Decadent Recipes That Are Actually Easy (and Affordable) To Make

Fancy but easy foods

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Fancy but easy foods
Cheapism / Anna_Shepulova/antoniotruzzi/KateSmirnova/istockphoto

Fast and Easy (and Delicious)

Having to settle for the same bland meals daily can quickly sap the joy out of eating. It can even turn what should be a delightful experience into a monotonous chore — and that should never, ever happen! While there's nothing wrong with occasionally treating ourselves to fancy meals from our favorite restaurants, eating out all the time can quickly add up and burn a hole in our wallets

But what if we told you that adding a touch of luxury to your dinner table doesn't have to break the bank? Thanks to inventive home cooks and online resources, many upscale dishes can be recreated at home using cheap and easy ingredients. 

From chef-approved favorites like miso black cod and pasta carbonara to expert hacks like no-knead bread and preserved lemons, here are step-by-step guides to help you transform seemingly intricate dishes into ones you'll be proud of. 

bowl of sour cream

1. Crème Fraîche

This luxurious dairy product adds a creamy tang to dishes, but can be pricey at the store. "It’s super expensive to buy where I’m at," writes one Redditor, adding, "But ridiculously easy to make." Indeed, making it at home is surprisingly simple; you only need two ingredients. Mix heavy cream with a small amount of buttermilk, let it sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours, and voilá, you have homemade crème fraîche. 

Perfect for enriching sauces or topping desserts, a dollop of crème fraîche can also elevate scrambled eggs to new heights, according to Gordon Ramsay. It can also be used to infuse herbs or spices with a unique twist.

Recipe: Serious Eats

Italian focaccia bread with rosemary and garlic

2. No-Knead Bread

Enjoying fresh, delicious bread shouldn't always require a trip to the bakery, or leave you in pain from hours of kneading. The no-knead bread method involves mixing a simple dough and letting it rise slowly, often overnight, to make homemade focaccia (a type of Italian flatbread that's seasoned with olive oil, salt, and often topped with herbs and other toppings before being baked.) 

This method not only saves physical effort but also enhances the bread's flavor through slow fermentation to achieve that satisfying crunch and artisanal flavor.

"In my opinion, the no-knead version of focaccia tastes better and is less work," writes one user, while another adds, "Mixed by hand, no mixer, no kneading, overnight in the fridge. It’s AMAZING!!" 

Recipe: Alexandra Cooks

Related: Pull-Apart Bread Recipes That Are Fun to Eat and Easy to Make

Black cod miso marinated

3. Miso Black Cod

A dish made famous by acclaimed Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa, miso black cod is creamy, savory, and utterly satisfying. By marinating the cod in a mixture of miso, sugar, and sake, the fish develops a caramelized exterior with a buttery interior once it's broiled or grilled. This method not only imparts incredible flavor but also mimics the luxurious umami texture and taste that you'd find at a luxurious restaurant. 

"The miso black cod has to be the easiest high-end restaurant dish to replicate at home," writes one user. "It takes 2 minutes of active work." Why, don't mind if we do. 

Recipe: Serious Eats

Related: Seafood Savings: 6 Ways To Add Fish to Your Diet Without Busting Your Budget

Pavlova meringue cake with fresh berries

4. Pavlova

Similar to a Baked Alaska, this meringue-based dessert topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit looks every bit as decadent as it tastes. The key to a great pavlova lies in beating the egg whites to stiff peaks and ensuring a gradual cooling process to prevent the meringue from cracking or breaking apart. 

But the best part is how this visually-stunning dessert is also easy and cheap to make at home. "Baklava is scrumptious, can be done the day before, can be left out for a week and freezes well," writes one Redditor. Another user says baklava is a "super easy dessert that impresses everyone." We are SOLD. 

For a clever shortcut, another user suggests buying a "pavlova egg," (a dessert mixture) which already has meringue inside. Start by measuring out one half of the egg with water and the other side with sugar. Then just "put it together and whip," they write. 

Recipe: AllRecipes

Related: 20 Low-Cost Desserts That Are Easy As Pie

Lemon jam in glass jar isolated on white

5. Preserved Lemons

Often used in Moroccan and Middle Eastern cuisines, preserved lemons can elevate simple dishes with their intense and aromatic flavor. By preserving lemons in salt and their own juice, you can create a condiment that lasts for months and adds a citrusy and zesty depth to stews, marinades, and dressings. The process is also super easy and a great way to reduce food waste by using the entire lemon. 

"Preserved lemons are ridiculously easy and extremely tasty," writes one user, adding that the lemons are "perfect with all kinds of dishes," from sweet to savory. 

Recipe: The Mediterranean Dish

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Traditional french vanilla cream dessert with caramelized sugar

6. Crème Brûlée

This quintessential French dessert combines a velvety custard base with a crisp, caramelized sugar topping. But the key to a perfect crème brûlée lies in achieving that smooth, rich custard and a brittle, glass-like sugar crust — which offers a delightful textural contrast — but can be intimidating to try and replicate at home. Thankfully, home cooks say it's pretty easy to get right.

One user suggests using sous vide (a cooking method that involves using vacuum-sealed bags that are cooked to a precise temperature in a water bath) to make all kinds of desserts. "If you ever get into sous vide cooking, it’s amazingly simple to make fantastic creamy desserts, like cheesecake, crème brûlée, pumpkin pie in there," writes the user. "They come out just luscious, rich, and super creamy."

Recipe: Natasha's Kitchen

Related: This 4-Ingredient No-Bake Dessert Is Summer Magic

Fresh homemade dutch baby pancake with powdered sugar, fresh berries and mint for breakfast with a glass of milk and apple juice on a light background. Delicious  breakfast in a sunny interior.

7. Dutch Babies

Dutch babies are soft, puffy pancakes that rise beautifully in the oven and then deflate slightly to create a soft, custard-like center surrounded by a golden, crispy crust. Made from an easy batter of eggs, flour, milk, and sugar, these pancakes are baked in a hot skillet and often served with sweet toppings like fruit, powdered sugar, or syrup. The key to their signature puff is using a very hot pan and oven that allow the steam to lift the batter as it cooks. 

"Dutch babies for breakfast/brunch," writes one user, adding, "They look beautiful and are just as easy as pancakes." Another Redditor adds, "Super easy, insanely tasty, way cheaper at home than out." We will be trying these immediately. 

Recipe: The Kitchn

Plate with spaghetti carbonara on a laid table

8. Pasta Carbonara

This beloved Italian dish is known for its creamy, rich sauce that is made without using any cream. Traditionally, it combines al dente spaghetti with a sauce made from egg yolks, Pecorino Romano cheese, pancetta (or cubed bacon if you're in a pinch), and freshly ground black pepper. The heat from the cooked pasta gently cooks the egg mixture, creating a smooth and velvety sauce that clings to each strand perfectly. 

"Everyone thinks carbonara is so fancy, when it takes me less than 15 mins (after water boiling) [to make]," writes one user. Indeed, carbonara exemplifies the magic of turning simple, quality ingredients into a comforting yet elegant (and filling) meal.

Recipe: Bon Appetit

Crepes with Fresh Berries, Chocolate Sauce and Powdered sugar
Lauri Patterson/istockphoto

9. Crepes

As far as we're concerned, everything that comes out of France is fancy — and crepes are no different. These thin, delicate pancakes of French origin can be filled with an array of sweet or savory ingredients to compliment any fancy dinner spread. The batter, a fluid mix of flour, milk, eggs, and butter, is poured thinly onto a hot skillet and cooked briefly on each side to achieve that light, supple texture. 

"They’re generally perceived as fancy, yet are crazy easy and fast to make," writes one Redditor, before suggesting a few ways on how to make them. "Savory crepes filled with some sautéed mushrooms and spinach and whatever melty cheese, or dessert versions with just sugar and lemon or butter and cinnamon sugar." YUM!

Recipe: Sally's Baking Addiction

Chicken Marbella

10. Chicken Marbella

A classic dish that's known for its unique and harmonious flavors, Chicken Marbella features chicken pieces (typically thighs) marinated with prunes, olives, capers, and garlic, then baked with white wine, brown sugar, capers, olives, and pitted prunes. This combination of Mediterranean ingredients creates a rich, sweet, and tangy sauce that beautifully complements the chicken. Be sure to serve it with a side of rice or couscous to sop up all the sauce, which is arguably the best part. 

The dish is also quick and easy to make, users say. "As with so many online recipes, the prep time is deceptive," writes one Redditor. "After the active time, it's just letting it marinate and then toss it in the oven." 

Recipe: Simply Recipes