With Veganuary coming to a close and my covert announcement in Alicia Kennedy’s newsletter on recipe writing and ingredient sourcing on the kinds of recipes I will be sharing here, I thought now was as good a time as any to walk you through some of my favorite vegan and vegetarian cookbooks.
To be clear, I’m not vegan or vegetarian because limiting my eating options causes problems for me, but I do eat a mostly vegan and vegetarian diet and try to shop as animal, human and planet friendly as possible.
I promise these 13 vegan and vegetarian cookbooks will keep you as inspired as I am about centering vegetables on your plate.
Vegetable Kingdom – Bryant Terry
Bryant Terry is a star in his own right in (vegan) cooking and after reading Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes, I can see why. I can’t recall a best of 2020 cookbook list without it, so I had to have it.
With Bryant’s classical training at first glance this book can come across as a bit ‘cheffy’. Once you realise virtually each recipe is a menu in and of itself, and that you can take each individual component to make your own combinations or just cook one of them at a time, it all becomes a lot less intimidating so all you’re left with is inspiration.
I’ve already made the fantastic charred leak and mushroom toast with a pinenut puree from Vegetable Kingdom but the taro root cakes and cornmeal-fried oyster mushroom po’boy are also high on my hitlist along with all the other purees mentioned in the book. Or Vegetable Kingdom here if you’re in the US, or here if you’re in the UK.
Rosa’s Thai Café: The Vegetarian Cookbook – Siaphin Moore
My brother took me to Rosa’s Thai Café in London’s East End (our old haunt) years ago and I distinctly recall it blowing my mind. Before I’d only had heavy Thai ‘curries’ but Rosa’s showed how bright and refreshing Thai cooking can be. So when I spotted this book and saw one of my favorite photography and styling teams had worked on it I had to get it.
There are quite a number of reasons to love this book. The photography by Louise Hagger and styling by Alexander Breeze is stellar, for one. The recipes are mostly vegan and extremely diverse in scope. But above all, Saiphin Moore has embellished each recipes in Rosa’s Thai Café: The Vegetarian Cookbook with her rich personal history of eating experiences, recipe sources and more. This book gives you a real feel for all the regional Thai cuisines and Saiphin’s past growing up and living in various parts of Asia and now the UK.
All the recipes, including this gaeng penang tua lima (vegan butterbean panang) are surprisingly easy to make, which is just icing on the cake to me. Order Rosa’s Thai Café: The Vegetarian here if you are in the UK.
Jackfruit & Blue Ginger – Sasha Gill
If you’re looking for a broader vegan Asian tome, Sashi Gill is your woman. In Jackfruit & Blue Ginger: Asian Favorites Made Vegan Sasha shares well-beloved classic Asian dishes from India, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, China and Japan, made vegan, as well as some basic techniques to veganize recipes of your own accord.
Chapters are organised by region, which makes it easy to find something to suit your mood or come up with a cohesive vegan menu for a dinner party.
One thing in particular that I love about this book is that it also contains sweets or ‘desserts’ from each region (most Asian cuisines don’t work with desserts, but have sweets throughout the day instead). The vegan Hong Kong ‘egg’ tarts made with silken tofu in particular are amazing and a recipe I’ve made and fed to others again and again, it also formed the foundation for my vegan dark and stormy crème brûlee. Order Jackfruit & Blue Ginger here if you’re in the UK or here if you are in the US (it appeared under another title).
Greenfeast – Nigel Slater
As a voracious reader I prefer reading that challenges and discomforts me. But there are times when something more soothing is required. As a young one I found this comfort in Kurt Vonnegut, because he seemed as miffed by the ways of the world as I was (and still am).
Now that I’m older I cannot think of a single more soothing voice than Nigel Slater‘s. One of my favorite recipes of his is called an earthy meal in a bowl type soup, a title that describes his writing to a tee. When you read Nigel you know you are going to be alright.
Greenfeast comes in two parts: Spring, Summer and Autumn, Winter. These books will help you cook with the seasons and as Nigel states, are intended more to inspire than to be very exacting with. They are my go to when I’ve bought a vegetable but no longer know what to do with it. I just pull them out and browse, good things surely coming my way. Greenfeast is a bit cream and cheese heavy and very classical European in scope, which makes it a great place to start for anyone only just venturing into more veg-based eating straight from plates full of meat.
Vegan with Bite – Shannon Martinez
Shannon isn’t vegan but her restaurant is vegan and so are the recipes she shares because *gesticulates at planet*.
My favorite thing about this book is that ingredients aren’t prefaced with ‘vegan’ (vegan butter, vegan milk, etc). It’s a vegan cookbook so when Shannon says butter she obviously means vegan butter and when she says milk she obviously means non-dairy milk. That’s just a level of duh I’m really into. She also gives you some very useful pointers as to what to look out for when buying ready-made products because so many products that sound like they may have meat in them no longer do (chicken stock cubes, for one, rarely contain chicken – at least in Australia).
One of the chapters is called Minimum Effort, Maximum Results and another has the byline Zero Waste, Maximum Taste and these are pretty much the rules I cook by so you can see why I have to recommend it. Order here in the US or here in the UK.
Joe Yonan – Cool Beans
With Cool Beans, the title kind of speaks for itself. It made me realise beans are a great staple that I could be eating more of without it being a sad ‘tin of beans’ sort of affair. Cool Beans includes a whole bunch of classics (paella! hummus!) from the world over as well as some of Yonan’s own concoctions all with a bean-centric focus. He even includes some tips on how to avoid the notorious musical side effects of beans: farts. Apparently it helps if you cook them well, and this is just the book that’ll help you do it. Order here in the US or here in the UK.
Lagusta Yearwood – Sweet+Salty
I got Salty+Sweet: The Art of Vegan Chocolates, Truffles, Caramels and More by Lagusta Yearwood because Alicia Kennedy recommended it. In it, her famous Lagusta’s Luscious truffles and caramels feature prominently. If you’re good at coming up with funky flavors and adjusting recipes to your own needs (it me) this may feel a bit one-note when you first start reading it. I can come up with funky truffles perfectly fine on my own, thank you very much.
That said, Lagusta gives such great and in-depth information in the perils of shopping and producing ethically (sugar and cacao are a nightmare) and things get a little bit more exciting (for me at least) on the caramel end of things, which is why I’ve decided to include this here. I was talking about uncomfortable reading earlier: this book will make you uncomfortable. But then you get to make better decisions and make vegan chocolate truffles in exciting flavors (or come up with your own, I’ve got kimchi truffles on my mind for one), so it’s all good. Order at Bookshop.org in the US or in the UK.
Vegan Soul Food – Jason Tjon Affo
This is an honorable mention because Vegan Soul Food by Jason Tjon Affo isn’t actually available in English (yet). But it’s a beautiful vegan cookbook full of colorful photography ánd food, mostly inspired by Jason’s Surinamese roots. Which makes this an incredibly diverse cookbook, because Suriname contains multitudes.
My recipe for vegan kue lapis flavored monkey bread was based on Jason’s vegan monkey bread recipe from Vegan Soul Food, so there you go.
Nosh – Esther Erwteman
Nosh: Mijn Vegetarische Joodse Keuken (My Vegetarian Jewish Kitchen) is a lovely and beautiful book by Esther Erwteman who runs Amsterdam-based deli, cooking school and eatery (the former two when there’s no Covid going around) Esther’s Cookery. This is another honorable mention because it’s only available in Dutch right now.
In Nosh Esther interweaves her personal history with her Jewish faith, explaining why certain dishes are prepared and eaten at certain times as well as explaining how certain less obvious choices made it into her repertoire. If you live in Amsterdam be sure to help yourself and help Esther by visiting her shop and getting some good nosh, or if you’re not be sure to order some of her prime goodies in Esther’s Cookery webshop. I’ve gotten a really nice aubergine grill and some lovely harissa’s from her and she also offers workshops online.
Zaitoun – Yasmin Khan
Another honorable mention because strictly speaking Yasmin Khan‘s Zaitoun: Recipes and Stories from the Palestinian Kitchen is neither vegan nor vegetarian. That said, only 13 recipes in this book contain meat. These recipes can easily ignored in favor of all the veg based dishes in this book. The unique insights Zaitoun offers into the Palestinian kitchen and reality are another element of this book that cannot be ignored which is why I had to include it.
I’ve made the falafel and fennel pickle from this book. Both were simple and delicious, so if you’re into Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors with a bit of back story this book is for you. Order in the US or in the UK.
Ed Smith – On The Side
I found On The Side in the discount isle at the American Book Center in The Hague. Intrigued by a book consisting of just sides, I bought it. This book has been my most trustworthy companion ever since. I don’t know why there aren’t more books on sides, though this might be the only one you’ll ever need.
Every recipe includes tips on what to combine them with or how to combine them with other recipes from the book to make a full meal. Furthermore there are not one but three (THREE!) indexes. You can browse based on your main protein, based on what veg you want to use or based on how much time you have. As such it served for the inspiration of the way I’ve set up my chapters and the additional vegan and vegetarian index for my book Nomnomnom.
Lucky Peach Presents Power Vegetables
Sadly as it turns out Lucky Peach was not a happy place. And now as I read some of the older copies, I can tell it was all a lot more bro dudey than I can stomach (I’ll confess I was more bro dudey when I first read them too). Still, when I got my hands on my first Lucky Peach I fell in love hard because up until that point I didn’t know food writing like this existed.
Fast forward whatever years later and all I’m missing is #1. While the issues of the magazine are hard to get a hold of, most of the books are easy to find and out of all of them I think Lucky Peach presents Power Vegetables might give you the most bang for your buck. The photography is amazing and the recipes are all accessible and easy to follow, with LOADS of flavor. Vegan too.
In general I find vegetarian cookbooks lean a little too heavily on cheese (and I love cheese, just not for every meal) while vegan cookbooks are just diet books in disguise. Power Veg is just a good old cookbook that leaves you feeling hungry and ready to wield some veg.
You can find some recipes from Lucky Peach presents Power Vegetables here.
That’s my roundup for vegan and vegetarian cookbooks, I hope the scope is wide enough to have something in the list for you. Be sure to order from your local bookstore!
Zoek je deze kookboekentips in het Nederlands? Ga dan naar vettesletten.nl voor 13 van mijn favoriete vegan- en vegakookboeken.