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Grandma's Recipe

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"I come from a long line of great meatloaf chefs! The recipe was first created by my great grandmother, Gretel Doofenshmirtz…. The secret ingredient— was hate. Usually it's love, but Great-Grandma Gretel had some issues."
Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, Phineas and Ferb, "Meatloaf Surprise"

Grandma's Recipe is supposedly the list of ingredients — some of which might be secret — needed to create some of the best foodstuffs imaginable. The food can be anything under the sun, but it will be some sort of Comfort Food most of the time, often cookies. It may even have therapeutic properties, as in Soup Is Medicine. Characters will either find this recipe and use it to their advantage in the plot, or they try to replicate it, which may or may not be successful.

It doesn't particularly have to be Grandma's, but the basic trope is that someone's "old recipe" is a one-way ticket to the most delicious stuff imaginable.

The recipe may contain some Insubstantial Ingredients that make it taste so special: something like "kindness" or "happy thoughts" or, of course, "love." The Grandma (or Grandma-figure) in question is almost always a Granny Classic.

Giving off this feel is a common approach to advertising food. Many products feature kind-looking old women on the packaging or are named after someone's (assumed) grandmother.

A common inversion is for Grandma to be a Cordon Bleugh Chef.


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  • Uncle Ben's, a brand of parboiled rice and rice sauces found all over the world, has been aware of this trope since The '40s!.
  • Abuelita is a brand of Mexican-style chocolate milk that's been around since 1937. Its mascot is a kindly grandmother (with "Abuelita" being an affectionate way of saying "Grandmother" in Spanish).

    Animated Films 
  • Red Riding Hood's grandmother from Hoodwinked! is called Grandma, and has a recipe for irresistible cookies. That is until this recipe and others like it are mysteriously absconded by the villain, who seeks to corner the goodie market.

    Comic Books 
  • One Disney Ducks Comic Universe story has Scrooge try to discover the secret recipe for Grandma Duck's very delicious cakes, hoping to profit from it. Grandma Duck eventually discovers what he's up to and gives him the recipe, but the ingredients are very vague (e.g. stuff from the leftmost jar on the top shelf). She later agrees to let him mass produce her cakes, on the condition that she gets to be the CEO of the business, and that the recipe will remain her secret.

  • Whateley Universe: Dorms of Our Lives, Season 4, part 2:
    Hannah: "Here you go. A molasses cookie. I made them myself in Home Ec. with my grandma's secret recipe. Super-tasty, I guarantee."
  • In Komarr, Ekaterin had a recipe from her great-aunt for a comfort-drink of heated milk with brandy and spices, for when people were sick or just had insomnia. During a fast-penta interrogation, she insisted on giving the complete recipe.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Flash, Joe often proudly brings up recipes by Grandma Esther. At one point he competed with his girlfriend Cecile Horton over whose grandma made the better eggnog. When they tried the eggnogs, they both coughed due to the excessive alcohol and declared each other's grandmothers were alcoholics.
  • Friends:
    • Chandler is trying to work out which of Joey's sisters he kissed and ends up having dinner with the entire family. He tries to prompt Mary-Angela to speak by asking if she made the tiramisu they're eating only for the grandmother to reply that it's her secret recipe. When Chandler asks if he can have the recipe the grandmother replies that it will die with her.
    • In The One With Phoebe's Cookies, Monica and Phoebe try to replicate Phoebe's grandma's cookie recipe so that Monica can have the best cookies for when she becomes a mom. It turned out that she had just copied the ingredients and recipe from the back of Nestle Tollhouse's chocolate chips packaging. Or, in Phoebe's terms, Neslay Toulouse.
      Phoebe: You see, it is stuff like this which is why you're BURNING IN HELL!
  • One episode of Bones has a B-plot where one of the lab assistants (Hodgins) uses up the last of the hot sauce from the company fridge, ignoring the note from another assistant, Finn, not to eat it. Turns out it was the very last bottle of hot sauce Finn's grandmother ever made, and seemingly irreplaceable. This being a forensic show, Hodgins manages to determine precisely what was in the hot sauce via testing and replicate it to make it up to Finn.
  • Alfred's traditional New Year's punch in Ein Herz und eine Seele. The exact recipe is secret, but drunk on his own punch, Alfred eventually gives it out: One ingredient is rum which his grandfather has made. And that's all. The punch is just heated rum.
  • On Taxi, after several batches of chocolate chip cookies made from his grandmother's recipe are hugely popular with the cabbies, Latka decides to sell the cookies commercially — only to find out grandma's secret ingredient was ground coca leaf.
  • Subverted in an episode of Saved by the Bell where Screech whips up a batch of his grandma's spaghetti sauce, which everyone at Bayside finds delicious. Zack turns it into a money-making enterprise, only to be threatened by a company that discovered "Screech's Secret Sauce" was from a recipe in their cookbooks. Screech says that of course it came from a cookbook because "Grandma was a lousy cook!"
  • Young Sheldon: "A Brisket, Voodoo, and Cannonball Run" has Connie's secret brisket recipe, which George is obsessed with. We see in her home that she has a bunch of other homemade recipes as well (though the brisket recipe is explicitly not written) with Georgie commenting that her French toast was also really good.

    Video Games 
  • With The Sims 2 Freetime, sims with the family focus can unlock the ability to make Grandma's Comforting Soup, a special dish capable of curing all diseases.
  • In Armed & Delirious, Grandma's Recipes actually constitute the MacGuffin, with the villain stealing Granny's cookbook in hopes of recreating her famous soup. Fittingly for both the game and Granny, the recipes therein have ingredients both bizarre and disgusting when actually given out.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Link's Grandmother will be able to make him Elixir Soup after a certain point in the story. It acts as one of the best potions in the entire series, not only fully restoring both health and magic, but doubling your attack damage until you take a hit. There's also two servings in a bottle so you can use it twice before running out, and you can receive more for free indefinitely anytime you return home. The only downside is that you can only carry one bottle of it at a time. It's also the only bottled item that makes Link smile before drinking, where potions get a grimace.
  • In Hitman (2016), the reclusive Silvio Caruso spares no expense hiring the best chefs in the world, hoping that someday one of them will finally manage to strike gold and replicate his deceased mother's spaghetti sauce that he loved so much, the recipe to which was a secret that died with her. He's been doing this for years, and every attempt has ended in utter failure. Not even the world's best chefs can come close to the old family recipe. Subverted in that there was no recipe. His mother was buying canned sauce at the store and just pretending she made it herself.
  • In Stardew Valley, kindly old Evelyn offers to teach you her secret cookie recipe if you befriend her. Other characters also have secret recipes obtained by befriending them, such as Robin's pumpkin soup or Jodi's prize-winning fried calamari, but Shane admits his are just clipped from the newspaper.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In Cellblock A of the Evil Overlord List, this is an element of Rule #158.
    I will exchange the labels on my folder of top-secret plans and my folder of family recipes. Imagine the hero's surprise when he decodes the stolen plans and finds instructions for Grandma's Potato Salad.

    Web Video 
  • In his cooking videos, Boris almost always talks on and on about his "Babushka" and the different recipes, cooking tips and etc. That she taught him to be the Supreme Slav Chef he is today.
  • Gran-Gran's Sweet Butter Cake. Because this is the Deep South, the recipe calls for eight cups of lard and four sticks of butter...
    "I used to eat this all the time. How am I still alive?!"
  • In the "Medimoji" video series by ZDoggMD, the ER nurse, Feli, talks about how the nurses frequently throw potlucks, and they all beg her to bring in her grandma's cinnamon rolls. Feli confesses that she lied on three counts: one, that her grandma is still alive two, that she had a family recipe, and three, that she baked them herself. (She just went to the store and bought cinnamon rolls, so she wouldn't have to bake.)

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy: Lois finds her Grandmother's cookie recipe in "Baking Bad", which are so good it leads to her and Peter starting up their own cookie shop.
  • In the The Looney Tunes Show episode, "Bobcats On Three!", after Porky's catering business hasn't had much luck, Bugs convinces Porky to use his Grandmother's recipes, which are all full of butter. Soon, Porky's business is back on track, particularly because Bugs becomes addicted to the food and throws parties that he wants Porky to cater just so he can eat the food. Eventually, all of Bugs' friends are sick of his parties, so he invites complete strangers. Porky warns Bugs that the recipes might be unhealthy, but Bugs pays no attention. Sure enough, the food he is addicted to has made him very fat.
  • In the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode Cookie Dough, Madame Foster has a special recipe for cookies that she only makes once a year. Bloo takes the recipe and starts making the cookies for profit, but they quickly fail to sell, because Madame Foster had a secret ingredient that he forgot: love.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
    • According to one episode, the Krabby Patty recipe was handed down to Mr. Krabs by his mother. A later episode had Krabs inventing the formula, but then the show was never strong on continuity.
    • Another episode had Squidward give Plankton his grandmother's chum recipe which made chum, a previously awful and, in some cases, inedible dish into a successful enterprise for Plankton.
  • In the first story arc of Rocky and Bullwinkle, "The Jet Fuel Formula", said formula was actually Grandma Bullwinkle's fudge cake recipe.
  • Phineas and Ferb has an example in the form of Gretel Doofenshmirtz. She had a recipe for a delicious meatloaf. The secret ingredient? Hate.
    "Usually it's Love, but Great-Grandma Gretel had some issues."
  • One episode of Garfield and Friends had Jon and Garfield find an Italian restaurant run by an elderly Italian grandmother who was trying to avoid having her restaurant bought out by a big corporation. Finally, it was proposed that they resolve the issue via a cooking contest: if the corporate cooks could follow her pizza recipe and make a pizza that was as good as one of hers, she'd sell the restaurant. Naturally, Garfield was named the judge of the competition. They initially tried substituting cheap, low-quality ingredients, but even after they faithfully followed the recipe they still couldn't make a pizza that was as good as Grandma's. After they gave up, Garfield revealed her secret: she paid attention to what she was cooking and tasted it to see if it needed extra seasoning or other tweaks, while the corporate cooks just mechanically followed the recipe.
  • Batman Beyond: As Bruce and Barbara are discussing Terry over tea and crumpets, Bruce notes that he "learned from the best" how to brew tea, but regrets that he never learned how Alfred made the "tea cakes".
  • During the second season of Total Drama, DJ uses his mom’s “Momma‘s spice” to enhance the flavour of Chef’s cooking.
  • The Adventures of the Road Runner has the (suddenly vocal) Coyote going through a cookbook full of recipes for road runners including "Sauer Road Runner Braten like mother used to make."
  • Bob's Burgers: "Sauce Side Story" revolves around the kids visiting their distant relatives to steal their great-great-grandmother's Bolognese sauce recipe.

     Real Life 
  • At least one family-style restaurant (located in Flint, Michigan) has this as its whole theme, operating under the name "Grandma's Recipes."
  • The Italian restaurant Enoteca Maria in Staten Island employs a diverse team of actual grandmothers who each get an evening to cook their own special menus based on their traditional cuisines. Despite the menu never being the same two nights in a row, the "Nonnas" are a great hit with the public.
  • Many, many cookbooks, websites, and collections of recipes have large sections of home cooking Comfort Food entrees with the description "Just like Grandma used to make."
  • Truth in Television: It stands to reason that anyone, such as a grandmother, who spends several decades making home-cooked food every day might be expected to become quite good at it. (The Nostalgia Filter is also possibly a factor, but don't tell people that.) (Often, it turns out Grandmother cribbed the recipe from a well-known cookbook or even the back of a food package, but don't tell people that, either.)