04/26/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

25 Takeout Meals You Can Make At Home

Written by Kelly Rossiter for PlanetGreen.com
butter chicken

Butter Chicken

All photos courtesy of Kelly Rossiter

Well, if it's fear that drives you to the telephone, then help is here. We've got 25 delicious take-out favourites that you can make in your own home, often in the same amount of time--and fraction of the cost--that it takes to have it delivered. There are green benefits to making your own dinner rather than ordering in. You don't have someone driving through the streets to bring your food, but perhaps most importantly you aren't awash in a ridiculous amount of packaging that is used for half an hour and then goes straight into the garbage. Not only that, but cooking at home is healthier for you when you can control the amount of fat and salt in each dish.

And of course, the other fabulous benefit of making your own take-out food is keeping more of your hard earned money in your pocket. Making your own food is always going to be cheaper than ordering in. If my husband and I order a pizza it costs about $20.00 and if I make it myself I figure it costs me about $12.00 in ingredients and we usually get two meals out of it. The butter chicken my husband loves so much costs $12.00 for two people at our local Indian restaurant. I just made it last week for eight people and it cost me $30.00

WATCH VIDEO: Less Take-Out = Lower Footprint

A Chinese Banquet

My husband is mad for Chinese food and we eat quite a bit of it. A lot of Chinese food is cooked at the last minute, so doing all the prep work first is important. Once you have all of your ingredients chopped and ready, it's often just a matter of a quick stir fry and making a sauce right in the wok once the food is cooked. If you need a refresher on what ingredients you'll need you can go to Stocking Your Kitchen Part Two: Chinese.

Those of you who have eaten in Chinese restaurants know that the delivery of the dishes is a bit staggered. You get the chance to taste the first dish and a few minutes later the next one comes to your table. My kids and I did that once. We made about 6 different dishes and we'd take turns cooking one while everyone was else was eating. We spent hours cooking and eating and it was a huge amount of fun.

Appetizers: Doesn't everyone start out a Chinese dinner with Spring Rolls? You can buy the wrappers for spring rolls in any grocery store now. The trick is to get the oil to the right temperature. Too hot and the wrappers blister and burn, not hot enough and they are greasy. Drop a little piece of wrapper into the oil to test it first.

Spring RollsGeneral Tsao'sMushroom Cabbage Soup

Whenever my husband is in Chinatown in downtown Toronto he stops at the same Chinese bakery to get himself a Steamed Pork Bun. The bakery has been there since the 1960's and still has the original hand painted windows in Chinese script. He was distraught a few weeks ago to discover that they are closing to renovate. Luckily he happened by on their very last day before closing and got his pork bun, because nothing is ever the same once you renovate.

Soup: I love Hot and Sour Soup and it seems to me that there are as many recipes as there are Chinese restaurants. I've tried a few different recipes in my time, and I like this one.

Main Course: The most ordered main course may well be General Tso's Chicken. This recipe isn't as sweet as some, which I personally prefer. This recipe works equally well with tofu if you want a vegetarian dish.

Another big favourite is Emeril's Beef and Broccoli. I haven't tried this recipe myself, but it has all of the classic ingredients for a fantastic dish.

My mother-in-law isn't kosher, but she doesn't normally eat pork. But one dish which often tempts her is Chinese ribs. Here's Emeril's take with Asian Style Ribs.

Noodle dishes are also popular and you can try Emeril's Cabbage Lo Mein. This is a vegetarian dish as well.

Tofu is incredibly versatile because it has no particular taste on it's own. It soaks up the flavour of whatever sauce you choose to cook it in.Tofu is one of those foods that people seem to love or hate. The people who don't like it most often complain about the texture, but you can buy it in a variety of textures from silken to extra firm. If you have problems with a soft texture, give this Crispy Tofu dish a try.

If you want to have some fun making a bunch of little dishes, then make some Dim Sum. This summer at the cottage I made some pot stickers for a pot luck dinner I was attending. My daughter had a bunch of friends over so I doubled the recipe and made some for them as well. They were a huge hit and were gone in minutes.

Beef and BroccoliCrispy TofuDim Sum

An Indian Feast

Shortly after we were married my husband gave me a copy of Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sawni. I found it a bit daunting with the huge lists of ingredients that I'd never heard of. I didn't even know how to begin to find some of them. Now, I love Indian cooking, and once you have the spices, it really isn't difficult at all.

Appetizers: What more can I say than Onion Bahji? I loved this recipe and the taste of the fried onions melting in your mouth is spectacular.

Main Course: Probably two of the most popular take-out Indian dishes are Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken. As with General Tso's Chicken there are many recipes out there for these Indian favourites. I've made both of these dishes for pot luck dinners with great success. You can easily substitute tofu in either of these recipes.

There are lots of fantastic vegetarian recipes in Indian cooking, and no feast is complete without an Indian Dal.

Onion BhajiDalButter Chicken

A Mexican Meal

Mexican cooking is a new interest for me. I've been trying out a number of traditional styled dishes, rather than the Tex-Mex variety that you get in fast food joints. I love the earthy flavour of Mexican cooking and I'm planning to do more of it in the new year.

Appetizers: I've never made Empanadas before, but Emeril's version of Sweet Potato Empanadas looks like something I'm going to have to make. I like the smokey taste that chipotle chilies give to the Chipotle Black Bean Burritos, although I never know, do you pick them up and eat them with your hands, or do you use a knife and fork. When I pick up a burrito it just seems to end up disintigrating.

My son's girlfriend Becca taught me how to make Tortillas, and she does a much better job of it than I do. Once you've got those tortillas made you can go ahead and make some Quesadillas with them, which is an incredibly versatile dish. You can pack pretty much anything into a quesadilla that you like, and you can change it every time you make it.

If you want a healthy Tex-Mex fix, try these vegan Nachos.

Black Bean BurritosTortilla ChipsNachos

Try a Thai Meal

A number of years ago there was a sudden surge of interest in Thai food and there were Thai restaurants opening all over Toronto. I can walk to about 4 of them. Lemongrass, galangel, fish sauce and other exotic ingredients suddenly started appearing on menus, and now you can get them anywhere and have them in your pantry.

Soup: When I was growing up, one of the things I really disliked was any dessert made with coconut. As an adult, I discovered that I love the taste of coconut milk in dishes, especially in this fabulous Thai Mushroom Coconut Soup.

Main Course: Probably the most frequently ordered Thai dish is Pad Thai. This is a vegetarian version that is quite delicious.

Mushroom Coconut SoupVegetarian Pad Thai

A Trip Around the World for Some Other Dishes

My neighbourhood has a huge Jamaican population and you can go into any corner store and buy yourself a Jamaican patty. This is a vegan version. I have to admit I have never purchased a Jamaican patty, but my daughter tells me that this tastes just like the real thing. In any case, I thought it was pretty tasty.

Whenever I'm out for dinner, my husband, who doesn't cook, takes himself over the the local Vietnamese Pho joint for his meal. This recipe is pretty close to the what he gets there.

Jamaican PattiesPho

And Back Home Again

One of the problems with American take-out food is that it is often fast food full of preservatives, fat and salt. That is, of course, why people love it. So when my husband was out of town and unable to disapprove of any unhealthy eating, I made onion rings for my daughter and her best friend Julia.They were, in a word, fabulous.

I'm totally uninterested in take-out fried chicken, but real home cooked fried chicken is another matter. If you want to have a healthier version, try Emeril's (Oven) Fried Chicken, which is actually baked in the oven. I've made chicken fingers this way for years and it's delicious.

Onion Rings

But What About the Pizza?: Is there any more beloved or more frequently ordered take-out food than pizza? I have to confess that we have a fabulous mom and pop Italian restaurant a few blocks from us and sometimes I order pizza from them rather than making it myself because it is just so delicious. Even so, making pizza yourself is quite easy, and also delicious. If you like, try some really easy Individual Flat Bread Pizzas on your grill.

So there you have it: A bit of an overview of some wonderful and delicious recipes for take-out food that you can make in your own home. Here's all the recipes we have here, for easy clicking:

PizzaNaan Pizza

All 25 Take-Out Recipes

Chinese Food Take-Out Recipes

Indian Food Take-Out Recipes

Mexican Food Take-Out Recipes

Thai Food Take-Out Recipes

Other Worldly Delights

American Classics