Here’s How to Create the Perfect Recipe

You don't have to start from scratch: You can take any recipe and make it your own. We'll show you how!

People always think that, because I went to culinary school, I have some super-special secret when it comes to recipe development. When they ask me what it is, I usually smile. Want to know how to create a recipe? Start by using one you love! Grab a recipe that you know works and use the tips below to make it your own.

Think About Flavors

It all starts with thinking about flavors. You’ve seen them paired together time and time again: maple and bacon, lemon zest and blueberries, dill and cucumber, ham and cheese, tomatoes and basil. Recipe developers pair these combinations time and time again because they work. Start thinking about the sweet, salty, bitter, acidic, spicy and umami (more about that here) flavors you’ve seen together and try adding one of those elements to your favorite recipes.

Consider Texture, Too

It’s not all about flavor: tThink about how the dish comes together as you eat it. Look at everyone’s favorite Taco Tuesday dish. It has soft-but-tender meat, crunchy lettuce or cabbage, juicy tomatoes and creamy avocado. It’s a complete package when you eat it! So if your favorite dish is missing that little oomph that could take it from a good dish to an incredible one, consider if it’s missing any textures and add one that works.

Make Small Changes

Don’t try to change too many things at once. If you modify all the flavors and textures of your favorite dish, you may not love it anymore! You’ll really know what works (and, what doesn’t) by making changes one tweak at a time.

For example, my editor once tested a blueberry bacon coffee cake for a Taste of Home contest. She fell in love with the dish and every time she made it at home she made a tiny adjustment: adding a little orange zest to the maple icing, swapping in hickory smoked salt for the kosher salt or doubling down on the crispy bacon topping. If she had made all those changes in one sitting, she wouldn’t have noticed the nuanced ways it changed the recipe–and she wouldn’t have been inspired to make the next change!

Take Notes

Whatever you do, make sure to take notes. The secret to our simple system is to write down everything you changed. Otherwise, you might forget! If you really want to take it to the next level, jot down your tasting notes, too, so you’ll remember what you’d like to do differently next time.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.