How to Create, Test and Write a Recipe Like a Pro

As a registered dietitian and a food blogger, writing recipes is something that is part of my day-to-day routine. Wonder how to write recipes like a pro? Below some quick tips on writing your own recipes. 

Find your recipe personality
Start collecting recipes from your favorite cookbooks, TV shows, magazines or food blogs and observe what sort of “style” of a recipe you enjoy. Perhaps you like simple recipes with five or fewer ingredients that has only 4-5 directions. Or maybe you are looking for more detail and/or challenge, with a recipe that requires you learn a new skill, like poaching an egg. Regardless of your preference, before you start writing a recipe think to yourself what you want to accomplish with this recipe. Do you want to show someone a quick and easy way to make a one-pot healthy meal? Or would you like to teach them how to broil, braise or grill the dish to perfection? Your answer will tell you the style you will be writing in.

The perfect dish
Think about what type of foods do you want to write recipes for? Perhaps you would like to bake with new ingredients, rewrite recipes with healthy recipe substations or create a recipe with all of your favorite foods combined. Browse sites such as foodily.com for example recipes with similar ingredients. Use your cooking knowledge and experience to create a new original dish with your own ingredients and methods.

The nitty gritty of recipe writing
The bones of the recipe are the title, yield (servings), ingredients list and directions/preparation/method. Be sure you include all of these in your recipe. Cook and preparation times are optional — if you feel this would help your audience I would encourage you to write it. Next, think of the reading level of your anticipated audience. Do you find that your audience is cooking savvy and understands the abbreviations of tsp, TBSP, C or #? Or would they prefer teaspoon, tablespoon, cup and pound written out? This will determine the style in which you list your ingredients.

Tips for the ingredients

  • When several items are added into the recipe at the same time, list them in descending order according to their volume. For example, 2 cups of whole wheat flour would be listed before ½ cup skim milk.
  • Specify package sizes in parenthesis such as 1 (15 ounce) can no salt added tomatoes
  • Write any preparation techniques next to the food name. i.e. 1 onion, chopped or 2 tablespoons butter, melted. This will tell the reader to complete this step before starting the recipe.

Tips for the step-by-step instructions

  • For consistency be sure to pick a title whether it be “directions,” “preparation” or “methods” and use throughout all of your recipes.
  • For easy readability, I would recommend numbering the steps rather than listing in paragraph form.
  • State approximate cooking times with tips on how to identify if the food is cooked correctly — for example, sear each side for 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
  • For meats always include the correct temperature to cook the meat to for food safety.
  • Complete recipe with plating or garnish tips for the cook as well as how to store i.e. store in an airtight container for 3 days or can freeze for 1 month.

Try it out!
Last but not least, prepare your recipe following the directions exactly one or two times yourself. Have a few foodie friends or co-workers proofread your recipes and ask questions for clarification and have them prepare it as well. Ensure that the end product is desirable and comes out the same each time.

For more tips on writing a recipe and/or writing a cookbook check out Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More by Diane Jacobs.

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Brittany Chin, RD, LD
Brittany Chin, RD, LD, is an upstate South Carolina-based registered dietitian and the content marketing manager for Pure Barre Corporation. She is also past president of the Piedmont Dietetic Association and has served as the PR/social media chair for the South Carolina Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She blogs at thehealthybachelorette.com. Follow her at BrittanyChinRD.com, and on Twitter and Pinterest.