Are you cooking for your family or friends? Taking photos of your plate to share? Want to make your food look BEAUTIFUL? We’ve got you. Master a few handy techniques and you’ll be creating plates of food that look like they’re straight out of a restaurant in no time!

  • No safety considerations
  • Beginner
  • 15 to 30 minutes
  • (This does not include time to cook the food prior to plating it.)

Prepare Ingredients

We’re going to show you the three different plating techniques using one of our favorite dinners: Sweet and Tangy Glazed Salmon (yum!) with Avocado Crema (aka the best sauce ever!) and Roasted Fingerling Potatoes (crispy on the outside, creamy in the center!). But you don’t have to use these recipes—you can use almost any recipe out there! Just pick a main dish, a sauce, and a side dish. It’s the ideas, not the actual food, that are the most important. Use this as an excuse to make your family’s Sunday night dinner special—or as an activity for your next sleepover with friends (yes, you can plate beautiful pancakes!).

1 recipe
main dish
1 recipe
1 recipe
side dish
Garnishes, such as herbs, toasted nuts, edible flowers, flake sea salt, crumbled tortilla or pita chips, sesame seeds, etc.

Gather Equipment

Dinner plates
Squeeze bottle
Liquid measuring cup
Dish towel or paper towels

There are 3 things you need to think about to make your (delicious) works of art: SAUCE, SPACE, and GARNISH.


SAUCE IT! We are going to start with sauce. Sauce not only makes your food taste better, plating it just right can make the food look better, too. You can showcase your SAUCE-ery (get it?) skills with these simple techniques.

Sauce It 3-Up

Drop and Drag: Place a spoonful on a plate. Use the back of a spoon to drag some of the sauce to the other side of the plate in a comma shape.

Give It a Squeeze: Put the sauce in a plastic squeeze bottle. Carefully drizzle the sauce over the plate to create attractive designs, such as spirals, dots, zigzags, or waves.

Pool Party: Use a liquid measuring cup to pour the sauce into a deep plate or shallow bowl so that it pools in the center.


SPACE IT! Where you put the biggest piece of food on the plate matters! This is usually a protein of some kind (salmon, in this case, or chicken breast, or tofu, and so on). Surprisingly, just sticking it in the center of the plate isn’t always the prettiest. Our eyes like to be surprised. Here are a few things to think about:


Be Negative: Imagine your salmon in different places on the plate. Where do you think it will really stand out? Right in the middle? Over to the right? The empty space on your plate is called “white space” or “negative space”—sometimes it’s helpful to look at the shape of the empty space rather than the salmon itself (really—give it a try!).

On Top of the Sauce: Place your salmon on top of the sauce drizzle/zigzags/dots/waves—at what angle does it look its best? Straight up and down? Tilted to 1 side?

Play with Symmetry: Sometimes weird angles are the most fun . . . but sometimes symmetry (when things are equally spaced around the plate) is the most satisfying. It depends a lot on what YOU like! For our Pool Party, the salmon does look great smack in the middle of the plate, right?


SPACING 2.0! So you put down your main dish, but what about the smaller side dish? Where you put the smaller items of food can also change the look of your finished plate. Let’s play around with the side dish: Roasted Fingerling Potatoes.


Be an Oddball: Put 4 potatoes on your plate. Now add 1 more. Which looks better? Some studies have shown that humans prefer the look of odd numbers of food on their plates instead of even. Try using odd numbers of similar items on your plates.

Position Them: How do they look in a line? In a pile on top of each other? Scattered around the plate? Do you want your plate to look neat and orderly or a little random? Sometimes chaos looks great on a plate!

Go Minimalist: Maybe you want the colorful salmon and sauce to be front and center, with no other distractions. You can always put out small dishes or plates for sides such as the potatoes.


GARNISH IT! You’re almost done. Adding 1 last flourish can bring the whole plate together and really make it pop. Here are 3 simple ideas to bring it home:


Add Color: Whole or chopped herbs (or even edible flowers, if you’re feeling fancy) add a beautiful pop of color and bright, fresh flavor. When in doubt, herb it out.

Add Height: The eye likes to see in 3-D! Flat food is kind of boring. You can add height to a dish with the placement of your protein and side dish or with a mound of a garnish such as mango salsa, sliced avocado, or tomato. The possibilities of food architecture are endless!

Add Texture: Texture is great—both visually and flavorwise. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box (or bag) here: Popcorn, crumbled tortilla or pita chips, chopped nuts, and sesame seeds can add crispy, crunchy goodness to a dish. Just a sprinkle of flaky, crunchy sea salt on top of the salmon (or on just about anything!) will do wonders.