Recipe editing and feature versatility are the twin kings in the competitive world of cooking apps. It’s not enough to simply save recipes from the web; any browser can do that. Customizing those recipes, modifying the yield, adding ingredients to your grocery list, and managing your kitchen’s pantry are vitally important features that any cooking app worth its salt should offer. Chefling gives you those tools with its excellent pantry management and recipe suggestions. However, a few hiccups, such as odd error messages and repetitive data entry, make Chefling slightly more cumbersome to use than Paprika, our Editors’ Choice pick for cooking apps.
Setting up Your Kitchen Companion
Available on Android and iOS devices, as well as on your browser, Chefling is free to download and use, but it locks premium features behind a $4.99-per-month subscription. Free users can enjoy Cheflings selection of recipes, pantry functionality, grocery list, and meal planning. Premium features includes the ability to import recipes from the web (including YouTube videos), customizable categories for your digital pantry, the ability to create your own recipes or edit existing ones, and iOS-only Family Sharing for multiple devices. Fortunately, Chefling also offers a 7-day free trial period, so you can try before your buy. Unlike Yummly, Chefling doesn’t require you to whip out a debit or credit card to start the trial period.
Chefling is a subscription-based service with a $4.99 monthly fee. SideChef ($4.99 per month) and Yummly (4.99 per month) also utilize subscription models. BigOven does too, but at a cheaper ($2.99 per month) renewal rate. Paprika, the Editors’ Choice pick for cooking apps, differs by being a one-time purchase ($4.99). Paprika’s desktop version is considerably more expensive ($29.99), but the mobile version edges out rival cooking apps with its price point and recipe customization.
Once you open Chefling, you’re asked a variety of questions about your eating preferences and allergies. Like Yummly, Chefling suggests recipes based on these preferences, which is useful if you’re trying to avoid certain foods, or are targeting a specific diet.
This comes into play in the Explore subtab within the Recipes section. There, a handsomely presented list of recipe panels showcase the most popular meals of the month, as well as suggestions for the many meals of the day. These include slow cooker, instant pot, and air fryer recipes, as well as copycat recipes from famous eateries. It’s a clean, great-looking interface.
Chefling is an image-focused service, which makes sense considering that a meal’s look is as important as its taste. It uses a white background with green accents to highlight important buttons and tabs, as well as cute icons for fish, spices, oils, sauces, meat, and other ingredient. Icons along the screen’s bottom let you explore four areas: Recipes, Meal Plans, Pantry, and Shopping. Unfortunately, you can only import these recipes if you are a subscriber, which is a disappointing limitation.
The recipes include all the core information you’d expect: a big, bold image of the dish; the prep and cook times; nutritional information; and the ingredients and directions. Like Paprika, Chefling lets you swap between ingredients and steps with a button press. The listed ingredients utilize Chefling’s food icons, making them easily identifiable at a glance. If you scroll to a page’s bottom, Chefling loads the page the original recipe hails from, which is a nice touch. That said, that can take time to load depending on the site and your internet connection speed. Most pages loaded in a matter of seconds, but there were a few oddball sites that took half a minute to load, or simply wouldn’t load at all. Still, Chefling presents the critical information you need right in the app, so this isn’t too much of a bother.
Chefling also has the easiest yield-modifying function of any cooking app we’ve tested. You can alter yields this with a click of the plus or minus symbols to make more or less of a meal. Not even Paprika’s recipe-scaling function is quite this easy.
Planning Your Next Meal
Fortunately, Chefling picks up the slack by offering meal planning for free users and subscribers alike. This gives the service a significant leg up over the similarly priced Yummly, though it does come with some caveats. For example, you can peruse and add any Chefling recipes to your meal planner, but free users cannot edit recipes or add those they find through the web. Those functions are restricted to subscribers.
In addition, the entire meal-planning process is somewhat tedious compared to Paprika’s execution. Clicking Chefling’s calendar icon opens a scrolling list that features the days of the current week. Clicking a day lets you add a recipe, and designate a meal to it, be that breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Unfortunately, entering recipes into Chefling’s meal planner is a clunky experience. For example, you’re always asked to select a date for your recipe, even after you’ve already selected a specific calendar date. This should be cleaned up so that you can add recipes directly to a meal plan from the calendar to mitigate the redundancies. After this, Chefling asks if you want to add any ingredients to your shopping list. This is a nice touch, but again it becomes a redundant affair when adding multiple items to a meal plan. Chefling is constantly interrupting you as you work, hindering the overall experience in a way that feels radically less enjoyable than Paprika’s easy (and addictive) point-and-click functionality.
Recipe editing is cumbersome, too. Chefling’s recipes cannot be edited without first saving them to Remix, a separate recipe section designed specifically for edits. This extra step feels like a deliberately obtuse way to gate the editing function from free users. I don’t necessarily mind that editing is a paid feature, but editing is vastly more intuitive and easy with Paprika. With Paprika, you simply click Edit at the top of the page, tap on the text you want to edit, and make the changes you need. There is no need to save recipes to an alternate archive like Chefling does.
Track Your Pantry
Chefling features a comprehensive pantry system to keep track of purchased food. This tool is Chefling’s strongest asset. The pantry system is expansive, and features great stock-managing systems. You can specify an item’s quantity and the category it falls under (you’d put salmon under Seafood, for example), as well as the manner in which it’s stored. The app lets you specify whether said item is stored in the fridge, freezer, or at room temperature, and when it is slated to expire. Much like Paprika’s own pantry, Chefling tracks what you have or lack whenever you pull up a recipe.
As is standard with cooking apps, Chefling lets you add ingredients from a given recipe into a handy shopping list for future reference. Unfortunately, you cannot place online orders with Chefling as you can with Yummly. Chefling’s shopping cart annoyingly lists multiple entries of the same item. Of course, you can manage these entries and remove them as needed, but Paprika does a much better job of consolidating items. Also like Paprika, Chefling lets you directly transfer items purchased from your shopping list into your pantry, which is a tremendous convenience.
Great Features and App Oddities
You can manually enter items into your pantry list to keep track of your foodstuffs. However, Chefling also has a unique barcode-scanning function that lets you scan items to enter them into your pantry. Unfortunately, the app is peculiar about what it recognizes and what it does not.
I was surprised to see it effectively scan and enter my Aroy-D imported coconut milk and Maesri red curry paste, but not my box of General Mills Lucky Charms. It effectively recognized most items I scanned, and suggested that I should manually enter anything it didn’t recognize for future reference. There were also times when the app simply won’t scan properly. For example, I tried a Trader Joe’s brand jar of crunchy chili oil, but no pantry data was imported despite the app seemingly scanning the barcode correctly. Still, the barcode-scanning feature is a massive time saver when it works properly.
Chefling suffers from some odd hiccups that make it feel more cumbersome than Paprika. For example, a recipe took an unusually long time to load. This didn’t happen often, but it proved a minor irritation. And, on occasion, Chefling produced an odd error message that briefly flashed across the screen. It was disconcerting to see errors pop up during casual searching.
Cooking With Chefling
Chefling’s recipe format is similar to Paprika’s in that it features a large button under the meal image to swap between the ingredient list and the directions. This reduces your scrolling as you prepare meals (it’s especially handy when handling chicken, for example). Chefling also prevents your mobile device from entering sleep mode, so you don’t need tap your phone while prepping food to keep the screen lit.
Text is easy to read, with Chefling’s food icons serving as bullets for each ingredient. The recipe yield can be adjusted with the touch of a button, so scaling a meal is extremely easy. Unfortunately, you cannot swap between US and metric measurements in-app, like you can with Paprika. This is a shame, as I prefer the more accurate metric units when preparing baked dishes and desserts.
There is no in-app video content to enjoy with Chefling, like you would with Yummly or BigOven. Instead, Chefling subscribers can search and download recipes straight from YouTube. This is a unique feature among the cooking apps we’ve tested. Unfortunately, it is also somewhat limited: you can save and watch a YouTube video in the Chefling app, but you need to manually input any recipe details, including ingredients, steps, and cook time. Many YouTube recipes include this useful information in the video description, but it seems Chefling does not have the tools to identify or pull this into the app. Still, it is a nice function to have if you want all your favorite recipes in one place.
Chefling, much like Yummly, requires an internet connection to function. This makes sense if you’re browsing online recipes; it makes less sense if you want to comb through recipes you’ve saved in the app.
A Great Cooking Tool
Chefling is a versatile kitchen companion app that lets you use many of its features without a subscription, including an excellent pantry system, easy-to-use scanning function, solid recipe selection, and basic meal-planning functions. That said, if you’re willing to spend money, you’ll find that Editors’ Choice pick Paprika executes a bit better on these ideas with its accessible editing, easy recipe saving, and incredibly useful meal-planning tools.