15 Famous and Delicious Prison Food Recipes That Will Surprise You
Published August 28, 2023
All of us take comfort in food. There’s a lot of joy that comes with eating. Aside from fueling our bodies, it can make us happy. It can also be a reason to connect and bond. It can be a reason to be creative. It can be a talent.
And the joy food brings doesn’t stop in prisons. As we’ve discovered, prison kitchens are running magic themselves. These inmates, who have limited kitchen experience and resources and work with a meager budget, are surprising. As it turns out, they can create delicious and pleasant prison food recipes like what we eat in the outside world.
In this article, we’ll round up the top prison food recipes that will surprise you. You’ll realize that prison foods are not always bland and boring. Let’s waste no more time and head to the discussion.
Must-Have Prison Foods
Ramen is known to be a saving grace for prisoners when hunger strikes. It is an item every commissary store has. Even if you’re not a fan of ramen, its seasonings are an alchemical elixir. In prison, it can transmute any metal into gold.
Ramen is an essential currency among detainees. In prison, you can use ramen to make bets at poker tables. It can also pay for services like haircuts and housekeeping.
Another best-selling jail commissary food is pork rinds. Chicharrones are flavorful. It is crunchy and can act as a filler for many meals. For this reason, it is a staple food many prisoners lean on.
It is also used for more decadent meals like orange chicken. The ingredients will cost more. But adding pork rinds to white rice, chicken, and the right blend of flavors is superb. It can immediately transport you to Panda Express.
3. Menudo Kits
Menudo kits are a mixture of chicharrones, cheese, pretzels, and hot water. It is a famous prison meal. It is inexpensive. This meal can help anyone survive when a cafeteria meal is unappealing.
Jail Food: Prison Cooking Makes Friends
Great food will always win a person’s heart. It is true in prison, too. It will help if you can do wonders with a bag of tortilla chips. Also, in transforming a state-provided bread.
In prison, many inmates are creative to create huge meals. As they are big, often they can feed multiple people. In turn, they make mealtimes a bonding opportunity and a reason to form friendships.
Here’s the list of 15 best prison food recipes that are impressively creative.
1. Menudo Kit
We’re starting plain and simple. This prison meal is flavorful, savory, and easy to prepare. It’s one you can lean into when you’re not in the mood to eat what’s being served in the correctional canteen.
- 1 small bag chicharrones
- 1 bag of crushed pretzels
- 1 can easy cheese
- 2 cups hot water
- Pour the chicharrones into a bowl. You can also opt to slit the packaging to turn it into one.
- Add crushed pretzels, hot water, and cheese.
- Stir until well combined. Enjoy.
2. Orange Chicken
Orange Chicken can transport you to have a takeout meal with your friends outside prison. It resembles Panda Express, a famous American fast food chain restaurant that takes inspiration from Chinese cuisine.
- 1 bag white rice
- 120-ounce 7-Up or Sprite
- 2 packs of orange Kool-Aid
- 4-6 jelly packets
- 2-4 boxes of mustard
- 1 bag chicharrones
- 1 bag packaged cooked chicken
- Cook rice and set aside.
- Combine 6 to 8 ounces of soda in a separate bowl with the Kool-Aid, jelly, and mustard. It will make for the sauce. Set aside.
- Add chicharrones and chicken to the rice. Stir well.
- Cover with sauce.
- Lightly incorporate all the ingredients. Once done, serve and enjoy.
3. Prison Pad Thai
Pad Thai is a famous stir-fried noodle dish from Thailand. It is tasty and aromatic despite being easy to prepare. It does not require a lot of equipment. Also, since ramen is a common commissary item, many prison recipes highlight this ingredient.
- 1 package of ramen noodles
- 1/3 cup of peanut butter
- 1/4 cup of crushed peanuts
- 2 tsp hot sauce
- Prepare ramen noodles as instructed in its packaging.
- Mix the ramen noodles with peanut butter and hot sauce in a bowl.
- Garnish the bowl with crushed peanuts. Wait to cool down for a while and enjoy.
4. Parole Day Cheesecake (Inspired by Orange is the New Black)
This well-loved jail food is a no-bake cake with crushed cookies. You’ll be surprised at how creative prisoners can be. It uses Kool-Aid frosting, which is surprising. When an inmate is granted parole, they typically prepare this recipe.
- 12 oz of cookies (any kind)
- 6 oz of cream cheese
- 2 tbsp of honey
- 1 packet of sugar
- 2 tbsp of french vanilla creamer
- 3/4 cup of Kool-Aid (any flavor)
- Crush the cookies until they’re crumbs.
- Microwave the crushed cookies for 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- In a bowl, combine cream cheese, honey and sugar. Following the French vanilla creamer and Kool-Aid. Mix until you hit a creamy, silk texture.
- Pour the mixture on top of the crushed cookie crust. Take your time to spread the frosting evenly.
- Refrigerate. You can also keep it instead in an ice-filled bucket. Do so for 4-5 hours until the toppings are solid.
- Slice and enjoy.
5. Jailhouse Burrito
This burrito recipe showcases flavorful ingredients from the commissary kitchen. It’s delectable and quick to prepare. It can also satisfy two to three people at a time. Jailhouse Burrito uses plastic bags for cooking the ingredients. This is due to the lack of utensils inside the prison. Further, chip bags are recycled for cooking and mixing.
- 1 package of spicy ramen noodles
- 3/4 in 8 oz bag of Spicy Jalapeno ranch-flavored popcorn
- 1/4 cup of squeezable cheese
- Any hot sauce (sriracha or Tabasco sauce)
- 1/2 bag of Cheetos
- Crushed cheese-flavored crackers
- Spicy Takis
- Crush the ramen noodles first before opening the pack
- “Cook” the ramen noodles with hot water while inside the bag. Make sure to seal it tightly
- While waiting for the ramen to cook, make the burrito stuffing. Next, add the ramen seasoning to the Jalapeno popcorn.
- Combine the crushed Takis, hot sauce, squeezable cheese, and crushed cheese crackers with the Jalapeno popcorn.
- Then, put on the cooked ramen noodles. Mix all the ingredients in the popcorn plastic bag.
- Get the tortilla and use the leftover cheese on it
- Put your stuffing and wrap it up. Once done, slice the burrito for sharing.
6. Prison Pizza
Being locked up doesn’t cut the opportunity to enjoy a cheesy, comforting pizza. Being the most popular food in the United States, it’s unsurprising that many inmates attempt to make it.
- 2 sleeves of Saltine cracker
- 2 sleeves of Ritz cracker
- Tomato Paste
- Pepperoni slices
- 1 pack of ramen noodles
- 1 stick of Slim Jim
- Block cheese or Squeeze Cheese
- Empty plastic bags (e.g., a Dorito bag)
- Thinly slice the pickles, onions, block cheese, and slim Jim.
- Inside the Dorito bag, crush two entire sleeves of Saltine crackers and two sleeves of Ritz crackers.
- Place the crushed ramen noodles inside the bag.
- Fill the bag halfway with hot water. Assure that the water level in the mixture is equal.
- For 15 minutes, mash the mixture together to incorporate the ingredients. After, cook the noodles
- Once the mixture resembles dough, carefully cut the side of the bag. Then, proceed to flatten it. Distribute the dough evenly with another chip bag and a round material, such as a rolling pin.
- Microwave the dough for 4-5 minutes.
- Spread the tomato paste evenly and top with the remaining ingredients.
- Cook the pizza in the microwave for five minutes.
- Slice and serve while hot.
7. Prison Tamales
Tamales are a tasty Mexican dish. It’s simple to prepare. It is why prisoners who were bored with chips and ramen noodles make their version of this delicious delicacy. It requires only hot water and a strong plastic bag.
- 1 large bag of corn chips
- 1/3 cup of processed cheese food or cheese curls
- 1 oz beef jerky sausage or meat stick
- 1/2 cup of warm water
- Combine corn chips and cheese in a single chip bag.
- Finely crush the contents.
- Chop the meat stick into small pieces and add it to the mixture.
- Add just enough water to the mixture to enable it to be shaped into a tamale.
- Tightly seal the bag and run it under hot water to cook.
- Remove the bag from the freezer and enjoy your tamales.
8. Prison Chi Chi
Chi-Chi is one of the famous prison food recipes many inmates love to prepare. The cook may incorporate whatever ingredients they wish into it. That is why there are so many variations of this dish. Ramen noodles, cheese, and meat snacks are the highlights of this dish. Chips and sugar are also sometimes used.
- Hot Sauce
- Salt and Pepper
- Onion and Garlic powder
- Cayenne pepper
- A pack of Ramen noodles
- Canned sausages
- Precooked can/package of chili
- In a bowl, bring water to a boil. Using hot water, cook the ramen noodles
- Melt a small amount of butter
- Blend the melted butter with the hot sauce, salt, pepper, onion, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Mix well.
- Cut the canned sausages into slices. After, combine them with the precooked chili.
- Combine the previously made butter with the chili and sausage mixture in a microwave-safe bowl.
- Reheat the entire mixture.
- Combine the ramen noodles and the sauce in a large mixing bowl.
- Let it cool and serve.
9. Lock-Up Latte
Just because they’re in prison doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy some Starbucks situation. Though, as you can imagine, the prison’s version of latte doesn’t taste like most of us are used to. There are no coffee makers in prisons. Because of this, inmates typically use powdered coffee and whatever kind of milk they can get their hands on.
- Fresh milk or any type of liquid milk
- Instant coffee
- Maple syrup or sugar
- Put the milk carton in a microwave. Also, you can hold it under hot running water.
- Add a few teaspoons of instant coffee and stir.
- Add maple syrup or sugar to taste.
- Drink while hot.
10. Prison Pruno
Making prison wine is illegal and dangerous. You can’t entirely blame prisoners, as wine is a staple drink in the outside world. Many enjoy the taste it brings every once in a while.
- Fruits of choice
- Bowling water
- In a bag, simply gather your favorite fruits together and mash them.
- Add plenty of sugar.
- Then, let it settle in a bowl of boiling water.
- Wrap the bag in a shirt or towel if you have one. Stash it away.
- Follow up after a few days. The fruits will ferment. They will fill the bag with gas as it transforms into homemade liquor.
- Pour yourself a cup and enjoy.
11. Strawberry Vanilla Cake
No one can resist a strawberry vanilla cake. It is true for inmates, too. Here’s the recipe for an easy yet decadent strawberry vanilla cake.
- Vanilla wafer
- Berries Bunch O’Krunch cereal
- 120-ounce 7-up or sprite
- 1 box strawberry drink mix
- 2 packs vanilla shake mix or powdered milk
- Crush vanilla wafers as finely as you can.
- Smush 1 cup of Berries Bunch O’Krunch cereal. Proceed to add it to the crushed wafers.
- Pour ⅓ cup of soda and 4 packs of strawberry drink mix into the mixture. Stir until it has the consistency of a cake frosting.
- Microwave for 3 to 5 minutes. Check after three minutes to ensure the soda has evaporated. Set aside two minutes to cool.
- Add vanilla shake mix with 4 packs of strawberry drink mix in a separate container. Add the remaining soda and stir until it has a smooth icing texture.
- Frost the cake. Add more cereal on top.
- Slice and serve.
12. Prison Potstickers
Prison Potstickers are a creative dish from Prodigy’s Commissary Kitchen. They are cheap and easy to prepare. The dish uses a surprisingly similar procedure to authentic homemade dumplings.
- Can of mixed veggies
- Soy sauce
- Hot sauce
- Mash and roll over your cooked macaroni into a dough. With your thumb, begin to form small dumpling pockets.
- Do your fillings. Mix your mixed veggies, soy sauce, and hot sauce. Adjust the taste according to preference.
- Fill the dumplings with the mixture.
- Brush the dumplings with butter.
- Toast for three minutes. Let it cool and enjoy.
13. P’s Clean Hands Sweet Potato Pie
This sweet potato pie jail food is from Albert “Prodigy Johson.” It is inspired by a pie recipe from his fellow inmate, Shakira. To which it is called “Shakira’s Dirty Pie.
- Graham crackers
- Canned yams
- In a container, crush the graham crackers.
- Melt the butter and combine it with the crushed graham crackers.
- On a flat surface, push the crushed graham to form a crust.
- To create the fillings, smush the canned yams. Then, add sugar and honey.
- Lay the filling on the top of the crushed graham.
- Bake the pie for 25 minutes.
- Let it cool, slice, and enjoy.
14. Prison Butterscotch Brownies
There are also detainees who have a sweet tooth. For this reason, they invented butterscotch brownies from candies in the commissary shop.
- Vanilla wafers or double fudge cookies
- Butterscotch candies
- 2 cups of cocoa powder
- Crush the wafers or cookies in a container.
- In a separate bag, mush the butterscotch candies.
- Mix them both.
- Add a small amount of hot water to the chocolate powder.
- Press the cookies and candies mixture onto a flat surface.
- Lay the cocoa powder like a glaze on top of the candies.
- Slice into cubes and enjoy.
15. Prison Surprise
Chef Boyar P invented Prison Surprise. It was made out of surprise. He didn’t want the ramen noodle seasoning. Instead, he chose to use Doritos, Jack Mack, and hot sauce. The result is a tasty noodle recipe with a unique punch.
- Ramen noodles
- Jack Mack or Canned Tuna
- Hot sauce
- Cook the ramen noodles per instruction.
- Smush the Doritos.
- When the ramen noodles are done, combine the crushed Doritos. It will serve as an improvised cheese sauce.
- Serve with Jack Mack or tuna toppings.
- Add hot sauce according to your liking.
Frequently Asked Questions About Famous Prison Food Recipes
1. What is the most common food in prison?
The most common foods in prison can differ based on the location and the specific facility. However, bread, potatoes, beans, boiled meat, egg, and rice are some staple prison foods almost all penitentiaries serve.
2. What is the prison word for food?
The prison term for food is “chow.” In some, it is called “chow hall”. Inmates may use these terms when talking about meals. They are also applied for dining areas within the prison.
3. How do you cook in prison?
Most prisons provide communal microwaves in common areas and housing units. Inmates can use them to heat pre-packaged meals. They can also use this in creatively cooking something. In some instances, prisoners can also have access to hot plates. They are heating devices that are closely monitored to prevent any safety hazards.
Further, certain correctional facilities provide In-cell cooking. In it, inmates are granted limited cooking equipment for common use. Typically, it consists of hot pots, toasters, and small stoves.
4. What are some nasty jail foods?
Nutraloaf, also known as meal loaf. It is a common punishment meal given to inmates. It is a dense and unappetizing mixture of vegetables, grains, and meat. It is supposed to provide nutrition while being ugly as a disciplinary measure. Also, sloppy joes. This one of the worst prison foods is described as low-quality ground meat with a tomato sauce. It is served on a bun. Lastly is Goulash. Goulash is a hearty stew made of meat, vegetables, and spices. Many inmates find its look to be gross and yucky. It tastes bland and intolerable.
It’s inspiring to know that prisoners have immense creativity to serve themselves food. It showcases that they also care about eating just as much as ordinary people outside jails. With our discussion, we can rule that they are longing for normalcy. These detainees know the joy of different foods, making them and sharing them with people they have along their journey of redemption.
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