Recipe Writing Tips

These recipe writing tips are aimed at helping you adapt someone else's recipe as your own without running into any problems with copyright violations.

We start from the premise that most recipes are like ideas, and ideas, in themselves cannot be copyrighted.

That being said, you cannot simply take any recipe you like and copy it word for word into a book, a magazine or a web page and claim that it is yours.  This is not only illegal, but it is also unethical.

In my opinion, even if you make extensive changes to a recipe, it is always proper and welcomed to give credit to the person and source of your inspiration, and I encourage you to do so whenever you can.

Modification tips

If, however, for any reason you wish to use a recipe which someone else has previously published without getting their permission first, here are some points to keep in mind.

  • Change the name of the recipe, especially if it has an unusual name.  Some ideas:
  • Change the quantity of the ingredients.  Instead of a recipe for one serving, write one for 4 servings. (Our recipe converter can help you there.)
  • Switch your measurements from US Imperial measurements to metric or visa versa. (the converter we just mentioned with help with that too.)
  • Re-write both the ingredients and the instructions in your own words, which are slightly different from those used by the other recipe.  See the recipe thesaurus below.
  • Change the voice of your recipe. 
    • Example:  If the other recipe says "Do this ... then Do that ... " change it into a story where you're describing what you saw a chef do.  So you'd say:  "First he did this ... then he did that ..."
  • Switch from active verbs to passive verbs, or vice versa. (eg. cut vs cutting).
  • Embellish your version with personal comments and observations that will help the reader, and make it more uniquely yours.
    • eg. "When I peel shrimp, I like to do it in a bowl of cool water to rinse the shells at the same time."
  • Obviously if you have some modification or variation that you've made to the original recipe, this, too, will take it even another step further from even being considered a plagiarized version

Recipe Thesaurus

This is a very short and far from complete list of words which you might consider substituting in a recipe to make it distinct from one which someone else wrote.  It is not intended to be complete, but rather as a thought starter to get you on the road.

  • ? powder = powdered ?
  • Add = combine
  • adorn = garnish
  • adorn, embellish, trim = Garnish
  • bake = cook (in oven)
  • blender = food processor
  • boil = cook (in boiling water)
  • bowl = deep dish, pan
  • brown = toast
  • chopped finely = minced
  • chopped = minced, cut in small pieces
  • coat = cover, blanket, dust, glaze, spreadcombine = Add
  • combine = mix together, add
  • consistency = texture, density, firmness
  • cook (in boiling water) = boil
  • cook (in fry pan) = fry
  • cook (in oven) = bake
  • cover, blanket, dust, glaze, spread = coat
  • crumbled = crumbs
  • crumbs = crumbled
  • deep dish, pan = bowl
  • dish = pan, bowl
  • dish = recipe
  • food processor = blender
  • fry = cook (in fry pan)
  • garnish = adorn
  • Garnish = adorn, embellish, trim
  • heat before = Preheat
  • main dish = meal
  • meal = main dish
  • minced = chopped finely
  • minced, cut in small pieces = chopped
  • mix together, add = combine
  • pack tightly = Stuff
  • pan, bowl = dish
  • Peel = remove skin, shell
  • powdered ? = ? powder
  • Preheat = heat before
  • raw = uncooked
  • recipe = dish
  • Remove = take out
  • remove skin, shell = Peel
  • rinse = wash lightly
  • Stuff = pack tightly
  • take out = Remove
  • texture, density, firmness = consistency
  • toast = brown
  • uncooked = raw
  • wash lightly = rinse

Hopefully these tips will help you in preparing recipes of your own for sharing with others.  Let me know if there are any ideas you think should be included using the contact form.  And, of course, you're more than welcomed to participate in our Great Shrimp Recipe Repository with your own recipes.

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