How to Search for a Recipe (and find what you love)

How to search for a recipe

How to Search for a Recipe (and find what you love.) We all do it, we all get frustrated, and we all spend way too much at it, too. So here are my top google and Pinterest recipe search tips for navigating that black hole called the Internet, surviving to tell the tale ~ and maybe even cooking up something amazing!

search for recipes pin

Recipe search tips for google, Pinterest, and more!

Our mom’s had it easy, they just leafed through their worn copy of Fannie Farmer, or flipped open the recipe box on the counter. But it’s a (BIG) brave new world for recipe hunters everywhere, and it’s all at our fingertips. But it can be hard to navigate, overwhelming, and so time consuming. That’s why I’ve compiled my best tips for making the most of your next hunt.

A slice of Libby's famous Pumpkin Pie with maple whipped cream

Tip #1 speak google’s language

The way you type in a search can make all the difference. Let’s say you’re searching for a pumpkin pie recipe…if you type in pumpkin pie recipes you’ll get 110 million results (literally) and that will be great if you have half a century to devote to finding your pie. But there’s a better way…

  • Use quotation marks. Are you looking for Libby’s new pumpkin pie recipe? Put your search in quotations “Libby’s new pumpkin pie recipe”  and you’ll get just that.
  • Use the + or  – before a word you DO or DON’T want included in your search, for instance, search pumpkin pie + Libby’s, or gluten free pumpkin pie – cornstarch. This is a great technique if you need a recipe that’s special diet or allergy friendly.
  • Imagine what sounds good to you…pumpkin pie + pistachios? Pumpkin pie + chocolate? If you can imagine it, someone’s probably made it, so type it in and you’ll find lots of inspiration.
  • Maybe you want to see results from your favorite website, just type site:yourfavoritewebsite after your search. For instance,  pumpkin pie and you’ll get just those results.
  • Found a great recipe once but lost track of it? Search My Activity on google. It will search only the pages you’ve visited.


Cranberry Gingersnap Pie

Tip #2 visual aids

When it comes to food and recipes it helps to visualize. We all eat with our eyes first, and visuals really help us identify what we’re looking for. Let’s say you’re looking for a cranberry pie. There are lots of very different types of cranberry pie out there, and you will probably want to see them to make your decision.

  • On google you can always switch to image results ~ look right under the search bar, you’ll see it. Once there you can quickly skim through the photos to see what looks good to you.

google search image

  • I recommend downloading the google app on your smartphone. The new Lens function harnesses the power of AI and lets you point your phone camera at anything to call up all kinds of info and related results. Recipe results will be part of coming updates so familiarize yourself with it. Look for the lens icon in the google search bar.

  • Pinterest is great for visual searches, but it manipulates the results just like google does. Try searching by hashtag (#cranberrypie) to bring up current in real time results that you won’t see in a regular search. Or make use of their additional filters right underneath the search bar.

Pinterest search graphic

  • One of my favorite tricks on Pinterest is to bring up a pin that looks good, then scroll down, right on that screen, and you’ll see lots of related results that are closer to what you’re looking for. I find a lot of great stuff this way.
  • Other visual search sites I like include foodgawker (less overwhelming than Pinterest) and feedfeed.


a stack of soft glazed gingerbread cookies

Tip #3 refine and dig deep 

Vocabulary matters! Use your words, the more specific the better.

  • Refine your search so your results will be more relevant. A search for gingerbread cookies will bring up an army of little gingerbread men that all look alike…but search glazed gingerbread cookies or stamped gingerbread cookies to come up with the beauties above!
  • Looking for an old time recipe nobody in the family seems to remember? Try using words like vintage or retro in your search.
  • Use words like one bowl, 30-minute, or easy to get results that fit your cooking style.
  • Maybe you want to make something a little different, but you’re not quite sure what? In that case, add the words unusual, unique, or variations to your search.
  • Don’t stop at page one if you don’t see what you’re looking for. I find page 2 or 3 to be the sweet spot for finding really good recipe results.


overhead shot of baked feta cheese with olives, lemon, and rosemary

Tip #4 search by ingredients

You open your fridge, take stock of what you’ve got, and need a dinner plan. There’s an app (many, in fact) for that, but they’re limited by their inventory of recipes, and I find you can get better results right in google.

  • You can search for recipes according to the ingredients you’ve got on hand. Just type in the ingredients and hit enter.
  • Try it: choose 3 main ingredients that you’ve got: try kale+lentils+sweet potatoes, you’ll get yummy recipes that you can make.
  • This trick works in the search bar of your favorite blogs, too. You’ve got feta, olives, and bread in the fridge and last minute guests? Type it into tvfgi searchbar…no prob!
  • Keep your ingredient list to 2- 4 for best results, keep your pantry well stocked with essentials, and this can be a really handy technique.


Creamed Brussles Sprout gratin ~ a super luxurious side dish made with the veggie everybody loves to hate! ~

Tip #5 Find your niche 

Your online niche is sort of like your neighborhood, or a better analogy might be like your favorite cookbooks. Finding a niche is a way of narrowing down your options and keeping the vastness of the Internet from overwhelming you when you’re hungry.

  • If you find yourself repeatedly loving recipes from a certain place, that’s  a niche…examples might be Bon Appétit, Mark Bittman, America’s Test Kitchen, or your favorite blog.
  • Once you’ve found a source that matches your taste, use it and don’t lose it! Subscribe, either by email or via the rss feed. If the site allows you to keep a personal recipe box, do that.
  • You can also enhance your recipe searches by adding your niche into your search. If you were to search brussels sprouts you’d probably miss my favorite Creamed Brussels Sprouts, unless you were savvy enough to search brussels sprouts + Some of the best stuff gets buried 😉


pumpkin bread sliced, on a cooling rack

Tip #6  Read the reviews

Once you’ve done your searching, you going to need some way to weed through the results.

  • Reviews are the main way we can understand a recipe we encounter online. If you see repeated glowing reviews, that’s a pretty good sign that the recipe is worth trying. This recently posted pumpkin bread started getting raves from day one.
  • Don’t rely on any one or two random reviews, look for themes in the comments to tip you off to the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • Look for consistent responses from the site owner ~ that’s a sign someone, a human, cares and is taking responsibility for the recipe. I have been on many large sites (I’m looking at you Martha!) where recipes have many negative reviews and the questions go completely unanswered.
  • That being said, don’t let the lack of reviews turn you off, people are busy and don’t have a lot of time for commenting, so if something looks good and you trust the source, go for it!



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    Leave a Reply

  • Reply
    November 8, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful information, Sue! I love your page! It’s always a pleasure to read your blog & recipes! I will have to print it out or make notes on getting specific with searches. I’ll never remember it!

  • Reply
    November 8, 2019 at 3:18 am

    I stumbled on your site about two years ago and love your recipes. I have a small cafe on Great Island in Maine. Your recipes are straightforward and reliable.
    This article is super helpful as time management is paramount!
    Thanks for great recipes and thoughtful articles on food related topics,

    • Reply
      November 8, 2019 at 6:00 am

      I’m so glad you found me Pamela, I need to make a trek to the Maine Great Island, I’d love to visit your cafe!

  • Reply
    November 8, 2019 at 2:08 am

    I am loving your site, your recipes and your attitude. Thanks to your “find of the day” I bought a 9×13 USA pan with lid a few days ago that has already arrived. I had been wanting one and found it through your link for $6.89 – amazing! Thank-you!
    Love this post, it’s right up my alley. Research can open all kinds of doors. I taught myself to cook over the last 10 years heavily utilizing Pinterest and Evernote as my cookbooks, journals, education, meal planning, reference notes, etc.
    I wanted you to know that Pinterest has just changed with no warning or explanation to any of us! They have removed the Titles and Descriptions on each pin, and now all of our pins have NO text. It’s a crisis for me, honestly. I don’t know why all bloggers and online businesses aren’t having a fit over this. Apparently it hasn’t yet affected all users, it’s hard to tell, because Pinterest is saying nothing and not responding to anyone’s inquiries beyond form letters saying they changed and aren’t going back. But they’ve removed all user-created data! I’m a wreck over this. Can’t begin to tell you the hours I’ve put into making my collections useful. I just bought my first stand mixer (that’s a big deal! I’m kindofanold broad! 😀 ) and I had just started a baking journey by scouring blogs and collecting pins toward that goal, fairly intensively. And then poof! All the text is gone, rendering the pins useless. Have you seen this problem from your end?

    • Reply
      November 8, 2019 at 6:04 am

      Hey Anabel ~ thanks for the nice comment, and as for Pinterest there is a movement among some bloggers to remove what are called ‘rich pins’, which basically means the details of the recipe don’t show up in Pinterest, so the user has to visit the site to get the recipe. I go back and forth with what I do here at tvfgi. The point is that bloggers want to get the readers to their site, where all the info and photos are, rather than have people make snap decisions about a recipe on Pinterest. That might be what you’re observing. Also sites like Pinterest, Facebook, etc, are subject to all kinds of glitches, which might also be the case!

      • Reply
        November 8, 2019 at 10:48 am

        No this isn’t entirely the rich pin issue from the user’s perspective. A major part of saving and using pins was always adding one’s own text that would show up under a pin in an open board. Any user opens their boards (of saved pins) and there’s a little strip of text under each pin, that is the text one wrote oneself in the “title” or “description” category when first saving the pin, editing the pin, or just the default text that came with the pin if the user left it the way the blogger had it. For example, when I go to save a pin of this article of yours, the image with the collage for example, the default text you have is “How to Search for a Recipe (and find what you love) | The View from Great Island”. I would “save” that to my board of choice normally, and that text of yours would show up under the pin when I have that specific board open that I saved it in. I would see the title of the article that you had there, or I could’ve overwritten your text in the editing title or description window to say whatever I wanted, such as “this article has unique google search info”, and when I had that board open again, I could see all kinds of my own customized reasons I want to click on any given pin.

        When you have your front page of Pinterest open, you’ll see all text from bloggers of all pins, under their pins. But when some of us NOW click on our own boards, the texts are all gone, both our own words or the blogger’s words, no text at all!, and there are only pics. So you’d only know what a pin is about by clicking on and enlarging pins one at a time, sometimes seeing the default strip of text but more often not find any text at all, and then going to that site. It’s as if Pinterest wants users to go to pins one time after finding pins prompted to them in the main area, then not using Pinterest to save and use pins in the future. Seriously, this has happened to tons of users, and the boilerplate response in email from Pinterest to all users is that they’re not fixing the change in titles and descriptions, sorry (barely paraphrased). See their facebook page, people are furious and they’re not answering. They don’t say it’s a glitch, (it’s been going on for many weeks), they say it’s the way it is. People are complaining that the programmers no longer know what they’re doing and have ruined Pinterest. When you open a board of pins you saved from elsewhere, are you seeing text *under* the pins?
        So sorry for the long comments, it’s important for bloggers to understand what’s happened to the user experience and it’s hard to describe succinctly.

        • Reply
          November 8, 2019 at 11:47 am

          I had no idea! It’s not happening for me, I hope it doesn’t.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    You come up with such unique topics to post on your blog. It is so much fun to read and learn the things that you share. I have a handful of food bloggers that I love, but you do the most beautiful food styling and photography. All of your colors are gorgeous and vibrant. The recipes you share have so much variety too, which shows how well rounded you are and gives everyone in your following something to love. I have never commented before on any blog, but had to say something today!

    • Reply
      November 8, 2019 at 6:08 am

      One of my favorite things is when I can tempt a reader to comment who’s never commented on anything before 🙂 Thanks for your support, I’m trying to branch out a little bit into related food topics, it’s fun for me.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    This was the most informative article that I have read in a long time. I’ve used the internet for years but never knew your search tips to get to specific info faster.
    Thank you!

    • Reply
      November 7, 2019 at 6:21 pm

      I’m so glad it was helpful Peggy :)) There’s a lot of ‘fluff’ on the Internet, and I really wanted to put out something useful.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 4:56 pm

    Hi, I agree. I use to find Pinterest helpful, now it is just a waste of time. Often the links are broken or just pictures or have nothing to do with the picture posted.
    On reviews, I have a pet peeve about people writing; looks good, will have to try this. What good does that do as a review. I want to know if someone made the recipe/comments.

    • Reply
      November 7, 2019 at 7:01 pm

      Oh gosh, the broken links and spam drives me crazy.

  • Reply
    [email protected] is How I Cook
    November 7, 2019 at 11:55 am

    Great post Sue. Leave it to you to help everyone out! I am impressed!

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 11:51 am

    Wow, Sue ! How wonderfully helpful to this non-computer-savvy cook ! I don’t even own a smart phone—I have a “stupid fone”, LOL. Thanks so much for the education as well as for your continuously great recipes !

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 11:18 am

    So very helpful, Sue! I find the most difficult is to locate good old recipes, and I then go back to books which I still love paging. I went through a stage of buying lots of books, but I now use only a few, same as receiving the newsletters from very few sites, one being yours.

    • Reply
      November 7, 2019 at 8:05 pm

      I’m the same with the books, Alexandra, I did a big clear out recently and couldn’t GIVE them away. The few genuine treasures I always keep with me.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 9:48 am

    Hi Sue,
    I did enjoy this post and your site. I signed up for both foodgawker and the feedfeed sites – not as a contributor but as a recipe search option. Thank you for the suggestions. I do not use Pinterest or Yummly – I find both to be irritating and overwhelming. Even when attempting to narrow the searches, they bring forth too many options.

    • Reply
      November 7, 2019 at 9:52 am

      I know exactly what you mean Barbara, Pinterest is overwhelming and isn’t very good at refining searches. Like I mentioned, I really like to click on a pin that looks like what I’m after, and then scroll down on that page for similar results, that seems to work well for me and helps me discover things that aren’t in the regular feed.

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