Recipe or Receipt?

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CAPTION: The above is what I always think of as a receipt, but to others the word has more to do with cookery than exchanges at your favorite department store.

It’s always been a “recipe” to me, at least until the early 1990s. But when I first started The Amish Cook column in 1991 reader letters would occasionally arrive asking if we had a “receipt” for blueberry bread or iced caramel rolls.  And my first reaction was “I didn’t buy any blueberry bread, so I don’t have a receipt.”  But enough letters came rolling in asking for receipts that I began to take a closer look.  At first I dismissed them as simple misspellings, but dozens of letters all with the same error?  Probably not….The missives almost always seemed to come from much older Amish Cook readers, hand-scrawled and almost illegible.  I remember doing some research at the time and discovering that, yes, receipt was at one time (and probably still is) an acceptable alternative to the word “recipe.”

Here is how World Wide Words describes the recipe vs. receipt debate.

One of our site regulars had this to say to me about receipt vs. recipe:

 I have been reading a book called “A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove” and just ran across a section on Catharine Beecher.  I guess you could call her the Martha Stewart of the mid-1800s.   At any rate, she authored a handful of publications on domesticity, well-ordered homes and, you guessed it, matters of food, including:  “Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt-Book” (1846).  There’s even an excerpt from the Receipt-Book:  “How to Salt Down Beef to Keep the Year Round. Oh, and if the name Beecher sounds familiar…her sister, Harriet (Beecher) Stowe, was the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” – Rebecca

The letters asking for receipts seem to be slowly dying out.  It is interesting to note that the article describes receipt for recipe still being widely used as recently as the 1970s. I can personally vouch for it being later than that.  But today, probably the first one in years, a letter arrived from a gentleman in rural Arkansas requesting a “receipt” for tomato jelly.

So, do any of our readers still regularly use receipt over the more common recipe?

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The Discussion


  1. Hi Kevin. I’m over 60 and don’t recall ever hearing receipt for recipe. Can’t say it didn’t happen but for me those are 2 very different items. Very interesing to find out they were the same thing in another time or culture.

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  2. I have all my Grandma’s old recipes, most hand written on yellowing pieces of paper, but some are out of old magazines. A lot of them have the word “receipt” for “recipe” in them. I grew up in a small, rural town in Missouri and had all my older, extended family members living around me. When I was a kid, I heard my great-grandma and great-aunts use the word “receipt” for “recipe” also. I’m only 44, but have heard this word used all my life, although a lot less now than “back in the day”.

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  3. Kentuckylady717 says:


    Me either dynnamae :) but very interesting eh ? Kevin does come up with some good ones :)
    Tomato Jelly eh? never had it, but would try it…..maybe would even make it….come on Kevin, give us that recipe please …..thanks :)

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  4. I’m 80 now and my mother always called it receipt. We are from Illinois but somehow I got the connotation that it was a Southern trait.

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  5. Haven’t heard it til just now.I’m 46 & grew up & still live in NW Indiana. I hear things
    from older folks like “house note” vs. mortgage but never receipt in lieu of recipe.
    I have jam from the black nightshade tomato- first year I’ve made it &
    haven’t opened the seal & tasted it yet-I imagine it will be best with something
    savory like crackers rather than sweet stuff.

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