What is intuitive cooking?

What is intuitive cooking?

The secret to more fun and less stress in the kitchen

I used to think people were either good cooks, or bad cooks. They either made nice food, or they didn't.

I considered myself lucky to be a good cook. Accidentally so, because I can't remember ever learning how to cook. But I cooked my first 3 course meal all by myself when I was 8 or 9. It must have kind of washed off on me, coming from a family were there always was a lot of cooking going on.

But then I grew up, and I realised I wasn't really such a 'good cook' in that conventional sense: I didn't follow any recipes or rules, I always improvised 'my way' and I never did anything the 'right way'. But everybody said my food was very tasty. That made me really happy.

Then I started noticing people were saying something else too about my cooking; they were saying: How can you cook like this without getting stressed?! It was only then that I started realising that 'not being stressed' isn't a default kitchen setting. And that some of the most confident cooks I knew would get very stressed in the kitchen indeed, while others had a joyful, fun and easy time in the kitchen, just like I did.

This observation made me think... what is the secret of easy-going creative cooks that don't get stressed? This much I know: it's not about the 'right' recipes and meal plans. Better, simpler, faster recipes, 'smarter' kitchen gadgets and ever more planning don't make cooking more enjoyable.

Tasty, nourishing food happens with ease and joy when you cook less from the head, and more from the heart: when you learn to trust your taste and follow your gut feeling. When you stop trying to do it 'right' by someone else's standards and start cooking right by your own rules. When you allow yourself to become an intuitive cook.



So then, what is intuitive cooking, and how does it make everything easier?

Intuition = "The ability to know or understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning, based on feelings rather than facts."

When cooking intuitively you combine your ingredients into a meal by following your own instinct and taste rather than following somebody else's instructions.

You can use recipes, of course, but use them as a source of inspiration rather than take them as a set of instructions: tweak them as you see fit! Tweaks can be small or large - an extra pinch of this, a complete swap of that, skip a step to save time or change the method to suit you - anything goes!

My favourite source of inspiration though, are my own food memories: ingredients I like, flavour combinations that wowed me, memorable dishes I have eaten, and those cherished childhood meals cooked by my mum and grandma. Take a moment to think about your own food memories: What can you find? What do you taste? How can you bring them back into your kitchen?

Whatever you do, the trick is to always cook right by you (your mood, your time, your eaters, your larder, your taste) not right by the recipe.



When you look at cooking this way, an awful lot of stress simply falls away:

  • No more "what should I cook today?!" headaches: just open the fridge and start cooking.
  • No stress about having all the 'right' ingredients.
  • No more stress about doing it 'right'.
  • Always know what you are doing: you can base your meals on just a handful of templates yet still cook a different dish every time.
  • No need for elaborate meal planning: simply plan by meal type, or ditch the planning altogether.
  • Easy shopping: keep stocked up on basics, then go for what looks best or what you fancy today.
  • Less food waste: easily use up what you have, including odds and ends.

Embrace the journey, let go of the destination: it's this very shift of perspective that makes cooking fun and playful rather than scary and stressful.



Before you start: spend a minute tuning out the noise (the shoulds and musts), and tuning into your inner chef (your likes and wants and everything you cooked before). We all have our own blocks and hang-ups when it comes to cooking at home. Better understanding the stories we tell ourselves, and how they stop us from cooking more and cooking better can help us set free the cooking genius we all carry inside.

  • Let your ingredients show you the way: choose to be led by the seasons, by your likes and dislikes, and by what you happen to have in your kitchen.
  • Your kitchen cupboards are your key to creativity: keep them stocked with a few basic ingredients so you can add flavour and substance to anything anytime. We are talking oils, condiments, herbs & spices, and things like onions, pulses, grains and tinned tomatoes here.)
  • Get familiar with the basic anatomy of a dish - 90% of recipes are based on one simple 3-step template. Once you understand the concept you can apply and vary to match any ingredients.
  • Focus on flavour: build it up in layers. More flavour = more enjoyment!
  • Pay attention to your food, and be mindful of the experience, both the cooking and the eating! Only then will you notice what you like and what you don't, what effect your tweaks have, and what works for you and what doesn't.
  • Be bold: dare try something new. Start with one small tweak at a time. Make it easy for yourself - it's fun!


Over to you now: what tweak or twist or new flavour have you tried in your kitchen this week? Do let me know - I'm always curious! 

And if you get stuck... let me know too. I love solving kitchen challenges, and I reply to every email :)


PS. Maybe you're now wondering, what kind of cook are you? To get you started I made a fun quiz to help you discover your cooking personality. Take the quiz to decode how you show up in your kitchen and discover the magic ingredient to spice up your confidence and boost your intuition. So you too can start to save time, cook more, stress less!

Categories: EXPLORE, (RE)THINK


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