How to cook dinner in an Airbnb

…McDonalds is not perfect for any occasion

One of the key issues if you are on the go, or even if you are traveling on the weekend is having a bit of food. Sometimes it is easy to go to the next McDonalds or whatever fast-food chain there is around you. The purpose of this post is to handle the main issues and go through a selection of easy recipes that can be done in this type of environment.

I would focus on the most probable cases that seem normal, which I have experienced myself. This may not be the best approach ever, but it worked for me and I am a fairly easy-going person.

The core components here that we will focus on are: the main issues, general recipes that can be used and we will end with tips and tricks on how to handle most of the situations. 

The main issues:


In my opinion, the main issues here are spices. Salt, pepper or even a little bit of hot sauce. These are the type of things that you really need to make anything taste somewhat of a good decision. For these cases I usually go with the minimum viable product: salt and pepper. You can find small salt and pepper packets in almost every cafe that you visit. So basically, I would go grab a snack or have lunch somewhere and would grab a couple of those packets. Notably, today most of the Airbnb’s already have something, but you do not want to wing it.

If you are somewhat of a fancy person and you really need something extra, you can get one of those airplane proof containers and add whatever you need. Hot sauce would be the next best thing interestingly as with it, you can make almost anything taste good.

Additionally, there are a lot of substitutes for the dry spices – you can grab some of the fresh alternatives. A fresh chili pepper, which you can buy almost everywhere would do the trick for almost everything.

These solutions are great if you are staying short term – like over the weekend. If you are spending a bit more time, then you should buy some basic stuff. At this point some of the key points include: collect to go packets. If you are a sushi fan, those small soy containers, are a great source of deliciousness and saltiness. At any fast food joint that you go to, they give you ketchup or majo or whatever packets that they provide. Do not throw them away for the love of what’s holly. Put them in your backpack and keep ongoing.
Lack of tools
I know that all of us are used to the fancy knife that you have at home or even all the specific tools that you have all around – but in these cases you do not have any.

The key and most important part is having a pan to fry stuff. I understand that there are some cases that you might need something else (like cooking pasta or making some soup). but on most of the cases, you are not making anything fancy (as you should not).

Focus on the frying pan that you have as this should be the one that determines what you will cook. Make sure to have a spoon or a spatula and then the rest is history.

In the supermarket, make sure to buy pre-cut stuff. The key point here is meat. If you are in Europe, in every supermarket, they sell pre-cut and pre-cleaned fillets of every type of meat imaginable.

If you are more of a pescatarian, please keep in mind that fish is not always fresh everywhere. I would not recommend exploring where it’s obvious that you should not. Learn how to smell the fish!

If you are more of a vegetarian or vegan, your choices are fairly simple – go for the things that you are used to and try to simplify. But if you get a coconut and you need to bust it open – you know that you are going to have a hard time there tiger.
Lack of time
As you are in a new country, keep in mind that not all supermarkets are open 24/7. Let’s say that you are in Madrid, plenty of Markets are open on Sunday. God forbid you are in Germany on a Sunday though! In Frankfurt for example. except for a fairly small airport supermarket that is open in some weird hours on a Sunday, everything else is closed!

In other words, buy your food when you can!

What to cook

When you travel, you need to think like a bodybuilder’s diet. You need a source of protein, a bunch of veggies and some fats. This would be a fairly foolproof way to tackle it. Alternatively, you can pig out and do pasta, where a pack of pasta and a can of sauce, can cook two full meals.

My general approach is that everything should be related to the veggies. You need to decide if you want to have them raw or not. In other words, do you need to make a salad or to have them as a side. Once you decide – then everything is easy and here is why:

  • If you are going for a salad then your thinking would be to make that salad interesting
  • If you are having them as a side, then you need to make the main dish interesting.

Part 1: Let’s make the salad interesting first!
Decide on a main salad leaf. Go to the fridge area and pick one up. Pick something that is already pre-cut and pre-washed. Salads are hard to wash and especially harder to dry. Eating a wet salad is also horrible so do not do that.

Decide on the addons here. Addons consist of different veggies that you want to add to it (think of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, corm) or even fruits at this point. Fruits will make it interesting as it would add a lot of sweetness to it and enrich it. Think here apples, oranges, pears or whatever

Decide on some dried fruits. They add some crunch and crunch is good. Usually, I would get the cheapest bag of mixed nuts that there is and dump some of them in. Those single-use, fairly in-expensive snack materials are great for crunch. If you are lacking salt, get them salty as well

Decide on some fat squishy things. Here you can think of avocados, eggs, cheese of some sort.

Decide on the main protein. You are a grown adult. This salad will fill you up and then you will end up getting up in the middle of the night wanting to eat your own shoe. Do not do that. Add some protein to it. My trick to protein is canned tuna. If you are lacking oil, get it in oil. If not, get it in water. This solution is cheap and definitely country friendly. Obviously, feel free to explore in chicken, beef, pork, fish or even tofu, but as always you need to get something that is pre-cut and pre-washed. It will cost you a bit extra, but the ease of life quality is major.

Decide on the main sauce. A lot of supermarkets have their simple sauces already, but if they do not: olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper is your go-to vinaigrette. Lately, I am very much enjoying this honey mustard dressing. It’s not homemade, but it’s the next best thing!

Now eat!

Part 2: Let’s make the main dish interesting!
In this case, you decided that for dinner you do not want to deal with a salad, so at this point, you need to have some sort of veggies that you can cook or stir fry (basically fry them in a pan).

My favorite here is making garlic broccoli (which features small pieces of broccoli, fried with a bit of garlic and then added just a bit of water and covered up to steam for 2-3 minutes in high heat. You will get crunchy and delicious broccoli here done in 6 minutes.

Alternatively here you can cut a bunch of carrots and cook them with just a bit of oil in medium-low heat the same way as the broccoli. If you add butter, it will make them all shiny and interesting.

If you like them a bit spicy, some hot sauce is recommended (so that the heat is diminished a bit) at this point. Then on the plate, if you want more, add more – I am not your parent!

After you have selected the side, now we need to decide on the main piece of protein. As specified previously, you are a grown adult – you need more than veggies. Get a fillet of something. Marinate it with salt and pepper and fry it with a bit of oil in a high heat pan.

After the main protein, you might need some sauce. Usually, the bits that are left from cooking the meat, add some milk, and butter, remove it from the heat and you can make something interesting. Adding a sauce makes this whole approach less dry. If you are cooking fish – this will not work.

The beauty of this approach is that you can have soo many combinations – that you will begin exploring and making your own solutions with just a couple of store-bought ingredients.

Tips and tricks

  1. Do not use ovens in Airbnb’s unless you specifically clean it beforehand.
  2. Clean your pans beforehand. There are cases when the actual kitchen cleaning was not done properly or not even done for such a long time as the previous tenants did not use them. Just give everything a quick clean as you do not want to end up with food poisoning.
  3. While exploring is cool, give the supermarket chains a quick google beforehand. I was in Kyiv once and the supermarket near the place that I was staying was so shady that I can not even describe it. On the next corner though – amazing!
  4. Try to shop for the whole trip – it makes everything cheaper and easier. It requires a bit of planning, but once you do it a couple of times, it will be a piece of cake.
  5. Explore local stuff – do not only eat at home! Have at least one meal outside


  • Kitchenette Traveler

    Resident food drama maker

    I am just the average Joe, working in tech, that requires a lot of travel and at the same time, struggling to maintain a healthy lifestyle while trying to stay away from those delicious burgers... As such, my tips are lessons learned from failure, complete mess-ups and whatever experience I have gotten in the past.

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