I used to think I was too old for TikTok.

But during an overnight visit to a friend’s home this summer, I watched a 17-year-old prepare the famous baked feta-and-tomato spaghetti that earned user @grilledcheesesocial 3.5 million views (on top of the tens of thousands of hits generated by the viral recipe’s Finnish originator, Tiiu Piret).

Skeptical until the moment I tasted it, I was certain this dish represented yet another reductive, dumbed-down gimmick engineered to fool viewers into thinking that cooking is easy. But I was wrong. Viral baked pasta was lush, savory and tangy. Late that evening, I even snuck into the kitchen for one final forkful.

When I returned home, I downloaded TikTok immediately and began to search for other high-quality recipes featured in the social media app’s brief, one-to-three-minute video format. Admittedly, many were a waste of time – culinary Potemkin villages that looked extraordinary but either tasted terrible or simply did not work when I tried them in my own kitchen. But others were, like their baked feta pasta cousin, easy and appealing. Many also begged for a tweak or two to take them from decent to excellent.


Over the past two months, I’ve tinkered with several of my favorite TikTok recipes, mostly altering proportions and adjusting seasonings. Because I have the luxury of caring less about clicks than flavors, I’ve been able to eliminate some tricks that play well over social media, but not in the real world. What follows are four recipes that everyone, regardless of age or tech-savvy can enjoy.

TikTok user @MonMackFood


(Recipes are also at monmackfood.com/recipes)

Mon Mack, a young home cook from Brisbane, Australia, produces short-form videos that focus on simple dishes, fundamental techniques and skills. Her channel seems geared to eager beginners, and her recipes are often terrific on their own – no tweaking needed.

But her viral-and-vivid, three-ingredient pici both fascinated and disappointed me. Originally a Tuscan pasta that looks like spaghetti that has stopped watching its weight, pici are a hearty, rustic treat. Mack’s version are also healthful, as their liquid and emerald color derive from fresh spinach leaves. When cooked, @MonMackFood’s pici are also visually striking: think green beans going on an undercover mission disguised as pasta.

Yet in the eating, I found them rubbery, a bit bland, and depending on the source of my spinach, occasionally a little grassy-tasting. The solution was simple: Add an egg yolk. The rich fats in the egg yolk blunt some of the high-note vegetal flavors (and scents). As a bonus, they lend the pasta a much-needed tenderness that makes it more forgiving to overcooking. I’ve also balanced out the sauce with a little spice from red pepper flakes and a flavor-enhancing hit of acid from lemon juice.

Spinach pici rolled out and waiting for boiling water. Photo by Andrew Ross

Bright, hand-rolled spinach pici

Serves 4


5 oz. fresh spinach
8 oz. all-purpose flour (approx. 1 2/3 cup)
1 egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon table salt

Mix all the ingredients together in a food processor until they form a cohesive ball. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time, pulsing to combine.

Pinch off pieces of the dough about the size of a large marble or a gumdrop. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a long, skinny cylinder about the thickness of a string bean. If you have watched Mon Mack’s original video, you’ll want to roll them much thinner than she does.

Bring a pan of salted water to a boil. Boil the pici for about 90 seconds or until the pici float to the surface of the water. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water before draining the pici.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional, but recommended)
1 clove garlic
½ lemon, plus its zest
Grated Parmesan

To make the pan sauce, melt the butter and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes in a sauté pan. Grate or mince the garlic into the butter and turn the heat to medium.


Add the cooked pici along with the ½ cup of reserved pasta cooking water. Squeeze juice from the lemon over the pasta and stir until all the pici are coated in butter. Add the lemon zest, stir, and top with the cheese before serving.

A one-pot meal variation: If you are serving pici as a main dish, you can add a protein like pan-seared scallops or cooked shrimp. Add the protein to the pan when you transfer the pici from the boiling water.


TikTok user @caughtsnackin:

What do three Gen-Z South London housemates do to spice up their pandemic experience? Create a cooking channel on TikTok, of course. Lydia, Jason and Chris (first-names only, naturally) focus on minimalist recipes with single-digit ingredient lists. Frequently, this restriction also requires them to employ pre-prepared or compound foods to count as “one” of the recipe’s components.

Take these crumbly, almost shortbread-like Nutella cookies. They are ideal for dunking in coffee or milky tea and require just two ingredients: all-purpose flour and Nutella hazelnut spread. It should also come as no surprise that Nutella contains more than just pulverized hazelnuts. The spreadable confection also includes cocoa, sugar, milk powder and palm oil.

Sure, the beating heart of this recipe is a semantic cheat, but it’s a shortcut that produces a simple-to-memorize, neat 2:1 ratio to transform any quantity of Nutella in your cupboard into fresh, warm cookies. You can also prepare the dough, flatten it into rounds and store the unbaked rounds in your freezer for several months.


If you’re avoiding palm oil, an ingredient whose production in Southeast Asia has been tied to climate damage, you can sub in Nocciolata, a vegan, palm-free hazelnut spread ($7.99 at Monte’s Fine Foods).

After baking a few batches, it struck me that these cookies might have been dreamed up with a child’s palate in mind. I found them too sweet, almost cloying, and with the sugar pre-mixed into the hazelnut spread, that surfeit of sweetness was impossible to correct for adult taste buds. But a sprinkle of flaky salt (ideally Maldon) added just before baking brings the sugar, fat and chocolate flavors back into balance.

Two (plus one) ingredient Nutella shortbreads Photo by Andrew Ross

Two (plus one) ingredient Nutella shortbreads

Makes about a dozen cookies 

5 oz. all-purpose flour
10 oz. Nutella or Nocciolata
Note: Any quantity in a ratio of 2 parts Nutella to 1 part flour will work.
Flaky salt (preferably Maldon) for sprinkling (optional but recommended for adults)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.


Add the flour to the Nutella and stir until just combined. Blend together with your hands until the mixture is the texture of soft modeling clay. Tear off a chunk of dough and roll into a ball approximately the size of a ping-pong ball. Create a divot or flatten the top of the cookies with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle flaky salt on the cookies, to taste.

Bake for 10-15 minutes. Watch carefully to ensure the tops of the cookies do not burn. Cool at least partially before serving.



TikTok user @cookingbomb

Vivian Aronson is a gregarious Minnesotan who moved from China to the United States in 2005. She produces high-concept TikTok videos designed to encourage an English-speaking audience to explore Chinese home-cooking. Aronson is also the author of the upcoming “Asian Market Cookbook: How to Find Superior Ingredients to Elevate your Asian Home Cooking,” slated for publication on December 14 (available through her website, cookingbomb.com).

I was drawn to Aronson’s cabbage recipe because it reminded me of one of my favorite dishes in Maine, the sweet-and-sour cabbage at Portland’s Sichuan Kitchen. But really, what’s not to love about soy, bacon and garlic?


Aronson caused a stir with her first cabbage video when commenters insisted that she was using a head of iceberg lettuce instead of the recipe’s titular Brassica. In the end, it became clear that many viewers were confused by the squat, nearly translucent Chinese (or Taiwanese) cabbage featured in her Tiktok.

I started to wonder if I could get my hands on one in Maine. It turns out that yes, it’s possible. Both Veranda Market and Hong Kong Market carry Chinese cabbage, but not always (and in my recent experience, not often).

This scarcity necessitated the one tweak I made to the original @cookingbomb recipe. To use the green, thick-leafed “cannonball” cabbage most common to Maine supermarkets, you’ll need to add a little extra water to help the leaves wilt. Through trial and error, I’ve also learned that cannonball cabbage tastes better when it is cooked a bit darker than the leaves shown in Aronson’s TikTok. The extra caramelization also eliminates any lingering sulfurous odors.

Hand-pulled, Sichuan-style cabbage Photo by Andrew Ross

Hand-pulled, Sichuan-style cabbage

Serves 4-6 as a side dish 

4-6 slices of thick-cut bacon, roughly cut into 1-inch pieces
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
6 dried chilies or 3 fresh Thai chilies, seeds and pith removed
½ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
1 head of cabbage (preferably Chinese, Savoy or Napa), torn apart into leaves (not cut with a knife)


2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Pinch salt

Combine the sauce ingredients with 1 tablespoon water in a bowl and whisk together thoroughly until all of the cornstarch has dissolved and no lumps remain. Set aside.

In either a wok or a very large frying pan, cook the bacon and ½ c. water over medium-high heat until water has evaporated and the bacon is browned and barely crisp. Remove the bacon pieces and reserve, leaving at least 2-3 tablespoons bacon fat in the pan. (Any excess bacon fat can be saved.)

Turn the heat up to high and quickly stir-fry the garlic, chilies and Sichuan peppercorns for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant and many of the peppercorns have popped open.

Add the cabbage leaves to the pan and stir fry until wilted and softened to taste. If you are using a thicker green cabbage, you should add ½ c. of water at this stage and cook until the steam softens the cabbage to your taste.

Add the reserved bacon and sauce to the pan and stir-fry for about 30 seconds on medium-high or high, until all ingredients have been mixed through the softened cabbage.



TikTok user @cookiterica

There isn’t much of a consistent theme to the cooking TikToks that Erica Cooper, a displaced New Yorker now living with her extended family in coastal North Carolina, produces, apart from intense flavors and family-friendly format. Earlier this year, she created several featuring pared-down copycat recipes for restaurant dishes, but her channel’s appeal is her bubbly Tri-State-accented enthusiasm.

Then there’s her cheese bread. I used to make airy, gluten-free Brazilian pão de queijo once in a while, but just like gougères, their French choux-pastry-based ancestor, these savory rolls require tons of constant stirring and are easy to burn. I had given up making them at home until I ran across @cookiterica’s brilliant workaround.

Cooper’s unorthodox pão de queijo are assembled in a blender, where cheese, tapioca flour and milk combine into a thick, bubbly batter that never turns grainy. The puffy rolls they produce are denser than their Brazilian inspiration, but they are also less crumbly, and they pull apart like a dream, especially when served warm.

I didn’t have to do much to the recipe, either. I swapped out (often characterless) cheddar cheese for slightly funkier, more complex Gruyère or Parmesan and tweaked the portioning technique: Rather than waste batter through spooning or pouring, I use a well-greased ice cream scoop. Every drop of this concoction deserves to make it into the oven and into your stomach.

20-minute pão de queijo (Brazilian-style cheese bread) puffs

1½ cups tapioca or cassava flour
2/3 cup whole milk
½ cup shredded mozzarella
½ cup shredded Gruyère, grated Parmesan, or cheddar cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch baking powder

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. While the oven is preheating, grease a muffin tin (preferably silicone) with cooking spray or butter.

Combine all the ingredients in a blender on the highest power setting. The batter will be thick and a bit frothy. Using a greased ice cream scoop, dish out approximately 1/3-cup sized portions into the muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the muffin tin and serve immediately, storing any leftover rolls under a cloth to keep them warm.

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