We’ve shared that some of the best recipes in our collections come from our moms. We figured the same might be true for our community, too, so we asked to hear the stories behind the best recipes your mothers and grandmothers shared with you. It’s clear that while none of us might be able to make them exactly like mom’s version, they’re extra-special all the same.
It would be impossible to say what is the best, or even the favorite recipe I got from my mom, because there are so many. At least a couple of my favorites are here on Food52 already: Frosted Coffee Fingers and Orange Honey Crescents. —ChefJune
Perhaps my all-time favorite dessert was a peach cake she made, with a cookie-like crust topped with peaches baked in custard. I lamented not having that recipe! Not being a baker, I never tried to recreate it. Maybe 10 years ago, I discovered Arthur Schwartz’s recipe for Peach Crostata. Not 100% my mom’s version, but close enough that, with a bit of tinkering, I recreated the best dessert of my childhood. I have no idea where this recipe originated but my Mom died well before the internet and cooking sites, so I know she did not get it from Arthur. It looks like Arthur’s food blog The Food Maven is no more, alas, but I did find his recipe.
To make it just like my mom’s: cut the sugar a bit, use only cream (no yogurt or sour cream), slice the peaches and lay close together, flavor with nutmeg, not cinnamon. —caninechef
Olga (A Chocolate Pudding Cake from the 1960s): My mom made this cake, a cake top with a warm pudding bottom, in the 1960s, and then somehow it fell out of her repertoire. We were small and it was quick. Later she went on to more elaborate desserts, like carved watermelon fruit salad boats, palmiers, French apple tarts, chocolate mousse, and creme brûlée. When I had my own small children, I yearned for Olga and my mom came through with the recipe. I love the cookbooks and recipes that I inherited from her: It's hard to pick a favorite, but this one links us as moms. —luvcookbooks
Gran’s Gifted Cheesecake is probably the best recipe from mom, but I did have time [to figure] out the recipe from her recipe card after she passed. I’d always watch her make it but never did it myself until she was gone. It took a few tries but was well worth it! —inpatskitchen
White Cookies: These were the reason I splurged and bought a Kitchen Aid mixer (which I still have—35 years later). Making cookies that all my friends loved and requested made me feel like I could actually bake, and started what has turned out to be a lifelong love of baking. Thanks, Mom! —drbabs
My mother's signature creation is Dobos Torta, an 8-layer cake filled with chocolate custard buttercream, and which appears on the table for any special occasion. She clipped the recipe from Gourmet magazine back in the 70s. She's always been an anxious cook (her mom, Anyu, was the kitchen rock star), but she did introduce me to the glories of Gourmet and I'd help her prep for dinner parties during my youth. We both grieved when Gourmet folded. — Windischgirl
I couldn't choose just one: her Cherry Crumb Bars; her Honey Cake, which includes orange zest is sweet and mellow, not at all bitter like some; her scrumptious Ice-Cream “Cake”, and her noodle Kugel, also mellowed with orange zest. —creamtea
Something called Apple Dopple Cake. It's a basic apple cake made with oil instead of butter and chunks of apple throughout. After it comes out of the oven, you jab it with a big fork and pour a butter/brown sugar/cream mixture over the top and let it soak in. She always made it in a tube pan. It seems every fall there is a new apple cake recipe to try, but I've never had one as good as Apple Dopple Cake. I have no idea where she got the recipe! —Megan
I've posted a handful of my mom’s recipes on this site, but I don't know how I could possibly pick my favorite or choose one as "the best." I have a pretty good story though: My mom is pretty much a self-taught cook and doesn't really have any recipes written down anywhere. So 9 years ago I decided to try to get my favorite ones down in writing, take pictures of them, and then create a cookbook out of them for her birthday. When I went home for Thanksgiving and Christmas that year I hounded her for exact measurements and directions, and I think she got a little annoyed, haha. But when she got the cookbook in the mail she called me and was crying out of happiness, so I think it was all worth it. Having all those recipes and pictures also spurred me to start my own food blog! —Joy Huang | The Cooking of Joy
Grandma Evie’s Jewish Penicillin: This one is probably my most used recipe from my mother, though I also like the fricassee I wrote about last month. She taught me to make it, [I'd] never written down till I did it here some years back. I don't use my own recipe, though, and still cook it like she did, by feel. But the best use of it, after using it for matzo ball soup or stock, is to bake a potato in the oven long enough for the skin to get crispy, and then mash in one or two of the soup carrots to the flesh, and moisten with a little of the soup. If I wasn't feeling well as a kid, that was the best meal. —healthierkitchen
My mother's somewhat famous nuoc cham dipping sauce. It took a long time to get the recipe because Mom, as with a majority of her cooking, didn't use exact measurements. It's in my Vietnamese Sizzling Crepe recipe —HalfPint
Most of my best recipes (plural—can’t pick just one) are from my grandmother Mary (some of which are on this site, mostly listed as Grandma Mary's [whatever]). She generously and very patiently taught me how to make them, and patience was required since I insisted on getting measurements for everything, and she never used a recipe for or measured anything. She seemed mystified by my interest. She was a quiet woman, and I didn't learn about how she felt about all those cooking sessions till after she died: She left me her favorite wooden spoon and her rolling pin, along with her hopes that I would use them well. I hope I have. —louisez
Her recipes for sambar, rasam, and other spice blends for making all the traditional South Indian dishes I consider comfort food. For some reason I never got around to cooking South Indian food ever, preferring foods from other regions of India. She insisted that I write down these and for some reason I agreed, not realizing then that she would be no more 10 days later. The most used recipe is that for the lentil spice blend chutney powder that her grandkids cannot do without. —Panfusine
I cook a lot of recipes from my mom and both of my grandmothers, but the one that I return to again and again is Sunday Pork Ragu.
This was my favorite dish growing up. I first tasted it in my great grandmother's kitchen. She taught it to my paternal grandmother, who then taught it to my mother, who finally taught it to me. All of these women put their special stamp on this recipe. My paternal grandmother's sauce was thinner. My mom's sauce contained more tomatoes and was meatier, with more sausage and bones. She sometimes would even add meatballs to it. When I first started tinkering with this ragu recipe, my mom and I talked a lot about which methods yielded the best results. (My mom wrote down her version of the recipe for me, but my grandmother and great grandmother passed down this recipe verbally and by having the next generation watch them cook it.)
I have played a bit with the original recipe: I prefer to use less tomato paste than my mom does and I use fresh herbs—her version uses dried. And even on the days when I try to make this sauce exactly as my mom does, it still doesn't taste precisely like hers. But regardless, it is still a much-treasured heirloom recipe and always reminds me of happy, chaotic, multi-generational Sunday dinners. —cookinginvictoria
Wish there were 'recipes.' My mother, grandmother, aunts, all cooked with the palm of their hand as a measuring device, a pinch of this, a shake of that, they always got it right and nothing was written down. Cooking just came naturally and over the years I've just had to 'figure it out'. Never as good as their pinch of this and that, but pretty close! —BerryBaby
Can't pick just one. She was tops on roasts, on baking (cakes, cookies, pies, her blueberry muffins in season), on keeping old traditional dishes (chicken soup, chopped liver, gefilte fish—a production, but she did it once or twice a year) and trying new ones as they came along. Mostly I learned carefulness, mastery, abundance, being willing to experiment. —Nancy
Her Breadcrumbies, Beef Stew, Sunday Gravy (that's been quite a learning experience, but I've just about got it down!) and most importantly, how to always make life taste good: keep it simple, do it with love, stay confident. And listen to your mother! —Jr0717
Well, it doesn't matter how many times I followed her recipes, they never turned out the same, so I'll just miss my mom for her cooking among other reasons. But, I loved her simple potato salad and her giblet turkey stuffing. Her hands would smell all savory after making the latter on Thanksgiving eve. She was a superlative baker, which I am too sloppy with instructions to be any good at, but she loved, as did we, her 5-inch tall lemon meringue pie from our lemon tree in the backyard and her bourbon-soaked fruit cake [sliced so thin that] the candied fruit looked like a cathedral window. —scruz
Cook with love and attention. Do not cook if you are upset, it makes for not great food. —SKK
Tell us: What the best recipe you got from your mom (or other motherly figure)?