4 key steps to make a recipe book.

  • Collect your family’s recipes.
  • Digitize them using Adobe Scan.
  • Design and format your recipe book to perfection.
  • Organize, edit, collaborate, and share it with family to pass on your cooking know-how to beginners.

Why recipe books are important.

Recipe books provide a unique set of various creations that could be newly created by you or perhaps passed down from a friend or family member. They provide a personal touch to dishes, with unique variations to the step-by-step process of preparing a dish successfully. They can help record your brilliant culinary ideas. Whether you are an avid chef or a beginner, creating a recipe book can challenge you and teach you something new — and give others a deeper appreciation for all the effort that goes into creating one meal. Food brings people together, and recipe books serve as instruction books for bringing others joy.

Family recipes can remind us of good memories and make us feel more connected to our loved ones. This feeling of connectedness, and the fact that everyone needs to eat, means that recipe books make great keepsakes and gifts for friends, family members, and co-workers. There can be a sense of accomplishment after creating a thoughtful meal versus throwing frozen food in the microwave or ordering takeout. You can see the exact ingredients that go into your meal, and even make adjustments and improvements to recipes to make them taste better or fit your dietary needs.

How to make a recipe book.

From a Thanksgiving feast to mom’s unique PB&J embellishments, many fond family rituals revolve around cooking and sharing food. Saving your family’s best recipes has gotten easier since the days of Grandma’s faded recipe cards. Whether you’re a food blogger or just need to keep track of which recipes every family member likes, digital apps and downloadable recipe templates make it easy to create a DIY cookbook.

You can bring together family-favorite recipes and organize them by meal (breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, or desserts). You can add a section for seasonal recipes like Grandma’s peppermint bark or your mom’s summertime hibiscus lemonade.

To the left: Two loaves of bread with scored crust on a flour-laden table.
To the right: Stacks of recipes written on various types of paper including that in a binder

1. Gather your materials.

Treasured family recipes aren’t just found in the kitchen. Be prepared to do some work to track down all your favorites, whether it’s searching boxes of old keepsakes for a long-lost spiral-bound recipe binder or interrogating your relatives at the next family dinner. And don’t forget to include some of your own creations — or any recipes you find online that would make good additions to your collection.

By the time you’re done, you’ll probably have a jumble of recipe cards, handwritten recipe notes, and web pages. To organize all of these into one book, you’ll need to get them all into the same format.

A mock-up of a red laptop showing a page in a recipe book depicting "Gram's Bread Recipe"

2. Digitize your paper documents.

Scanning your old recipes helps to preserve them for the long term, and it also makes it much easier to organize and edit them for your own recipe book.

With Adobe Scan, you can quickly digitize recipes that were handwritten and turn them into high-quality PDFs. And thanks to optical character recognition (OCR), you can easily extract and search the text of each recipe to tweak typos or find which specific ingredients you’ll need to get at the store. OCR even recognizes fonts and formatting, so your scanned PDF will match the style of the original document.

3. Get all your files in the same place.

Store all your freshly scanned recipes in a single centralized folder. Once you’ve imported everything, you can combine PDFs online into one file using the Merge tool in Acrobat.

Merge can combine multiple PDFs into one with just a few clicks. All you have to do is drag each of the individual documents into the Merge interface, where they’ll be converted into a single PDF. From there, it’s simple to rearrange PDF pages into your preferred order.

This is a great time to take a second and create a PDF table of contents to put at the start of your cookbook. Whether you choose to organize recipes alphabetically or group them with classic recipe book dividers going from appetizers to desserts, you’ll be glad to have a table of contents when you need to quickly double-check how much cumin goes in Mom’s famous meatloaf.
Two hands holding a mobile phone with the camera turned on and ready to take a photograph of a robust spread of food on the table below.

4. Add a little flavor.

When you create a cookbook for your family, you don’t have to settle for page after page of dry text and listed ingredients. Pictures of the meals can bring color and life to recipes and can help your cookbook to double as a photo book of fond family memories. You can use Adobe Acrobat to import, place, and resize images on the fly to fit your layout.

5. Think through the format.

The layout of your recipe book matters. You want to make sure your fonts are easy to read and page organization is easy to follow so people can glance over at the book as they are cooking and locate relevant information quickly. If there is no image, keeping a recipe to one page is ideal so a reader doesn’t have to flip back and forth while focusing on cooking and meal preparations. Before filling in the actual recipes, add placeholder text to see how the recipe book will look in terms of aesthetics and readability.

If the entire book doesn’t use the exact same format, that’s okay. Some recipes may require significantly more or less text. A recipe might need more spacing in between sections to make it easier to understand. Spacing certain sections can also put emphasis on recipe highlights. As long as it is easy to comprehend, it’s golden. Acrobat is a great place to view page layouts as you want them before sharing with others.

6. Add in your own style.

To personalize a recipe book even more, you can add a note if it is being dedicated to a specific friend or family member at the front of the book. Your recipe book can come in many different shapes and sizes. You can make it a hardcover or a softcover. It doesn’t even have to be a traditional book per se — you can compose the recipes in a folder or binder. Add your own photos or graphics to bring attention to your carefully crafted creations.

A young girl sitting on her mother's lap at a reclaimed wood table as they both smile and look over something on a laptop

How to make a recipe book with your family.

Collaboration features in Acrobat give you the power to make your family recipe book a family activity. If you’re looking for input, notes, or additional recipes from other family members, all you have to do is share the PDF so they can add comments and markups.

A family cookbook is a fun activity and a great gift. But the real value is in creating a collection of recipes and rituals that can be shared and enjoyed for generations to come. And why stop there? Once you’ve cataloged your family favorites, you can create recipe books as gifts for friends or even to share or sell online. It’s time to get cooking on your creative recipe book ideas. Take these steps to make it happen.

Brainstorm family recipes.

Think of some of your favorite recipes that you loved growing up. Did your grandmother make the best red velvet cake? Maybe your mom had a unique chili recipe or perhaps your dad makes the most delicious cornbread. Write down as many family recipes as you wish that you would like to share with others.

Collect the recipes from relatives.

Now that you have a general idea of who you may need to reach out to and the recipes you want, you can call, message, or email family members asking if they can share their beloved recipes. You can send or ask family members to write down recipes on stationary or index cards, which can add a unique touch to each recipe. You can scan the cards, or if you want to choose your own fonts and style for the recipe book, you may want to create a collaborative online document. Adobe Acrobat online services allow you to add notes, highlight, and add other annotations to help you create the recipe book of your dreams.

Curate the collection and write them up.

You have all the recipes that you need, so now you can organize them in a meaningful way. Consider dividing the recipes into sections by meal, such as breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can separate seasonal favorites from evergreen dishes or quicker recipes from more extensive meals. The possibilities are endless. From there, you can choose how you would like them to be written out. Scan documents, copy and paste from online documents, or transcribe recipes from an image.

Design or find a consistent format.

The recipe book should be as easy to follow as possible. Designing or finding a consistent format helps readers understand the content. While it can be tempting to use more playful, artistic fonts, opting for easy-to-read fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial is best when creating a step-by-step guide since they are some of the most straightforward fonts. Spacing on recipes can vary if you wish — for example, if you want to add a helpful tip that may not be a part of the listed steps. There may not be a tip for every recipe, but for more complex recipes, you want to give readers as much help as possible. The helpful tip could go in the bottom corner of the page. You may also want to space paragraphs and sentences differently depending on the recipe. As long as it is organized, neat, and easy to follow, you can have slight differences in recipe structure.

Cook (and take pictures).

Now you get to make these special recipes yourself. By cooking the recipes on your own, you can add helpful insights where they may be needed and, most importantly, take photos of your creations. A picture is worth a thousand words, and photos can give readers a better understanding of how the recipe should look upon completion. You can ask the person who sent the recipe for photos or take them yourself while you are testing out the dishes from your recipe book.

Some photography tips to keep in mind:

  • Avoid using the flash. Natural lighting is best.
  • Use the rule of thirds — align your subject with the imaginary vertical and horizontal lines dividing the frame into thirds.
  • Take the photo from the diner’s point of view.
  • Use unique backgrounds, but don’t overdo it (you don’t want to distract from the main subject).
  • See how different lighting and shadows can affect how the food looks.
  • Ensure your camera is stable. Use a tripod if necessary.
  • Edit your photos to perfection.

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