Ways Brands Can Rethink Recipes for Home Cooks

Photo by Andy Chilton

Photo by Andy Chilton

Recipes can be a powerful form of content marketing for food and food-related businesses. When they’re developed to use your product, they are unique to your brand. Search engines prioritize original, high-quality, relevant content. Add photos or video to your recipes, and they become captivating and tempting. They’re worthy of liking, loving, sharing, saving, and using time and time again. Recipes give people a chance to experience your brand—hands on

Recipes from companies are generally good at giving customers a set of instructions to make a dish using the company’s product. But that set of instructions is often pretty dry. 

And when recipes blare the product brand name, then the recipes are more about advertising than content marketing. As cookbook author Nina Hazelton once said, recipes should “promote the cause of good food and not of brand names.” 

Why not make brand recipes memorable enough to make people want to read the recipe again—as well as use it again, too? And make the cooking experience fun and engaging? 

What companies are missing is that people do more than cook with recipes. Here are some ways companies can deliver more than a set of instructions for dinner with brand recipes: 


Make recipes fun to read: Infuse them with your brand’s voice.

Many companies switch from their brand voice to a generic “recipe voice” once the headnote ends. Don’t do it! You’re still having a dialogue with the reader in the recipe. You’re coaching them, cooking with them, sharing with them. 

People read recipes like novels. Romance novels, even. While people may not curl up in bed to read the recipe on the back of a jar of tomato sauce, you can still make it fun to read. (Want to bet they’ll laugh, show the recipe to others… and save and use the recipe?) 

Here’s a passage from the recipe instructions for Poulet Roti in Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook

“I’m not going to try and explain how to truss a chicken with twine—as much fun as that is. Here’s a shortcut instead. First: Lie on your back on the floor, put your knees together, and draw them both up to your chest with your arms. Press them against your chest. You should look pretty funny down there—but that’s exactly the position I want you to put your chicken in. Knees up, ass out.” 

Just try to convince me you won’t think of that the next time you cook a chicken. 

Find your brand’s authentic, unique voice, and use it consistently throughout recipe headnotes, ingredient lists (Bourdain does it), and steps. 


Accommodate improvisation: Give people creative space. 

People love to do their own thing in the kitchen. Don’t deny it or fight it. Encourage it! Opening up comments is a first step. Find other ways to use your social media channels and online platforms to encourage people to share their recipes using your products. 

Food 52’s (Not) Recipes App gets raves for helping people improvise and innovate by sharing sentence-format recipes—and it encourages people to use what’s in their fridges and pantries. Recipe hacks—shortcuts—are popular with younger cooks. 


Teach: Use recipes as an opportunity to establish and share your expertise. 

Sharing expertise isn’t just for the influencers on LinkedIn. Some of the best food brands do it all the time. Butterball’s Turkey Talk-Line(R) gets over 100,000 questions every November and December—they’re the turkey experts. King Arthur Flour shares their baking expertise in their catalog and online. 

One of the main reasons people buy print cookbooks is to learn how to cook. You can use your expertise to help fill that demand. If you have expertise about cooking techniques or ingredients, share it. Use a blog with step-by-step photos, video, or even chats on Facebook Live to share your expertise. Tell people about where your favorite ingredients come from, how they’re made, and the best ways to use and care for them. 

Give people inside knowledge that will help them be better home cooks—and share your knowledge freely, without promoting your brand. You’ve likely worked with your products enough to know secrets about how to work with it to get great results, and you probably have a few handy shortcuts and favorite quick fixes, hacks, and snacks, too. Your generosity will pay off. 

Adding style and usefulness to your recipes makes them valuable resources that people will use over and over. And, recipes can be powerful tools for your company’s search engine optimization, too.