Michael Pollan sums up how we should eat in the simplest possible way, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Those are wise words to live by. It doesn’t mean you can’t take a ridiculous burger to the face every now and then, but in between it’s probably best to eat some real, unprocessed, plant-based foods.
These days, it’s easy to find a wicked vegetarian or vegan meal at a restaurant. But if you don’t have the cash, you have to rely on your own kitchen, pantry, and skills to make something awesome. The good news is that it’s a great time to be a vegetarian or vegan cook. The culture is moving away from the over-processed and suspect faux meats of Morningstar Farms and the seitans of the world. What we’re seeing now are whole plant-based dishes and plant forward dishes with wide-ranging influences.
I run a kitchen. Four out of seven days that kitchen is vegetarian. The rest of the time we’re eating organic, grass-fed, antibiotic-free animal proteins along with the veggies and grains. Call it flexitarian. Call it omnivorous. Labels don’t matter when the food is awesome for you. So let’s leave the judgement at the door and enjoy this list of essential vegetarian and vegan cookbooks that every cook ought to own.
10. THUG KITCHEN: THE OFFICIAL COOKBOOK: EAT LIKE YOU GIVE A F*CK — THUG KITCHEN
Starting off as a meme, Thug Kitchen has blown up into a full on movement for vegan cooking. People seemed to really dig vibrant food and talking like a “thug.” According to Thug Kitchen’s own NSFW ads for their cookbook “Thug Kitchen can help you cut through the bullsh*t in language you can understand.”
This would all be a great tongue-and-cheek meme that probably would have passed after the usual 15 minutes if not for the solid quality of the recipes. So, add this one to the shelf and “Eat like you give a f*ck!”
9. THE ‘OH SHE GLOWS’ COOKBOOK — ANGELA LIDDON
Angela Liddon got her start with a very popular vegan blog. Liddon’s blog churned out delicious recipe after delicious recipe and won award after award, which led to The Oh She Glows Cookbook. The cookbook combines easy-to-follow home recipes that anyone with a low or high kitchen skill set can follow along with. The focus on plant-based and whole foods means you know exactly what you’re getting, and it’s delicious every time.
8. VEGETARIAN INDIA: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE BEST OF INDIAN HOME COOKING — MADHUR JAFFREY
Madhur Jaffrey is the bridge between West and East when it comes to mastering pan-Indian cuisine. Her cookbooks, TV shows, and lectures are legendary. Tackling the world of Indian food can be a daunting task for the uninitiated, but Jaffrey is able to make every recipe in Vegetarian Indian seem straight forward and easy to master. Pulling recipes from Jaffrey’s amazing book will add a much needed layer of depth to any home cook’s rotation of meals.
7. VEGGISTAN — SALLY BUTCHER
Halfway between Europe and India is another wonderland of food that tends to lean heavily towards plant-based deliciousness. Sally Butcher’s Veggistan takes a deep dive into the veg options coming out of the Middle East and it does not disappoint the herbivore with a sense of adventure. Butcher’s Persian heritage and love of food shines throughout this genuinely funny and educational look at Middle Eastern and Persian vegetarian cuisine that’s both ancient and modern.
6. CROSSROADS: EXTRAORDINARY RECIPES FROM THE RESTAURANT THAT IS REINVENTING VEGAN CUISINE — TAL RONNEN
Tal Ronnen’s philosophy is all about losing the over-processed soy and seitan products vegan and vegetarians get bogged down with and cooking good, seasonal, and delicious plant-based foods simply and wonderfully. The L.A. restaurant the book is based around has been lauded for its spectacular menu and now (with a little skill and practice) you can attempt these recipes at home.
5. THE NEW VEGETARIAN — ALICE HART
One could argue The New Vegetarian is a completist cookbook. It has a deep well of recipes that cover every course and provides plenty of insight into becoming an great vegetarian cook — or, if you’re bored, finding a great vegetarian meal to change up the routine. The book itself is beautifully laid out with vibrant and engaging photography alongside simple recipes every beginner in the kitchen will be at ease with.
4. NEAR & FAR: RECIPES INSPIRED BY HOME AND TRAVEL — HEIDI SWANSON
Near & Far is a collection of 100+ recipes from Heidi Swanson’s globetrotting endeavors. It’s no wonder that Swanson’s cookbooks have won two James Beard Awards. The recipes and photography are equal parts wondrous and engaging for the weary traveler and vegetarian cook eager to start a journey on the road or in the kitchen.
3. THE COMPLETE VEGETARIAN COOKBOOK — AMERICA’S TEST KITCHEN
If you’re ever wondering what to get a vegetarian-curious relative or friend as a gift, this book is it. The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook is the place to blaze a path towards integrating great vegetarian dishes into your daily life. The book’s simple approach and easy meals make it the perfect beginner’s book. Plus it’s from American’s Test Kitchen and people devoted to exploring what makes food great and how we can make that great food ourselves.
2. THE PART-TIME VEGETARIAN — NICOLA GRAIMES
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It's #nationalvegetarianweek – if you're not ready to fully commit (or even if you are) why not try The Part-time Vegetarian by Nicola Graimes? #veggie #theparttimevegetarian #parttimevegetarian #nicolagraimes #vegetarian #meat-free #vegetarianweek #vegetarianweekchallenge
As the flexitarian (or omnivores if you will) diet becomes more and more mainstream, integrating more and better vegetarian options is a must. The Part-time Vegetarian hit the perfect sweet spot of great vegetarian recipes that allow you to add an animal-based protein if you see fit to do so. This book makes the list because we don’t all live in an environment where everyone is on the same diet. So if you’ve got a vegan son and omnivorous parents (or vice versa) this book offers recipes that everyone can enjoy without making multiple meals or excluding anyone.
1. PLENTY — YOTAM OTTOLENGHI
Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks are famously rich and delicious masterpieces that belong in any cook’s kitchen. Plenty is no exception. With well over 100 recipes to choose from, Plenty‘s pages exude charm and simple cooking that is always delicious. Rooted in Ottolenghi’s Israeli/Middle Eastern influences, each recipe is a delight to make and, of course, eat.