Imagine an Italian restaurant, nestled in the heart of a multicultural city. The locale is a melting pot of different nationalities, all loving Italian food but not speaking the language. The restaurant could potentially tap into a much wider audience if they could only communicate with them. And the solution lies in culinary translation.

Expert translations play a major role in bridging cultural divides that exist in the food industry. They involve more than a direct translation of food-related text and require an accurate understanding of local nuances that define a region’s cuisine.

In this article, we’ll explore the challenges of culinary translation and its contribution to the global culinary scene. We’ll also provide practical tips for those managing digital culinary content, such as food blogs with international audiences, focusing on how to translate recipes using tools like WP Recipe Maker and WPML.

Scenarios where culinary translation is important

International restaurant expansion

As restaurants expand overseas, multilingual menus help to attract and retain local diners by ensuring they can understand and appreciate the dishes offered. For example, translating a French menu into Japanese while carefully considering dietary preferences and cultural nuances can improve the customer experience and inspire a deeper connection with a brand.

Food blogging and online content

My Korean Kitchen sample recipe in English

Food bloggers and cookbook authors need to make sure their content resonates with their intended audience. Attracting different language speakers involves accurately translating ingredient names, cooking methods, and cultural references. For instance, a recipe for the iconic Spanish dish paella should provide clear translations for the specific types of rice, seafood, and techniques used, as these may be unknown to non-Spanish audiences. Whatever the location of your readers, recipe writing is an art that goes far beyond listing ingredients.

Culinary education and cookbooks

Educational institutions and publishers offering culinary courses or cookbooks rely on precise translations to maintain their authenticity when selling overseas. This includes accurately translating technical terms, measurements, and cooking methods to demonstrate their knowledge and build trust among readers. For example, translating a French culinary textbook into English requires knowledge of both cultures to ensure accuracy. The end result should ensure that the original terminologies used make sense in the context of a different language.

Marketing and advertising in the food industry

Effective marketing is a must for chefs wanting to grow their personal brand or for those introducing products to new markets. Culinary translation ensures that advertising is culturally appropriate, avoiding potential misinterpretations or offense. For example, translating a slogan like KFC’s Finger-Lickin’ Good into a culturally appealing phrase in other languages can make the difference between success and failure. The brand’s first entry into the Chinese market resulted in the phrase We’ll Eat Your Fingers Off, which shows how easy it is to get things wrong!

Culinary tourism

Travel agencies and companies specializing in culinary tourism need accurate translations to reflect the traditions of local cuisine for foreign travelers. This includes translating dish names, ingredients, and cultural stories behind food, providing a deep appreciation of culinary heritage. For instance, a culinary tour in Italy should provide clear explanations of traditional dishes like risotto and osso buco

Conference and event catering

Catering for international conferences and events requires accurately translated menus to ensure attendees can understand the options available. There’s a lot at steak when it comes to accommodating allergies or dietary preferences. Accurate translations not only keep diners satisfied and well-informed but also protect against potential legal repercussions arising from serving ingredients that are harmful to some individuals.

Core challenges of culinary translation

Translating food-related content is difficult because it involves an in-depth understanding of both the original and target languages. Here are some of the main challenges:

Cultural nuances

It’s vital to understand cultural contexts and concepts that may not have direct equivalents in a target language. For example, translating the Japanese dish natto (fermented soybeans) into English needs an explanation of its unique texture and flavor. Similarly, the French term terroir includes unique environmental factors that affect the taste of wine. Many culinary concepts simply don’t have a direct equivalent in other languages.


Well-written recipes need to be 100% accurate, as mistranslations can lead to confusion, preparation mistakes, or even health scares. For instance, listing baking soda as baking powder can ruin a recipe, and incorrect translation of allergy information can have fatal consequences. Translators must exercise extreme caution and attention to detail when dealing with culinary content.

Pizza recipe showing allergy information

Culinary knowledge

A deep understanding of culinary traditions, ingredients, and cooking methods is important for translators to convey the essence of a dish or recipe. For example, knowing that pancetta in Italian cuisine is not the same as bacon is essential for accurate translation. Likewise, most cultures have their own version of bread and use it differently within a meal, so recipes that include it require extra clarification. 

Technical jargon

Translating culinary jargon poses a significant challenge, including cooking terms, ingredients, and techniques. Professionals need to be well-versed in technical terminology, providing explanations or context where necessary. For instance, a French term like sous-vide – which describes a precise method of vacuum-sealing and cooking food at controlled temperatures – will require an extensive explanation in languages that don’t have an equivalent technique.

Translating food blogs and recipes for a global audience

For any brand to grow, attracting new audiences is a must, and translating content can help you reach your food blog’s full potential.

Effective translations make your content accessible to a much higher number of people. Your pages can be indexed by search engines overseas, potentially increasing organic traffic. And you’ll also be creating an egg-cellent User Experience (UX), as research found that 9 out of 10 customers ignore products that are unavailable in their native language. 

When it comes to creating a multilingual food blog that can attract and retain a global audience, the choice of platform is crucial. Among the various Content Management Systems (CMS) available, WordPress stands out as a top contender for several reasons:

  • Popularity and market share: WordPress powers over 40% of websites worldwide, making it the most widely used CMS. This popularity means a vast community of developers, designers, and users who contribute to its growth and provide support.
  • User-friendly interface: WordPress offers an intuitive, easy-to-use interface that allows bloggers to focus on creating content rather than dealing with technical complexities. This user-friendliness extends to managing translations, with various plugins available to streamline the process.
  • Customization options: With its vast array of themes and customization possibilities, WordPress allows food bloggers to create visually appealing, branded websites that cater to their target audience’s preferences.

As a base for building customer relationships, multilingual WordPress websites are hard to beat. Customers are more likely to return to a brand that understands their needs and solves their pain points, and WordPress provides the tools and flexibility to create such an experience.

So where to begin? Well, when it comes to translating your food blog’s recipes and culinary content, you have two primary options: manual services or automatic tools

Manual translation services vs automatic translation tools for your blog

Manual translation services involve hiring professional human translators. Expert linguists have a deep understanding of cultural nuances, culinary terminology, and the art of conveying the essence of a dish. They’ll ensure that measurements are accurately converted, ingredients are appropriately substituted, and the original intent of a recipe is preserved.

Professional translators review their work with a keen eye, ensuring that the translations are error-free, culturally appropriate, and engaging. Experts should have the ability to adapt their content marketing to suit the tastes and preferences of a target audience, reflecting local culinary traditions, preferred phrases, and consumer trends.

Food content marketing example

However, manual translation services come at a cost in terms of time and money. For food bloggers who frequently publish new recipes, the expense of translating each post can quickly accumulate, making it a less feasible option for those with a high volume of content.

In contrast, automatic translation tools offer a more cost-effective and efficient solution. These tools use advanced algorithms and machine learning to translate content. While they may not capture cultural intricacies as effectively as human translators, they can be a viable option for bloggers on a tight budget.

Using a translation plugin can transform your food blog into a global culinary destination. It makes your recipes accessible to a wider audience and can assist with ensuring cultural nuances and culinary terms are accurately conveyed. With flexible translation options on offer, food bloggers can maintain high-quality, multilingual content using the method that best suits them and their budget.”

Lauren Chowles
Partnerships Marketer at WPML

By integrating with your Content Management System (CMS), advanced plugins can quickly translate entire websites, including new posts and content updates, with no need for manual intervention. As a result, multilingual sites can be created with minimal time and effort.   

Many translation plugins also come with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) options. The likes of meta translations, hreflang tagging, and subdomains can help to improve search engine visibility while ensuring users see content in their preferred language.

Ultimately, a combination of manual and automated methods is the best solution for accurate translations. Machine learning tools can miss the cultural subtleties found in language, so plugins that allow for manual input offer users the best option. By combining the speed and cost-effectiveness of automated translation tools with the expertise of professional translators, food bloggers can strike a balance between efficiency and accuracy. 

How to translate recipes on WordPress

WP Recipe Maker is fully compatible with WPML which means that you can create recipes on your website and seamlessly translate them. 

WP Recipe Maker, a popular WordPress plugin, is designed to create and display recipes in a user-friendly format, complete with features like ingredient grouping, step-by-step instructions, and nutritional information. It also allows for customization, and so fits in with your existing blog design, ensuring a professional appearance. Furthermore, support for schema markup helps to optimize your pages for SEO.

WP Recipe Maker website homepage

By using this with WPML, a dedicated translation plugin, you can transform your entire WordPress site. With its support for various custom post types, including recipes, and its multilingual SEO capabilities, WPML ensures that your culinary content is accessible to a global audience.

WPML website homepage

WPML offers much flexibility for food bloggers looking to venture into overseas markets. The Advanced Translation Editor provides automatic AI translations and comes with a glossary and translation memory. 

This saves your translation preferences, enabling you to use them across your site to ensure consistency. It also cuts down on the need to translate the same terms multiple times, saving time and money. Professional translators can use the editor to refine words and phrases on-page, resulting in the quickest, most accurate translations possible. With WPML you can assign your own translator or even connect directly with third-party translation services

With this pear of plugins at your disposal, translating your recipes into multiple languages is made easy. With WP Recipe Maker, recipes are usually part of a regular post. Should you wish to create different recipe layouts for different languages, WPML allows you to create a separate recipe for each.

To unlock the full potential of this plugin partnership, check out our step-by-step guide to translating your WP Recipe Maker recipes with WPML. 

Translate your food blog and reach a global audience

For ambitious food bloggers, translating recipes and culinary content is essential to reach international customers. Accurate communication through content ensures that cultural nuances, ingredients, and cooking techniques make sense in different languages, potentially growing your audience

WP Recipe Maker and WPML are a solid combination for creating multilingual food blogs! Integrating these two tools can unlock a host of possibilities. With just a few clicks you can auto-translate your mouth-watering recipes and captivate taste buds worldwide. You can also craft bespoke recipe templates tailored to each language, ensuring that every instruction speaks to your intended audience.

To bring your scrumptious recipes to food enthusiasts across the globe, discover more about WP Recipe Maker and WPML today!

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