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Standardized Recipes

Institute of Child Nutrition

May 18, 2023

Standardized Recipe_4x3

How often do you hear, “This looks different than last time!” or “This doesn’t taste the same as it usually does!”? Using standardized recipes can help to ensure your recipe turns out the same way each time you make it. It is a good practice to use a standardized recipe when a menu item has two or more components. That’s why our partners at the Institute for Child Nutrition made these resources on creating a standardized recipe for simple menu items. 

What Is a Standardized Recipe? 

A standardized recipe is one that has been tried, adapted, and retried for use in a foodservice operation and is shown to produce the same high-quality product and yield every time. A standardized recipe in the CACFP shows that the menu item meets the meal pattern requirements. 

Standardized recipes are written documents with the following parts: 

  • Name of the recipe (which should match the way it is listed on the menu) 
  • List of all ingredients and the amount of each needed for the recipe 
  • Specific instructions on how to make the recipe 
  • Serving size and crediting information 

Creating Standardized Recipes for Simple Combination Items 

Use the following steps to create standardized recipes for simple combined foods such as spaghetti and meatballs, sandwiches, or salad. 

1. Write a recipe for one serving and make the recipe before scaling it up for more servings. The individual serving should contain the minimum quantity to credit as a meal component. Write the name of the recipe at the top, for example, “Whole Grain Pasta with Marinara Sauce and Meatballs” (as written on the menu). 

2. List all ingredients used. For example: 

  • Whole grain-rich penne pasta 
  • Marinara sauce 
  • Purchased meatballs with a Child Nutrition (CN) label 

3. Determine minimum amounts to serve. Consult the CACFP Meal Pattern chart for the amount needed for a serving of each component for the age group. For example, 3–5-year-olds need ¼ cup of cooked penne pasta, ¼ cup of marinara sauce, and 1½ oz of meat/meat alternate. Look at the CN label on the package for how many meatballs are a serving of M/MA. 

  • Refer to the February 2023 Mealtime Memo for information on how to use CN labels. 
  • Use the Food Buying Guide to determine the amount of dry pasta and marinara sauce needed for the recipe. 

4. Write the preparation instructions. Example: 

  • Combine pasta sauce and meatballs in a pot and cook until meatballs reach the internal temperature of 165 °F. Keep warm until ready to assemble. 
  • Prepare penne pasta according to package instructions and drain. 
  • Place ¼ cup of cooked pasta onto the plate. Add ¼ cup marinara sauce and 3 meatballs. 
  • It is good practice to provide instructions and appropriate serving utensils so supervising adults know the minimum amounts each participant should receive. 

5. Scale up the recipe. Once you have the recipe written for one serving and have made it according to the directions, you can scale it up to serve everyone eating at the table. For example, if you have four people, you would need 1 cup of pasta, 1 cup of sauce, and 12 meatballs. Remember: You can serve larger portions than the minimum requirement. 


To find a recipe that has already been standardized, check out the Child Nutrition Recipe Box or the USDA CACFP Recipes for Child Care Homes and Adult Day Care. For further training on standardized recipes look into the Food Buying Guide Series on the iLearn Center, Team Nutrition Recipes, or the USDA Recipe Standardization Guide for School Nutrition Programs. 


For more quick tips on standardized recipes, check out ICN’s mealtime memo.