How to write a cookbook

Writing a cookbook as a dietitian is a great tool that can help you build a strong presence and grow your business. A cookbook can be a great marketing tool, a source of passive income, and more. However, we understand that certain details can seem complicated, so we have gathered all the information you need to write a cookbook. First, let’s talk about the reasons why you should create one.

Why should dietitians write a cookbook?

  • To show your knowledge and expertise: this is an opportunity to present yourself as the nutrition expert. Your cookbook’s content will allow your audience or clients to see how knowledgeable you are on the topic you decide for your cookbook. Showing the quality of your work will help build their trust in you and your brand. 
  • Marketing strategy to increase your email list: a digital cookbook can be used to lure in your audience by offering it for free or giving a discount code as an incentive for subscribing to your email list or following you on social media. With a more extensive email list, you can have better access to your audience, and with this, a greater opportunity to sell your products of services. 
  • Selling the cookbook: you can create the cookbook to sell for a profit, it could be a great source of passive income for you. 
  • Make a name for yourself or your business: creating a cookbook will bring you a great sense of accomplishment. Being the author of a cookbook is something that you can mention to promote yourself, in a networking event, on social media, on your blog’s biography, and even to your prospective clients.

By now you are probably convinced that you need a cookbook so, let’s get started.

How to write a cookbook in 10 steps

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1. Know Your Audience

Your intended audience will influence what you would like to write, how would you write it, and where would you publish it. For instance, if you would like to share your recipes with college students, you will need to consider their level of knowledge, cooking skills and perhaps their food and nutrition trends. Another critical point to consider is your audience’s culture. This information will aid you in the process of choosing the appropriate recipes to share. Last, being nutrition expert, it is important to consider diseases and conditions. It is common that dietitians write books to help their audience improve a condition or disease.

2. Define Your Concept

Once you have your audience well defined, you can start thinking of what cookbook concept they will best fit in. You can focus on a particular culture or region. Based on your audience’s skills and knowledge, you can then define what tone you will be using in your cookbook. For example, it could be an educational tone for college students interested in learning how to cook basic recipes while in college. This way, you can compile the recipes that would best fit your cookbook.

3. Write an Outline

Having an outline will make the journey of writing down a cookbook more fun and enjoyable. Now that you have both a concept and audience, you can now start designing a table of contents to keep your mind more organized when writing the cookbook. For instance, a cookbook for college students can be divided into different meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as, it can have a section about easy cooking methods. Again, your outline goes hand in hand with what you would like to share with people. Try to make sure it is easy and detailed for you to follow.

4. Set up a budget

When you have a clear idea of how your cookbook would look like, then you can start thinking about the budget. First, there are costs related to the creating and testing of recipes. The costs will depend on the price of your ingredients and the number of recipes. Of course you can use your recipes to feed your friends and family! This will allow you to cut costs by using some of the grocery money you already have in your budget to create your cookbook. Plus they can give you feedback on your recipes, so it is a win-win. Then comes cost related to editorial, photography, and design. Depending on your skills, you can do a lot of this yourself. Thus costs can vary significantly.

5. Recipe development

Whether you want to come up with a unique version of a classically done recipe, or you want to create something completely your own, it all starts with an idea. If you are well versed in the cooking techniques and ingredients needed for your recipe, move on to drafting your preliminary recipe, otherwise do some research. Familiarize yourself with the type of cuisine you are trying to create or recreate. Also review or learn how to modify recipes to make them healthier, more nutritious or to account for dietary restrictions. Write down your recipe using a standard format and let the fun begin!

6. Recipe testing

Watch out for the master chef!

You must test your recipes to make sure they taste good, and the serving sizes and amounts are exactly what you have stated on your recipe. More often than not, you will have to make some revisions after making the recipe for the first time. Having your computer or a piece of paper to make notes while cooking is key. Once you are happy with the recipes, you can hire recipe testers or send the recipe to your friends or family. Ask them to make it and give you feedback, not only about how it tastes, but if it makes sense and if it is easy to follow.

7. Write text to go along with your recipes

Most cookbooks have additional writing beyond the recipes. Consider adding a chapter on nutrition education that goes along with your recipes or write about the culture that influenced your recipes. This additional writing will help you introduce your cookbook and connect with your audience.

8. Beautiful food photography

Great pictures are an important part of writing a cookbook

Food photography play an important role in making a cookbook. Most cookbooks today have photos of their recipes. Such images increase the reader’s motivation for cooking and purchasing a cookbook. Therefore, having excellent pictures is a key step in having a successful cookbook. Whether you choose to take your own photographs or have someone take them, you should keep in mind the following: be mindful of the lighting, shoot of a neutral background for maximum emphasis on the food, and create an attractive set for the food.

9. Put it together

Now that you have all the parts of the book, it is time to put it together. It is a good idea to have a document just for the text and in the order you want your recipes and text to appear. You can send this document to the copy editor (to ensure that the text sound logic is grammatically correct, and has a consistent style) and a proofreader (to ensure that the spelling is correct, the formatting consistent, and that punctuation is used correctly).  If you are on a budget, you still want a couple of people to review your book before the book is published.

10. Publish it

Once you have all of your recipes tested and approved, your text has been proofread and edited, and you have decided on a design and layout for your cookbook, it is time to publish. You can publish the cookbook as a PDF on your website or you can do an electronic cookbook. Doing a PDF on your website is a great idea whether you plan on offering it for free or for sale. Either way, it will bring in more traffic, more attention to your blog and expand your brand. If you choose the electronic route, you can easily do an ebook with Kindle or Barnes and Noble Press.

Creating a cookbook will make you a better cook and will give you a greater appreciation for the art of cooking. Imagine how accomplished you will feel when it is all done. All those hours measuring, mixing, and taking precise notes will translate into something you can be proud of.

Now you can keep reading to learn more details about how to create each part of your cookbook.

How to Develop or Modify a Recipe

Do you want to write a cookbook to showcase your recipes or publish a modification of traditional recipes? Choosing one over the other will depend on the cookbook’s concept and audience. Once you have a clearer picture of both, it is time to select the recipes you would like to publish.

Creating recipes

Writing down your recipe involves a series of different skills such as strength, creativity, confidence, and curiosity. These coupled together will aid you in creating a successful and delicious recipe. As you develop your recipe, you should keep in mind the following:

  1. Record your original recipe as you make it.
  2. Specify the measurements of the ingredients.
  3. Keep your language simple when describing cooking methods and ingredient preparation.
  4. Include serving size.
  5. Use a standard recipe template to write all your recipe.
  6. Add images of the recipe preparation or the recipe’s outcome.

Recipe Modification

Let’s say that you want to publish a cookbook with healthier versions of traditional recipes. Recipes can be modified to decrease the amount of sugar, fat, salt, or even substitute it with other ingredients. The main barrier with modifying recipes to make it healthier is altering the flavor or consistency of the food. Therefore, it is important to consider that modifying ingredients is not always 1 to 1 ratio. Keep in mind that modifying a recipe takes longer since you are changing ingredients that can affect the recipe’s outcome. Here are a few modifications you can make to traditional recipes to make them healthier:

Fat

  • When baking, you may use half of the fat the recipe states. For instance, half the butter, shortening, or oil. Instead, you can replace it with unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana. You can also replace it with a healthier fat such as olive oil, avocado oil, canola oil, or sesame oil.

Sugar

  • There are different ways you can substitute sugar in food. Some healthier options are honey, dates, maple syrup, and natural sweeteners. However, most of the sugar substitutes can duplicate the effect of sugar in taste. Therefore, it is important to remember that sugar cannot be replaced in a 1 to 1 ratio. For example, to replace 1 cup of sugar you can substitute it with ¾ of honey or ¾ cups of maple syrup.

Salt

  • For most dishes like salads, soups, and other foods, you can reduce the salt by half or even eliminate it. In place of salt, you can use your favorite spices such as garlic, paprika, pepper, cumin, or parsley to add a great flavor to your meals.

Fiber

Try to use whole foods such as whole-grain pasta, brown rice, or whole-wheat bread instead of enriched options. This small change can help you increase the fiber content.

Standard recipe template

Whether e-books or printed, most cookbooks use the standard recipe format. In this format, ingredients are listed first, in the order they will be used, followed by step-by-step instructions. See the example below. The standard format is the one widely used in cookbooks and the easiest to understand and follow. It is also very easy for the consumer to compare what they need and what they have at home in case they need to add any items to their grocery list.

Example of standard recipe format

Now, let’s delve into the nitty-gritty of how to write a recipe in the standard format. First, write the title and the number of servings the recipe yields, the serving size, and cooking and preparation time. Then write the ingredient list and the preparation method.

Choosing a Recipe Title

When choosing a title for your recipe, use something short that describes your recipe, sounds appetizing, and attracts the consumer. For example, “Sweet N Salty Oatmeal Cookies”.

After the title, you can add a short description of your recipe. This will entice the reader and give them an idea of what the recipe is like before making it. In this section, you can write special bits about the recipe’s creation or history and any special notes that may help the reader connect to you and your recipe.

Writing the Ingredient List

  1. List all ingredients in order of use. Look at the step-by-step instructions of the preparation method to put the ingredients in the right order.
  2. Spell out everything to avoid confusion. Some people may not know the difference between tsp and Tbsp, so spell it out: teaspoon, tablespoon, ounces, pounds, etc.
  3. If your recipe has different elements (for example, chicken and a sauce), make sure to list the ingredients separately with headings “chicken” and “white sauce”.
  4. When you have several ingredients used simultaneously (for example, baking cookies, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt are typically mixed together), list them in descending order according to volume.2 
  5. If an ingredient does not have a numerical measurement, capitalize the first letter. For example, “salt to taste”.
  6. If the preparation of an ingredient is simple, you can add it to the ingredient list. For example, “3 ounces dark chocolate, melted”
  7. Suppose one of the ingredients will be used more than once in a recipe; write the full amount needed, followed by the word “divided”. For example, “1 cup sugar, divided”.
  8. Avoid using use brand names. Always use generic names for all ingredients.
  9. Do not use two numerals together. The size of the package or canned item should be in parenthesis. For example, 1 (14-ounce) can of chickpeas.

Writing the Preparation Method

  1. When writing the preparation methods, you do not need to use full sentences. You can be concise with the instructions, but make sure they are very clear.
  2. Always state temperatures, especially if the oven needs to be preheated. If the oven needs to be preheated, make it the first step in the preparation methods. For example, “1. Preheat oven to 350°F”
  3. It would be helpful for you to include the size of bowls, cookware, and baking pans needed in a particular step.
  4. Make sure to always indicate heat level if the stove-top is to be used. For example, “Saute over medium heat”.
  5. State exact or approximate cooking times with hints, if applicable. For example, “Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown”. 
  6. Each step of the preparation method should have its own paragraph, or number, or bullet point.
  7. If your recipe has different elements, do the same as on the ingredient list, separate each element’s preparation methods. For example, do a header “For chicken,” write out the instructions for cooking the chicken, and a header “For sauce” and do the same.
  8. The last step is to give serving instructions, for example, “Let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting”.
  9. You can also add ideas on garnishing the dish or how long it will keep refrigerated/frozen. Any hints or ideas would greatly benefit a consumer that may lack cooking experience.

Ingredient Substitutions (gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, etc.)

EGG SUBSTITUTIONS

As you know, not only do some people have dietary restrictions that prevent them from using many ingredients listed on recipes, but there are also many people switching to a more plant-based diet. With this in mind, including ingredient substitutions in your recipes would be valuable, not to mention crucial to anyone with dietary restrictions.

You can note the substitution next to the ingredient on the ingredient list. For example, “2 tablespoons of butter (you can substitute with equal amounts of vegan butter)”. If the substitution require a longer explanation, like the use of flaxseed instead of eggs, you can use an asterisk to note more information below. For example, “2 large eggs or substitute with equivalent flaxseed egg (*see below for flaxseed egg recipe)”.

At The Kitchen Whisperer and Forks Over Knives, you can find multiple ways to substitute eggs, dairy, meat, and gluten in your recipes.

Testing the Recipes

You must test your recipes multiple times to make sure they taste good, and the serving sizes and amounts are exactly what you have stated on your recipe. More often than not, you will have to make some revisions after making the recipe for the first time. Send the recipe to your friends and ask them to make it and give you feedback, not only about how it tastes, but if it makes sense and if it is easy to follow.

How to measure wet and dry ingredients

Tools for wet ingredients

Measuring fluids- cup

Measuring liquid ingredients is not hard to do, but you need the right tools. Getting accurate measurements is essential, especially if you are baking. To measure wet ingredients, you need liquid measuring cups and measuring spoons. Note that measuring spoons work for both wet and dry ingredients.
Picture

When you pour the liquid into the measuring cup, be sure your eyes are at the same level as the measurement you need. Place the cup on a leveled surface (do not hold the cup in your hand) and bend down to see where the liquid is at. Depending on the type of liquid measuring cup you have, if you look from above, you may not get the correct quantity of liquid you need.

When using a measuring spoon for liquids, be sure to fill the spoon until the liquid is leveled with the rim of the spoon. 

Tools for dry ingredients

Measuring cup of sugar-pack well.
Pack brown sugar well

Dry ingredients include everything from flour, sugar, rice, and every other dry ingredient you can think of, and they should be measured in dry measuring cups. The most common ones are plastic or metal and each set has cups in a variety of sizes ¼ cup, ⅓ cup, ½ cup, and 1 cup. 

For most dry ingredients, you just dip the measuring cup into the ingredient and level of the cup by sweeping away any excess with something that has a straight side, like the back of a butter knife. This method works great for all dry ingredients except flour and brown sugar.

When measuring flour, it is best to fill up the measuring cup with a spoon, instead of dipping it into the flour. This avoids adding extra flour that may change the texture of your dishes. Brown sugar is measured by packing it well into the measuring cup until it is leveled with the cup’s rim. For measuring dry ingredients using a spoon, be sure to fill the spoon and level it off with something that has a straight side.

Kitchen Math – Helpful for Recipe Modification 

Common conversionsCommon Weight ConversionsCommon Metric Conversions
1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons
4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
1 cup = 250 mL
1 pint = 500 mL
1 quart = 0.95 L
1 gallon = 3.8 L
1 ounce = 28 g
4 ounces or 1/4 pound =113 g
1/3 pound=150 g
8 ounces or 1/2 pound =230 g
2/3 pound =300 g
12 ounces or 3/4 pound =340 g
1 pound or 16 ounces =450 g
2 pounds= 900 g
1 teaspoon = 5 mL
1 tablespoon or 1/2 fluid ounce =15 mL
1 fluid ounce or 1/8 cup= 30 mL
1/4 cup or 2 fluid ounces =60 mL
1/3 cup= 80 mL
1/2 cup or 4 fluid ounces=120 mL
2/3 cup=160 mL
3/4 cup or 6 fluid ounces=180 mL
1 cup or 8 fluid ounces or half a pint= 240 mL
2 cups or 1 pint or 16 fluid ounces =475 mL
4 cups or 2 pints or 1 quart = 950 mL
4 quarts or 1 gallon = 3.8 L
For more kitchen math click here

Food photography

Phone taking pictures

Food pictures play an important role in making a cookbook. Most cookbooks today have photos of their recipes. Such images increase the reader’s motivation for cooking and purchasing a cookbook. Therefore, having excellent and professional pictures is a key step in having a successful cookbook. Whether you choose to take your own photographs or have someone take them, here are some simple tips to take great pictures:

  1. Shoot in natural light: having good lighting is the key to creating beautiful pictures. Try to always shoot your photos in natural daylight rather than under artificial lighting.
  2. Use a neutral background: shooting on a neutral background allows for maximum emphasis on the food. It is important to highlight that a neutral background doesn’t mean it has to be completely plain, but instead, it should complement the subject.  3. Shoot from the best angle: another key to having beautiful pictures is the angle you use. It is usually preferred to shoot from above, especially when the food is served on a plate or bowl. This will allow you to incorporate all the details of the food and the background.  4.Food photography has a learning curb, but there are many food photography tips at your fingertips.

Food styling

Additionally, here are some tips for plating like a professional:

  1. Decorate with contrasting colors: you can include some of the dry ingredients used in the recipe. However, try to add contrasting colors.
  2. Shoot raw ingredients: shooting raw ingredients used to cook your recipe is always a great idea to catch your reader’s eyes and attention.
  3. Add oil to the plates: a thin layer of oil around your plate helps the food capture the light, making it look more delicious and professional.
  4. Use white plates: placing your food onto white plates or bowls provides the food with an elegant and clean background making your food stand out in the picture.

Editing photographs

Besides having a great photoshoot, editing the pictures is vital as well. Here are the top 5 apps to edit your food pictures:

Putting everything together

Writing a cookbook

Making a cookbook can be a rewarding and fun experience for people who love spending time in their kitchen. Now that you have all the steps needed to make a great cookbook in place, it is your time to inspire and teach others how to cook delicious recipes. Here is the time when you can start thinking about the design and layout of your cookbook.

There are many websites that can help you create the actual design of the cookbook. Keep in mind that some of these websites can charge you for their templates.

As an example, Canva * is a website that can inspire you to create a beautiful and attractive cookbook. They offer over thousands of design templates that can help your cookbook stand out from others. This detailed video by Boss Project can help you with your design your cookbook in Canva, it is worth to watch it.

Other websites that can inspire you to create your own cookbook are Pinterest and Lulu.

*Please note that links with a (*) are my affiliate links & I make a commission off purchases made through these links.

Self publish cookbook

After you have developed your cookbook now, you have to choose where to publish. Depending on your goals, you might only have it available for download or sale on your website, but you should know that several self-publishing companies can make the selling process more manageable.

Some of the most popular companies include Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace by Amazon, iBooks by Apple, and Barnes and Noble Press. These companies work with both e-book and printed copies. They even offer print on demand, meaning that they will only print the book after the purchase is made, they will automatically charge their fee, and you will receive royalties after the deductions. For both digital and print formats, the royalties from these companies will range from 35-70% of the cookbook’s price.

Overall the benefit of having your cookbook on one of these platforms is that they will convert your manuscript into formats that are ready for publishing and access to many retail platforms.

It is now time for you to start writing!

Link to get this article in PDF

Authors

This article was written by Su-Nui Escobar, DCN, RDN, FAND in collaboration with dietetic interns extraordinare Fabiana Caldera, Jacqueline Barcelo and Katheryne Romero .


 

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