10 of the best (or worst?) prison recipes

Similar to the diet of a common college freshman, inmate recipes are both unique and often disgusting


By C1 Staff

Inmates have a lot of time on their hands, and they generally use both to make all kinds of items out of everyday materials they either find lying around their cells or that they purchase from the commissary. Sometimes these items are aggressive, others are playful. And then there are the edible ones.

Similar to the diet of a common college freshman, inmate recipes are both unique and often disgusting. Here’s a selection of the ones we found both most enticing for one reason or another, and also gross.

A convicted murderer went viral on TikTok last year after hosting a
A convicted murderer went viral on TikTok last year after hosting a "cooking show" inside his prison cell. (TikTok)

Jailhouse Tamales

Crunch up a bag of Fritos corn chips and a bag of spicy hot Cheetos (Doritos or any other spicy chip can also be substituted). Mix the chips together into one bag and add enough hot water to create a thick mush. Kneading the bag, drain off any excess water and roll the mix up inside the chip bag into the shape of a traditional tamale. Let sit for about five minutes, remove the bag and add some hot sauce.

Prison Lattes

Just because you landed behind bars doesn’t mean you have to miss your Starbucks. Except this will be about as far from Starbucks as you can get. Put a carton of milk under running, hot water until the water stars steaming. Add three teaspoons of instant coffee along with a maple syrup packet from breakfast. Serve hot.

Pad Thai

Using cooked ramen noodles, just add some peanut butter and hot sauce. It’s a quick and easy reproduction of Pad Thai.

Prison Pizza

Ramen noodles are also a primary ingredient of this dish, being the prison staple that they are. By crunching up the noodles and some crackers in a trash bag, add hot water and mold into a circular shape for the crust. Add whatever toppings you like – cheese spread, summer sausage, salsa. This one could get scary pretty quickly.

No Bake Cheesecake

A thank you to the creator of ‘Orange is the New Black’ is owed for this particular creation. Piper Kerman wrote about this recipe in her book, using graham crackers, lemon juice, vanilla pudding mix, stolen margarine and coffee creamer.

Flavored Water

Ramen comes in again here, but not in the way you think. Instead of using the noodles, inmates sometimes flavor their water with the seasoning packets that come with the noodles. Considering the range of ramen flavors out there, this means an endless number of water flavors for your drinking pleasure. Personally, we don’t think that sounds too tasty.

Crabapple Jelly

This one is owed to none other than Martha Stewart herself. Using crabapples from trees on the Alderson Federal Prison Camp grounds, she made the jelly with probable access to a kitchen.

“The Spread”

The spread, as its name might imply, consists of not only the staples of prison food, but literally anything an inmate might have left over from other cooking endeavors. Ramen noodles once again come into play by being mixed with spices in a trash bag, and anything else is added: canned tuna, hot sauce, salsa, Doritos and flavored popcorn are common. Hot water is added to “cook” the mixture, and it’s then spread over a newspaper and eaten with a spoon. Yum?

Fried Chicken

Though the process for this is vague, it’s believed that inmates somehow wire a heating element into a plastic trashcan. Inmates can likely get the chicken by either sneaking it out of the kitchen or trading for it from other inmates.

Correctional Cake

This seemingly sweet treat is made of Oreos, peanut butter and M&Ms. Separating the Oreos, inmates crush the cookie part and mold it with water to create the layers of cake. The Oreo’s interior is used for icing. Peanut butter creates another layer of icing, and M&Ms are used to top the whole thing off.

Next: Inmate goes viral on TikTok after hosting a 'cooking show' from his cell

This article, originally published September 2015, has been updated.

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