So you’re interested in vegetarianism. Maybe you’ve seen an article about how it’s better for your health and the environment. Maybe you’ve just decided that eating animals isn’t for you. Maybe you’re trying to eat less meat. In any case, you’re looking for a vegetarian cookbook and you don’t know where to start.
There’s been a boom in plant-based eating over the last few years and with it an exponential increase in vegetarian cookbooks. In this guide, we’ll talk about the different things to look for in a vegetarian cookbook and how to choose the best one to suit your needs. If you find that you’re still a little lost, we’ve also got 10 recommendations that you’re sure to love.
How to Choose a Vegetarian Cookbook – Buying Guide
There are so many vegetarian cookbooks out there, it was rather dizzying sorting through them all. We needed experience on our side. That’s why we reached out to Jacqueline, who has been vegetarian since 1995.
Jacqueline Bodnar is an ethical vegetarian. She is also a writer, an influencer, and a mother of two smaller vegetarians. She loves to read, write, eat, and be in nature. She appreciates a good veg meal, but she, like many of us, is caught up in the relentless current of a busy life.
And yet, she finds the time to help her family eat well. She also finds the time to combine the two great passions of her life—writing and vegetarianism—and pen her own blog. There, she reviews products, shares cooking, discusses vegetarianism, and, at times, simply muses. You can visit her below.
Everyday Cooking: Recipes that Fit Your Lifestyle
Different people cook in different ways. Maybe you need to cook for the whole family. Or maybe you just need something quick and easy. In either case, make sure to take your own needs into consideration when choosing a cookbook.
If You Need Versatility, Get a Cookbook That Covers Everything from Breakfast to Dessert!
Surely you’ve seen cookbooks filled with nothing but cakes and desserts or cookbooks devoted to noodles. But if you’re looking for something family-friendly that you can reach for any time of the day, it’s best to have a cookbook that covers more than just one type of food. Instead, look for a book that has everything from breakfast to snacks to dessert.
This holds especially true for new vegetarians. You’re just learning to plan out your meals and balance your diet. With a big old general book, you’ll be sure to find a recipe that fits your changing needs. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, which Jacqueline touches on below.
For example, if you want to know how to make great veggie burgers, then buy a cookbook that focuses on just veggie burgers. Or if you want to know how to make some amazing vegan desserts, you should invest in a vegan dessert cookbook or two, so you have a great collection to choose from.
If You’re Busy as a Bee, Find Something with Quick and Simple Recipes
As much as we all love the flavor of a slow roasted meal, sometimes we just don’t have the luxury of time! If you find yourself rushing around with barely enough time to breathe, you’re going to need recipes that you can make fast.
In that case, look for cookbooks featuring recipes you can make in under X number of minutes or with only X ingredients. It’ll save you the frustration of flipping through a normal cookbook looking for something you can work with.
Also, it’s a great idea to have at least one good vegetarian crockpot cookbook in your collection. That way you can get the ingredients in the crockpot in the morning and then it’s ready in the evening. Crockpot recipes help keep things simple when you know you have a busy day, but still want a healthy and tasty meal in the evening.
Want to Make the Most Nutritious Meals Possible? Consider the Following
For a lot of people, when switching to a vegetarian diet, the biggest concern is ensuring that meals are well balanced. Not to fear! It’s pretty simple, and there are a few things to look for in a cookbook to help you achieve balance.
For a Balanced Diet: Get a Cookbook that Will Fill You up with All Your Essential Nutrients
One of the biggest concerns people have when going vegetarian is whether or not they’ll be able to get all the nutrients (particularly protein) their bodies need. Rest assured, plants have you covered (the mighty rhino is vegetarian, after all!), but for peace of mind, you can look for a cookbook that includes nutritional information either about a vegetarian diet in general or for each specific recipe.
There are also cookbooks dedicated to specific nutritional needs (high protein, low fat, ketogenic, etc). Additionally, some vegetarian cookbooks seem like they’re more like side dish cookbooks. But as a vegetarian who needs to get all of their nutrients from plant fare, you’ll need more than that. So you want to look for a cookbook that includes recipes hearty enough to stand alone.
Having a healthy vegetarian protein source is important, so we like to have dishes that include beans, quinoa, lentils, tofu, nuts, or some vegetarian meat substitutes.
Ingredients are Important: Look for Seasonal and Locally Available
There are a ton of trendy vegetarian ingredients available now that might sound like fun to use and cook, but if you can’t find them, then you won’t be able to use them! So make sure that the cookbook you choose has things that you can actually find. Extra points if they’re locally grown, because then they’re guaranteed to be fresh. Produce, after all, loses nutrients over time.
Another thing to consider is seasonality. While most fruits/veggies are available year-round thanks to air transport, there will still be times when it’s hard to find certain produce items. So it might be good to search for a cookbook that has recipes that are seasonally appropriate or contains recipes for them all: fall, summer, winter, and spring.
The closer to home that you can purchase the produce, the better it is. It will often taste better, you can speak with the farm regarding their practices using chemical fertilizers, and it hasn’t been sitting for days making its way across the country or world in order to get to you.
The down side to sticking to season produce or foods grown closer to home is that you will limit yourself. There is a good chance you wouldn’t be able to have many of the foods that you want, because they are not in season. Balancing it, by opting for mostly seasonal foods and including a few other items here and there, is a good way to go.
Beyond the Book: Learning Techniques and Flavor Theory
If you’re new cooking, it might be a little difficult to just jump into a recipe from a seasoned professional. To help you along, you want to look for a cookbook that includes a section on technique that will teach you how to make your ingredients taste as good as possible.
Even if you’re pretty comfortable in the kitchen, if vegetarianism is new to you, then you can still benefit from a robust informational section. Admittedly, it is a bit more difficult to make flavor pop with purely vegetarian ingredients, so you want some insight into learning how to build flavor without meat.
This will help you to learn to cook and develop your own dishes without needing a cookbook in the future.
For example, I didn’t know how to prepare or eat a steamed artichoke. I read some information in a cookbook on it, then I logged online to see it in action. It helped it to all make sense, and I was able to easily replicate the information. Today I make steamed artichokes with ease and love them.
Make Sure Your Favorite Cultural Cuisine is Included
Cutting out meat doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on your favorite cuisines! There are vegetarian cookbooks that cover basically every cultural cuisine you can think of, so don’t worry about having to skip Chinese.
That being said, if you prefer a wider variety of foods, look for a cookbook that spans multiple cuisines.
A while back I tried a new recipe for a red lentil dal. It was really simple and my family loved it. Now I make it more often. Vegetarians tend to eat a wider variety of foods, which is a great thing!
In Consideration of the Meat Eaters in Your Life
Although you have taken the step to cut out meat from your diet, you may still be cooking for people who do eat meat, and you want to find recipes that will appeal to them too.
Step one: approach fake meats with caution. While you might have acclimated yourself to Tofurkey, people who are used to eating meat will likely compare it (unfavorably) to the bite and juiciness of beef. Yes, there are ways you can fry and season tofu so that it’s as succulent as meat. However, it’s difficult to pull off–a feat meant only for those with unwavering confidence in their culinary skills.
Step two: Find a cookbook that focuses on umami. One of the key things that people love about meat is its hearty, savory, umami flavor. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to achieve that with vegetarian ingredients too! Mushrooms, cheese, dried tomatoes, fermented vegetables–the list goes on and on.
A meat lover can transition to being a vegetarian, but that takes time and an open mind. When you begin eating vegetarian, you are going to cleanse your palette and begin to acquire a taste for more vegetarian dishes. For many people it is a slow transition, and that’s okay.
Even if they never completely go vegetarian, they will most likely increase their intake of vegetarian meals, which is a great thing. It’s important to not put meat lovers on defense, but to instead just introduce them to tasty vegetarian food. Lead by example. Show how good vegetarian is and more people will want to eat it.
Top 10 Vegetarian Cookbooks to Buy Online
If you still find yourself a little lost, here are our ten favorites to help you with your decision.
10. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – Veganize It!: Easy DIY Recipes for a Plant-Based Kitchen
For the DIY-er Vegetarian
You know those vegetarian and vegan fake meats and cheeses you can buy at the store that are expensive and full of chemicals? This book by Robin Robertson teaches you how to make better versions yourself. You’ll learn how to make everything from faux sausage to butter to even Worcestershire sauce! If you find yourself craving foods that you used to eat pre-vegetarianism, this might be the book for you.
However, this may not be best suited for someone new to the kitchen, as it does require some cooking knowledge and ingredients not commonly found in most kitchens, such as vital wheat gluten and jackfruit.
9. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
For the Novice Vegetarian
Mark Bittman knows that it’s no easy feat to switch to a vegetarian lifestyle, so he lays it all out for you from the very foundation. This book is more than just a collection of recipes, as it also delves deep into things like how to best cook various vegetables, what vegetables to avoid eating raw, and how to make vegetarian-friendly substitutions in any recipe.
This book contains foods from across a variety of cultures and includes a number of substitutions for each recipe. If you’re still figuring out how to make vegetarian dishes that suit your tastes, this would be a great place to start. Even the seasoned cook looking to shake things up a bit will likely find value in it.
8. HP Books – The PDQ (Pretty Darn Quick) Vegetarian Cookbook: 240 Healthy and Easy No-Prep Recipes for Busy Cooks
For the Busy Vegetarian
As the title says, this cookbook by Donna Klein is full of recipes that are Pretty Darn Quick. All of the recipes require basically no kitchen appliances and instead coach you how to use ready made ingredients like pre-cut greens, canned and frozen vegetables, and frozen pizza dough. Each recipe takes less than thirty minutes, which makes it perfect for those who are short on time.
This book would also be great for those just learning how to cook. The ingredients are easy to find, and because it focuses on low-to-no-prep foods, it’s nearly fool-proof. As an extra plus, each recipe includes detailed nutritional information.
7. Scribner – Everyday Greens
For the Seasonally Conscious Vegetarian
This book by Annie Somerville focuses on using the freshest ingredients possible. In doing so, it teaches you how to choose and prepare your produce, minimize prep time, and stock your pantry. Its recipes are simple and present vegetables in interesting and innovative ways.
This is a great book for those concerned about soy or tofu, as there are very few recipes that include those ingredients. That being said, although the title says “Everyday,” many of the recipes do require a fair amount of time.
6. Chronicle Books – Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi
For the Haute Cuisine Vegetarian
This cookbook is from world-renowned restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi and teaches you how to make restaurant-worthy vegetarian dishes at home. The book is separated into chapters based on main ingredients and is full of interesting and unique flavor combinations.
Not just for vegetarians, the recipes in this book would make fantastic dishes to share with even your meat-eating friends. That being said, this book is definitely not for beginner cooks and does include some difficult to find ingredients like quail eggs and a variety of Middle Eastern spices.
5. Clarkson Potter – Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian: More Than 650 Meatless Recipes from Around the World
For the Adventurous Vegetarian
This James Beard Award-winning cookbook from Madhur Jaffrey features a selection of recipes from Greece to Indonesia and everywhere in between. The book is separated by main ingredient and each section comes with little anecdotes from Jaffrey’s travels that help familiarize you with lesser known ingredients and make you want to see the world yourself.
By its nature, however, this book features some ingredients that may be a bit difficult to find if you aren’t near a specialty grocer. If you are able to find everything you need, though, you can rest assured that any recipe you choose will be a hit with herbivores and omnivores alike.
4. The Experiment – The Plantiful Table: Easy, From-the-Earth Recipes for the Whole Family
For the Vegetarian Family
Kids’ palates can be hard to please, especially when it comes to vegetables. In this book, Andrea Duclos tries to make it a little easier. Focused on quick recipes that the whole family will love, this book includes dishes for every meal that can easily be revived as leftovers.
The recipes included make vegetables tasty for kids without necessarily hiding them beneath other flavors, and all of the ingredients used are commonly found, adding to the family-friendly factor. It also tells you how to choose the most nutritious ingredients, make substitutions, and include kids in the cooking process.
3. Phaidon Press – Vegan: The Cookbook
For the Experienced Cook
If you love food and love to cook, this book by Jean-Christian Jury might just be the one for you. This book features nearly 500 recipes from around the world that cater to almost any palate. Thankfully, it also includes a robust index that allows you to search by ingredient, cuisine, food type, and course, ensuring that you’ll be able to find the recipe you need.
This book is definitely not for a beginner, however. The cooking directions can sometimes lack clarity and some of the ingredients might be hard to find. So if you’re a new cook, it might be best to try out some other books before picking up this one.
2. Rodale Books – Love Real Food: More Than 100 Feel-Good Vegetarian Favorites to Delight the Senses and Nourish the Body
For the Vegetarian Who Struggles with Vegetables
This cookbook by blogger Kathryne Taylor is focused on getting you to appreciate whole foods by bringing out the best flavors from each ingredient. It is separated by meal, and it even gives you example menus made up of recipes found inside the book.
You’ll see many of the same ingredients pop up repeatedly, which helps you to use up more obscure ingredients without making the same dish over and over. Additionally, Taylor provides substitutions for many of her recipes to make them friendly for a variety of different dietary needs, including gluten-free and vegan.
1. Ten Speed Press – The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Something for Any Vegetarian
This cookbook by Deborah Madison has over 1,600 recipes. And while you might think that would leave no room for anything aside from the recipes themselves, it also includes a thorough discussion of vegetarian ingredients and how to best use them, as well as detailed preparation notes.
This cookbook isn’t as flashy as some others – the pages aren’t glossy and there are much fewer photos, so if you’re looking for a cookbook that doubles as a coffee table book, this might not be the one for you.
With the rising popularity of plant-based eating, there are more and more vegetarian cookbooks coming out everyday. They are meant to suit all kinds of palates and people from all walks of life.
Hopefully, this guide has given you a starting point that will making choosing the right book for you a little easier. We wish you the best of luck whipping up meals that will leave your friends and loved ones thinking, “Maybe I can get on board with this whole vegetarian thing after all.”
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