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California Culinary Centers Standardized Recipes

A collection of standardized recipes to support schools across California in creating menus to meet the National School Lunch Program meal pattern.

This collection of school district culinary center recipes reflects a variety of strategies for scratch cooking, including using locally grown California produce and multicultural flavors that students love.

Use the list of recipes below to build your menu and increase variety and options.

List of Recipes

School Lunch Recipes

Each recipe provides a kid taste test rating, nutrient analysis information, meal pattern contribution, and an ingredient list portioned for school food service yields.

This collection includes the top kid-rated recipes on a scale of one to five forks. Five forks kids rating: Love it, great flavor. Four forks kids rating: Like it, taste good. Three forks kids rating: It’s ok—needs something. Recipes with ratings below three forks are considered unacceptable or undesirable by students, and are not included in this collection.

Recipe Kid Rating
(out of 5 forks)
Culinary Center
Autumn Spice Muffin Four-fork kid rating. Lodi Unified School District (USD)
Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili Five-fork kid rating. Woodlake USD
Chana Chawal Five-fork kid rating. Alameda USD
Chilaquiles with Eggs Four-fork kid rating. Conejo Valley USD
Crispy Baked Chicken Five-fork kid rating. Centralia Elementary School District
Fish Sandwich with Jalapeno Tartar Sauce Five-fork kid rating. Manteca USD
Fresh California Style Tabbouleh Salad Five-fork kid rating. Woodlake USD
Ham Fried Rice Five-fork kid rating. Monterey Peninsula USD
Jalapeno Polenta Five-fork kid rating. Manteca USD
Rainbow Chopped Salad Four-fork kid rating. Irvine USD
Rockin' Moroccan Stew Five-fork kid rating. Monterey Peninsula USD
Rotisserie Chicken Five-fork kid rating. Riverside USD
Turkey Bacon and Egg Burrito Five-fork kid rating. Natomas USD
Vegetable Chili Five-fork kid rating. Manteca USD
Vegetarian Fried Rice with Edamame Four-fork kid rating. Conejo Valley USD
Veggie Enchiladas Five-fork kid rating. Monterey Peninsula USD
Wheat Berry and Black Bean Salad Four-fork kid rating. Lodi USD


California Culinary Centers

The California Department of Education (CDE) Nutrition Services Division sponsored the California Culinary Centers and the Fresh, Regional, Education-Supportive, Healthy Meals at Schools (FRESHMeals@Schools) program from 2013 to 2015. The FRESHMeals@Schools program provided leadership and promoted professional culinary development among school nutrition staff in California. The CDE selected 16 leaders in school nutrition as FRESHMeals@Schools Ambassadors for going above and beyond in recipe development, menu planning, student engagement, and marketing. The ambassadors conducted annual peer-to-peer trainings for other school districts to share their successes, problem-solving strategies, and best practices. The program also formed 16 culinary centers throughout the state where teams of chefs, dietitians, directors, cooks, and students developed 140 flavorful, nutritious, and economical standardized recipes to meet the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 meal pattern regulations. Learn more on the CA Culinary Centers Standardized Recipes web page Resources tab.

Student Engagement

The CA Culinary Centers conducted taste tasting with student culinary clubs and leadership groups to ensure each recipe has a flavor profile that students enjoy. This model of student-driven recipe and menu development is a best practice for student engagement and supports a healthy school environment while increasing students’ connection with caring adults. School districts large and small have demonstrated that when students have input in their food choices, participation increases. Learn more on the CA Culinary Centers Standardized Recipes web page Resources tab.

California Flavor

California’s ever-growing multicultural population influences the variety of the CA Culinary Centers’ recipe collection. In addition to having flavors from all corners of the world, from French to Mediterranean to Southeast Asian, the recipes include a large variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables, items from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foods program, and plant-based meal options. Learn more on the CA Culinary Centers Standardized Recipes web page Resources tab.

Contributing Culinary Centers

The CA Culinary Centers include the following school districts:

  • Alameda Unified School District (USD)
  • Centralia Elementary School District
  • Chico USD
  • Clovis USD
  • Conejo Valley USD
  • Davis Joint USD
  • Encinitas Union School District
  • Hayward USD
  • Irvine USD
  • Lodi USD
  • Manteca USD
  • Monterey Peninsula USD
  • Natomas USD
  • Riverside USD
  • Woodlake USD
  • Vista USD


Menu Planning Resources

The following resources can assist you in creating standardized recipes, engaging students, and preparing menus for your child nutrition programs (CNP).

Creating Recipes

You can find food yields and nutrient analysis information to build your own standardized recipes on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs Interactive Web-Based Tool web page External link opens in new window or tab.. The USDA Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs with interactive tools is also available as a mobile application. Download it today on your iOS and Android device from the Team Nutrition Food Buying Guide Mobile App web page External link opens in new window or tab..

Make menu planning easy to organize and track using the California Department of Education (CDE) Standardized Recipe Form (PDF) and forms available on the Menu Production Record Forms web page.

Looking for more recipes? Try searching the USDA collection of recipes on the What’s Cooking USDA Mixing Bowl web page External link opens in new window or tab..

Engaging Students

You can learn more about engaging students, promoting your nutrition program, and creating healthy school environments on the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement of California web page External link opens in new window or tab..

Are more students and parents asking about vegetarian meal options? Educate your staff and school community by sharing the CDE Vegetarian Meal Options in Child Nutrition Programs web page.

Preparing Menus

Become familiar with the School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program meal patterns available on the School Menu Planning Options web page.

Access free, online CNP trainings provided on the CDE CNP Course Catalog.

To find free, online trainings and resources for School Nutrition Program directors, managers, and staff, designed to prepare participants to meet the challenges of day-to-day operations, visit the Institute for Child Nutrition’s E-Learning Portal web page. External link opens in new window or tab.

You can also access training opportunities from a variety of sources; searchable by the following key areas: (1) nutrition, (2) operations, (3) administration, and (4) communications and marketing on the USDA Professional Standards for School Nutrition Program Professionals web page External link opens in new window or tab..

Contact Us

These recipes are just a sample of the delicious school meals created in California. To find more of the latest California Department of Education (CDE) nutrition news and information, visit the CDE Nutrition web page. To share photos of your recipe results, taste testing events, or favorite standardized recipes, follow us on Twitter @CDENutrition External link opens in new window or tab..

Follow @CDENutrition on Twitter.

For questions regarding the content of this web page, please contact the Nutrition Services Division by phone at 800-952-5609 or by email at


Questions:   Nutrition Services | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Thursday, December 20, 2018
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