If you have a food blog, chances are you’ve developed countless recipes over the years.
Whether an idea for a recipe has come to you in the middle of the night, during a dinner at your favorite restaurant, or from another recipe, you know that this is just the beginning of creating a recipe that is uniquely yours.
With this process comes many different questions. When is a recipe completely your own? What if you run out of recipe inspiration? What is considered plagiarism? How do you come up with a brand new recipe? Can recipes be copyrighted? Where do you even begin?!
Let’s start with the basics.
Find Your Inspiration
The first step in developing a recipe is finding a source of inspiration. This part of the process will vary widely depending on your own personal preference and workflow.
Inspiration can strike in many different ways! Many recipe developers find ideas:
- In cookbooks or magazines
- Through recipes on other food blogs
- From family recipes
- At local restaurants or bakeries
- While traveling
- From new ingredients or seasonal produce at a farmers market
- On Pinterest
- While watching cooking shows
- From a new cooking tool or appliance
Other cooks may enjoy experimenting with flavor pairings, or by adapting recipes to fit a specific diet (dairy-free, vegetarian, etc.). Learning more about cooking techniques, food science, and culinary ratios can also be a great way to find inspiration in the kitchen.
We love these books as resources:
- Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
- The Flavor Bible
- On Food and Cooking
- Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking
- The Recipe Writer’s Handbook
- The Food Lab
Recipe inspiration doesn’t have to be rocket science! Feel like you’re in a rut with recipe development? Ask your readers what they would like to see on your blog!
Wherever you find inspiration, it is always a good idea to keep a list of recipe ideas in a notebook, on your phone, or in an app like Asana.Want to know more about finding inspiration for recipes?
Do Your Research
Once you’ve come up with an idea for a recipe you’d like to create, it is time to do some research! First off, it is a good idea to make sure that someone else hasn’t already shared that exact recipe. Search on Google or Pinterest to determine that your recipe idea is, in fact, unique.
If you find similar recipes that already exist, ask yourself if your recipe is still worth developing. Do you have a helpful technique that makes the recipe easier? Are you adding a creative or local ingredient that takes the recipe to the next level? Can you adapt the recipe to be vegan or nut-free? What makes your recipe idea distinct and you?
This research process is also a great time to read any similar recipes, compare ingredient lists, cooking methods and techniques, take lots of notes, and determine what approach you want to try for your version of the recipe.
Note: we will talk more about finding inspiration from other recipes and attribution later on!
Make It Your Own
The U.S. Copyright Office states that “a mere listing of ingredients or contents, or a simple set of directions, is uncopyrightable.” Despite this, the language used to describe a recipe, the headnote, your explanation of a process in the recipe, or the photographs or illustrations that accompany the recipe may be copyrighted.
Regardless of copyright law, it is ethically and creatively advisable to write original recipes.
What does this really mean? Even if you’ve found inspiration in other recipes, when it comes time to test your own recipe, it can be helpful to put everything else away and cook drawing from your research, with the flavors and textures you enjoy in mind.
A recipe can usually be considered “original” if you have changed three or more major ingredients, or three or more steps in the recipe process, and have written everything in your own words.
Your readers come to your blog because they enjoy making your delicious recipes, but also in part because they like YOU. Always make sure to write a recipe in your own individual voice, with your tried-and-true techniques, and following your standardized recipe formatting.
Credit Where Credit is Due
As we discussed at the beginning of this post, inspiration for recipes can come from many different sources. If you’ve adapted or found inspiration from a recipe on a website, food blog or cookbook, it is important that you clearly share this with your readers.
David Lebovitz, a cook, food blogger and author, has a really thorough post on recipe attribution that we recommend reading.
He breaks down recipe attribution into two categories:
- If you’ve modified someone else’s recipe, but it resembles the original recipe, include “Adapted from _____ ,” along with a link to the original source (i.e. blog post or cookbook) in the recipe card.
- If you’ve been strongly influenced by and/or modified someone else’s recipe, but you have changed several aspects of it, include “Inspired by _____” in your recipe card, along with a link to the original recipe source.
If you’re not sure if a recipe requires attribution, err on the side of caution. Your readers might even enjoy reading what inspired you to create a certain recipe!
Interested to learn more about recipe attribution? Food Blogger Pro members have access to our full course on How to Write Recipes, including a lesson on Recipe Attribution! Become a member and get instant access today!
We’d love to hear from you! Where do you find inspiration for recipes? Do you find it difficult to know when to provide recipe attribution?