I love cookbooks. I have a whole bookcase devoted just to them in our house. I know you can get free recipes from a lot of different places nowadays – Instagram, Pinterest, food blogs, etc. I use all of these, too, but I’m also very devoted to my physical, hard-copy cookbooks. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I love being able to actually hold something in my hands, flip through the pages, and look at all the beautiful, glossy photographs.
When I sit down on a Saturday or Sunday to plan our meals for the week, first I start by seeing if any recipes I saved (on Instagram or Pinterest) are really catching my eye. If so, I’ll start with those. But then I open my cookbooks. I have a lot of tried-and-true favorites from these, but I’m also discovering new ones I haven’t tried all the time. There are so many cookbooks out there, but the trick is starting with just a handful of really good ones that won’t let you down.
I wanted to share my most tried-and-true favorites – cookbooks that I’ve made dozens of recipes from and where everything is fantastic. These run the gamut from entirely plant-based and gluten-free, to just a general emphasis on whole foods (and inclusive of foods like whole milk, butter, regular flours). I recommend trying all of them. Even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian and eat meat (like us), we can all benefit from adding more plant-based meals into our week, and I get so much inspiration from these authors.
If there’s a great cookbook you think I’ve missed or that I should read – please let me know in the comments!
If you’re new to cooking; if you want to get into cooking; if you’ve never cooked a thing in your life… start with these two books. They’ll teach you everything you need to know, and they break things down into a super accessible, easy-to-read (and learn) format. I love Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat for all its diagrams and cute drawings, and I love How to Cook Everything as a resource for – literally – how to cook anything you could want to cook. Don’t know what to do with those steak tips you bought? Check the book. Don’t know how to make a basic mashed potato, or marinade a chicken thigh? Check the book.
I promise – anyone can learn to cook, and it’s not something you’re either born with or not.
Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking
Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything
My All-Time Favorite Cookbooks
Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-Based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious Recipes – Dana runs one of my favorite go-to food blogs, so it’s no surprise I bought her cookbook and love every recipe in it. All of her recipes require 10 ingredients or less, 1 bowl, or 30 minutes or less to prepare. It’s a super accessible, fun way to cook healthy and eat more plant-based.
Favorite recipes: Coconut Whipped Cream (p. 8), Ginger Colada Green Smoothie (p. 25), Double Chocolate Gluten-Free Waffles (p. 30), Banana Chocolate Pecan Muffins (p. 53), The House Salad (p. 91), Better-Than-Restaurant Vegan Nachos (p. 156), Pizza Burgers (p. 181)
The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Over 100 Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out – Angela has been a food blogger since 2008 and was one of the first I ever started following (many, many years ago)! She is a vegan, so all of her recipes are entirely plant-based – but I regularly make them for big meat-eating crowds.
Favorite recipes: Classic Green Monster smoothie (p. 57), Life-Affirming Warm Nacho Dip (p. 83), Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas with Avocado-Cilantro Cream Sauce (p. 147), Quick & Easy Chana Masala (p. 163), her Glo bars (p. 215 & 217), Mother Nature’s Apple Crumble (p. 243)
Run Fast. Eat Slow.: Nourishing Recipes for Athletes – I truly think I’ve made almost every recipe in this cookbook, so it was very hard to choose favorites! This cookbook was written by professional runner Shalane Flanagan and her college teammate – and RD – Elyse Kopecky. Their food philosophy emphasizes whole foods with lots of healthy fats, carbs, and micronutrients to support active lifestyles. They are anti low-fat/low-carb/low-calorie for runners and other active people, and this is the cornerstone of my nutrition philosophy as well!
Favorite recipes: Superhero Muffins (p. 42), Banana Bread French Toast (p. 51), Fish en Papillote with Lemon and Olives (p. 125), Whole Roasted Chicken with Herbs (p. 130), Wild Salmon Sweet Potato Cakes (p. 142), Mighty Marinade (p. 176), Spelt Banana Bread (p. 183)
Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.: Quick-Fix Recipes for Hangry Athletes – The sequel to their first cookbook, with an emphasis on quick, easy-to-prepare meals. I highly, highly recommend buying both!
Favorite recipes: Can’t Beet Me Smoothie 2.0 (p. 52), Honey Balsamic Grilled Chicken (p. 135), Slow Cooker Pulled Pork (137), Bonk Burgers (p. 139), Turkey Trot Meatballs (p. 147), Sunday Sweet Potatoes (p. 161)
Deliciously Ella: 100+ Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Plant-Based, Gluten-Free Recipes – Ella is another of the first food bloggers I ever started following. She is based in the UK, and it’s been so fun watching her rise to fame (she now has 1.7 million Instagram followers). All of her recipes are plant-based, gluten-free, and place an emphasis on whole foods.
Favorite recipes: Mexican Quinoa Bowl (p. 49), Superfood Bread (p. 80), Sweet Potato Wedges (p. 132), Sweet Potato Pancakes (p. 163), Sweet Potato Brownies (p. 166), Easy Avocado Chocolate Mousse (p. 169), Mint Chocolate Milkshake (p. 219)
Half Baked Harvest Cookbook: Recipes from my Barn in the Mountains – You have to buy Tieghan Gerard’s cookbooks, but you also have to read about her story. She lives in a beautiful farmhouse in the mountains of Colorado that she restored and renovated herself, and makes amazing, beautiful food from scratch all day long. (OK, I kind of think this is my dream…) She grew up in a family of nine and started cooking as a way to pitch in to feed everyone. Now she runs an award-winning food blog and bakes up recipes like Earl Grey Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Salted Maple Butter, Crispy Chipotle Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Lime Ranch, and Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake. She has some of the most creative, delicious recipes I’ve tried. Her emphasis is more on real food made from scratch – less on making things “healthy”, per se – but you can modify and make substitutions, if desired.
Favorite recipes: Crunchy Oats ‘n’ Honey Bars (p. 26), Caprese Quinoa Bake (p. 86), Pumpkin and Oregano Butter Gnocchi (p. 106), BBQ Chicken Cobb Salad with Avocado Ranch (p. 118), Root Vegetable and Sage Pesto Baked Salmon (p. 154), Blackened Mahimahi Tacos (p. 167), Pan-Fried Sesame-Crusted Tilapia (p. 168)
Half Baked Harvest Super Simple: More Than 125 Recipes for Instant, Overnight, Meal-Prepped, and Easy Comfort Foods – I might like this cookbook even better than Tieghan’s original. So many amazingly creative recipes, with a focus on quick and easy-to-make meals. Try to flip through this cookbook and not drool! She’s really done it all with this one.
Favorite recipes: The Best Pressure Cooked Mashed Potatoes (p. 62), Cacio e Pepe Brussels Sprouts (p. 65), Everything Bagel Salad with White Beans and Pesto (p. 80), Curried Thai Spring Roll Lettuce Wraps (p. 155), Sun-Dried Tomato Turkey Meatball Bake (p. 196), Sheet Pan Cuban Steak with Avocado Chimichurri (p. 206), Parchment-Baked Greek Salmon and Zucchini (p. 227)