Cookbooks are like written guides to your own kitchen: They don’t impose, but they’re always there when you need some direction. From avocados to zepole, there’s a book for nearly everything, with new ones being published every week. We combed through this year’s offerings to bring you the 22 best cookbooks for anyone, from budding vegans and gluten-free eaters, to endurance athletes and budget-conscious chefs. Please keep in mind that each of these books has been or will be published in the 2013 calendar year, and this roundup is not ranked or listed in any particular order.
VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Improve Your Health…for Good by Mark Bittman
Best for the Vegan-Curious
When New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman was diagnosed as pre-diabetic six years ago, he knew his eating habits had to change. To avoid medicines and calorie counting, he became a “flexitarian” — he ate like a vegan during the day, but allowed himself whatever he wanted after 6pm (though usually in moderation) — and his health improved. But this isn’t just a diet book, which is why we like it. Bittman took his VB6 experience and found the science to back up his methodology. The book lays out all the deets for making the switch to living flexitarian, from pantry lists to eating strategies. And (of course) it offers more than 60 recipes for simple vegan breakfasts, lunches, and snacks and non-vegan dinners that still keep it vegetable- and grain-heavy.
Best for Book Worms
For the 13th year in a row, Holly Hughes brings us a collection of the best food writing from the past year. And it’s always fantastic. Though the majority of the book is made up of fantastic stories from various magazines, websites, and blogs, there are also inventive recipes sprinkled throughout. Even if those few recipes don’t float your boat, they’re sure to inspire your own fresh dishes and the memories and stories that will come with them. October 2013.
A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell
Best for History Buffs
People have been eating since, well, forever. So it’s no surprise that some of our favorite dishes likely have a rich history behind them. Who came up with grilled cheese, anyway? And how’d they cook sushi rice before these newfangled rice cookers were invented? From cupcakes, to TV dinners, to the invention of the sandwich, this book is full of stories and recipes. June 2013.
Picture Cook: See. Make. Eat.
Best for Visual Learners
Want to learn to make lasagna, but not so into the reading? This cookbook takes the instructions to a whole new level, using step-by-step illustrations (or “recipe blueprints”) in place of written directions. The recipes span soup, lasagna, and sweet potato fries, and are accompanied by a visual inventory of basic kitchen staples and a knife skills tutorial. October 2013.
Feed Zone Portables: A Cookbook of On-the-Go Food for Athletes
Best for Serious Athletes
If you’ve run a marathon, completed a triathlon, or gone on a long hike, you know how easy it is to get sick of flavored goo and processed bars meant to keep you going. Here are 75 recipes for portable snacks for cyclists, runners, triathletes, mountain bikers, climbers, hikers, and backpackers — or basically anyone who needs a small, nutrition-packed snack while on the move. Every recipe is accompanied by nutrition info, too. Compiled by a sports physiologist and a chef, the recipes taste great and are supposed to help improve performance. Plus, they’re meant to be easier to digest and higher-quality fuel than prepackaged products.
The Working Class Foodies Cookbook: 100 Delicious Seasonal and Organic Recipes for Under $8 per Person by Rebecca Lando
Best for Budget-Conscious Chefs
When a limited paycheck limits your dinner options, it’s no fun for anyone. Let’s be honest: Kraft and Ramen noodles just won’t cut it seven nights per week. From affordable recipes and smart advice on how to make a tight budget work for any home cook, this is the perfect cookbook for a budding chef on a budget. The book also includes helpful tips on how to stock a $40, $60, or $100 pantry, and why making your own items at home (think chicken stock, ketchup, and Pop-Tarts) rather than buying them at the store is the smarter choice. Any book that offers sweet potato gnocchi for under $5 and roasted chicken for under $8 gets an A+ in our book. June 2013.
400-Calorie Comfort Food by the editors of Good Housekeeping
Best for Calorie Counters
Everyone needs to indulge in some mac and cheese, fried chicken, or chocolate cake once in a while — even when on a healthy diet. Lucky for us, this cookbook compiled by the editors of ol’ standby Good Housekeeping magazine offers recipes for hearty comfort food classics with a super-light twist. Plus, all the recipes come with the coveted Good Housekeeping seal of approval, each one triple tested and accompanied by nutritional breakdown (calories, protein, carbs, fat, fiber, cholesterol, and sodium. For those who’d rather alter their own family recipes with an eye on health, a section at the beginning of the book focuses on how to cook healthier without a recipe.
Primal Cravings: Your Favorite Foods Made Paleo by Brandon and Megan Keatley
Best for New Paleo-ites
Thin mint cookies, carrot cake cream pie, burgers with a French fry bun… all Paleo. If you’ve recently gone Paleo or gluten-free or are considering it, this is the book for you. Created by Brandon and Megan Keatley of the popular health and fitness blog Health-Bent, these food-loving fitness coaches present a book full of healthy, filling recipes that anyone — even grain lovers — can enjoy. June 2013.
Gluten Is My Bitch by April Peveteaux
Best for Gluten-Haters
Not being able to eat gluten sucks. It’s hard, and it’s not fun. But Peveteaux makes it funny in this guide to living a gluten-free life. On top of the hilarity (which has been described as “Chelsea Handler of the gluten-free set”), she serves up 40 gluten-free comfort food recipes for those times a stiff drink (hold the gluten) just won’t do it.
The Fresh 20: 20-Ingredient Meal Plans for Health and Happiness 5 Nights a Week by Melissa Lanz
Best for Busy Families
Originally a meal-planning service, the Fresh 20 is now available to the world as an easy-to-follow book. So here’s the idea: 20 organic, non-processed ingredients per week to make five healthy, yummy meals in no time at all. The book’s also filled with tips on how to eat seasonally, save time while prepping ingredients, and adapt options for the vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free eaters out there.
Gather, the Art of Paleo Entertaining by Bill Statley and Hayley Mason
Best for Entertainers
Don’t let the “Paleo” in this cookbook’s title scare you away. This book’s not necessarily about the Paleo lifestyle — it’s about feeding your family and friends wholesome, healthy, delicious meals that are sure to impress. And they make it easy, too. Each of the 16 menus comes with a detailed shopping list and recipes and tips on how to prep while still enjoying the party. Bonus points: The Paleo menus already eliminate a few of the most common allergens — wheat, dairy, and peanuts (a legume) — so the menus are already pretty fitting for multiple diets (or easily adaptable).
Root to Stalk Cooking: The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable by Tara Duggan
Best for Vegetable Lovers
No more throwing out the broccoli stalks, celery tops, or squash seeds. This book, perfect for sustainable eaters and vegetarians alike, is packed with ways to use all those parts of the veggies you typically throw down the garbage disposal, in the trash can, or (hopefully) into the compost pile. We promise— the dishes are still restaurant worthy. August 2013.
In the Kitchen with the Pike Place Fish Guys by The Crew of Pike Place Fish, Leslie Miller, and Bryan Jarr
Best for Sea Farers
If you’ve ever heard of Seattle, Washington, you likely equate the city with the Space Needle, rainy weather, and men throwing giant fish each other. At the famous Pike Place market, that is. Now, lucky for us, we can bring their fish-handling skills to our home kitchens with the first Pike Place Fish cookbook. From explaining sustainable seafood to explaining how to cook a wide variety of seafood, this book will enthrall anyone, from the fish-and-seafood lover to total neophytes. Recipes include Thai curry mussels, a crab and bacon quiche, and classics like clambake and paella.
Absolutely Avocadoes by Gaby Dalkin
Best for greatists
It’s no secret that the Greatist team is pretty fond of (read: obsessed with) avocado. (We even rounded up this list of 39 avocado recipes.)So, naturally, this cookbook is right up our alley. It’s not just about guac and chips with avocadoes nowadays — they’re great in everything from dips to dessert and breakfast to brownies. Here are 75 recipes that prove it.
Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook by Jessica Goldman Foung
Best for Heart-Healthy Eaters
America’s affinity for salt is a topic Greatist has covered before. Many of us eat too much of it, and that’s not good. In fact, on average, Americans consume more than 1,000 mg over the recommended daily amount of sodium. What’s often not as simple for many people is how to cut down those numbers and get healthier while doing so. For anyone looking to cut back salt consumption, this book is for you. With creative substitions and flavorful recipes (like healthier buffalo wings), this book also doles out advice on dining out, traveling, and stocking a pantry while watching salt intake, too. (For more low-sodium recipes and tips, check out the author’s blog, SodiumGirl.com.)
Ottolenghi: The Cookbook (American Edition) by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Best for Adventurous Cooks
From the authors of “Plenty” and “Jerusalem,” and the owners of the Ottolenghi restaurant chain in London comes (finally) an American edition of their well-received cookbook, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. Now anyone can enjoy restaurant dishes like harissa-marinated chicken with red grapefruit salad and cauliflower-cumin fritters without hopping to the other side of the pond. With flavors from California, Italy, and North Africa (to name a few), recipes pair interesting ingredients for some adventurous flavors sure to wow any palette (and maybe scare away a few picky ones). September 2013.
Whole-Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon
Best for Breakfast Lovers
You’ve heard it time and again — breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Here’s a great book filled with whole-grain breakfast recipes from cereals and homemade bars to scrambles and breakfast cakes. All the recipes include eat least one whole grain and only natural sweeteners in both sweet and savory dishes. Plus, they throw in healthy toppings and add-ons like homemade yogurt and almond milk. December 2013.
An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails by Elizabeth Graeber
Best for Cocktail Connoisseurs
So, two penguins walk into a bar… From fascinating histories of classic and modern mixed drinks, to adorable illustrations and fantastic recipes, this little cocktail book is the perfect addition to any bar cart or coffee table. You’ll have your friends thinking you’re a mixologist in no time. Some of them might even be healthier drinks. (Now if only it came with impeccable shaking skills…)
Supergrains: Cook Your Way to Great Health by Chrissy Freer
Best for Carb Lovers
It’s not just about wheat anymore. There are dozens of flavorful, wholesome, healthy grains that are increasingly being used in everyday cooking around the country. (Some of which have been used in everyday cooking around the world daily for hundred’s of years!) Here are 100 recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert featuring 12 unconventional grains (six of them gluten-free). The players — quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, brown rice, chia, millet, oats, spelt, kamut, barley, farro, and freekeh — star in recipes from breakfast quinoa with vanilla-roasted plums to chickpea, tomato, and quinoa soup.
One Pan, Two Plates by Carla Snyder
Best for Couples
The last thing any couple wants to do is come home from work, slave over a hot stove, and face a sink full of dishes when it’s all over and eaten. This book full of simple, complete meals gets you in and out of the kitchen in under an hour, and with only one pot to clean. From pasta and grains to sandwiches and meat (plus much-needed wine or beer parings), anyone cooking for two (or more, if you’re up for using those math skills) can turn to this book and know they’ll be fed well.
Pok Pok by Andy Ricker
Best for Exotic Eaters
Authentic Thai food, at home? It just might be possible with this cookbook from restaurant owner Andy Ricker. (The name — the same as Ricker’s small chain of restaurants in Portland, OR, and New York City — comes from the sound a mortar and pestle make when grinding spices.) Dishes range from Vietnamese wings with fish sauce to grilled pork collar. October 2013.
Mastering Fermentation by Mary Karlin
Best for the Kitchen Chemist
Fermentation is so hot right now. From kombucha to kimchi, it seems fermented foods are popping up everywhere. Here’s an illustrated guide to the art that is fermented food with more than 90 original recipes from simple (vinegar and mustard) to advanced (fermented meat, cured fish). Bonus points: The book delves a bit into fermenting’s interesting history and health benefits, too. August 2013.
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What will you be reading in the kitchen for the coming year? Share with us in the comments below, or tweet the author @ksmorin!