Real Women Share The Best Recipes They Learned From Their Grandmas

Illustrated by Seung Won Chun.
As a kid, grandma was the one you went to for all the things your parents wouldn't let you have — toys, candy, that bright red nail polish your mom insisted was too flashy. Looking back though, it's clear that she gave us a lot more. She passed along priceless pearls of wisdom, and for many, the knowledge they treasure the most from their grandmothers centers around the kitchen.
In honor of Mother's Day this weekend, seven women have shared their favorite recipes they learned from their grandmothers. These recipes not only feed their stomachs, they also feed their souls. A single bite of these dishes conjures up sweet memories of time spent with their grandmas. And, for several of them, the dishes also carry cultural significance and allow them to feel more connected to their identities.
Advertisement
Below, you'll find these seven special recipes along with the stories of the women connected to them. You may also learn a few impressive cooking hacks that could only be discovered with time and care, a grandma's specialty.

Beef and Dumplings

Age: 32
Occupation: Social Media Manager
City: Naperville, IL
What useful cooking tip or hack did you learn from your grandmother?
You don't need a lot of fancy ingredients to make a dish.
What is your favorite dish you learned to make from your grandmother?
Beef and Dumplings
When did she teach this recipe to you?
When I was a youngin', likely when I was old enough to cook on the stove. Maybe 10?
What is the recipe for this dish?
Easy peasy: about 4-5 cups beef broth, 1 lb stew meat, flour + water for dumplings, and no measurements. You sorta eyeball it.
How often do you make this dish?
In the winter, I make it once a week! In the summer, not so much. My mom makes it a lot in the winter, too. In fact, she and my aunts all say theirs is the "best."
For what occasion do you most often prepare this dish?
I've made a lot of updates to this dish, but it's easy to prepare for my family during the week and even with a couple of extra steps it's still very simple and quick. It's my winter feel-good dish. It's exceptional in the fall when I make my own broth and use fancier meats. It holds up SO WELL. And it brings me closer to my mom, who lives far away, and my grandma, who is no longer living.
Advertisement
DashDividers_1_500x100_3

Red Beans and Rice

Age: 24
Occupation: Marketing Strategist
City: New York, NY
What useful cooking tip or hack did you learn from your grandmother?
My grandma has taught me the bases of cooking! From how to finely chop vegetables to how to season, I've learned it all from her. She has also taught me general kitchen hacks. For example, we had a scratch on our wooden dining table, and she taught me to put mayo on the mark because the fattiness of the mayo makes the wood swell and fill in the scratch.
What is your favorite dish you learned to make from your grandmother?
My family is Cajun and my Grandmother is queen of the kitchen. My favorite dish I have learned from her is red beans and rice. She's also a master at Southern Mississippi Roast, but I have not been able to replicate that one yet.
When did she teach this recipe to you?
She made my cousins and I a cookbook about 10 years ago, and I have always kept it with me. I talk to her on the phone almost every day and she asks me what I'm cooking — a lot of times she walks me through steps on the phone. Since the Instant Pot came out, I've modified this for the pot — her original recipe cooks this slowly throughout the day. When my grandma was younger, her family would cook red beans on Mondays because Mondays were when her mother did laundry. They'd put it on the stove in the morning and let the beans slow cook during the day.
Advertisement
What is the recipe for this dish?
Anna's Red Beans & Rice
Ingredients
1 lb dried red beans
2 lbs smoked sausage (andouille pork)
1 1/2 cups yellow onion, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
4 celery stems, finely chopped
4 green onions, finely chopped
3 bay leaves
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Parsley, finely chopped
Fresh thyme
2 chicken bouillon cubes
Tony’s seasoning
Cayenne pepper
7 cups of water
Honey
Bacon grease or ham hock
Instructions
1. Cook finely chopped onions, bell pepper, green onions, garlic, and celery in bacon grease or ham hock until soft. (Note: If cooking in a regular pot, you can cook the sausage on a skillet and sautée the onions, bell pepper, etc. in the grease that comes off of the sausage.)
2. Add Tony's, cayenne, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce into vegetable mix. Then add beans, parsley, thyme, and bay leaves.
3. Add 7 cups of chicken stock (or water with a few bouillon cubes) and a squirt of honey. Cook on high pressure for 25 mins.
4. Once the 25 minutes are up, use natural release and add chopped sausage (in rounds) into mix. Cook an additional 15 minutes on high pressure and again use natural release.
5. Serve over rice cooked separately. Top with hot sauce as desired.
How often do you make this dish?
Probably once every two months.
For what occasion do you most often prepare this dish?
I make this recipe a lot when I'm having a dinner party. I will also make a huge pot and freeze it in multiple containers for future meals!
Advertisement
DashDividers_1_500x100_3

Caldo de Pollo (Chicken Bone Broth)

Age: 29
Occupation: Marketing
City: Jersey City, NJ
What useful cooking tip or hack did you learn from your grandmother?
Wet a teaspoon, dip it in sugar and then dip it in red beans as they're being cooked to help control acidity.
What is your favorite dish you learned to make from your grandmother?
“Caldo de Pollo” (Chicken Bone Broth)
When did she teach this recipe to you?
About 2 years ago.
What is the recipe for this dish?
1 each chicken thigh and drumstick cut in half to expose the bone, sofrito, chicken bouillon, water, cumin. Let boil for 1.5 hours
How often do you make this dish?
A few times a year.
For what occasion do you most often prepare this dish?
When I’m sick — exactly as she did for me growing up — or on snow days.
DashDividers_1_500x100_3

Grandma Lydia's Homemade Tortillas

Age: 25
Occupation: Marketing Solutions Associate Director
City: New York, NY
What useful cooking tip or hack did you learn from your grandmother?
Always cook with your hands, whenever possible. Not only is it a workout, but it really does make the dish more personal and unique to you. Everyone can tell when tortillas are made by my grandma — I've never been able to replicate the exact flavor and consistency, but that's the beauty of cooking with your hands.
What is your favorite dish you learned to make from your grandmother?
Grandma Lydia's Homemade Tortillas
When did she teach this recipe to you?
At all different phases of my life. My grandma's tortillas were a staple of my family's favorite snacks. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and distant relatives from all over Northern California would flock to my grandma's house to catch up with the matriarch of the clan over a stack of fresh, warm, buttered tortillas. They were a staple of all social activities in the family: from holidays to birthdays to just catching up in my grandma's cozy kitchen.
Advertisement
As children, the girls in my family all wanted to be as graceful and elegant as my grandma making her tortillas. The way she danced around the kitchen in her apron, sprinkling flour in an almost choreographed movement. We'd watch her in awe — but the fun part was always kneading the dough and cooking with our hands. My grandma always emphasized that it was cooking with your hands that gave the food its authentic flavor and character, and we loved making shapes with the dough, spelling our names or making hearts and flowers.
In high school, it became habit for me to visit my grandma every Friday after school to catch up over her iconic tortillas. Some days, I'd be sad over boy troubles, and she'd sweeten the tortillas with butter, cinnamon, and sugar. Other days, I'd come over ravenously hungry after a week of stressing out over college applications, and she'd cook up a full meal of beans, rice, and fideo (a Mexican noodle dish) to pair with her tortillas.
When it was time for me to leave for college, I wanted to perfect my grandma's recipe for myself. I knew I'd be homesick and miss my Friday ritual with her. The smell of fresh dough, watching her throw them on the stove, perfectly timing the rolling of a new tortilla while the other cooked to perfection. She sent me to school with the recipe on a notecard, but I've never been able to recreate it myself to taste exactly the same as hers. But that's what's beautiful about her handmade recipe — each batch of tortillas is wonderfully unique.
Advertisement
What is the recipe for this dish?
Flour, butter, salt, and bacon fat if you have it!
How often do you make this dish?
As a child, we made it every time I saw my grandma — maybe a few times a month. In high school, I made them every Friday with my grandma. Now that I'm older and live on my own, I make them when I miss my family in California.
For what occasion do you most often prepare this dish?
When I miss home most, and when I find myself back in the comforts of home.
DashDividers_1_500x100_3

Oxtail

Age: 44
Occupation: Content Strategy Manager
City: New York, NY
What useful cooking tip or hack did you learn from your grandmother?
My grandmother cooked a lot of rice. It took me YEARS to learn how to cook rice. While I struggled with my measuring cups and what not, she would fill the pot with water and measure the water line with where it lined up on her index finger. That was more accurate than the measuring cups. Grandmas never measure anything though — they just do it.
What is your favorite dish you learned to make from your grandmother?
Oxtails
When did she teach this recipe to you?
I watched her cook it quite a few times.
What is the recipe for this dish?
Good question... I could totally measure it out for you guys, but I cook by sight like she did.
How often do you make this dish?
Whenever people ask. It's on-demand like my Mac & Cheese (I am the Queen of that too).
Advertisement
For what occasion do you most often prepare this dish?
Holidays. Family Gatherings. A birthday celebration, perhaps.
DashDividers_1_500x100_3

French-style Omelets

Age: 29
Occupation: Writer
City: Nashville, TN
What is your favorite dish you learned to make from your grandmother?
My grandmother worked full-time, so other women in the household (aunts, a housekeeper) did the cooking. But she learned how to make crepes and omelets and have them as an easy, light dinner, which was très European and not très East Tennessee circa the 1970s. A simple omelet continued to be one of her favorite meals any time of the day until she died. Later, I learned a recipe closer to an authentic, simple French omelet (rolled, not folded) and would make those for her with just a few herbs chopped fine.
When did she teach this recipe to you?
She started making omelets for us when we were kids.
What is the recipe for this dish?
Beat 2 to 3 eggs in a bowl (depending on how big your pan is). Pour the mixture into a hot, buttered pan. Push up the edges as it cooks to let the runny egg under the cooked parts of the egg. Once the top of the omelet is mostly set, scatter with diced veggies and/or meat. (She loved mushrooms, peppers, cheddar cheese, and actually just about every other food out there.) Fold and serve immediately.
How often do you make this dish?
I don't actually! I usually make fried eggs because it's so fast. But maybe I'll start doing this on leftovers night instead of making pizza.
Advertisement
DashDividers_1_500x100_3

Chicken Wings

Age: 26
Occupation: Writer
City: New York
What useful cooking tip or hack did you learn from your grandmother?
Wing tips are delicious and shouldn't be overlooked!
What is your favorite dish you learned to make from your grandmother?
My grandma's chicken wings
When did she teach this recipe to you?
When I was 12, and she used to pick me up from swim camp. I was always so hungry after swimming all day so she always cooked for me and would teach me as she went.
What is the recipe for this dish?
Lay out washed chicken wings on a baking sheet (put down tinfoil first because the clean up is rough otherwise). Sprinkle olive oil on all wings, on both sides. Sprinkle both sides of the wings (tips on, don't split them) in Lawry's seasoned salt, garlic powder, and pepper (add a little extra paprika if you're feeling dangerous). Bake at 425 for 30 minutes or until crispy as hell. I always roast broccoli at the same time (on a sheet pan with olive oil, salt, pepper, and sliced garlic). Put the broccoli in for the last 15 minutes.
How often do you make this dish?
At least once a week
For what occasion do you most often prepare this dish?
Just everyday food!
Advertisement

More from Food & Drinks

R29 Original Series