Prison foods that are actually delicious

It doesn't take someone who has done time to tell you that prison food is disgusting. Think of the worst school cafeteria lunch you've had, then picture it cold, moldy, and covered in maggots. But if you're one of the lucky ones who has access to commissary items, you can whip up some pretty tasty meals and snacks.

Sweet Potato Pie

On his first day of serving a three-year sentence for weapons possession, Albert "Prodigy" Johnson of the '90s rap duo Mobb Deep was sent to the infirmary for food poisoning after eating his inaugural meal of prison gruel. After that incident, Prodigy, who suffered from sickle cell anemia, made it his mission to try and eat healthy so he could navigate Rikers Island without worrying about getting sick. The recipes in his acclaimed book, Commissary Kitchen: My Infamous Prison Cookbook, are certainly not healthy in the "I do yoga and spin classes five times a week and I'm trying out the Whole30 Diet" sense, but they are tasty reminders of what it's like to have a home-cooked meal.

One of the standouts in the book is his sweet potato pie recipe, which has a buttery graham cracker crust that would make Paula Deen proud. Prodigy uses roughly five butter packets, a couple sugar packets, and a honey packet combined with crushed graham crackers and canned yams. After some microwave nuking and 25 minutes in a toaster oven, the result is a personal-sized pie that, while not a pretty as the stock photo above, looks and tastes good enough to be on a prison Pinterest board.

Chi Chi

Like a salty and savory Oreo, there's more than one way eat and prepare Chi Chi. Chi Chi can be as boring as canned tuna with a packet of mayonnaise, similar to what filled a tuna fish sandwich you'd always fail at trying to trade for a Lunchable back in elementary school, but it can also be a tasty concoction of beef jerky, ramen, and Velveeta cheese that would make Harold and Kumar drool.

A former inmate from Pennsylvania told his recipe for Chi Chi. If you're looking to make something out of that Hickory Farms package your boss sent you during the holidays, you're in for a treat. This Chi Chi recipe consists of ramen noodles, cheese curls, summer sausage, pepperoni, barbecue sauce, honey, pickles, chili powder, and meatless chili mixed in a plastic bag with hot water. Most college students don't even have all of these ingredients in their dorm rooms, so this is definitely the Wagyu beef of prison Chi Chi. The result is a sweet, salty, and crunchy dish with enough sodium to cause your grandmother's pacemaker to stop ticking.

Piper's No-Bake Cheesecake

While the character based on her hasn't made this recipe on the show yet, Piper Kerman, famous for her 2010 memoir, Orange Is The New Black, made a No-Bake Cheesecake for an inmate's going away party while spending a year in a minimum security federal prison located in Danbury, Connecticut. This no-frills No-Bake Cheesecake uses crushed graham crackers and stolen margarine for the crust. If you're going to risk getting sent to the SHU for stealing an ingredient, you know this has to be good.

Kerman then smashed a Laughing Cow cheese wheel with some vanilla pudding mix and gradually added Cremora with lemon juice to create the filling. The final step described by Kerman is "pour into the bowl atop the crust, and put on ice in your bunkie's cleaning bucket to chill until ready to eat." If you're reading this and you don't have a bunkie, but rather the the luxury of refrigeration, pop this bad boy in the refrigerator for a few hours and you're good to go.

Prison Latte

If you're still craving and shedding tears over the Maple Macchiato that was phased out by Starbucks years ago, you might want to try the Prison Latte. We're pretty positive that the job of "barista" isn't one found in even the most glamorous of prisons, but that doesn't stop locked-up coffee connoisseurs from creating tasty beverages to get their caffeine fix.

The Prison Latte is pretty simple to make. You run a small carton of milk under hot water until it's steamy, then pour in three heaping of spoonfuls of instant coffee and a maple syrup packet or two from breakfast. If you want to go all out, grab a Sharpie and write your name wrong on the side of the container. It'll be just like you're at Starbucks, minus the folks writing screenplays on their Macbooks.

Correctional Cake

Despite its origins, Correctional Cake is actually fairly down-home and friendly to a child's palate. But be warned: if you do make this for a kid, they won't just be on a sugar high, they'll be on a sugar bender.

Recipes for Correctional Cake or Prison Cake differ between prisoners. Barbra, who appeared on the reality show 60 Days In, in which non-offenders went "undercover" in prison, enjoyed making Correctional Cake so much she whipped it up for her husband's birthday. Her recipe includes crushed peanut butter cookies, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, 1 Hershey bar, a scoop of peanut butter, and 2 scoops of cappuccino mix. Another popular recipe uses crushed Oreo cookies and M&Ms. Too much of either will likely lead to your dentist correcting some cavities.


Making wine in prison can be very dangerous. These jailhouse vintners not only have to worry about their fellow prisoners trying to steal their brew, they also risk getting extra time slapped on their sentences. However, it's just as dangerous consuming pruno. The name pruno comes from what the wine used to be made with back in the day: prunes. Not only would it get you buzzed, but it was great at keeping you regular.

Nowadays, most pruno is made from moldy bread, oranges, and gobs and gobs of sugar, all strained through a sock. If you can stomach it, drinking pruno will bring back memories of skipping algebra and sharing a bottle of Boone's Farm behind the bleachers. In Los Angeles, an ex-con-turned-cocktail master serves up a craft version of the prison punch that packs a punch.

Jailhouse Burrito

This is honestly something that might end up on Taco Bell's menu in the near future. There's a reason why ramen noodles are more valuable than cigarettes in prison: you need them to practically make all of your savory meals. Try putting hot sauce on a Marlboro.

The popular book, Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars is chock-full of recipes that use the college food staple, but Avary's Jailhouse Hole burrito is downright crave-worthy. This burrito is made with ramen noodles, jalapeƱo Smartfood popcorn, crunchy Cheetos, Goldfish crackers, and hot sauce all mixed together and stuffed in a tortilla with Velveeta cheese. In her video, YouTube personality Emmymade In Japan whips up this prison staple, and depending on how hungry you are, you might start to salivate.

Sweet and Sour Pork

Craving some Asian-inspired cuisine, but your funds are too low to call for delivery from your local Chinese food restaurant? Why not try your hand at making sweet-and-sour pork, prison-style? In a clip from Vice's "Munchies," professional skateboarder and ex-con Andy Roy shows his recipe for this culinary delight.

Andy combines ramen noodles with pork rinds, Sriracha, Slim Jims, and cherry Kool-Aid. You better go easy on the Kool-Aid, though. Even a prison-pro like Andy can screw up this recipe by being a bit heavy handed with the sugary powder turning a tasty dish into something gnarly.

Penitentiary Pizza

This isn't New York or Chicago-style pizza. Hell, it's not even similar to Detroit-style pizza, but penitentiary pizza has a lot more flavor than say, a freezer burned piece of Ellio's.

Like most of these recipes, penitentiary pizza can vary depending what you have for toppings, but the crust is always made with crushed up ramen noodles and topped with squeeze cheese or Velveeta. Some keep it simple with cut up pieces of summer sausage or Slim Jims, and others go all out like Emeril circa 2002 and "kick it up a notch" with jalapenos.

Prison Seafood Spread

Do we need to warn you that this isn't going to taste like the catch of the day? Do we need to warn you that this may or may resemble something you would feed feral cats? Is it similar to Tuna Helper? Yeah, you could say that. Prison Seafood Spread doubles up the starch with ramen noodles and white rice. It also blends a variety of canned seafood like tuna, canned baby scallops, canned oysters, and a variety of spices.

In this YouTube tutorial video, Isa Abdullah describes this as a "baller meal." Considering that the prices of these items at a prison commissary are much higher than your local grocery store, this seafood spread would probably cost as much as a meal at Red Lobster on the outside.