How to build a plant-based recipe database

Successful plant based meal planning starts with a reliable plant-based recipe database. I will show you exactly how to organize your recipes to build your plant-forward recipe database.

Are you wondering what the heck is a plant-based recipe database? It’s a system for keeping your plant-based recipes all in one place, organized and handy so that when you sit down to plan your meals, you don’t need to go hunting in all the places you keep recipes.

The goal is to have a recipe database of your FAVORITE plant-based and plant-forward recipes that you grow over time. Having a recipe database makes meal planning and preparation a lot easier. If you have a recipe database packed with great recipes, it makes meal planning MUCH EASIER.

Check out my Plant Forward Meal Prep Made Easy Guide for more information on plant-based meal planning.

There are three main steps to this process and I’ve broken this article into two parts to show that.

  • Part 1: Gather your favorite plant-based recipes
  • Part 2: Input recipes into your plant-based database
  • Part 3: Maintain your plant based recipe database

Part 1: Gather your favorite plant based recipes

Step 1: Review your recipe collection

Where are most of your recipes? Most people have recipes in more than one place. Maybe you have heirloom handwritten recipes from your grandmother and saved social media videos featuring the latest viral food trend. All are great!

In this step, consider where you have recipes. Some common examples of how to store recipes are listed below. 


  • Social media posts (Instagram, Facebook, TikTok)
  • Videos (YouTube, Instagram)
  • Recipe databases (I’m a big fan of America’s Test Kitchen digital subscription)
  • Blogs (Cookie + Kate was one of the first vegetarian blogs that helped me transition to eating more plants). Check out the plant-forward recipes on my site, too!
  • Digital notebooks (like Google docs or Microsoft OneNote)
  • Bookmarks (in your browser(s)
  • Photos (saved in the camera roll on your phone)


Step 2: Identify your favorite plant-based recipes

While you are reviewing your recipes, jot down your favorite plant-based recipes or recipes that you really want to try. Note the source and page number if in paper form. Then, when it comes time to input into your recipe database you will have this ready.

Remember the point of your recipe database is to build a pool of your FAVORITE recipes that you can pull from when it comes time to meal plan and prep.

Step 3: Declutter and organize recipes

While you take an inventory of your favorite plant based recipes, you may want to declutter. Maybe you find some duplicates or some recipes that you know you will never make. 

Let’s talk organizing your recipes. If you have a lot of paper clippings, you can organize them into a paper or album. If you have a lot of digital recipes, maybe you want to organize some folders in your Google drive or on your computer.

Step 4: Choose a method your plant-based recipe database

Now it’s time to build a database that is a one central document that points you to the location of your favorite plant based recipes.

The purpose of the database is to have a list of the locations of all your favorite plant based recipes so you don’t have to go searching for them when it is time to plan your meals for the week.  

You can choose to keep your database in a digital format like an Excel or Google spreadsheet. That’s what I do. When I want to add a recipe from a cookbook, I just include the title of the book and page number of the recipe. Or you can choose a paper based method. 

Unless you have an exclusively paper based system, I recommend using a digital format. Remember you can always print recipes when you need them. I also like that digital is cloud based so I can have it on my phone and it can be shared with people–like my clients!

Remember to download your free copy of my Plant Forward Meal Prep Made Easy Guide. It includes a link to my recipe database which is pre-loaded with 80 delicious plant based recipes from reliable sources. 

Part 2: Input recipes into your plant-based recipe database

By now, you’ve reviewed your recipe collection and made note of your favorite plant based recipes and new plant based recipes that you have not tried yet. It’s time to input this information into your database.

The key to a successful recipe database is creating meaningful categories for the recipes.

You can include any category you want into your recipe database. And, you can put those categories in any order you like. You can keep it very general or make it super-specific. It is up to you!

Categories for your recipe plant-based database

Recipe name

I recommend that you choose a name for the recipe that means something to you. Sometimes, recipe writers get a little creative with titles. Here is an example, the “Green Machine” smoothie which has kale, kiwi and green grapes. Instead of titling the recipe “Green Machine” I would title it Kale, Kiwi, Green Grape Smoothie. That way you know what it is without having to read the recipe. 


This is the location of the recipe in your collection. This is the URL for the recipe if it is digital. Remember you can access social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram and include the link to the video or post in your spreadsheet.

If you are including a paper based recipe, input the title of the book and the page number. If the recipe is a clipping, type the name of the binder. For example, I have a big blue binder where I keep my baking recipes, so I type blue binder, cake section.

Recipe type

This is the type of food item. You can be as specific here as you want. Some examples are pizza, tacos, grain bowls, muffins, cookies, omelets, smoothies…you get the idea. 


This is a fancy food service word to indicate what time of day this meal is most typically eaten. The categories are breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack or beverage. Of course many recipes can be used for any time of day. 

Organize in a way that makes sense to you. I include an additional category of entertaining for tapas and appetizer style items that are something I would make when people are coming over. 


Your database should have a balance of two types of recipes: seasonal and evergreen. Seasonal is spring, summer, fall or winter. Food can be seasonal in terms of ingredients it calls for or the way in which it is prepared. 

Evergreen are recipes that are seasonless. They tend to include ingredients that are available year-round. Evergreen recipes are usually your go-to recipes that are oftentimes household favorites and easy to prepare. 

Cultural Inspiration

The purpose of this category is to signify specific flavors or ingredients that the recipe calls for. 

This can mean whatever you want it to. While it is important for food bloggers and influencers  to acknowledge cultural influences correctly, this database is for your eyes only! It does not have to be authentic and the categories can be general. 

Protein type

In the section, you will organize recipes based on the protein they include. Examples include tofu, tempeh, beans, fish, chicken and beef. I find this useful if I have some protein to use up and I want to find a recipe that uses that protein.

Ingredient tags

Ingredient tags simply means listing some of the ingredients in the recipe. Typically, I list up to four ingredients that are not pantry staples. This makes it easier to make a grocery list and helps me find recipes that have ingredients that I’m craving or that I have on hand. 

Satisfaction scale

Your recipe database should include recipes that you love! Or at least, like eating! How you organize recipes based on satisfaction is up to you. You can do a point scale or make it qualitative with notes. Remember to include feedback from the people you cook for if that is relevant. 

Other (ease of preparation, pairs well with, notes).

Remember that your plant based recipe database is yours! You don’t have to share it with anyone if you don’t want to. It can be specific or general and include any categories you want. Make it work for you and it will be sustainable. 

My clients have found the “ease of preparation” category to be very useful. This can help you differentiate between recipes that are suited for weeknights versus a more leisurely timeframe like the weekend. 

It can be helpful to include a notes column even if you don’t fill it out. This is where you can include information about ingredient substitutions or any ways in which you modified the recipe for success. 

10 categories for a plant based recipe database

Step 3: Maintaining your plant-based recipe database 

It is very helpful to have a method for maintaining your recipe database. Here are some reminders and tips.

First, remember you will add to it over time. As you find a new plant based recipe that you would like to try, add it to your database. You can go through cookbooks over time. The key is a having a good system for adding new recipes. Maybe you have a recipe “dumping ground” and each month you take the recipes from the dumping ground and add to

Second, keep it fresh. If you have read all the way through this article chances are you are a pretty big foodie! Remember to have fun staying on top of food trends on TikTok and Instagram.

Third, keep what you like and get rid of what you don’t. Your recipe database should be filled with items that you’ve tried and love, or, that you are eager to try. 

Final thoughts 

A recipe database is a simple way to keep track of your favorite plant based recipes in one place. An up to date list of your recipes will streamline your weekly meal prep process. 

The following steps will help you make a recipe database: 

  • Step 1: review your recipe collection and inventory your favorite recipes 
  • Step 2: organize recipes and declutter
  • Step 3: choose a method (paper or digital) for your plant based recipe database
  • Step 4: input recipes into your database and categorize them in a way that makes sense for you.

Once you have your recipe database ready to go, you can start inputting your favorite recipes and categorizing them for success. 

Remember to download your free copy of my Plant Forward Meal Prep Made Easy Guide. It includes a link to my recipe database which is pre-loaded with 80 delicious plant based recipes from reliable sources.

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