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A bag of potato chips is the key ingredient in this savory prison recipe
Photo by FuatKose on iStock

I recently watched a cooking show called “MasterChef” and the main assignment for participants was to make a meal out of ingredients found in a gas station. They used corn chips, potato chips, soda and even gummy bears.

I thought, “Oh my gosh, that is what we do in prison when we cook.”

In prison, our resources are lacking. You have to improvise with things you would have never dreamed of using before.

In New Jersey women's prisons, we have microwaves to cook and heat our food. You would be amazed at the creations you can make in a microwave.

I love potato chips — barbecue, sour cream and onion, whatever kind of chips. But in prison, I try to remain health-conscious and limit my chip intake. Every once in a while, I binge on a potato chip loaf, as we call it in prison.

This is the recipe:

First, open the bag gently and set the potato chip bag aside because you will need it later. Crumble the chips in a bowl and add milk or water to cover the chips.

Put it in the microwave and stir; the consistency should be like mashed potatoes. Once that is complete, open the bag completely so the inside of the bag is facing up. Lay the potato chip mixture on the bag, and flatten it out like a pancake.

Now you can add melted cheese and broccoli (any little bit of greens you can get in your diet while you're here is a plus). If you want to splurge, you can cut up commissary sausage and add that as well.

Once all the ingredients are on top of the flattened potato chips, fold it and mold it like a loaf of bread, and wrap it up in the potato chip bag. Let it sit for roughly 30 minutes, and then you can slice it to whatever width you wish.

Now a cold beverage would be nice to include, so let's have a Cherry Coke. But it's not sold in the commissary, which means you'll have to make it yourself. Get a Coke or Pepsi, and add some cherry Kool-Aid, stir and you now have a Cherry Coke.

But what about the dessert? You don't want the same old cookies. You want a piece of homemade cake with icing, but you don't have an oven to cook it in.

When I arrived in prison, I heard someone say they were making a cake in a microwave. I assumed they meant heating up an already packaged cake since we don't have cake mix, fresh eggs or oil. But after I saw and smelled the cake I realized it was possible.


  • 1 bag potato chips
  • Milk or water
  • Toppings: cheese, broccoli, sausage, etc. (optional)

In a bowl, crumble chips and add milk or water to cover. Reserve chip bag.

Microwave chip mixture in increments, stirring, until consistency is like mashed potatoes.

Completely open chip bag at seams so that it lays flat, inside foil facing up. Spread chip mixture on bag and flatten out like a pancake.

Add toppings as desired (any little bit of greens you can get in your diet while you're here is a plus, or splurge with some commissary sausage).

Roll mixture up and mold into a loaf shape. Wrap in the bag and let sit for about 30 minutes.

Slice and serve.


For the cake:

  • 1 single-serve carton of milk, or water
  • 1 package of Oreos (or an imitation, which we have in prison)

Break the cookies apart, scraping the filling into a separate bowl. In a microwave-safe bowl, crumble the cookie pieces.

Warm milk, then add to cookie pieces. Stir until the texture is thick, like a cake mix.

Cook in the microwave. Depending on your microwave, it can take up to 6 minutes; test with a fork.

Bakery-style: Add nuts, chocolate bars, Reese’s peanut butter cups or a Swiss roll (imitation RingDings in prison).

For the icing:

  • Reserved cookie filling
  • Water or creamer
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Mix-ins: powdered drink mix (optional)

Mash cookie filling with a fork.

Add water or creamer and sugar, then whip with fork until it thickens. Put it in the microwave for a couple of seconds.

If you want to make it festive, mix in some Kool-Aid or other powdered drink mix to your icing to add color.

Chocolate icing: Put some hot chocolate mix in a bowl. Stir in a little bit of water. Microwave in 1-minute increments, stirring between, adding more water or hot chocolate mix as needed for consistency. (Be careful to keep an eye on it, because it can bubble over quickly and create a splattering mess.)

Nutella is another great idea for icing if you want to splurge. A jar of Nutella here is $5, which is expensive in prison. We are feeling the inflation hikes here as well.

Bon appétit!

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Global Forum Online has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Tina Lunney is a writer and student enrolled in the NJ-STEP prison college program with Raritan Valley Community College at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women. Lunney aspires to work toward a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice once she graduates.