The best recipe app, Paprika, is more than just a recipe app. Paprika makes it easy to plan, save, shop for, cook, and organize all your favorite recipes. In addition to its iPhone and iPad apps, Paprika has a great Mac app as well. The whole suite is available on the App Store, and, with a huge 2.0 update on iOS, Paprika is now better than ever.
While not as crowded as the weather app category, there are certainly quite a few recipe apps available on the App Store. To select our testing pool, we first reached out to various friends of ours who cook often and use iOS devices (including Jim Ray and Neven Mrgan, who co-produce the Salt & Fat website and podcast) to find out what apps were their favorites. We also asked people on Twitter and took a look at the App Store to see other apps that were at the top of the list or had good ratings. From this, we ended up picking 8 recipe apps for our testing.
The best app, Paprika, and the runner up, Basil, were chosen based on the following criteria:
- Easy way to add recipes from multiple platforms, both with great support for website clipping and help when manually adding recipes.
- Readable design with appropriately sized touch targets for using the app while cooking.
- Ability to scale recipes if you want to cook more or less servings.
- Sync capability (if there are multiple apps) or at least a way to export/import and backup recipes.
Cream of the Crop: Paprika
To put it simply, Paprika provides all the features you need to be an organized and effective home cook. Paprika also works great for casual cooks who just want to store all their recipes on their iOS device (and/or Mac).
Adding recipes is a snap with support for many popular recipe websites and food blogs. It is even easy to import recipes from “unsupported” websites using Paprika’s integrated browser and clever copy/paste detection. Moreover, Paprika’s cooking-specific auto-complete smarts help alleviate some of the pain of manually entering recipes.
Once you’ve collected your recipes, you can plan your week (or month) of meals on a calendar and even let Paprika auto-create your grocery list with all the ingredients you need for those recipes.
If you’ve never used a recipe app before, or have never settled on one, Paprika is the one you want. You will never have to organize printed recipes from the internet, write a paper grocery list, or forget to pick up that key ingredient again.
Before beginning my research on this article, my wife and I had been using Basil as our recipe app of choice. We had no particular reason for choosing it in the first place other than it was a good price and seemed to offer what we needed. Since Basil only manages recipes (and doesn’t have a meal planning or grocery list feature), we would plan our weekly menus and keep our grocery lists on paper. When it came time to make dinner, we would reference our paper meal plan, pull up the recipe in Basil, and then hope we didn’t forget to write down an ingredient on our paper grocery list. While this added friction to our “cooking workflow,” Basil is our runner-up because it is a great and simple app for those who simply want to collect recipes on their iPad and occasionally cook from them.
After testing many apps, we switched to Paprika and heartily recommend it as the best recipe app. We can clip recipes, plan our menu, make our grocery list, and cook no matter which of our Apple devices we have on hand.
Cooking with Paprika
Paprika is a perfect companion both in and out of the kitchen. When reading my favorite recipe blogs, having access to Paprika on all my devices made it easy to clip the recipes I wanted to save. When it comes time to sit down with my wife on Saturday night to plan our meals for the week, Paprika makes it easy to make a meal plan and a grocery list. Having meal planning and a grocery list built into our recipe app makes it easy to remember all the ingredients we need at the store and to see what to cook after a busy day at work.
When cooking with Paprika, the ability to keep multiple recipes at your fingertips, cross out ingredients as you add them, set timers right from the directions, and mark your spot in the directions are huge benefits over a paper recipe book. When you make changes to a recipe or want to remember what you did or things you liked or didn’t like, Paprika makes it easy to make adjustments and keep notes on all your recipes. No more trying to set timers on your microwave and stove and no more scribbling notes on your printed recipes, hoping you will find them in the future.
After getting acclimated to Paprika, we decided that it was time to transcribe all our favorite written recipes. While the iPad app helps with a special keyboard for cooking terms, measurements, etc., we found it easiest to use the Mac version to type in the recipes. There really is no easy way to do this, but it is worth it in the end, especially with Paprika Cloud Sync keeping a backup.
When you first open Paprika, you are presented with the main recipes screen. The recipe browsing screen allows you to browse by category, search by name, ingredient, or source, as well as sort by name, rating, or most recent.
When viewing a recipe, you can add it to Paprika’s Meal Planner calendar, helping to plan out your meals for the week (or month). You can also add the recipe to your Grocery List, and Paprika will automatically add all the ingredients (less the ones in your Pantry). Sharing via email, AirDrop, and printing are also available.
Paprika’s unit converter can be a life-saver if you forget, for example, how many tablespoons are in a 1/4 cup. You also have the option to scale the ingredients in your recipe automatically for times when you want to prepare more or less servings than the recipe calls for, such as making two-and-a-half times the normal amount of sweet potato casserole because all the in-laws are coming over for dinner.
Some other features that make Paprika a great partner while cooking include automatic timers recognized from the recipe’s directions, the ability to cross off ingredients as you use them, and the ability to mark your spot in the directions with a simple tap. And here’s a tip: increasing the recipe font size in the settings also helps make a more appropriately-sized touch target.
When preparing an important meal that includes an entrée and multiple sides, it is helpful to have quick access to your multiple recipes. Paprika allows you to pin up to 3 recipes to the bottom toolbar, making it easy to switch in the midst of cooking so you don’t burn the butter while trying to look up the temperature to which the turkey should be cooked.
Automatically import recipes from the web
Paprika also excels at adding recipes. There is a large list of supported sites, including AllRecipes, Food Network, My Recipes, and Serious Eats, just to mention a few. Paprika also has the best native recipe clipping support — adding a recipe from a supported site is as simple as clicking the Save Recipe button on the in-app browser or utilizing the bookmarklet in your browser.
With unsupported sites, all three apps allow you to pull in each part of a recipe simply by highlighting parts of the recipe on the web page and then hitting the appropriate button (Photo, Name, Ingredients, Directions, etc.) within Paprika.
With version 2.1.3, Paprika has added a Safari extension (iOS 8 only). This dramatically improves importing recipes from the web as you don’t even have to launch the app first.
Adding your own recipes
If you want to add your family recipes to Paprika, the iPad version provides some extra tools to make the process a little less painful. Above the keyboard there is a menu of some common measurement and direction words, as well as fractions, etc.
Basically, anything that you would type over and over in a recipe, or would be hard to type on the iOS keyboard, is included. The iPhone version includes the fractions, but no common measurement or direction words.
If you are planning to add grandma’s whole cookbook to Paprika, you may want to consider using a physical keyboard for your iPad or use the Mac version of Paprika to help make the transcribing as painless as possible.
The power of Paprika’s built-in Grocery list
Paprika lets you easily make your grocery list. While viewing a recipe, you can tap the Shopping Cart button to instantly add all the ingredients needed for that recipe into your Grocery List. A popup will display, allowing you to check or uncheck ingredients before adding them to your Grocery List in case you already have certain items. And, of course, you can manually add items to your Grocery List.
The free Paprika Cloud Sync service syncs everything in Paprika to the cloud and all your devices. Since it uses its own sync service (and not iCloud), it’s easy to create an account to share between everyone in your household.
When viewing the Grocery List, similar items are consolidated (i.e. if one recipe calls for one egg and another two, your grocery list will have 3 eggs) and items are sorted by category, making it easy to find everything in the store without having to backtrack while shopping.
And, as expected, the Grocery List allows you to check off items as you purchase them. If you’d prefer to shop from a Reminders list, Paprika will export your Grocery List to the Reminders app. Unfortunately, the Reminders sync is only one way. Items you check off in Reminders don’t get synced back into the Grocery List in Paprika.
Another great feature in the Grocery List is the Pantry. You can use the Pantry to keep track of all the ingredients you already have in your kitchen. When adding recipes to your Grocery List, any items already in your Pantry will automatically be unchecked.
The Meals view allows you to make monthly or weekly meal plans directly inside Paprika. To add meals to your Meal Plan, you can select recipes from inside the Meal Planner, or add them to your Meal Plan from the recipe screen. You can also add notes to your menu to assist in organizing your meal. The Meal Planner also allows you to add all the ingredients from a plan to your Grocery List, export the meals to iCal, save a menu (including notes) for easy re-use, and email or print your Meal Plan.
The recently-overhauled Paprika Cloud Sync in version 2 makes the app even more powerful. With real-time sync between devices, Cloud Sync makes it easy to add recipes, plan meals, shop, and cook from any devices that share a Cloud Sync account — and it’s free.
My wife and I find that we typically add recipes in all 3 apps, organize and plan meals on our iPad, shop from our iPhone, and cook from our iPad. Cloud Sync makes this process seamless and efficient.
Backup, and Import/Export
Cloud Sync can also serve as a backup for your recipe collection, or you can also manually backup to iTunes via HTML or Paprika’s own format. Importing through iTunes file sharing allows you to bring recipes from other popular recipe file types over to Paprika.
We think the above prices are reasonable because of the full suite of features offered by the apps, the free cloud syncing, and the attention to detail in the version 2 update on iOS.
If spending $30 on the Paprika suite of apps sounds like too much, it’s okay — you don’t need all three versions. Any of the apps work great on their own if you only want to use it on one device. In that case, we recommend the iPad version, but you may end up wanting to get the iPhone version, too, so you can use that for your list when you go out shopping.
What to do with handwritten family recipes
While the majority of recipe apps make it easy to import digital recipes you find on the Web, what do they do for handwritten family recipes or your favorite cookbook recipes?
Paprika helps in two ways. First, because it has a Mac app, it can be easier to type in all your recipes using a keyboard and mouse. Secondly, the iPad app provides a line above the keyboard with common recipe direction words, measurements, and fractions.
If you have a lot of paper recipes to add, BigOven has a RecipeScan transcription service. RecipeScan supports both handwritten and typed recipes and allows you to submit scanned images or photos directly from your phone. You get 3 free and 25 more when you subscribe to BigOven Pro ($19.99/yr). Additional scans start at $9.99 for 12.
To test the RecipeScan service, I submitted a photo of a recipe card with my iPhone and received a transcription back in about an hour (they say it can take 2-5 business days). While the transcription was good, it wasn’t perfect. Some of the words in the directions were missing from the transcribed text. For the price, I would expect the transcription to be perfect. However, the transcribed recipe was usable.
Runner up: Basil for iPad
Before the recent Paprika update, we were torn between Paprika and Basil. Basil ($2.99, iPad only) was the first recipe app to be updated for iOS 7, and the update is great. While Basil only handles recipes (no shopping list or meal planner), it does a stellar job at recipe management and in-kitchen use.
One feature from Basil that is a differentiator from Paprika is auto-tagging. When you add a recipe to Basil, that recipe gets auto-tagged with the main ingredients and you are presented with a selection of meal and cuisine types to select. This makes organization a snap without much effort. It also makes it easy to pull together a meal in a pinch. Say you have X, Y, and Z ingredients on hand — you can use that to search Basil for recipes that use those ingredients. Paprika does something similar, allowing you to search by name, ingredient, or source. When searching by ingredient, you can search for multiple ingredients separated by commas.
If you are someone who does not like to manually organize your recipes or plan to only work with your recipes on your iPad, Basil is worth consideration. It is also worth mentioning that Basil uses Dropbox as a way to keep your recipes backed up and to sync with other iPads you might have.
Other apps we cooked with
I tried several other apps, and some important areas where they fell short compared to Paprika include poor design, difficulty in adding recipes and/or a lack of cross-platform support.
The other apps tested include:
BigOven is free, but requires a $19.99/yr subscription to clip recipes from websites by URL or bookmarklet and create a grocery list from the menu planner. The BigOven recipe database, RecipeScan, and sharing features make this a possible alternative for some.
Evernote Food (free) pulls all your recipes from your Evernote account into a useful format for cooking. The app also provides a great browsing view for grabbing recipes from many popular food websites and blogs as well as a way to document meals. If you are already heavily invested in Evernote, Evernote Food is worth a look. We didn’t choose this app because it requires an Evernote account and doesn’t support meal planning or grocery lists.
Allthecooks is another free, socially backed recipe app. If you are interested in a Pinterest-like browsing interface for recipes posted by others, Allthecooks might be worth a look.
Pepperplate is free and only supports clipping recipes from websites through a browser interface.
The Recipe Box ($2.99 iPad, $0.99 iPhone) also just received a big update, but is still lacking on the interface front. While some might appreciate the fluff that gives it a unique look, we found that it detracts from the usability when cooking. The recipe view also only shows both the ingredients and directions when in landscape mode.
Paprika. It looks great, does a great job of clipping recipes from the web, and helps you plan, shop, and cook all your meals. If you’re looking for the best recipe app that is easy to use and full of features, look no further than Paprika (on iPhone, iPad, and Mac).