These are some of the best vegetarian cookbooks out there, and they deserve a place in everyone’s kitchen, omnivores and flexitarians included.
In my less enlightened years, the mention of vegetarianism only conjured images of all the foods that I couldn’t have. A world without my beloved lobster rolls or perfect whole roasted chicken; no steak fajitas or foie gras. The culinary “sacrifice” was just totally unfathomable to me.
Now, I won’t pretend to have given any of those up—I’d eat them all more often if I could, truth be told—but I have (thankfully) evolved enough by this point to realize that vegetarian, plant-based cooking isn’t about sacrifice at all. It’s about celebrating the bounty of the seasons and the garden and pushing yourself creatively to show nay-sayers like young me just how sophisticated and comforting and unexpected the cuisine can be.
And if you’re planning on making vegetables a more significant part of your kitchen life, these are the vegetarian cookbooks you want in your arsenal.
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“The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” by Deborah Madison, $27.49 on Amazon
If you had to pick just one book to launch your vegetarian culinary journey, it would have to be this definitive, totally comprehensive guide from the chef heralded by pretty much everyone as the authority on the subject. The original book was released in 1997 and became an instant, best-selling success, receiving awards from the James Beard Foundation and IACP, to name a very important few. And now, in this revised edition, plant-based cooking enthusiasts have 1,600 recipes to delve into, as well as Madison’s helpful advice on how to compose a menu, an in-depth guide to ingredients, and essential kitchen equipment.Buy Now
“Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi” by Yotam Ottolenghi, $17.99 on Amazon
I don’t know about you, but I’d buy this book based on the cover art alone. Because, frankly, I can’t remember the last time eggplant looked that good (and colorful!). Obviously, I wasn’t the only one who found the London-based chef’s Mediterranean-inspired vegetable cooking worthy of a double take, because in the eight years since this debut book was published, five follow-ups have appeared. And, yes, we’re ready for more.Buy Now
“On Vegetables” by Jeremy Fox, $36.73 on Amazon
How does a chef with Michelin-level restaurant experience approach elevated vegetable-exclusive cooking? If you’re asking esteemed chef Jeremy Fox, the answer seems to teeter somewhere between simple, unfussy flavor collaborations and intricate, thoughtful technique. Take tandoori carrots with labneh and vadouvan: Sounds pretty straightforward (and delicious), but in this case you’re making the labneh, vadouvan butter, yogurt, and carrot purée yourself.
Yet this isn’t intended as some showy, chef-y flex. Learning to make these components is all part of building a larger larder of ingredients—salts, sauces, condiments, butters—so that you can “turn your kitchen into a grocery store” and become a more efficient cook.
“Six Seasons” by Joshua McFadden, $19.29 on Amazon
Yes, you read that correctly, six seasons. In his much lauded book (we’re talking praise from the Wall Street Journal, Bon Appétit, The Atlantic, and oh yeah, a little thing called a James Beard Award for Best Book in Vegetable-Focused Cooking), the Portland, Ore.-based chef of Ava Gene’s takes an extended, hyper-focused approach to seasonal vegetable cooking. Within each of the six seasons—spring, early summer, midsummer, late summer, autumn, and winter—McFadden details recipes for peak ingredients in their raw and various cooked forms.Buy Now
“Chez Panisse Vegetables” by Alice Waters, $22 on Amazon
Obviously, we’d all die to have Alice Waters tag along with us to the farmer’s market and tell us what produce to pick, why, and how we should prepare it all. But since the chances of that happening are less than slim to none, thankfully we have this fabulous, friendly tome to stand in as the next best thing.
Here, Waters, the OG maven of farm-to-table California cuisine, who’s been making simple, fresh, seasonal cooking cool for almost half a century now, offers more than 250 of her favorite recipes for vegetables. The book is (helpfully) organized alphabetically by veggie, and in addition to suggesting ways to prepare each one, the chef also informs you of its peak season(s), how it tastes, and what it should ideally look like so that you become a savvier shopper.
“The Moosewood Cookbook” by Mollie Katzen, $15.43 on Amazon
Speaking of OGs of the local-seasonal-eat-fresh-food-without-the-fuss culinary movement, we cannot not talk about Mollie Katzen. You could say that her 1974 book featuring the recipes she and her colleagues prepared at their Ithaca, New York restaurant co-op has come a long way since its hand-written and illustrated effort. Re-released in 2014 as a 40th anniversary edition, it’s listed as one of the top ten best-selling cookbooks of all time by The New York Times and has been inducted into the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame.Buy Now
“Dirt Candy: A Cookbook: Flavor-Forward Food From the Upstart New York City Vegetarian Restaurant” by Amanda Cohen, $15.69 on Amazon
How can you not love a twofer? This book is part graphic novel in which chef Amanda Cohen tells the story of her ambitious and much-lauded (9 table!) New York City vegetarian restaurant, part cookbook featuring the irreverent and delectable recipes that have earned her so much success. Its place on your cookbook shelf is as much a no-brainer as broccolini fettuccine with porcini mushrooms is a no-brainer on your dinner table, ASAP.Buy Now
“Thug Kitchen: The Official Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck” by Thug Kitchen, $14.89 on Amazon
Struggling to guilt-trip yourself into eating better and incorporating more good-for-you vegetables into your diet? No worries, the team behind the popular smack-talking vegetarian cooking site, Thug Kitchen, is happy to step in and take on that role for you. In their debut New York Times best-selling cookbook, you’ll find as much swearing and aggressive (albeit well-intentioned) leave-your-excuses-at-the-door attitude as you will recipes for genuinely tasty, creative, and accessible vegetarian dishes. Do yourself a favor and accept their invitation to cut the crap and start eating better.Buy Now
“Superiority Burger Cookbook: The Vegetarian Hamburger Is Now Delicious” by Brooks Headley, $22.65 on Amazon
You can thank this fine dining pastry chef turned vegetarian burger pioneer for proving that the meatless patty does not have to be relegated to some kind of bad punchline status. Quite the opposite, in fact. I mean, David Chang is quoted as saying it’s the best veggie burger he’s ever had. So, you know, there’s that. In this book, Brooks Headley shares the recipes behind the dishes popularized at his game-changing vegetarian burger joint in New York City’s East Village. From sandwiches and sides to soups, salads, and sweets, you’ll discover that in the right hands, veggies really can make hamburger shop recipes superior.Buy Now
“The Southern Vegetarian: 100 Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Table” by Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence, $19.49 on Amazon
If you’re going, “Wait a minute, aren’t even the classic vegetable dishes of southern cuisine like collard greens and red beans and rice cooked with meat?” You’re not wrong. But husband-and-wife team Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence prove that veggie-focused reinterpretations like red beans and rice with andouille eggplant can taste just as right. By exploring the thoughtful and seasonal-minded recipes in this friendly book, you’ll discover that plant-based eating can be equally as comforting and soulful.Buy Now
“Vegetarian Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity with Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, and More, Based on the Wisdom of Leading American Chefs” by Karen Page, $26.84 on Amazon
Consider this a little less cookbook and a lot more all-encompassing reference guide that connects the dots between all the different ingredients and flavors in the spectrum of a vegetarian diet. Using the knowledge of legendary vegetable-based chefs, Page has created an A-Z index of ingredients, under which each has a list of complementary seasonings and cooking techniques.
Instead of telling you exactly what to cook, it provides you with a confident jumping off point to explore and play around in the kitchen. Added bonuses like a timeline history of vegetarian cuisine and personal anecdotes from the chefs that helped provide the content for the book make it all the more worthwhile.
“America’s Test Kitchen: The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook: A Fresh Guide to Eating Well with 700 Foolproof Recipes” by America’s Test Kitchen, $23.85 on Amazon
This Boston-based test kitchen is on a mission to develop new and creative techniques for recipes that will not only heighten a dish but also remain friendly and accessible to the home chef. Not necessarily the easiest combination to pull off. And yet they do, here with an impressive catalogue of 700 “foolproof” recipes. It’s especially helpful for those studious and process-minded cooks who appreciate step-by-step photos of how to prep certain tricky vegetables, and overviews of which tools you’ll need to stock your kitchen with.Buy Now
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