For some, following a recipe brings a sense of calm and order. And then there’s the rest of us: Home cooks who struggle to remember if it’s one tablespoon or teaspoon of chili powder, who constantly feel defeated when they’re lacking the hyper-specific ingredients listed in their cookbooks, who forget to put their phone in “recipe mode” and constantly drag oily fingers across their phone screens. For us, there’s the no-recipe recipe. Phew.
This style of cooking has been popularized by grandmothers everywhere, as well as editor Sam Sifton, author of The New York Times Cooking No-Recipe Recipes: A Cookbook, and chef David Chang, who wrote Cooking at Home: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying about Recipes (and Love My Microwave): A Cookbook with reporter Priya Krishna. Or maybe you’re familiar with chef Samin Nosrat, who recommends a similarly simple (and especially delicious) philosophy in her cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. And while the methods, the ingredients, and the level of direction can vary, what these “no-recipe recipes” have in common is that they entrust you, the cook, to let go of the perfectionism that can stymie us (and our meals) in the kitchen.
In our collection below, we’ve gathered some of the internet’s most irresistible guides—or “talk-throughs,” as Eater calls these—to the kind of go-to meals that can get you through even your busiest weeks. Pick your favorites, do a pantry and fridge sweep to see what you’re working with, and then get moving on a delicious, low-pressure, delightfully freewheeling week of meals. Starting with breakfasts...
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This is a no-recipe recipe, a recipe without an ingredients list or steps. You know a stash of leftover bread makes the best French toast for breakfast, so it stands to reason that a savory version would be equally satisfying for the crew around your dinner table.
Real talk: You don't need a recipe to make the braise of your dreams. Not that there's anything wrong with following a recipe—it's just that when you cook from enough of them you'll notice that, by and large, they all follow the same template.
As far as we’re concerned, sweater weather actually means fall soup weather. While we love a refreshing chilled gazpacho, once the mercury drops there’s nothing quite like curling up with a hot bowl of homemade soup.
Following a recipe is easy, but improvising in the kitchen takes confidence—and a well-stocked pantry. Samin Nosrat of the podcast Home Cooking gives her advice for whipping up great meals without a recipe.