How to use Scrivener to keep a recipe book

A new use I found for Scrivener (see my overview) lately emerged from this rediscovered passion of mine, that is cooking. Whenever I want to redo a recipe I don’t know very well, I find myself fighting my way through piles of chaotic handwritten recipes, badly organized bookmarks and website history and emails, srolling through the few recipes books (actual ink and paper books, mind you) that I keep in various places of my flat (and no, not only my kitchen, which is already crammed with ustensils). Half the time I find myself phoning my mother to learn how she does it. She is, after all, the one who taught me the taste for nicely cooked meals and when  I cook dishes from my childhood I’m invariably disappointed that they don’t taste like I remembered.

So recently, while I was backing up my work files through dropbox (more on that later) and installing Scrivener on my wife’s new iMac to make sure the backup worked, all the while cooking my first ever muffins to bring to our neighbourg’s party, I thought: hey, wouldn’t it be easier to use Scrivener’s ability to handly multiple files in the same metafile and its keyword+label+searchbox combo to store all my recipes in one place? The corkboard and outline views could be of tremendous help when I’m not inspired and don’t know what-to-c

ook-tonight. That’s the perk of using a software like Scrivener daily: you begin to see new uses for it, ones you’d never expect at first. Try doing that with Word.

So here I am, immediately storing that muffin recipe and a couple ones I use frequently. I stopped there because we had to attend the aforementioned party but in just a couple dozen clicks, I had a pretty functional scrivener file that I intend to update as soon as I get more time or find new recipes. Here’s how it works:

Under Draft I created two subfolders: one for salted recipes, one for sweet ones

In each of these folders, I’ll create one subfile (sorry I never even tried to learn the lingo, I think they’re “scrivs”)  for each recipe where I just jot down the ingredient list and the instructions. I add pictures to see what I’m heading for and to render the recipe livelier.

Then come the keywords

At the moment I have keywords for base ingredient (flour, eggs, etc.), type of dish (entrée, main course, dessert, party dish), how it is cooked (raw, oven, pan…) and where it comes from. So I can now use Scrivener’s search functions to find me recipes out of the ingredient I have at end or the appliances I can use, or if I’m in the mood for Tex-Mex or Asian I can search for that, too.

Labels and Status

I have labels for the time it will take me to make the dish (from under 10 minutes to more than 2hrs). I made sure to tint icons with label color and I ordered my recipes from quickest to longest so depending on how much time I’ve got, I know what color(s) to look for. I also have status stamps that show if I’ve already tested the recipe, if I’m pleased with it or still experimenting. These might change if I find a better use for the stamps.

Which brings us to synopsis cards that I mainly use in Corkboard view. On these I write a quick description of the dish, I develop the “time” infos (by stating precisely how much prep time and how much cooking time) plus any remarks I need to make for my future self or anyone using this recipe book besides me.
I haven’t thought of any use for the Research folder yet but I can imagine at least one: experimenting. That could be where I’d store my own creations but that’s another story yet to be written.

Now, with dropbox, which is a fine over the cloud storage service, I can access my recipes from anywhere with a mac and scrivener. I will also export the recipes as .pdf in order to access them without Scrivener handy. Far less efficient but still useful.

In the features I still need to add, there’s linking to recipe websites, of course but this takes time and will come in its own time.

For those of you who might want to give it a shot, here’s the template (along with the 4 first recipes). Just unzip the file and run the Installer, it will add itself to your other Scrivener’s templates magically. It’s mostly bilingual but some parts are still only in french right now but I’ll try to make a full bilingual version once I’m done with all my other writing. In the meantime, you’ll have to tweak it a bit yourself. Sorry about that.


5 thoughts on “How to use Scrivener to keep a recipe book

  1. I downloaded your template and was surprised to see it written in a foreign language (French-I presume) so I am unable to read it. Is there a way to get it in English? Thank you.

  2. Just wanted to say thank you, for this template. I adore Scrivener, for all forms of writing and note-taking. Happened upon your blog, when trying to brainstorm on a strong approach to keep a recipe collection organized, and without using a different app. This template is a far better solution than anything I’d have thought to do with the app – Wonderful! Mercî!

    Marlene – I downloaded the template from this page, and upon installation (I opened the zip and then double-clicked on the enclosed file, for automatic installation) it was in English. Maybe it’s been updated, since you last attempted?

  3. Also want to add my thanks to the writer!

    Haven’t downloaded the template as I found it in the latest version of Scrivener with which I am playing…

    I’m a bit af a crazy cook that doesn’t seem to use recipes – which means my wife’s usual question – upon tasting another surprisingly good dish… excuse my modesty 😉 is “can you repeat this” … and I never can.

    HOWEVER – this template plus your instructions helped me to better understand the potential of Scrivener for another brainchild I am working on…

    Great stuff!! Millefois merci et bon continuation!!

  4. Many of us are lucky enough NOT to have Macs. How can I install the templates into Windows Scrivener? Also, I don’t understand French.


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