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To me, there’s no better gift to give or receive than a great cookbook. A cookbook with beautiful photos, thoughtful narratives, and foolproof recipes can feed the imagination, transport your giftee to another city or country, and inspire them to get creative in the kitchen. There are cookbooks out there to suit every type of cook, whether novice or expert, and feed all interests – from TV show cookbooks to comprehensive tomes on the science of cooking.
Every year, hundreds of new cookbooks make their way onto bookstore shelves. Here are our favorite cookbooks, new and old, to gift this year.
Here are 29 of the best cookbooks gifts for every type of cook:
This debut cookbook from Betty Liu (who somehow found the time to author it amid her general surgery residency) is an homage to seasonal cooking and her family’s roots in the Chinese regions of Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang. I picked up this cookbook up in my local bookstore and couldn’t put it down (and ended up bringing it home with me). The chapters are organized by season and explain the influence the weather, holidays, and traditions have on the recipes prepared throughout the year. I love the stories Liu relates about the inspirations behind her recipes, like climbing a mountain to eat Double-Mushroom Noodle Soup at a temple, foraging spring bamboo shoots for Oil-Braised Spring Bamboo, and the bowls of breakfast noodles her father would make her before test days. I’ve already made the Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes four or five times, and I can’t wait to dive into more of the recipes as the seasons progress.
For the cook who wants to master their grill
My best friend (and fellow cookbook collector) recently texted me raving about this cookbook and the genius of Rodney Scott’s Loaded Pork Skin “Nachos,” Pit-Smoked Turkey, and whole-hog approach to Carolina barbecue. Scott’s positivity and passion shine throughout the book, and you’ll learn lots about southern foodways and the history of Carolina barbecue along the way.
For the parent planning their next trip
Whether it’s London or Bombay that is your giftee’s next destination, “Dishoom” is required reading before they jet off. The popular Dishoom restaurants in London are inspired by the Irani cafes of Bombay and serve “tipples,” snacks, and mains like Mango Kulfi, Pau Bhaji, and Roomali Roti. In “Dishoom,” you’ll learn to cook the restaurant’s entire menu, and be taken on a tour of Bombay’s cafes (complete with a map) along the way.
For the coworker who has *opinions* on babka
At Insider Reviews we have lots of opinions, especially about food, and a recent debate centered around the merits of cinnamon versus chocolate fillings for babka. I like Jake Cohen’s philosophy in “Jew-ish,” which is that babka is delicious no matter what you fill it with. “Jew-ish” is a thoughtful collection of recipes centered around Cohen’s Ashkenazi heritage, his own self-discovery in the kitchen, and the Persian-Iraqi traditions of his husband. Cohen celebrates the origins of Jewish dishes, while also putting his own twist on the classics. You’ll see this in action in his recipes for Cacio e Pepe Rugelach, Black and White Chocolate Chip Cookies, and yes, You Can Go Your Own Way: Babka Edition.
For the family member intimidated by their new Instant Pot
Insider Reviews reporter, James Brains, is currently testing Instant Pots and other multicookers for an update to our guide to the best electric pressure cookers. He’s been using recipes from this cookbook and reports that they’re easy to follow, have plenty of photos, and are delicious to boot. The book features more than 750 photos detailing step-by-step how to make the 100+ recipes, and makes a great gift for anyone who is curious about Instant Pots but hasn’t taken the plunge yet.
For the history buff
Toni Tipton-Martin’s personal collection of African-American cookbooks spans more than 400 titles and her knowledge of American food history is on full display in “Jubilee.” Through recipes and stories, she relates the history of Black folks who shaped American cuisine into what it is today, from those who cooked under the confines of brutal enslavement to the chefs who ran White House kitchens. “Jubilee” is a masterful work of American history, as told through food.
For the person who loves pie but fears making it
A compendium of 255 pie recipes, “Pie Academy” is likely the last pie cookbook you’ll ever need. It has nearly a dozen recipes for different types of pie crust, a troubleshooting section for when things don’t go as expected, and chapters organized by seasonality and filling type. It’s guaranteed to be a hit with the pie lover in your life, especially one who is interested in making pies but has always found them a bit daunting.
For the home cook that also loves to read
While not a cookbook, “Black, White, and The Grey,” tells the story of one of the most celebrated restaurants in America: The Grey in Savannah, Georgia. Mashama Bailey, who is Black, and John O. Morisano, who is white, relate the story of how they turned a dilapidated formerly segregated Greyhound bus station into an award-winning restaurant. The dual memoir touches on race, community, and friendship, with some delicious food anecdotes along the way.
For the friend who wants to master the essentials
Michelin-starred chef Hooni Kim’s debut cookbook is a crash course in the essentials of Korean cuisine. The book’s tagline is “traditional flavors, modern recipes,” and that is an accurate summation of what you can expect to find in this cookbook — from Dolsot Bibimbap to Budae Jjigae to Hanjan’s Spicy Rice Cakes. When I first laid my hands on this cookbook, I wanted to make (and eat) every single recipe. If you’re looking for some solid foundation recipes, “My Korea” delivers.
For the person with quarantine cooking fatigue
In her debut cookbook, Priya Krishna (contributor to Bon Appetit, New York Times, and others) offers up beloved favorite recipes from her Indian-American family, including Tomato Rice with Crispy Cheddar, Malaysian Ramen, and what her dad calls Indian Gatorade (Shikanji). The recipes are largely vegetarian, creative, fun, comforting, and guaranteed to inspire anyone who feels stuck in a rut with their cooking in 2021.
For the person who spent 2020 mastering sourdough
This was the year of the sourdough starter, and few people are as well-versed in fermented breads as Bryan Ford, blogger and baker. We’re not just talking about your classic sourdough boule; Ford is well-known for demonstrating the breadth of what you can do with a sourdough starter: from Sourdough Pan de Coco to Sourdough Discard Battered Fried Chicken.
For the cousin who’s just learning to cook
In this beautifully illustrated cookbook, chef and New York Times columnist Samin Nosrat outlines the foundations of cooking, from when to salt your chicken to how to make the perfect focaccia. All the information is presented in a fun, engaging way alongside original illustrations you’ll want to frame and hang in your kitchen.
For your family member who loves “Emily in Paris”
“La Buvette” is part cookbook, part guide to French living. Interspersed with recipes from the cookbook’s namesake cafe are beautiful pictures of Paris, tips about shopping in France’s vintage markets, and instructions on how to dry flowers. The cookbook is a lovely escape into Parisian living, perfect for any Francophile dreaming of a visit to the City of Lights.
For your friend who knows all the best restaurants
Xi’an Famous Foods started as a small family-owned market stall in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens. Its hand-pulled cumin lamb noodles have become so loved that there are now 14 locations all around New York City. In this cookbook, the son of the family and CEO of the business Jason Wang divulges some of the recipes that made his family business famous, as well as other classic dishes from Xi’an in western China.
For the fan of the ‘Great British Baking Show’
Fans of GBBO will likely remember series nine runner-up Kim-Joy’s adorable and creative bakes, like her giant chocolate planet filled with “space turtles,” or her “Silke the vegetarian mermaid” pie. Kim-Joy brings the same color and fun to her bakes in her debut cookbook, which includes Pigfiteroles in Mud, Tazhong Cat Buns, and a version of her Space Turtle Cake.
For the person experimenting with a plant-based lifestyle this year
James Beard Award-winning chef and food activist Bryant Terry offers 150 vegan recipes in his most recent cookbook. Instead of trying to imitate meaty dishes, Terry’s book celebrates the vegetable and all its parts: skin, husk, flowers, roots, and all. You’ll find recipes for Pea Shoot and Peanut Salad, Grilled Spring Onions with Lemon-Thyme Oil, Cornmeal-Fried Oyster Mushroom Po’Boys, and more. A special hallmark of Terry’s books is that they often contain a playlist to listen to while you’re cooking, and “Vegetable Kingdom” is no different, featuring recommended tracks by Duke Ellington, Santana, Björk, and more.
For the sometimes-vegetarian
Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi were both born in Jerusalem in the same year — Tamimi on the Arab east side and Ottolenghi in the Jewish west. This cookbook is a unique, cross-cultural homage to the vibrant flavors of the city in totality with more than 100 recipes.
For the hummus lover
Longtime Ottolenghi collaborator (and co-author of “Jerusalem,” another of our cookbook picks), Sam Tamimi, crafted his latest cookbook as an homage to Palestinian food. The book is rich in recipes, from multiple variations of shakshuka and hummus, to verdant salads, and colorful dips. Along the way, Tamimi tells the culinary history of Palestinian food — from the home cooks feeding their neighbors in refugee camps to the restaurateurs cooking for tourists in Bethlehem.
For the friend who lives for the next Li Ziqi video
Grace Young, a self-described wok therapist and advocate for the future of America’s Chinatowns, has been teaching the next generation the ins and outs of wok cooking. I bought my first wok on her recommendation and it’s easily my favorite pan to cook in. Her book “The Breath of a Wok” outlines key techniques for cooking in this versatile pan, like making use of the hot and cool zones and using the large bowl of the wok for deep frying.
For the person who recently moved
“Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm” by Molly Yeh, $19.54, available at Amazon
Molly Yeh is the star of Food Network’s “Girl Meets Farm” and winner of the Judges’ Choice IACP Cookbook Award. “Molly on the Range” explores home, family, her Jewish and Chinese heritage, and Yeh’s Midwestern farm life. You’ll find recipes for Sufganiyot, Chicken Potstickers, Challah Waffles, and more.
For the person who gets all their news from Twitter
Supermodel, mom, and prolific tweeter Chrissy Teigen is also the author of two cookbooks. Her first, “Cravings,” is a celebration of all things comfort food and includes selections from her Thai-American upbringing (Jok Moo), recipes from her husband John Legend (John’s Fried Chicken Wings with Spicy Honey Butter), and favorites inspired by her travels to Italy and beyond (Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe). The book is filled with anecdotes and Teigen’s signature humor, and the recipes are delicious and approachable.
For the person who can’t get enough of “Cravings”
If your giftee already has and loves “Cravings” and “Cravings: Hungry for More,” they’ll be thrilled to know that Chrissy Teigen’s mom Pepper is getting a cookbook of her own. Pepper is a beloved fixture in both of Chrissy’s books, on her website, and on her YouTube channel, where she has her own mini-series: Pepper’s Corner. You can expect “The Pepper Thai Cookbook” to include dishes like Pad Korat (the version of Pad Thai served in her hometown of Korat), Pad Thai Brussels Sprouts, and Nam Prik Sloppy Joes. This cookbook is shipping in April, and already gearing up to be one of the most anticipated cookbooks of 2021.
For the pint-sized cook in your life
I worked for America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) for seven years and was privy to the care its team puts into each and every one of its cookbooks. ATK’s series of cookbooks for kids is the epitome of that detail and care; every one of the recipes in this volume was tested by pro chefs and kid cooks. The recipes are specifically designed with kids in mind, outlining when to get an adult for help with handling hot ingredients or sharp tools. This is the book I wish was available to me when I was a child, and I’ve gifted it and the kid’s baking book to every kid I know. I love getting reports from their parents about a new recipe they cooked or discovered.
For the person always posting pictures of their cheese board
“Platters and Boards: Beautiful, Casual Spreads for Every Occasion” by Shelley Westerhausen, $16.39, available at Amazon
In her best-selling cookbook, author and food blogger Shelley Westerhausen shares 40 casual yet chic spreads (complete with meat and drink pairings) that anyone can make and enjoy. It’s also a visual cornucopia that’s just as satisfying to flip through as to use when hosting get-togethers when it’s safe to do so.
For the friend who likes to Instagram all their food
Yotam Ottolenghi is owner and chef of some of London’s most beloved cafes and restaurants. His recipes are some of the most colorful and beautiful out there, and his latest cookbook is no exception. “Flavor” is filled with mostly vegetarian recipes that not only pack a punch visually but flavor-wise, too. Ottolenghi and his co-authors expound the building blocks of flavor in three sections: process, pairing, and produce. The result is more than 100 ‘gram-worthy recipes from Spicy Mushroom Lasagna to Iceberg Wedges with Smoky Eggplant Cream.
For the self-described dessert person
Claire Saffitz may be known for her wildly popular Gourmet Makes series on YouTube, but she’s a pastry chef at heart and her affinity for baked goods is out in full force with her new cookbook “Dessert Person.” In this cookbook, you can find creative recipes for Babkallah (a babka-Challah mashup), Apple and Concord Grape Crumble Pie, Strawberry-Cornmeal Layer Cake, and Malted Forever Brownies. It’s sure to please the dessert lover in your life.
For the person who had to cancel their vacation last year
Each episode of the “Pasta Grannies” YouTube series is an escape to a different region of Italy, where local grannies (or nonne) teach the audience to prepare and cook a regional dish — from classics like Spaghetti alla Carbonara to a pasta shape from Sardinia only three women know how to make. This cookbook takes some of the most popular videos from the series and turns them into tangible recipes you can cook at home. Between watching the video and cooking from the book, you can transport yourself to a little corner of Italy without leaving your home.
For the person homesick for their grandma’s cooking
This cookbook centers around grandmothers (or bibis) from eight south and east African countries. Throughout the book, we get to know the women whose recipes are featured and learn about their personal history and the history of their country. Along the way, you’ll find recipes for Eritrean Doro Wat, Tanzanian Date Bread, Kenyan Kachumbari, and more. It’s the kind of cookbook that makes think about your grandmother.
For the person who lives by a cookie-a-day philosophy
A good ol’ chocolate chip cookie never goes out of style, but if you have a cookie lover in your life, consider gifting them this homage to baked goods. You’ll find recipes for the classics (including four different variations of chocolate chip cookies) as well cookies you’ve probably never had before, like Banana-Espresso-Cacao Nib cookies.