Big Little Recipes

The Top 10 Big Little Recipes of 2019

December 31, 2019
Photo by JAMES RANSOM. PROP STYLIST: AMANDA WIDIS. FOOD STYLIST: OLIVA MACK MCCOOL.

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst—we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we're sharing the year's greatest hits.


It’s been a big year for Big Little Recipes. We published almost as many recipes (and videos!) as there are weeks in the year, won an IACP award for Best Food Focused Column, and just started working on—wait for it—our very own cookbook. Our very own cookbook!

Of course, there were flops along the way, like this mango sorbet with chocolate-chile ripple, our least popular recipe of the year, or these one-ingredient meatballs, which one community member called “blindingly obvious.” Win some, lose some, right?

Here’s the win-some bunch—the 10 recipes you loved most in 2019.


10. Nutella Brownie Cookies

The internet is full of 3-ingredient Nutella cookies and brownies, both of which share the same ingredient list (Nutella, flour, eggs), but different ratios. So what happens when you bake the brownie batter in cookie form? This.

9. Flourless Pecan Cake

Pecans, brown sugar, and eggs are all you need to bake a nutty-fudgy cake that would love to be set up with a cup of coffee for a breakfast date. This one was inspired by Emiko’s Calabrian walnut cake—thanks, Emiko!

8. Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken noodle soup made with chicken and noodles and that’s it. Turns out, if you ditch all the fussy ingredients in broth (like onions, carrots, celery, herbs, spices, yada-yada), you get the chickeniest flavor. I keep this broth in the freezer for everything (yes, including noodle soup).

7. Salted Peanut Butter Pie

Like the pecan cake above, this pie consists of just nuts, brown sugar, and eggs. The nuts, in this case, are in the form of sweetened peanut butter. You could reimagine this in any crust—from graham cracker to flaky butter—but I’m a Ritz girl for life.

6. 3-Ingredient Oatmeal Cookies

Classic three-ingredient oatmeal cookies call for oats, banana, and cinnamon. This Big Little riff keeps the oats and ditches everyone else. Instead, we’re using tahini (for nutty richness) and brown sugar (for caramelly sweetness). Highly recommend dunking in a bowl of yogurt.

5. Greek Yogurt Potato Salad

A creamy potato salad with no mayo in sight, but instead, lots of tangy, thick Greek yogurt (full-fat has the best flavor). I love adding fresh herbs and wrinkly olives, but don’t let that stop you from playing around. Try caramelized scallions and white miso, or sliced radishes and capers.

4. Very Easy Apple Cake

Based on Russian apple sharlotka, this cake is mostly apples, bound together with a minimalist batter of eggs, sugar, and flour. The Big Little update? Skip the granulated sugar and get more bang for your buck with brown. And, while we’re at it, skip the all-purpose and swap in white whole-wheat, which tastes halfway between oats and hazelnuts.

3. Chocolate–Peanut Butter Mousse

Chocolate plus water equals mousse? Yes. Hervé This made this Genius discovery. I added peanut butter to make it even creamier (but still dairy-free).

2. Very Easy Meatloaf

Like the mousse above, the linchpin ingredient here is water. A trick I learned from Rao’s meatballs, water yields a loaf that’s anything but dry (even if you happen to leave it in the oven a few minutes too long).

1. Salt & Vinegar Mashed Potatoes

These mashed potatoes think they’re potato chips and I wouldn’t dare tell them otherwise. The key here is salting at every step (especially the cooking water) and adding a splash of vinegar at the end. It’s just the sort of little-effort, big-impact change that will have you (okay, me) going back for seconds.

What was your favorite Big Little Recipe of 2019? And what do you want to see from the column in 2020? Share in the comments!

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Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.

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