What is the Best Recipe Search Engine in the World?

Have you ever tried searching for something simple like "sugar free muffins" only to get a laughable result like "sugar-coated muffins" on the first page of results? Maybe you searched for "gluten free pancakes" and got recipes with wheat flour or "healthy cheesecake" and felt like you gained a pound just looking at the decadent results?

Unfortunately, some recipe search engines rely so heavily on your search terms that they won't find recipes that don't have the exact words in the title. So when you search for "burrito no beans" they assume you'd be interested in "three bean burrito" because, after all, your search included the word beans!

Why Recipe Search Engines Fail

This is definitely a rookie mistake, but even some of the most popular recipe search engines fail to really understand some of your basic needs. For example, many can't really figure out what "healthy" means because they don't know the nutritional information of the recipes they have. They can't tell you if a recipe is cheap, because they have no idea how much the ingredients cost. High protein or low sodium? Less than $2 per serving or done in 30 minutes? If it's not in the recipe name, they often don't have a clue.

A good recipe search engine must be able to analyze thousands of recipes from across the web to determine whether they fit what you are searching for. That's no easy task when you think of all the recipes a person could want— recipes with ingredient X, recipes without ingredient Y, recipes with ingredient X without ingredient Y, recipes appropriate for your diet or allergies, recipes that are fast or cheap, recipes for holidays and events… the list of possible recipe search queries is endless.

spoonacular logo

Frankly, many recipe search engines aren't up to the challenge. But we at spoonacular are determined to save the world of recipe search — our hero spoon wants to rescue every disappointed recipe search user. Let us show you how.

Why spoonacular is Different

Let's start with the basics. A recipe search engine should certainly be able to understand what kind of recipe you're looking for, whether you're searching for a breakfast recipe, appetizer, main course, dessert, or drink.

Then of course it should be clear when you search for "breakfast without eggs" you shouldn't get omelets and when you search for "pear crumble" you should get tempting desserts, not salads with pears and crumbled blue cheese.

So far so good. But what if you're trying to stick to your New Year's resolution to eat better and you want to find healthy recipes? This is where spoonacular starts to set itself apart from all the rest.

spoonacular Finds Healthy Recipes

First of all, we don't apply any filters to our recipes in order to classify them as healthy. Just because a recipe is tagged as gluten free or vegan doesn't make it healthy and it won't necessarily make it easier to fit into your skinny jeans.

spoonacular actually calculates every recipe's nutritional information and score recipes based on how well they satisfy your daily requirements for various nutrients while not providing too much fat, sugar, sodium, etc.

Because we know the recipes' nutritional information, you can get really specific with your diet goals when searching for recipes.

"Low Fat Brownies"

brownie query

"High Protein Pumpkin Pancakes"

pancake query

How the recipes are sorted depends on your query, so you don't get a bunch of random results with no way of knowing how they were even selected.

spoonacular Finds Affordable Recipes

On a budget? spoonacular provides a price breakdown for all recipes so you can see which items are most expensive (and best to get on sale or swap out). More importantly, you can sort your search results by price per serving or limit your results to recipes that cost less than X dollars per serving.

"Cheap Fish Cakes"

fish cakes query

"Pasta Salad Under $1 Per Serving"

pasta salad query

spoonacular Finds Quick Recipes

Most of us are on the lookout for easy and fast recipes for busy weeknights. Try searching for

"Fast Lasagna"

fast lasagna query

or

"Salmon in under 15 minutes"

salmon query

spoonacular Finds Recipes for Special Diets

If you have food allergies/intolerances, it is also important that a recipe search engine can help you find recipes suitable for your diet. We have analyzed thousands of ingredients to determine whether they contain gluten or whether gluten-free options are readily available to help find recipes that are gluten free or can easily be made gluten free. spoonacular also tries to assist people with dairy, egg, seafood, peanut, soy, and other allergies/intolerances. Vegan or vegetarian? No problem, we can keep meat and animal products out of your search results too.

spoonacular preferences

Plus, you can log in to save your dietary preferences so you don't have to repeatedly type in "without nuts" or "vegan" — we heard you the first time!

spoonacular Finds Seasonal and Holiday-Themed Recipes

On spoonacular you can search for recipes based on the season — such as fall stew or spring casserole — or you can search for main dishes, appetizers, desserts, etc. for the upcoming holidays. Of course, you can still include additional requirements, like "cheap Mother's Day dessert" (we won't tell Mom) or "healthy Christmas side dish" (so you don't feel as bad about taste-testing some of Santa's cookies).

spoonacular Finds the Best Popular Recipes

Every recipe on spoonacular receives a spoonacular score so we can give you the best recipes we have that meet your requirements. The highest spoonacular scores go to recipes that are healthy, affordable, not too time consuming, and positively reviewed (among other things). If you want to find recipes that have created some buzz and received a lot of likes, we can help you find the cheerleaders and prom queens of the recipe world too.

"Best Whole Wheat Waffles"

waffle query

"Popular Meatloaf"

meatloaf query

spoonacular is a B.S. Detector

A really good search engine won't always give you results. If you search for vegan pasta with ground beef, not only are you possibly intoxicated, you can't really be satisfied by any recipes that come up. We aim to please.

spoonacular Doesn't Care if You're Like Sally in When Harry Met Sally

We have over 250,000 recipes and are constantly adding more. Best of all, you can really narrow down which of these 250,000+ recipes fits your requirements. That's because spoonacular can handle more than just simple orders like "apple pie". If you want the pie heated but don't want the ice cream on top, just on the side, and if you'd like strawberry instead of vanilla, or just whipped cream (ahem: like this?), we'll do our best to make sure you get exactly what you want. Some might call you high maintenance, but we don't judge. So please, test our limits with some longer queries, like "best soup with potatoes and bacon but no sour cream or cream under 1 dollar per serving" or "high protein vegetarian salad with quinoa but no legumes done in 20 minutes." Of course, the recipes have to exist for us to find them! Be sure to pay attention to the instant visual feedback (see below) to make sure we understood what you meant — too many "withs" and "withouts" could confuse anybody.

instant visual feedback

spoonacular Compared to the Web's Favorite Recipe Sites

You might be thinking "Hey, I'm pretty sure ____ can do all that!" and we'd be lying if we said there aren't any other search engines that can do some of what we described above. Sure they can. But many of them get stuck where spoonacular won't. Check out some of the examples below:

Query

spoonacular

Foodily

Yummly

Google Recipe View

Allrecipes

Food.com

Considering Health:
Healthy Breakfast good partially bad partially partially partially
Healthy Brownies without Brownie Mix good good bad bad bad bad
Healthy Spread with Cream Cheese good bad bad bad bad bad
Calcium rich soup good bad bad partially bad bad
Recipes with Vitamin D good bad bad partially bad bad
Considering Cost:
Cheap Dessert good bad bad bad bad bad
Cheap Stew with Beer good bad bad bad bad bad
Cheap Lasagna without Noodles good bad bad bad bad bad
Considering Time:
Quick Tomato Sauce good partially partially good partially partially
Quick Christmas Breakfast good partially partially bad bad bad
Orzo recipes done in 20 minutes or less good bad bad bad bad bad
Considering Special Diets:
Vegetarian Main Course good bad good bad good bad
Vegetarian and high protein salad for spring good partially bad partially bad bad
Vegan Chocolate Cake good good bad good good good
Dairy Free Mexican Eggs good partially good bad bad bad
Dairy Free soup no coconut no soy good bad good bad bad bad
Gluten Free Meatloaf good good good good bad good
Gluten Free Waffles good bad bad good bad good
Gluten Free cheesy main dish in under 20 minutes good bad bad bad bad bad
Considering Occasions:
Low Sodium Savory Side Dish for Thanksgiving good bad bad bad bad bad
Low Sugar Dessert for Mother's Day good good bad partially bad bad
Considering Cuisines:
Indian Dinner with Chickpeas good good good good good bad
Mexican Recipes without Beans good good good bad good bad
Asian Chicken Wings good good good good good good
Considering Popularity:
Best Zucchini Bread with Chocolate good bad bad good good good
Best Recipes with Saffron good bad bad good good good
Popular Pasta Salad in Less Than 15 Minutes good bad bad bad bad bad
Popular Summer Dessert Under 50 Cents Per Serving good bad bad bad bad bad
Considering the Impossible:
Vegan Recipes with Bacon good bad bad partially good good
Strawberry Pie without Strawberries good bad bad bad bad bad

In the end, we believe spoonacular is both more ambitious and more capable than the top recipe search engines on the web right now. Of course, that's not to say other recipe search engines don't have anything on us. Foodily simply has an enormous selection of recipes already, and you can browse by your favorite chef or blogger. Yummly has sliders to search for recipes directly matching your tastes (e.g. saltier, less salty, sweeter, less sweet). Searching for recipes with Google is very convenient since you probably already use Google when you search the web for everything else. Allrecipes and Food.com let you upload your own pictures for recipes you've made and leave comments and reviews.

And remember: the world's best search engine does not mean a perfect search engine. We admit we cannot (yet) tell you which recipes are appropriate for serving 20 hungry teenagers, 40 seniors at a retirement community, or even just yourself. Our ability to recommend a dish for a potluck or meals to freeze before the baby arrives is limited. Even our ranking of cheap, fast, or healthy recipes can fail if the recipe creator underestimated how long it took to make the recipe or didn't include preparation time at all, or if the serving sizes are improbably small or large. We are constantly striving toward perfection, however, and we decided it would be better to try to answer the most challenging queries rather than simply ignore your wishes!

So while we're confident that we're the best recipe search engine in the world, we'd love to hear from you about how you've stumped us. And if you think the search engine you use is still better, let us know why.

Once you come to the conclusion that spoonacular really is the best, log in with social media to save and organize your favorite recipes and upload your own.

Written by Crystal Schlegelmilch

April 24th 2014

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