Five Takeout Favorites to Make At Home Instead

I hit a wall around this time every summer; the heat and humidity are seemingly endless, the start of grad classes is on the horizon, and work is starting to get busy after the quiet summer season. I don’t have any kiddos so I’m not dealing with the back to school craziness some folks are, but this season of life is feeling pretty crazy between our wedding in September and building a house that we should move into in October.

With everything we have going on, cooking has to be quick and easy, or it just ain’t happening. We’re at a bit of an impasse currently, since we’re on a budget and thus can’t eat out nearly as often as we’re accustomed to, but most days we don’t really feel like cooking. Luckily, I’ve discovered quite a few recipes for our takeout favorites—and they’re so easy and good, I actually get excited to make them. Take a look at the list below, and you might find a new favorite of your own.

Credit: Drew Taylor,


1.  Orange chicken

There was a period in time where we were eating Panda Express literally once a week, I think (“pandamonium” that my body still hates me for). If my fiancé had it his way, we’d still be eating it that often. That feeling isn’t mutual, but I do still crave orange chicken pretty regularly. I few months ago, I stumbled upon this Instant Pot orange chicken recipe, and I haven’t looked back. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, there’s a great crockpot version that uses the same ingredients. It’s the perfect mix of sweet and tangy, and it’s a healthier alternative too, since it’s not breaded or fried in oil.



2. Crockpot carnitas

I don’t actually eat Chipotle all that often anymore because I’m fundamentally opposed to places that don’t serve good queso. That said, I’m a huge fan of making carnitas for tacos to switch up our traditional taco routine (thanks, mom, for bringing this idea to my life). We typically opt for pork carnitas, but there are great recipes for chicken carnitas, too. The best part is that these recipes make a boatload—so you could eat it for days, or freeze it for another week when you don’t feel like cooking. Don’t forget the squeeze of lime on top before serving these—it truly makes the recipe.



3. Vegetable fried rice

This vegetable fried rice recipe starts with frozen vegetables, which is how I knew it was on my cooking level the second I opened it. Fried rice is another easy recipe that you can make in bulk and eat for days if you wanted to (heck, you could even eat it with the orange chicken recipe above if you’re feeling ambitious). I highly recommend a wok for these types of recipes since you can fit a lot more in the pan without worrying about spilling any if you’re a messy cook. We got one for Christmas last year, and it was life changing. If you don’t have one, a large pan will do. You can pretty quickly master this recipe and add it as a staple to your cooking routine.



4. Panera Asian chicken chopped salad

I appreciate that Panera is nice enough to put some of their recipes online for folks to make at home, because eating lunch there is the quickest way I’ve found to bust our budget. Asian chicken chopped salads are one of the only salads I occasionally crave (I mean, it’s still salad, but, it’s pretty delicious).  You can buy their dressing for the full effect, or find an Asian sesame dressings at your grocery store if you’re in a pinch (I’m a fan of the Kraft one).



5. Chicken lettuce wraps

There are dozens of copycat PF Chang’s chicken lettuce wrap recipes (don’t try to read “lettuce wrap recipes” out loud; it’s a mouthful). This version has a ton of hits on Pinterest, so it’s the one I went for. You could make this one in bulk and eat throughout the week, too (are you sensing a second theme here yet?). Or eat it all in one sitting; I wouldn’t judge you.

Who says you can’t eat takeout every night? With easy to follow copycat recipes, you can eat your favorite foods whenever you want, without breaking your wallet.

What’s your favorite takeout recipe to make at home? Add it in the comments below or tweet us @litdarling

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