fresh yet cozy meal choice for a Monday night in. It had me scrolling through the creator's website to see what other recipes she had to offer—and looking forward to cooking the next day.
If you’re making this one at home, keep the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes handy so you can personalize your plate. And mind the portions listed online! I chose to double the recipe and ended up with a healthy serving of leftovers (aka lunch fuel for my Tuesday night cooking).
Tuesday: Cheesy Herb-Stuffed Flatbreads
On Tuesday, @carolinelfranco’s recipe for cheesy herb-stuffed flatbreads found me. Though the meal looked a bit more ambitious than Monday’s, I decided to give it a go—and soon discovered some of TikTok’s shortcomings when it comes to recipes. The flatbreads turned out flavorful and were pretty simple to throw together, but following the instructions proved to be a bit tricky. As with many TikTok recipes, neither the ingredients nor the steps were listed in the description, so I listened to the video on loop to create my grocery list and cook them up.
After determining how to whip up the dough—which was said to only require equal portions of self-raising flour and greek yogurt but turned out to be difficult to work with—I put the mixture under a warm towel to sit for an hour or two. The creator didn’t specify how long to leave it out for, and I found that it probably should have rested longer.
The filling, on the contrary, was very easy to make. Because @carolinelfranco left room for creative freedom, I added some ingredients of my own, and mixed her feta, parsley, mint, and shredded cheese with cannellini beans and spinach. I found it slightly difficult to decipher the portions, so I ended up with much more filling than dough—but making it once allows you to figure out how to adjust them. Even though my final product came out much messier than @carolinelfranco’s beautiful, golden brown flatbreads, these (dipped in marinara sauce, especially) melted in my mouth. Perfectly fluffy and hearty, they made for a cozy fall dinner that I’ll be coming back to in a pinch.
Wednesday: Warm Fall Pearl Couscous Salad
After a couple of rich, comforting picks, I was ready for something on the lighter side, and TikTok brought me just that with @britacooks’ warm fall pearl couscous salad. This one required a pretty extensive (and expensive) trip to the grocery store, requiring loads of vegetables and condiments for the dressing—but the ingredients complemented each other so nicely that I didn’t mind. I put my knife skills to the test by cutting up a butternut squash, and roasted it along with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and lemon—a mixture that filled my kitchen with just about the most welcoming, seasonal smell imaginable.
Combined with couscous and a dressing made from maple syrup, mustard, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and more, the final product felt fresh yet filling. At this point, it solidified itself as my favorite of the week. I was once again left without concrete guidance on portions, which resulted in loads of leftovers—not ideal for this challenge, but making for an easy lunch to bring to work or heat up at home.
Thursday: One Pot Lentil and Coconut Curry Soup
On Thursday, the temperatures started dropping in London, and I was in need of something warm and comforting for an evening in: Meet @sovegan’s one pot lentil and coconut curry soup. This vegan dish was super simple and hit the spot. Even though the recipe was published on the creator’s website, I didn’t end up needing it—it was that easy to follow.
The ingredients were budget-friendly and, paired with homemade garlic bread, was devoured up quite quickly. After simmering garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, and turmeric together, I added the cooked lentils, vegetable stock, coconut milk, and canned tomatoes. They needed quite a bit of time together to develop the right consistency, but it wasn’t too labor intensive—definitely worth it.
Topped with some extra coconut milk and parsley, this dish was aesthetically-pleasing and served best family-style, left in the same pan it was cooked in. Dip the bread in directly or serve it on the side, and any dinner guest will be reaching for more. Though I'm not vegan, I’ll certainly be coming back to this creator's page for more dairy-free favorites.
Friday: Boursin Pasta with Salmon
On Friday, my fridge was filled with so many leftovers I couldn’t fathom cooking more—but the TikTok takeover was nearly over. This Boursin pasta with salmon pick from @foodbyrosaisabel was meant to be a 30-minute recipe, and it came together even quicker.
A round of the classic Boursin Garlic and Herbs Cheese surrounded by fresh salmon slices, spinach, chili seasoning, and heavy cream popped in the oven for 20 minutes and topped with your choice of pasta (I went with penne) made for a rich, delightful dinner reminiscent of an upscale mac and cheese. The cream and cheese meant this wasn't the healthiest of the week, but it was a simple recipe I’ll be revisiting as the weather keeps getting colder. Plus, it didn’t require too many ingredients, and let me use up spinach and chives I’d purchased for previous recipes.
On the whole, I'm deeming the TikTok dinner takeover as quite the success. I worked on my kitchen skills (and picked up a few new ones), experimented more than I usually would, and was left with enough leftovers to supply me with next week’s meals. I did wish at times that there was more variation in the recipes on my FYP (I came across mostly Italian and Mediterranean dishes than other types of cuisines)—but with some direct searches, I’m sure there’s much more to discover.
I probably won’t leave a whole week up to the algorithm again, but I’ll definitely be scrolling when I run out of autumn and winter cooking inspiration as the seasons transition.
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