Homemade dog food: a super guide for everything you need to know + 10 recipes

November 11, 2023
Dianna Bocco
Reviewed By: 
5 minute read
Portrait of a brown dog with a glossy coat licking its nose against a black background.

The dog bowl is evolving. Gone are the days when every tail-wagging companion dined exclusively on store-bought kibble. The trend of homemade dog food is rising, and the reasons are as varied as the breeds we love. 

In this deep dive into DIY canine nutrition, we explore the complexities, benefits, and cautions of this growing practice, ensuring your furry friend’s tail keeps wagging meal after meal.

Why Choose Homemade Dog Food? The Positives

Every dog is different, and many have specific dietary needs due to health conditions, allergies, or sensitivities. By preparing your dog's meals at home, you are able to customize the ingredients that go into the bowl. Does your dog need more lean protein, fewer grains, or more antioxidants in the form of fruits and vegetables? Cooking at home means you can easily make those adjustments to the food. 

Homemade puppy food also allows pet owners to avoid additives at an age when healthy nutrition is essential for growth. Processed pet food often contains additives used to enhance nutrition, safeguard against contamination, and preserve key qualities such as color, taste, texture, stability, and the ability to withstand spoilage.1 While they play an important role, there’s much controversy about the safety of many of these additives. 

For example, potassium sorbate (added to pet foods as a mold inhibitor), is a skin, eye and respiratory irritant and has been shown to cause “DNA-damaging activity.” And the synthetic antioxidant ethoxyquin, commonly used in dog food, has shown “allergic reactions and skin, liver, kidney, thyroid and reproductive problems in dogs.” 2

The message? Switching to homemade meals allows you to bypass these additives and provide your dog with a healthier diet.

The Other Side of the Bowl: Cons of Homemade Dog Food

While homemade dog food offers a range of benefits, it also requires a significant investment of time and energy. Preparing nutritious, well-balanced meals for your canine companion is more complex than simply mixing meat with vegetables. You also need to make sure you’re meeting your dog's dietary needs, are able to prepare meals regularly, and have the space to store them correctly to prevent spoilage.

Dogs need a balanced diet with appropriate proportions of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Even with the best intentions, the average pet owner just doesn’t have the knowledge to do this properly and safely. Poorly balanced diets can cause nutritional deficiencies or imbalances that can affect your dog’s health. For example, the best homemade dog food for seniors will not look the same as homemade puppy food.

When preparing dog food at home, there is always a risk of spoilage and bacterial contamination. Proper handling, cooking, and storage are essential to prevent food-borne illnesses. 

For many pet owners, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “kitchen-counter nutritionism” — thinking that a homemade recipe, found with a simple internet search, can provide all the necessary nutrients for your pet. But without a solid understanding of dog nutrition, this good-intentioned effort could overlook the essential nutrients your dog requires.

Making Homemade Easier

Consulting with an animal nutritionist is the first step in creating a balanced diet for your dog that you can prepare at home. A nutritionist can evaluate your pet's individual needs based on their age, weight, activity level, and any health conditions they may have.

From there, a nutritionist can then come up with a plan that will ensure the meals you make are nutritionally complete and appealing to your dog.  

For pet owners who can’t afford the services of a nutritionist (a consultation can cost up to $500), a good compromise is to use services like Cola’s Kitchen, where you can buy balanced, home-cooked-style meals that eliminate the guesswork and time investment. Cola’s Kitchen offers the perfect blend of homemade goodness and convenience, ensuring that pets receive nutritionally complete meals without their owners having to spend hours in the kitchen.

The Internet Dog Bowl: A Word on Online Recipes

Online recipes can be a good way to add variety to your dog’s diet or can be used as a temporary solution, but they are not meant to be the main source of nutrition long-term. Without the stamp of approval from veterinary nutritionists, these recipes might miss essential nutrients or accidentally include ingredients that aren't dog-friendly. 

We have put together ten starter recipes as a brief introduction to homemade dog food. They're generally balanced and nutritious and offer an easy way to add variety to your dog's diet. But while they provide a solid nutritional foundation, they're not a replacement for a tailor-made meal plan that addresses all of your dog's specific dietary needs. If you'd like to prepare homemade dog food for your dog long-term, we highly recommend to use The Essential Nutrient Mixes of our good friends at Dog Child. Their Nutrient Mixes allows you to cook for your dog from scratch using a variety of recipes. The Essential Nutrient recipes require more ingredients, but give you complete control over your dogs meals.

You can learn more about Dog Child and their mission here.

Homemade Dog Food Recipes: A Starting Point

Chicken & Rice Comfort Dinner

  • Boil 1 cup of brown rice (no salt)
  • Boil two chicken breasts until fully cooked and then shred. Remove skin (too fatty) and bones (choking hazard) 
  • Steam 1 cup of chopped carrots and 1 cup of green beans 
  • Mix all ingredients and let it cool before serving 

Beef & Veggie Mash

  • Cook 1 pound of lean ground beef until brown 
  • Boil 1 peeled and chopped sweet potato until soft 
  • Mash sweet potato and mix with beef 
  • Add ½ cup of peas and carrots mix 
  • Cool and serve

Turkey and Quinoa Delight

  • Cook 1 cup of quinoa as shown in the package 
  • Boil 1 pound of ground turkey until cooked and crumble 
  • Add 1 cup of chopped spinach in the last few minutes of cooking 
  • Combine all ingredients with a spoonful of olive oil 
  • Allow to cool before serving 

Fish & Parsley Pot

  • Grill or steam a fillet of salmon or other safe, non-oily fish until it flakes apart 
  • Cook 1 cup of barley 
  • Steam a handful of chopped parsley 
  • Combine fish, barley, and parsley, flaking the fish into small, boneless pieces.
  • Cool and serve 

Pork & Apple Feast

  • Cook 1 pound of pork loin and chop into bite-size pieces 
  • Steam 1 apple (cored and chopped) and 1 cup of butternut squash until tender 
  • Blend apple and squash into a puree 
  • Mix puree with pork pieces and serve once cooled 

Lamb & Mint Mélange

  • Brown 1 pound of ground lamb 
  • Boil 1 cup of lentils until soft 
  • Chop a small handful of fresh mint leaves 
  • Mix all the ingredients together 
  • Serve once the mix is cool and ensure it’s bone-free 

Egg & Cottage Cheese Scramble

  • Scramble three eggs in a non-stick pan without oil or butter 
  • Mix scrambled eggs with ½ cup of cottage cheese 
  • Add ½ cup of cooked, plain oatmeal 
  • Allow to cool and serve 

Veggie & Liver Blend

  • Lightly cook 1 pound of beef liver and chop finely (cooking liver thoroughly is important to reduce the risk of pathogens).
  • Steam 1 cup of mashed pumpkin and 1 cup of chopped zucchini 
  • Mix all ingredients and serve once cool 

Tuna & Sweet Pea Surprise

  • Mix one can of tuna (in water, no salt added) with 1 cup of cooked pasta 
  • Add ½ cup of steamed sweet peas 
  • Stir in a tablespoon of flaxseed oil for omega-3 fatty acids 
  • Make sure it’s cool before you serve  

Duck & Blueberry Bliss

  • Cook 1 pound of duck meat, remove all bones, and chop into small pieces 
  • Mix with 1 cup of cooked millet or rice
  • Add ½ cup of fresh blueberries  
  • Cool and combine all the ingredients before serving 

How to Use These Recipes Responsibly

Each of these recipes provides a mix of protein, carbohydrates, and fat, along with a range of vitamins and minerals from the vegetables and fruits. However, it's important to keep in mind that every dog's needs are different, and not every dog will enjoy or do well when fed these recipes regularly. 

Here's how to use them responsibly:

  • If you’re in between foods or want to see if your dog enjoys homemade meals, these recipes can serve as a temporary solution.
  • They can be used to add variety to a diet already balanced by a canine nutritionist.
  • Remember that some meals may require additional supplementation; for example, a calcium source is often needed when meals are homemade.
  • Make sure you’re feeding the correct amount. This varies depending on your dog's size, age, and activity level.
  • Before making any diet changes, discuss these recipes with your vet or a pet nutritionist, especially if your dog has health issues.
  • Always monitor your dog for any adverse reactions when trying a new food, such as allergic symptoms or gastrointestinal upset.

Remember, these recipes are not meant to be a replacement for a diet formulated by a professional but can be used as part of a well-rounded meal plan for your dog.


Homemade dog food has many benefits, but you should also keep in mind the challenges and risks that come with it. And while the internet can provide a starting point, it is not a substitute for professional advice. 

Cola’s Kitchen is where the love for homemade dog food meets the demands of convenience. As you start your journey into the world of fresh food, we encourage you to consult with professionals to come up with a plan that improves your dog's health and happiness.  

about cola's precision diet

Cola's Kitchen precision diet is the first truly tailored diet for a unique approach to nutrition. Our diets are individually formulated and balanced to address the most precise nutritional requirements of your pup.

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