Life Eat & Drink Believe it or not, this is the most Instagrammed recipe of all time
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Believe it or not, this is the most Instagrammed recipe of all time

spiced-chickpea-stew-alison-roman
What's so special about this stew? Even the most horrendous cook could whip it up in minutes without fear of failure. Photo: New York Times
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It’s a spiced chickpea stew with coconut and turmeric.

And somehow, this brightly hued dish managed to become the most Instagrammed recipe on the internet.

In fact, it became so popular that the hashtag #TheStew began trending as people around the world recreated the dish and posted photos of their triumphant culinary success on social media.

The recipe featured on the New York Times website late last year and since its debut has scored a five-star rating from 4229 voters.

So how does a humble legume braise reach such dizzying heights?

A big part of the appeal is that it’s easy to execute, even for the most horrendous cook.

It only requires a few easily sourced ingredients, and the preparation and braising process is pretty much fool-proof.

As The Stew recipe creator Alison Roman told Nylon:, “I think the fact that everyone who makes it has success with it is a huge help. People want to see their food look like the picture it’s supposed to, and this nearly always does.

“I’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures of The Stew at this point, and they nearly all look the same, it’s great.”

Melbourne food blogger Holly Inglis has amassed more than 15,000 followers on her Instagram account, The Healthy Hunter, and has developed a keen understanding of what makes a sure-fire social media hit.

She believes a big part of The Stew’s success is that it’s a healthy, visual feast.

“The colour is so attractive and vibrant and that’s always appealing,” she says.

“It also has a great selection of textures that are immediately visible: creaminess and crispiness are constantly attractive. It also helps that it’s good for you … guilt-free food porn is anyways a hit.”

The social-media viral recipe is a new phenomenon, largely thanks to Instagram.

Recipes have become hot property on that platform as millennials and young adults are increasingly cooking at home, after eating out just got too pricey.

Simple recipes like Roman’s chickpea stew (which also has mass appeal as it doesn’t exclude vegetarians) resonates with a new, young tribe of home cooks who may be learning to prepare a meal for the first time.

As Vox put it, “these viral recipes … are representative of a broader shift toward the Instagram generation spending more time cooking at home”.

Another key ingredient in The Stew’s success is the recipe’s creator, Alison Roman.

The social-media-savvy 33-year-old has a huge following on Instagram – 188,000 followers and counting – and has grown a loyal community of young cooks by reposting their pictures.

It’s not the first time one of Roman’s recipes has blown up the internet.

In 2017 her recipe for salted chocolate chunk shortbread cookies had a similar meteoric rise and became known simply as #TheCookie when it went viral.

Roman herself was integral in whipping up that particular frenzy.

It was her clever use of social media (acknowledging her follower’s efforts and championing their pictures of The Cookie) that pushed the story forward and caused #TheCookie hashtag to trend.

Editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit Adam Rapoport told Vox he is thrilled with the movement towards more accessible cooking, and that recipes such as The Cookie and The Stew are encouraging a new generation of cooks to get into the kitchen.

“I love the fact that recipes that people actually cook are going viral, as opposed to rainbow unicorn confetti cake,” he said.

“This isn’t just eye candy – this is actual food, and people are making these dishes, and I think that’s amazing.”

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