How to Write a Recipe

Learning how to write a recipe takes a little practice, but with these 20 tips, you’ll be an expert in no time at all!

How to Write a Recipe - Find out how on RachelCooks.com

 

If you’re going to have a food blog, you need to know how to do recipes and how to do recipes well. I didn’t and am now going through the painstaking process of editing and fixing all my recipes so they are actually usable and don’t look like something my 4-year-old wrote.

Of course I’m still not perfect, but I’ve learned a lot about how to write a recipe over the last four years.

Here are 20 tips to keep in mind when writing your recipes:

  1. Always site your source if the recipe is not your original creation.
  2. List ingredients in the order used in the recipe.
  3. List all ingredients separately (give each their own line).
  4. If possible (and sensical), write ingredients measured in two ways, for example:
    • 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick)
    • 1 cup finely chopped celery (about 2 large stalks)
  5. If there are different components to the recipe (for example, filling, crust, etc.), list ingredients and directions separately.
  6. Make sure directions/measurements are very clear – note the difference below:
    • One cup walnuts, chopped (means 1 cup measured and then chopped)
    • One cup chopped walnuts (means they are chopped prior to measuring)
  7. Write out measurements (tablespoon, teaspoon, cup…) instead of using abbreviations. If you choose to use abbreviations, make sure you are consistent (for example, don’t switch between Tbsp. and Tbs. for tablespoon). Also, if you use abbreviations, it is a good idea to have a guide somewhere on your site so that readers can refer to it if they are confused.
  8. If possible – write out directions in more than one way. Usually a amount of time and a visual cue is good for this.
    • For example: “Sear for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.”
  9. If possible – give tips or adaptations/substitutions for readers. This will help make your recipes more approachable to different tastes/diets. For example, if you used a ground turkey in a recipe, but it would be good with beef, make sure to mention that! It’s also good to let your readers know if certain things won’t work. (For example, “This recipe won’t work with fat-free cream cheese — make sure to use full-fat for the best result.”)
  10. Don’t forget to tell readers to preheat their ovens — this should be in the first step unless the recipe takes a significant amount of prep time or needs to chill.
  11. If you’re cooking something on the stovetop, make sure to mention what type of pan and what level of heat.
  12. If you’re cooking something in the oven, make sure to tell your readers how to check for doneness. Golden-brown? Internal temperature of ____?
  13. Include serving details. Should it be served immediately? Is it best the next day?
  14. Include storage details. Room temp? Fridge? A week? A month?
  15. If the recipe is best served along something else, make sure that ingredient is mentioned in your ingredient list. For example, if you’re making meatballs, make sure to mention some pasta or whatever you want the meatballs served with. It can be mentioned as “Cooked pasta for serving,” or something along those lines.
  16. If there is an ingredient used more than once in the recipe, make sure that is indicated in the ingredient list. For example, “1 cup granulated sugar, divided.” And then in your directions, indicate how much to use and when.
  17. Include number of servings.
  18. Include prep and cook time.
  19. Be concise in your directions but very clear.
  20. Don’t be afraid to go back and clarify something or add notes! Nothing is set in stone.

Did I miss anything? What do you look for when you’re reading a recipe? Or if you’re an experienced recipe developer, what tip would you add to this list of how to write a recipe?

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13 comments

  1. As someone who reads a lot of food blogs, I would add proofread to your list. That is what I find to be the most troublesome when I find a recipe I like.

    • Very good one to add! I would even say if possible, have someone else proofread for you. It’s always harder to catch your own mistakes for some reason. My mom always texts me when I have a typo.

  2. Very good list; I know several blog authors who should read it. 🙂 Not including number of servings is my biggest pet peeve. That is very important information! I also hate the ingredients not being in order. The one I am most guilty of violating is omitting prep/cook times. I never remember to take note of that while I am making the recipe and also it varies a lot from cook to cook.

  3. Thanks for this list. I started editing my recipes to remove the abbreviations recently. Luckily my blog is relatively new so I don’t have too many recipes to review.
    I also like #10, that is a pet peeve of mine so I always lost preheating as the first step in my instructions. It’s unfortunate to prepare the food and then realize your oven wasn’t on!

  4. great advice.

    I read somewhere recently–legit place–that there is no true copyright for recipes. Since I can’t remember, I googled and found this: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl122.html

  5. Great list and advice, Rachel! Especially #6, that wording is very important! I sometimes get stuck on the number of servings – especially for large recipes like soups and casseroles. What if someone prefers larger/smaller slices/ bowls and thinks the servings I provided is way off? Is there a “standard” serving size for soups or casseroles I’m missing? (i.e. 1 cup for soup) Or, is it generally assumed the servings provided are approximate? Thanks!

  6. I give a range of servings:
    Serves 4 to 6 or serves 4 as main course or 8 as appetizers
    and I give the total yield so readers can decide for themselves
    Makes: 6 cups

    When listing ingredients that are added at the same time, list from largest amount to smallest amount:
    1 cup broth
    1/2 cup chopped spinach
    1 tablespoon vinegar
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    Alway indicate whether you cooked/simmered the food in a pot that is covered or uncovered – the difference in rate of evaporation can affect the final product considerably.

    If you are not using the ingredient all at the same time indicate that in the ingredient list:

    1/2 cup milk, divided
    then in the body of the recipe say ” add 1/4 cup of the milk” at the first addition and for the second addition “add the remaining 1/4 cup milk”

  7. Great article, thanks so much for sharing!! Just pinned it to the “dessert-blogging-101” Pinterest group board!

  8. Hey Rachel!
    I’m in the process of rebranding my blog and have been reading over your “How-To’s”. I was wondering what Recipe Plug-in you use. I love it and mine… not so much ha!
    Thanks hun!

  9. Thanks for the great information. I get frustrated when people don’t have a PRINT option and you have to copy and paste the recipe into word to make it! What do you use?

    Kindly, Nancy

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