What happens when you make a new recipe and it turns out badly or your family simply hates it? Try these recipe ideas and simple tips for turning around a dinner your family refuses to eat.

By Amy Barnes
February 09, 2020
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Credit: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

A new recipe on social media or one gifted from a friend may seem like the perfect weeknight option. After all, deciding on dinner every night is a tiresome, even dreaded, task. But this recipe is simple, perhaps even just two ingredients, and it certainly seems like something your family would like. What could go wrong?

What could go wrong, indeed. It turns out, your family doesn't like what you made. So what happens now that a well-reviewed recipe goes horribly awry, and your family is sitting at the table giving it a collective thumbs-down? You may be able to revive that dinner by first determining which ingredient or ingredients ruined your recipe in the first place.

Then, you can deploy some quick fixes that include balancing out one of those flavors gone wrong, reusing the ingredients for an all-new dish, or calling upon similar recipes to give new life to the flopped feast.

Keep in mind that citrus, sugar and salt can be simultaneously your best and worst friends in the kitchen. They can mask a lot of ills; they can also make a lot of mistakes. Don't have on-hand something you think you need to fix your dinner faux pas? Check out the Allrecipes substitution list for ways to prepare recipes with the right options.

Turning A Recipe Disaster into a Delight

As a first step in repairing recipes, consider if the issue is a fixable flavor one. You can add in the opposite ingredient on the flavor scale to resuscitate your meal.

  • If a dish is too salty: Balance it by adding something sweet, like sugar or fruit. Cream or dairy may also even out the salinity.
  • If a dish turns out too sweet: Add in a salty element like vinegar or a condiment.
  • If a dish turns out too spicy: Add sugar, cream, or citrus to balance out the heat.
  • And as always: Bacon makes many things better.

If you need to take things a step further, you can quickly turn that dinner disaster into another dish with the help of some pantry ingredients.

When Rice Goes Rogue

I freely admit I am terrible at cooking rice and have given up to rely on microwavable bag rice. When I was a kid, my mom disguised undercooked rice as Porcupines: Rice that turned out too crunchy was combined with ground beef or ground turkey and spices to create fun, often-crunchy rice meatballs.

The Allrecipes community offers up great options for when your rice is the problem child in your meal prep. There's the whole standby meal-in-a-meatball Porcupines, or you can totally flip the food on its head with a sweet Creamy Rice Pudding.

Stand-by Recipes Fix Ailing Dishes

Chicken and salsa recipes sound simple enough. Cover chicken breasts with salsa, and bake. Yet even two ingredients can fail as a family dinner option. The chicken might cook too slowly while the salsa burns due to its natural sugar content. The salsa might be too chunky or too hot or have all its spiciness and flavor cook away.

To fix a dump-it-minimal-ingredient meal, there are several easy fixes. I recently tried a pot roast recipe that was simply meat and seasoning. It turned out too salty and dry and made my entire house smell horrible. But, calling on a classic slow-cooker favorite, a can of Dr. Pepper helped marinate the meat and added sweetness to reduce the smoky-salty taste.

But if you don't have the time to let your meat cook a bit longer, you can take that heaping helping of mess and convert it into another dish that's similar, but different enough to quite the angry crowds. For example, you can make dinner dance again by converting Salsa Chicken to a Cheesy Chicken and Salsa Skillet or Salsa Chicken Soup. You can also balance out the flavor of a too-strong salsa by adding raspberry in this Raspberry Chicken Salsa Torte

Sad Bread Can Be a Star

From quick loaves to sourdough, homemade bread is a warm compliment to meals. It can also be the highlight of a meal, as a spectacular sandwich. But breads are far from foolproof, and they certainly don't last forever. If your bread turns out bad or it goes stale before you can use it for your meal, try one of these Allrecipes options to salvage the slices. From Best Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce to Panzanella Salad, these options bring the bread flavor without the failure.

Or choose the easy route my daughter loves: Jazz up a dry or bland bread by brushing slices with butter and sprinkling with Italian seasoning before baking.

Let a Sandwich Be a Savior

Meatloaf the singer may do anything for love, but I have to think the one think he won't do is eat dry, flavorless meatloaf. If your meatloaf recipe turns into a meat mess, put it between bread or dough and turn it into a yummy Turkey Reuben Burger, Simple Stromboli, or Meatloaf Grilled Cheese. Even pot roast that caused pouty faces can find new life as Pot Roast Dips with a richly flavorful sauce. Your mother no doubt hid many a leftover or failed dish between slices of bread. There's no reason you can't either.

Tacos Cover Tremendous Transgressions

Putting a shredded protein pass into a taco shell with toppings can help you turn a thumbs-down dinner into a thumbs-up one in no time. Dry fish can be Fish Tacos. Teriyaki chicken that was just too sweet to take? Top it with tangy toppings like crema and a squeeze of fresh lime juice to cut the glaze. Take it one step further with a lot of cheese, and turn that protein into quesadillas. With a dip of salsa or guac, no one will refuse it.

When in Doubt, Order in — and Grab a Drink

While saving recipe fails is the ultimate goal, it may be too late. Sometimes, you have to know when to wave the white kitchen towel and admit your best intentions were appreciated but missed the mark. Clean up the kitchen, send someone out to pick up pizza, and pour yourself a glass of wine. Tomorrow's another day, cooking champ.

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