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Recipe Standardization Guide

Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN)

July 2, 2024

recipe standardization guide

The Institute of Child Nutrition’s Step-by-Step Recipe Standardization Guide for the CACFP is a comprehensive guide designed to facilitate recipe standardization within the CACFP. The “how-to” manual is a complete resource, detailing the initial recipe development stage to the final implementation. It outlines the benefits of standardized recipes and details the recipe standardization process, which includes recipe verification, product evaluation, and quantity adjustment. The guide also provides practical tools and templates. Among these are a CACFP standardized recipe template and resources for taste-testing, essential for ensuring recipe quality and consistency. 

Benefits of Standardized Recipes 

Using standardized recipes provides many benefits to the CACFP operations. 

Consistent food quality 

Standardized recipes ensure menu items will be consistent in quality each time they are prepared and served. 

Menu planning 

Standardized recipes simplify menu planning. A standardized recipe provides documentation for meal pattern requirements, making this step more efficient and compliant. 

Predictable yield 

Standardized recipes produce a planned number of servings. This can help prevent overproduction or shortages. A predictable yield is also important when transporting food from a central kitchen to other serving sites. 

Participant satisfaction 

Standardized recipes provide the same recipe outcome no matter who is preparing them. Well-developed recipes that appeal to participants are an important factor. Participants will be more satisfied because they know what to expect each time a product is served. 

Food cost control 

Standardized recipes are developed with specific ingredients and the amounts clearly stated. This provides consistent and accurate information for food cost control because the same ingredients and quantities of ingredients per serving are used each time the recipe is produced. When the amount or type of ingredient is changed, the cost of producing the recipe can also change. When incorrect portions of the food are served, the recipe’s overall cost can be affected. Using and adhering to standardized recipes will result in better food cost controls. 

Efficient purchasing procedures 

Standardized recipes provide the exact quantity of foods needed for production, making purchasing more efficient. 

Inventory control 

Standardized recipes provide predictable information on the quantity of food inventory used each time the recipe is produced. 

Labor cost control 

Standardized recipes provide specific directions for the preparation of each recipe. This can help with labor costs by planning a more efficient workday schedule. It can also reduce training costs because new employees are provided with written procedures for recipe preparation. 

Increased employee confidence 

Standardized recipes eliminate guesswork, decrease the chances of producing poor food products, and prevent shortages of servings during meal service. In turn, employees feel more satisfied and confident in their jobs. It can also increase confidence in meeting CACFP meal pattern requirements and promoting healthy choices. 

Successful completion of monitoring visits 

Standardized recipes help operators serve nutritionally adequate foods that meet meal pattern requirements for reimbursement. Using standardized recipes may lessen the chance of having meals disallowed for not meeting the meal pattern requirements during monitoring visits. 

Crediting statement 

Standardized recipes feature crediting statements. The crediting statement helps the CACFP operator assess how the recipe contributes to meal pattern compliance. 


Recipe Standardization Process: Three-Phase Approach  

The recipe standardization process has three phases. 

Phase One: Recipe Verification 

The recipe verification phase is the foundation of the recipe standardization process. Determining whether a recipe will work in the beginning will help throughout the recipe standardization process. This phase consists of: 

  • identifying the recipe,  
  • sourcing ingredients,  
  • writing and reviewing the recipe in detail,  
  • preparing it in a small batch quantity (depending on the size of the operation), 
  • verifying its yield, and  
  • recording changes. 

Test the recipe as many times as needed to produce the consistent and desired result. Make sure the recipe is tested and has achieved the same consistent results a minimum of three times before moving on to the product evaluation phase. As a reminder, the USDA defines a standardized recipe as one that has been tried, adapted, and retried at least three times and produces the same good results and yield every time when the exact procedures are used with the same type of equipment and the same quantity and quality of ingredients. 

Phase Two: Product Evaluation (Taste Test) 

The product evaluation phase focuses on determining the acceptability of the product produced from the recipe through taste testing. There are two parts in this phase: 

  • An informal evaluation where the CACFP operator conducts a simple taste test.  
  • A formal evaluation where the CACFP operator conducts a taste test with participants and stakeholders. 

Phase Three: Quantity Adjustment 

The quantity adjustment phase changes the recipe yield and ingredient amounts to the desired number of servings for use in the program. 


For more information, read ICN’s Recipe Standardization Guide.