You can find any recipe you’re looking for on the Internet. The problem…is that sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for.
If you do a Google search for “vegan queso,” you’ll find a lot of free vegan queso recipes.
But if you’re standing in your kitchen looking at a bag of cashews you need to use up, sorting the search results for “what to cook with cashews” is going to become an ordeal. 4 BuzzFeed lists later, you’ll be really hungry and still holding a bag of cashews.
It’s funny, because the Internet makes everything more accessible, but sometimes it’s faster to go about things the old fashioned way, with a cookbook. ^_^
If you peruse a cookbook for a recipe, you narrow down your focus before you start. For one thing, you already know that you trust the cookbooks on your shelf. And you know before you start browsing what kind of recipe you’ll find in each book—simple, quick, lots of random ingredients, lots of components, super healthy, more indulgent, etc.
I’ve been curating a collection of vegan, vegetarian, and “vegetable-forward” cookbooks for the last few years, and while there are always more coming out, I’ve been with my collection long enough to have favorites and go-tos for whatever scenario I’m in.
I tend to turn to my beloved cookbooks in a few situations:
- I’m having people over or going to an event and I need some menu inspiration.
- I have a random ingredient and I have no idea how to use it.
- I’m looking for a veganized version of a simple classic, like Ranch dressing.
- It’s a typical weeknight and I want to remake a trusted recipe.
- I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and want to cook healthy foods at home after a few weeks of bagels and french fries.
Below, I’ve organized my favorite cookbooks based on these uses, and also how simple/easy the recipes are. Even if you’re not vegan or plant-based, having a few of these around might help you eat more vegetables…which even meat eaters have to admit is a good idea.
Also, seeing as I’m a junkie, I want to know—do you have a favorite cookbook for when you want to eat vegetables? Tell me!!
Quick note: The books on this list aren’t 100% vegan, but all the recipes I cook from them are. For reference:
- Books listed as “vegan” have zero recipes calling for animal products.
- Books listed as “plant-based” are usually mostly vegan with some honey, and some have the occasional egg or goat cheese.
- Books listed as “vegetarian” are meat-free but do include more dairy than the plant-based ones.
- Books listed as “mainstream” aren’t vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based, but include lots of good vegetable recipes.
If I’m looking for something easy…
When I’m looking for easy weeknight meals that I can use for several dinners, or for lunch and dinner the next day, these are the cookbooks I turn to. The recipes are delicious and satisfying, and easy to put together.
1. Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking, Dana Schultz (vegan)
Dana Schultz’s recipes are great for a few reasons. First, flavor is always a priority, so even if a dish is healthy, you don’t have to worry you’ll be wishing it filled you up more or tasted more like “the original.” Also, Dana keeps recipes simple: most of the recipes require just one bowl, have 10 ingredients or less, or take less than 30 minutes to prepare.
A few of my favorites from the book are:
- The recipe for vegan parmesan cheese. It’s the plant-based version of the powdered parmesan you had in a shaker on spaghetti night when you were growing up.
- The soups, especially 1-Pot Chickpea Noodle Soup. SO good when you’re feeling sick.
- All the curries and Indian-spiced dishes.
- Aaaand the 1-Bowl Chocolate Chip Cookies. Dana was a baking blogger first, so it’s no surprise she has sweet treats on lockdown.
2. One Part Plant , Jessica Murnane (plant-based)
Okay, so this book isn’t actually out yet, but I’m on the marketing team to help promote the release, and I have an advance excerpt of the book. What I love about these recipes is that they are SO simple and SO good.
I already made the Roasted Asparagus and Tomato Pasta and my husband said as we started eating, “How is this so good? It was so easy to make.”
Also, if you are adopting a more plant-based diet to improve your health, this is a good place to start. Jessica was able to treat her endometriosis (and avoid surgery) by changing her diet, and when she wrote the book she wanted to be sure the recipes were easy, approachable, and SUPER satisfying. In other words, it’s not a bunch of side salads.
I’ve got my eye on the:
- Chocolate Chunk Cookies
- Pineapple Mint Green Smoothies
- Creamy Mushroom Lasagna
The book comes out on Feb 21, but it looks if you pre-order on Amazon you get 35% off. Not sure how long the discount lasts but worth a look! Or just check out Jessica’s blog One Part Plant or follow the hashtag #onepartplant on Instagram. She’s kinda starting a movement. 😉 It’s all about eating just 1 plant-based recipe per day.
3. Deliciously Ella, Ella Woodward (plant-based)
Like Jessica, Ella used plant-based eating to transform her health and treat her Postural Tachycardia Syndrome. All her recipes are easy to make and delicious, and reflect the diet she adopted when she first went plant-based.
My favorites are:
- Sweet Potato Brownies. It sounds weird but somehow it WORKS. They’re not orange. 😉 She has a version of this recipe up in case you want a preview.
- Black and Kidney Bean Chili. This is one of the fastest chilis I’ve ever made, and the shredded carrots make it unique.
- Coconut Thai Curry with Chickpeas. The eggplant gets so caramely and rich in this dish, and you know I’m a fan of any curry with butternut squash.
- Lentil Bolognese. If you ever missed a meaty bolognese sauce but not the way it makes you feel, try this sauce. It’s a go-to on spaghetti night.
If I have a vegetable and I don’t know what to do with it…
Sometimes you go to the farmers market and get all excited about the beautiful rainbow chard and watermelon radishes, and then you get home and have no idea what to do with them. Instead of letting them go bad in a corner of the fridge, I scan cookbooks for a recipe.
4. The Love & Lemons Cookbook, Jeanine Donofrio (vegetarian)
Jeanine is a vegetarian blogger in Austin, so that makes me like her already. But I really love that her recipes make such great use of local, in season produce. And her book reflects that. It’s organized based on the fruits and vegetables you find at the farmers market and grocery store in each season, so it’s easy to search (without digging through an index).
This cookbook really came in hand when I bought a dozen artichokes without a plan.
And I LOVE the hummus roulette in the back of the book. It’s easy to customize based on the ingredients you have.
If I want to turn over a new leaf…
In January, I notice that lots of my meat eating friends are suddenly more interested in veganism. Sometimes you’re not ready to go 100% vegan, but you want to inject more fruits and vegetables into your daily life. That’s where I think books like these come in. They’re inspiring, and they include instructions around basics, like soaking grains and cooking beans.
5. My New Roots, Sarah Britton (plant-based)
This cookbook is gorgeous, and I like that it is organized based on season. I turn to My New Roots when I haven’t gone to the grocery store yet, but I know I want to eat healthy and interesting recipes this week.
Some of my favorites have been:
- Overnight oats. The Cherry Chocolate Overnight Oats I posted were inspired by one of Sarah’s recipes.
- And the Crunchy Cabbage Wraps (from the cover) were a crowd-pleaser.
6. At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen, Amy Chaplin (plant-based)
So there’s this long-time vegan restaurant here in the East Village called Angelica Kitchen, and Amy Chaplin worked there before becoming a private chef and blogger. I feel SO GOOD after eating at Angelica, and the same holds true for Amy’s recipes.
Some of my favorites from the book are:
- Instructions for making pantry basics, like brown rice cooked with kombu (it’s seaweed!).
- The super delicious pumpkin bread—I like the banana bread variation.
- The Rainbow Bowl. It’s reminiscent of the Dragon Bowls they serve at Angelica and they just make me feel so GOOD. Have I said that? They make me feel good?? #kalemenow
- Chia seed pudding. She finally converted me to chia seeds. 😉
7. Raw. Vegan. Not Gross. Laura Miller (vegan)
First off, Laura Miller is hilarious. So go look at her YouTube and Instagram. And her book is unique because a lot of the recipes are 100% raw. Of course you’ll notice that my favorites aren’t actually the raw ones:
- Spaghetti squash mac ‘n’ cheese. Sounds weird. Doesn’t taste much like mac ‘n’ cheese. But IS really tasty and satisfying. Bonus, you can eat loads of it without feeling sick. 😛
- Cheesy popcorn. There’s a whole section in this book on junk food that doesn’t induce self-loathing. I’m a fan.
- Salads and juices. They’re all good!
Laura is all the originator of #froobs so that’s a good reason to support her.
If I want a vegan version of a classic…
Sometimes you want a healthy staple, and all the recipes you can find online are classic but not so healthy. My favorite book for this sort of thing is:
8. Food52 Vegan, Gena Hamshaw (vegan)
I feel so personally grateful to Gena Hamshaw for this book. It’s small, digestible (heh), and all the recipes are easy and don’t require lots of weird ingredients. My favorites are:
- The pancakes. Gena brought pancakes back into my life!
- Granola bars. The no-bake refrigerator granola bars are amazing. Super easy and way better for you than the packaged ones.
- Same re the peanut energy balls. I’m glad they’re healthy because I always eat at least 3.
- I use the tofu scramble recipe as my base for vegan migas. 🙂
- And that vegan cream sauce…
If I want it to taste like it’s not vegan…
When I first went vegan a few years ago, I was always searching for vegan recipes that tasted like the original, or at least *reminded* me of the original so much I stopped craving it.
9. Isa Does It, Isa Chandra Moskowitz (vegan)
Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a vegan food god and her recipes are so good. When I’m having a skeptical meat eater over, I always turn to her recipes. Isa Does It is my favorite of her books so far, probably because it has more than a dozen soups, and lots of weeknight options. These are on my monthly rotation:
- Broccoli “Cheese” Soup. It’s magical. I make a slightly altered version, but if I don’t have all the ingredients I want I still make this one by the book.
- Pesto-Cauliflower Pasta with Breaded Tofu (minus the breaded tofu). Something about the charred cauliflower mixing with the (oil-free) creamy cashew pesto is just so good. I add roasted tomatoes instead of the tofu. 🙂
If need to impress a crowd…
Okay, vegan weeknights are great, but what if you’re having a dinner party? One-pot curry and overnight oats might not do the trick. These are the books I peruse when I need to put together a dinner party menu:
10. Crossroads, Tal Ronnen (vegan)
The vegan gods are looking down on this book and they are pleased. Crossroads is a 100% plant-based fine dining restaurant in LA, and all the recipes are restaurant-level impressive. Everything is delicious, if a bit complex, but I’ve used the book the most for:
- Any of the fresh pastas. Tal Ronnen has replaced the traditional egg dough with some vegan voo-doo and it’s amazing. Seriously, you can’t tell the difference between the vegan pasta dough and the traditional. Not while you’re working it, not while you’re cooking it, and not while you’re eating it.
- I repeat, any pasta.
- Chocolate cake. I haven’t diverted from the pasta recipes too much, but I did make the fig chocolate cake when I had friends over and it was a big hit.
11. Jerusalem, Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi (mainstream)
- My book automatically opens up to the basic hummus recipe, which makes A LOT of hummus but is pretty hard to beat, even if you don’t make the chickpeas from scratch.
- And the Chermoula Eggplant is a filling main dish that’s great for parties. Just ditch the yogurt.
Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments! My newly minimalist husband won’t be happy but I’ll sneak them onto the shelf and he’ll never notice. ^_^
**All cookbook covers are the property of the publishers, and are shared here under fair use in the context of reviews/criticism.