18 Cookbooks That Everyone Should Own

18 Cookbooks That Everyone Should Own

The best cookbooks are far more than a straightforward list of recipes, combining philosophy, history, and enough sensuous description to make them a joy to read, whether you’re in the kitchen or curled up on a sofa. Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat is as much a case for purple prose as it is a home cooking bible, and the common sense and gentle humor to be found in Mastering the Art of French Cooking make it a pleasure to flip through nearly 60 years after its original publication. And for those who are already familiar with the Italian and French traditions? In lieu of an actual holiday, transport yourself to Mexico City by way of Gabriela Cámara’s arroz verde, or conjure up an Irani cafe by sipping a homemade cup of Dishoom’s masala chai. Below, 17 genius cookbooks that everyone should own.

Where Cooking Begins by Carla Lalli Music

The best cookbook for… changing up your shopping habits.

In a single volume, Where Cooking Begins teaches you how to shop more effectively, pare down your kitchenware, and master six classic techniques that work with just about any produce: sautéing, pan-roasting, steaming, boiling, confiting and slow-roasting. Oh, and it also has one of the best simple recipes for pastry dough ever, inspired by none other than Julia Child.

Where Cooking Begins: Uncomplicated Recipes to Make You a Great Cook by Carla Lalli Music

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

The best cookbook for… learning the five mother sauces. 

Apart from being genuinely useful, Mastering the Art of French Cooking also looks exceptionally pretty on a kitchen shelf—and with traditional French cuisine back in fashion at last, learning how to make a truly perfect cassoulet or hollandaise is a brilliant use of dark winter evenings.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

Ottolenghi Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage

The best cookbook for… realizing vegetables can be the star of any meal.

Yotam Ottolenghi is credited with introducing Londoners to the wonders of preserved lemons, za’atar, and pomegranate molasses. His recent volume, Flavour, includes vegetable-centric recipes alongside straightforward lessons about the origins of taste—from charring to aging—and how to intuitively marry flavors for spectacular dishes.

Ottolenghi Flavor: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat

The best cookbook for… understanding kitchen fundamentals.

Less a cookbook than a full-blown gastronomical movement, Samin Nosrat’s bestseller introduces readers to the most basic culinary principals on which all good food depends—distilling her years in the kitchen at Chez Panisse into elegant chapters on salt, fat, acid, and heat. It’s one of those rare volumes that genuinely lives up to the hype, and will fundamentally transform the way that you cook even the most basic of dishes. Case in point: her buttermilk roast chicken.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat

An A-Z Of Pasta by Rachel Roddy

The best cookbook for… a renewed appreciation for a pantry staple.

A British ex-pat based in Rome’s vibrant Testaccio neighborhood, Rachel Roddy has devoted years to studying regional Italian cuisines, with an emphasis on pasta. Her A-Z guides readers through 50 shapes (narrowed down from more than 1,200 varieties currently eaten across Italy) and the most delicious and/or traditional ways to serve them. Each tempting chapter, from “Annelli” to “Ziti,” includes an introduction about that particular variety’s historical significance and a Roddy anecdote about meals eaten everywhere from a friend’s home in the Florentine hills to crowded trattorie hidden away down Roman streets.

An A-Z of Pasta: Stories, Shapes, Sauces, Recipes by Rachel Roddy

Black Food by Bryant Terry

The best cookbook for… celebrating the food of the African diaspora.

It’s hard to overstate how brilliant—and how long overdue—Bryant Terry’s Black Food actually is. Beautiful enough to display on your coffee table (graphic artist Emory Douglas, a former Black Panther in Oakland, contributed visuals), this “communal shrine to the shared culinary histories of the African diaspora” is crammed with extraordinary recipes by dozens of Black contributors (including quite possibly the greatest potato salad ever created) organized around themes ranging from Food Justice to Radical Self-Care. Published alongside ingredients lists for the likes of Green Banana Chowder and Baobab Panko Salmon? Both essays and verse by celebrated writers and poets—a nod to Toni Morrison’s ’70s anthology, The Black Book.

Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora by Bryant Terry

Whole Food Cooking Every Day by Amy Chaplin

The best cookbook for… becoming a whole foods evangelist.

The concept behind Amy Chaplin’s *Whole Food Cooking Every Day—*vegetarian recipes that are free from gluten, dairy, and sugar—might sound punishingly boring, but it’s anything but. One chapter will teach you how to make dressings from vegetables—winter beets, summer zucchini—that taste genuinely creamy; another takes you through the process of making your own nut- and seed-based drinks, including rose almond milk and adaptogenic dandelion lattes.

Whole Food Cooking Every Day: Transform the Way You Eat With 250 Vegetarian Recipes by Amy Chaplin

To Asia, With Love by Hetty McKinnon

The best cookbook for… anyone who’s vegan-curious. 

Hetty McKinnon’s To Asia, With Love might have single-handedly rehabilitated the word “pan-Asian” in the world of cuisine. As the Brooklyn-based chef notes at the beginning of the volume, “The recipes are Asian in origin, but modern in spirit; they are inspired by tradition, with a global interpretation.” A wonderfully personal cookbook—McKinnon even photographed the dishes herself on 35mm film—it represents an ode to her Chinese mother’s kitchen, and highlights the wealth of plant-based Asian dishes largely absent from restaurant menus in the West. Beyond including healthy, make-forever recipes, To Asia also teaches you culinary skills that I can only describe as game-changing, from making a “perfectly jammy egg” to top noodles or rice to choosing the best replacements for hard-to-find Asian produce (think Granny Smiths for green papaya).

To Asia, With Love: Everyday Asian Recipes and Stories From the Heart by Hetty McKinnon

How To Eat A Peach by Diana Henry

The best cookbook for… readymade hosting menus. 

If there is a more deliciously evocative cookbook than How To Eat A Peach, I have yet to come across it. Instead of recipes, it comprises menus inspired by different experiences, seasons, and places. (“Composing a menu is still my favorite bit of cooking,” Henry writes in the introduction. “I don’t invite people round and then wonder what I’ll cook. I come up with a menu and then consider who would like to eat it.”) Among the lyrically named chapters? “Before The Passeggiata,” a formula for a southern Italian dinner that progresses from fennel taralli to ricotta, candied lemon, and pistachio ice cream; “Smoky Days,” an homage to the first days of autumn with a feast that ends in cider jellies and brandy syllabub; “In My Own Backyard,” Henry’s take on the perfect Sunday lunch, complete with Guinness bread; and “Missing New York,” an oyster-filled gastronomical paean to Manhattan.

How to Eat a Peach: Menus, Stories and Places by Diana Henry

In Bibi’s Kitchen by Hawa Hassan and Julia Turshen

The best cookbook for… discovering the wonders of east African cuisine. 

Samin Nosrat is among the many, many fans of Hawa Hassan and Julia Turschen’s In Bibi’s Kitchen, a joyful compilation of recipes from bibis—or grandmothers—across a range of African countries that “touch the Indian Ocean,” including Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Madagascar, and Comoros. Each nation is afforded its own chapter, where details about its history and traditions sit alongside intimate conversations with bibis in their own kitchens. Many recipes are attributed to their creators—Ma Gehhenet’s Shiro, Ma Maria’s Xima—and accompanied by wanderlust-inducing photographs of lush mountains, rugged coastlines, and beautiful dishes. An extremely welcome (and long overdue) contribution to the problematically Eurocentric world of food publishing in the West.

In Bibi’s Kitchen by Hawa Hassan

A Modern Cook’s Year by Anna Jones

The best cookbook for… attuning yourself to the seasons.

All of Anna Jones’s cookbooks are genuinely useful and beautifully photographed—stay tuned for her next volume, One, in early 2022—but A Modern Cook’s Year is her best. With more than 250 adaptable, vegetarian recipes grouped by micro-seasons (including “Start of the Year,” “Herald of Spring,” and “First Warm Days”), it’s an essential guide to making the most of seasonal British produce.

Modern Cook’s Year by Anna Jones

Food From Across Africa: Recipes to Share by Timothy Duval, Folayemi Brown, and Jacob Fodio Todd

Written by a trio of Londoners with family and connections across West and East Africa, Food From Across Africa is a joyful introduction to African dishes ranging from jollof rice to hibiscus tea, groundnut stew to tea bread. The majority of ingredients are available in your usual greengrocer—but it’s more than worth taking the excuse to visit the markets in Deptford and Brixton that the Groundnut team personally favor.

Food From Across Africa: Recipes to Share by Timothy Duval, Folayemi Brown, and Jacob Fodio Todd

My Mexico City Kitchen by Gabriela Cámara and Malena Watrous

The best cookbook for… keeping taco cravings at bay.

As Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat makes clear, Mexican cuisine is a masterclass in the power of acids, and Gabriela Cámara’s My Mexico City Kitchen is a colorful introduction to the magic of salsas—among countless other wonders: tostadas, agua frescas, ceviches, frijoles refritos…

My Mexico City Kitchen: Recipes and Convictions by Gabriela Cámara and Malena Watrous

How To Eat by Nigella Lawson

The best cookbook for… anyone who needs culinary handholding.

The prose in Nigella Lawson’s revolutionary How to Eat is evocative enough that you will be tempted to read it like a novel. Fortunately, Vintage released a smaller paperback edition in honor of its 20th anniversary. Also more than worth having at your disposal: the newly released Cook, Eat, Repeat, featuring Lawson’s meditations on everything from the power of anchovies to a loving defense of “brown” food with accompanying recipes.

How To Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food by Nigella Lawson

River Cafe London by Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray, Sian Wyn Owen, and Joseph Trivelli

The best cookbook for… whenever a trip to the River Cafe is out of budget.

Released in honor of three decades of the River Cafe, River Cafe 30 is visually stunning, reprinting the 1996 New Yorker article that put the Hammersmith restaurant on the map as well as individual menus scribbled on by famous customers such as Damien Hirst. Master their pappa al pomodoro, salsa verde, and cannellini, and you will always be well fed.

River Cafe London: Thirty Years of Recipes and the Story of a Much-Loved Restaurant by Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray, Sian Wyn Owen, and Joseph Trivelli

La Grotta: Ice Creams and Sorbets by Kitty Travers

The best cookbook for… shifting your entire perception of dessert.

In publishing La Grotta, Kitty Travers single-handedly made it acceptable for a home chef to decide to whip up a Montmorency Cherry Sherbet, Amalfi Lemon Jelly, or Leafy Blackcurrant Custard. A former pastry chef at St Johns, the frozen treat evangelist has traveled everywhere from Iceland to Brazil to study ice cream making—and while some of her flavor combinations are more unusual than your average Madagascan vanilla, just put yourself in her expert hands and follow each recipe precisely.

La Grotta: Ice Creams and Sorbets by Kitty Travers

The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak

The best cookbook for… making treats worthy of The Great British Bake Off.

Like Samin Nosrat, Claire Ptak trained at Chez Panisse—translating Alice Waters’s culinary philosophy to the baking world when she launched the Violet Bakery in London (and, yes, she later made the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding cake). There are sweet treats here for every occasion: raspberry and star anise muffins for breakfast; sweet corn and roasted tomato quiche for lunch; honey and rose water madeleines for tea… The recipes for homemade preserves and jams are also a game-changer.

The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak

Dishoom: From Bombay With Love by Shamil Thakrar, Kavi Thakrar, and Naved Nasir

The best cookbook for… spectacularly good dahl.

Anyone who’s witnessed the queues snaking through Soho for a table at Dishoom will testify that it has an almost comically devoted following—and anyone who’s actually tried the dahl will tell you that it’s more than justified. The restaurant’s first cookbook is as much a lovingly illustrated paean to Bombay as it is a compilation of moreish recipes for everything from gunpowder potatoes to ruby chicken. If there is a more comforting beverage than their masala chai, I have yet to try it.

Dishoom: From Bombay With Love by Shamil Thakrar, Kavi Thakrar, and Naved Nasir