Grocery delivery service Instacart has been using AI to make up impossible recipes and generate images of horrifying and hilarious food

Chef in kitchen with plate of food and mushroom tattoo on arm
(Image credit: Nacon)

One would hope that, when reading a recipe, a human being has at some point crafted it personally, adjusting the ingredients and techniques inside over a process of elimination and careful adjustment to create a delicious result. Or, if you're receiving a recipe from grocery delivery service Instacart, you could hope that the app's AI-generated recipes would lead to something delectable.

Sometimes, sure. And others? Might be best to give it a miss.

Instacart announced in May of last year they they would be partnering with OpenAI to launch an AI-powered "Food Inspiration Search Tool" and AI-generated recipes, which given AI's tendency to go slightly off the rails on occasion strikes as a dubious idea right from the off. However, it was users of the Instacart subreddit that were first to notice that something odd was happening with the accompanying images. 

Those scanning the photos (via Business Insider) without paying too much attention may have let them pass, but more than a cursory glance reveals some ingredients that look entirely made up. From conjoined chickens to hotdogs with the interior of a tomato, it's a telling indicator of what looks like the sometimes horrifying output created by an AI image generation tool. And while some are slightly stomach churning, others are downright hilarious.

My favourite thus far is a photo for a "Microwave Mug Chocolate Chip Cookie a la Mode" which shows a perfectly reasonable looking cup of presumably delicious dessert, if not for the chocolate chip cookie welded onto the side of the mug. Good try, AI, but you've failed to pass detection once again.

And as for the recipes themselves, the AI experiment doesn't seem to have gone all that well here either. 404 media found that, when asking the AI to create a recipe with tomatoes, cucumbers, ground beef, onions, lemons, and chocolate—a heady mix we think you'll agree—the AI created a "citrus beef salad" that seemed somewhat plausible until a step requiring the user to "sprinkle the shaved chocolate on top as a surprising twist". Mmmm.

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More than that, recipes have been reported calling for 3 1/5 teaspoon's worth of an ingredient, or one cup of "Monito sauce", which sounds delicious except, well, it doesn't exist. Boo. Someone really should invent it though. I'd order it in a heartbeat. Sounds yum.

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For what it's worth, Instacart does make it clear that the AI-generated recipes should be taken with a pinch of salt, stating in the accompanying text that "This recipe is powered by the magic of AI, so that means it may not be perfect. Check temperatures, taste, and season as you go. Or totally switch things up — you're the head chef now. Consult product packaging to confirm any dietary or nutritional information which is provided here for convenience only. Make sure to follow recommended food safety guidelines."

Well, all this AI chat has made me hungry, but if its alright with y'all, I think I'll leave the recipes to an actual chef. Or me, a man who has made worse things than these AI creations, sometimes after one too many at my local pub. 

That's my excuse anyway, and I'll have you know I'm sticking to it.

Andy Edser
Hardware Writer

Andy built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 12, when IDE cables were a thing and high resolution wasn't. After spending over 15 years in the production industry overseeing a variety of live and recorded projects, he started writing his own PC hardware blog for a year in the hope that people might send him things. Sometimes they did.


Now working as a hardware writer for PC Gamer, Andy can be found quietly muttering to himself and drawing diagrams with his hands in thin air. It's best to leave him to it.