Allrecipes.com just had its 15-year anniversary, and as part of the celebration, the recipe site did an online survey that offers interesting insight into today’s cook.
For example, many people use their smartphones to look up recipes, create digital shopping lists and redeem digital coupons. Today’s allrecipes.com users would, as a majority, rather give up their cookbooks than online recipe websites. The majority of home cooks reported picking recipes in which they can use all-natural or organic ingredients.
They also listed their top 15 recipes of all time, and that’s what I want to talk about today. If we wanted to summarize the theme through all 15 recipes, this is what I think it would be: Comfort food rules. Whether it's the World’s Best Lasagna recipe (14 million views), Good Old Fashioned Pancakes (13 million views), The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies (9.5 million views), or Alfredo Sauce (5.5 million views), they all fall into America’s comfort food category.
After looking through the recipes, here are a few more thoughts:
Simple recipes that work well are popular. The lasagna recipe was really the only truly complicated recipe; the rest were generally simple. The cookie recipes were especially low-key. Of course, I follow the same trend: the recipes that I use most often are generally the most simple.
Along those same lines, none of the recipes, from what I could tell, required special equipment. This of course makes sense. For any recipe to be popular, it should involve kitchen equipment that almost everyone has access too.
Looking at the survey results, you realize that most people get recipes from websites rather than from their mothers, but most of these recipes would be in the category of “just like mom’s.” Chicken pot pie, chocolate chip cookies, carrot cake, banana cake, meatloaf, pot roast — these are the type of recipes that dominate the list. These are the recipes that appeal to the majority of cooks on the website.
However, I do want to note that these recipes are American comfort foods. My Japanese-American mother-in-law talked about white rice and a vegetable stir-fry as her comfort food. It made me realize how cultural our comfort food is. What we ate growing up has a huge influence on what we consider comfort food. If allrecipes.com had a majority of Asian readers, I bet the list would be completely different, with a lot more rice, vegetables and seafood recipes.
So how does someone who wants to eat healthy food process this? First, I’d say that comfort food is shaped by the household culture. We can shape that for ourselves (and our children). Second, I’d like to point out that many of the recipes offer healthy versions.
I am not talking about the infamous "healthy" versions using non-fat vegetable spread instead of butter versions. I am talking about using real food. For example, cookies can be made with sprouted whole-wheat flour, real butter, and whole cane sugar. If you don’t eat a lot of sugar, the sugar content can be dropped, sometimes dramatically. They are certainly still a treat, but still much better for you. Pot roast can be absolutely delicious without a can of condensed mushroom soup. Meatloaf can be made with grass-fed beef. We can have American-style comfort food using whole foods and other healthy ingredients. It still tastes good, I promise.
As a recipe developer, the simplicity of the recipes were reiterated to me the importance of basic, simple recipes. This is a topic I have started exploring recently. (I even started a Pinterest board recently sharing simple healthy dishes.) If the recipe isn’t simple enough, we simply won’t make it that often.
Finally, I’d love to hear from you. What are the types of recipes you use over and over again?
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