What does a ‘no-recipe cookbook’ look like?

The idea of a ‘no-recipe’ recipe is not exactly new. At various points over the years I have seen dozens of articles with the premise of ‘how to cook X without a recipe’, but an entire cookbook that is dedicated to the concept is another story. That is exactly what the debut cookbook from NYT Cooking is all about. Simply titled The New York Times Cooking: No-Recipe Recipes, the book’s mantra is that you don’t need exacting measurements or detailed instructions to be able to deliver a delicious meal.

Millions of grandmas would agree. In fact, for most of homo sapiens sapiens existence, there were no, or at least very few, recipes. Although you can find writings about food that include a recipe or two dating to ancient Roman times, the first practical cookbooks did not emerge until the late 1700s, and they did not become popular commodities until the late 19th century. Our current era of a cookbook for every conceivable subject, cuisine, technique, or appliance would have astonished cooks well into the 1950s, when Joy of Cooking and the Betty Crocker Cookbook were about the only games in town.

If you want to know what, exactly, a no-recipe cookbook contains, you can check out the excerpt from the book published in the NY Times, or you can head to the EYB Library to peek inside the pages of this new book. Aimed at helping people “build their intuitive cooking confidence,” the cookbook offers “minimal suggestions of ingredients and approximate amounts.” Think “chicken” instead of 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and a “glug” instead of 3 tablespoons.

In reading the EYBD Preview, what I see looks a lot like recipes, but without numbers. If you are just learning how to cook, this is probably not the book for you. But if you have some kitchen experience and are in need of inspiration (along with barebones guidelines), this no-recipe cookbook could be a ticket for escaping the cooking doldrums. I will probably pass on this book for myself although I can think of a few friends who would enjoy it. What are your thoughts on this concept?

If you preorder this title, the publisher is offering a bonus: A sneak-peek recipe booklet featuring 5 dishes from the cookbook and access to a live webinar on March 16th at 5PST/8EST featuring Sam Sifton in conversation with Melissa Clark.

Post a comment


  • BRosie  on  March 9, 2021

    I like this cookbook idea. I cook from so many different cuisines, that I need reminding more than inspiration. Especially when I make the above, ‘South Asian’ Weeknight Fried Rice, or also Spring Rolls, or Biryani, or Potato Curry, or Minestrone, or any one of the ambiguous ethnic recipes that I tend to forget exactly what makes the dish have the desired taste outcome. Sounds like a great cookbook for me, a person who must cook but suffers Cooking Block from time to time.

  • annmartina  on  March 9, 2021

    I think this is a great cookbook idea for when you need inspiration but are the type of cook that likes to improvise. I’m intrigued.

  • mjes  on  March 9, 2021

    Well, there is The Blue Strawbery Cookbook https://www.eatyourbooks.com/library/77677/the-blue-strawbery-cookbook-cooking … and maybe the books by Pam Anderson.

  • Pennyc07  on  March 12, 2021

    I enjoy the no recipe recipes that Adam publishes every Wednesday in the NYT. I have at least 150 cookbooks and will,probably buy this one.

  • Pennyc07  on  March 12, 2021

    Sam not Adam!

  • eliza  on  March 15, 2021

    Looks a lot like Nigel Slater’s Appetite! Even the pictures look the same or similar. I love this type of cooking so I will look into this.

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!