When you’re in your 20s—early 20s, especially—a creative spin on Cup O’Noodles might qualify as a veritably gourmet dish. But once you age out of the cereal-and-Bagel-Bites period of your life, it’s time to tackle greater culinary challenges—dishes that require more than a microwave and a cup of water. There are a handful of recipes you might want to learn (or at least try) by the time you turn 30, because seriously, you’re a real-ass adult now—you can handle it.
Here at StyleCaster, we don’t like to get prescriptive. If Cup O’Noodles and Bagel Bites bring you bliss unmatched by any legitimately home-cooked meal, do you. We aren’t here to judge. We just know that cooking—seriously cooking—is a thing a lot of people like to tackle in their young adulthood, and we’re here to help you usher in this phase of culinary achievement. But where to begin? With some ambitious dish you saw on Pinterest years ago? By working your way through a cookbook your grandma gave you when you first graduated high school?
Our recommendation: Start by building a foundation. Learn some of the classics, and challenge yourself to take on a couple out-of-the-box meals. These fundamentals will combine to create a cooking repertoire that’ll serve you in any scenario; you can get pretty far knowing how to make a couple basic desserts, a handful of party-worthy snacks and a bunch of killer entrees.
Consider this a crash course in Cooking 101, targeted toward beginners who want to master an array of simple recipes—or at least, who want to give it the old college try. Even if you’re not wowing your loved ones with your domestic goddess abilities right off the bat, rest assured knowing you’re building a skillset that’ll make you more self-sufficient—and if that’s not life-affirming, we don’t know what is.
1. Chocolate Chip Brownie Cookies
Chocolate chip cookies are an absolute classic. Adding the brownie element makes them more decadent—and sure to impress—without making them much more complicated.
2. Creamy Cardoon Mac and Cheese
Upgrade your mac and cheese situation from Kraft to this creamy, baked option, and you’ll never look back.
3. Easy 30-Minute Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
Because mom isn’t around to make you chicken noodle soup when you’re home sick anymore. (Plus, this go-to is easy to whip up—and will make for a sweet surprise if you make some for friends any time they’re hit with a common cold.)
4. Shrimp Fried Quinoa
Shrimp fried quinoa might just be the ultimate gourmet-ish meal prep dish.
5. One-Bowl Brownies
6. Swiss Pan Burgers with Rosemary-Mushroom Pan Sauce
A classic with a seemingly fancy twist, this pan burger will delight anyone you make it for. (Seriously, you’ll seem like a bona fide cook if you whip one of these up.)
7. 1-Pot Red Lentil Chili
Because chili is too easy to not know how to make.
8. Kale Caesar Salad
Because sides are essential if you’re cooking full-on meals for others. And kale Caesar salad is about as delicious (and nutrient-packed) as sides get.
9. Slow-Cooker Roasted Chicken
This slow-cooker roasted chicken will help you feed a crowd—without consuming your entire day.
10. Classic Beef Stew
Because stews are a super underrated way to whip up a delicious dish full of protein and veggies.
11. Chicken Fried Steak with Country Gravy
If Southern food is your thing, this chicken fried steak needs to be in your rotation.
12. Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken pot pie is a family-friendly classic that’s just worth knowing how to make.
13. Classic Shepherd’s Pie
Another family-friendly classic, this shepherd’s pie is a great hearty meal for a crowd.
14. Classic Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce
Because you don’t deserve to live your life buying cheesecake from a store every time you have a craving for it.
15. Instant Pot Beef Stew
This Instant Pot stew practically cooks itself—and its the perfect cozy, hearty meal for winter.
16. Buffalo Chicken Dip
The Super Bowl is right around the corner. Treat your friends—and yourself—to buffalo chicken dip. You deserve it.
17. Classic Tiramisu
18. Baked Apple Fritters
19. Best Ever Apple Pie
I mean, come on, you know you want to be able to make apple pie.
20. Chicken & Broccoli Casserole
It’s always useful to have a go-to casserole or two (or 10).
21. Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs
Meatballs with a surprising—and delightful—twist? Sign us up.
22. Easy Beefaroni Recipe
Because pasta isn’t suddenly off the table now that you’re tackling more complex dishes.
A delicious breakfast treat
24. French Onion Soup
French onion soup is the kinda thing you order at a fancy restaurant when you’re high-rolling. And now you can make it from the comfort of your own kitchen.
25. BBQ Chicken Quesadilla
Upgrade your quesadilla situation from microwaved tortilla with shredded cheese in it to decadent BBQ chicken dish. Because you can.
26. Classic Homemade Cannoli
Want a delicious dessert that looks more impressive than it is? Homemade cannoli should be your go-to.
27. Sweet Potatoes with Maple Pecan Drizzle
The perfect side, dessert substitute or fancy breakfast dish, these maple pecan-drizzled sweet potatoes are sure to be a hit with anyone you make them for.
28. Classic Traditional Stuffing
I mean. We’d be remiss not to include a classic stuffing recipe, right?
29. Baked Ham with Pineapple Brown Sugar Glaze
Another holiday necessity, this baked ham is sure to delight you and your loved ones, alike.
30. Slow-Cooker Stuffed Peppers
Slow-cooker stuffed peppers make for a seriously delicious contribution to any dinner party.
A version of this story was originally published in January 2018.