Midnight Snacks: A Taxonomy

Sophisticated gastronomical musings.

During the day, you keep your meals relatively healthy and at least attempt to incorporate most of the major food groups. But in the dead of night, when your stomach is grumbling, you’re a little less discriminating. Sometimes, a lot less discriminating. Here’s a list of foods that you may find yourself gravitating toward when you need to satisfy that late-night hunger, and some advice on how to make the most of your nocturnal noshing.

1. Cold Leftovers

We should be thankful that, even in a recession, we Americans have the kind of financial situation where leftovers are even a possibility. Nevertheless, there is something inherently unappealing about all of the plastic, airtight containers and Saran-wrapped casserole dishes that always seem to be occupying the refrigerator. In the daylight hours, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything less enticing, but come nighttime that amorphous blob of peas, carrots, and mashed potatoes, that greenish roast, that week-old Chinese take-out, all call to you. Suddenly, they’re no longer leftovers, they’re a “super yummy remnant,” and all your misgivings melt away. In fact, you become so convinced of the integrity of this food that you don’t even warm it up.

Tips and Tricks: If you don’t know exactly how long the food has been in the refrigerator, stay away from it. Food poisoning is a very real thing.

2. Easy Cheese

By day, upper-class sophisticates may spread their Cheddar ’n Bacon–flavored Easy Cheese on crackers, but after dark it’s safe to assume that even they are tossing etiquette aside and squeezing that golden, processed goodness directly into their mouths. Easy Cheese is the ideal snack—it doesn’t require any preparation, it tastes enough like actual cheese to satisfy your late-night lactose longings, and because of its pasty form, you really don’t even need to chew it. Some people look at this canister o’ cheese and see it as evidence of the dumbing down of society—they call it the epitome of low culture and the harbinger of end times. They might have a point, but you can use Easy Cheese to draw little happy faces on other foods, walls, or sleeping family members, and that’s kind of cool, no?

Tips and Tricks: Squeeze a bit of Easy Cheese onto your cold leftovers.

3. The Bowl-less Sundae

Step 1: Put a scoop of ice cream in your mouth.
Step 2: Don’t eat it.
Step 3: Spray some whipped cream into your mouth.
Step 4: Drizzle chocolate syrup over the whipped cream.
Step 5: Eat the mixture.
Step 6: Feel awesome and satisfied.

The beauty of the bowl-less sundae is that there’s minimal cleanup. You also get all the flavor of a sundae without having to make an actual sundae. But beware, this isn’t for amateur midnight snackers. In order to pull the bowl-less sundae off successfully, you’re going to need a really solid understanding of your gag reflex and a good sense of the radius of your mouth.

Tips and Tricks: The bowl-less sundae is the perfect sleepover snack both because it’s fun to eat and also because, if things go awry and you start to choke, you’ll have someone to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on you.

4. Sandwich Fillings

It’s one or two in the morning, everything is kind of hazy, you’re hungry, you kind of want a sandwich, but you definitely don’t have the energy to fiddle around with that tiny wire twist tie on the bread bag or even to walk over to wherever the bread is kept. Sandwich fillings—that is, the ingredients that usually make up the business part of a sandwich—might be exactly what you need. Lunchmeat, tomatoes, Kraft cheese singles, pickles, peanut butter straight from the jar—any of these are suitable after-hours treats. Yes, that’s right, sandwich fillings can be quite filling. (You get it? Because they’re fillings, like, they’re inside of something, and then they’re also filling because if you eat them you won’t be hungry anymore because they’re filling and they’re filling.)

Tips and Tricks: Be a conscientious snacker. If you do choose to eat peanut butter straight out of the jar, you might as well take that jar up to your room and make it your own. No one should have to eat peanut butter that you’ve put your finger in.

5. Potato Chips

Chips (or crisps, as they’re called in some parts of the world) are the classic late-night snack, and because there have been so many great innovations in chip production, they now come in a variety of sizes, textures, and, most important, flavors. They can taste like tacos, hamburgers, hot dogs, BBQ ribs, and chicken tikka masala. There is a chip to satisfy your every craving, and that’s just beautiful. The well-known drawback is that it’s almost impossible to eat only one of these savory treats. Even if you don’t have a problem with that, you should remember that people can be very territorial about their munchies and if you weren’t the one who purchased the wasabi-flavored chips, you may have to deal with an angry family member or housemate in the morning. It’s always important to weigh how hungry you are against the inevitable repercussions of eating the entire bag of chips. Because you will eat the entire bag of chips.

Tips and Tricks: If you do have the energy to make a sandwich, add a layer of potato chips on top of your cold cuts. You won’t regret it.

6. Halloween Candy

Even if you stopped trick-or-treating years ago, you probably have a sack or a ceramic dish filled with Halloween candy somewhere in your home. Maybe you just couldn’t pass up all of the fun-size Snickers and M&M’s that the supermarkets start peddling at the end of October, or maybe you didn’t get too many trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Either way, it’s January, February, or possibly even March, and you still have all of this candy. While some people might advocate throwing it out, you’re no fool; those Tootsie Pops, Nerds, Smartees, and Now and Laters can be a godsend at midnight.

Tips and Tricks: As every Halloween candy hoarder worth her Jolly Ranchers knows, it’s important to stay away from chocolates that are several months old, because they taste weird.

7. Cookies

If you know that there are cookies in your home, you’re going to be thinking about them before you go to sleep, while you’re dreaming, and then of course when you wake up in the middle of the night for a snack. If you’re simply rummaging through cabinets with no specific craving and you happen upon a bunch of cookies, it can feel like you’ve hit the mother lode. When it comes to late-night snacks, cookies are the bee’s knees, the cat’s pajamas, the dog’s bollocks. Chocolate chip, oatmeal, Oreos, gluten-free, they’re all wonderful. At nighttime, even those kind of hard, questionable ones that are packaged in a tin—your grandmother probably has some at her house—taste all right.

Tips and Tricks: Packaged chocolate chip cookies aren’t the greatest, but if you put them in the microwave for a few seconds, they’re slightly better.

8. Ramen Noodles

When you need something more substantial, you’re going to want to go the ramen noodle route. The preparation time is longer than it is with most midnight munchies, but there’s a big payoff—not only do the noodles taste delicious, but you’ll feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with cooking your own food. Ramen is also perfect if you want to carbo-load before an all-night marathon study session.

Tips and Tricks: After you’ve finished the noodles, you can drink the noodle-flavored water that’s left in your cup or bowl. So you basically have two meals in one. ♦


  • Thepunkrocker January 4th, 2012 11:10 PM

    Who made the drawings?

    • Anaheed January 4th, 2012 11:26 PM

      Amber did! She is multitalented, that one.

  • Ruby B. January 4th, 2012 11:12 PM

    My favorite midnight snack is always leftover Pad Thai. And yes, we always have it in our fridge so I can rely on it. We get take-out Thai food a lot.

    • ruby January 7th, 2012 11:55 AM

      leftover curry is pretty nice too, it’s funny how stuff i wouldn’t touch in the day is really appealing at night, (:

      • pocketmouse January 7th, 2012 7:58 PM

        I think we need a Best Thing Ever: Thai food article, because seriously, I think it might even be better than pizza.

  • rebecca January 4th, 2012 11:29 PM

    i happened to be dunking stale baguette from monday’s dinner into a hijacked jar of nutella while reading this. uber sophisticated, i know, my bed is like totes a french cafe.

  • Mena January 4th, 2012 11:39 PM

    this just gave me life and somehow I was craving some midnight munchies

  • puffytoad January 4th, 2012 11:56 PM

    I have never eaten cold leftovers in my life! With the advent of microwaves, we can now enjoy delicious hot food in 30 seconds. 30 seconds! It is worth the wait. lol

    • Anaheed January 5th, 2012 12:41 AM

      BUT you have to weigh that against the risk of the microwave’s noises waking up sleeping family members.

  • Thepunkrocker January 5th, 2012 12:00 AM

    so um this is not related to this post, but how do you become a rookie writer exactly?

  • Amy Rose January 5th, 2012 12:01 AM

    i love this list, but where the heck is the pizza? leftover delivery and snack-sized english muffin ones are my favorite thing at night.

    • Gabrielle January 5th, 2012 1:05 AM

      Exactly right?! I always endnup ripping the foil off leftover pizza some point in the noght (or for breakfast if I actually wake up befor ten)
      ps- cheese pizza is really good cold! If you’re lactose intollerant, take a Lactate (or whatever it’s called), it’s seriously that good.

  • EveyMarrie January 5th, 2012 12:04 AM

    I JUST had ramen. This is awesome haha

  • erin January 5th, 2012 12:07 AM

    I keep finding myself eating snacks late in the night when I’m lurking on the internet. I’m a fan of a bag of pretzels and a jar of nutella. It only requires one hand, so I’m free to browse the internet or whatever and eat at the same time. Multi-tasking is an important skill.

  • monkeyfoofoo January 5th, 2012 12:37 AM

    what about cereal ? I like having string cheese around , just in case. side question do you guys get a lot of submissions?

    • Anaheed January 5th, 2012 12:38 AM

      Yes, we do, and it takes a long time to go through them, because we are a tiny staff, but we do look at every single one.

      • monkeyfoofoo January 5th, 2012 2:03 AM

        that’s cool man. it shows that you guys care.

  • salma January 5th, 2012 12:52 AM

    I love this list, but where’s the nutella??

  • Elena January 5th, 2012 12:55 AM

    First of all, Amber is the connoisseur of the colored pencil. And second of all, just had a bunch of toast, some tea, and then 3 tablespoon-fulls of honey. Success.

  • bedazzledbandannas January 5th, 2012 1:00 AM

    I love this. but am also shocked that nutella was not mentioned. is this because the guy that invented it has still not called tavi to be best friends? (I am totally understanding if this is the case.)

  • Gabrielle January 5th, 2012 1:14 AM

    Okay, waaaay off topic but I was thinking of this seeing as I’m zonked, but one day I read Tavi’s thing-a-majig in teenvogue, and two days later on the radio they were interviewing “Teen Fashion Sensation: Tavi G( I can’t spell your last name, sorry!)” so that was really cool.

  • Dick January 5th, 2012 1:20 AM

    As soon as I saw the title I HAD to go grab a doughnut. I did and I ate it while I read this. :) Aaaah.

  • January 5th, 2012 1:34 AM

    I never have any (sad face) but pretzels are a great late-night snack.

  • aliastro January 5th, 2012 2:46 AM

    Ramen trick from college.

    1) Cook it with the seasoning packet then drain out almost all the water
    2) Mix in a spoonful of peanut butter
    3) Instant satay noodles!

    Sounds weird, tastes awesome!

    • Jodie January 5th, 2012 12:54 PM

      I have to try this!

    • jeanette January 5th, 2012 2:31 PM


      • ladyjenna January 5th, 2012 5:51 PM

        I love recipes like this. Cant wait for college, either….I tried it, and my mom was like “You are eating ramen? I just made you dinner, ungrateful wench”. Well she didn’t actually say it but I can interpret eyebrow movement and that was what she meant. It was amazing, by the way

  • Marguerite January 5th, 2012 5:45 AM


    oooh and popcorn !

  • Minna January 5th, 2012 6:16 AM

    I am totally addicted to cereal. I have it like 3 times a day. Help me.

  • dramadujour January 5th, 2012 6:28 AM

    When I was pulling all-nighters in college, I survived on saltine crackers + whatever weirdly delicious condiments were on hand.

    Crackers + ketchup packets from McDonalds? Crackers + kimchi? Crackers + mayonnaise?


  • darksideoftherainbow January 5th, 2012 10:17 AM

    this was awesome but please let me say that the drawings, especially the one of the pumpkin bucket, made my LIFE.

  • Arwen January 5th, 2012 10:36 AM

    reading this is making me hungry!!

  • Harriet January 5th, 2012 11:03 AM

    Ramen noodle tip: cook them in the kettle! It’s super easy, then just stick them in a bowl and add the powdery crap :D

  • Stephanie January 5th, 2012 11:26 AM

    I have my own jar of peanut butter because it is my go-to late night snack. I don’t just dip my fingers in, I eat it by the spoonful. Also the PB & Ramen combo someone mentioned above sounds GENIUS!!!! Definitely trying that one!

  • Claire January 5th, 2012 11:39 AM

    My fave midnight snack has always been a mixture of peanut butter, chocolate chips, and mini marshmallows, eaten with a spoon. Sounds gross, maybe, but it’s kind of a transcendental experience.

  • WitchesRave January 5th, 2012 11:45 AM

    Nutella on Hot toasted white bread?

  • Jodie January 5th, 2012 12:54 PM

    I always end up eating red onion marmalade with crackers… or cold congealed curry (gross I know but omg it tastes so good.)

  • Besu January 5th, 2012 2:03 PM

    this is making me crave peanut butter, cookies and all other things mentioned mmmmm……!

  • Besu January 5th, 2012 2:14 PM

    Oh, and just tried warm cookies ADDICTED! and I’m from the other part of the world where we call chips crisps so can someone tell me what these Ramen noodle things are cause the sound AWESOME!!!

    • Hayley January 6th, 2012 11:08 PM

      Google image them – in America, they’re sold commercially in a package as a really dense ‘brick’ of hard noodle and a little packet of salty powder. You boil some water, add the noodle brick, add the powder, and then you have these long, thin, curly noodles – a lot of them – in a beef or chicken-y broth.
      I’m not a fan, but they’re kind of an American staple and they’re good for when you’re sick and you want really easy soup.

  • Susann January 5th, 2012 2:28 PM

    I’m going to have to try the bowl-less sundae!
    The drawings look great!

  • jeanette January 5th, 2012 2:30 PM

    YUMMM! For sandwich fillings, I like to put them on top of a cream cracker when I can’t be arsed to make a sandwich.

  • Flower January 5th, 2012 2:50 PM

    This literally made me sick as a pig. I am so jealous of people who just HAVE THIS STUFF LYING AROUND IN THEIR CUPBOARDS. I have health freak parents so my midnight snacks have to be limited to carrots and sunflower seeds which sucks so badly its untrue.

  • ladyjenna January 5th, 2012 5:46 PM

    OHMAGAWD thanks so much!! Out of curiosity, did you have this in the works or did my recommendation prompt this??

    Luv you rookie!

  • preachypreach January 5th, 2012 6:14 PM

    dear god i just remembered there’s a jar of chocolate spread in the kitchen!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Toria Crux January 5th, 2012 7:36 PM

    my first comment WOOT!! This made me hungry even though I just ate most of a bag of Calbee shrimp chips. (mmmmmmm….) luv Easy Cheese! (or as I call it, squeeze cheese!!)

  • Kayelle January 5th, 2012 9:29 PM

    Can’t wait to put this into use. My kitchen cabinets are stocked with delicious MSG-filled foods!

  • pinnedtothepage January 5th, 2012 11:30 PM

    Minna, man I do the same thing! Many times, I go through a whole box of cereal in less than a week! Eeesh. This has been a problem particularly since I discovered cereal with pecans in it. Pecans! I love pecans… anyway, yeah, “Help me,” indeed! Must eat other foods. But, on the other hand, nothing else I can make as quickly as cereal is likely to cover as many food groups or be as refreshing! Haha, rant.

  • Gaby January 6th, 2012 12:09 AM

    All I can think when it comes to midnight snacks is cereal, when I’m too lazy to make myself a decent bowl of cereal I just eat it from the box.

  • warreno January 6th, 2012 2:22 PM

    The Ramen + peanut butter idea is fabulous. We have both at home, and now I’m going to have to give it a try.

    Heard a story a while back, I think on NPR, about the injuries associated with noodle cups. The cups, it seems, have a very narrow foot, which makes them unstable after you’ve filled them with boiling water. ER visits because of burns are rather unsettlingly high.

    There are some design changes in the works to make the cups less ‘tippy’ – but if you’ve ever fumbled one of those things, you understand just how easy it is to end up in a bit of a catastrophe.

    Oh – love the illustrations.

  • mwong1025 January 6th, 2012 9:21 PM

    Who did the drawings?!? Being an art nerd here but I ♥ how simple it is. And you miss out Nutella and sweet cereals that make you feel hyper for hours.

  • Hayley January 6th, 2012 10:57 PM

    DUDE I love those illustrations.
    Actually I really love all of the illustrations in your posts – they’re interesting, and always different, and authentically imperfect and stuff.

  • sylvia14 January 7th, 2012 1:55 AM

    Two words (or maybe three): Trolli Peachie-O’s. That sugary goodness is all I need in life, especially at one in the morning.

  • velvetqueen January 8th, 2012 2:43 PM

    noodles and cookies


  • juliette January 10th, 2012 9:17 AM

    err, just read this after coming back from a midnight piece of vegemite toast

  • Toria Crux January 14th, 2012 1:54 PM

    I tried the noodles+peanut butter for breakfast. nom nom nom… try it with lime chiken noodles!