Benny Blanco Shares Girlfriend Selena Gomez’s Favorite Dinner [Exclusive]

graphic collage of Benny Blanco surrounded by kosher salt, hot sauce jars, a steak, and banana pudding
Credit: Photos: Johnny Miller, Shutterstock, Alex Lepe Credit: Photos: Johnny Miller, Shutterstock, Alex Lepe
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Benny Blanco didn’t just create a cookbook with his newest endeavor, Open Wide: A Cookbook for Friends. The creative juggernaut built the handbook for throwing the greatest dinner party of all time. Having started his real culinary journey with the debut of the George Foreman grill, cooking quickly became tangible and easy for a young kid who made his meals with friends.

“Everything for me is so surreal,” he shares. “I’m just living intraself moments over and over again. My whole life I’ve just been so fortunate for these things to become a reality, and now that’s it here I had a little bit of imposter syndrome. Like why they give me a cookbook?”

In Open Wide, written alongside Jess Damuck, the music producer uses storytelling and friendship to emphasize the good energy that comes with cooking — whether it’s for yourself or others. Some dishes take a few minutes, some take a few days — all have the intention of creating memories that happen in between the food.

For this edition of Cooking Diary, Blanco talks with The Kitchn about his top cooking staples, making food with love, his best dinner party tips, and his girlfriend, Selena Gomez’s, undefeated nose for the best recipes.

“Have fun” is your number one cooking tip. Why is that so important to you?

Look, I get it — you get in the kitchen, you get nervous. When you first start cooking you’re a little bit anxious. I really want to encourage everyone to have fun. Even if it’s bad, it’s going to be OK. Don’t worry about it.

What’s guided you on your cooking journey?

Anytime I meet someone, I’m just picking up tips. If I’m with an old grandma and she’s teaching me how to cook something, it might not necessarily be the right way, but it’s the better way. I’m not above learning from anyone, taking your time with finding out where your food is from, and getting good ingredients.

For me, it’s about cooking with love. I always tell people don’t get anxious when you’re cooking because then it’s going to get in the food.

What are your must-have kitchen staples? I know you love hot sauce.

My whole fridge is hot sauce. My kitchen staples are also keeping your area clean and not like a mess so you know where stuff is. Real fresh spices, a rice cooker is the greatest thing in the world. Great food processor, a power blender — something that’s strong. 

I can cook anywhere, but the one thing you need the most? Sharp knives. If you have knives that aren’t sharp, you’ll hurt yourself.

graphic of Benny Blanco and a quote with photos of mac and cheese and a cheese board
Credit: Photos (clockwise from top left): Getty Images, Alex Lepe, Joe Lingeman Credit: Photos (clockwise from top left): Getty Images, Alex Lepe, Joe Lingeman

What’s your favorite seasoning?

First of all, salt. I like high and low. I like to season with artisanal sh-t that I get from places like SOS Chefs and Sahadi’s. At the same time, I like to season with Lawry’s — for me it’s all over the board. That’s what this cookbook is about. I made it to be something for everyone. Sometimes we’re using caviar and sea urchin, and sometimes we’re using Jell-O pudding mix for a banana pudding. I feel like that’s what life is all about — the highs and lows. Sometimes you spring for the nice fancy cheese, sometimes it just tastes better with Velveeta in it.

You ate a lot of Greek food growing up. Do you have any favorite Greek recipes from your book?

I’m a real sucker for spanakopita; it’s kind of like a fried pastry with spinach and cheese inside of it, and when I was a kid we would always get it at this place where I grew up. But I remember when Trader Joe’s first came out with like a frozen version of it and I’d eat it every day. It’s basically like a little pastry hot pocket.

Does Selena Gomez have any favorite recipes in your book?

If I hit her with the steak night, I’m getting love — that’s all I need to do. She loves a good steak; she wants the steak, she wants the potatoes, she wants the creamed spinach. She’s a big fan of fried chicken and French toast. She knows the good sh-t. She always knows where to go — her nose always goes to the best recipes. She’s from Texas, so comfort food is big for her.

This is a book about friendship and putting love into food. What’s an underrated key to throwing a great dinner party?

You always want to make sure your guests are on point. I always like to poke around and make sure everyone is cool with each other or at least doesn’t know each other and we’ll find out whether they’re good at the dinner party. You want good energy at your dinner party — I always make sure there’s no drama. That can throw off a whole dinner party.