Your Top 10 Genius Recipes of 2021

Starring the one recipe Alice Waters can't live without.

December 22, 2021

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Founding Editor and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.

The 10 Genius Recipes we cooked most in 2021 featured: not one but two ways to fry an egg, a gooey chocolate pudding cake that makes its own sauce, and—more than any other—the one recipe Alice Waters can't live without.

At the bottom of this countdown, you'll also find the most overlooked recipe of the year—and one of my favorites. I can only blame myself that you missed it—I guess June isn't a peak time for whole-grain pancakes, however magical they may be. (But now, finally, the season is here.)

Your Top 10 Genius Recipes Of 2021

10. Strawberry Sorbet

In honor of Genius Recipes turning 10 years old, the three-ingredient Strawberry Sorbet from The River Café that started it all was joined by two more sorbets for a new era—in peach-lemon and mascarpone. Both require no churning, just a stir and freeze.

9. Pasta With Silkiest Eggplant Sauce

If you don't want to wrestle with the mysteries of searing eggplant, batch after batch, do as Splendid Table host Francis Lam does: Let your eggplant go free—and make pasta sauce out of it. The same technique works for pretty much any vegetable (or vegetable-like fruit).

8. Kristen's Family Banana Bread

After sharing and loving at least three other Genius banana breads, the version handed down from my mom and aunt is the one I come back to the most. In about 15 minutes of work, it makes two loaves—one to give away, one to keep—and has weathered every swap I've made. (This was from the two-part Genius Homecoming series—you'll see the other entry made it to number 3.)

7. Meyer Lemon Rice With Candied Garlic

Michael W. Twitty's lemony-perfect rice nestles cozily next to fish, chicken, chickpeas, or roasted vegetables. But it doesn't ask much of them, thanks to Michael's smart techniques in the tradition of Southern perloos. “It’s about making that rice ready to just be a sponge for the flavor,” he told me. That sleeper-hit topping, candied garlic—which requires no candy thermometer—doesn't hurt either.

6. Hot Chocolate & Halva Pudding

Great British Bake Off star Benjamina Ebuehi's unfussy pudding cake makes its own sticky chocolate sauce, so you can skip making a frosting or glaze and just scoop it up warm from the pan. Think brownie sundae at the adult table, with chunks of nutty halva and plenty of espresso.

5. Perfectly Pillowy King Arthur Cinnamon Rolls

Finally, a fluffy cinnamon roll that you don't have to wake up early to make, or eat a whole panful at once, thanks to the simple, time-honored tangzhong technique that keeps them pillowy-soft for days. (No wonder it was King Arthur Baking Company's 2021 Recipe of the Year.)

4. Fried Egg Salad

You will spend less time making this egg salad than you would boiling an egg. And better yet, none of it will be spent extracting stubborn shards of eggshell. Because once again, Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot at Ideas in Food have changed how we'll cook forever with their warm, crispy (warm! crispy!) Fried Egg Salad.

3. Mike’s Famous Fried Eggs

My husband Mike's crispy fried eggs made me a better cook, and a better person to cook with. After talking them up for years (and him denying that they're really a recipe), this was my attempt to write down how he makes them so good. Mike did not invent the crispy fried egg, which is appreciated in food cultures all over the world, from Thailand to Spain. But—like all memorable, repeatable recipes (there, I said it)—his method does have its signatures.

2. Kiwi & Feta Salad

Can you spot the surprising star of this salad? It's not the dressing so good you'll want to drink it, nor is it Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain's genius trick for making the whole thing ahead. It is an ingredient that will make your salads easier, greener, crunchier, and more delicious—and we've been throwing it away for much too long.

1. Cardamom Cake

When The Guardian asked Alice Waters for the one recipe she couldn't live without, it was this simple, unforgettable cake with a crackling almond top and fluffed cardamom crumb from her friend Niloufer Ichaporia King. Be warned: You may be end up making it for every snacking occasion from here on out.

The Most Overlooked Recipe of the Year

Magical Whole-Grain Pancakes

These pancakes are just as tender and cushy as your favorite buttermilk stack, but thanks to one smart step—soaking the flour in milk overnight—they're 100% whole-grain and proud of it. The recipe is so simple, sourdough pro Josey Baker first shared it in an Instagram post. What a nourishing, rewarding and—most importantly—undemanding way to start off 2022.

Got a Genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Andrea G. January 11, 2022
I’m excited to try every one of these recipes! Well, I’ve already made the cinnamon rolls (amazing!) and Mike’s eggs (delicious!) and ready to make the rest! You rock on Kristen, I love your suggestions! Btw, if waffles are your preference over pancakes, the yeasted waffles in Genius Recipes are the best! Thank you Kristen!
Domino D. December 23, 2021
Up your fried egg game with a few more steps. Use a lid while the egg fries and spoon the hot oil over the top so there’s no flipping rather the oil sets the top. Try seasoning with smoked paprika and onion powder, you may be eating eggs daily.
oliveoil December 22, 2021
I personally saved multiple recipes from the list, they were different and fun, so hopefully that makes up for the other comments!
[email protected] December 22, 2021
Ridiculous group of recipes. Isn’t one thing that I would want to make. Btw, no one eats pancakes!
Randy December 23, 2021
Judy when you get back from Mars try some buckwheat, blueberry pancakes or just go to Pollys Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill,NH and wait in line!!!
Tiny B. December 24, 2021
What an odd response.
Randy December 24, 2021
Tiny, by odd you're referring to Judy's comment that "no one eats pancakes "
I hope!!
Josey B. December 24, 2021
Judy i am very sorry to hear that you live in a universe where no one eats pancakes! we eat them every weekend :)
Tiny B. December 24, 2021
Yes, sorry it wasn’t clear! Viva pancakes!
Irv December 22, 2021
Not a very useful group of recipes.
Tiny B. December 24, 2021
Were you expecting the 10 most popular recipes in this category to add up to a single meal? Or follow a theme? Some of you are going above and beyond in finding nonsense to complain about.