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11 Ways to Turn Junk Food Into a Proper Meal

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junk à l'orange

It's hard to resist the call of junk food, so addictive yet so high in calories and low in nutritional value. These recipes -- in time for National Junk Food Day on July 21 -- include a key junk food ingredient that entices the taste buds and provides a hint of guilty pleasure on the cheap.


potato chip roast beef sandwich

Ramp up the usual roast beef sandwich with potato chips. A recipe from Martha Stewart starts off simple and classic, calling for roast beef, a quarter of a baguette, Gruyère cheese, arugula, and chive rèmoulade. A layer of salt and vinegar chips adds crispy texture.

Cheesy Doritos Casserole

cheesy doritos casserole

The prep time is minimal and the flavor is familar and addictive in this quick and easy casserole from Blog Chef. Simply combine shredded chicken, cheese, cream of chicken soup, milk, sour cream, tomatoes, and taco seasoning in a bowl. Spread the mixture atop crushed Doritos in a casserole dish, then add two more alternating layers, along with a layer of cheese, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Top with lettuce and tomatoes to finish it off.

Ramen Stir Fry
Ramen Stir Fry by jmawork (CC BY)

ramen stir-fry

Instant noodles get a bad rap, but they can make for a delicious stir-fry. Follow a recipe from Food Network host Katie Lee combining soy sauce, ginger, honey, vinegar, garlic, vegetables, chicken, and packaged ramen noodles (minus the seasoning) into a savory dish.

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tortilla chip tuna salad

If tortilla chips and creamy dips are your weakness, consider a tortilla chip tuna salad from the blog Kim's Cravings. It calls for mixing a can of shredded tuna, various vegetables and beans, and avocado to create a salad tossed with crushed tortilla chips.

Frito Chili Pie

frito chili pie

Fritos combined with chili is a state fair staple. Serious Eats suggests serving Frito chili pie in a slit-open single-serving Fritos bag. Start by assembling the chili (this can also be a good way to use leftovers) and toppings such as jalapeños, onions, and potentially avocado, cilantro, and scallions to complement the chips' distinct corn flavor. Let the chili soak into the chips until they reach an appealing softness, while shredded cheese melts on top, and dig in.

Potato Chip Crusted Chicken

potato chip-crusted chicken

For chicken that's juicy inside and crispy outside, try a potato-chip-crusted chicken dish from Taste of Home. To make the crumbs, mix crushed chips, parsley, salt, onion powder, and paprika in a large, sealable bag. After brushing the chicken breast halves with mayonnaise, add them to the bag and shake until they're evenly coated. Finally, microwave on high for six to eight minutes.

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candy bar pancakes

Have dessert first with candy bar pancakes from Food Network host Sunny Anderson. The recipe calls for the usual pancake ingredients, along with a crushed or chopped Butterfinger or Snickers bar. The chocolate is sprinkled on top as the pancakes cook.

Related: Top 10 Chocolate Halloween Candies


cheetos mac and cheese

Vice's food site Munchies offers an easy macaroni and cheese casserole with a layer of intensity -- a golden Cheetos crust. Cook cubes of American cheese slowly into milk to create the cheese sauce, and boil macaroni until it's al dente. After coating the macaroni evenly with the sauce, put it into a casserole dish. Sprinkle crushed Cheetos all over the cheesy macaroni and bake until golden brown. Consume in moderation!

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tater tot salad

Taste of Home has a better use for that bag of tater tots in the freezer: A taco "salad" that uses baked tater tots as a base for lettuce, beef cooked with taco seasoning, shredded cheese, sour cream, and olives. To make this a somewhat healthier dish, replace the cheese and sour cream with diced tomato and avocado.

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cheese and pepper ramen

This potentially perfect midnight snack, the brainchild of acclaimed chef David Chang, is a version of the Italian dish cacio e pepe. The Filipino food site Pepper explains that replacing the pasta with cheap and easy instant ramen takes advantage of its ability to soak up flavor as well as its rapid cooking time. All this recipe needs is water, olive oil, butter, freshly ground pepper, cheese (pecorino or Parmesan), and a package of ramen, although topping the dish with bacon and an over-easy egg adds a whole 'nother level of flavor.


potato chip omelet

Step up your omelet game with potato chips, using a Richard Blais recipe from Fine Cooking. Whisk eggs, heavy cream, white pepper, parsley, and chives together, and gently add potato chips until they're coated completely. Let sit for 10 minutes while the chips soften, then pour everything into a nonstick skillet and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. (If the eggs haven't cooked through by then, transfer to the oven and bake until the eggs are done.) When the omelet is flipped onto a plate, the crisp, browned potato chips that sank to the bottom of the pan create a delicious-looking crust.