As more and more people are flooding YouTube channels with their own recipes for what is awesome — usually with the hope of gaining enough followers to be considered an influencer and make enough money at it to quit their day job — it’s important to know what makes the best channels successful. Cooking channels are no exception and it’s definitely not magic or luck.
If you’re looking to join the ranks, you’ll need to create content that is compelling enough to get the followers, views, shares, more views and mentions in various “top” lists to keep the momentum going. You’ll also want to develop additional revenue streams and build your brand. While cooking channels are endless these days, excellent cooking channels have a few things in common that can be emulated. Whether your goals are in celebrity status or top-notch production, you could learn a lot from some of the most successful examples.
4.8 million subscribers
747 million views
Basically the most fun a movie geek can have with a cooking channel, Binging With Babish recreates epic or iconic foods from movies, shows and restaurants. No fandom is off limits here. Learn how to make breakfast like they do in “Howl’s Moving Castle,” kill it with huevos rancheros as seen on “Breaking Bad,” or try your own Inferno Wings challenge. Some episodes are designed as cook-a-longs while others explore all the flavors of “The Avengers: Infinity War.” Obviously, Babish (not his real name) has found a great niche with endless ideas and some easy cross-over marketability to pull in new viewers who will probably learn something, too.
1.4 million subscribers
121 million views
When one of the guys from Brothers Green Eats decided to change paths, the remaining brother decided to keep it going with a shift towards his own journey with food. The main focus is learning to be fully connected to your cooking. He encourages the audience to cook as a joy, an art, a way of providing sustenance to those you love. He strives to reach back to the roots of cooking before we relied so heavily on pre-packaged foods. Also, as he morphed from the Brothers channel to his own, he built a film kitchen studio from an empty room and included videos of the process. If you’re thinking about starting a cooking channel of your own, this could be the perfect place to learn what goes into a kitchen studio.
2.2 million subscribers
481 million views
Based out of London, and often filmed there, the group of friends who create SORTEDfoods take on food as an adventure with all of the laughs and fails included. They post new videos consistently, twice a week, exploring recipes about anything from french toast to mojitos. They pit chefs against each other for challenges and marathons of either eating or cooking. Creative interactive twist: you can join their club online and unlock access to recipes, podcasts and secrets.
4 million subscribers
475 million views
If you’ve ever seen an intricate (or weird) cake and wondered How To Cake It, look no further. If you’re incredibly talented at a very specific aspect of cooking and want to create a channel about it, this is also the place for you. Yolanda makes cakes that look so much like fuzzy slippers we can’t tell it apart from the real thing. She also creates cakes that are full of surprises when you cut into them and cakes that are over-the-top ridiculous. She posts consistently once a week and her variety of kitschy cake-related tees are available for viewers to purchase.
62 million views
This channel takes you on one person’s journey to better wellness while learning to create meals with a plant based whole foods approach. It’s more than a cooking channel, it’s a life redesign. Hannah delves into positivity, exercise and relationships as well as day-to-day meal plans and actual recipes (if you just want to check out the food topics, she has another channel dedicated to her vegan recipes). It could be a lot of pressure to create a public display of your own weight loss (she’s lost 70 pounds and changed her life) but it can also be a strong motivator to not quit while bringing in some side-gig cash.
1.8 million subscribers
170 million views
“No bullshit. Just cooking (except for all the bullshit).” is the motto of this channel. You Suck At Cooking is made for anyone who sucks at cooking but still wants to make good food. They cover a wide range of styles and difficulties from whipping up some beautiful chicken tiki marsala to making a decent pitcher of fresh lemonade (we’re pretty sure it’s lemon juice and sugar but you’ll have to go watch it for yourself), from gingerbread cookies to fruit salad. New posts appear once or twice a month and are shot with iPhones, proving that you can indeed be successful without a ton of expensive gear.
25 million views
Foodies, enthusiasts, professionals, critics and kitchen scientists converge at Serious Eats. It’s basically where education intersects with deliciousness. Guest hosts and experts are scattered throughout the episodes for how-to recipes and why-does-that-happen explanations. You can learn techniques for preparation, the chemistry of mixing ingredients and which tools are best for different tasks. There are even episodes specifically about how to follow the dining customs of various cultures. If you are creating a cooking or traveling food channel of your own, Serious Eats might help you sharpen your skills.
6.6 million subscribers
Over 1 billion views
What’s the fastest way to get famous? Hang out with famous people. Relatively new to the YouTube scene (started in 2014) and boasting over a billion views, First We Feast is where food meets pop culture. With themes like “The Burger Show” and “Truth or Dab” you can watch celebs eat huge foods, answer absurd questions, and consume nearly inhumane varieties of spicy things. With a no-holds-barred guest list that entertains the likes of Halle Berry, Seth Rogan, Rich Brian, Kevin Hart, and Scarlett Johansson, they also manage to weave in some kitchen skills building and food culture history.
3 million subscribers
609 million views
Chef John has been doing this longer than just about anyone and it shows on Food Wishes. His dad-joke commentary is endearing and he seems to be a big supporter of his fans. It’s a combination that causes pretty much anyone to watch the episodes, posted twice weekly, with a slight smile. The channel is created in connection with AllRecipes.com and you’ll see the difference in the production quality compared to many other channels. If you’re looking at Food Wishes to guide the direction of your own channel, your biggest takeaway might be simply to be the best at what you do, enjoy it a lot, and get picked up by a big network producer. Meanwhile, you can follow along with Chef John and learn how to make even the simplest foods look elegant.
22 million views
While vegan options are becoming more readily available in stores and restaurants, it is still a huge challenge. If you weren’t raised vegan, it can be even harder to find vegan versions of your faves and craves. Gaz Oakley, the host of Avant Garde Vegan, covers the gaps thoroughly and has a cookbook available. This channel has episodes on vegan evvvvvverything: meatballs, salads, pizzas, casseroles and desserts. Gaz also uses his culinary background to bring international dishes to your vegan table along with tips for affordability, high protein and overall balanced wellness. It’s an underserved niche market with a lot of opportunities and a hungry audience.
3.4 million subscribers
531 million views
Laura Vitale is a great example of how practice and more practice really matters. She is a true home-cook, not a culinary academy graduate or professional chef. She’s posted over a thousand cooking recipes on her Laura In The Kitchen channel since it’s inception in 2010. Laura gives down-to-earth instructions on kitchen basics without the distractions and silliness of some other channels. She offers a focus on deliciousness over presentation. Most of her recipes are based on viewer requests, which is a great way to keep your audience engaged.
Mix well, repeat until solid.
As with other genres of YouTube channels, there are several ways to create income and turn your video sharing hobby into a real business. The most critical part of that is to immediately start treating it like a business, not a hobby. Here are a few important ingredients to work into your plans:
- Find your passion or niche in the market and run with it fearlessly. Bring something different, bolder, funnier, tastier, smarter or healthier than your competition.
- Bring in professional help if needed for production, editing or advice. The results are worth the cost.
- Be consistent so that your audience can count on your productivity and they will come back. YouTube pays based on views, not subscribers. Learn how to get people to come back and to frequently share your links. Driving traffic is vital to your success.
- Crossover episodes and guests who are bigger than you can be excellent for business on both sides. Don’t hesitate to reach out to other professionals with your ideas.
- Selling cookbooks, tees or other merch is a viable way to bring in revenue. It’s cool to be creative with things like paid memberships as long as you can deliver on your promises.
There are truly countless cooking channels out there but the interesting and lucrative channels have a lot in common. It’s not necessary to wait to “be famous” before you really focus on creating and marketing your brand. Follow their recipes and add your own flavor.