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The 23 Best Cookbooks of All Time

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The world, with all its grandeur, is meant to be relished, one dish at a time. The best way to do so is by way of the cookbook — the empowering work of culinary literature that can turn us into chefs with a little reading, practice, and trial and error.

With so many genres of cuisine and styles of preparation, aspiring cooks can go in different directions, right from the comfort of their own kitchens. Whether you’re looking to improve your favorite mole sauce, prepare food in the classic French style, explore the keto diet, or get to know the science behind a favorite dish, we’ve got you covered.

Below are the best cookbooks of all time, from outstanding efforts published just a year ago to culinary classics that every foodie should have on the shelf.

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Essential Cookbooks

The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller

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An instant classic, this book dropped in 1999 and revolves around Thomas Keller’s iconic restaurant of the same name. Here, Keller shares recipes from what is arguably America’s greatest restaurant, along with sharp wisdom on kitchen techniques and approaches. The recipes can be challenging but that makes the resulting dishes all the more rewarding.

The Professional Chef by The Culinary Institute of America

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A collaboration cookbook with the Culinary Institute of America, The Professional Chef possesses a firm grasp on modern cooking. Just like an encyclopedia, it’s wide-reaching and breaks down even the most complex styles, such as sous vide. Most cooks and restaurant owners will offer this title on their shortlist of the most important or most influential cookbooks on the market.

Eleven Madison Park by Daniel Humm

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Like the French Laundry, this cookbook offers a vivid glimpse behind the kitchen door of one of America’s most celebrated restaurants. It pulls recipes from the eponymous New York eatery and arranges things, quite helpfully, by season. The book will elevate your cooking, exposing you to new ideas and ingredient pairings as well as sharpening your plating and impressing anybody who dines with you.

The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer

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This staple work from Irma Rombauer was initially published in 1931. It has gone on to become quintessential, for professionals and casual domestic chefs alike. It’s nearing 20 million copies sold and while it’s easy to write it off as an oldie without much flair, it’s an essential book for every cook. What it lacks in terms of sexiness (it’s not the photo-driven coffee table cookbook you’ve become accustomed to) it makes up for in straightforward and tasty recipes anybody can make, even if you’re lacking time.

The Jemima Code by Toni Tipton-Martin

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A historical treasure, this book compiles recipes from scores of Black cooks that went overlooked or ignored for two centuries. Not only does the dense book reveal the colossal impact the Black community has had on American cuisine, it pulls from remarkable sources, such as a servant’s journal. The book reveals the enormous creativity, style, and efficiency of the cooks despite their lack of access to the bounty much of the rest of the country took for granted.

Read more: Best Cookbooks by Black Chefs

Best French-Inspired Cookbooks

Larousse Gastronomique by Librairie Larousse

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First published in 1938, this cookbook by Prosper Montagne offers snapshot after snapshot of the importance and highly influential nature of French cuisine. Julia Child famously said it would be her selection if she were allowed just one cookbook at home, which is quite some praise. The original is great but the 2009 revision, fit with contemporary techniques, is even better.

Ma Gastronomie by Fernand Point

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This cookbook debuted in 1969 and is the work of Fernand Point, considered by many to be the father of modern French cuisine. You can’t say this about all cookbooks but this one is a great read, blending wisdom with philosophy. It’s pretty much mandatory reading for most culinary programs and includes more than 200 innovative recipes.

Escoffier: Le Guide Culinaire by Auguste Escoffier

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Another French masterpiece, the first edition of this book dropped in 1902. But the recipes and insights are as relevant now as ever and the reader is sure to come away with a stronger set of kitchen principles. Classic French cuisine can be daunting stuff but this work breaks it down in an approachable fashion. Author Auguste Escoffier developed the recipes and context while working at acclaimed hotels and culinary destinations like the Savoy and the Ritz.

Essential Cuisine by Michel Bras

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This book by acclaimed French chef Michel Bras dabbles in foraged fare and spotlights the author’s genuine fascination with good food. Boasting gorgeous photography, Essential Cuisine will have you eating something new and eye-catching and likely enjoying the process more than ever. The exquisite handling of vegetables alone will hook you. And the sense of wonder throughout reminds me of this great scene from Ratatouille.

Best New Cookbooks

Comida Mexicana by Rosa Cienfuegos

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This great 2020 release is a foodie love affair with author Rosa Cienfuegos’ native Mexico. It pulls radiant dishes from the many corners of the country, including family recipes you wouldn’t otherwise know about. Mexican food is one of the more discussed genres out there and for good reason, but it can be subjected to a lot of twisting or appropriation. This book is genuine and full of great finds.

Science and Cooking by Michael Brenner

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For the culinary nerd, this book is a must. It’s based on a popular Harvard University course and dissects the chemistry and physics at play when cooking. Stopping to ask why is the book’s specialty and it reveals all kinds of intriguing and unexpected facts about why certain things work and don’t work in the kitchen.

50 Ways to Cook a Carrot by Peter Hertzmann

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You guessed it, this book is actually about 50 methods for preparing carrots. More importantly, it leaves you with the confidence and culinary ammo to do the same thing with any number of other ingredients. Penned by Peter Hertzmann, it’s a clever cookbook that will have you eyeing carrots and just about everything else edible differently.

The Flavor Equation by Nik Sharma

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Another great 2020 option (shocking, I guess we cooked at home a lot last year), this book by Nik Sharma does a lot with relatively little. The book pushes tremendous dishes made primarily from things you probably have already at home, whether it’s some fresh fruit or a dried spice you haven’t opened in years. It’s fairly science-y, with helpful diagrams and proven methods.

Best Vegan and Vegetarian Cookbooks

East by Meera Sodha

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Touting 120 recipes from all over Asia, this book proves that you don’t have to sacrifice flavor just because you’re operating without meat. The dishes are memorable, like caramelized onion and chili ramen and salted miso brownies. Whether you’re a full-blown vegetarian or just want to eat more garden-fresh ingredients, this cookbook is for you.

Vegetable Kingdom by Bryant Terry

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We may be living in the golden era of plant-based cooking and this book revels in that. Written by food justice activist Bryant Terry, it sets you up to enjoy healthier raw ingredients at home more often and in more inventive ways. It even comes with an accompanying playlist.

Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

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This text catapulted Yotam Ottolenghi to culinary fame. Here, the British restaurateur offers tremendous vegetable dishes that steal the plate and never get nudged aside. It’ll leave you with a newfound love for things like eggplant and have you crafting dazzling dishes with relative ease.

Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden

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This 2017 cookbook from Joshua McFadden breaks down the calendar into six growing seasons, three of them being in summer. As such, the book functions like a calendar for healthy and clever eating, equipping you to always find something that’s fresh and flavorful. Of the many vegan and vegetarian cookbooks out there, this one produces the most satisfying dishes, whether it’s the end of July or early January.

Read more: Best Vegetarian and Vegan Cookbooks

Best Keto Cookbooks

The One-Pot Ketogenic Diet Cookbook by Liz Williams

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If you want to learn more about the keto diet this book is for you. Written by Liz Williams, this book relieves the stress of cooking in a certain style by offering scores of easy recipes that can be assembled in well under an hour. For a diet regimen like keto that’s not always easy to follow, this book simplifies things while nourishing you with tasty recipes.

The Essential Keto Cookbook by Louise Hendon

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A manual of sorts, this Louise Hendon cookbook outfits you with meal plans and batch cooking options for the week ahead. It touts 105 recipes, a helpful list of all things keto-approved, and will have you enjoying your low carb, low inflammatory food lifestyle.

Best Travel From Home Cookbooks

North: The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland by Gunnar Karl Gíslason and Jody Eddy

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Iceland is home to some of the most out-there dishes on the planet, involving everything from puffin to crowberries. The nation helped jump-start the foraged food trend and this book takes a close look at some of the best Scandinavian dishes, in terms of both flavor and presentation.

Tokyo Cult Recipes by Maori Murota

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This 2014 cookbook examines 100 tantalizing dishes from the Japanese capital. With an emphasis on street food, it’s a must for folks who appreciate things like bento, miso, sushi, and more. Author Maori Murota grew up in Tokyo and paints a vivid picture of the colossal city’s equally large culinary scene.

Memories of a Cuban Kitchen by Joan Schwartz

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The dynamic and eclectic Cuban culinary landscape is explored in depth here, with some 200 traditional recipes. Few cuisines on earth are as influenced by so many cultures and the resulting dishes are bursting with flavor and character. The whole spectrum is addressed, from drinks and bites to full Cuban entrees like roast pork creole.

The Complete Middle East Cookbook by Tess Mallos

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Widely considered the go-to for a legitimate taste of Middle Eastern grub, this book by Tess Mallos is fun to thumb through and intuitive to use in the kitchen. You can eat as they do in Jordan, Cyprus, Armenia, and other often-overlooked countries, expanding your palate as well as your culinary prowess.

Read more: Best International Cuisines to Try

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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