7 Easy Tips to Help You Win Recipe Contests

Recipe Contests Aren't Just for Chefs. Here's How to Start Winning

Salted aramel and hazelnut dessert

Enrique Díaz / 7cero/Getty Images


Many people avoid recipe contests because of the mistaken feeling that only professional chefs or bakers can win them. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Anyone who cooks at all can, and should, enter recipe contests

So how can you make your recipes stand out from the crowd, even if you aren't an amazing chef? Here are seven easy-to-follow tips to give your recipes a winning edge.

1. Read the Rules Carefully

It's always a good idea to read the rules before entering giveaways, but it's especially important to do so before you enter a contest.

Recipe contests usually have specific requirements for their entries. Check the rules for restrictions about the ingredients that can be used, the cooking methods that are allowed, the measurements that you must include, and other details.

The rules will also tell you the judging criteria that will be used to select the winners. You're going to want to present your recipe so that it has the best chances of getting high scores for each of the things that the judges are looking for, so pay attention to whether judges are giving more points for creativity, healthiness, use of their products, and so on.

Before you get your heart set on a recipe to use for your contest entry, make sure that it perfectly fits the contest's theme and the judging criteria.

2. Get Inspired to Be More Creative

If you want to win recipe contests, you need to make sure that your dish stands out from among all of the others that are submitted. Many times, the first idea you have is the same idea that many other people are going to be entering. So before you go with your first instinct, take the time to think outside the box. 

Come up with a number of different recipes that fit the theme of the contest, and pick the one that is the most unusual (while still meeting all of the judging criteria).

If you aren't sure where to get creative and unusual recipe ideas, check out these tips on how to create unique, mouth-watering recipes.

3. Showcase the Sponsor's Products

Most companies run recipe contests for a reason. They may want to use a contest to generate recipes that they can print on the packaging for their products, or they may want to put together a cookbook to sell or a free ebook as a reward for their fans. 

When you are planning out your recipe contest entries, think about how your recipe might help the contest's sponsor fulfill their goals. For example, if the contest's sponsor is a food company, make sure that you showcase their products prominently and attractively. If it's possible to incorporate more than one product into your dish, that might improve your odds of winning.

4. Appeal to a Wide Audience

Remember that the purpose of your recipe will be to win over new customers for your sponsor's products. A recipe that appeals to only a few people is not likely to make the final cut. Unless the recipe calls for it or it fits the sponsor's brand, you might want to avoid food that is too spicy or uses difficult-to-find ingredients.

Another option is to appeal to a specific group of people. Consider popular ideas that are on trend, like "kid-friendly," "heart-healthy," or "gluten-free" recipes.

5. Keep it Simple

Think about how your recipe will look to the people who are thinking about making it at home. A short and easy dish will be more appealing to the average consumer than one with dozens of tricky steps. The same goes for ingredients that are hard to find or to use. Simpler recipes are more appealing to other amateur cooks, and therefore have a good chance of being selected as a winner.

6. Make Your Recipe Look Great

While taste is the most important thing in any winning recipe, don't underestimate how important appearance is to winning recipe contests. If your food looks as great as it tastes, you will have an edge over your competition.

Many recipe contests ask you to submit a photo of your finished dish, either as part of the judging criteria or as an optional extra step. Be sure to take full advantage of this opportunity by taking a fabulous shot. Check out these tips on how to take mouth-watering shots of food to make sure your photos stand out.

7. Come Up with a Fantastic Recipe Name

The name you create for your recipe is nearly as important as how it looks and tastes. After all, it is the name that will first catch the judges' attention, even before they consider the recipe's likely taste. Take the time to come up with a descriptive name that tempts the taste buds and sticks in the memory. A splash of humor might help, too. 

8 Get Feedback on Your Recipe

You might think that your recipe is perfect, but will the judges agree? To get a broader perspective about whether the recipe will tickle tastebuds when it counts, recruit family or friends to give it a try. Their feedback can help you refine your recipe and give you a winning edge.

Now that you know how to put together a great recipe when you enter contests, it's time to get started. Entering as many contests as you can helps you hone your recipe skills and improve your odds of winning. Remember that some contests will allow you to submit multiple recipes. Taking advantage of those extra chances to win will help you score more prizes.

Have more questions about entering recipe contests? Want to share some of your great tips? Visit the About Sweepstakes Facebook page to chat about recipe contests. And sign up for my free sweepstakes newsletter for more tips on entering and winning giveaways of all types.