Maybe you’re finally feeling ready to eat a more plant-based diet, but aren’t totally sure how to prepare vegetables without being totally boring. Maybe you’ve decided to give up all animal products in your diet, but aren’t sure where to start, or maybe you’re a longtime vegetarian or vegan who’s trying to shake up your routine and get a few new vegetarian recipes under your belt. Whatever your reason for wanting to cook more vegetarian dishes or vegan recipes, there’s a vegan cookbook that can help you make better plant-based and vegetarian meals, no matter your skill level. And to find the best vegetarian and vegan cookbooks out there, I spoke with plant-focused cooks and vegan chefs from around the country (and one from Canada) about their favorites.
“Sure, it’s out-of-date (although they have issued a new edition). It’s from 1974 and was originally self-published. But no chef cooking vegetables can afford not to read the Moosewood Cookbook. Will you ever cook from it? Well, I did when I was in university, and the approachable recipes were a great way to ease me into the kitchen. But these days it’s much more valuable as a historical document, a marker that shows where vegetable-cooking was, how far it’s come, and how in some ways, for some chefs, it hasn’t really changed at all. And for me, it’s almost like a scrapbook, reminding me of when I tried to make Gypsy Soup, of hours spent poring over the recipes for Vegetable and Walnut Pate, Stuffed Eggplant, and Lentil burgers, trying to figure out how to tweak these dishes to make them better, learning from what they were doing, and slowly, page by page, without even knowing it, becoming a chef.” —Amanda Cohen, chef and owner, Dirt Candy, New York
“For all ideas veggie, our go-to is Roots: The Definitive Compendium. Roots illustrates creative, inventive methods to showcase vegetables, including ways one would never think possible. It also provides a wealth of knowledge rooted (no pun intended) in education and passion. It illustrates the value of every part of each plant we use.” —Koorosh Bakhtiar, managing partner, Jajaja, New York
“Chez Panisse Vegetables feels like the most resourceful vegetable-cooking dictionary. Creating meals that would be traditionally meat-centric with vegetables instead is less challenging and more exciting with this book on your side.” —Clara Polito, owner, Clara Cakes, and author, Clara Cakes, Los Angeles
“When I had just gone vegan, I’d look at Vegan Stoner’s blog all the time. The cookbook is even more intriguing. The recipes are affordable, delicious, and have beautiful illustrations that familiarized me with so many cooking ingredient staples. There’s just enough comedic relief to loosen you up and have fun cooking!” —Polito
“This book, like a couple of Robin’s books, is just jam-packed with recipes! Her recipes make very clever and innately desirable combinations of ingredients, and are usually very simple to prepare. I always direct people who are new to vegan cooking to Robin Robertson because her recipes are so easy to work with, and the final results always knock it out of the park.” —Adam Sobel, chef, Cinnamon Snail, New York
“This book taught me how to cook. It includes basic vegan cooking techniques, and a wide range of recipes to suit every dish, flavor, ethnicity, and skill level. I have never had a dinner flop, and I refer it whenever I am asked for my go-to cookbook recommendation. There are many new and more ‘modern’ approaches to vegan cooking out there now, but this book will always be my vegan bible; if I need to learn something new, I turn to Isa [Chandra Moskowitz]. The sarcastic humor helps as well.” —Candice Hutchings, author, The Edgy Veg, Toronto, Canada
“Easy and fantastic. I am a big fan of the one-bowl dish, especially for lunch, and this is the book for that. This is a book for people who want to put together great meals on a regular basis and draw from ingredients they should have in a healthy fridge. I really like the premise of how it makes it so accessible to people.” —David Laris, chef, EDEN Local, New York
“A vegan cookbook that we love is Food52 Vegan: 60 Vegetable-Driven Recipes for Any Kitchen. The miso-soup recipe with shiitakes, soba, and asparagus totally inspired us to bring something similar onto our winter menu. The recipes are simple, vibrant, and delicious.” —David Rodriguez, co-owner, Butcher’s Daughter, New York
“Love Ottolenghi and Cooked Raw. Both cookbooks take inspiration from many different cuisines. It’s real honest cuisines. And chef Amanda Cohen, too. She rocks.” —David Lee, chef, Planta, Miami Beach, Florida
“I wouldn’t recommend it for first-timers, but if you really want to step up your game, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg’s Vegetarian Flavor Bible is what you need. It’s not a cookbook, but more like the ultimate reference work for vegetarian food. It focuses on flavor pairings, like explaining why grapefruit pairs with fennel and arugula, which is the kind of thing that I find invaluable for thinking about recipes. Page is more of a vegetarian advocate than I am, but even so, her book rewires how you create dishes, putting the focus not on slavishly following steps and measurements, but forcing you to dissect flavor, mouthfeel, and making you really think about your food. Who would have thought to pair achiote seeds with coriander without this book?” —Cohen
“Dog-eared, annotated throughout, and stained with memories of many, many meals: The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon is my No. 1. The title is awesome. Crescent’s name is inspiring. And the recipes inside are compact adventures. I love the way this book gives you a chance to look at a simple food from so many angles. This is where I learned about mesquite. Cook a third of these recipes and you will be a cornbread pro.” —Ayr Muir, founder and CEO, Clover Food Lab, Cambridge, Massachusetts
“I love this book, so thoughtful and well put-together. It is not only looking at plant-based cooking, but really opening up the reader to a world of so many new techniques and ingredients that should and must be part of not only plant-based eating fans’ diets but everyone’s. Love it, love the author and the passion behind this book.” —Laris
“This is a very intelligent and serious vegan book [by vegan chef Matthew Kenney] that goes deeper into the movement, providing more serious insights for the established cook.” —Laris
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