There is no simpler way to track a favorite recipe than the recipe card. A deceptively simple rectangle of paper, the modern recipe card is the ultimate low-tech tool for saving and sharing recipes for current and future generations. Thanks to the internet, there are also now a variety of free options for creating beautiful recipe cards that will do your recipes justice.
There are generally 3 sizes of recipe cards to consider. The 3×5” card is the standard card for most of the last 100 years. (Our own 3×5 recipe cards can be found here.) The old recipe card boxes they fit into were designed for America’s small kitchens. As kitchens expanded, so did the capacity of recipe boxes and binders to allow for the now standard 4×6” recipe card. (Our 4×6 recipe cards are here.) The vast majority of all current recipe cards are this size. In the past decade a few brands have expanded to 5×7” recipe cards. (Ours are here.) You may want to avoid these, however, because while they may fit your own binder they may not fit a friend’s binder you wish to share with.
Most recipe cards are designed with around a dozen horizontal lines going across them. Try to choose cards that also have lines on the back to provide you with more space. A good rule of thumb is to use the left side of the card to create an ingredients list column. The right side should be used to make a second column that lists ingredients. In this way you simplify the preparation process.
Recipe cards come in all varieties of colors and designs. Traditionally, they have had fairly tacky simple line art, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Many modern recipe card designs have become their own art form, with ornate paintings, drawings and even photographs. Whichever you choose, try to find ones that allow for plenty of space for writing, with a simple interior that won’t make your writing hard to read after years of use. The artistry of the card should be most pronounced around the borders.
Before the numerous online recipe sharing sites sprang up, the recipe card was the traditional method of sharing favorite recipes with friends. These cards are seeing a popular resurgence, as the hand-written instruction carries a warmth and personalization that simply can’t be duplicated with a “submit” button.
If you are like many family cooks, you have a collection of hand-written cards handed down from previous generations. To ensure they survive to see the next generation, look into recipe card protectors. These plastic slips are very inexpensive, and for a few pennies you can save a priceless written heirloom.
Lastly, a quick Google for recipe card templates should yield a variety of printable recipe cards that will be typed in Word or Acrobat, or can be printed out and then written on by hand. But we’ve gone through that hassle for you and have put more than 300 free recipe cards in one place: