Whether you dabble in collecting recipes or consider yourself a cookbook connoisseur, it can be a challenge to determine which ones are actually worth owning. Cookbooks—especially those published recently—are an investment of not only money, but also time and attention. You need to look beyond the drool-worthy photos and easy-to-understand instructions, and consider whether a particular cookbook’s recipes are ones you’d actually make at home. If they call for hard-to-find ingredients, complicated techniques, or just don’t inspire you to dash into the kitchen and get cooking, then they’re probably not worth it.
Related Reading: The Best New Cookbooks for Fall 2019
To save you the trouble of figuring it out for yourself, we’ve come up with a list of the top nine recently published women-authored cookbooks (in honor of Women’s History Month) that you should make room for in your personal library.
When was the last time you glanced at the recipe names in a cookbook’s table of contents and immediately felt compelled to make every single one? There’s a reason Alison Roman’s recipes go viral on social media; flipping through these pages, you’ll be itching to get cooking. Yes, of course, you need to bake those Insta-famous salted butter and chocolate chunk shortbread cookies for yourself if you haven’t already. (Why on earth haven’t you yet?!) But you’ll also be tempted by her inviting, relatable style and simple instructions to try so many other recipes; anchovy-butter chicken with chicken fat croutons; spicy, garlicky white beans; fennel and grapefruit salad with honey and mint; and fried eggplant with harissa and dill are just a few examples. Bottom line: there are so many winning recipes in this cookbook, you’ll never get bored with it.
“In My Kitchen: A Collection of New and Favorite Vegetarian Recipes” by Deborah Madison, $22.09 on AmazonBuy Now
Deborah Madison, whose name is synonymous with vegetarian cooking, is not afraid to admit that her tastes have changed and her recipes have evolved over the past few decades. Whether or not you’re a fan of her bestselling “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone,” her newest cookbook deserves a spot on your shelf. Much like Alice Waters, Madison’s focus is on crafting simple, seasonal recipes that let quality ingredients shine, such as white peaches or nectarines in lemon-verbena syrup, roasted pepper and tomato salad with basil and capers, zucchini pancakes with feta and dill, and potato and chickpea stew with sauteed spinach.
“I Am a Filipino: And This Is How We Cook” by Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad, $22.48 on AmazonBuy Now
Even if you weren’t aware that Filipino food has been touted as “the next big food trend” to hit the U.S., thumbing through the recipes in this cookbook will make you agree it should be. The authors boldly declare in the beginning pages, “This is not just a cookbook. It’s a manifesto.” Why? Because the cuisine of the Philippines has been overlooked, they explain, and we have truly been missing out as a result. In addition to recipes for dishes that reflect a Chinese, Spanish, Mexican, and American influence, you’ll learn about Filipino food history and culture. Ponseca also shares touching personal stories to give her country’s cuisine context, and the pages are chock-full of lush photos worthy of any high-end travel magazine.
This cookbook reads like a greatest hits list of every American dessert you could ever want to try to make at home. You’ll struggle to decide which recipe to try first—the red velvet cake or the oatmeal cookies, the cherry pie or the banana pudding, the devil’s food chocolate ice cream or the yeast-raised potato doughnuts. If you’re good at following instructions (and, when it comes to baking, you really need to be), you’ll appreciate Parks’s thoughtful and precise directions. As an added bonus, many of her recipes include alternate instructions to make them gluten-free.
“Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers” by Julia Turshen, $23.79 on AmazonBuy Now
If you’re looking for inventive ways to use up leftover food and prefer a low-stress approach to menu planning, Julia Turshen has you covered. The recipes in this book are cleverly organized by occasion—brunch for a crowd, no-stress Thanksgiving, Middle Eastern dinner outside, easy all-green lunch—but you’ll be tempted to make them anytime. Turshen’s encouraging words and reflections on her own eating experiences make you feel like you’re cooking side-by-side with a trusted friend who’s got your back. You know, the kind who generously shows you how to make her favorite dishes, including the best matzo ball soup, mustardy deviled eggs, spiced banana brown bread, and lamb burgers with grilled red onions.
One of the things that may have prevented you from experimenting with mixology at home is the lack of a full bar. When cocktail recipes call for expensive liqueurs and obscure ingredients, it can put a damper on your enthusiasm (not to mention your wallet). That’s why Maggie Hoffman’s collection of cocktail recipes, organized by spirit, is worth owning. The ingredient lists are inventive without being intimidating, and the photographs are stunning.
“Sweet Potato Soul: 100 Easy Vegan Recipes for the Southern Flavors of Smoke, Sugar, Spice, and Soul” by Jenné Claiborne, $13.38 on AmazonBuy Now
Jenné Claiborne’s cookbook proves that vegan soul food is not a contradiction in words. Through the inventive use of meat substitutes and bold, balanced flavors, her recipes will please vegans and omnivores alike. Standouts include cauliflower fried chicken, jackfruit jambalaya, coconut corn chowder, gumbo with sausage made from red beans, and ginger-kissed peach cobbler.
By now, you’ve likely heard of Samin Nosrat, the author of “Salt Fat Acid Heat” and endearingly enthusiastic host of the Netflix series by the same name. She’s likable, knowledgeable, and if you’ve watched her show, you probably want to be her best friend (like I do). But do you actually own her cookbook? Because it’s worth the hype. In addition to the colorful and charming hand-drawn illustrations, it’s so much more than just a collection of recipes. Think of it as one of the coolest textbooks on cooking you can find, complete with information on food science, culinary technique, and simple lessons for improving your skills in the kitchen. Nosrat aims to give you the confidence to play with flavors and make a recipe your own, but don’t misunderstand—this is not just some dry educational tool. She makes cooking fun—and isn’t that what trying out recipes should really be about?
No need to cue the sad violin music if you’re eating alone with this cookbook in hand; it’s a beautifully illustrated, inspiring collection written by Anita Lo, a talented chef with a wickedly wonderful sense of humor. To the solo diner’s delight, she’s crafted recipes you never thought you’d make just for yourself—mac and cheese, chicken pho, New England clambake, orange olive oil cake—without an obscene amount of leftovers. A table for one never sounded so sweet.
See more of our favorite classic cookbooks by women, and some celebrity cookbooks worth owning. Plus, read about some of the most famous female foodies in history, and women who left their mark on American cuisine.
Header image courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf/Twitter.