The Best Cookbooks for Every Taste and Every Type of Diet

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Cooking is more than making food. It’s a passion for many of us, and it can even be a form of art for some. It’s something we try to improve upon throughout our lives, inspired by everyone we know and everywhere we’ve traveled.

But, of course, yes, it’s also about making food. Food is a human necessity — and while it’s true that you can eat to live or live to eat, everyone gets to choose, and it’s a lot more fun when that food is beautiful and tasty.

You can eat simple foods that keep you going or create elaborate dishes that you can savor — foods that make happiness using some salt, fat, acid, and maybe a little heat. We here at SPY enjoy trying new flavors and visiting new areas of the planet to try different food, but some of the best things we’ve enjoyed most have come from reading cookbooks and recreating recipes at home.

Making and enjoying good food starts with knowledge, and where do we acquire knowledge? The best cookbooks.

Everyone starts somewhere in their delicious journey to becoming the next Massimo Bottura, and the best cookbooks are one of the easiest ways to learn the culinary arts. Thousands upon thousands of cookbooks out there instruct budding chefs through everything from 2-ingredient pancakes to Julia Child’s infamous bœuf bourguignon. Some cookbooks cover food from every corner of the globe, every diet and a plethora of chefs in each category whose perspectives tackle the same style from different angles.

There are so many different ways to make good food — and that is such a blessing. We’ve picked some of the best cookbooks we could find and gathered them into a curated list so you can get started or continue on your cooking journey. Below is by no means a comprehensive list of every cookbook a chef should own — it’s simply a place to start.

Why Trust SPY

Author Aly Walansky has been a food writer for decades, and she has read from (and cooked from) some of the best cookbooks on the shelves. Not only does she enjoy crafting up the latest cuisine du jour, but she also relishes her ability to pair it with the perfect wine. Everyone will have their favorite chef or cuisine, but these are the best cookbooks that have gone the distance and have gotten stellar reviews.


Best Cookbooks of All Time

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I

Chances are, whenever you find yourself looking for the “best cookbooks” online, every list will include this book, and there’s a reason for that. It’s a legendary book that revolutionized how Americans approach a cooking style lauded by many to be the best. French cooking arguably defined what it meant to be delicious in many ways, and this book has been leading people through complicated French recipes for over 50 years. It’s a book for seasoned cooks and beginners, the confident and the timid, people who love food and people who love it a lot. The best part about this book is that it’s a collection of delicious recipes and a masterclass in cooking skills you can take to all other cookbooks and recipes you tackle. It’s a must-have in your kitchen, if for no other reason than to pay homage to the master chef herself.

mastering the art of french cooking Courtesy of Amazon


Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

It’s a No. 1 New York Times bestseller from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. It’s chock full of comforting, soul-warming recipes such crispy hash browns, cheddar and chutney grilled cheese sandwiches and cheesy chicken enchiladas. This book includes Ina staples — easy-to-follow instructions, friendly advice and dependable side notes that’ll make you feel like your favorite home cook is right there with you. She has you covered from the cocktail hour through dessert, so pick up this volume and start cooking your way to comfort.

modern comfort food ina garten, best cookbooks Courtesy of Amazon


Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer

Joy of Cooking is another cookbook that’s firmly in the classic canon of foundational culinary texts — a book that Julia Child herself called a “fundamental resource for any American cook.” Irma Rombauer, a widow and single mother, self-published this book in 1931 from her apartment with the help of her daughter. Since then, it has taught tens of millions of people how to cook and become one of the New York Public Library’s 150 most influential books of the 20th century. The 75th-anniversary edition still has over 600 recipes inside but has been lightly modernized by Ethan Becker — Rombauer’s grandson who has led JOY, still a family business, into the 21st century. You can’t go wrong gifting this to any cook you know at any stage in their learning — only make sure they don’t already have a well-worn copy themselves!

Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer Courtesy of Amazon

Best Cookbooks For Beginners

Food IQ: 100 Questions, Answers, and Recipes to Raise Your Cooking Smarts

This brilliant collaboration between food writer Matt Rodbard and chef Daniel Holzman of The Meatball Shop covers just about every cooking question we ever had. It’s also full of fun recipes and instructions, in a wise but witty way which we appreciate. Food is supposed to be fun, and these guys never take themselves or their tasty creations all that seriously.

Food IQ: 100 Questions, Answers, and Recipes to Raise Your Cooking Smarts Courtesy of Amazon


The Anti-Cookbook: Easy, Thrifty Recipes for Food-Smart Living

Home cooks know that cooking is not just about a recipe but about creativity and putting our heart and soul into what we make. The Anti-Cook Book is geared toward beginning chefs and focuses on locally sourced ingredients and wholesome recipes, plus a whole lot of refreshing food-positive philosophy. It’s not just about cooking better, but eating right and being well.

The Anti-Cookbook: Easy, Thrifty Recipes for Food-Smart Living Courtesy of Amazon


Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking

Samin Nosrat would be the cook I’d want as my homeroom teacher if I were in cooking school. She’s one of the best — even watching her Netflix show by the same name is like a warm hug you don’t want to end. Her book is perfect for those just starting who want to master the basics and learn the culinary science behind them. Her cooking philosophy blew the lid off the cooking world and propelled her into chef stardom — master the four elements of good food, and anything you make will turn out good. Salt enhances the existing flavor in a dish. Fat delivers flavor and texture. Acid balances out the flavor. Heat provides the final word on your food’s texture. Nosrat walks you through 100 essential recipes in mastering these building blocks of food. You’re sure to walk away with an appreciation and lighthearted fondness for food.

salt, acid, fat, heat cookbook, best cookbooks Courtesy of Amazon


 Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One

Are you cooking for yourself? No stress. The recipes in this cookbook are for single diners who want to enjoy delicious food without excessive leftovers. Solo is written by the Michelin-starred chef, Iron Chef America and Top Chef Masters contestant Anita Lo. It has humorous, self-deprecating commentary throughout the 101 accessible recipes and reminds us that dining solo can be as empowering as it is blissful — not to mention delicious.

solo cookbook, best cookbooks Courtesy of Amazon


Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat

Think what you want about Chrissy Teigen — but the woman knows how to cook. However, she’s more a home cook than a chef, and because of that, her recipes are approachable and surprisingly easy to follow. She’s precisely the type of person you want helping you in the kitchen — knowledgeable, appreciative of good food, not afraid of salt and genuinely hilarious. This book has all sorts of deliciousness inside, from John’s fried chicken to her mom, Pepper’s, Thai recipes. She’ll teach you all the important lessons — like mastering home fragrance with bacon and how not to overthink men or Brussel sprouts. She’s the cooking fairy godmother we all need.

cravings, best cookbooks Courtesy of Amazon


Best Keto Cookbooks

The Keto Reset Diet Cookbook

The keto diet eliminates carbs and sugar and instead uses fat for fuel, and using it effectively can lead to powerful changes in weight and wellness. The Keto Reset Diet Cookbook is an excellent way for those who have been toying with the idea of keto but are now ready to go all in. This book explains how to reset your body and do so with delicious dishes that won’t make you feel like you are on a diet at all.

The Keto Reset Diet Cookbook Courtesy of Amazon


Ketogenic Diet The Step by Step Guide For Beginners

Sometimes the most challenging part of any diet or healthy eating plan is just getting started. As the name suggests, this book is a step-to-step guide to beginning a keto diet, from shopping and meal plans to deciding if this is the proper diet for you.

Ketogenic Diet The Step by Step Guide For Beginners Courtesy of Amazon


Best Gluten-Free Cookbook

Cook Once, Eat All Week: 26 Weeks of Gluten-Free, Affordable Meal Prep to Preserve Your Time & Sanity

Gluten-free cooking can feel pretty intimidating, especially at first. Still, there are many more options and variety available now than even a few years ago, and this book includes tons of easy and fun recipes, shopping lists, dairy- or gluten-free swaps and more. It should be a staple for anyone trying to eliminate gluten from their life without sacrificing flavor.

Cook Once, Eat All Week: 26 Weeks of Gluten-Free, Affordable Meal Prep to Preserve Your Time & Sanity Courtesy of Amazon


Best Vegan Cookbook

Sweet Potato Soul: 100 Easy Vegan Recipes for the Southern Flavors of Smoke, Sugar, Spice and Soul

This vegan cookbook looks delicious and features a fried cauliflower chicken recipe to have to eat to believe. Jenné Claiborne grew up eating soul food in Atlanta and decided to adopt the same comforting flavors into her recipes after going vegan. She uses fresh, local ingredients to create plant-based recipes that make food truly glow. Coconut Collard Salad, anyone? You’ll get so wrapped up in the nutritional, life-giving food on your plate there is a good chance you will forget there aren’t any animal by-products or meat involved. Are you considering going vegan? Start here.

sweet potato soul, best cookbooks Courtesy of Amazon


Best Mexican Cookbook

Treasures of the Mexican Table

Treasures of the Mexican Table is a delight because it takes traditional Mexican recipes then gives them a modern feel and flavor. Each recipe in this book is a classic with a rich story behind it but presented in an approachable, streamlined style that makes them easy to incorporate into our lives and onto our dinner tables.

Treasures of the Mexican Table  Courtesy of Amazon


Best Asian Cookbooks

​​My Shanghai

Explore a cuisine with a rich history and tradition, going back centuries, through this book that includes over 100 recipes and stories with beautiful color photographs. My Shanghai is a collection of diverse cuisine made up of fascinating people, history, and culture — all told through this cookbook.

My Shanghai  Courtesy of Amazon


Mooncakes and Milk Bread

There are many Chinese cookbooks out there, but not many focus on desserts. Mooncakes and Milk Bread is one of the best cookbooks to cover Chinese bakeries and cafés, full of delicious recipes for sweet and savory baked buns, Chinese breads, cakes, cookies, and so much more.

Mooncakes and Milk Bread Courtesy of Amazon


The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes from Omma’s Kitchen

Grilled meats are often at the forefront of our favorite Korean restaurant menus, but there’s so much more to this rich and flavorful cuisine than meat. Perfect for anyone plant-based or just trying to eat more vegetables, this vegan book shares Korean recipes with tons of flavor but no meat. From black bean noodles to a chocolate sweet potato cake, this book is not quite like anything else out there.

The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes from Omma's Kitchen Courtesy of Amazon


Best Instant Pot Cookbooks

The Instant Pot Bible

Instant Pots have something of a fervent following these days, and this book is an authorized guide to all things Instant Pot, with over 350 recipes for every meal of the day, even dessert, all made in our favorite multi-cooker.

The Instant Pot Bible Courtesy of Amazon


The Step-by-Step Instant Pot Cookbook: 100 Simple Recipes for Spectacular Results

Jeffrey Eisner is well known for all the pressure cooking prowess he shares on social media, and this cookbook shares more of the same. With recipes ranging from mac and cheese to pot roast, you’ll never look at your Instant Pot the same way again.

The Step-by-Step Instant Pot Cookbook: 100 Simple Recipes for Spectacular Results Courtesy of Amazon


Best Baking Cookbook

Baking: From My Home to Yours

Dorie Greenspan is a baking legend, having written recipes for world-class chefs from Pierre Hermé to Julia Child herself. This book is her masterpiece, with over 300 baking recipes for the next generation of bakers looking to master this delicately intricate craft. Baking is challenging, but Greenspan makes it look easy.

baking: from my home to yours cookbook, best cookbooks Courtesy of Amazon


Best Vegetarian Cookbooks

Naturally, Delicious Dinners

Naturally, Delicious Dinners is packed with quick and easy vegetarian recipes that are super healthy. Author Danny Seo uses this book to show that sustainable living can be far more delicious than we ever realized, from one-pot meals to pastas, salads and even desserts.

Naturally, Delicious Dinners Courtesy of Amazon

Plenty: Vibrant Vegetables Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi

Plenty is a vegetarian cookbook from Yotam Ottolenghi, the author of Jerusalem A Cookbook, which launched him as a famous international food expert. Trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, the combination of classic French styles with his Mediterranean has made some incredibly delicious creations, including many of the recipes in this book. This best cookbook celebrates vegetables and makes them fun, vibrant and tasty to eat. He’s drawn inspiration from diverse food cultures and emphasizes fresh, seasonal ingredients. If there is a new vegetarian in the house or you have set a goal to eat more veggies — this is the route to take.

plenty cookbook, best cookbooks Courtesy of Amazon


Best French Cookbook

Let’s Eat France!

If you want to dive deep into French cooking but do it in a fun way, this comprehensive cookbook is full of visually appealing infographics and classic French recipes for the modern era. It has a region-by-region index of famous French cheeses, French wines, oysters du jour and even a guide to bread. You’ll go from the simple to the very complex on the same page and eat your way through one of the world’s food capitals. In between delicious dishes, it acts as a beautiful coffee table book.

let's eat france cookbook, best cookbooks Courtesy of Amazon


Best Italian Cookbook

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

The only other nation to perhaps challenge France’s title of the best food country in the world? Italy. Pasta? Pizza? Gelato? Forget about it. This bible of Italian cooking brings together two classics from author Marcella Hazan into one volume that covers it all. She’s a gifted chef and teacher and very passionate about Italian food. It has delicious recipes with well-explained techniques, and you can trust its authenticity above all else.

essentials of italian cooking, best cookbooks Courtesy of Amazon


Best Indian Cookbooks

50 Easy Indian Curries

If you are a big fan of all things curry, this cookbook samples dishes from multiple regions of India. Recipes include everything from vegan dals to braises, curry pastes, and so much more. The recipes are easy to follow, with delicious results.

50 Easy Indian Curries Courtesy of Amazon


Mindful Indian Meals: 65+ Globally-Inspired Paleo and Gluten-Free Fusion Recipes

This paleo and gluten-free recipes collection is inspired by the author’s Indian heritage and American upbringing. It includes beautiful fusion recipes that are sure to please a variety of palettes.

Mindful Indian Meals: 65+ Globally-Inspired Paleo and Gluten-Free Fusion Recipes Courtesy of Amazon


Chaat: Recipes from the Kitchens, Markets and Railways of India

Indian food is another one of the world’s most precious delicacies, and this is one of the best cookbooks for exploring its depths. The spices, flavor profiles, textures, and rituals surrounding Indian food from across regions in the country vary greatly, and this book covers many of them. From biryani rice casserole to egg stuffed flatbreads, from the North to South and East to West, this cookbook has breathtaking photography and is truly a celebration of one of the most vibrant food cultures on earth. Enjoy!

chaat indian cookbook, best cookbooks Courtesy of Amazon


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