cookbook recipes

Cookbook Recipes: Using Someone Else’s Delicious Recipe

Ann O'Brien

Ann O'Brien

January 2, 2023

Cookbooks are a popular type of book to publish because there are so many variations of cookbooks to make. The combination of cookbook recipes that can be included is endless and cookbooks provide a fantastic way to preserve memories and bring people together over a delicious meal. But even the most creative cook would be hard-pressed to come up with a book full of cookbook recipes that are uniquely their own. So how do you gather cookbook recipes for your next cookbook?

Finding the Right Cookbook Recipes

Depending on what type of cookbook you are writing, you might need to gather cookbook recipes from family members or a specific group of people or even seek out cookbook recipes that fit your needs. In some cases, you might also have personal recipes to include in the cookbook. But if many of the dishes you plan to include in your cookbook aren’t yours, you might wonder if that means it is acceptable to use someone else’s cookbook recipe.

And the truth is, while many authors use a cookbook recipe that is their own, many books feature recipes that have been adapted from or inspired by other cooks and bakers as well as some recipes that are a reimagined take on a previously created recipe. Everyone knows that using another person’s work is plagiarizing, so how can a cookbook author use another person’s cookbook recipes without express permission?

Attributing a Cookbook Recipe

Authors who use lines from another author’s work have to cite, or attribute, the content to the original author’s work. And cookbook recipes can also be attributed to their original or known author so that a cookbook writer can use them in their book in the same way. Attribution is simply naming and giving credit to the original author or source of the recipe. When cookbook recipes are attributed, the author provides readers with enough information to understand where the recipe came from and to whom the original recipe can be credited.

If you are using cookbook recipes from another source on your website, instead of rewriting the recipe, simply providing a link to the original source is the best way to attribute the recipe to its rightful owner. But for printed books, providing a link to follow is not practical or helpful. Instead, an author wishing to use another person’s cookbook recipes in their cookbook has four options: securing written permission from the original author, adapting the recipe, creating a similar recipe using the recipe as inspiration, and completely reworking the dish into a new recipe.

Three Ways to Include Someone Else’s Cookbook Recipes

Without simply copying a recipe from another cookbook, authors can choose to include someone else’s recipe if they adapt it, create a recipe inspired by it, or they can totally reimagine the recipe to use it in their book.

1. Adapting Cookbook Recipes

Since authors cannot simply retype the recipe and label it with the name of the original author without their permission, adapting a recipe is a way to include a dish in your cookbook that most closely resembles the original recipe. Authors can modify the recipe with small changes or adjustments to make it their own while maintaining the integrity of the original ingredients and instructions.

These recipes should always be labeled “Adapted from [original owner]” to give the original owner credit for the recipe. A brief description of the changes that have been made is always an interesting and informative introduction to use on a dish that has been adapted. Readers love to hear the history of a dish and adapting a recipe adds another layer of the recipe’s story for future cooks or bakers to learn.

 2. Using Cookbook Recipes as Inspiration

Another way to integrate someone else’s recipe into your cookbook is to create a recipe inspired by the original recipe. When an author changes large parts of the recipe but retains the basic feel or focus of the original recipe, this newly created dish should be referred to as “Inspired by the [recipe name] of [original author]” in a cookbook. Since the basic idea of the recipe stays the same, the cookbook author owns this new recipe, but it should still be labeled as one created by using another dish as its inspiration.

3. Reimagining Cookbook Recipes

The final and most creative way that an author can use someone else’s recipe in their cookbook is to make large, sweeping changes to a recipe to make it their own. By reimagining it, a cookbook author can essentially develop a recipe that matches their own preferences, flavor choices, or cooking vibe. A soup recipe that swaps out basil and thyme for cilantro and jalapeno peppers along with switching a clear broth base to a rich, creamy one could be described as an inspired dish, since similar elements are exchanged to create a dish that has some of the feel of the original dish.

But an Italian soup that is transformed into a hearty casserole dish with a punchy rather than Mediterranean flavor profile would be a reimagined recipe worthy of its own dish name. But with a dish that is changed in such a large part that it might be unrecognizable as the original dish, should the cookbook recipe reference the original author? The answer might surprise you — yes.

Attribution: When and How

A cookbook is a unique type of book because it contains two types of content: recipes and the backstories that accompany them. Many people read cookbooks to learn new recipes, discover different flavors, and understand how food and culture intersect. But just as many cookbook connoisseurs read them like books with little intention of picking up a measuring cup or bowl, because they are simply drawn into the story and the history that cookbook authors famously include in their books.

Cookbooks are special because they give readers an intriguing cover that hints at the delicious dishes to be found inside and they promise compelling tidbits alongside recipes that disclose historical connections, give a glimpse into an author’s life, or reveal family secrets like how a long-ago grandmother used a bread recipe to feed her family during challenging times.

But one of the ways that a cookbook provides those kinds of compelling details that make a cookbook a one-of-a-kind publication, authors have to include specifics about where each recipe originates. And while the backstories, anecdotes, and personal stories that are included in a cookbook vary from author to author, each one begins with the history or attribution of recipes that don’t come directly from the authors themselves.

When should you give an original author credit? Anytime you use a recipe that is not wholly original, authors should give credit to the creator. Even if your reimagined recipe has changed so significantly from the primary recipe, crediting the cook or baker that first created it is always a good idea, because it builds trust with your reader and shows them that you are knowledgeable enough to recognize a recipe’s value in its original form.

Contrary to what you might think, readers won’t think less of a cookbook author if a recipe is noted to have originated elsewhere. Instead, a cookbook is looked at as a tapestry of flavors and dishes that are brought together by a cook or baker that knows what tastes good and how food should be prepared.

Where does the attribution go? Cookbook recipes can credit an original author in three ways.

  • The title of the recipe can reflect the original recipe’s author: “Mama Sue’s Chicken Corn Chowder”
  • A recipe subtitle can provide the attribution context: “Adapted from Giada’s original recipe” or “Inspired by Bobby Flay’s famous Crunchburger”
  • A story or anecdote can be included with the recipe below or adjacent to the recipe: “When I first came across this Beef Bourguignon recipe by Julia Child, I knew that it would be the perfect starting point to create my own new dish.”

Developing Your Cookbook Recipes

If becoming a cookbook author is something you want to do, then gathering recipes for it is one of the first steps to take. Depending on the type of cookbook you are planning to write, your cookbook recipes might be submitted to you by family, friends, or members of a specific group, they might be from your own recipe collection, or even ones that you find elsewhere that you want to include.

But partnering with a proven printing company like Publishing Xpress will ensure that your cookbook will turn out beautifully so you can make your beloved recipes available to others through your cookbook. And whether your recipes are time-honored family dishes or adaptations of recipes from another talented chef, by attributing those recipes correctly, your book can be filled to the brim with as many delicious dishes as you want to include.

Be sure to check out all of the options available from Publishing Xpress for your special cookbook. We offer four different binding styles for your cookbook — plastic coil, wire-o, perfect bound, and saddle stitch.

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