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Digital Subscriptions > delicious. Magazine > July 2019 > WHAT MAKES A RECIPE GO VIRAL?


New dishes appear daily on websites, in books, on Instagram and Facebook, so what makes one stand out from millions of others? Katy Salter asked social media experts, stylists, photographers and food writers whose recipes have become social-media sensations for their tips on how to write, snap and share a cook-me-now recipe

IF anyone knows how to make a recipe break the internet, it’s Alison Roman, the unofficial queen of the ‘viral recipe’.

The American food writer and former food editor of Bon Appétit magazine and BuzzFeed, whose work appears regularly in The New York Times, has two mega-hits under her belt: #thecookie in 2018 and, #thestew in late 2018/early 2019. (If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, search the hashtags on Instagram.) The two recipes appear to have little in common. The cookie, a salted butter and chocolate chunk shortbread recipe from her book Dining In (Quadrille), has saltedbutter dough studded with dark chocolate that’s rolled in sugar for crisp edges. They are insanely good. The stew, created for The New York Times, is a nourishing, thick coconut broth with chickpeas and turmeric.

What’s Alison’s secret? “If I had the answer to what makes a recipe go viral, I would do it all the time,” she says. “I never know what’s going to be a hit. The cookies were a riff on something familiar, so people connected to that immediately, but the stew is still a mystery to me.” The moment she realised her cookies had gone viral was a strange one, says Roman. “The recipe was first published in my cookbook in October 2017. I was in Mexico, on a work trip in December/January when I noticed it taking off via Instagram. I was trying to take a phone detox but felt I had to feed whatever was happening, so I kept promoting other people making the cookies by taking screenshots. The New York Times and Bon Appétit ran the recipe after they’d noticed it was gaining popularity on Instagram – and it grew in popularity from there. It was totally surreal, but cool to feel there was a community aspect to the whole thing.”

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About delicious. Magazine

This month the July issue of delicious. is dedicated to making you a better cook . From getting crackling crispy on pork belly to mixing a barbecue-boosting marinade and making an unbeatable version of baked Alaska, we have the know-how. There are savoury tarts with three types of pastry, Jeremy Pang gives the low-down on duck spring rolls, Rachel Ama shares soul-soothing vegan recipes and Georgina Hayden shows how to make food look as good as it tastes. Plus, chefs reveal their top techniques and we find out what makes a recipe go viral.