Gift Guide 2021: Cookbooks for Everyone!

This week’s Gift Guide suggestion comes from Elyse, who said, “What about our favorite cookbooks? I know last year into this one we made a lot more food at home than we normally did, and spent a lot more time researching recipes.”

Y’all, if you need cookbook gift ideas, we have so many wonderful options for you.

I regularly use the Multicooker Perfection cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen – I borrowed it from the library to test drive and then bought my own copy.

Same with One Pan Wonders, which I reviewed as well!

Kiki: Snacking Cakes!

Snacking Cakes
A | BN | K | AB
And not just because it’s the only cookbook I own! Lots of variety, easy instructions, and perhaps most importantly, lots of “don’t have this pan? Use this one! Don’t have this ingredient? Leave it out!”

Sarah: I love books like that.

Amanda: Snacking Cakes x1000

I’ve had really great luck with Chrissy Teigen’s cookbooks. My favorites are her guacamole recipe, meatloaf, glazed green beans with toasted almonds, and her sweet and spicy carrots.

Kiki: I’d also say Bread Illustrated by America’s Test Kitchen (which I’m actually giving someone as a gift this year!)

Dr. Eve Ewing has been baking her way through the whole book and sharing about it via Instagram. It really breaks down the science of bread and yeast, best technique, etc. It looks really good for folks who want to know the “why” about bread

A | BN
Claudia: Books that have great recipes but also are informative and/or interesting:

Cookwise by Shirley Corriher for anyone interested in the science of cooking and baking, Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian to teach you to cook any veggie under the sun 10 different ways, and Lidia (Bastianich) Cooks from the Heart of Italy to go beyond Italian-American recipes.

Elyse: We’ve gotten a ton of mileage out of all of Brittany Williams‘ Instant Pot cookbooks.

I also love The Indian Instant Pot Cookbook.

We have been working through Soup of the Day from Williams Sonoma. There’s a wonderful mushroom barely soup in there that’s perfect for cold days.

Or “barley.” Mushroom barley soup.

AJ: Haha I liked it the first way! “It’s mushroom … barely.”

My feelings about mushrooms are meh so that would be a selling point for me!

Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian
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Shana: Seconding Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. I fucking love that book.

Amanda: ATK’s Complete Vegetarian! I’m not vegetarian, for the record, but I bought this one after a friend made me this wonderful cheesy eggplant dish

Shana: I give cookbooks a lot as a gift, and the best received ones seem to have both great recipes and great photographs. All Carla Hall’s books are outstanding for this.

Joanne Chang’s are great too, although I’m obviously biased because I am her biggest fan, but in a totally non-stalker way.

A | BN | K
Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking by Toni Tipton-Martin is my current go-to gift. It won a James Beard award and it’s both beautifully written AND has dreamy recipes.

Also, Carla Hall has a children’s book out called Carla and the Christmas Cornbread!

Sarah: Shana, do you have a specific Hall or Chang book you love most or recommend often?

Pastry Love
A | BN | K | AB
Shana: Chang’s Pastry Love is a big thick book full of lots of savory and sweet recipes. It also has several gluten-free options, which is missing from her other books. I would recommend it for moderately experienced bakers, and who are hard to shop for.

Flour, her first cookbook, is very approachable, and would work for pretty much anyone, from someone who just wants to make exceptionally good chocolate chip cookies, or who wants to tackle eclairs for the first time. It has a chatty tone that is fun to read.

Carla’s Comfort Foods
A | BN | K
Carla’s Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes from Around the World, is the book I gift most often. It’s similar to Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian, although it’s plant-forward with meat dishes. It’s fun to read, and gives you a sense of Hall’s personality. And it has both everyday and special occasion dishes. It’s also relatively small and light which is a blessing when you’re mailing gifts.

Elyse: I want to add re: Brittany Williams her books are sold as weight loss cookbooks (bc fuck the patriarchy) but they are mostly gluten free and anti-inflammatory recipes inside. I love her recipes because I have a lot of people in my circle who can’t or don’t do gluten.

Lara: There is one cookbook that I’ve loved for years. Nigel Slater’s Appetite. He writes so beautifully and cooks with such love. The recipes are brilliant, but the book itself is a wonderful experience.

What about you? Any cookbooks you love to give, or receive, as a gift? Which one do you recommend?

Add Your Comment →

  1. Glauke says:

    For baking, I recommend Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess (my mother hates the title, but grudgingly admits it’s a good book). I like her writing on food, and I often read her books when I’m not sure what I want to eat because she has a similar philosophy to mine.

    I’m a vegetarian – trying for vegan in the advent period – and I love Isa Chandra Moskowitz. If you want a sample of her recipes, check out the Post Punk Kitchen ( I cook a lot from Isa Does Everything and I Can Cook Vegan. Earlier in her career she worked with Terry Hope Romero, if you’re more interested in Latin American-inflected vegan cooking.

    I’m currently reading Claudia Roden’s new Mediterranean cookbook, Med, which is pretty but doesn’t have enough new-to-me ideas to warrant purchasing.

  2. Nicky says:

    World Spice at Home is a killer pantry expander! (Our fav recipe is the Kale Tabbouleh with Ras el Hanout dressing.) World Spice Merchants also sells the book bundled with half-jars of 16 spice blends, so it makes excellent gifting!

    This year, I’ve loved cooking my way through My Shanghai (Beautiful photographs, a good balance of approachable and complex recipes, not a dud in the bunch) and Everyday Harumi (Japanese home cooking! Excellent and unfussy!)

    Not a book, strictly speaking, but I can’t not mention the Imamu Room YouTube. A home cook in a tiny kitchen making bento for her family, utterly charming and so tasty looking! I’ve found it motivating and super soothing, which is a rare combo.

  3. MirandaB says:

    @Glauke: I love the brownie recipe in the Domestic Goddess book! I call them ‘Goddess brownies’, and they’re the ‘thing I’m requested to bring to gatherings’. I altered the recipe to substitute a bag of chocolate chips for the nuts. No one has complained, lol.

    I use 2 bars of Ghiradelli semi-sweet, 1 bar of bittersweet, and 1 bag of semisweet chips. Also, I have to cook them for at least 10 minutes longer than the recipe calls for (but get them out while they’re still a little mushy in the middle).

  4. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    For breadth of comprehension and ease of following even the most complicated recipes, the hand-down winner is anything from the America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Country family of books, especially the Complete America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook. A friend sent me the book and one of my daughters is now cooking her way through it. I’m not a huge fan of ebook cookbooks, but that was one that I also grabbed when it was a KDD a few months back.

  5. Starling says:

    I just bought two cookbooks for my younger sister, who wants to learn how to cook: Salt Fat Acid Heat & Budget Bytes. I especially love Budget Bytes for a good breadth of recipes with clear instructions and a range of complexity.

    For myself, I’m enjoying the Milk Street Tuesday Nights cookbook – I cooked their lomo saltado recipe for my MIL, and she *loved* it. I have my eye on a couple of their vegetarian recipes for myself, too. I also love anything from Bryant Terry (Vegan Soul Kitchen, etc.) – though I’m not vegan, I try to eat mostly vegetarian. I love the creativity and joy in his recipes (and, of course, they taste great).

  6. Jazzlet says:

    Pretty much any Madhur Jaffrey book is great, I love World Vegetarian too. If you like a bit of history with your recipes Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish food is fantastic, great recipes and fascinating history about why these recipes came to be; I mean did you know there are centuries old Jewish communities in China and India?

  7. LJO says:

    I am a huge fan of Joanne Molinaro, The Korean Vegan. My kid is vegan, I’m not and we have bonded over her recipes and stories on Instagram. All that to say, her new cookbook is amazing.

  8. EC Spurlock says:

    Thanks everyone for the recs of good vegetarian/vegan cookbooks! I’m still fumbling my way into veganism, dragging two reluctant guys with me, and I need all the help I can get! Now that my inner foodie has awakened and started looking at this as a challenge, I’m working on amassing a larger variety of recipes that everyone is willing to eat.

  9. SB Sarah says:

    @EC: I don’t know if you have any food ingredient restrictions, but I make these two recipes together frequently, and they’re vegan and holy cow delicious:

    Pasta e ceci:

    Socca (chickpea flatbread):

  10. Laura says:

    @Nicky — thank you so much for the tip about Imamu Room! I just watched about 15 minutes of that and I felt my blood pressure drop. And so great for new ideas about how to prepare things without strictly following recipes. Subscribed!

  11. DonnaMarie says:

    For the science and the fun, any & all of Alton Brown’s Good Eats books.

    For the breadth of knowledge: Rose Levy Beranbaum – especially THE CAKE BIBLE & THE PIE & PASTRY BIBLE.

    If you can get your hands on it: AN AMERICAN FEAST. It features recipes from the breadth of chefs featured on PBS up to the time of its publication. Mine falls open to the recipe for the pasta pictured on the cover, Capellini Capricciosi, which I have made dozens of times.

    And because I would be doing my tribe a disservice by not mentioning it: Theresa Carle-Sanders’ second OUTLANDER KITCHEN cookbook is out. I’ve enjoyed many recipes from the first one. The cherry bounce was worth the price of admission. My latest batch just finished fermenting in time for Thanksgiving. If you’ve got a dedicated fan on your list, you can not go wrong here.

  12. Terri says:

    I highly recommend Jubilee and Pastry Love as well as both the Flour cookbooks by Joanna Chang. I also really like Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland by Shauna Sever.

  13. Karin says:

    I’ve had Madhur Jaffrey’s book, “World of the East Vegetarian Cooking”, for about 30 years, and it’s definitely a keeper, so I’m sure this new book is great too. I’m not a vegetarian, but she has so many imaginative ways to make non-meat dishes which are now regular go-tos for me.

  14. Emma says:

    I love Carla Hall from her season of Top Chef. Hootie-hoo!!!

    The cookbook I recommend to everyone is Robin Ha’s Cook Korean! comic/recipe book. The easiest possible entry into Korean cuisine, I think. Deuki Hong’s book Koreatown also has lots of good recipes.

    The skill level for these two jumps up quite a bit, especially for the latter, but I also highly recommend Lace Zhang’s Three Dishes, One Soup and Christopher Tan’s The Way of Kueh. Zhang’s book is for people who want to make Chinese Singaporean classics at home (fish ball noodle soup, ngoh hiang, etc.). Tan’s is about reviving traditional dessert/snack goodies that are dying out because all the Malay, Chinese, Indian, Peranakan, etc. aunties and uncles that sold them are dead or retired. (Beautiful pics, but be warned: Tan’s recipes are for the kind of people who audition for baking shows.)

    With the caveat that I care a lot more about the recipes than the pictures, here are some other cookbooks I’ve borrowed from my library and liked:

    Itoh Makiko, The Just Bento Cookbook
    Kurihara Harumi (can’t remember which book, but can’t go wrong with her)
    Liza Agbanlog, Quintessential Filipino Cooking

  15. MichelleC says:

    I have a lot of pretty cookbooks that don’t get used often. Here are the ones I’m wearing out:

    My most-used ATK cookbook is ATK the Complete Cooking for Two cookbook — really recommend this one for smaller families. Another good sensible portion size cookbook is Sweet & Simple Dessert for Two by Christina Lane.

    Dinner by Melissa Clark, Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, Uncomplicated by Claire Tansy, and the Indian Instant pot cookbook by Urvashi Pitre are all well used.

    Another recommendation for anything by Madhur Jaffrey.

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