Cookbooks open up hidden worlds. At their best, they are one part travelogue, one part guide, and one part food porn. They allow us to experiment, fail, and try again until we master a dish. Because of this, a cookbook is one of the best gifts you can give a loved one. It’s delicious self improvement.
Below are some of our favorite cookbooks that were dropped on the culinary world this year. There are some big trends on the horizon — from the resurgence of Indigenous cuisine, to the fight against food waste, to the discovery of Middle Eastern cuisine in the west — and they’re all represented by our list this year.
If you’re stumped as to what to get the food lover in your life, then one of these cookbooks might be the order of the season.
(Note: All prices are for hardcover editions)
Chef Sean Sherman’s debut cookbook is one for the ages. It’s an examination of the foodways of the Minnesotan plains, an excavation of the lost art of indigenous cuisine, and a guide to discovering a fresh world of local ingredients. In our estimation, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen is the most important cookbook released this year. It’s recapturing an entire food culture lost for over a century.
Buy this book — it’ll change the way you look at food and the indigenous people around you in ways large and small.
Chef McFadden has taken the Portland food scene by storm with his restaurant Ava Gene’s and a partnership at Tusk — both iconic Portland spots. The focus of the book is all things vegetables and how to utilize them in new, local, and seasonal ways with easy to follow recipes that make this book extremely accessible to every level of cook or chef. We all need to get more vegetables into our daily routine and this book is a great way to start.
Nadine Levy Redzepi’s book started as a hobby on Instagram while she was on maternity leave from her job at Copenhagen’s much-lauded Noma. Her knack for wholesome, easy, and collaborative home-made meals is a welcome change of pace from her husband Rene Redzepi’s high concept fare. The recipes don’t shy away from any one mode of cooking but, instead, embrace all the wonderful food in the chain, to make the fastest and easiest meals at home without sacrificing flavor or nutrition.
Jim Meehan is at the forefront of the hospitality industry and one of the best bartenders we have right now. His latest book, Meehan’s Bartenders Manual, is the deepest of dives into every facet of being a bartender. There are recipes, histories, bar designs, and even guides for recipe development.
This book will take any novice home mixologist (or aspiring bartender) to the next level.
Samin Nosrat has been cooking, writing, and teaching food for a while now. Her mastery of the four elements of what she believes makes the perfect dish — the balance of salt, fat, acid, and heat — led to her excellent 2017 cookbook. The beauty of the book is multi-layered. There’s an excitement to the recipes that are founded in Nosrat’s ethos on cooking but she still allows plenty of space for food exploration and spontaneity in the kitchen. That’s a wonderful thing to include in any cookbook.
Shake Shack finally got around to revealing its secrets! Whether or not your ride hard for Shake Shack, In-N-Out, or Five Guys, a recipe book like this is a must for any burger lover’s kitchen shelf. You’ll get a history of the fast food chain along with the actual recipes from the joint.
The real bonus here is are the malted shake recipes. Those are truly Shake Shack’s MVPs.
Middle Eastern cuisine is having a renaissance in America at the moment. But “Middle Eastern” cuisine is one of those umbrella terms that loses all meaning once you dig anywhere beneath the surface. Kassis’ delightful The Palestinian Table takes you deep below the surface of the region to explore the sidelined technique, traditions, and recipes of the Palestinian kitchen.
The recipes are lush and very easy to follow and are accompanied by engaging historical snippets of a food culture that’s far too often lost in the shuffle.
Massimo Bottura is one of the all time greats. He’s a master of Italian cuisine who also knows how to give back and feed everyone while fighting the scourge of food waste. Bread is Gold isn’t about making a Michelin starred dish. It’s about feeding everyone and lowering food waster while doing so. Bottura gathered some of the greatest living chefs to write 150 recipes for this book.
They’re simple, executable recipes that are cost-effective and accessible around the world with a keen eye on fighting food waste at home. This book is essential.
Sabrina Ghayour is making Persian food accessible and executable in every kitchen. Her first two books, Sirocco & Persiana, serve as a part one and part two of Persian delights to this year’s Feasts. The recipes are vibrant and lush and there’s nothing in there that isn’t doable at home on a weekday night after a long day at work.
It’s a palate-expanding delight that’ll help you understand an under-praised cuisine.
Michael W. Twitty is a food historian, cook, and raconteur. His book takes a long look at “southern” cuisine through the eyes of slaves, colonialists, plantation owners, and early chefs and then applies that to the world we find ourselves in today. It’s a history lesson that’s still being lived in our society, next to the recipes that make up what we consider soul food and barbecue.
This book is essential reading from an American history point of view alone. It’s also essential if you want to cook great southern classics.