It was a tough decision choosing the 40 best cookbooks of all time and there was some heated debate over some of the entries.
If your favorite cookbook doesn’t appear on this list – we apologize in advance.
However, we are absolutely certain that a chef with these 40 books to call on would be able to make amazing meals for their family every single day of their lives.
These are definitive texts that make cooking a joy and meal times incredible. They are presented in no particular order because they’re all awesome.
Thai Food by David Thompson
This is a super book that probably doesn’t get the attention it deserves here in the U.S. though it’s widely known in Europe.
If you want to cook amazing Thai food, and you should, this is the ultimate guide to everything in Thai cookery.
We also recommend his Thai Street Food book if you love this one.
David has been featured in the New York Times and numerous other respected publications.
Check out Thai Food by David Thompson online. Get a copy here.
How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
2,000 recipes isn’t quite everything but it’s a step in the right direction.
Mark Bittman’s all about making cooking simple and we love his approach.
If you’re a complete novice in the kitchen – you need this book.
If you need more encouragment read the review on the Kitchn site.
Check out How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman online. Get a copy here.
The Joy Of Cooking by Irma S Rombauer at al.
Three authors and it’s been in print since 1930!
It’s fair to say that The Joy of Cooking’s longevity is all because of its complete love of food.
It currently contains 4,000 recipes and over 500 brand new recipes for the latest edition!
You simply can’t go wrong with the latest edition of The Joy of Cooking. Don’t believe us?
Here’s what the Chicago Tribune has to say:
Check out The Joy Of Cooking by Irma S Rombauer at al. online. Get a copy here.
Jerusalem | A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
More than just an exploration of Israeli food; this is about the food created when cultures intermingle and sometimes clash.
120 recipes of exceptionally interesting food.
You’ll enjoy reading this as much as you do making the recipes.
For a more in-depth examination of the book check out the review on Serious Eats.
Check out Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi online. Get a copy here.
Baking | From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan
You can’t talk cookbooks without at least nodding toward dessert recipes.
In Dorie Greenspan’s Baking, the whole focus on baked desserts and we love each and every one of them and we think you will too.
Check out Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan online. Get a copy here.
The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis
This may be the first ever Southern Food cookbook and it was released a long time before the current trend for this cuisine.
Edna Lewis grew up in a farming community of freed slaves and her recipes are fine tuned to reflect the passing of the seasons.
They’re truly special.
Check out The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis online. Get a copy here.
El Bulli: 1998 – 2002 by Ferran Adria and Juli Soler
You are only going to be buying this one if you have very deep pockets.
But it’s impossible not to include the cookbook behind what was one of the world’s greatest ever restaurant ventures.
El Bulli was an institution that defied convention and Ferran Adria’s work is innovative and sublime.
There’s not a chef on earth that doesn’t wish, at least a little, that they cooked like this.
Check out El Bulli: 1998 – 2002 online. Get a copy here.
La Technique by Jacques Pepin
I can be a bit of a dunce sometimes and whenever there’s something I struggle with in the kitchen and usually turn to La Technique.
It’s an illustrated idiot’s guide that absolutely explains every last thing you need to know in simple, easy to understand steps.
The Vegetable Butcher: How to Select, Prep, Slice, Dice and Masterfully Cook Vegetables from Artichokes to Zucchini by Cara Mangini
Vegetables are the coming trend in food but they can be immensely improved by the right preparation and cooking.
Many modern consumers were never taught to do this and Cara Mangini is ready to be by your side and make everything green!
Ma Gastronomie by Fernand Point and Thomas Keller
If you don’t want a bland recipe book with nothing to hold your attention then Ma Gastronomie might have been written for you.
One of France’s greatest chefs, eaters and drinkers in the shape of Fernand Point has 200 recipes and endless silly stories to share in this masterwork.
Roast Chicken And Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson
This was voted the most useful cookbook in the world by Simon’s peers.
We’re not sure it’s the number one best ever but it’s entertaining and the recipes are both simple and elegant.
Simon knows food and it shows in every word.
We love working from this cookbook.
White Heat By Marco Pierre White
The rock and roll rebel of cuisine kicks ass.
He often inflames tempers and created a ruckus out of nothing but at his best, as in White Heat, Marco Pierre is nothing short of sublimely talented.
If you want your food to sing you need this superbly accessible book today.
Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone by Deborah Madison
Deborah Madison did what was always though to be impossible.
She turned vegetarian food from something considered niche and slightly freaky into a massive mainstream hit.
She knows her food and celebrates the joy of the vegetable on the plate.
There’s no need for meat when the food’s this good is her basic argument and we’re sold.
We’re not giving up meat totally but we do eat less of it thanks to Deborah.
Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan
Some will argue that this is too much a text for the professional chef to be included on our list; we argue that those people are dead wrong.
Sure, it’s not the simplest or easy read.
We wouldn’t pick it for a first-time chef but if you’ve been cooking for a year or two this is the best way to learn Japanese food ever and you will not get lost while using it.
Mexico – One Plate At A Time by Rick Bayless
It’s not American food without a nod to Mexico, right?
We have skirted around the idea of solid Tex-Mex and gone with a very authentic and solid introduction to the cuisine of our good neighbours to the south.
The attention to detail always impresses us and we feel wiser for reading Rick’s words.
The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Fannie Merrit Farmer (and revised by Marion Cunningham)
This was the cookbook which taught America how to use measurements in recipes.
Back in 1896 people measured with whatever was handy until Fannie came along and standardized things.
Even today her recipes are highly regarded, thanks in no small part to Marion Cunningham who has completely revised and rejuvenated the original work.
Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck
Before 1961, no one cooked French food at home in America.
Then Julia Child released this incredible book and nothing was ever the same again.
Americans fell in love with great French meals and gourmet cookery.
The rest, as they say, was history and the national palate has remained broad and interesting to this very day.
The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash
We’d assert that this is the only “twofer” on this list. It’s both an incredible recipe book but also an instructional guide on how to grow and prepare your own food from scratch.
So many Americans could get so much pleasure from having their own garden that Marian Morash’s work is essential reading.
The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham
Marion is the only person to make our list twice. Once as an editor and once as an author.
In this wonderful book she brings to life the most important meal of the day – breakfast and makes it thoroughly delicious and exciting.
288 recipes gives you nearly a year of early morning treats and every single one is a gem!
The Cake Doctor by Anne Byrne
It has a hilarious yesteryear vibe to it but for our money, there is no better cake maker in the world than Anne Byrne.
She knows how to take a few simple ingredients and create something so special that people will be talking about it weeks after the last crumb has been devoured.
What more could you ask for?
An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler
This one’s a little unusual but we think in times of economic uncertainty that you ought to be looking to get the most bang for your buck out of your food budget.
Tamar Adler is an expert in turning leftovers into lunches that you’d be proud to serve to the queen!
We can’t believe how helpful this book is.
Dinner: Changing The Game by Melissa Clark
Melissa may be one of the busiest creators in the world.
She’s always releasing new recipes and she writes about food too in her newspaper column.
Despite this, she’s also really good and there’s not a single miss in this wonderful collection.
The recipes specifically designed for today’s busy lifestyles to deliver a great cooked dinner with no fuss at all.
James Beard’s American Cookery by James Beard
It would be completely remiss of us to fail to include the man known as “The Father of American Cuisine”.
He was the first person to set out the case that America really does have its own food culture and its not one borrowed from the colonizing nations.
You can’t fail to enjoy his words or his food.
Betty Crocker’s Cook Book For Boys And Girls by Betty Crocker
As you probably know Betty Crocker is a marketing creation and no boys or girls are cooked in this book.
However, this book from 1957 is the ultimate guide to creating child friendly meals with nothing but real wholesome ingredients.
You’re not going to find a single chicken nugget or hamburger in sight.
The Pleasures Of Cooking For One by Judith Jones
We said at the beginning this list wasn’t in order and we wanted to emphasize that with a book with “one” in the title to finish.
Judith Jones is most famous for her editorial prowess but we’d argue that she also put together one of the finest cookbooks of all time.
And it’s focused on something so many cookbooks ignore; the necessity of sometimes eating alone.
You won’t feel alone with Judith to guide you to something tasty.
Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries Of African American Cooking by Toni-Tipton Martin
Toni-Tipton Marie brings her experiences to bear on the best of African American cooking in the modern era whilst shining a light on how the contributions of the past influence the present.
You can find Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries Of African American Cooking by Toni-Tipton Martine online.
Vegan For Everybody: Foolproof Plant-Based Recipes For Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and In-Between by America’s Test Kitchen
This is an old-fashioned traditional no fuss cookbook but with a plant-based focus.
America’s Test Kitchen has put together 200 amazing vegan recipes that everyone will love.
You can find Vegan For Everybody: Foolproof Plant-Based Recipes For Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and In-Between by America’s Test Kitchen online.
Bitter: A Taste Of The World’s Most Dangerous Flavor
In some food cultures, bitter flavors are at the core of the way they cook but in North America, bitterness is often neglected.
McLagan’s James Beard Award winning cookbook aims to remedy that.
You can find Bitter: A Taste Of The World’s Most Dangerous Flavor by Jennifer McLagan online.
In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Grandmas Around the World: A Cookbook by Gabriele Galimberti
This touching homage to home cooking from around the world is as beautiful a collection of photography as it is of recipes.
There’s something here to warm every heart and satisfy every belly.
You can find In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Grandmas Around the World: A Cookbook by Gabriele Galimberti online.
Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition by David Sterling
The Yucatan Peninsula is home to one of the world’s greatest regional cuisines – Maya dishes.
With a touch of Mexican familiarity but with an all-new twist, David Sterling brings this rich culinary culture to the world.
You can find Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition by David Sterling online.
Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Any of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s vegan cookbooks could have made our list but this is the one that did because the recipes are so quick to prepare.
Every hungry vegan family needs this book to keep the table fresh and interesting.
You can find Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week by Isa Chandra Moskowitz online.
The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W Twitty
A fascinating exploration of Southern African American food and the controversies of its history.
There’s never been a better time to tackle this important but tasty subject.
You can find The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W Twitty online.
Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom by Deborah Madison
Not vegan but vegetarian, Deborah Madson’s book ought to be the standard reference for anyone looking to make the most out of plants in their kitchen.
She even tackles edible flowers!
You can find Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom by Deborah Madison online.
Check out Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom by Deborah Madison
The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa by Marcus Samuelsson
This Ethiopian born chef turns to an entire continent and brings you a host of recipes from every country and if that wasn’t enough – he adds a few creations that are uniquely his own!
You can find The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa by Marcus Samuelsson online.
Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop
She may not sound very Chinese but Fuschia Dunlop was trained in China in both Sichuan and Hunan cookery and here she shares everything that she learned.
You can find Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop online.
Smoke: New Firewood Cooking: How To Build Flavor with Fire on the Grill and in the Kitchen by Tim Byres
There’s nothing more American than barbecue and no-one should approach barbecue without a copy of this book in hand.
It elevates barbecue to an art form.
You can find Smoke: New Firewood Cooking: How To Build Flavor with Fire on the Grill and in the Kitchen by Tim Byres online.
The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts by Judith Choate and The French Culinary Institute
Gordon Ramsay may be dismissive of pastry but it’s much harder to get right than it looks and this is the finest guide to pastry ever written.
You can find The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts by Judith Choate and The French Culinary Institute online.
The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews
Ireland has a superb history of food and Colman Andrews imbues this hearty cuisine with life and vigor in this farm-to-table guide to Irish cookery.
You can find The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews online.
The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Originally published in 1972 but revised several times, this book hailed by James Beard as “a landmark in the field of cookery” makes Middle Eastern Food accessible and easy for everyone.
You can find The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden online.
Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs
The culinary heritage of the original Americans is one that often goes unexplored, but it shouldn’t because these dishes are alive and shared by Native Americans all over the country today.
This is a fantastic celebration of American food.
You can find Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs online.
Sweet Home Café Cookbook: A Celebration of African American Cooking by NMAAHC et al.
This Food & Wine magazine best cookbook is the official cookbook of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and the 109 recipes within will inspire you to take your cooking to another level.
You can find Sweet Home Café Cookbook: A Celebration of African American Cooking by NMAAHC et al. online.
America’s Test Kitchen has put together 200 amazing vegan recipes that everyone will love.
So, that’s our Best 40 cookbooks ever. What did you think?
Did we leave something out that should have been included? Have you discovered something amazing?
Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.
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