Coronavirus may have delayed your vacation, but that doesn't mean your taste buds can't take a trip around the world right now.

By Matthew A. Moore
July 28, 2020
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Anyone planning a vacation in 2020 has been met with—how do we put this delicately?—complications. The global coronavirus pandemic has made travel plans dubious at best and downright impossible at worst. And in the midst of unparalleled economic uncertainty, we could all probably use a break from work (and reality) right now.

But how do you "get away" when you can't really get away? Like humans always have, we find an outlet through which to channel our creativity and imagination. For some, that might involve reading some good books, or immersing themselves into a captivating movie or TV show. For others, it's reconnecting with nature and tackling yard and garden projects in earnest. For us? We take our creativity to the kitchen, of course!

We're making lemonade with all these lemons by taking ourselves on a flavor staycation, courtesy of the Cooking Light Diet. In lieu of our preferred physical destinations, we're shipping our taste buds off to every conceivable vacation location from the comfort of our own kitchen. We've compiled a list below of 30 amazing recipes (all of which can be scheduled into your customizable Cooking Light Diet meal plans) that will take you on a road trip, to the beach, to the mountains, and beyond.

There's always next year for Tulum. For now, let's stay safe, stay put, and let our palates do the traveling. Bon voyage, friends!

Schedule these recipes into your customizable Cooking Light Diet meal plan! Subscribe today.

Get Away to the Caribbean

If your plans for a tropical getaway to a sand-swept beach were swept out to sea, make one of these meals.

Grilled Mango-Habanero Jerk Chicken

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Rum, mango, jerk chicken—can you feel the gentle sea breeze hitting your face as the Caribbean waves crash against the sand yet? (If no, try more rum.)

Caribbean-Spiced Fish Wrapped In Banana Leaves

Victor Protasio

Charred citrus, gigantic banana leaves, and a medley of spices make this recipe feel like you're preparing a dinner in Jamaica.

Vacation in Europe

Anyone in the U.S. wanting to visit Europe right now may be out of luck, so instead we're taking your stomachs on a journey to four of the continent's most desirable vacation destinations.

Spain

Shrimp Paella

Photo: Jennifer Causey

If you've never been to Spain, you've never known the joy of sharing a steaming pan of fresh paella (or the rain falling mainly in the plains, for that matter) with a friend, and that just won't do. Make sure you prepare a nice pitcher of sangria with this recipe, too.

Green Gazpacho with Corn and Radish Salad

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Gazpacho is a perfect Spanish meal for the summer months when it's way too hot for soup and you have zero intentions of turning the stovetop on. Plus, this flavorful recipe is ready in under 20 minutes.

Italy

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

Hector Sanchez

Like its ancient Roman predecessors, the secret ingredient in this delectable, superfast pasta dish is fish sauce. And before you knock it, what was the saying again? Ah, yes! When in Rome...

Creamy Four-Cheese Pasta with Spinach

Jennifer Causey

If you take a trip to Italy and don't indulge in a quattro formaggi (or four cheese) pasta, you're doing it wrong. Enjoy this combination of gluten-free noodles and fontina, ricotta, Parmesan, and cream cheeses with a nice glass of Italian wine for much cheaper than you could ever even flap your wings to Florence.

France

Steak, Goat Cheese, and Onion Jam Tartine

Caitlin Bensel

Only the French could take the concept of open-faced sandwiches and make them simplistically decadent. Here, tangy goat cheese (if possible, source your cheese from a French goat, because vacation), peppery arugula, buttery flank steak, sweet caramelized onions, and balsamic jam throw a party in your mouth. Everyone's invited to this French flavor fête—even Uncle Frank!

Steamed Clams with White Wine and Tomatoes

Photo: John Autry

Steamed clams in a white wine bath served with baguette slices: Could this recipe be anymore French if it tried, people?

Greece

Grilled Lamb and Feta Pita Sandwiches

Caitlin Bensel

You don't need to fly all the way to Mykonos to enjoy a delicious gyro. These tasty pockets are under 300 calories per serving, and you can certainly have them on the table quicker than you'll be able to get to Greece, so eat up, φίλος.

Greek Chicken Nachos

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Nachos get a Grecian twist here courtesy of toasted pita, crumbled feta, and shredded Greek salad. We recommend serving with enough ouzo to make you forget 2020 ever happened.

Soak Up Sun in Mexico

From breakfast burritos to mouthwatering fajitas, we've got you covered south of the border from sun up to sun down.

Baja Fish and Avocado Tostadas

Photo: Jennifer Causey

So you may have to forgo that Cabo trip this year. Well, that doesn't mean you can't eat delectable fish tostadas—just imagine you got back to your tropical lodging fresh off a deep-sea adventure wherein you caught the tilapia you're using for this recipe. We hear that margaritas can aid the imagination in this regard. 

Carne Asada Bowls

Photo: Jennifer Causey

"Hakuna asada," is something you'll say after devouring this simply exquisite taco salad. We don't exactly know what it means to say that, but we're going to assume it would translate to, "Wow, I really feel like I'm on a Mexican vacation after eating that meal. Delicious!" And that's what we're going for here.

Cheesy Chicken Fajitas

Photo: Victor Protasio

What's a vacation without some indulgence? These super-cheesy fajitas hit the spot without making you feel like all of your vacation pants should include elastic waistbands.

Huevos Rancheros Burritos

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Staycation mornings are pretty great with some "ranch eggs," a classic Mexican breakfast that will take you 45 minutes to prepare. But hey! It's vacation, so you've got nothing but time, right? Plus, you get to start your day with some flavorful roasted vegetables, so win-win.

Don't forget everyone of these recipes is available on the Cooking Light Diet! Subscribe today to schedule these dishes into your own customizable meal plans.

Explore Asia

The great thing about a kitchen staycation is that you can take the family anywhere in the world. Here, we head to Asia and partake some of its myriad cuisines.

Fresh Thai Noodle Bowl

Photo: Jennifer Causey

This recipe employs a fun "trick" for creating amazing flavor: infusing store-bought veggie stock with sautéed fresh ginger and garlic. Yes, please.

Banh Mi Burgers

Jennifer Causey

Vietnamese flavor meets American know-how (burger eating). These patties are so flavorful they'll immediately transport your taste buds across the Pacific. And though these might be burgers like you've never had before, you'll definitely find yourself craving them again once you have.

Tuna Spring Rolls with Pineapple Dipping Sauce

Photo: Jennifer Causey

If you can't find rice paper wrappers for this recipe, lettuce will do in a pinch. If you still have room for dessert after this 415-calorie dinner, top some coconut ice cream with your leftover pineapple dipping sauce and thank us later.

Chicken Curry Stir-Fry

Caitlin Bensel

Takeout stir-fry can be laden with extra calories and lots of sodium, but not this recipe. Want to start a staycation party in your kitchen? Incorporate this meal with this song, cranked to 11.

Camp in the Mountains

You don't have to get Rocky Mountain High like John Denver to bring the serenity and majesty of the mountains into your kitchen. We're going camping, folks!

Cheddar Cheeseburgers with Caramelized Shallots

Oxmoor House

What campsite is complete without some grilled burgers? This recipe makes masterful use of shallots for a sweet, cheesy mouthful with every bite.

Grilled Turkey, Apple, and Cheddar Sandwiches

Photo: Colin Clark

This author has never been camping without some premade sandwiches, and since this one has earned rave reviews from Cooking Light Diet members, we're including it here. Chow down on this sammie to give you the energy to summit Mount 2020.

Sausage, Spinach, and Apple Breakfast Sandwiches

Photo: Alison Miksch

One cannot partake in an afternoon hike on an empty stomach. That's where this breakfast recipe comes in, and with its riff on béarnaise and crisp, crunchy apple slices, it's a meal worthy of a five-star vacation. 

Quick Banana and Milk Chocolate S'mores

Photo: Brian Woodcock

C'mon, people...you really thought we were going to send you camping without s'mores? Absolutely not! Meet the only s'more recipe you'll ever make again— you'll want to end every night of your staycation with them.

Take a Road Trip

Unlike the Johnny Cash song, we may not want to go everywhere right now, man. So instead of hopping in the car to destinations unknown, opt to take your taste buds on a trip across America.

Turkey and Andouille Sausage Gumbo

Photo: Jennifer Causey

We're starting down South with a delicious gumbo recipe easy enough for even a beginner cook. Have the kids help with this recipe, and it's only a matter of time before you're kicking back enjoying their natural progressions to making from-scratch roux and beignets. Laissez les bon temps rouler, the author wrote as the world crumbled around him.

Great Plains Burger

Photo: Christina Holmes

You should be able to find bison at the grocery store or farmers market. This tasty burger delivers big flavor courtesy of two heartland staples: buffalo and corn.

Sheboygan Bratwurst

Grab a pint, turn on some polka, and fire up some brats! Expand your kids' concepts of what constitutes a delicious hot dog with this meal. You've never taken so long to cook sausage (1 hour and 40 minutes of cook time), but the ends will definitely justify the means.

Pacific Salmon Burger

Photo: Christina Holmes

We're heading West for a sustainably caught, deliciously prepared salmon sammie. For a more PNW feel while eating this meal, we suggest wearing plaid.

To Grandma's House You Go

What vacation destination list would be complete without a stop at grandma's? Enjoy some heartwarming comfort meals and an irresistible sweet treat courtesy of your favorite lady.

Mini BBQ Meat Loaves with Smashed Blue Cheese Potatoes

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Grandma, the MEAT LOAF! We never know what she's doing back there, but we do know she'll approve of these bite-size barbecue loaves served up with some creamy, cheesy taters.

Broccoli-Quinoa Casserole with Chicken and Cheddar

Photo: Brian Woodcock

You can't think of grandma's house and not think of some sort of amazing casserole or dressing recipe. And this casserole is the height of cheesy decadence—but at only 449 calories per serving. Grammy, you've done it again!

Easier Chicken Noodle Soup

Photo: Jennifer Causey

When we're sick, few things soothe us more than our grandma and chicken noodle soup. Sip on this soup during your staycation and think fondly of your nana and happier days to come.

Cheesecake Sandwiches

Photo: Hector Sanchez Styling: Caroline Cunningham

Speaking from personal experience, there was never a time I would visit my Granny's house without being offered some sort of sugary confection. So what better way to emulate a trip to see your family matriarch than with some Cheesecake Sandwiches? You deserve them, sweetheart.

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