Want to learn how to make cloud bread? Or pesto eggs? Or how about hot chocolate bombs for a decadent dessert?
You can find all these recipes — and how to make them — not in your latest cooking magazine or epicurean bestseller, but on TikTok. In fact, you might be surprised by just how much good cooking content TikTok is dishing up.
The popular app features short segments of video — often highlighting dance trends or other pop culture fads – but it isn’t just for millennials or Gen Z. The app, which has more than a billion monthly users, spawns viral kitchen hacks (like the best way to assemble a tortilla wrap) and recipes, including the one for the simple and delicious baked feta pasta (see the video below) that took the app by storm earlier this year.
TikTok cooking is not just about gimmicks — there’s some real culinary innovation taking place, says Ayngelina Brogan, 44, of Nova Scotia, Canada, who writes the food blog Bacon is Magic.
“It’s not all about people trying watermelon with mustard,” says Brogan, referring to one of the app’s most recent (and unusual) viral food trends.
Get ready for food surprises
TikTok’s short video format lends itself to step-by-step, easy to understand instructions that people can follow along with. It’s great for learning about food, no matter your age, because of its visual power and ability to convey information in digestible increments, says Barbara Costello, 72, whose channel @brunchwithbabs has more than 1.3 million followers.
Costello says the app is also an important platform for exchanges between generations around a topic to which everyone can relate.
“Let’s face it, the older generation has a wealth of wisdom the younger generations can benefit from,” says the Connecticut-based TikToker. “A lot of younger people are so appreciative of someone telling them the basics, like how to make a simple dinner or measure flour.”
Costello’s easy-to-replicate recipe ideas include Hawaiian ham and cheese sliders, perfect for a football season nosh, and make-ahead egg muffins for an easy weekday breakfast.
The secret to her success? Being authentic. “I guess I come across as someone who's approachable just by being who I am,” Costello says.
Charisma is important, but so is real foodie knowledge when it comes to TikTok cooking content. Shereen Pavlides, 49, an experienced recipe developer and culinary school graduate, taps her culinary background for the from-scratch Italian dishes she serves up in her New Jersey home kitchen for her @cookingwithshereenTikTok account.
Pavlides’ engaging personality, straightforward recipes and “cheffy tips” feel approachable — and like things some of her 3.7 million followers might not be intimidated to try. Pavlides launched her TikTok channel in late 2019 and says it took off during the pandemic. Her banana bread recipe was a pandemic TikTok hit.
"When everyone was home cooking, the young kids were telling their moms about my videos because they wanted their moms to cook what I was making or make it with them,” Pavlides says. “So my audience started aging up because of that.”
Her videos range from the informative (if using Morton kosher salt instead of Diamond Crystal, reduce amount by half, since the former is extra salty) to comfort food (patty melts anyone?) to the sweet (think profiteroles).
Most of Pavlides’ videos on TikTok are about 60 seconds long and show condensed versions and riffs on recipes in her cookbook, Cooking with Shereen From Scratch: Because you Can!
And they're popular. Pavlides’ video highlighting her Iced Lemon Loaf TikTok (see video below) — a simple take on a Starbucks favorite — has 10 basic ingredients viewers are likely to have at home and has been viewed over 10 million times.
A fun place to learn about new cuisines
So what makes this platform a good place to get culinary inspiration?
“TikTok is fun, entertaining, and quick to the point,” says Patrick Moynihan, director of Social Media for Food52, a popular e-commerce and gourmet food website that crowdsources recipes from its audience. Food52 joined the platform to reach new viewers and introduce them to the brand in a fun “meet them where they are” kind of way, Moynihan says.
If you’re looking for new cooking hacks to improve your kitchen skills or make cooking easier, videos on Food52’s feed might serve as a reminder of something so simple you wish you’d thought of it yourself (rotating a lemon while zesting is a good one).
But TikTok can also introduce cooks of all experience levels to new cuisines and techniques in an unintimidating way.
For example, Joanne Lee Molinaro’s @thekoreanvegan account has more than 2.6 million followers. The lawyer-turned-TikToker, who launched her account in July 2020, shares personal stories from her life along with her cooking videos,
“My stories were designed to provide footholds in the hearts of those who might be unfamiliar with the immigrant story here in the United States,” says Molinaro, 42.
Instead of focusing on “chaotic recipe instructions in less than 60 seconds,” Molinaro says, she decided to emphasize storytelling with her content on TikTok — all while cooking, of course.
In a video where Molinaro cooks Kimchi cheese fries she talks about her parents’ objections to her first marriage, which ultimately ended in divorce. As she chops and mixes ingredients, she describes her parents’ concerns about the relationship and Molinaro’s insistence that she was in love. “Naturally, I thought I knew better,” she says, while onions and scallions sizzle.
Molinaro’s cookbook, The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes from Omma’s Kitchen, comes out in October. The recipes are inspired by the food that shaped her family history and are “an extended version of my TikTok,” Molinaro says.
Still convinced TikTok is only for a younger generation? Costello, of @brunchwithbabs, says it’s for everyone.
“If you have a minute,” she says, “you can learn something new."
How to Find Cooking Content on TikTok
You can learn a lot and whip up surprisingly tasty meals by following cooking accounts on TikTok. But how do you find the people who cook like you want to eat? When you follow the “right” accounts, the platform’s algorithm feeds you similar content to help you explore.
TikTok cook Joanne Molinaro has some advice for getting the algorithm to work best for you. Molinaro says to remember you’re in the driver’s seat with the app.
- After setting up an account, she says, tap the Discover icon at the bottom of the screen and type “foodtiktok” into the search bar. “This will unlock the door to millions of food videos, and all you have to do is pick one that seems appealing to you at first glance,” Molinaro says.
- Use search phrases to find recipes including #tiktokfoodie, #foodontiktok, #simplerecipes and #cookingtiktok. You can also get specific with things like #bananabread and #tiktokpasta.
- Watch a video, Molinaro says. And if you like it, hit the heart button to your right. “If you really like the video, hit the button featuring the creator’s profile to see the rest of their content and ‘follow’ them if you’re so inclined,” Molinaro says. “
"The more time you spend on TikTok telling the app what you want to see and what you don’t want to see, the more TikTok will feed you the kind of food content you want,” she says.
Terry Ward is a contributing writer who covers food, drink and travel. Her work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, The Washington Post and on CNN.