Cookbooks

28 Best Cookbooks of 2021, According to Home Cooks & Pro Chefs Alike

Challah, South Carolina BBQ, hand-pulled noodles—yes please.

September 15, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

The past year and change have been a trying time on many levels. And while it's easy (hard?) to concentrate on the major defining challenges, we continue to reflect on the little things that brought us joy and peace of mind. The small moments that allow us to hit pause just for a moment to close our eyes and take a breath for some much-needed clarity and comfort. Of those things, a truly stand-out pastime was to dive into all of the compelling cookbooks that were released in 2021.

From whimsical tales that helped us explore and preserve our roots to primers that challenge the status quo, these cookbooks are much more than just a collection of delicious recipes and drool-worthy photos. But don’t just take it from us. Ahead, pro chefs, home cooks, food writers, and more share the year’s best cookbooks that have kept them inspired and busy in the kitchen, along with five coming-soon titles they can’t wait to dive into in the months that remain.

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1. Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ, Rodney Scott and Lolis Eric Elie, $17.77

“I’ve recently become [enamored] with learning how to grill because my dad was such a great griller, but I was always super intimidated by it—we need more women on the grill! I purchased Rodney Scott’s cookbook because he is the KING of the grill. It has such great recipes and tips for smoking and grilling, and he basically told everyone the secret to his sauce and special seasonings...I mean, SOLD!” —Alex Hill, home cook, creator of Just Add Hot Sauce

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2. Simply Julia: 110 Easy Recipes for Healthy Comfort Food, Julia Turshen , $24.99

“Cooking fatigue has run rampant over the past year, at least in my kitchen. When it starts to creep up, I flip open Simply Julia and let Julia Turshen's wonderfully soothing and straightforward recipes wash over my brain. Each section—from ‘make-ahead mains’ to ‘vegan one-pot meals for everyone’—is overflowing with cookable, wholesome comfort food, which is exactly what we all need right now.” —Aliza Abarbanel, freelance writer and editor, author of Amateur Hours newsletter

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3. Wild Sweetness, Thalia Ho, $14.85

"Wild Sweetness is unlike any seasonal cookbook I’ve read before. Its pages are drenched with evocative text and wistful visuals. The recipes, guided by nature, are grouped by the seasons, but not the standard four you might initially think. Instead, Thalia portrays the earth’s cycle through Evergreen, Flora, Bramble, Orchard, Woodland, and Smoke. There are so many delectable dessert recipes in this book, all with enchanting flavor combinations. Wild Sweetness offers nourishment beyond food. This book, as Thalia writes in the introduction, ‘tells a tale of the natural world’ and reminds us that getting lost in nature is a delicious thing." Arlyn Osborne, food writer, recipe developer

“I'm no longer sure what it means when you call someone or something a unicorn—the millennials have taken that from me. But I'm pretty sure Wild Sweetness is a unicorn of a cookbook and that anyone who's spent time with and baked from it would back me up. Start with one of the chocolate chip cookie recipes—I went with the buckwheat chocolate chunkers and wasn't sorry. It's a well-constructed chocolate-chip cookie in its balance of flavors, ingredients, and texture. Or, I suppose you could try the rose walnut chocolate chippers. Ho writes that they're ‘seductive and musky—perfumed, but not overly so,’ and I believe her—even if she's a millennial.” Charlotte Druckman, food writer, Food52 Piglet co-founder

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4. The Pepper Thai Cookbook, Pepper Teigen and Garrett Snyder, $16.63

“Everybody's favorite Thai mom dropped a cookbook and it's honestly so fun! In addition to featuring some tasty Teigen family recipes, this cookbook gives you a peek into the immigrant experience in the US. We deeply resonate with so much of Pepper's experience of food being a way to access our cultural identity as Asian Americans but also making it work and adapting recipes to what's available to us. This cookbook is a must for any home kitchen!” —Kim and Vanessa Pham, co-founders of Omsom

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5. Tables of Contents Community Cookbook, $35+

“The book is filled with recipes from the home kitchens of writers like Carmen Maria Machado, Emma Straub, Nicholas Mancusi, and more, and the headnotes are full-on flash fiction at times. After reading their blurbs, you'll understand why the free-forming Single Girls Chicken recipe from Marie-Helene Bertino is an essential solo dining meal, or what Hilary Leichter means when she categorizes her latke recipe as The Lamborghini Latke. Besides that, ToC donates the profits from each sale to FIG (Food Issues Group), which is building long-term, neighborhood-based food security hubs across NYC. As the creator of a literary magazine about food myself, ToC made exactly the type of cookbook I've always dreamed of creating: full of useful recipes (that can also get a little silly) that all highlight wildly-talented writers and also has a very dope charitable component behind it.” —Carlo Mantuano, co-creator of Salt & Pepper Magazine, staff editor at The Infatuation

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6. Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution, Roxana Jullapat, $22.49

“This powerhouse cookbook is a thoughtful study of the culture, history, science, and agriculture underpinning grains. I love that many of Roxana's recipes operate more as frameworks than as specific instructions—her chocolate chip cookies can be done seven different ways, with seven different grains, resulting in seven very different flavor profiles! My flour-dusted copy is already a permanent fixture in my kitchen.” —Peter J. Kim, host and creator of Counterjam

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7. Sumac: Recipes and Stories from Syria, Anas Atassi, $26.30

“When I'm looking to cook something transportive, I go straight to Sumac, Anas Atassi’s love letter to Syrian cuisine. Atassi is an accomplished Syrian chef who has spent most of his life living outside his homeland due to the civil war, and his efforts to memorialize and revive his family traditions through recipes are precious. I already know my winter table will be piled high with lamb koftas, musakhan wraps, and if I'm feeling ambitious, syrupy walnut baklava.” —Aliza Abarbanel

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8. To Asia, With Love: Everyday Asian Recipes and Stories From the Heart, Hetty McKinnon, $25.05

“I love all of Hetty's cookbooks and To Asia with Love might be her most curative and soothing. Being a total queen of pentacles, she chose to take all the photographs with 35mm film (the pulled noodles of the visual department) and in her own kitchen. You can hear her kind, practical humor throughout with her recipes for 'reliable dumpling dipping sauce' and 'restaurant greens.' Both are deeply appreciated, but this is a truly impressive and accessible primer on noodles and dumplings. Ah, and the next brownie I make: soy sauce brownies.” —Paige Lipari, owner of Archestratus Books + Food

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9. Colombiana: A Rediscovery of Recipes and Rituals, Mariana Velásquez, $20.30

“I enjoyed reading and learning about the rich and bold Colombian food and culture through Mariana's stylized lens. Not only does she share delectable Colombian recipes but she also shares a holistic approach to dining and entertaining that complements the food. The entire book is visually stunning and mouth-watering!”Woldy Reyes, chef and founder of Woldy Kusina

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10. Bress ‘n’ Nyam: Gullah Geechee Recipes from a Sixth-Generation Farmer, Matthew Raiford with Amy Paige Condon, $17.99

“My dream is to start an urban farm back in my hometown of Washington, D.C. because there’s so much significance and importance in growing your own food along with food education. I also recently found out my great-great paternal grandfather bought a farm for $95 in South Carolina, so there’s farming in my blood! This cookbook is written by Matthew Raiford, a Black farmer and chef of Gullah Geechee descent [in the South]. He mixes recipes he grew up on with stories woven throughout. It’s a beautiful read and the recipes are great! I feel like I’m cooking like a little southern grandma, which makes me so happy!” —Alex Hill

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11. Jam Bake: Inspired Recipes for Creating and Baking with Preserves, Camilla Wynne, $21.99

“Camilla gives you recipes for jam [though she also provides store-bought alternatives] and then two or three recipes for baked goods made with that jam. I had no plans to make jam, but her recipes looked so good that I [made] multiple jars. The jam was so delicious, and so was the recipe I then used it in, that I decided to MAKE MORE JAM! I love this book because you really can cook from it. And you can use it however you're most comfortable. She makes good on the promise of her premise, and that's what I look for in a cookbook, along with accessibility, where she's also obviously succeeded.” —Charlotte Druckman

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12. The Magic of Tinned Fish, Chris McDade, $18.95

“I’ve always been a fan of tinned fish, long before it became trendy, long before it became the protein of the pandemic. Chris’ book is just what tinned fish needs to help convert any still-remaining skeptics. The range in his book is broad and showcases the versatility of these preserved gems. From simple snacks (anchovies, bread, and butter) to a component of a more elaborate dish (linguine with cod, tomatoes, and black olives), The Magic of Tinned Fish opens so many possibilities to these wonderful ingredients that should always be in your pantry.” —Ilene Rosen, co-owner of R&D Foods, author of Saladish

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13. Middle Eastern Sweets, Salma Hage, $27.99

“In my years of searching high and low for the best Middle Eastern recipes and cookbooks, I have yet to find one that makes me feel the way Middle Eastern Sweets does. A cookbook representing a wide range of Middle Eastern desserts is rare to begin with, but from desserts I’ve never seen that make me excited to create for the first time to ones that I’ve known my whole life like the back of my hand, Salma Hage’s book contains it all with beauty, detail, and playfulness. My favorite recipe has to be for qatayef, a stuffed Arabic pancake that’s traditionally served around the holiday. The dish takes me straight back to my childhood in Lebanon and is a dessert that will always feel like a sweet taste of home.” —Edouard Massih, chef, owner of Edy’s Grocer


New cookbooks we’re excited for

Photo by Ty Mecham

1. Big Little Recipes, Emma Laperruque, October 19, $25

A cookbook that’s near and dear to us from our very own food editor and Big Little Recipes columnist Emma Laperruque, this beaut has 60 brand-new recipes with tiny ingredient lists and mega flavor to boot. Think lemon bars chock-full of citrus and olive oil, chicken noodle soup for the can’t-be-bothered soul, and exceptionally easy pastas. If you seek out Emma’s minimalist methods and insightful maxims every week with great expectation, you'll want this book for a lifetime of delicious meals with simplicity at its core.

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2. The Way of the Cocktail: Japanese Traditions, Techniques and Recipes, Julia Momosé with Emma Janzen, October 12, $27.99

“From the first time I met her, I felt that Julia Momosé should write a book. (I didn't tell her this; I was just struck by her self-possession, considered word choice, and expertise. And I was a little bit intimidated!) So this year, I'm glad to see The Way of the Cocktail enter the world. Written with Imbibe's Emma Janzen, it delves into Momosé's youth in the small towns of Tomio and Kyoto, into her Chicago bar and restaurant Kumiko, and into Japanese cocktail culture and its micro-seasonality. I also particularly appreciate the inclusion of some alcohol-free drink recipes.” —Julia Bainbridge, writer, author of Good Drinks, the book and the newsletter

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3. Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes from Omma's Kitchen, Joanna Lee Molinaro, October 12, $29.99

“From both the Vietnamese and New Orleanian sides of my background, I tend to cook and eat a lot of meat. But for both environmental and nutritional reasons, I'm trying to be more conscious of how much meat I'm eating and replacing one meal a day with something vegetarian or vegan. I love cooking Korean cuisine so I'm excited to dive in and learn more while also incorporating more plant-based recipes into my day-to-day routine." Nini Nyugen, chef, instructor, recipe developer

“April 2020 was one of the hardest months of my life. Both of my parents had COVID-19 and it was scary to go outside my apartment. There was one bright spot—TikTok videos from The Korean Vegan aka Joanne Lee Molinaro, a Chicago lawyer, who ‘veganizes Korean food and Korean-izes everything else.’ In her evocative videos, Joanne weaves together family history; relationship lessons; meditations on immigrant stories; thoughts on democracy, gender, and more with mouthwatering vegan dishes. Her cookbook includes 80 vegan Korean recipes, some from her childhood and some from adult life. I know this will be a book I read cover to cover with a pile of Post-Its. Molinaro's stories stick with you and I can't wait to cook her kale and ramen salad, gamja guk, and potato and leek soup.” —Abigail Koffler, author of This Needs Hot Sauce newsletter

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4. Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora, Bryant Terry, October 19, $34.35

“It looks at Black food in the Americas, and I expect it to be no less stunning than any of his previous cookbooks and packed with well-tested flavorful recipes. Bryant's work always weaves together his activism, parenthood, and a commitment to nourishing his people with good food that continually inspires me.” Gabriela Álvarez Martinez, ​​chef, herbalist, and entrepreneur

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5. Field Notes for Food Adventure: Recipes and Stories from the Woods to Ocean, Brad Leone, November 9, $29.99

“I am a huge, huge fan of Brad and the way he approaches food, life, and cooking. I can't wait to tear through this book and pretend I’m on an adventure with him! Maybe one day I'll bake him a pie and he can take me clamming. I also just can't get over how beautiful the typeface on the cover is.” —Stacey Mei Yan Fong, baker behind the 50 Pie/50 States project

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6. Cookies: The New Classics, Jesse Szewczyk, October 26, $24.49

“Jesse Szewczyk is nothing short of a cookie mastermind. The 100-recipe book is split into chapters based on flavor and is sure to include something for every cookie-lover alike. With visuals as enticing as the uniqueness of the flavors used to rework classics, such as Smoky Muscovado Sugar Cookies and Spiced Peanut Butter Coconut Squares, I know this book will quickly become my new go-to.” Kayla Hoang, Freelance recipe developer, writer, baker


More recs from Food52 Residents and Editors

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1. How Wild Things Are, Analiese Gregory, $8.24

"I first heard of Chef Analiese Gregory on the Gordon Ramsay program Uncharted. She showcased some of the incredible ingredients used in Tasmania, a region I knew nothing about. She comes from an unrivaled culinary pedigree; her book highlights how she spends her days hunting, fishing, and foraging to supply renowned [and sadly, now closed] restaurant, Franklin in Hobart." —Sohla El-Waylly, food writer, recipe developer, host of Off-Script with Sohla

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2. Under the Olive Tree, Anna Maggio, $24.36

"My family hails from Italy's Puglia region, and I find myself buying every cookbook with even one recipe from the area. Anna's book has me excited to further connect with the diverse and delicious food and culture of my heritage." —Maurizio Leo, recipe developer, Food52's Resident Bread Baker

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3. Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower, Gill Meller, $10.28

"Like many others last year, I finally got around to expanding my garden. I grew much more than my typical tomato varieties for the first time, expanding out to brassicas of all kinds, lettuces, beets, and much more. I use Gill's book to put more of my garden's bounty to use in the kitchen (and to discover more ways to cook those ever-abundant beets!)." —Maurizio Leo

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4. Jew-Ish: A Cookbook, Jake Cohen, $15.79

"Jake Cohen is one of the kindest and most generous people I know, and his recipes have never failed me. As a fellow Jew, I couldn’t be more excited to see Jake’s take on some of my favorite childhood staples: cacio e pepe rugelach, everything bagel galettes, saffron latkes? Count me in!" —Meryl Feinstein, recipe developer, cooking teacher, Food52's Resident Pasta Maker

A note from the author!

"To put it simply, it's a Jewish queer love story. My husband and I were on a journey to deeper understanding of our Jewish identities which led us to start hosting Shabbat, a ritual neither of us grew up practicing. The result was two years' worth of dinners with friends and family, allowing me to explore the foods of my Ashkenazi heritage blended with the Persian-Iraqi dishes my husband grew up with. Come for the recipes, stay for the Seinfeld-esque familial anecdotes." —Jake Cohen, recipe developer, culinary host

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5. Cheese, Wine, and Bread, Katie Quinn, $21.87

"Katie is essentially living my dream with this book. She spent months as an apprentice with some of Europe’s most acclaimed experts to study the art and science of fermentation. This book includes travel stories, historical tidbits, and recipes for classics in the world of wine, bread and cheese." —Marissa Mullen, food stylist, recipe developer, photographer, Food52's Resident Cheese Plater

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6. Cook This Book, Molly Baz, $19.50

"I'm a big Molly stan, much like the rest of the internet. She's fun, her recipes slap, and she named her dog after my favorite kind of deli salad. Her book...is one of the first using QR codes to let viewers access video content throughout. The future of cookbooks is here, and it's got Caesar salad (or to quote Molly, 'Cae-sal') for all!" —Jake Cohen

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7. Getaway: Food And Drink To Transport You, Renee Erickson, $20.30

"Organized by occasion, with unapologetically minimalist recipes (hi broiled grapefruit with sugar, hello baked onions with cream), Renee Erickson's A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus changed my idea of what a cookbook could be. Getaway is inspired by Erickson's favorite spots in the world: Rome, Paris, Normandy, Baja California, London, and Seattle. Especially after quarantine, I can't wait to visit these places through her recipes." —Emma Laperruque, food editor, Food52

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8. À Table, Rebekah Peppler, $17.99

"Every time I make one of Rebekah’s cocktail recipes (from the outlets she contributes to or from her first book, Apéritif), I take a deep swig and say, wow, this is exactly what I wanted to drink. À Table is a similar experience, from a larger French-inspired food perspective. Making the recipes in this book helps me be a little less sad that I don't actually live in Paris—the eggplant confit is now in regular rotation." —Rebecca Firkser, Assigning Editor, Food52

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9. Dada Eats Love to Cook It: 100 Plant-Based Recipes for Everyone at Your Table, Samah Dada, $17.99

I met Samah while on the Today Show and she opened my eyes to the vast world of plant-based cooking. Her recipes are unique, delicious, and easy to make." —Marissa Mullen

This post was updated September 2021 with more cookbook recommendations.

What’s your current favorite cookbook? Drop some inspo below!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Sid
    Sid
  • prairiesapphire
    prairiesapphire
Food writer, late-night baker, year-round iced coffee drinker.

2 Comments

Sid September 17, 2021
Learn more simply best yet tasty recipes only @ http://cookwithbudgett.com
 
prairiesapphire January 12, 2021
Thank you for the recommendations! I can’t wait to check these out! I’m looking forward to Amy Thielen’s new cookbook. Her New Midwestern Table got me through a few months in 2020. I was hoping to see that title on this list, but I don’t think the details have yet been released.