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How to Create a Good Recipe

Updated on November 21, 2016
Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy writes about cooking, hobbies, and many other topics. She has published hundreds of articles online and in newspapers and magazines.

What information should you include in a good recipe?

I can only speak for myself, but I greatly prefer recipes that are easy to follow, clearly written and explained, and that aren't horrendously difficult to make.

It's also helpful to have recipes that use 'normal' ingredients, not some sort of special gourmet ingredient rarely found in the average home. It's certainly nice to try unique things now and then, but if you're searching the Internet or grabbing the cookbook for last-minute ideas and you don't have time to go to the store, you need recipes that use what you have on hand.

Your readers will appreciate it if you put yourself in their position when creating an online recipe by including all the things they'll need to know. Here are some tips for creating a useful recipe hub that people will want to try:

Make Sure Measurements Can Be Understood by Everyone

Since we are on a world-wide site, this one is tricky. Our great friends who live in countries on the metric system use terms like liters and grams, whereas in the United States and a few other places, we measure in quarts and cups.

If it's possible to translate your recipe into both types of terms, readers will greatly appreciate you for it. Some packages have both terms listed, so this might be an easy way to get things translated. Otherwise, you can find comparison information on the Internet. So often, I've seen a recipe from someone who lives in England or elsewhere and I am stumped as to how to make it, because I can't translate the measurements.

This will greatly help in getting people to try the recipe, and in their success in making it.

List the Ingredients First in Recipes

Have you ever started a recipe, and assembled all the ingredients ahead of time (by looking at the list given), and then found something toward the end of the instructions that wasn't listed?

It's very frustrating to have everything halfway mixed (and possibly at a fragile stage) and then realize you need a few ounces of cream, or a fourth of a cup of breadcrumbs not previously mentioned. Since many recipes need to be mixed in a timely manner, this can throw off the preparation and ruin the entire dish.

It's particularly upsetting when the mystery, late-arrival ingredient isn't something you normally keep on hand. If you have to stop everything and run to the store for cream or breadcrumbs, you've probably already lost the chance of making the dish the right way, or in time for dinner.

Include quantities! I have a great recipe for slow-cooker chicken that doesn't tell you how much chicken it takes to prepare it properly! I've experimented (Four boneless, skinless breasts? Six? Two?) but it would be so much easier if the person who wrote the recipe had included that information!

A Desperate Housewife learns to cook

Are the instructions easy to understand and to follow?

Ingredients should be listed in the order they're needed, and each should be mentioned in the instructions in an understandable way.

Use standard cooking terms rather than some term your grandmother may have used but that's not found in cookbooks. It might be quaint to read a few old-fashioned terms, but it's more helpful to have them also clarified in a way the cook will understand.

A 'Charlotte' can be described as a sort of cake or tart (which it somewhat resembles) so people will know what they're making. A 'trifle' might be a common term in England (and they're delicious, by the way), but in the United States, a description would be helpful. To me, a trifle is a bit like a tiramisu - which could also use clarification in many cases!

Include Photos!

Photos of the finished product are so helpful! If a reader is trying to imagine what the dish looks like, a photo can be a great guide on what to aim for while they attempt the recipe. Photos of the preparation process are helpful, too, especially if there's a technique or two that's difficult to describe or master.

Truffle oil may not be in the average pantry

Does the recipe describe preparation instructions clearly?

Instructions are important! I've seen recipes that stumped me because I wasn't sure if the sauce was added before or after another step (just an example) or how to tell when it was time to take it to the next step of preparation.

Although you may have made the recipe a million times, and it's second nature to you to mix things in the right order, be sure the instructions are written as though someone has never seen the recipe before and has no idea what to do next. Basically, a new reader who wants to try the recipe is in exactly that position.

Help people understand the instructions by explaining them as though the reader was standing beside you, watching every step.

Does the recipe use ingredients found in the average household and familiar to most cooks?

It's true there are great recipes for exquisite foods, and the ingredients and instructions stretch us as cooks and expose us to tastes we may not have explored. But there's a lot to be said for finding a recipe that uses few ingredients, is easy to prepare, and that doesn't require a trip across town to a specialty store.

Many households will not normally have truffle oil or capers on hand. Just thought I'd mention that.

Simple and tasty recipes are also perfect for growing families, where the children may not have developed their taste buds for unusual and new things. Busy moms and dads will appreciate having a new way to cook standard fare. Or a recipe that's super easy to prepare but will please a few picky eaters at the table.

If the recipe is for a marinade, sauce or something similar, are you including tips for using it?

Some of us aren't easily able to see how tastes combine, so it's very important to include ways to use recipes for sauces, gravies, dressings, marinades and other things that aren't the main dish but are designed to add flavor. It helps greatly to know that the recipe is designed for fish, or that it's excellent with pork.

If there are various ways to use the recipe, include those tips as well. The reader will see how those ideas relate to his or her family's tastes and the things they normally cook.

It's also helpful to mention how some unusual flavor combinations will work in the finished product. Many people are not used to mixing sweet ingredients with savory or sour ingredients, so if the recipe has been a hit with your four-year-old picky eater, mention it, and explain why.

Not hot enough? Hot? Too Hot?


Fahrenheit or Centigrade? When is it done?

As with measurements, be sure to list all temperatures in Fahrenheit as well as Centigrade. So many people need one but not the other, and they don't know how to convert the numbers.

Conversion Formula: The formula for conversion is 9/5 Centigrade plus 32 equals Fahrenheit. If that's too much math, check out various websites that have conversion calculators you can do online.

Remember the old commercial that had a kid asking plaintively, "Is it soup yet?" Be sure to tell readers how to know when the recipe is properly baked, warmed to the right temperature or otherwise fully cooked to the desired level.

It makes people crazy to read a recipe that says "Place in a hot oven until done." What might that mean? How hot is hot, and how done is done? I've actually seen those instructions in older recipes!

And finally

Be sure to include information on how to best serve the dish (unless it's self-explanatory). If the recipe is best used as a side dish, mention what entrée it enhances.

Include portion sizes and the number of servings, so cooks can plan how many people a recipe will feed as either a main dish or a side item. If your recipe is designed for dainty servings, clarify this in the instructions! If it just makes a huge batch, it's okay to word it that way. Many cooks are trying to feed large families, and it's helpful for them to know a recipe will serve several hungry eaters.

These are just a few of the things that make a good recipe. Naturally, the real magic is in the exact ingredients used and how they're blended. But any recipe can be presented in the best light if these tips are followed.


Submit a Comment
  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Travel_Man - thanks for stopping by to read and comment! It sounds like you have a lot to offer the site; I look forward to reading your material!

  • travel_man1971 profile image

    Ireno Alcala 

    8 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

    That's what we called canned recipes during my studies on catering and international cuisine.

    We usually tweak a thing or two on the recipe, if some ingredients are not locally available.

    And you should also take note of the location of the one cooking.

    Here in tropical Philippines, my country, we can easily boil, grill or fry fish and more because of the humid room temperature.

    Whereas, in colder part of the world, it will take more time to cook a dish.

    That's what my chef /instructor told us when we we're arguing the importance of recipe.

    My captain on board ship also gave me hint on how the varying seasons also affect the results on a certain food recipe.

    There are recipe books that include the sources on how the ingredients were procured.

    Because of HubPages, I was also driven to write my own recipes via my Tropical Cooking series hubs.

    If you want to leave posts there, you can also peruse mine.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Carol - many thanks for your kind words! I love to learn from recipes, and I've certainly been stumped a few times if there's an odd ingredient, or if the measurements are European!

  • carol7777 profile image

    carol stanley 

    8 years ago from Arizona

    You did a great job in explaining recipes...and I have been known to follow one once in a great while. Writing recipes for hub has been a discipline as mine are never the same. Thanks for the hub and voting up.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Sara - thanks for dropping by and commenting! It's amazing how many online recipes use a term unique to a certain area, or have measurements in a different system. Maybe one day we will all understand things universally.

  • SaraDuggan profile image

    Sara Duggan 

    8 years ago from California

    All great tips makes me weary of writing a recipe article because I know I don't really cover it all. It does make sense though to write to the reader and not yourself as they will be the one cooking it.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Darrylmdavis - thank you for reading and commenting. I like your point about the 'must-have' list of ingredients vs the 'nice to have' items. That is indeed helpful when you're wanting to try a recipe but missing a few things!

  • Darrylmdavis profile image


    8 years ago from Brussels, Belgium

    Nice article. Myself, what I particularly appreciate is knowing what is a "must" and what is a "nice to have" in a particular dish. knowing reasonable substitutes is a great help, too, when you are trying to rationalize matters with your own pantry. ;-)

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, 2Patricias - I'm so glad you like the hub! I hope you do write a hub on your potato salad recipe - I love trying new ways to make it. Thanks for your comments!

  • 2patricias profile image


    8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

    Earlier today I was preparing potato salad and thinking I might write a Hub about it. So I was very pleased to come across this hub. I've published one "recipe" hub - so I'll go back and see how it measures up.

    Thanks for all the helpful hints, all delivered with a pinch of humour.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Many thanks, Sharyn! I always enjoy your hubs; I'll look forward to reading your recipes, and I appreciate your comments here!

  • Sharyn's Slant profile image

    Sharon Smith 

    8 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

    Hi Marcy ~ Great tips here. I don't have too many recipe hubs, maybe a handful. But I am SO picky and try to be really specific hoping that my readers will understand and get good use out of it. I especially love your tip about using ingredients that are familiar and found in the average household. ^Votes and shared!


  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, Mary! I am so glad the hub will help you!

  • Mary Stuart profile image


    8 years ago from Washington

    Thank you. these are great tips for me as I write so many recipes. I am always reading and re-reading and trying to imagine how an inexperienced cook might go astray with my directions.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    I'm so glad you like the hub, Faceless! I hope it is useful to you when you're trying great recipes from far-away places!

  • Faceless39 profile image

    Kate P 

    8 years ago from The North Woods, USA

    Hi Marcy,

    Your writing is very easy to follow, and it was a great lesson in not just how to write recipes for a wide audience, but also how to write any how-to for our worldwide audience. Great tips.

    Voted up, useful, and interesting.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, Wayseeker - I'm so glad you found the ideas useful! Many thanks for reading and commenting!

  • wayseeker profile image


    8 years ago from Colorado

    I had not considered the need to translate the measurements in my recipes into the metric system. This is an excellent point! This is thorough, clear and well written. Thanks for the advice,


  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks so much for your comment, eatforcheaper - I'm glad you liked the hub! I will look for your website; I love to find new places to get ideas for cooking. I think being on this site made me very aware of the need to convert measurements in recipes. I've seen some great recipes that stumped me once I got to that part and it wasn't listed in the terminology I'm used to. I look forward to reading your recipes!

  • eatforcheaper profile image


    8 years ago from London

    Hi Marcy, this is a very good hub. Helps me think a lot more about what I'm doing. I have a recipe website and I get traffic mainly from the US and UK so I need to make sure I always use the correct measurements and temperatures! Sometimes, it's easy to forget! Thanks:)

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, Rajan - I agree; we are such a global community now and those details help tremendously to expand our ability to enjoy tastes we've fallen in love with through dining experiences in other countries or at themed restaurants. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub - thanks for commenting.

  • rajan jolly profile image

    Rajan Singh Jolly 

    8 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

    Very useful tips. Though I don't cook much it would be very helpful if all these points are taken care of before completing a written recipe.

    Voted up, useful.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks so much, Sis - I'm so glad you like the hub! I love the idea of a cookbook with four-ingredient recipes. I'm always finding something I want to make, but can't, because I don't have a key ingredient. The simpler it is, the more likely people will try it. Thank you for commenting here, and for the tip about that recipe book. I'm going to keep an eye out for it!

  • Angela Blair profile image

    Angela Blair 

    8 years ago from Central Texas

    Great Hub, Marcy -- you hit on some of my favorite topics like "normal" ingredients, etc. I have a cookbook that has recipes that only use four ingredients and I use it more than any other I have -- it's short, simple and tremendously easy. I think you read all our thoughts and put them in this Hub -- and I thank you! Voted up! Best/Sis

  • cclitgirl profile image

    Cynthia Calhoun 

    8 years ago from Western NC

    I just included a recipe in one of my hubs. It was the first time I included "serves 4." Maybe you were communicating to me via ESP, Marcy. I promise to include how many servings in my recipes from now on. :)

  • Stephanie Henkel profile image

    Stephanie Henkel 

    8 years ago from USA

    I really appreciate the helpful tips you've given for writing a recipe hub. I hadn't thought about adding alternate measurements in grams or temperatures in both Centigrade and Fahrenheit, but I can certainly see how useful that would be for readers around the world. Voted up, useful and shared!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thank you, Ruchira! I hope to learn enough about the measurement conversions to do it myself in my head (without using a calculator or taking off my shoes or something!). I'm glad you like the hub!

  • Ruchira profile image


    8 years ago from United States

    A very thoughtful hub Marcy. I agree metric measurements if added helps this hub to be useful in our countries...such as UK/India etc.

    over-all the hub was entertaining and I loved reading the important tips...voted up as useful and sharing

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Your recipes are always so great, homestead bound. I'm glad you like the hub, and thank you for commenting!

  • homesteadbound profile image

    Cindy Murdoch 

    8 years ago from Texas

    This has many great ideas. I am sitting here thinking of changes I need to go make to my recipes to make them more "world" friendly. Thanks for the great advice!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    I'm with you, Jackie - some things sound like they might taste good, but it's cheaper and less trouble to just find a restaurant that serves the same dish. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image

    Jackie Lynnley 

    8 years ago from the beautiful south

    Nothing turns me away quicker than a recipe with lots of weird stuff! I keep oodles of spices and herbs but you go beyond those and I am just lost! Thanks for the metric measures, I needed that too!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thank you, teaches! We have so many great recipes on this site, and many people would like to see these things included, I believe. I appreciate your comments!

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 

    8 years ago

    Superb job in writing this informational hub. It will certainly lead to a very well written hub topic on recipes. Voted up.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, Angelo - I have that problem as well! It takes a few minutes for things to register whenever I see metric measurements anywhere. I appreciate your comments!

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Great information. I especially liked the bit on convertions. Being American I tend to forget that the world mostly measures in metric. Thanks. Voted up!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, urmilashuka! I'm so glad you like it!

  • urmilashukla23 profile image


    8 years ago from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA

    Very informative hub! Bookmarked and voted up!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, Victoria Lynn - I'm going to try to always include metric information when I do recipes. Maybe we can all learn the conversion well enough to do it in our heads? Not!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile imageAUTHOR

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    8 years ago from Planet Earth

    Melovy - I'd love to see your ideas on what makes a good recipe hub; you publish some awesome hubs! Thanks for reading and commenting, and for the nice remarks!

  • Victoria Lynn profile image

    Victoria Lynn 

    8 years ago from Arkansas, USA

    This is such a well-written and informative hub with info we should all remember when writing our recipe hubs. I need that metric conversion chart! Great hub. Many votes!

  • Melovy profile image

    Yvonne Spence 

    8 years ago from UK

    Marcy, I’m loving the humour I’m seeing in your hubs lately. Loved this:

    "Many households will not normally have truffle oil or capers on hand. Just thought I'd mention that.”

    Since I write quite a few recipe hubs I was interested to see what makes a good recipe! Measurements can definitely be a challenge. I try to include metric, imperial and cups and hopefully I get it right.

  • Senoritaa profile image

    Rinita Sen 

    8 years ago

    Totally agree. Good hub.


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