The 31 Most Popular Recipes of 2021, According to Food & Wine Readers

Lemon chiffon cake with blueberry coriander buttercream
Photo: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

With 2021 almost at a close, Food & Wine editors have been looking back at all of the wonderful recipes we've published over the past year, from rich, savory macaroni and cheeses to smoky simmered beans. To celebrate, we've gathered the top 31 that were the most popular with you, our readers, and there were definitely some common themes. Chicken is always a big hit, and this year was no exception, with nine recipes making the cut, from chef Ofelia Barajas' Chicken Mole to Nigella Lawson's Chicken in a Pot with Lemon Orzo. You also loved recipes from our Culinary Director at Large, Justin Chapple (and you can find out how to make them on episodes of Mad Genius). The spread includes a few sweet treats, too — fudgy Coconut Macaroon Brownies, anyone? Read on for all 31 recipes to love, and rest cozily in the knowledge that with 2022 around the corner, plenty more are on the way.

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31. New York Sour

New York Sour
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Melissa Gray / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas

The perfect balance of fruity red wine and smoky-sweet bourbon, the New York Sour cocktail is a classic for a reason. Shaking the cocktail with large ice cubes will chill the cocktail without diluting it — and those large cubes look great in a rocks glass, too. Be sure to pour the wine slowly over the back of the spoon to create the perfect float. If you're feeling adventurous, add an egg white to the shaker for a thicker viscosity.

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30. Gina Mae's Baked Beans

Gina Mae's Baked Beans
Photo by Caitlin Bensel / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Scholar Regina Bradley (nicknamed Gina Mae as a child) added a few special touches to her husband's baked beans recipe to make it her own. "A cookout's DNA is found in the sides and who made them. This task is not for the faint of heart or the thin-skinned," wrote Bradley, in an essay on the hierarchy of the cookout for Food & Wine. "If your beans taste burnt or your potato salad has raisins or olives, we talking bad about you 'til your grandchildren hear about it." For this summer-perfect side, Bradley dresses up store-bought barbecue sauce with extra brown sugar; apple cider vinegar cuts through the smoky sweetness. For a thicker version of these saucy beans, bake them 10 to 15 minutes longer before topping with bacon. If Vidalia onions are unavailable, substitute any sweet yellow onion.

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29. Carrot Cake Marmalade with Yogurt and Fresh Fruit

Carrot Cake Marmalade with Yogurt and Fresh Fruit
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Prissy Lee

At Molly's Rise and Shine in New Orleans, diners rave about the yogurt bowl topped with sunny roasted carrot marmalade. This take on chef Mason Hereford's marmalade gets big flavor from stewing carrots and apple with cinnamon, cardamom, and star anise for a warmly spiced result.

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28. Maria Cookie Icebox Cake

Maria Cookies Icebox Cake
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Toasty, slightly sweet Maria cookies were an after-school snack staple for pastry chef Paola Velez while growing up in the Bronx — here, she transforms those beloved cookies into an icebox cake, layered with a sweetly spiced cream filling, topped with luscious dulce de leche, and festooned with strawberries and flowers. Can't find Maria cookies? Velez says that any variety of thin, crunchy cookie will be delicious here. Just don't skimp on the time in the fridge because this cake tastes best when it chills overnight.

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27. Gaeng Rawaeng

Gaeng Rawaeng
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

At Nari in San Francisco, diners delighted in chef Pim Techamuanvivit's gaeng rawaeng, a whole Cornish game hen submerged in a deeply savory golden curry redolent with spices, served with impossibly flaky roti for sopping. In this recipe, a small chicken — standing in here for the Cornish game hen in the original dish — gently cooks in a velvety sauce of coconut milk spiced with chiles and galangal, a piney, citrus-flavored cousin of ginger. Don't shake the cans of coconut milk — the solidified cream and liquid are added separately. Refrigerate the cans for about one hour prior to cooking to encourage separation. Use a mix of green chile varieties to suit your preference for piquancy.

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26. Life-Changing Udon with Soft-Boiled Egg, Hot Soy, and Black Pepper

udon noodles
Hetty McKinnon

Butter, egg yolk, and starch enrich the soy broth, dressing chewy udon noodles in a silky sauce inspired by cookbook author Hetty McKinnon's visit to Udon Shin, a restaurant in Tokyo's bustling Shinjuku ward. Sharp black pepper and scallions break up its deeply savory edge with light spice and fresh flavor.

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25. Smoky Breakfast Pizzas

Smoky Breakfast Pizzas
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Chef Justin Bazdarich makes his Kind Brother pizza at Speedy Romeo in Brooklyn extra luxurious with a combination of béchamel and smoked mozzarella. This easy version also gets a kick from smoked mozzarella, plus a drizzle of fresh basil oil for a pop of freshness.

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24. Rainbow Vegetable Gratin

rainbow vegetable gratin with slice being removed
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

Six layers of colorful vegetables cook together in this free-form gratin; panko and Parmigiano-Reggiano absorb extra juices and provide a nice crunch. Dial in your knife skills or use a mandoline to cut the vegetables into thin, uniform slices to ensure easy layering and even baking. To make serving easy, allow the gratin to cool for 20 minutes before cutting.

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23. Toad in the Hole

Toad in the Hole
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Melissa Gray / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas

A crisp, buttery Yorkshire pudding embedded with crisp-skinned sausages, Toad in the Hole is an iconic British classic. Rosemary isn't a traditional ingredient in the dish, but it delivers another layer of flavor to every bite. As it bakes, make a quick shallot gravy on the stovetop to ladle over each serving.

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22. French Onion Soup with Roasted Poblano

French Onion Soup with Roasted Poblano
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Prissy Lee Montiel

At Tzuco, in Chicago, the French onion soup arrives to the table piping hot, topped with a bubbling layer of Gruyère cheese. Hiding under the blanket of cheese, a thick slice of baguette soaks up a soup suffused with flavor from a mountain of jammy onions, balsamic vinegar, and bay leaves. French onion soups can lean quite beefy, but chef Carlos Gaytán uses a gentle base of chicken broth that allows the allium flavors to truly shine. Poblano chiles add a mild, vegetal heat and a slight charred flavor.

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21. Slow-Roasted Salmon with Walnut-Olive Vinaigrette

Platter of slow roasted salmon with olive walnut vinaigrette
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

This vinaigrette bolstered with chopped olives, toasted walnuts, and fresh parsley is a bold finishing touch for roasted salmon basted with smoked paprika and lemon. The combination of basting and slow roasting yields incredibly tender salmon; the walnut-olive vinaigrette adds a briny, buttery crunch. Source skinless salmon for a prettier presentation. To coax the most flavor from the walnuts, toast in a 350°F oven for about 12 minutes.

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20. Cannabis-Infused Olive Oil

Cannabis-Infused Olive Oil
Kitchen Toke Inc.

Before cannabis can be used in a recipe, it must be activated or decarboxylated to maximize all of its benefits. Traditionally, decarbing meant heating the buds in a low oven for two to three hours, a process that can destroy flavor. Decarbing using sous vide, on the other hand, preserves the floral and fragrant flavors known as terpenes. After decarbing, you'll gently infuse the cannabis in olive oil, creating an aromatic ingredient you'll be able to use in both sweet and savory recipes, from aglio e olio pasta to chocolate pretzel cookies and a citrus-infused cake. You'll need an immersion stick circulator, cannabis grinder, vacuum-sealable bag, and a vacuum sealer for this recipe. Note: As cannabis regulation continues to evolve across the United States and around the world, please consult your local laws.

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19. Skillet Chicken and Chorizo Paella

Chicken and Chorizo Skillet Paella
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Missie Crawford

While Spanish paella is traditionally made in its namesake pan, this cast-iron variation is a great alternative — and it can also go straight from stove to table. The recipe builds layers of flavors as you sauté aromatics in the same pan you've used to sear the chorizo and chicken. From delicately floral saffron to smoky paprika and a bright lemony finish, this one-pan meal has it all.

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18. Lemon Chiffon Cake with Blueberry-Coriander Buttercream

Lemon chiffon cake with blueberry coriander buttercream
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

Pastry chef Sasha Piligian channels summer vibes to create her showstopping baked goods, like this epic layer cake. She starts with two flavor-packed components — a tart-sweet Meyer lemon curd for the filling, and a coriander-spiced blueberry jam to flavor and tint her fluffy Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. (The lemon curd and jam can be made ahead of time and stashed in the refrigerator, or you can substitute store-bought jam and lemon curd for equally beautiful results.) The addition of beaten egg whites to the batter keeps the lemon chiffon cake layers light and airy, and, for a final flourish, Piligian embellishes the frosted cake with edible flower petals, mint leaves, pools of glistening jam, fresh berries, and sliced citrus.

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17. Shallow-Poached Salmon with Leek Beurre Blanc

How to make slow poached salmon with leek beurre blanc
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Shallow poaching under a cartouche (a circle of parchment paper) yields tender fish in minutes. This method works with any mild fish, such as flounder, rockfish, or grouper. If any fillets are of uneven thickness, such as tapered portions near the tail, fold the thin portion underneath to achieve an even 3/4-inch thickness.

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16. Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

At chef Ziqiang Lu's Birds of A Feather in Brooklyn, tingly heat from Szechuan peppercorns teams up with slightly sweet dark soy sauce and Shaoxing wine to build deep flavor into this quick stir-fry. Have all of the ingredients at the ready before heating the wok for best results. Lu recommends browning the dried chile peppers until well-toasted. This helps tease out their aroma and leaves you with a warming sensation that lingers in the mouth.

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15. Coconut Macaroon Brownies

Coconut Macaroon Brownies
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Paige Grandjean and Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Super-rich, fudgy brownies meet chewy, sweet macaroons in this gorgeous mash-up of two crowd-pleasing desserts. Using coconut flour instead of wheat flour, cookbook author Jake Cohen created a brownie with a consistency that's simultaneously tender and dense, while also keeping the brownies gluten-free and kosher for Passover. Then, in an homage to the canned Manischewitz macaroons he grew up eating at his own family's Passover Seder, Cohen tops the coconut flour brownies with a layer of well-salted coconut macaroon to yield an eye-catching hybrid dessert that's the best of all worlds: chewy, crunchy, and not too sweet. A cup of coconut oil may be used in place of butter, if you'd like to make the dessert pareve.

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14. Hot Crab Dish

Crab Hot Dish
Photo by Will Dickey / Prop Styling by Christina Daley / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey

A close cousin of casseroles, hot dish is a staple on family dinner tables and potlucks across the Midwestern United States. This version channels the flavor and fun of a crab boil, with Old Bay seasoning, dashes of Worcestershire and hot sauce, and a hint of lemon, adding layers of flavor to sweet fresh lump crabmeat. Frozen potato tots add crunch to this creamy casserole, making it a hearty and filling dinner.

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13. Grilled Chicken with Marinated Tomatoes and Onions

Individual plate of grilled chicken with marinated tomatoes and onions
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

In under an hour, heirloom tomatoes and slivers of red onion are transformed into a savory sauce that brings bright, summery flavor to this simple grilled chicken. Chicken cutlets quickly pick up the flavors of the tomatoes and onions; let them soak in the marinade after cooking for an extra kick.

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12. Quick Skillet-Roasted Chicken with Spring Vegetables

Quick Skillet-Roasted Chicken with Spring Vegetables
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Tender vegetables simmer in a mixture of chicken drippings and butter in this simple, speedy dish. The attached drumette gives these airline chicken breasts more flavor; bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs make a good substitute. Andrew Fortgang of Canard in Portland, Oregon, recommends pairing this dish with floral, spicy Gourgonnier. "Orange aromas of Gourgonnier draw me in; on the palate, it's weighty, almost creamy, but with pepper and just enough acidity to balance."

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11. Sausage and Red Onion Sheet Pan Quiche

Sausage and Red Onion Sheet Pan Quiche
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Prissy Lee

Inspired by a foot-long quiche that chef Cedric Maupillier served at Convivial in Washington, D.C., this quiche is prepared in a rimmed baking sheet. It makes plenty for the whole crowd, yielding 12 servings total.

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10. Eggs Benny Toast

Eggs Benny Toast
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer and Paige Grandjean / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

The secret to this super-simple eggs Benedict? Cornstarch. It stabilizes the emulsion in the hollandaise, helping to prevent the sauce from breaking while it cooks over direct heat. Easier than poaching, gently steaming eggs results in delicately tender whites and smooth, creamy yolks.

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9. Auntie Georgia's Dakgangjeong (Korean Fried Chicken with Soy Sauce)

Auntie Georgia’s Dakgangjeong (Korean Fried Chicken with Soy Sauce)
Angie Webb

In this recipe from Georgia Song, food writer Eric Kim's aunt, a sticky glaze of soy sauce and brown sugar gets subtle heat from fresh jalapeños to give fried wings the perfect level of spice, sweetness, and salt. Potato starch creates a shatteringly crisp exterior on the wings and stays crunchy for hours — even after they have cooled.

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8. Morisqueta con Costillas de Res en Salsa Roja (Rice with Saucy Braised Beef Ribs)

Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Christina Daley / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey

All over the Mexican republic, you will find arroz served as a side in fluffy pilafs, sprinkled in chicken soups, used as a binder for albondigas, or as the base for morisqueta, Mexico's unsung rice-bowl hero found in regions along the Pacific, specifically Michoacán. Morisqueta is essentially a taco in rice form: rice topped with a saucy pork, beef, or seafood guisado, beans, raw cabbage for texture, and some crema to pull it all together. Bone-in beef short ribs are essential for maximum flavor and texture in the dish — ask the butcher to cut the flanken through the bone into smaller pieces.

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7. Strawberry Tiramisu

Strawberry Tiramisu
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Melissa Gray / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas

In this sunny take on tiramisu, coffee and chocolate are swapped out for bright, zesty orange and ripe strawberries. A touch of balsamic vinegar, orange liqueur, sugar, and jam deepens the flavor of the berries without overpowering it, while orange zest brightens layers of mascarpone cream.

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6. Southern-Style Mac 'n' Cheese

Southern Style Mac n Cheese
Photo by Noah Fecks / Food Styling by Drew Aichele / Prop Styling by Ethan Lunkenheimer

Three different kinds of cheese — extra-sharp cheddar, Colby-Jack, and cream cheese — go into this creamy, savory macaroni and cheese recipe, which also gets layers of flavor from fresh bay leaves and dry mustard. Southern-style mac 'n' cheese is typically made with a milk-and-egg base rather than a roux. Here, the milk component is an infused milk-and-cream mixture reserved from cooking the noodles (which adds even more richness to the dish).

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5. Garlic-Butter Steak Bites

Garlic Butter Steak Bites
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Missie Crawford

These quickly stir-fried beef bites deliver all the savory luxury of a steakhouse-caliber steak, without the stress over cooking one at home. The buttery, velvety sauce coats every piece, and the vermouth's herbal richness pairs nicely with the savory Worcestershire. Serve as an appetizer with toothpicks, or enjoy over mashed potatoes or polenta.

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4. Roast Chicken with Chile-Basil Vinaigrette, Charred Broccoli, and Potatoes

Roast Chicken with Chile-Basil Vinaigrette
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

This epic chicken from Hillary Sterling, formerly of Vic's and now executive chef at Ci Siamo in New York, gets its juiciness and deep flavor from brining, air drying, and marinating. The process is simple but does require some planning­ — start at least a day ahead. She serves the bird on a mix of charred broccoli, onions, and fingerling potatoes, fiery from the chiles and fresh from the basil, with a bright kick of red wine vinegar. Six heads of garlic mellow and sweeten after roasting, adding a caramelized flavor to the dressing and the marinade.

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3. Chicken in a Pot with Lemon Orzo

Chicken in a pot with orzo and lemon
Jonathan Lovekin

This is "a very forgiving dish," according to cookbook author and TV host Nigella Lawson. "It doesn't rely on precision timing: the chicken, leeks, and carrots are meant to be soft, and I even like it when the orzo is cooked far beyond the timing specified on the package," she says. "It's also open to variation, owing to what's in your kitchen. I could go on, but there is no need to add complications: this is a simple recipe that brings deep contentment."

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2. Smoky Simmered Beans with Sofrito

Sofrito Beans Recipe
Anna Stockwell

The foundation of flavor for these savory, creamy beans comes from sofrito, a base of sautéed aromatics that documentarian and cookbook author Von Diaz grew up eating thanks to her Puerto Rican family. You will produce more sofrito than needed for this recipe, but you can store additional sofrito in the fridge for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to three months. Use it as a base for soups, stews, and other bean dishes. Note: If using home-cooked beans instead of canned, you may need one half cup to one cup of additional broth.

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1. Chicken Mole

Chicken Mole
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

This mole by chef Ofelia Barajas of La Guerrera's Kitchen in Oakland is inspired by her grandmother Jovita Vargas' recipe from her restaurant in Guerrero, Mexico. It's rich, warm, and well-balanced, with a variety of chiles adding layers of heat, fruitiness, sweetness, and smokiness. As you fry the individual ingredients, Barajas recommends smelling and tasting each one, including the chiles, to create a connection with each — and to learn how to build the flavors that make a great mole. The payoff is a luscious and complex sauce that drapes over tender chicken. Serve with fresh tortillas to swipe up every drop.

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