When I was an assistant cookbook editor at HarperCollins, my boss and I used to put a box of “freebie” cookbooks outside our offices each December, and our coworkers would descend on it like wolves. People love to give and receive cookbooks around the holidays! But it can be difficult to find the perfect one. There are so many cookbooks out there. Lots of them have beautiful photos, or a celebrity author, but how do you know if the recipes are any good?
So this year, I decided to round up ten of my favorite cookbooks for you here. These are books that I genuinely cook from all the time, and they hold a special place in a stack in my kitchen–not on any bookshelf.
I hope you are inspired to give some as gifts this season, and if you have any other cookbook suggestions, I’d love to hear in the comments!
Happy holidays! xo
DINNER: THE PLAYBOOK by Jenny Rosenstrach
WHY I LOVE IT: Jenny Rosenstrach is the author of the great blog Dinner: A Love Story. I just got this cookbook a few months ago, and it’s already one of my favorites. Every single recipe in it is legitimately doable on a weeknight, but they aren’t boring or basic. I often flip through it over my morning coffee, as I am planning what to make for dinner. I love that I usually have most of the ingredients needed on hand, and only have to pick up one or two things at the store to make a dish. Everything is kid-friendly, too.
MY FAVORITE RECIPES: I served the chicken parm meatballs to my entire family (in-laws, cousins, etc.) this summer and they were a huge hit. I also love the miso salmon and the chicken and white bean chili with a hint of cinnamon.
PERFECT FOR: Working parents, your spouse (if you are the primary cook and you want them to take over a few nights).
GIVE WITH: Some fancy cinnamon from Penzeys or another gourmet store, so they can make that chili.
KEEPERS by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion
WHY I LOVE IT: The authors of this book are moms and former Saveur editors. It’s a lot like Dinner: A Love Story, in that the emphasis is on easy weeknight meals, but some of the recipes are a (tiny) bit more involved. Many of the dishes have Asian influences, and there are also chapters on sides, salads, and sauces. It also has lots of beautiful photos.
MY FAVORITE RECIPES: Roasted orange chipotle shrimp, huevos rancheros, angel hair with spicy tomato cream sauce (I make this all the time because Alex adores it), carrot orange ginger dressing, cucumber and watermelon salad.
PERFECT FOR: Another great choice for working parents.
GIVE WITH: A nice bottle of olive oil.
MEATLESS IN COWTOWN by Laura Samuel Meyn and Anthony Head
WHY I LOVE IT: This cookbook is written by two former Bon Appetit editors who are also vegetarians, and live in Texas. The recipes are a combination of lightened up versions of Tex-Mex classics (chili, tortilla soup, fajitas), and easy, inspired vegetarian/vegan dishes (cashew-quinoa patties, chocolate-cinnamon vegan ice cream). The last chapter has lots of yummy cocktails.
MY FAVORITE RECIPES: I am obsessed with the baby greens salad with avocado, grapefruit, and creamy tahini-ginger vinaigrette.
PERFECT FOR: Tex-Mex food lovers, anyone looking to incorporate more vegetarian meals into their rotation.
GIVE WITH: A bottle of Texas-made Tito’s vodka.
THE OH SHE GLOWS COOKBOOK by Angela Liddon
WHY I LOVE IT: This was the first vegan cookbook I ever bought. It’s incredibly approachable, and all the recipes are really fresh–there’s no fake meat or fake cheese. Tons of the recipes are also gluten-free and soy-free. This is a great book to cook from when you feel like you need to detox, or just really want to eat healthfully (hi, entire month of January).
MY FAVORITE RECIPES: I make the Green Monster smoothie all the time (Owen loves it too!), pumpkin pie smoothie, 15-minute creamy avocado pasta, almond butter chocolate chip cookies.
PERFECT FOR: Health nuts, anyone interested in veganism.
GIVE WITH: A spiralizer!
THE SMITTEN KITCHEN COOKBOOK by Deb Perelman
WHY I LOVE IT: I was hesitant to include this cookbook, because duh. If you are reading my little food blog, you are probably already very familiar with the modern day Julia Child. But this cookbook is truly exceptional. The photos are gorgeous, and you really will cook from the book all the time. Many of the recipes are a bit involved, but every single one is flawless. It’s perfect for special occasions or dinner parties when you want to pull out all the stops.
MY FAVORITE RECIPES: We adore the butternut squash and caramelized onion tart–I make it at least once each fall. We had the balsamic and beer-braised short ribs for Valentine’s Day last year (so yummy). I make the snap pea salad all the time in the summer. I haven’t made it yet, but someday, mark my words, the nutella crepe cake will happen.
PERFECT FOR: More accomplished home cooks, food lovers, your friend who is always hosting dinner parties.
GIVE WITH: Fancy salt.
THE BIG BOOK OF SIDES by Rick Rodgers
WHY I LOVE IT: I recently went to a dinner party where we got into a conversation about “interesting sides.” As in, when you ask what you can bring, and the host says, Oh, how about a side dish? And then you scramble around trying to think of something interesting to make. This cookbook has 450 suggestions. Many of the recipes could be entrees, too, like the French macaroni and cheese with leeks or the various vegetable tarts.
MY FAVORITE RECIPES: We just discussed the lemon meringue sweet potatoes, swiss chard puttanesca, and roasted parnsip pear puree. I made the Southern cranberry sauce with fresh orange, ginger, and bourbon for Thanksgiving and it was delish!
PERFECT FOR: Newlyweds, anyone who over-zealously joined a CSA and is now wondering, WTF do I do with all these vegetables?!
GIVE WITH: Vintage serving spoons or salad servers from Etsy. (These are pretty!)
ONE BOWL BAKING by Yvonne Ruperti
WHY I LOVE IT: Because I am a busy mom who spends enough of her day cleaning up already! All of these desserts really can be prepared in a single bowl. Yvonne Ruperti used to be a recipe developer for Cook’s Illustrated, and she really knows her stuff. I bake from book all the time, and I’ve never had a recipe fail.
MY FAVORITE RECIPES: I adapted her amazing sugar cookies earlier this fall. I’ve also made the double chocolate espresso cashew cookies (delish), and recently I made the mix-in-the-pan mocha pudding cake for my father-in-law’s birthday. Alex baked (!!!) the chocolate hazelnut brownie cupcakes for a work party, and they were a huge hit.
PERFECT FOR: Novice bakers and middle school-age children. It would also make a great hostess gift.
GIVE WITH: A pretty mixing bowl. HomeGoods always has a nice selection.
THE BOOZY BAKER by yours truly
WHY I LOVE IT: Um, I wrote it 🙂 But seriously, it’s a really fun cookbook, and the indulgent subject matter makes it perfect for the holidays. People always tell me they love to give it as a gift. Thanks guys!
MY FAVORITE RECIPES: It’s so hard to choose! I recently adapted my own recipe for butterscotch pudding and was reminded again of just how luxurious it is. The gingerbread with dark beer is a favorite, as are the cream cheese brownies with raspberry liqueur.
PERFECT FOR: Your BFF.
GIVE WITH: A bottle of Grand Marnier so she can make the chocolate orange whoopie pies.
MOM’S BIG BOOK OF BAKING by Lauren Chattman
WHY I LOVE IT: Owen calls this “his” cookbook. The first recipe we ever made together was for the sprinkles cookies you can see on the cover. Both my sister-in-law and I use this book to bake with our kids all the time. Yes, the title is a little bit hokey, but when I’m looking for a classic recipe for banana muffins, birthday cake, granola bars, etc., I always consult this book.
MY FAVORITE RECIPES: Sprinkles cookies, chocolate chip muffins with cinnamon sugar, classic yellow layer cake. I adapted her graham crackers last spring.
PERFECT FOR: Young kids, parents who love to bake with their kids.
GIVE WITH: A cute kid’s apron.
HOMEMADE DECADENCE by Joy Wilson
WHY I LOVE IT: I’m a super fan of Joy the Baker. Her photography makes me swoon. This is her second cookbook, and it’s filled with genius, slight madcap dessert recipes like strawberry shortcake cookies, apple and fennel brown betty, and bread and brown butter ice cream. Joy is a really sassy, funny writer, too, so the book is a pleasure just to flip through.
MY FAVORITE RECIPES: I just made the lemon buttermilk pie with maple cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, and it was the hit of the dessert table. Over the summer I made the sweet corn ice cream fully intending to do a post on it, but I ate it all before I could photograph it. Sorry not sorry.
PERFECT FOR: Baking enthusiasts, girlfriends.
GIVE WITH: Really nice vanilla extract.
Happy shopping and happy cooking!