Every once in a while, there’s a single recipe—a sauce from a famous chef, or a dinner idea from home cook—that captures the attention of home cooks and, all of a sudden, it’s everywhere. It starts on dinner tables across the country, then trickles it’s way up to food blogs and Instagram accounts and, soon enough, it’s getting national attention as more and more cooks share their results. That’s what we call a viral recipe.
The wonderful thing about recipes that go viral—think: no-knead bread—is that they tend to work well. Not just for pros, nor amateurs, but for a variety of cooks with a variety of palates. This winter, as social media feeds fill up with stews, soups, chocolate, and pastas, it’s no surprise that cookies, sauces, and an Instant Pot dish are the belles du jour.
Here are the recipes we just keep seeing—and why we think they’re knockouts worth trying yourself.
These cookies are so popular on Instagram it’s almost comical. In fact, it has become a game of chicken as one curious baker after another decides, “OK, OK, I have to see what the fuss is about”. Roman’s new cookbook Dining In has been making waves and selling out, and this recipe is by all indications the biggest hit. The treats are butter-forward, more shortbread than cookie, and boast a crunchy Demerara ring that keeps people coming back for more. Giving them a try sometime soon? Tag Roman on Instagram, where she documents the cookies’ rise to fame in a near-daily installment of cookie-laden Instagram Stories.
Roman’s cookies aren’t the only game in town: Folks still obsess over Sarah Kieffer’s genius, crisp-on-the-outer-edge, soft-on-the-inner-edge “crinkled” chocolate chip cookies. They even have their own hashtag on Instagram: #panbanging, so named because the recipe calls for bakers to bang the sheet pan the cookies are on against the rack in the oven (carefully!) It’s such a smart treat for those who can’t choose between soft and crispy cookies.
You knew the Instant Pot would make a cameo here, right? Food blogger and India native Urvashi Pitre had a hit on her hands— The New Yorker even wrote about her—when she published this butter chicken recipe that takes about 30 minutes. Ms. Pitre soon had a book deal on her hands. We can vouch for how tasty and easy her recipe is. It mingles cream (coconut milk is fine as a substitute), butter, high-quality garam masala, fresh ginger and garlic, and chopped fresh tomatoes to extraordinary effect.
In one of those marvelous instances when the world’s cuisines cozy up to one another and take cues from one another, legendary Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan’s three-ingredient tomato sauce for pasta is also having a moment. It does every year in sweater weather when we start eating more carbs, and it is absurdly simple: white onion, butter, and good tomatoes. Many of us have thrown it together in a panic when the pantry and the fridge were bare.
Do you ever feel like you’re not eating enough vegetables in the winter? This season’s offerings are tasty, but they can be a little knobby and ugly—not quite the supermodels of summer that tomatoes are. That’s why we were psyched to discover this kale pasta sauce, which we’re calling the next viral recipe hit. Emerald green and a snap to prepare—20 minutes!—it comes from Williams Sonoma Chefs’ Collective member Joshua McFadden of Ava Gene’s in Portland, Oregon. Kale takes a dip in salted boiling water, goes straight into your blender, and is pureed with garlic and olive oil, spun with Parmesan, seasoned and served. It is extraordinary—like pesto, but without any lingering bitterness. Just make sure all of your ingredients are top-notch, because you’ll taste everything in the finished dish.