The 10 Best Cookbooks for Vegetarian Meals
Are you a vegetarian wanting to expand your meal rotation? Or just thinking about incorporating more meatless meals into your diet? After many years of cooking meat-free, I have amassed quite the cookbook collection. What follows are the books I find myself reaching for most often, and the ones that I most often recommend to people who ask me for suggestions on new vegetarian and vegetable recipes. Not all of the following contain only vegetarian dishes, but they all do offer something for the vegetarian cook.
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
This is the vegetarian cookbook for vegetarians and omnivores alike. Madison covers basic cooking techniques, particularly for vegetables, and includes a complete repertoire of delicious meals with a fresh, Continental sensibility. The book contains a very useful core collection of versatile sauces near the beginning, which make appearances throughout. Sample recipes are Chard Soup with Sorrel or Lemon, Baked Spaghetti Squash with Gruyère and Parsley, and Leek and Goat Cheese Galette.
Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian: More Than 650 Meatless Recipes from Around the World by Madhur Jaffrey
A compendium of vegetarian recipes from around the world. Jaffrey's expertise is in Indian cooking, so there is a heavy focus on recipes from around India. Here you will also find recipes from just about every other cuisine as well, though. Learning to make stir-fries and curries is a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet. Stories about the history of the dish or Jaffrey's culinary travels around the world precede most recipes, making this cookbook one that is enjoyable to sit and read, as well as cook from. Sample recipes include Spinach with Tomato (Saag), Eggplant with Minty Tomato Sauce and Yogurt (Badenjan Boorani), and Israeli Couscous with Asparagus and Fresh Mushrooms.
Quick-Fix Vegetarian: Healthy Home-Cooked Meals in 30 Minutes or Less by Robin Robertson
The meals in this book are both delicious and fast, perfect for the times when you really need to get food on the table quickly. Robertson covers easy skillet meals, casseroles, slow cooker recipes and more. While the title says “vegetarian,” this is actually a vegan collection. Sample recipes include Farfalle with Fresh Tomato Concassée and Black Olives, Potato “Dosadillas,” and Quick Brown Rice-Stuffed Buttercup Squash.
Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters
This book is organized by vegetable, with each section detailing how to select and prepare each vegetable, along with serving suggestions, followed by recipes written with Waters' trademark sensibilities – classic, seasonal and delicious. This is an excellent choice for someone who is beginning a CSA and is encountering unfamiliar vegetables, or who just wants to explore new vegetables. Most, but not all, of the recipes are vegetarian. Sample recipes include Red and Golden Beets with Blood Orange, Endive, and Walnuts, Summer Squash with Herbs and Garlic, and Celery Root Rémoulade.
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman
Bittman's cookbooks tend toward the encyclopedic, and here he focuses on vegetarian cooking. Any basic vegetarian meal one can think of can probably be found in this book. Bittman's directions are always easy to follow, often including useful drawings such as how to peel or chop more complicated vegetables. Bittman is interested in empowering home cooks - recipes generally include many variations and suggestions for alterations, really allowing you to make the meals your own. Sample recipes include Olive Oil Salt Bread, Scallion-Ginger Sauce, and Corn and Cheese Empanadas.
The Grit Cookbook: World-Wise, Down-Home Recipes by Jessica Greene and Ted Hafer
Recipes from the Athens, Georgia restaurant – vegetarian cooking with a Southern twist. Truly unique, crowd-pleasing food. As one might expect from a Southern restaurant, the recipes can be a little high in fat for everyday fare, but those dishes are excellent choices for when something on the decadent side is desired. Sample recipes are Golden Bowl, Split Pea Dal, and Sour Cream Chocolate Tart.
Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
A thorough collection of vegan recipes. The authors keep the recipes very vegetable-focused, unlike the many vegan cookbooks that overuse meat and cheese substitutes. Moskowitz and Romero have a hip and witty tone to their writing that makes this a really fun one to read. Sample recipes are Israeli Couscous with Pistachios and Apricots, Black Beans in Chipotle Adobo Sauce, and Asparagus and Lemongrass Risotto.
The French Market Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes from My Parisian Kitchen by Clotilde Dusoulier
French cuisine can be incredibly meat-focused, as any vegetarian who has tried to order at a French restaurant can attest. Here Dusoulier explores the vegetarian side of French cooking. She has arranged her book by season, creating a wonderful companion for the farmer's market shopper or gardener. Her recipe introductions are funny and quotable. The author makes a conscious choice to keep her use of cheese to a minimum, making this a great choice for the especially health-conscious cook. Sample recipes include Asparagus Buckwheat Tart, Corsican Turnovers with Winter Squash, and Poached Rhubarb and Orange Salad.
Vegetarian and Vegetable Cooking by Christine Ingram
With gorgeous full-color pictures throughout, this book is almost as enjoyable to flip through as it is to cook from. In addition to the recipes, there is a great vegetable section, with detailed information on varieties, buying and storage tips, and preparation information. This is a primarily vegetarian book, with a seafood section at the end. Sample recipes are Pasta and Wild Mushroom Mold, Tagliatelle with “Hit-the-Pan” Salsa, and Vegetable Fritters with Tzatziki.
Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi
Another book packed with beautiful photography, prominent London chef Ottolenghi collects delicious meals with a Mediterranean sensibility. Food that is sure to be enjoyed by vegetarians and meat-eaters, as well. Cheese and other high-fat foods are prominent throughout, making this a great choice for weekend and entertainment cooking. Sample recipes are Burnt Eggplant with Tahini, Chard Cakes with Sorrel Sauce, and Crusted Pumpkin Wedges with Sour Cream.
Cookbooks are not one-size-fits-all; cooks will reach for different books based on their needs at the time. I have tried to give enough information on each title to make clear what niche on the shelf each book could fill. That said, if someone only wanted to purchase one vegetarian cookbook, I would recommend Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, as I think it is the most comprehensive and versatile book on the list. There is a large world of meat-free and vegetable-focused cooking out there – I hope this collection helps you explore it further.