Eat Well: WWW's Guide to Must-Have Cookbooks

The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, mom!
Borscht recipe originally posted here

A couple of months ago, a reader asked me if I would write a post about my favorite cookbooks. This is kind of a tough task since my tastes have changed over the years, and although I do have a small bookshelf filled with cookbooks, I am not one of those people who has dozens and dozens of them. But I am going to give you a short history of my 35 years of cookbook gathering and hopefully it will be of some help to those of you starting out.

When I got married in 1977, I was thirsty to learn how to cook well. I gathered recipes from family and friends and kept them organized in a file box (I am NOT an organized person and unfortunately, 30+ years later, these recipes reside in a pile in a pencil box). My grandmother gave me a couple of Sunset Magazine cookbooks (I especially loved the casserole book) and I bought myself The Joy of Cooking because it was (and still is) the best all-around everything cookbook. I subscribed to the Time/Life Good Cook and Recipe Series which had recipes from all over the world and included wonderful tutorials (these books are now collectors items) and to Bon Appetít magazine. When my Time/Life books or Bon Appetít would come in the mail I would savor them, marking any new recipes I wanted to try. Soon after we got married, I bought The Moosewood Cookbook, and it was love at first sight. The recipes were so delicious and healthy, and elevated vegetarian cooking to a new height.

A few years later, The Silver Palate cookbooks came out and I was equally smitten with them. Much of my cooking in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s centered around recipes from both The Silver Palate and The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbooks. About this time, I got a Romertopf unglazed clay cooking pot (a fad in the 80’s) which I used at least once a week because of the wonderful cookbook I got with it: The Clay-pot Cookbook by Georgia and Grover Sales (This was during our meat-eating days—the cookbook is extremely meat-centric).

In the early ‘00’s I discovered Ina Garten and bought all of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks as they came out. They are wonderful—easy homey recipes—but many are high in fat and meat is definitely presented as the main course.

Larry and I became vegetarians about 5 years ago (Rebecca has been a vegetarian since age 12) and since then, my whole way of thinking about cooking has changed. I have bought some great cookbooks to inspire me, but also use some of my old stand-bys on a regular basis. And then there is the Internet. I feel lucky to be living at a time when I can find any recipe I want at the drop of a finger, literally.

Here are my suggestions from 35 years of gathering recipes for anyone who is starting out collecting recipes or would like to beef up (beet up?) what they already have.


1. Buy one all-around everything cookbook. Joy of Cooking is my hands-down favorite.
2. Subscribe to one magazine that has recipes aligned to your type of cooking. When I first got married it was Bon Apetit. Then came Sunset Magazine. Now I love Vegetarian Times (thanks, David and Alyssa!!). Make sure you cut out recipes that you make and love so you don’t lose them.
3. Figure out a filing system that works for you for recipes received from friends and family (and magazines, newspapers, or the Internet ).
4. Go to book stores and look at cookbooks. Then jot down names that seem interesting to you and look them up on the Internet. You can then read reviews before you invest your money. Or…
5. Gather good book reviews from the Internet, magazines or newspapers and then go look at the book in the bookstore.

1. Moosewood cookbooks (including the original, Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health and Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home).
2. Anything by Deborah Madison (Vegetarian Suppers, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
3. Love Soup by Anna Thomas
4. Cooking With the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta
5. The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters (this book is great for new cooks…lots of easy instruction for learning basics)
6. Vegetarian Traditions by George Vutetakis
7. Clean Food by Terry Walters
(I don’t have it, but everyone raves about How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. This one is going on my wish list).


My list is by no way complete… it's a work in progress and the result of my random meanderings through bookstore aisles. I'm sure there are many great cookbooks that aren’t on my list. What are some of yours?



Heather | 4:34 PM

I wanted to share my recipe system, because wow, has it helped:

I have a binder divided into sections (appetizers, poultry, seafood, vegetarian, sides, cakes, etc. etc.). Each of those dividers has a pocket.

Every month when we get Cooking Light (our mag of choice), we clip our faves and put them in the corresponding pocket.

When we want to make a meal, it's a lot easier to sort through the recipes now instead of trying to wade through one gigantic pile.

Thanks for the book suggestions. I need to get Joy of Cooking!

Jen | 4:35 PM

Hi! This is my first comment, but I love your WWW posts!

My husband is a vegetarian, and I am pretty much vegetarian as a result, especially at home. We have found that Peter Berley's cookbooks are the ones we use over and over again, and love the most!

In particular, Fresh Food Fast and Modern Vegetarian Kitchen!

Thank you again for your posts! They are a bright spot in my day!

Anonymous | 4:38 PM

Thanks! Just FYI I have Bitman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian & dont like it much. As a 15 plus year veggie I will still say I prefer (and would highly reccomend) the original How To Cook Everything. It has lots of good info and the recipes are great bases for a creative cook. The veggie one has failed me a couple times and it feels like it was made by a non-vegetarian. Also I have to reccomend the NYT cookbook especially for baking recipes. For websites allrecipes is a favorite (and of course looking up old recipes you & Rebecca posted - kale & quinoa especially).

Morgan | 4:59 PM


Thanks for your recipes. I've tried many and they're always very tasty. I just wanted to suggest Isa Chandra Moskowitz. She has a series of vegan cookbooks including baking, brunch, low cal... Her style is sort of punk and her recipes are delicious. My favourite books are Vegan with a Vengeance and Appetite for Reduction but check out her website Post Punk Kitchen ( for recipes and more.


I second Isa Chandra Moskowitz!

Every SINGLE recipe of hers I've tried has come out beautifully (I can't say this of anyone else), and almost all of my go-to recipes are hers. I appreciate that she doesn't rely on processed meat-substitutes to make satisfying vegan meals, but mostly I'm just impressed by how great her flavor combinations are! Girl has an AWESOME palate. I especially love Appetite for Reduction, one of her newest cookbooks. Everything in it is low-fat, and many of the recipes are also gluten-free or soy-free (or both!). I've cooked from this book at least three times a week since picking it up. (The black bean, zucchini, and olive tacos are to die for!)

Jena Nicole | 5:22 PM

ok, if you like the Moosewood... You MUST get your hands on the TAO of Cooking.
Written in the 70's by a vegetarian commune in Bloomington, IN.
Love, love, love...
Best carrot cake recipe INE THE WORLD.
No. Kidding.

Meg | 6:19 PM
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim | 6:37 PM

We love 30-Minute Vegetarian Indian Cookbook but sadly only available second hand now. Lots of tasty Indian food ready in 30 minutes or less - great with toddlers who need dahl NOW!

Veronica | 6:38 PM

I just got Bryant Terry's The Inspired Vegan - and I am loving it so far. Not a vegan, myself - but nothing is missing in these recipes. Love your recipes every week!

Julie | 6:51 PM

Cookbooks are my true love. My husband is vegan, and I eat very little meat. We eat a very similar whole foods diet to what you seem to eat. I also adore Deborah Madison. I have a few suggestions that I think you would adore:
- Yotam Ottolenghi is a genius. His approach is so simple and respectful of the beauty of ingredients. Not everything is vegetarian, but 95% of it is and a ton of it is vegan. His blog for The Guardian is gorgeous
and his books (Plenty and Ottolenghi) are amazing.
- Paula Wolfert is a genius and her writing is sublime. I love her newer "The Food of Morocco" and her old standby "Mediterranean Grains and Greens" is great. Really, any book of hers is worth the read.
- Heidi Swanson is my hero. She started the blog, 101 Cookbooks. Her blog is a gorgeous and amazing resource. Her book, "Super Natural Every Day" is a joy to use. She thinks about ease, frugality, and menu planning like no other.

Kyran | 6:57 PM

I nearly leapt to feet and applauded when I saw Joy at the top of the list. This was our family bible. When I was nine years old, and my father took us along on sabbatical to Tobago, it was one of the few "non-essential" items that traveled with us--as important as his typewriter.

Emily | 7:26 PM

Thank you for the suggestions, I will have to peruse the bookstore's cookbook section soon! I had to add that one of my favorites lately is Flatbreads and Flavors. It is so much fun to look through, and has recipes for flatbreads and foods that you eat with them (full meals!) from all over the world. Basically, the authors have found amazing jobs for themselves, traveling the world meeting people and learning how to make different dishes from them!

Amy | 7:32 PM

A good place to find and test new cookbooks is at your library. You can cook from them for a few weeks and then decide if you want to purchase your own copy.

Culinary Favorites From A to Z | 7:42 PM

Interesting list, I love seeing cookbooks that other people love. I've shared the link to your post on my Facebook page, Culinary Favorites From A to Z.

Eva | 7:46 PM

You HAVE to try Dreena Burton's vegan cookbooks. Her recipes are amazing and simple without crazy-fancy-expensive ingredients. She also provides great nutritional information, info on feeding babies and children, and has some lovely hippie photos on the covers:) Her baking works out very well compared to most vegan baking (lots of others have trouble with binders I think) - I often bake cookies or whatever, then serve them and only let people know they're vegan after they've savoured them and wondered about all the butter I must have used. What a great post! You've given me some ideas and wish list items for sure!

Megan | 7:59 PM

Hands down my favorite veg cookbook is World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey. It's organized by category, then main ingredient (i.e. a legumes section, with recipes in alpha order by main ingredient, black beans, then chickpeas and so on) It was my go to this summer when we had a CSA share...we'd get a new to us vegetable or get tired of old stand by preparations (we had sooooo many mustard greens in the spring), so I'd just look up kohlrabi or mustard or Swiss chard and there'd be 5 or 5 great sounding recipes to try. She also gives info at the beginning of each ingredient section about selecting that ingredient (ripeness, etc) at the market, basic preparations , etc. Can you tell I love this book?

Rebecca | 8:16 PM

Thank you for this great list!

I think you would LOVE the Rebar cookbook. Wonderful vegan and vegetarian recipes, it is a family favourite. The authors have a restaurant in Victoria, BC.

Wendy Woolf | 9:29 PM

You guys ROCK!! I now will have to buy a bigger bookcase because I want to buy every one of your suggested books! Thanks for sharing all of your favorites! Hugs to all of you!

connie t | 10:51 PM

I look all the recipes I need online. I also watch a lot of cooking shows and print out those too. I look on Youtube for a lot of recipes, because if you see a video of it being made, it inspires me to try it. I also made a lot of cooking videos on my channel, so I can go back and see how I made something. It is kind of my video cookbook.

Anonymous | 12:50 AM

I love you WWW!! I also wanted throw this out for GGC's frugal readers--I'm a librarian, and most libraries have a fabulous cookbook section with new books coming in all the time. :)

I'm commenting to specifically recommend Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. Yum. Vegetarian, whole foods. The smoked mozzarella cauliflower crustless quiche alone is worth checking out the book! Smoked cheese, hungarian paprika, crispy cauliflower. Divine. And the eggplant recipes, don't get me started!
The BBC food section published new recipes by Ottolenghi online for free! Search cauliflower + tahini and you won't be disappointed.

(Did I mentioned I LOVED your cauliflower post? :)

comicshopgrl | 5:02 AM

Definitely try "The Very Best Of Recipes for Health" by Martha Rose Shulman. She writes for the Health column in the New York Times and her recipes are amazing and delicious. The book is 99% vegetarian. I have a couple of her other books on order.

Someone earlier mentioned Heidi Swanson who runs the 101 Cookbooks blog. I bought her book "Super Natural Every Day" but didn't like it. I gave it to my sister. Her website is much better. I also like the Smitten Kitchen blog if you are looking for more web resources.

M | 5:07 AM

I always love seeing the cookbooks of people I admire. I love your posts! My family and I are omnivores, but we try to limit animal protein consumption to a couple of times a week and keep it plant-based and legume based as much as possible. My all time favorite coookbook is Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. I have the one with the yellow jacket, but there is an updated version (red jacket) available as well as a Vegetarian version. I have taught myself to cook from this book. I would look up recipes based on the ingredients received in my weekly CSA box and just took off from there. An Everlasting Meal is my new favorite food book (not so much a cookbook as a narrative and a very good one), and I absolutely adore Heidi Swanson's cookbooks (vegetarian) - she is the author of the blog. I also have a binder full of recipes I've developed to be less rich from home (Turkey) that I cook frequently. I hope you keep your writings on food coming, I enjoy reading them very much.

Tatiana | 8:41 AM

I love Fields of Greens by Annie Sommerville. Most of my favorite recipes come from it: cranberry-apricot tart, mushroom barley soup, all the frittatta's... it's a good one. I'd never give it up.

bekala | 9:24 AM

Oh, I totally agree--The Joy of Cooking is indispensible. I just got the Cook's Illustated Cookbook, and I lurrrrve it already!

Katy | 9:26 AM

Love the suggestions. Wanted to add an organizing tip. I have started using the app 'Evernote' to organize my recipes. It is free, and can be used on a PC, on the web, or on an iphone or Android app. I take pics of my favorite recipes from my books, and can e-mail them to evernote. I can clip recipes from webpages. I can organize them using files or tags, and then can search by ingredient. Now I can access all my recipes, including new ones to try, while I am at the grocery store, or while visiting friends. I can "share" my recipe folder with specific friends if I want to...or can e-mail recipes to folks directly from the app. Can even add notes and/or pics of the finished products. LOVE IT!!

gabrielle | 9:38 AM

Just a quick shout out for one of WWW's faves– Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran. The recipes are AMAZING and I promise (once you stock your kitchen with the appropriate spices) you'll be in love too. One of my absolute all-time favorites.

Thanks for all of your thoughtful posts, WWW. I love the way you think about food. It's really inspiring.

Unknown | 1:15 PM

I think you would really enjoy Super Natural Every Day and Super Natural Cooking from Heidi Swanson. Her blog is Her food photos are lovely, too.

Emily | 2:40 PM

I will second the person who recommended you "Plenty" by Yotam Ottolenghi. It's definitely the most beautiful and vibrant vegetarian cookbook I have ever read.

A must read!

Alison | 4:28 PM

I'm much more of a baker than a cook, so I have to throw the King Arthur Flour Company's Baker's Companion into the mix. I've been using it for years and it has never, ever failed me. Their website is also great and has tons of free (and often seasonal, holiday-ish, etc.) recipes you can try before you buy. I also have the whole grain baking one, and it's also rad.

verdemama | 9:08 PM

I second Heidi Swanson's two cookbooks (both gorgeous -- very artistic with great photography) and her site 101cookbooks.

Thanks for the great food posts, WWW!

Rachel | 10:22 AM

I love, love, LOVE the new cookbook 'River Cottage Veg Every Day' because it has fabulous recipes in that you really can make every day and incorporate really easily into your everyday life. It is also the only vegetarian cookbook that I have wanted to make and eat EVERYTHING in there!

It's a UK chef but I'm sure you can get it on Amazon. It really is wonderful.

Rachel | 1:22 PM

I love Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian! However, it was one of the first cookbooks that I really cooked out of, not one that I was using as a cross-reference or anything, if that makes sense. Even though I am vegan now, I still use it.

And I'm an Isa Chandra Moskowitz follower as well!

Thanks for sharing your cookbook herstory with us :)

Trysha | 8:26 AM

How to cook everything vegetarian is my cookbook bible. I use it all the time. It's great as a reference when I'm not sure how to cook a certain vegetable (roasted tomatillos in 20 minutes, I never knew!)

Plus it's heavy so it makes a great weight for pressing tofu. :)

Charlee | 1:12 PM

I'm in New Zealand and I love the Destitute Gourmet recipe books by Sophie Gray. As the names suggests they are books about cooking on a budget for foodies. They came about as a result of the author's experience of going down to one income. Really tasty meals with some of them having vegetarian sections and most of them with baking sections too. I love my DG cookbooks and wouldn't do without them.

catherine d. | 9:24 PM

did you ever thought of maybe doing a GGC cookbook? i think the recipes your mom posts here are delicious and more importantly for a cookbook really inspiring! with all the online site for making your own book and selfpublishing, it could be something to look into... i know i would love to get a copy!

Unknown | 7:03 PM

I just bought a clay baker a few months ago. It's glazed as I read they are a little safer as most of the Romertopf clay bakers are made in Mexico now. There sure are endless recipes.