The 5 Steps to Writing a Great Recipe

If you follow Ingredient on Instagram or TikTok, you’ve seen our food photography and videos. Gorgeous, right? Behind every one of those photos is a recipe that’s easy to make and tastes just as good as it looks, a recipe that not only builds ongoing engagement but also inspires people to buy ingredients and get cooking.

The reason our recipes work so well is that they’re developed by a team of professionally trained chefs, bakers, and food scientists. And whether they’re written wholly from scratch or sourced and adapted, all of the recipes that come out of our kitchen are rigorously tested and edited.

Why so much effort? Think of all the times you’ve been burned by a poorly written recipe — and all the websites and cookbooks you turn to again and again when you need a recipe because you know they’ll have one for you and it’ll work. We want that kind of loyalty for our clients. So we put a lot of time and thought into creating recipes that are fun to make and taste wonderful.

Here’s how we go about it, from choosing the recipes to watching how they perform once they’re posted, and all the very, very important steps in between.

Green Tea Mocktail
We developed this recipe for Cranberry Green Tea Mocktail for Lunds & Byerlys.

Step 1: Choosing
Like all things at Ingredient, recipe planning is a collaboration, involving not only our chefs but also the folks on our content and writing teams. What are we thinking about as we sit down to brainstorm? So many things.

We always factor in trends and seasonal appetites — what are people craving right now? Are they scrolling Instagram looking for spring’s garlicky ramps or summer’s sweet stone fruit? Are they firing up the grill or the oven? Of course, there are holidays and events to consider. And our clients have priorities too, like new products and weekly deals.

Once we have a bunch of ideas, we’ll narrow them down to a balance of dinners, brunches, cocktails, and desserts that are diverse in both culinary tradition and cooking level. The final list will include recipes that will inspire consumers to get into the kitchen and try something new — and that we know, from the data we’ve collected, will be successful for our clients.

Caramelized Onion & Fennel Apple Slaw Pizza
We developed this recipe for Caramelized Onion & Fennel Apple Slaw Pizza for Gelson's Markets. 

Step 2: Testing
As we mentioned above, our culinary team tests all of our recipes, whether we’re developing them or sourcing them from a great chef. Our job is to make sure they taste amazing, and that our directions will work for a variety of kitchens and all skill levels — sometimes that means lots of tweaking. During that process, we’re thinking about all aspects of the recipe, including:

  • Ingredients: We choose ingredients with the home cook and accessibility in mind, as well as client priorities, like new products. And then it’s a balance of when to enhance the flavor in a recipe with premium ingredients — for example, a tastier cheese or more herbs — and when to use something less fancy for a better outcome, a classic flavor, or ease.
  • Measurements: Our recipes are written for the small quantities of a home kitchen, and we’re very precise with our measurements, so the cook doesn’t have to guess or make a lot of adjustments.
  • Tools: We use the tools the average home cook has in their kitchen. If a fancy tool will get a better outcome, we might use it, but we’ll provide another option to keep the recipe accessible.
  • Techniques: We lean into easy, but if a recipe is worth a little fuss, we’ll walk the home cook through it with great directions.
  • Time: We test our recipes with multiple kitchens, stoves, and ovens, so that we can provide as accurate a time as possible — and help the home cook be successful.
  • Flavor: The ingredients and textures should be balanced, and if it’s a classic dish or a DIY recipe it should taste like we all remember. Above all, it should taste wonderful.
  • Appearance: Does it look appetizing? If it needs a little something, we might add a garnish.
We developed this recipe for Labneh for Gelson's Markets. 

Step 3: Writing
All that good information we gather in testing comes to bear when we sit down to write the recipe — as well as a rich knowledge of cooking, recipes, and our client’s brand style guide.

When it comes to directions, we order our steps for a home cook’s relaxed flow rather than a fast-moving chef, who might dash out a little prep work in between whisking up a sauce and baking off a pie crust.

Our directions are also written in plain, concise language that’s easy to follow. There’s a time and a place for long-winded directions with lavish how-tos and descriptions, but the busy home cook likes them short and direct. Every word counts! That said, if something requires a longer explanation, like the proper way to fold a sweet roll, we’ll make sure it’s simple enough to grok on the first go.

As we noted above, we like precision. We’re prescriptive with tools, from the size of the skillet to when to use a wooden spoon versus a whisk. And we provide multiple ways to tell if something is done, including temperature, texture, and color. Why make people guess? The recipes we come back to are the ones that work on the first try and every time after.

Birria de Res Tacos
We developed this recipe for Birria de Res Tacos for Gelson's Markets. 

Step 4: Editing
At Ingredient, we take editing seriously. We have brand style guides for all of our clients — and recipes are no exception. Our copy editors and proofreaders have years of recipe editing experience, and they’re also avid home cooks.

Once the recipe is written, their job is to ensure that everything is tidy and that we’re following the client’s recipe style, from whether measurements are abbreviated to ingredient word order. For example, blah vs. blah.

At the same time, they’re also looking at the recipe with a home cook’s eye for gaps in the directions — missing or confusing steps, places where the home cook could get confused. This is our opportunity to make sure everything is buttoned up.

DIY Fig Newtons
We developed this recipe for DIY Fig Newtons for Gelson's Markets. 

Step 5: Listening

Technically, data and analytics belong to our content planning team, but the work they do is integral to our recipe writing process.

Ultimately, audience engagement tells us a lot about how our recipes are doing out in the world, whether it’s on social media, websites, or emails. Over time, we can use data to figure out not only how many times people liked, saved, or clicked through to a recipe, but also why — for example, was it the protein, cooking method, or meal?

That information is useful, because it helps us refine our approach to recipe development and give our audience more of what they want.

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
We developed this recipe for Cauliflower Mac & Cheese for Gelson's Markets. 

A great recipe is worth the effort
When it comes to recipe development, our goal is always bigger than the beautifully styled, clickable dish — it’s the success of the home cooks that make it.

By creating foolproof, dependable recipes that give home cooks a sense of accomplishment — even if it’s just the simple joy of putting a weeknight-easy meal on the table for their partners and families — we ensure that they keep coming back to our clients’ feeds, emails, and websites for more. And that’s how we win on engagement and help our clients meet their KPIs and, ultimately, their marketing goals.

Ready to fill your feed with recipes that get people (and your KPIs!) cooking? Drop us a line at:

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