I made a gradual transition to veganism for health and ethical reasons. I hope my articles help others trying to make the transition.
Whether you are a beginner vegan or someone looking to add a bit more excitement into the kitchen, it's a good idea to check out some vegan cookbooks. When I transitioned into vegan cooking, I struggled to adapt non-vegan recipes on my own and had some pretty big cooking disasters because I didn't really know what I was doing. Buying tailor-made vegan cookbooks makes it so much easier to transition into a vegan diet.
Criteria for an Excellent Cookbook
There are literally thousands of these books on the market, and I have flipped through, borrowed, used, and bought a lot. Seriously—a LOT. These are the best of the best and fit my strict criteria for an excellent cookbook:
- The recipes are delicious.
- The ingredients aren't too expensive/hard to find. Any unusual ingredients should have a commonplace alternative.
- For ethnic cookbooks, recipes are authentic but also accessible to American cooks.
- Any recipes that require a ready-made ingredient (pie crust, enchilada sauce, spice mix, etc.) include a homemade option for this ingredient.
- The book includes recipes I can easily make even when I don't have a lot of time or money.
Books Suitable for Every Cook (or Non-Cook)
I am a person who really likes to cook, but I can also be a very lazy cook, so I have included a variety of books. This list includes books that are perfect for people who don't like to cook, people who are short on time, people who are strapped for cash, and people looking to branch out and expand their repertoire of vegan recipes and have some fun in the kitchen. I highly recommend checking your local library for these titles, but they're also fantastic books to own and reference again and again.
8 Vegan Cookbook Recommendations
- Vegan Mexico
- Vegan Holiday Kitchen
- The Vegan Slow Cooker
- Vegan on the Cheap
- The Homemade Vegan Pantry
- Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen
If you are new to veganism, this is the first book you should buy. It has everything—literally everything—you'll ever need to cook vegan meals for yourself and your family. It really is a vegan cook's bible.
What I love most about Veganomicon is that it offers recipes for tons of the meals you know and love in their non-vegan forms and makes them into easy, no-fancy-ingredient vegan meals. It also teaches you all the basics of vegan cooking, so it's perfect for beginner vegans. There are plenty of comfort food recipes as well as healthier fare.
Pro Tip: If you own and love Veganomicon, then I can guarantee that you'll love Isa Chandra Moskowitz's other vegan cookbooks, too. I particularly recommend Vegan with a Vengeance, but I am pretty sure you can't go wrong with any of them. If you are tempted but not ready to commit to a purchase, check out Isa's website, where you can try out some of her recipes for free.
2. Vegan Mexico
Vegan Mexico is currently my all-time favorite cookbook! I live in Phoenix, AZ, so I have access to a lot of cheap, fresh Mexican ingredients, making it the perfect choice for cheap, easy and tasty meals.
I love this book as it has really authentic Mexican recipes with very simple but amazing flavors. The author includes ingredient substitutions for people who might not have access to the more unusual ingredients. From simple (and incredible) salsas to tacos, tamales, grilled fare and enchiladas, you can't go wrong.
This book would be best for more daring cooks, because it includes a lot of from-scratch sauces as well as ingredients most people probably won't have on hand (although they are inexpensive in Mexican grocery stores). It's well worth it if you love cooking and you love Mexican food, though.
Pro Tip: If, like me, you can't get enough Mexican food, Jason Wyrick also has a book dedicated to tacos. It's called, not surprisingly, Vegan Tacos. I bought a signed copy from the man himself, and so far it's just as amazing as Vegan Mexico. In case you can't tell, I am a big fan of Jason Wyrick!
3. Vegan Holiday Kitchen
I just celebrated my first 100% vegan Thanksgiving—a daunting thought for a lot of new vegans. Holidays can be super tough for vegans, especially when there are non-vegan family members to consider. Vegan Holiday Kitchen is the perfect resource for amazing recipes for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and also includes ideas for holidays such as Easter, Independence Day and smaller celebrations like brunches, potlucks and casual get-togethers. It is definitely geared towards an American audience, but there is a section on Jewish celebrations too.
This is one of those cookbooks where every single recipe looks delicious, not just two or three, so it's not a one-trick pony by any means. If you host a lot of holiday events, you need this book. If, on the other hand, you are totally at sea with cooking and need a helping hand to get you through the holidays, you're still in luck. The recipes are simple, and the inclusion of sample holiday menus will help you plan your holiday feast.
4. The Vegan Slow Cooker
Back when I first started eating vegan, I was working 60 hours a week and was really short on time to cook healthy, tasty meals. The Vegan Slow Cooker was a lifesaver. It offers a whole host of recipes you can just dump in a crock pot and leave all day.
This stands out from the slow cooker cookbook crowd for a number of reasons:
- It doesn't use a bunch of processed, store-bought ingredients. It focuses on fresh ingredients.
- It doesn't limit you to soup and chili, the only things I can ever really think of to make in a crock pot. Sure, there are soups and chilis, but there are also desserts, drinks, casseroles, sandwich and taco fillings--and the soups and chillis are actually really creative, worthwhile recipes that you'll actually want to make.
- You don't have to prep a bunch of ingredients beforehand. For the most part, it really is as simple as adding the ingredients to the crock pot and letting it go.
Overall, it's a pretty inventive book and will give you plenty of options for weeknight meals and leftovers to take into work.
This cookbook is perfect for people with busy schedules who hate dishes, hate cooking, but love good food.
5. Vegan on the Cheap
If you're new to veganism, you might be concerned about expense. If so, this is the perfect book for you. It includes a lot of make-at-home pantry staples, which will save you from buying the expensive store-bought version, and also provides plenty of simple, tasty, and above all cheap recipes. There is also a lot of advice on how to save money on your grocery bill, which is a really great resource to have whether you are on a tight budget or not.
My favorite thing about Vegan on the Cheap is that the recipes, whilst down-to-earth and great for weeknight meals, are not boring or uninventive. The book takes standard recipes like chilis, veggie burgers, pasta and casseroles and presents them in fun, exciting ways so it never feels like you are compromising on taste. This might be one of my favorites for presenting simple, affordable ingredients in appetizing ways.
One of my biggest complaints about a lot of 'cheap' vegan cookbooks is that the recipes are unexciting and bland. Sure, they might be inexpensive, but they just don't taste good. I feel like that's one of the biggest turn-offs for new vegans—that vegan food can be less tasty than the meaty version. This is definitely not the case with Vegan on the Cheap. I promise!
6. The Homemade Vegan Pantry
I love cooking, and I love making things from scratch. The Homemade Vegan Pantry is the perfect resource for vegan cooks to make their own condiments, doughs, meat substitutes, and even ice cream, yoghurt and cheese. It's a really great book if you like to dabble in a little bit of everything. Of course, if you hate being in the kitchen or are generally pressed for time, this book probably isn't for you.
This book is one of my favorites because it covers so many different topics and it gives you the power to make so many staple items from scratch. Definitely recommended for people who like to know what goes into their food and those who like to experiment in the kitchen.
Pro Tip: Miyoko Schinner is also the author of Artisan Vegan Cheese. This is not for the layman cook, to be sure, but if you're interested in making your own vegan cheese, check it out. It's a pretty fascinating read.
Afro-Vegan is a great cookbook to try out if you are getting bored with the same old recipes and want to try something different. It is full of amazing African American-, Southern- and Caribbean-inspired comfort food recipes, ranging from the simple to the more creative. Think okra, sweet potato, black-eyed peas, grits, and an abundance of flavor and spice. None of the ingredients are particularly expensive or difficult to find, so these are really accessible recipes despite their creativity.
I really like this book because it gives me a lot of new ideas and makes for a great change of pace from my usual rotation of meals. It's also full of mouth-watering pictures, and let's face it, that's half the reason why cookbooks are so great.
Pro Tip: This is a good cookbook to use for cooking for non-vegans. Since it contains a lot of recipes the average person might not be familiar with, they won't be comparing it to the non-vegan version (unless you're in the South, of course).
8. Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen
I love Indian food, so there had to be an Indian cookbook on the list. This book is everything you could ever want in an Indian cookbook, vegan or not. Like all the cookbooks on this list, it provides a lot of recipes for pantry staples, in this case spice mixes, chutneys, and dairy alternatives, so you can build up from the basics. There are also a ton of delicious, creative recipes if you want to go straight to the good stuff and skip the cooking class. If you like Indian food, you need this book.
Pro Tip: Richa also has an amazing food blog, so if you're on the fence about buying the book, start over there. As well as amazing Indian recipes she also has recipes for burgers, pizzas, cookies, cakes and all kinds of good things. I highly recommend going over there and checking it out.
I really hope I've introduced you to your new favorite cookbook. Hopefully you can return the favor! Do you have any go-to vegan cookbooks? Please recommend them in the comments!