In the beginning, there was Mangia. For many Mac-using cooks, Upstill Software's Mangia was the gold standard for recipe software. We compared everything to it and all were found wanting. For a time, we chefs and chef-wannabes were happy and peace reigned in our kitchens. But Upstill Software became no more and Mangia was soon discontinued. If that were the end of the story, it would be a sad story indeed. Thankfully, it is not the end, and there are new programs for managing our recipe collections, some of them truly wonderful. And, believe it or not, we need not mourn the loss of Mangia. We have everything we need right here, right now.
I am a long-time home cook and collector of cookbooks. I learned the hard way (I still wince thinking about the time I cooked pesto for a woman I was trying to impress and used dried basil as it was all I had on hand). I learned through experimentation (what happens if I put apple slices with feta cheese on pizza?). I learned by taking classes. I wrote most of this article with that background and from the perspective of a cooking hobbyist, looking at what tools fit my own personal needs.
Then, early this summer, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. After the shock wore off and I began to take stock of my new reality, my perspective changed. My cooking hobby is both a curse (I have many favorites I should no longer eat) and a blessing (I have the interest in learning new recipes that are healthy for me). I merged my cooking hobby with my new diabetes hobby (for, truly, that is what it has become for me) and began learning even more about food and nutrition than I had before. Then I turned back to this article, largely done but forgotten in the changes I was making in my life this summer. I saw that there was a whole new perspective I brought to these tools, and I went back and re-evaluated each one. I believe that this new perspective will benefit anyone with an interest in eating healthier.
With these tests defined, I was ready to get to work. Without further ado, here are the 10 programs presented in alphabetical order.
Impressions: A Cook's Books is a powerful, feature-rich tool, but I felt that the overall interface is non-standard. For example, the main four sections are reached via tabs on the left side of the window rather than the top where you would expect to find them. Aside from that, it is easy enough to use and understand.
Entering Recipes: Entering new recipes is reasonably smooth, but I found that its desire to have you enter ingredients before measurements strange since every recipe I have ever seen goes the other direction. (It's just weird entering "Shredded Parmesan Cheese" followed by "1 cup".) I found myself entering quantities and then backspacing to type the ingredient's name instead. Also, when you create a new recipe, you are given an ingredient list with "New Ingredient" repeated many times over. After I entered the three ingredients for a sample recipe, I wondered if I had to delete all of the other "New Ingredient" entries manually or if it was smart enough to do it for me. It did remove them for me but this interface quirk bothered me. I don't like having to guess what I should or should not do.
Importing from Web Sites: A Cook's Books can import recipes from recipe Web sites, but its results were hit-and-miss. Sometimes it did a fantastic job, and other times I had to clean up what was imported, especially when recipes grouped their ingredients into sub-groups.
Planning and Shopping: A Cook's Books lets you plan out recipes for a single day or up to an entire month. The pantry and shopping list feature is robust and is a great way to avoid having three boxes of cornstarch in your cabinet (as I currently have) since shopping lists can be filtered against what you already have on hand. The pantry also lets you input the expiration date on various items, which can come in handy if you need molasses and are not sure how many holidays ago you bought the jar that's currently stuck to the top shelf.
Cooking: Printing and onscreen display cannot be customized. Nor is there a large-screen display to allow you to use your laptop at a safe distance from your preparation area. The default printing view is simple, and nothing you would use to print a nice cookbook for a holiday present.
Nutrition: A Cook's Books is one of only a few programs that can calculate nutrition information for a recipe. It works around the problem of naming ingredients oddly by letting you create your own ingredient aliases and matching them to the USDA database. It can also replace your ingredients with the actual wording from the USDA, using the "Fix Recipe Ingredients" command. The interface for this feature, however, is cumbersome. The program provides only a mammoth drop-down menu and doesn't support type-to-select to, say, enter "che" to jump closer to "cheese, parmesan, shredded." I lacked the patience to go through this for more than a few recipes.
Summary: The somewhat non-standard interface put me off a bit, and certain tasks could benefit from greater keyboard control. Overall, A Cook's Books is a nice program and a particularly good choice if nutrition tracking is a priority and you have the patience to utilize its features fully.
Impressions: I was immediately struck by how clean and well laid-out Connoisseur is. It has an iTunes-like interface that makes recipe organization a snap. Following the iTunes playlist example, you can create your own recipe lists and drag recipes into them. You can also create smart recipe lists that are populated based on the search criteria you establish (so you can list every recipe that has basil as an ingredient, or is labeled "Breakfast," or is made in under 30 minutes.) Connoisseur is one of the easiest programs to learn.
Entering Recipes: Adding recipes is smooth, but I disliked having to click a + icon or type Command-Shift-A to add a new ingredient. I prefer those programs that automatically create a new ingredient to fill in when you press Tab or Return at the end of the previous ingredient (much the same way Microsoft Word extends tables with a new row when you type a tab in the final cell of table). Connoisseur can do unit conversions on the fly during data entry, but it insists incorrectly that 1 liter equals 4 6/25 gallons. (Luckily, it got everything else I tried right.) Connoisseur provides an online library of recipes that you can browse from within the program. When I found items I liked, I was able to download them to my local library. In theory, you can also submit your own recipes for inclusion in that online library, though in the months I've been playing around with it, I haven't seen the online collection grow, so I'm unsure if submissions are being added at present.
Importing from Web Sites: Importing from Web sites was easy and worked well in many cases. However, it didn't work in every case, requiring manual correction or sometimes entering the recipe by hand.
Planning and Shopping: Connoisseur provides a simple shopping list, but since it lacks a pantry feature, you must manually remove from any shopping list those items you already possess. You can export shopping lists to an iPod, or to a Palm OS handheld or PocketPC-based smartphone using the shopping list tools and .
Cooking: Connoisseur has the best large-screen cooking view of all the programs (just ahead of YummySoup). Although the defaults are quite nice, there is no way to customize the onscreen or print display of recipes.
Nutrition: Connoisseur provides no capability to track the nutrition for a given recipe. If you wanted to enter such information, you would have to place it in the Notes field for a given recipe. You could then create a smart recipe list to capture recipes whose notes contain words like "Low Carb."
Summary: Connoisseur is one of my top picks as long as you don't need to track specific nutrition information for your recipes, and if importing from Web sites isn't a priority (although importing from Connoisseur's own online library mitigates its limited importing capabilities).
Impressions: iCuistot is a good, simple program for managing recipes, but it's hampered by a somewhat confusing interface. There are a number of Collections listed, including the complete USDA Nutrition database, unit conversion calculators, a page on fighting bacterial infections in your cooking, a list of themes to customize your recipes, and, almost as an after-thought, your actual library of recipes. Pop-up menus then break your library into categories, keywords, smart-lists, and so forth. As a result, just getting to my recipes requires a lot of clicking. Plus, making the key Library collection the fifth item seems an odd decision.
Entering Recipes: The recipe creation interface is obvious, but it requires use of the mouse and can't be done entirely from the keyboard. Most irritatingly, I had to click a + button for each new ingredient. It is possible to add more detail about a given recipe than in any other program, but the majority of this information is kept in a Get Info window much like the inspector windows in iLife and iWork.
Importing from Web Sites: iCuistot cannot import recipes from the Web or from other tools.
Cooking: Recipe display and printing is highly customizable, more so than in virtually every other program reviewed. iCuistot provides a nice full-screen display which is essentially a larger version of the main recipe display (and therefore just as customizable).
Nutrition: You can enter complete nutritional information for any recipe in fields for Calories, Fat, etc., but you must calculate this information on your own.
Summary: There appears to be a lot of power under the hood but iCuistot's interface held me at arm's length. It is certainly worth a look if micromanaging your nutrition information is important, or if you want to customize how recipes are presented and printed.
Impressions: MacGourmet has a beautiful, intuitive interface that made learning my way around easy and fast. Like others, it provides an iTunes-like interface with folders (and smart folders) and other top-level categories on the left, lists of recipes on the right, and, below them, the full recipe view. MacGourmet also provides extra sections for storing cooking notes and wine selections, giving you a place to jot down those things you usually stuff into a recipe box on scraps of paper. The wine note section is especially interesting if you are working to cultivate a taste in wine and want to keep track of what you liked and didn't like.
Entering Recipes: MacGourmet's clean, simple editor took no time at all to learn, thanks largely to being unconcerned with your meeting the format of some internal database. It allows you to add ingredients quickly, and, if you wish, entirely from the keyboard. I was able to enter new recipes faster in this program than in almost any of the others.
Importing from Web Sites: Of all the programs tested, MacGourmet fared the best at importing recipes from the Web. Every recipe I tried from a wide variety of Web sites and email messages imported nearly flawlessly. From some sites (with more coming all the time), MacGourmet can import recipes directly, which provides the complete recipe and a picture. When working with a recipe from email or text from an unsupported Web site, you can import a text clipping and convert it to a recipe by dragging the imported text into the right fields. The process is clear and concise and has allowed me to increase the size of my library in a short period of time.
Planning and Shopping: MacGourmet provides no meal planning features, but it can organize shopping lists by store and, within stores, by category or aisle. This lets me walk through my lists sequentially and check things off in order as I go. And, as with Connoisseur, you can export shopping lists to the iPod or to the PDA applications HandyShopper and SplashShopper.
Cooking: MacGourmet comes with built-in themes for modifying the onscreen display and printing. It also provides an easy way to export your entire recipe collection to .Mac (or another Web-hosting service) in a number of nice templates.
Nutrition: Before the release of 2.2 (the current version as of this writing), MacGourmet provided a free-form text entry field for nutrition information, which I found that I actually prefer to the new approach. I don't need to search for all recipes with less than 25 grams of carbohydrates or anything like that. I just need to know if a recipe is low-carb or low-glycemic-index. And for that, I can use MacGourmet's keywords. I created two new keywords, "Low-Carb" and "Low GI" that I can check off as needed for each recipe. Then I created smart lists searching for recipes with those keywords. This approach lets me manage my recipes without a lot of administrative overhead and, ultimately, that is far more useful to me than knowing in exacting detail every milligram of carbohydrate in each recipe.
With the release of 2.2, MacGourmet adds a new plug-in architecture and the first plug-in they released, for $11.95, was, which adds the USDA nutrition database and a way to map your ingredient names to the arcane versions in the database. This provides the capability to calculate nutrition information for a given recipe once you've done the name mapping legwork. Unfortunately, as nice as it is, the Nutrition plug-in suffers from a major implementation flaw. When you are editing a recipe and bring up the nutrition information, it helpfully tells you which ingredients it could not map to USDA items. But you have no way of fixing them at this juncture. Instead, you must go to a separate Nutrition window, find the USDA version of the ingredient, add your mapping to match your recipe, switch back to the recipe editor, click a different tab than the Nutrition tab, and then click back to the recipe editor. That's somewhat clumsy and combined with the fact that you cannot add your own ingredients to the nutrition list, I'll probably use it only when I am curious about a given recipe, otherwise sticking to my simpler method described above.
Summary: MacGourmet is my top pick, and it's the program I found myself using on a daily basis. I recommend it for anyone, especially people who want to import recipes from Web sites.
Impressions: Measuring Cup is a wonderful example of the Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) principle. It does only a few things, but it does them very well. In essence, Measuring Cup provides basic recipe management, enabling you to group recipes into folders and sub-folders as you see fit.
Entering Recipes: Entering new recipes is easy, although it does require the mouse to click a very small + button for each new ingredient and cooking step.
Importing from Web Sites: Measuring Cup does not import from Web sites.
Planning and Shopping: The program has no planning features, nor does it support shopping lists.
Cooking: There is no large-screen cooking display. In fact, there is no real display of any kind. The edit view is the display view. It's that simple. Printing is basic.
Nutrition: There are no nutritional databases but it does provide the capability to record nutrition information for each recipe in a simple table where you specify the item (Carbohydrate, Fat, Calories, etc.), the amount, and the unit (milligrams, grams, kcals, etc.).
Summary: Measuring Cup is a good choice for people who just want to manage their recipes and nothing else. If you feel all of the other features are just noise getting in your way, then this program deserves a look. And of course, you can't beat the price.
Impressions: Organized Gourmet takes a completely different approach. Instead of a recipe list being the most prominent feature in the main window, a calendar occupies the central position. This threw me off at first, since it never occurred to me to look at my recipe collection by time instead of by cuisine or course.
Entering Recipes: Adding recipes to Organized Gourmet worked fine, but alas, it isn't keyboard friendly, requiring you to click a + button for each new ingredient.
Importing from Web sites: Organized Gourmet's text import worked pretty well with many of the Web sites and email messages I tried it on. The only problem I had with the interface was that the + button to add a new recipe was located under the calendar rather than under the recipe list (which is above the calendar). I thought the + had to do with the calendar and became frustrated trying to figure out how to add a new recipe.
Planning and Shopping: As mentioned above, the central metaphor of Organized Gourmet is the calendar rather than the recipe list. You can drag recipes to any day in the calendar or even to any time in the day view to set when you will begin cooking. The calendar integrates with iCal, enabling you to view your planned meals in the context of your normal life. It provides support for organized shopping lists (grouping ingredients by category such as "Dairy").
Cooking: There is no large screen display, and printing is basic.
Nutrition: Organized Gourmet provides no features to track nutritional information.
Summary: In general, Organized Gourmet worked fine, and I can see where it would be a powerful tool for caterers and other people for whom meal planning is a central activity. However, its calendar-centered interface didn't do much for me.
Impressions: Recipe Box, like Measuring Cup, aims for simplicity. The main window is a simple list of recipes, along with buttons to create a new recipe, edit a selected recipe, or view a selected recipe along with a pop-up menu to filter the list by course. Recipes themselves are viewed or edited in a separate window.
Entering Recipes: Adding recipes is somewhat cumbersome because the program insists that all ingredients, measurements (cup, tbsp, etc.), and preparations (minced, shredded, etc.) be added to its own internal lists. Thus, the first time you type anything it hasn't seen before, Recipe Box asks for additional information such as the singular and plural of the term, the proper name of the ingredient, and the proper name of the preparation method. After the first few recipes, this got old fast and I began wishing it would stop asking me. A few more recipes past that and it didn't ask as much anymore. I was entering fewer new items, and it began auto-completing my entries, which was quite helpful. Still, it takes a great many recipes before auto-completion becomes commonplace, and I think most people would give up in frustration before that point.
Importing from Web Sites: Recipe Box provides no importing of Web site recipes.
Planning and Shopping: Recipe Box provides a simple menu planner that lets you collect groups of recipes together to form a menu, and from those menus, you can create simple shopping lists.
Cooking: Recipe Box provides a nice, if somewhat uninspired, full-screen view that's simply a larger version of its default view. Printing is basic, matching the onscreen display.
Nutrition: Recipe Box provides no features to track nutritional information, although you could enter comments in its Notes field.
Summary: Overall, Recipe Box is a fine simple program. Although the lack of import capabilities and the awkward terminology training phase are annoying, it will work well for anyone who puts in the effort up front.
Impressions: TheRecipeManager packs a great many features into a single heavily tabbed window. The entire left side of the screen is one giant list of recipes while the right side provides the information about the selected recipe in two sections. The top right includes tabs for Recipe (metadata about the recipe), Ingredients, Staging, Variations, and Nutrition. The bottom right includes tabs for Photo, Instructions, Background, Serves/Time, and Classification. You can display only one tab from each section at any given moment, which provides a less-cluttered screen. On the downside, you can't view the full recipe at once, you must click around a lot to read through the entire recipe.
Entering Recipes: Recipe addition in TheRecipeManager is simple enough and is keyboard friendly. My main criticism is that the area in which you do your editing is rather small, and you have to move through each of the 10 tabs to enter all your data.
Importing from Web Sites: You cannot import directly from Web sites, although you can import from text files. Thus, by copying the text of a recipe from a Web page and pasting it into a text file, you can bring Web-based recipes into your library.
Planning and Shopping: TheRecipeManager provides a comprehensive suite of tools for planning meals using a calendar. You can drag any recipes to any date, have all items from that day's meals added to a shopping list, and then arrange that list according to the layout of the stores you frequent (including multiple stores) so that you have highly organized shopping lists when you walk in. It also has a pantry option so you can track food (and tools) you already have on hand.
Cooking: TheRecipeManager's cooking view is customizable, but it's also the least attractive of all programs reviewed. That's not to say it isn't useful, just not easy on the eyes. You can also print to regular size paper or 4- by 6-inch index cards. Both look quite nice but cannot be customized.
Nutrition: TheRecipeManager has the best support for nutrition information. When you have all your ingredients entered, you can go to a screen that lists each one above the USDA list of nutrition information. For each item you select in your list, TheRecipeManager attempts to winnow the huge list to a given word in the ingredient you selected. In my case, it took "low-fat cottage cheese" and attempted to search for "lowfat." When I replaced that by typing "cottage cheese" I was able to locate and select the correct item. Then, with the click of a button, I associated the "low-fat cottage cheese" in my recipe with "cheese, cottage, lowfat, 1% milkfat" and the nutrition details were added to the cumulative total for my recipe. This interface was the cleanest I've yet seen for managing nutrition information. TheRecipeManager also supports entering American Diabetes Association food exchanges, though you must calculate these yourself.
Summary: TheRecipeManager's interface feels less elegant than others. The default view, for example, is of recipe metadata and a picture, rather than the more important ingredients and steps. It's a cross-platform tool, and I can't shake the feeling that this is more of a port of the Windows version than something designed for the Mac. Those interface complaints aside, TheRecipeManager is undeniably a feature-rich program that provides the best shopping list support out there, along with the best approach for handling detailed nutrition information. For raw power, it's right up there with MacGourmet and Connoisseur, though it lacks their elegance.
Impressions: Yum is a simple program that provides a basic set of features for recipe management and shopping lists. It divides recipes into categories (which you can edit) and provides automatic smart lists for filtering the main display. It does have some interface oddities, most notably a slider at the bottom of the recipe view that lets you change the width of the ingredient and steps columns instead of the usual divider handle.
Entering Recipes: Recipe entry is simple and worked well, although there were a few times when I found myself unable to rely entirely on the keyboard, even though keyboard-only entry worked fine at other times. Despite that strangeness, Yum otherwise provides a clean interface for entering recipes.
Importing from Web Sites: Yum cannot import recipes from Web sites.
Planning and Shopping: Unlike its free competition Measuring Cup, Yum provides a pantry to track food you already own and the ability to generate a shopping list filtering out items on hand. Oddly, the main access to its pantry is through the Preferences window. Perhaps Yum's programmer is used to a strangely laid-out kitchen too.
Cooking: Yum provides a full-screen step-by-step view with some of the largest text I have seen. I could read it from across the kitchen, but I'm not sure how I could advance to the next step with flour-covered hands, making it of limited use. Onscreen display and printing are controlled by a layout editor that lets you customize both. But in the end, both are pretty basic.
Nutrition: Yum provides no support for tracking nutritional information.
Summary: In the free category, Yum offers more features than Measuring Cup (most notably shopping lists with a pantry feature), and is certainly worth a look if you need something simple and easy to use.
Impressions: YummySoup is the last - but hardly the least - of the programs I looked at. It's my second favorite after MacGourmet due in large part to its clean, elegant interface. The most striking feature is the Recipe Browser, which behaves similarly to CoverFlow in iTunes. Each recipe appears as a picture (if you've added one, otherwise just the name is displayed), enabling you to scroll sideways through all the items in your library. YummySoup also provides the capability to create smart lists to group your library items any way you see fit.
Entering Recipes: Adding new recipes to YummySoup is simple enough, and supports mouse-less editing using a keyboard shortcut to add new ingredients.
Importing from Web Sites: YummySoup supports importing from a rapidly growing list of Web sites, and it also provides an online library of recipes that you can easily add to your collection. In turn, you can publish your recipes back to this library to make your creations available to other users of the program. It appears that numerous users of the program are participating in this approach to recipe sharing.
Planning and Shopping: YummySoup provides a shopping list feature but no pantry or grouping of items by category or aisle. You can create multiple shopping lists, so you could create a different list for each store you visit.
Cooking: Large-screen display is among the most useful of all the tools I reviewed, allowing for some immediate customization to get the look just right and the default printing templates were nice.
Nutrition: YummySoup does not provide any way to manage nutrition information.
Summary: YummySoup is an excellent program for people who are looking for more than the basics, but who don't need the full raft of features provided by TheRecipeManager or MacGourmet. If you want a clean user interface (and an infectiously cute icon), YummySoup deserves your attention.
What about Mangia? If you are, like me, an old Mangia fanatic from days gone by, there is  to many of the programs listed above. However, the technique requires that you install old Classic software, still have a working copy of Mangia around, and have a lot of patience. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get this technique to work, and while my copy of Mangia still functions just fine under Classic, I have no way to convert those recipes except by retyping them.
Doing the Dishes -- I've only scraped the surface of many of the programs covered here, so I encourage you to try out each one that looks interesting. All of them provide trial versions, and in most cases, the people who make them are responsive to their customers either through direct email or via support forums.
I hope this overview proved helpful in giving you the information you need to start looking for the tool that works the best for your needs. Please share what you find on TidBITS Talk. Happy cooking!
[ (formerly Williams) has been cooking with and alarmingly close to his various Macs for years. Author of " ," Andy is also a Senior Project Manager by day and blogger (since 1994) by... whenever.]