11 Foods You Didn’t Know You Could Cook in the Microwave

The microwave is a convenient luxury, designed for warming up leftover takeout and the mug of coffee we’ve been nursing for three hours…right? At the risk of sounding like an infomercial: That’s not all! As it turns out, your microwave can save you time making all kinds of homemade meals (and even desserts). We’re not even talking about a pot pie from the freezer section—did you know you can whip up rice, pasta and even lemon curd in the appliance? Read on for 11 foods you didn’t know you could cook in the microwave.

(FYI, exact cooking times will vary based on your specific microwave and its wattage—experimentation is key. Want the lowdown on microwave cooking? Check out our tips here.)

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surprising foods you can cook in the microwave: rice
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1. Rice

Make sure your rice is thoroughly rinsed and drained (this prevents clumping), then add it to a large microwave-safe bowl with water. Microwave on high for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the strength of your appliance. When the rice is done, the grains will be tender and the water will be fully absorbed—if needed, continue cooking in one-minute increments.

surprising foods you can cook in the microwave: pasta
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2. Pasta

In a large microwave-safe bowl, add the pasta and enough water to cover it by two inches. Season generously with salt, then microwave the pasta on high for the amount specified on the box plus two minutes. Pause the microwave halfway through to stir the pasta and prevent sticking. Test for doneness; if it seems undercooked, continue to microwave in 30-second increments. If you want to up the ante, add shredded cheese for makeshift mac.

surprising foods you can cook in the microwave: bacon
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

3. Bacon

Don’t sleep on microwaved bacon for a last-minute breakfast (or brinner). It’s fast, sure, but it also eliminates the need to wipe down a grease-spattered stovetop. Place the bacon on a microwave-safe plate between two layers of paper towels, then cook it on high in 2-minute intervals until crisp to your liking—it will take about four to six minutes, depending on your machine.

surprising foods you can cook in the microwave: lemon curd
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4. Lemon Curd

Lemon curd sounds fancy and requires a bit of stirring when made on the stovetop, but you can streamline the process by cooking it in the microwave. First, you’ll combine lemon juice, sugar and egg yolks in a microwave-safe bowl, then you’ll add the butter. Microwave the mixture in 45-second increments, whisking in between until the mixture is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Next stop: lemon curd thumbprint cookies.

surprising foods you can cook in the microwave: polenta
Kristin Teig/Mediterranean Every Day

5. Polenta

Stir a giant pot of polenta for 30 minutes at the stove? Nope, we’d rather make it in five minutes and get on with our day. To a microwave-safe bowl, add 1/4 cup of polenta, a cup of water and a pinch of salt. Microwave on high for five minutes, then stir and return to the microwave for five minutes more. Once it’s cooked, you can adjust the texture with a splash of milk and top it as desired. (We suggest meatballs.)

surprising foods you can cook in the microwave: cobbler in a mug
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

6. Cobbler

You probably knew you could bake a single-serve cake in the ’wave. But did you know you could make a cobbler, too? Our recipe for strawberry cobbler in a mug will give you the step-by-step, but really it’s as easy as mixing together a crumb topping, sprinkling it over a microwave-safe mug full of lightly sweetened fruit and microwaving it for a minute or two, or until the topping has set.

surprising foods you can cook in the microwave: toasted nuts
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

7. Toasted Nuts

For flavorful, crisp nuts that never scorch, toss your nuts in about 1/4 teaspoon of neutral cooking oil, such as canola oil. Spread the lightly coated nuts into an even layer on a microwave-safe plate, then microwave on high in one-minute intervals, checking for doneness as you go. Depending on the amount of nuts, it will take three to five minutes to reach an ideal golden brown.

surprising foods you can cook in the microwave: frothed milk in coffee
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8. Frothed Milk for Coffee

For a creamy latte or cappuccino without a milk frother (or a trip to the local Starbies), simply harness the power of your microwave. Fill a microwave-safe jar with milk (2 percent or nonfat froth the best), seal tightly with a lid, shake until your arms might fall off (about a minute), then remove the lid and microwave for 30 seconds on high. The foam will rise to the top so you can scoop it off into your coffee.

surprising foods you can cook in microwave scrambled eggs on toast
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9. Scrambled Eggs

To make fluffy scrambled eggs without dirtying a skillet, crack a few eggs into a microwave-safe bowl and whisk well with salt and a splash of milk or cream. Heat the eggs for 30 seconds on high, then beat well with a silicone spatula. Return to the microwave for an additional 30 seconds; repeat this cooking and stirring pattern every 30 seconds for about 2½ minutes until the scrambled eggs reach your desired consistency.

surprising foods you can cook in the microwave: mashed potatoes
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

10. Mashed Potatoes

No longer just for special occasions, these 15-minute spuds don’t even require boiling water. Arrange peeled russet potatoes in a single layer in a microwave-safe container and cook on high until you can pierce them with a fork, 7 to 9 minutes. Immediately mash the cooked potatoes and stir in half-and-half and butter, then return to the microwave for about a minute. Season with salt and serve.

surprising foods you can cook in the microwave: roasted garlic
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11. “Roasted” Garlic

It’s not *technically* roasted, since you’re not using the oven, and the flavor won’t be quite as mellow or caramelized, but you can achieve similarly spreadable, soft garlic in the microwave. Cut an entire head of garlic in half to expose the cloves, then place in a microwave-safe baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Add a tablespoon or two of water to the dish, then cover with a lid and microwave on medium (50-percent power) for six minutes, checking the tenderness with a fork halfway through. Keep cooking in one-minute increments until the garlic is super-soft. If you want to go the extra mile, you can cook the softened garlic in a 450°F oven until golden.


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...