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Best recipe apps and software 2021

Best recipe apps and software: Meal planning apps to make life easier
(Image credit: Getty)

The best recipe apps and software can help you avoid the “what should I cook tonight?” question that frustrates even seasoned chefs at times. These apps offer hundreds of recipes at your fingertips so you can try new dishes, find the right ingredients for preparing delicious meals, and get things done faster so you can enjoy more time with your family. 

They can also help you find and follow diet plans. From Mediterranean diets to intermittent fasting plans, the apps offer plenty of customizable solutions so you can find something to suit your unique nutritional needs. 

Some of the best recipe apps and software also let you sort through meals based on calories, preparation time, ingredients required, and other factors that go into deciding which dish you cook. You can also share your favorite recipes with friends and family so everyone can cook together and enjoy food parties. 

If you are new to cooking, you can use these apps as a resource to learn easy, low-effort recipes to practice your skills. Then, as you become more proficient, you can keep increasing the difficulty level of your recipes until you are satisfied with your progress. 

The best part? These apps pair well with other cooking, ordering and food shopping apps. For instance, you can use the best grocery delivery services to fetch all the right ingredients for your favorite dish.

If you're a little hesitant to take the plunge and start cooking from scratch, or you're after an even easier approach to meal-making, take a look through our guide to the best meal kit delivery services.


1. Yummly: Best recipe app 

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Yummly

(Image credit: Yummly)
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Yummly

(Image credit: Future)

Yummly

Yummly has a huge range of recipes for every diet and preference.

Specifications
Free: Yes, with paid option
Desktop: Yes
App: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Curates recipes to your tastes+Options for every skill level+Virtual pantry
Reasons to avoid
-No meal planner

Yummly is an app and website designed to make meal planning fun and easy. Its first step involves selecting your favorite cuisines and preferences, and you can choose anything from Irish to Moroccan depending on your tastes. It allows you to input any allergies and dietary requirements, including ovo vegetarian, paleo, and vegan. It also allows you to filter out any disliked foods, which means you won’t be bombarded with meals full of mushrooms, cilantro, or avocado unless you really want to. Something that really sets Yummly apart is its “Cooking Skills” feature. Many recipe apps will assume that every user has the same level of skill, but this filter allows beginners to try their hand at entry-level meals without feeling overwhelmed. 

Yummly also allows you to work on a “Virtual Pantry” where you can add any fresh or store cupboard ingredients you already have, from flour and sugar to onion and frozen peas. This allows Yummly to put together a user profile and create a bespoke shopping list as you select your meal plan. Yummly uses its own recipes, but it also features guest chefs, brands, and bloggers with recipes from Simply Ella, Betty Crocker, Beauty Bites, and more. If you’re running low on fresh food (or grocery money), there’s the option to find “Pantry-Ready recipes” that you can make with what you’ve got available. 

A lot of the Yummly recipes come with calorie breakdowns, which will be welcome news to dieters (but unwelcome to those who have a difficult relationship with calorie counting), and it has the option to add ingredients from recipes to a shopping list. You can also schedule the eat time for your chosen recipe, which sets up a prompt for when you need to start prepping and cooking if you want to eat at a specific time.  

Yummly does have a paid option, Yummly Pro, which offers bespoke cooking courses on anything from Modern Paleo to Comfort Food Cooking with top chefs. There’s a 14-day free trial for Yummly Pro, and after that you’ll pay $4.99 for the service each month. Compared to some of the alternatives, this feels pretty reasonable. 


2. Whisk: Best free recipe app

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Whisk

(Image credit: Whisk)
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Whisk

(Image credit: Future)

Whisk

Whisk is a free, community-based recipe app that makes meal planning easy.

Specifications
Free: Yes
Desktop: No
App: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Totally free+Makes shopping lists for you+Curate your own meal plans
Reasons to avoid
-No pantry lists

Whisk takes a community-based approach to recipe curation, and it’s easy to find recipes for vegan, diabetes-friendly, or keto diets. Diet-related options aren’t the only communities you can follow though, and we enjoyed the seasonal recipes, as well as the global cuisine and cooking method options which are sure to be a hit with those who have a slow cooker, instant pot, or air fryer. 

Whisk offers something that many recipe apps don’t: a meal planning tab. You can add meals to various days of the week and save the recipe links under each, making them easy to access. You can also save recipes under various collections, such as the meal or diet type, to organize your new cookbook, and the app allows you to select the number of desired servings and adjusts the measurements of its ingredients accordingly. This is especially useful for those who cook for one or two and find it hard to find recipes that won’t give mountains of leftovers. When this is done, Whisk allows you to add the recipe to your shopping list, where you can deselect ingredients you may already have and sort by either recipe or shopping aisle. 

Unlike Yummly, you can’t add a list of ingredients you already have, such as flour, sugar, or onions, to a pantry list, meaning your app won’t automatically filter out ingredients you already have, or curate recipes that you can make with any odd ingredients you have lying around in your refrigerator. 


3. Mealime: Best recipe app for meal planning

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Mealime

(Image credit: Mealime)
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Mealime

(Image credit: Future)

Mealime

Mealime is designed to cut down on food waste, but you need the paid version to make the most of this recipe app.

Specifications
Free: Yes, with paid option
Desktop: No
App: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Unique and healthy recipes+Fantastic user experience +Plan your meals for the week
Reasons to avoid
-You need Pro to make the most of it

Mealime has an abundance of impressive recipes, all photographed and presented beautifully. Suffice to say, if it was a restaurant menu, we’d want to order everything. The main drawback of this app is that you can’t have everything - that is, unless you pay for it. Like other recipe apps we reviewed, Mealime has a free and paid version, but it advertises Mealime Pro far more front-and-center than other paid apps do, with a large proportion of the recipes on the app only available to those with Pro plans. Pro only costs $5.99, and if you ask us, it’s a reasonable price to pay for the huge range of healthy and unique recipes on offer.

One thing we really like about this app is that it’s designed to cut down on food waste. Some recipes ask for things in silly quantities, such as two thirds of a lime, or an inconvenient proportion of a bag of carrots. Mealime tries to use convenient proportions of the foods in its recipes, so you won’t be left with an awkwardly small cut of meat in your refrigerator that ends up being thrown out. With Mealime Pro, you can access entire plans designed to use every last bite of your grocery shop, but there’s a lot more guesswork involved if you use the free version. 

Mealime allows you to choose your eating preferences and even add recipes, although there’s a limit to how many you can add if you’re not on Pro. It curates grocery lists that have convenient tick boxes to keep track of your grocery shopping, and as you add meals to your weekly plan, it accumulates everything you need of one ingredient. You can also adjust the portion sizes of the recipes, which is a neat feature for large or small households. The meal planning could be better though - there’s no option to set the dates and times that you’d like to eat the recipes.


4. Paprika: Best recipe software

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Paprika

(Image credit: Paprika)
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Paprika

(Image credit: Future)

Paprika

This recipe software works across Mac, Windows, Android and iOS devices.

Specifications
Free: Yes, with paid option
Desktop: Yes
App: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Meal planner+Cloud syncing across devices +Access thousands of recipes
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most visually appealing

Paprika’s smartphone app isn’t quite as easy to use as the other app alternatives you can buy, but where it shines is its recipe desktop software. The concept is the same across all devices - you can browse recipes from all your favorite food bloggers, websites, and brands, and download the instructions and ingredients in one place. You can then set a meal plan for the week ahead, which will sync with your calendar apps or software to keep you on track. The ingredient list is also available to download as a shopping list, and you can untick anything you already have at home.

There is a pantry option with Paprika, but note that it doesn’t come up with automated suggestions like those offered in other apps. This means you’ll have to make a note of them all yourself, which could take some time. The pantry app does allow you to keep track of when you bought items, and when they expire, which is sure to come in useful with perishables such as sauces and jams. What’s more, because this software is available on phones and laptops alike, you can sync your preferences across notifications and keep your shopping list handy and sorted by section or aisle as you do your online shopping or head to the grocery store. Because recipes are downloaded, you can also edit them and make your own notes.

Where Paprika falls down is its presentation, which isn’t nearly as smart or as user-friendly as Whisk or other apps where recipes are available direct, without the use of an in-app browser. However, if you want a great recipe software option and are willing to pay, it’s got everything we looked for in our testing. 


5. WW: Best diet recipe app

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WW

(Image credit: WW)
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WW

(Image credit: Future)

WW

WW, formerly Weight Watchers, is a tried and tested recipe app with plenty of healthy options.

Specifications
Free: No
Desktop: No
App: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Thousands of recipes +Easy to track and plan+Fridge filter helps to use up ingredients
Reasons to avoid
-No shopping lists

Technically WW is a diet plan, and it’s one of the more costly ones in our guide. That’s because you’re given so much more than just recipe options with this app - with your WW subscription you’re allocated a set amount of points, which you can spend on set recipes and easily calculate using a barcode scanner on snacks and other foods. WW allows you to scroll through its thousands of recipes and add them to your meal plan in advance, which helps you stay on track. 

A relatively new WW feature is the Fridge filter, which allows you to select a range of foods you already have in your pantry, as well as a SmartPoint limit and any foods you don’t like or are allergic to. When you do this, it brings up dozens of suitable recipes, so you’re not tempted to turn to takeout when you’re faced with an empty fridge. 

WW is designed to be a diet app, and while the recipes will keep you on track to your desired outcome, it’s not a great choice if you simply want to expand your culinary repertoire. It doesn’t offer you any shopping lists, so you’ll need to make a note of the ingredients you need when meal planning, and it also doesn’t allow you to adjust the amount of portions you make. In our experience though, WW is a great weight loss recipe app for those who are getting started with cooking healthy food and need a helping hand. 


6. Allrecipes Dinner Spinner: Best recipe app for saving money

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Allrecipes

(Image credit: Allrecipes)
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allrecipes

(Image credit: Future)

Allrecipes Dinner Spinner

The Allrecipes Dinner Spinner is packed with ideas and tried and tested recipes.

Specifications
Free: Yes
Desktop: Yes
App: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Tried and tested+Works with what you’ve got+Shows what’s on sale near you
Reasons to avoid
-Visually, it’s not the best 

If you’ve ever Googled a recipe, odds are you landed on Allrecipes. The site gathers thousands of user-tried recipes on anything from slow-cooked cobblers to boozy cocktails. The Allrecipes Dinner Spinner brings what’s great about Allrecipes to an app, but it also brings the bad. Allrecipes allows users to upload their recipes and review others, so odds are, if you go with a tried and tested recipe with a high rating, you’ll experience success. However, unlike many of the recipe apps we tested, there’s no professional element to the app. You’re putting all your faith in fellow home cooks, with little added guidance.

That said, the Allrecipes Dinner Spinner does have a range of really fantastic elements. It’s free, for one, and it can actually save you money if you know how to use it. The ingredients list can be synced with local grocery stores to show you what’s on sale right now, meaning you’ll know what the most cost-effective dinner will be before you even head to the store. That can save you all the confusion and stress of deal hunting once you get there. 

The Dinner Spinner is as fun as it sounds. Simply enter the meal type (e.g. breakfast, dessert, appetizer, or even drink), choose an ingredient you have to hand (such as a type of meat or vegetable) and narrow it down by how much time you have to spare. You can have a roulette of suitable meals on offer in seconds, which is great for those days where you’re short on inspiration. 


What to look for with the best recipe apps and software 

Working with recipe apps and software can add a new layer of fun and convenience to your cooking routine. But finding a high-performing tool that adequately meets your needs can feel challenging at first. If you're still struggling to choose, we've outlined three key factors to consider below. 

Ease of use

The whole point of using recipe apps and software is to make cooking easy. So when you are comparing the features of different apps, make sure to consider how easy they are (or aren’t) to use. 

Some apps will offer ample instructions that guide you through the necessary steps, so even absolute beginners can feel comfortable using the program. Others may be made with seasoned users in mind, so they may offer fewer instructions and have no option to filter out the more difficult recipes. 

Use your judgment to determine where you stand and pick apps that offer relevant instructions to match your skills and interests. And if you prefer to read instructions on a larger screen, opt for a platform that has an easy-to-navigate website as well as an app.

Recipe options 

Another obvious feature to look for in recipe apps and software is the number of recipe options available. Think about your food habits. What does your typical meal look like? How much variety do you need in your recipes? Are you planning to start a new diet? 

Answering these questions can help you find the type of recipes you need. Now you can look for recipe apps that specialize in (or at least offer) such recipe options. For example, some of the above apps focus on healthy meals, while others prioritize minimizing food waste. Go for the option which best suits your needs.

Accessibility 

Some recipe apps and software offer text-to-speech functions that will read the recipe out as you cook. Some offer illustrations and note-taking features for ease of use. This can help you give your full attention to cooking, rather than trying to remember too many instructions at once and having to divide your attention between reading and cooking. 

Such features can also help disabled individuals by making recipes and cooking more accessible.  These can also be helpful for new users who may be unfamiliar with the technology of such apps. 

Millie Fender

Millie is a former writer for Top Ten Reviews who now works across Future's Home portfolio. Her spare time is spent traveling, cooking, playing guitar and she's currently learning how to knit. Millie loves tracking down a good deal and keeping up-to-date on the newest technology and kitchen appliances.