Do You Share Recipes?

It’s time once again for Heather Johnson from Family Volley as part of her Parenting Tips” here on The Idea Room. Here’s Heather in her own words.


Be sure you weigh in and let me know where you stand.


A few weeks ago I attended a seasonal get together with 6 of my very best friends. We always have a great time. We laugh, sometimes cry, and always eat lots of good food and treats.

That night, the host made Oatmeal Cookies. Not just any Oatmeal Cookies, but the very best Oatmeal Cookies I have ever tasted. They were soft and moist, and chewy. Just how I love them. (As a side note, I will choose Oatmeal Cookies over any other cookie there is, always. So I have tasted a few in my day, and these were the best).

As two of us were leaving, we asked our friend for the recipe. It was midnight and I was considering going home to make a batch that very night. That’s how good they were.

She promptly said “NO.” We were both a little speechless.

We thought she was kidding and again said, “come on, these are the best, you have to share.”

To which she again replied, “No, I can’t.” She told us she got the recipe from a friend and promised never to share it.

Despite our teasing, pleas, and promise to take our own vow of secrecy, she held firm and we went home empty handed.

I woke up the next morning wanting Oatmeal Cookies for breakfast. I was a little irritated and confused, not really sure how I felt about the situation.

The encounter got me thinking about the Holiday Season full of food and celebration. ALL of the wonderful recipes our family eats at this time of year come from someone else. They come from old college roommates, recipe books, grandmas, from friends and neighbors, and from wonderful blogs all over the internet.

If people didn’t share recipes, what would I cook? I started to wonder, where do I stand on this issue? Do I believe in sharing recipes?

Of course I do! I consider myself a good “sharer”. I take it as a compliment when someone asks for a recipe and I am glad to help. After all, isn’t sharing, whether it is our recipes, talents, knowledge, experiences or advice, what makes us a stronger and better community of women? Isn’t that the whole point of The Idea Room. :)

I am always grateful when others share with me. I clearly remember having to host my first big holiday dinner a few years ago. I called a friend who shared a few of her “signature” recipes with me and saved the day. I will never forget how she helped.

That said, we all have special recipes. Mine are from my grandmother who has now passed away. I make them often and take them to special events. I feel a connection to my grandmother because of them. When people ask, I share, but, it is a little bit harder to give those away. They are sentimental to me, so I am more protective. Is that wrong?

When people don’t share, does it have more to do with how we feel about the person asking, instead of the actual recipe itself? (What would that say about my friend not sharing with me? Yikes.)

During this Holiday Season of giving and sharing, tell me…





heather johnson
Have a question or just want to say hello.



  1. says

    I’ve had the exact same thing happen to me… an acquaintance makes the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever eaten. I thought she was joking when she said no to sharing the recipe the 1st time, but when she never sent it I asked again and got another no. I take it as a compliment when asked for a recipe so don’t really get it!

  2. Amelia says

    Most of my recipes, I’ll give away, no problem. However, I grew up with a grandma who would not give any recipes out. Those are some of my most prized possessions now that she has passed away and I won’t ever give them out. I only make the recipes for holidays or other special occasions with family so I’ve never really had someone ask for the recipe. I know one of my sisters hasn’t gotten flak for saying no. Recipes aren’t a treasure for most people, more a chore, but the history behind those recipes make it a treasure to me. I wouldn’t share them, anymore than I’d loan out a prized heirloom. My grandma had 5 boys and use to say the recipes were the way to make sure they came home for the holidays. I’m pretty sure they all would have come no matter what but its fun to think of her logic behind it.

  3. says

    Yes, I always share. I don’t want secret recipes I can’t share. What a burden! I love when someone posts their great-grandma’s best recipes. :-) To me, the fun is making something really awesome and then giving the recipe away. I find, though, that most people don’t want to make the recipe, they just want to know HOW. They still depend on you to make it ;-)

  4. says

    I am a firm believer in sharing recipes, and I freely share all my recipes. Just a few days ago a good friend gave me some amazing treats that she will be handing out as neighbor gifts. I called immediately and asked for the recipe. She gave it to me, but asked me not to share it on my website because she didn’t want all the neighbors to start making it. I understand (kind of), but I was bummed. Quite honestly, I don’t know if I will ever make them. The batch is too large to be eaten alone, but I could never share them, because I wouldn’t want to tell someone “no” if they asked for the recipe. It would make me feel completely selfish. I think that like most good things in life, great recipes are meant to be shared!

  5. Alexis says

    I think it is rude to bring something to a get together and not be willing to share the recipe. If you have something you are unwilling to share you should only make it for your family get togethers…. the only exceptions would be if someone is selling them for a business. My mother in law sells hand dipped chocolates every Christmas and the recipe’s can’t leave the family. But if you are bringing it to a potluck type setting you should only bring something you are willing to share! I came across a great oatmeal cookie recipe on pinterest…. give it a try!

  6. Karen says

    I absolutely share! What a great compliment whether it’s my own recipe or one I got from someone or somewhere else. I’ve been delightfully surprised when some restaurant chef’s and caterer’s have shared delicious recipes with me. Only once have I been told no (by a professional chef) and I understood. I think it’s always okay for someone to say no. Might hurt a bit, but as previous comments have indicated, if it’s a treasured heirloom recipe, or perhaps one you worked on a long time to get just right, then you’d be reluctant to share.

  7. says

    I totally share recipes. I haven’t gotten a complete no from anyone (yet), but I did get a fabulous recipe from someone once that seemed hesitant. I’m so glad they didn’t say no, b/c they were just the best brownies I have ever had. Raspberry truffle brownies . . . mmm, I probably should make some. :) I don’t understand a refusal to share recipes unless you’re a business (for example, Macaroni Grill or something). If they share recipes, then people can get the same food at home and they might lose business. But even then, the bottom line is that people still don’t want to have to make dinner so I think it wouldn’t be that great of a threat.

  8. Erica Danta says

    I love sharing my recipes!! In fact I’m putting together mini recipe books for my siblings this year as my homemade Christmas gift. Part of my recipes are family recipes. I hear from people too many times “I wish I would’ve learned to make my moms _____.” So I take advantage, learn my moms recipes and add them to my arsenal. If someone enjoys my food enough to ask for the recipe why not share it. It’s a huge compliment!!!

  9. Trudi says

    I totally always share my recipes. Like you said, I take it as a huge compliment when someone asks me for my recipe. They obviously like it enough that they want to share it with other people! I never say “NO” when someone asks me. I have been told “NO” once before, but it wasn’t with a recipe. I was throwing a baby shower with an owl theme and my sister-in-laws sister had the cutest owls at her son’s 1st birthday party. I asked her for the template or where she found them and she would not tell me. I was shocked! And she never budged on telling me where she got them!

  10. shannon says

    Wow! I love to share recipes and have even written in my cookbook a little blurb about the sweet friend who shared it and where I tasted it first. Food is so linked to emotions and memories! I can’t imagine how I would react if told no when asking for a recipe. I do have a friend who is an excelent cook who just never sends the recipe after saying she will. Very frustrating! But somhow less harsh than an outright no!

  11. Elodie says

    I don’t really have any recipes to share, mainly because I haven’t experimented enough (or cooked/baked enough to begin with) to have anything original. If I ever do reach that point, I would definitely share recipes, whether I had figured it out myself or found it online, tweaked it, etc. That being said, I can understand why others would want to keep their recipes secret, especially if it’s a family recipe that’s been passed down generations.

    If you also think about it, a secret recipe makes appreciation of the product so much greater. If you could make it anytime, I think its special-ness… slightly decreases(?) over time. On the other hand, you really, really look forward to it when it gets to that time of the year or whenever you visit so-and-so, that it makes it THAT much more special. Does that make sense? I dunno, in the end, each person has their own reasons to whether or not to share a recipe, and it’s only right to respect that.

  12. says

    I just just about every single recipe I have. I find it to be the biggest compliment when someone enjoys what I made enough to want to make it again themselves. There are only two that I will not share because they were my grandmother’s original creations and I find much joy and peace making them in her honor. She worked hard over the years perfecting them and I think those are the types of recipes that should “stay in the family” That being said I have only every made them for family and very close friend who know and understand how much these recipes mean to me.

    I love that I myself have a binder in my kitchen of different recipes I have collected from friends and family over the years, it is like a time capsule of the good times we shared enjoying good food. I think it is something that i can pass down to my kids as they grow up and move out and start their own lives/families.

    • Joan Craft says

      I always share recipes, though I will say that I haven’t developed any of them myself. I may have made a few tweaks along the way, but I still started with a recipe. I definitely share family recipes – what a way to honor the legacy of cooking and gathering and sharing talents then passing on a beloved recipe. Its like a little bit of great-grandma so and so still carries on and is touching people this day.
      I have encountered 2 people who wouldn’t share their recipes and was quite turned off by it. One of them was for chocolate chip cookies. Now, they were very good cookies, but the woman’s attitude totally turned me off. She said she doesn’t share the recipe because it is one she has perfected over time. While I definitely do appreciate it, she had a snooty attitude that seemed to say these cookies are the best on the planet and even if I DID give you the recipe, there is no way you could replicate them because your skills are inferior!
      Unless you are making money off of your recipes, I say share share share!!

  13. says

    I share most of all my recipes, after all I have a blog just for that but I don’t share my cupcake recipes that I come up with 100 percent of my own. I sell my cupcakes so that is why, I plan on opening a shop one day ( I know there are thousands) but I just want to have something that is unique. I pride myself on my unique cupcakes but everything else is fair game =P I would have for sure shared my cookie recipe with you.

  14. Britt E says

    I definitely share any recipe that someone asks for! All of the recipes I use come from friends or family or the internet or recipe books. But even if they were my very own, why not share??? You’re right – when we share anything, including our ability to make an awesome meal or dessert through a recipe, we are strengthening friendships and bonds! I’m so glad so many people share their recipes online! :)

  15. says

    I totally share recipes. In fact, I LOVE when people ask me for a recipe because it means I have successfully shared one of my talents. These days, it’s easy to find almost any recipe on the internet anyway–it just takes a little trial and error of a few different recipes. And, really, the food you didn’t cook/bake tastes the best anyway, so someone else’s version of the exact same recipe will most likely always taste better!

  16. jasi says

    I think people have a right not to share. So shame on you if you’re irritated or mad at someone who draws a boundary on intellectual property. Who knows if they plan to write a book, start a restaurant or industry or just want something for themselves. I share all of my recipes because I have no such ambition and it bothers me not at all.. but I do find people who think they are “owed” a recipe obnoxious. It’s a bizarre sense of entitlement in this country. Make a better one yourselves, please.

  17. says

    I was just thinking about this the other day; I believe it’s somewhat arrogant when people do not share a recipe. I’m not a fantastic cook, but once in a blue moon I’ll create something great, and I am happy to share it with people and hope that they share it with others. When I share special family recipes, I believe it makes my mother or grandmother happy that it’s being spread around. Besides, with the internet we can all find plenty of good recipes at the drop of a hat, no need to be stingy with them!

  18. says

    I am always surprised but I have a few friends that don’t share. I think it is a little weird but to each their own. I can still remember a candy that one of my students made for me that was peppermint bark but it was 10X better than anything you can buy! I wanted the recipe so badly and she wouldn’t share it. :( Oh well! :) Thanks for sharing with us!

  19. says

    I always share. I can see if someone had a business where they had a secret recipe and they wanted to keep it a secret, but other than that…

  20. says

    I always share recipes. I too am totally flattered when someone asks for my recipe. It’s not like I invented any of them, though I do have a couple that were handed down to me. I met an old friend at the store the other day and she was still raving about a recipe I gave her years ago. Made me feel good all over again. (And the recipe came off the label of one of the products!)

  21. says

    I am a big sharer too, just look at my blog! But there is one recipe that my SIL gave me that she gave me with the understanding that I wouldn’t give it to anyone else ever. I honour that relationship by not giving it out. However if a friend or family member asks me for it I send them her way and she can veto the requests :)

  22. says

    Share, share, share! I never understand why someone wouldn’t accept the compliment that comes along with a request for a recipe. Other than a restaurant secret, I can’t see why it would be a problem to share recipes among friends. Hope you find another ultimate oatmeal cookie soon!!

  23. Arie J says

    I’m a huge advocate for sharing recipes too! I just don’t understand the possessiveness over something like recipes. I just saw something about “recipe manifesto” on Pinterest and now, I read it on your blog – such coincidence!

  24. Gretchen says

    Unless one is a professional chef, it is selfish not to share! Being told “No” would actually cause me to question and possibly drop that “friendship.” I don’t understand any reason not to share, sorry!

    • Charlotte says

      I agree. If you didn’t make up the recipe yourself, then you got it from somewhere. It doesn’t belong to you! If someone gave it to you in secret, then they broke their own rule by giving it away so they shouldn’t be too hard on you for sharing as well.

  25. says

    I always share my recipes too. It has never been a problem and I always take it as a compliment. However, one of my good friends that does lots of potluck get togethers always asks for my recipes and, of course, I give them to her. Well last New Year’s Eve she was having a get together and I told her the recipe I was bringing and she said she was already making it and that went on through three more ideas of what I would then bring. So, I was stuck not being able to bring some of my most requested recipes to a potluck because she was taking over and making “my” recipe! I ended up bringing something I wasn’t really excited to make and bring. So, a warning to you – be careful about sharing too many of your recipes with one person!!!!!!

  26. Julie says

    I am so grateful to those in my life who have shared yummy recipes with me. I am also grateful to the blogging world that shares as well! I have been on the search for the perfect cinnamon roll recipe for years now. I try a different recipe every time I make them but each have fallen short of what I want in a perfect cinnamon roll. I ordered a batch of cinnamon rolls from an acquaintance from church about 4 years ago. It was to help her daughter raise money for school. The woman does this every year and is famous for these cinnamon rolls. They are perfect. I knew her enough that I knew she wouldn’t share her recipe. But I moved across the country and thought I would email her and ask if I could have the recipe since I wasn’t living near her to order any (once a year). I never got a response and it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Every time a cinnamon roll recipe I make fails to measure up to hers, I feel a pinch of bitterness and I can’t understand why she wouldn’t share with me. I am grateful to have read the comments here and see that there are many reasons of why she would not want to share. And I need to respect that. I feel silly for feeling a little bitterness and I am sorry for that. I do wish that she would have at least replied with a decline so that I would have understood a bit more of why she wasn’t willing to share. I will try to be more openminded to those who don’t share and try to remember that it’s just food. (wish me luck. Ha!)

  27. says

    I once asked my mom for a recipe and she did not want to share it. She told me the lady she got it from was very strict about giving it out. So I googled it. When I was finally given the recipe from my mom, it happened to be the same one I found on the internet. Exactly down to the last ingredient… Plus there were about 15 more exactly like it on different sites. The other recipe I asked for was from lady who sells her cakes for fundraisers. I understood her not wanting to divulge her recipe to everyone in the community. (somehow I ended up with it anyway) No one would buy her cakes otherwise. I am a sharer. I pass on the recipes that people ask for. I feel like there are so many billions of recipes, that people move on. They won’t be making every recipe you give them over and over and taking them to the same events for very long. They will find something new to make and pass around.

  28. Carol says

    I wonder what I would be cooking if recipes had not been shared with me. I have lived in many different places where I have made new friends, shared meals, and then recipes. I also have recipes from many familly members. These are not just recipes, they are also memories. Whenever I use a recipe, I think of the person who gave it to me and remember our times together. I don’t understand why someone would not want to share a recipe but if they don’t, I hope they would say “no” in a gentle way and explain why not.

  29. Debbie Rines says

    I just don’t understand people who won’t share recipes. Sharing makes the world go round and who would’t want to make someone happy? True story……at a church potluck I asked for a recipe and was told, “I never share my recipes”. You could have knocked me over with a feather because it was my first that someone told me, “NO”. Well, the next Sunday at church, her husband came up to me and quickly slipped a paper into my coat pocket and said, “if you tell her, I’m dead meat”, and he immediately left the area. As you may have guessed, it was the recipe I had asked for. That was 40 years ago and when the subject comes up, everyone loves my true story.

  30. Charlotte says

    I don’t mind sharing recipes at all, but I think that there should be some guidelines. I know it sounds crazy, but I have my reasons. I got a great recipe for a chocolate cake from a friend and I made it for a family get-together. Everyone raved about it, saying how wonderful it was and it made me feel pretty good. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert cook by any means. I am still learning and used to be the girl they always asked to bring bread and tea. But this chocolate cake was a hit and I was proud. When a family member asked for the recipe, I gave it willingly. When we both were invited to another get-together, she made the cake using my recipe. Somehow this has become her signature dish and she has never given me credit for being the one who gave her the recipe. This same scenario happened when I made a casserole for a friend who had had surgery. She asked for the recipe, I gave it to her, and it has since become something she brings to pot lucks on a regular basis, never once mentioning the recipe came from me. I think that if you get a recipe from someone else, you shouldn’t make that dish for an event that he or she will be attending and I also believe that if you recieve praise for a recipe, you should give credit where it is due.

  31. Suzanne says

    I have a few recipes for meals for new moms in our church. I often get requests for those and I do share them. I am always flattered that they ask. However, when I do share, I am always tempted to preface the recipes with the disclaimer that they may not make it for moms in our group because those are my signature dishes. I have never said that though. I do agree with Dixie that most of the time people are interested in HOW it’s made not in making it themselves. Great discussion here! Thanks for the topic.

  32. Teri S says

    Worse than not sharing, giving away a recipe with changed or missing ingredients.
    On the subject of oatmeal cookies…I had never liked them because it was like biting into a mouthful of yuck with not much flavor. I came across a recipe with honey and molasses in them and now I eat as much of the dough as I do the baked ones. If anyone wants a super oatmeal cookie recipe…I’ll share!!!

  33. Jennifer H says

    I always share recipes. Why wouldn’t I want someone to have the recipe. They may add or subtract to make it their own and tell you about it., and then you have a new recipe to try. I have been to a cookie swap at the holidays before where you put your recipe with your cookie,, and have had several people not share their recipe. I do find it kind of irritating,, but to each their own.

  34. says

    I’ve received a lot of joy over the years by sharing recipes with other women and having them share recipes with me. I truly don’t understand why someone would not be willing to share a recipe – except for one situation: that it is used in a business/money-making venture. That would make sense to me to keep that particular recipe or set of recipes top secret.

    But to have someone enjoy something I make, and then refuse to kindly write down the recipe for the dish? Because I want to receive the notoriety or glory of being the “best chocolate chip cookie baker” or whatever? Or that I want to always bring those particular dishes to women who have just had babies? Or to church potlucks? That just seems prideful to me.

    I don’t understand not wanting to share a family recipe, either. My grandmothers and great-grandmothers would have been thrilled that their special recipes were being shared with other women who enjoy cooking and baking! It’s being a part of the community aspect of womanhood, and I can’t imagine getting all uptight and being tight-fisted with a few words on an index card. I guess I’m just not that kind of person, and I can’t relate to that kind of attitude.

    By the way, did you know that recipes cannot be copyrighted?

    The list of ingredients, according to the U.S. government, cannot ever be copyrighted, not by Martha Stewart, or anyone…no matter what they say.

    Legally, all you need to do to share a “copyrighted” recipe with others is to retype the directions in your own words.

    So even when people get all huffy when you email them and ask if you can share one of their recipes, they legally cannot try to stop you from doing that, as long as you retype the directions in your own words.

    I try to be respectful about using/sharing other recipes on my website, and give credit where credit is due. And if I make a dish from a recipe I received from someone else, I’m happy to give credit where credit is due.

    But the attitude that “it’s all mine and you can’t have it” with recipes is just plain silly.

  35. Sara Luecke says

    I usually share my recipes. However, this incident is different. Your friend received a recipe from another friend who, for whatever reason, asked her not to pass it on to anyone. Your friend GAVE HER WORD that she would not give our her friend’s secret recipe out, ever to anyone. I personally would appreciate a friend like this who would not go back on her word nor break her promise. I think that this is the true issue here.

    It’s only an oatmeal cookie after all. What fun to try to formulate your own to taste just like it!

    Merry Christmas Everyone

  36. Michelle J. says

    There are a few specific things that every time I make them, I get asked the recipe. I always give them out. I know that I have been blessed when others have shared their recipes with me, and I smile to think that my friend’s kids can enjoy really good peanut butter cookies.

  37. says

    I love to share recipes, and love those shared in return. When it’s a family or treasured recipe that I’m sharing, I’m sure to share the story behind the recipe. That way I feel like it’s one more person remembering and loving my grandmother, or mother. And couldn’t we all use a little more memories and love in this world?

  38. Jessica says

    Once I shared a bread recipe with someone who raved about it. She also makes a very good bread, so I asked for her recipe and she quickly said No. I was shocked and mad that I had given her mine and she took and didn’t share in return. It is a recipe, I’m sure I can find it somewhere, but please…don’t ask for recipes if you won’t share in return. That is just rude. Food makes memories, it makes people happy, it is a great way to share memories with others. They will always remember that they got a good recipe from you. Share is what we teach our children.

  39. Penny says

    Yes, absolutely I share, especially those special recipes from my Mom who passed away when she was way to young. What a better way to remember her, honor her, and keep her loving memory alive then to share what she alway gave so freely to other.

    Incidentally, she was she was a professional chef and had cherished recipes that she never hesitated for a moment to share. It’s not necessarily the ingredients, it’s the experience and memories of enjoying these recipes that make them so cherished.

    Tell you friend to “grow up”! Love isn’t love until you give it away. The same is true for friendship!

  40. Amy says

    I share MOST recipes. I have a few that I’ve received from a friend who owned a catering business and made her salsa daily for a local Mexican restaurant. To protect her livelihood she gave these to me in strict confidence. I will not share those recipes. I typically don’t make those for large groups where I might get asked for the recipe or if I am asked for the recipes I just explain why I am not able to share them. They aren’t really mine to share.

  41. Crisk says

    I always share recipes, specially the ones that have been with the family; I figure that way it will ensure that the recipe will keep on living. The most special ones, I share with the story of how I came about the recipe, so not only the recipe lives but the story as well. how is the worls to know the best foods if not by sharing recipes !!!

  42. Greg says

    I love to share recipes with friends and family too. We took our family cookbook and are moving it onto this app on facebook called Cookpanion. We’re planning to continue editing it together, growing our recipes alongside our photos and memories of the times we’re all together :D

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