Recipe software review and compare

Recipe software can help you take control of clippings, meal times and grocery lists.
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  • Updated:5 Aug 2005

01 .Introduction


In brief

  • Most recipe software uses a searchable database. Use it to find new recipes or organise your collection of clippings.
  • There are lots of recipe programs available on shareware sites but very few receive a good rating from users.
  • Nothing beats curling up on the couch with a cup of tea and a good cookbook

Please note: this information was current as of August 2005 but is still a useful guide to today's market.

It’s 7.30 on a Monday night. You open the fridge to find some carrots, zucchini and cheese. In the pantry, you find tinned tuna, pasta and diced tomatoes. What are you going to cook for dinner?

Thumbing through scrapbooks of recipe clippings to find a suitable dish can be an enjoyable task but when the kids are hungry, you need to act fast. Switch on the computer and launch your recipe software. Key-in your main ingredients and let the software reveal the possibilities.

This is one scenario in which recipe software would be beneficial. It can also be useful if you’re hosting a dinner party for six and one of your guests has special dietary needs, you like to share recipes with friends, or you want to quickly plan the week’s meals and write a shopping list. Perhaps you just want a safe, permanent record of your favourite recipes.

We tested six recipe software programs to find out how easy they are to use and what sort of features they offer. We also gave each program to the CHOICE home economist, an intermediate computer user, to get an idea of how each program could help in a practical situation.

Note: The software in this test is only compatible with Windows.

What is recipe software?

Most recipe software is a huge, searchable database of recipes and meal ideas. You can use it to store your favourite recipes, download new recipes, search and find recipes, create your own cookbooks or cooking web pages, find nutritional information, and share recipes with other people. Most programs have a directory of recipes but the idea is that you also use the software to store and organise your existing recipes instead of keeping scrapbooks of clippings and handwritten notes.

You probably won’t find much recipe software in computer stores but lots of programs are available from shareware sites such as We chose software that cost less than $50 and rated highly on shareware sites. Recipe software is also called recipe management software, cooking software or meal management software.

Things to be aware of

Time and effort

  • Recipe software can help you create a permanent record of your favourite recipe clippings but it’s a time-consuming process. You must key in (or copy and paste) all the data yourself. However, once your recipes are stored in the database you can categorise them into chapters for easier access.


  • Each program has its own look and feel. BigOven and Living Cookbook use multiple panes (like a web page) and navigation menus. The other programs use single windows with a menu bar. You’ll probably need to get used to the interface and learn how to use the symbols and menu options.

Measurement conversions

  • All the programs we tested use American measurements by default. Look for a program that allows you to switch to metric measurements.

TIP: Check whether the UK or Australian metric system is used. A UK tablespoon is 15 mL, for example, while an Australian tablespoon is 20 mL

Unfamiliar names

  • Watch out for American or British names of fruit and vegetables. For example, American programs may refer to coriander as cilantro. An inbuilt glossary is a good feature if your gastronomic knowledge is limited.

Sharing recipes

  • Most recipe software provides tools to help you easily share your favourite recipes. You may be able to print and email recipes, or create your own web page. Most of the tested software also allows you to import recipes that you already have in electronic format. Some publishers also run an online forum where customers can swap ideas and compare notes.

Shopping list generator

  • All the tested programs have a tool that automatically generates a shopping list of ingredients (and amounts). Some programs also have a cost generator but you need to enter the price of items before you can use it — another time-consuming task.

TIP: You don't need to buy software if you're only after inspiration. There are hundreds of cooking websites dedicated to providing free recipes and meal ideas.


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No standout product

All the software we tested can perform the same type of tasks so whether or not you’ll like a program is a matter of personal taste (excuse the pun). We found shortcomings with all the programs. Try several trial versions before you buy. All the programs will take time to get used to but if you don’t like the user interface or you find a program hard to navigate, you probably won’t enjoy using it — even over the long term.

Results tables

Program/version (in rank order) Price1 ($) Ease of use2 (%) Min. system requirements
Living Cookbook 1.5
US30 82 95
BigOven 1.8.2 (a)
US35 75 95
Cookbook Wizard 2.0.1
US24 72 95
AccuChef 6.6
US20 70 95
Cook’n Recipe Organiser 6.993
US40 67 95
Recipe Keeper Plus 6.5
US20 65 95

Program/version (in rank order) Nutrit-
ional data
Scaling Measure-
Additional data fields Costing Menu calendar/
Meal planner
Living Cookbook 1.5
BigOven 1.8.2 (a)
Cookbook Wizard 2.0.1
AccuChef 6.6
Cook’n Recipe Organiser 6.993
Recipe Keeper Plus 6.5

Program/version (in rank order) Pictures Send by email Import different formats Web page creation Backup Glossary
Living Cookbook 1.5
BigOven 1.8.2 (a)
Cookbook Wizard 2.0.1
AccuChef 6.6
Cook’n Recipe Organiser 6.993
Recipe Keeper Plus 6.5

Table notes:

(a) Replaced by new version that includes some additional features.
(b) There’s a method for switching to metric measures, but it’s very time-consuming to set up.
(c) Can only import recipes in its own format.

1 Price recommended retail in May 2005.

2 Ease of use a combination of how easy the program was to install and uninstall, use for the first time, search and sort for recipes, input recipes, learn to use over time and create recipes to share with others.

3 Features Nutritional data includes nutrition information that you can edit; Scaling allows you to increase the number of servings and automatically adjust ingredient quantities; Measurements allows you to switch between American and metric measurements; Additional data fields allows you to add new entries to cover areas not included in the program; Costing allows you to build a price list of ingredients; Pictures allows you to attach images to recipes; Send by email allows you to share recipes via email; Import different formats lets you import recipes in other file formats; Web page creation allows you to create an html web page of your favourite recipes; Menu calendar/meal planner allows you to create menus based on calendar events; Backup; Glossary explains ingredients.

All the programs let you edit existing recipes, search by alphabetical order and create a shopping list.