With the recent trend of foodie culture, there is an incredible number of food-related tools popping up all over the place. Some are fantastic, some not so much. While most have their strong points, not all of them are all that useful when faced with a bunch of ingredients that don’t seem to inspire any kind of spark of creativity no matter how long you stare at them.
Some of these links are basics that pretty much any serious home cook has used at some point, but some might surprise you: ever thought of using wikipedia for food inspiration? Probably not.
Feel free to add any favourites of yours that I left out.
Yummly is, in my opinion, the best search engine for recipes. You need to create an account to use it, but if you have a google or Facebook account, it’s just two clicks.
You can customise your preferences so that only relevant recipes will appear. You can choose from a range of diets, allergies, disliked ingredients and favourite cuisines. And you can change your preferences any time.
The search bar itself can be used for meals or ingredients (the website is better than the app if searching by ingredients), and results can be further filtered by ingredients (included or excluded), diet, allergies, flavours you’re after, nutritional values, cooking time, cuisine and even cooking method.
You can read the ingredients without leaving Yummly, but for directions you are sent to the original website. You can yum (like or favourite recipes) to send them to your recipe box for future access, and even create collections of recipes.
The app allows you to create and manage a shopping list (just click on the + next to each ingredient) and plan when you want to eat so that you’ll get reminders using your phone’s calendar. You can even change the number of servings from 1 to 25. And you can download a browser extension that allows you to add any recipe to your recipe box, once it’s been processed everyone else is also able to see it.
If you haven’t used it before, go and get started now. I won’t even get mad if you don’t finish reading the rest of the post now (just make sure you come back later).
I think everyone knows about allrecipes, it’s a massive company with branches all over the world. However, not many people know of its best feature: ingredient search.
Right on the main page to the right of the search bar there’s a little button that says ‘ingredient search’. Clicking there will modify the search bar to include there sections: keywords (for example: cookies or soup), include ingredients, and exclude ingredients.
With just a few clicks you can find a recipe for a stew with chicken and spinach but no carrots (there are 88 recipes for that btw). The search is limited to 4 ingredients in each category, but that’s usually more than enough.
Sadly the main website can’t be used fully by those outside of the US and Canada anymore (profiles have been disabled and all the info deleted, I was not happy when that happened!), and the local versions don’t seem to have this option. You can get around it by manually forcing the .com ending on your browser. I hear from American friends that the app Dinner Spinner is also very good, but I haven’t had a chance to try it.
Two different websites that work in a similar way: you select all the ingredients you have from a list and then you get a number of recipes you can prepare with them.
The databases are not perfect, mostly due to the different ways people can write ingredient lists, but they’re good enough that the odd glitch is not too annoying. Just keep in mind that when you add ingredients, you might have to be a bit creative (for example if you have basil, add basil and herbs and mixed herbs).
MyFridgeFood is more basic with less options to customise and a shorter list of possible ingredients, but it does offer detailed nutritional information. A fun option is the decider. A nifty little tool that offers suggestions for recipes you can cook after you answer a few simple questions about how much time you have, how many people you’re feeding, and how much actual cooking you want to do.
Supercook allows you to select from a much larger list of ingredients, the results can be customised by key ingredient and even cuisine, and it suggests ingredients you might want to buy to be able to cook even more things (a fantastic feature!).
As with most things BBC, the main website food section and the dedicated Good Food website are fantastic.
For those searching for ideas for particular ingredients the food ingredients section is a gold mine. The list includes a ridiculous amount of ingredients, from the everyday to the weird foodie ones you’ve never even heard of before.
Each entry has information about the ingredient, usually easy ideas for preparing, buying and storing tips, and links to all the recipes that feature that ingredient within the website.
Most recipes are somewhat complicated and have long lists of ingredients as they are created by chefs rather than homecooyks or bloggers, but if you check the comments section you can usually find ideas to simplify them. Or you can look for a simpler version. Searches like ‘easy xxx’ or ‘quick xxx’ will usually give you a few dozen options (just replace the xxx for the recipe name or you will end up in some very NSFW websites!).
Most food articles have a section dedicated to how the ingredient is commonly used and many feature either a list of dishes or a collection of photographs of recipes. Sometimes dishes are linked to a wikibooks cookbook recipe, but not usually.
Once you have an idea, you can go from wikipedia to Yummly or allrecipes to find a recipe you like through their search engines.
reddit has a fantastic user base willing to share their knowledge (and there’s some very knowledgable people there).
There are many subreddits dedicated to food and cooking, but your starting points should be r/food, r/askculinary, r/cooking and r/recipes. Each subreddit has its own tone and you will probably feel more comfortable in some than others.
If you’re vegetarian go to r/vegetarianrecipes, and if vegan to r/veganrecipes. Those on a gluten free diet should check r/glutenfreerecipes. Two other useful subreddits are r/onepotmeals and r/eatcheapandhealthy.
There are thousands of recipes already posted there that you can find using the search function (which is not great but it’s not too bad either), or you can post a question yourself. Just remember that reddit is all about community, so share your knowledge and experiences too!
Things I don’t recommend using
Instagram: I love me some Instagram, I really do. But when it comes to looking for quick ideas, it’s just not the best place. Many people misuse hashtags (I’ve seen #vegan on a fish dish and #budget on a truffle one) and not very many recipes are actually posted there. Plus the search function sucks.
Pinterest: similar issues to Instagram. The search feature cannot really be customised and you always end up with the same popular recipes over and over, even if they are not particularly relevant. Some recipes are linked but not all, and quite a few lead to dodgy websites.
Leave Instagram and Pinterest for browsing when you have some free time. Both are great for inspiration and coming up with ideas for future use but not all that useful when your stomach is asking for food 20 minutes ago.
Pinterest is fantastic for organising recipes, especially now that it offers sub boards. And Instagram has a great community. You might feel a bit alone at first, but if you’re active and post relevant content you will soon have followers and create your own little community of people.
If you have any other favourite tools please share them in the comments.
Click here to read all the posts in the Spring cleaning the kitchen: a no-buy month challenge topic. And don’t forget to check my Instagram to see what I’m eating and cooking as I go through the challenge. Join me by tagging with #springcleanthekitchen