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10 Must-Read Cookbooks By Black Chefs

The rise of at-home cooking prompted by the pandemic shutdowns isn’t slowing down any time soon, and cookbooks feel more appealing and more necessary than ever before. If you’re in the market for satisfying and flavorful recipes, then you’ll want to add these 10 brilliantly crafted volumes, all written by Black authors, to your reading list.

In Pursuit Of Flavor by Edna Lewis

In Pursuit Of Flavor by Edna Lewis

The undisputed grande dame of Southern cuisine, chef and cookbook author Edna Lewis penned a quartet of cookbooks over the course of her lifetime, all of which are widely considered seminal culinary texts. Her 1988 cookbook, In Pursuit Of Flavor, explores traditional Southern dishes through the use of local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients, making it a natural go-to cookbook for all of the farmer’s market and CSA enthusiasts out there. It’s impossible to go wrong with any of the recipes in this book (seriously), but a few particular favorites include Sautéed Wild Mushrooms (Lewis was an avid forager), Leek and Potato Soup, and Roasted Pheasant with Currant Sauce.

The Red Rooster Cookbook by Marcus Samuelsson

The Red Rooster Cookbook by Marcus Samuelsson

Marcus Samuelsson’s iconic flagship restaurant, Red Rooster Harlem, will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year, so this seems like the perfect time to experience Samuelsson’s lauded recipes from the comfort of your own kitchen. The Red Rooster Cookbook features many of Samuelsson’s greatest hits (like the short ribs that he served to the Obamas in 2011), giving readers an opportunity to explore the melding of Southern classics and African and Scandinavian influences that so define Samuelsson’s signature style.

Between Harlem and Heaven by Alexander Smalls & JJ Johnson

Between Harlem and Heaven

Like Samuelsson, restaurateur Alexander Smalls and chef JJ Johnson use the NYC neighborhood of Harlem as a major source of inspiration, and their cookbook, Between Harlem and Heaven, celebrates the “Afro-Asian-American” cooking that Smalls and Johnson view as Harlem’s stylistic contribution to the culinary canon. This book serves as both a love letter to the neighborhood — recipes are interspersed with personal vignettes by Smalls and Johnson and essays by James Beard Award-winning author Veronica Chambers — and a source for vibrant dishes like Collard Green Salad with Coconut Dressing and Grilled Ribeye With West African Black Pepper Sauce.

Black Girl Baking by Jerrelle Guy

Black Girl Baking by Jerrelle Guy

The scientific nature of baking — exact measurements, strict processes, fastidious temperature requirements — can make it feel a bit intimidating to those of us who aren’t well versed in the pastry arts. But in her debut cookbook, food writer and influencer Jerrelle Guy masterfully blends the technical aspects of baking with personal stories, recipes inspired by childhood remembrances and family traditions (many with a health-conscious twist), and a warm, conversational prose style that appeals to the senses. Don’t miss her recipes for Brûléed Buttermilk Pie, Sweet Potato Rice Crispies, and Oatmeal Cheddar Cheese Moon Pies.

The Dooky Chase Cookbook by Leah Chase

The Dooky Chase Cookbook by Leah Chase

The food of New Orleans ranks among the United States’ most beloved regional cuisines, and legendary chef/owner Leah Chase of the famous Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in the Treme neighborhood of NOLA understands her city’s unique gastronomic traditions better than just about anyone. Her 1990 cookbook is required reading for fans of Creole cooking, and Chase’s recipes for Crawfish Etouffée, Crab Soup, and Seafood Gumbo truly can’t be surpassed.

Fit Men Cook by Kevin Curry

Fit Men Cook by Kevin Curry

If you’re looking for nutritious and energizing recipes that fit harmoniously into a healthy and active lifestyle, then you’ll want to pick up this cookbook from fitness influencer Kevin Curry ASAP. Fit Men Cook emphasizes the importance of meal prep, but Curry’s writing style makes this endeavor feel easy, stress-free, and even fun. He includes options for readers adhering to eating plans like Whole30 and dietary requirements like gluten-free, and recipes like Juicy AF Moroccan Chicken, Lean Tex-Mex Turkey Chili, and Tempeh and Butternut Squash Ginger Fry deliver immense flavor in a good-for-you package.

Mama Doonk’s Gullah Recipes by Theresa Jenkins Hilliard

Mama Doonk’s Gullah Recipes

The Gullah-Geechee culture of the Carolina low country has a major effect on the food of this region, merging West African and Southern U.S. flavors and ingredients to create a cuisine defined by local seafood, seasonal produce, and hearty dishes meant to be enjoyed with friends, family, and loved ones. Author and Gullah preservationist Theresa Jenkins Hilliard bases her cookbook around the recipes passed down by her grandmother (the eponymous “Mama Doonk”) and other relatives, with highlights including Barbecue Pig’s Feet, Grits With Pork Butt & Eggs, and Gullah Hoppin’ John (a famous low country specialty with rice, cowpea beans, and ham hocks). 

Vegetable Kingdom by Bryant Terry

Vegetable Kingdom by Bryant Terry

There’s no denying the trendiness of vegan cooking, but acclaimed chef, educator, and food justice activist Bryant Terry uses his cookbook Vegetable Kingdom to delve deeper into the history and principles behind plant-based eating. His efforts result in a fascinating read that explores African Diaspora cuisines through a vegan lens and presents recipes — like Warm Butter Bean Salad with Roasted Bell Peppers, Citrus and Garlic-Herb Braised Fennel, and Creamy Carrot Coconut Soup with Ras al Hanout, Dukkah, and Parsley — that make veganism feel inclusive, approachable, affordable, and part of a compelling gastronomic tradition. 

LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes To Sing About by Patti LaBelle

LaBelle Cuisine

Cookbook aficionados often cast a wary eye on versions written by non-chef celebrities. However, songstress Patti LaBelle’s LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes To Sing About is absolutely the real deal. LaBelle’s Southern-accented recipes like Say-My-Name Smothered Chicken and Gravy, and Pass-It-On Pot Roast hark back to her childhood memories of hanging out in the kitchen with her mother, father, and aunts, and her fondness for these experiences shines through in her prose. Also, fans of LaBelle’s rightly famous sweet potato pie — which became a massive hit at Walmarts around the country and sold out on a regular basis — will be glad to know that she includes a sweet potato pie recipe in this book, and it’s phenomenal. 

Trap Kitchen by Malachi Jenkins & Roberto Smith With Marisa Mendez

Trap Kitchen by Malachi Jenkins & Roberto Smith With Marisa Mendez

Compton, California natives (and former members of rival L.A. gangs) Malachi Jenkins and Roberto Smith started their Trap Kitchen culinary pop-ups after meeting through mutual friends and forming a bond through their shared love for food (Jenkins is a culinary-school alum, while Smith learned to cook by spending time in the kitchen with his grandmother and aunts). The success of their pop-ups (and their ever-growing celebrity clientele, which includes Dave Chappelle, Kylie Jenner, Kim & Kanye, and Justin Bieber) led to their debut cookbook, which features hit recipes like Pineapple Bowls with Chicken, Salmon, and Shrimp, Mac n’ Cheese, and Chicken n’ Waffles.

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