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Making Meals in a Hotel Room Without a Kitchen: Coffee Maker Chicken Marinara Capellini with Broccoli


By Sharon Wong


Our family has been staying in various hotels during home renovation projects. Sometimes we have a standard room without the ability to cook, so we eat out. By the end of our time away, we crave home-cooked meals. That's when it's time to get creative and cook in the hotel room!


What Can You Make with Hot Water?

My favorite small appliance to use when traveling is a hot pot. It’s a workhorse! It can cook a lot of simple foods: oatmeal, noodles, hard boiled eggs, soup, vegetables, etc.

But I thought about what I would do under more challenging circumstances. How would I cook for my two nut-allergic boys in a hotel without my hot pot? What if my family was in an unfamiliar location, unsure of grocery stores and safe restaurant choices?

If you can’t bring a hot pot, the hotel may have something you can use: the in-room coffee maker! Use it to prepare foods that need just a bit of hot water and time: couscous, soup or noodles in a cup, mashed potato flakes, etc. But what other meal possibilities are there?


I looked up “coffee maker meals” and discovered that there are websites, cookbooks, and coffee maker cooking enthusiasts. Who knew?


Testing the Concept: Coffee Maker Meals

As a newbie coffee maker enthusiast, I decided to try something simple to test the concept: can it cook pasta and can it cook frozen vegetables? I filled the reservoir about 3/4 of the way with water and filled 1/4 of the carafe with frozen broccoli florets and ran the machine. The broccoli was ready to eat in a few minutes.

I also wanted to see how well a coffee maker cooks pasta. I bought a few different kinds of pastas to try.

  • Cappellini pasta - takes three to four minutes to boil on a stovetop per written cooking instructions. The pasta was ready after three to four minutes of sitting in the carafe of hot water. It tasted great with the marinara sauce.
  • Shell pasta - takes six to seven minutes to boil on a stovetop per written cooking instructions. The pasta was still chewy after six minutes of “cooking” in the carafe and needed a few more minutes.
  • Penne pasta - takes 10-12 minutes to cook on the stovetop. I checked on it after “cooking” the pasta for 10 minutes and it was too hard. I let it hang out in the carafe for another 10 minutes and it was soft but unpalatable. 

I think that a coffee maker can heat up small amounts of frozen vegetables at a time and probably prepare other quick-cooking vegetables. I recommend using pastas that take no more than six to seven minutes to cook on a stovetop.


If you do cook with a coffee maker, do not add any food ingredients into the water reservoir. Only put water into the reservoir and no more than 3/4 full so that there’s enough room in the carafe for the food and water.


Cross Contamination Concerns

As with any type of cooking, take steps to prevent cross contact and cross contamination. Some coffees may have ingredients your family is allergic to. Wash the carafe, lid and basket thoroughly with dish soap. Clean the whole coffee maker — wipe down exterior surfaces also. Run water through the coffee maker 1-2 times.  This ensures that the water does not taste like coffee.



Coffee Maker Chicken Marinara Capellini with Broccoli

Serves 1

I wanted to test the concept of coffee-maker cooking two ways:

  • With ingredients found at most grocery stores
  • With ingredients that can be substituted for different allergy or dietary restrictions. 


If using a different kind of pasta, adjust the timing according to the package, but select something that takes no more than six to seven minutes to cook. If canned chicken isn’t appealing, try other types of pre-cooked meats, seafood, or beans. You can substitute marinara sauce with pre-packaged soup or other types of pasta sauces. Be sure to have a can opener or buy ingredients with easy-to-open packaging. You will need an electric drip coffee maker and you can double this recipe using a 12 cup coffee maker. Put the recipe ingredients into the carafe only and pour only water into the reservoir.

2 cups of frozen broccoli (or other frozen or canned vegetables)
2 ounces capellini pasta (approximately 1 handful, the diameter of a quarter, break in half)
1/2 cup chicken (cooked, example canned or roasted)
1/2 cup marinara sauce
salt & pepper to taste (optional)



  1. Add 1/2 carafe of water to the reservoir and place broccoli pieces into the carafe and run the coffee maker. When the broccoli is warm, drain and set aside.
  2. Wash carafe until clean and add 3/4 carafe of water to the reservoir.
  3. Add pasta to the carafe and run the coffee maker.
  4. When the hot water covers the pasta, “cook” for two to three minutes. When the pasta is pliable and al dente, carefully drain the pasta (don’t clog the sink!) and add to the broccoli.
  5. Add the chicken and marinara sauce to the carafe and place the carafe back on the coffee maker heating pad. Let the sauce warm up for a couple of minutes.
  6. Add the broccoli and pasta to the carafe. Stir to reheat the pasta and broccoli, and serve.


More Coffee Maker Cooking Possibilities

  • Pasta, baby spinach, and pre-cooked ham slices
  • Boxed mashed potato, frozen peas, and pre-cooked roast beef slices
  • Couscous with chopped vegetables and vinaigrette
  • Mac and cheese with vegetables

Take a “Mess Kit”

Be prepared with a few basics for your home-away-from-home “kitchen.” Depending on your preferences, needs, and luggage space, some of the following items might be useful to pack or buy:

  • Disposable or re-usuable plates, bowls, and utensils
  • Flexible cutting board, scissors, knife, collapsible colander
  • Paper towels, dish soap, sponge
  • Plastic storage bags, a small roll of foil or plastic wrap
  • Microwave safe or heat proof storage container
  • Small kitchen appliances such as a hot pot, compact rice cooker, or electric grill (as space allows) and electric adapters for international travel

Hotel Cooking Safety Tips

  • Be safe when using small appliances to cook and do not leave them unattended when cooking. Keep dangling electrical cords out of reach of small children. 
  • Respect food safety precautions when handling raw meat and wipe down surfaces before and after preparing foods.
  • Avoid creating any strong cooking odors or smoke which might disturb other guests.
  • Prepare easy-to-clean up meals. Use paper towels to wipe up solids so that you don’t clog your drain.


 Sharon Wong is a mom, advocate and blogger at Nut Free Wok. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and 14- and 12-year-old sons. Sharon blogs about Allergy Aware Asian Fare recipes, cooking techniques, Asian ingredients and food allergy related awareness and advocacy issues. She encourages her readers to make their own Asian foods and adapt recipes to suit their food allergy concerns.



Kids With Food Allergies (KFA) invites authors to contribute guest blogs. In return, we link to their websites or blogs. These links are not an endorsement or sponsorship of content on these third-party sites. For more information, please refer to our terms of service.


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That's good to know, Kathy, about the switch to pods. The last time I made coffee in a hotel room, it was probably back in the last century some time.... :/

Your meal looks delicious, btw! I wonder about adding a paper-type disposable tablecloth to the mess kit, just to keep stuff off of bathroom counters.  

Who'dathunkit?!  I smell a cookbook in the works!


That is definitely a concern StephC and something we tried to highlight. Most of the hotels I've been in lately have gone to "pod" type systems - but not K-cups.  And they tend to only have regular and decaf coffee.  I don't know if many people travel w/ their own flavored coffee, but it's certainly a possible issue.


As Allison alluded to, Melkorey and I wound up cooking in a hotel room one night.  We were at an AAFA function and a storm calling for flash flooding was rolling in.  There were no safe restaurants and no regular grocery stores near by, so we found an ethnic market.  We got Asian style rice noodles, pop top cans of black beans and corn, and some fresh veggies.


The room had a single cup coffee maker - it took flat pods in a little plastic basket.  One way we tried to minimize coffee contamination issues was to just remove the basket.  I'm not sure how well that works w/ a larger machine, but it worked OK for us. I wiped down the outside of the machine before starting.  I was just running the water through and catching it in a paper hot cup.


I love the ideas Sharon gives for a "mess kit!"  I really thought I was the only one crazy enough to travel like that!  I have folding camping dishes that pack flat. I carry plastic sporks and some minimal seasonings like salt and pepper and a few spices.  I have little camping containers for them.  I carry a plastic serrated knife that works quite well on cutting up veggies - I bought it years ago as a "disposable" crab knife.  I have not been able to find any like it since. We used one of the plastic dishes unsnapped as a cutting board.  Our soup was awesome bc I had packed little packs of gf soy sauce in my liquids bag!  I had to get everything through TSA security since I wasn't checking a bag!








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Kathy P

This is great "thinking outside the box - er - pot" ideas!

With all of the nut flavored coffees out there, however, I'd wonder if the cleaning for x-contamination described would really be sufficient?  Especially since I know how grounds get slopped all around our coffee maker here at home, throughout every part of the machine (including the water reservoir).


I never would have thought to do this either!

(I think other KFA staffers have  


I could see myself doing this for DS if we were traveling - like maybe if I grabbed takeout for myself that was not safe for him and made something quick for him. This totally would have been very useful when he was younger. As an almost 12-year-old, he is more intrigued by coffee!

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