Foodies unite! This end-of-the-year round-up of the best cookbooks 2021 had to offer was written just for you and your ever-growing collection. We asked 22 of our favorite chefs, food influencers, celebrity foodies, restaurant owners, and snack creators their picks for the best cookbooks of the year.
From a dedicated recipe book all about pizza to the cookbook recipes that made new parents’ lives easier to the best baking cookbooks, these selections are truly the best of the best (and make great last-minute holiday gifts).
And don’t worry, there are plenty of cookbooks for beginners, as well as the best vegan cookbooks, the best healthy cookbooks, and a couple of Amazon best sellers that will have your stomach thanking you for your purchase. Warning: These are not the books to read when you’re super hungry. They will, however, help you minimize time at the cutting board.
So continue reading for the best cookbooks 2021 gave us. You’ll leave with a host of new recipe inspiration from masters of the crafts themselves.
1. Mooncakes & Milk Bread by Kristina Cho
“In every page of Mooncakes & Milk Bread, Kristina Cho has taught me something new about Chinese baking while seamlessly weaving in her personal stories. After baking her Goong Goong’s delicately aromatic almond cookies, I feel like part of the family. Detailed step-by-step illustrations and photos make me feel confident about forming her marbled milk bread and ruffled wheat flour buns. Kristina even demystifies the most intricate mooncake—a pastry her pau pau said could ‘only be made by a true master.’ This book is the first to entirely focus on traditional Chinese baking while giving readers the confidence to make it their own. I know I’ll be inspired by it for years.” —Sohla El-Waylly, Culinary Creator
2. Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution by Roxana Jullapat
“One of my favorite books released in 2021 was Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution by Roxana Jullapat. When I began my obsession with bread and viennoiserie I made connections with a lot of local young bakers, one of which was Roxanna. She’s been a staple of the baking community in L.A. for as long as I can remember. Her commitment to the education of whole grains and regenerative farming is clear and very inspirational.” —Neidy Venegas, pastry chef at Barndiva, which was recently awarded one Michelin star in the guide’s most recent California selection
3. Everyone’s Table by Gregory Gourdet
“This one is easy for me—since having a baby in January, we’ve been awake at ridiculous hours and have heavily leaned on this cookbook to help with fast and nourishing recipes. We’ve been cooking at least once a week from Gregory Gourdet’s new cookbook, Everyone’s Table. The recipes somehow balance beautifully between being ornately thoughtful while also being incredibly accessible and fun; easily my favorite cookbook of 2021!” —Tyler Malek, head ice cream maker at Salt & Straw
4. Treasures of the Mexican Table by Pati Jinich
“I am in love with this cookbook because it’s a pure take on classic recipes in a very approachable way. The book is so enthusiastic and friendly that I feel like Pati’s energy flows right into the food. The love and energy are translated beautifully from cook to audience. Pati knows what’s up.” —Ellen Marie Bennett, founder and CEO of Hedley & Bennett
5. Life Is What You Bake It by Vallery Lomas
“If I had to choose a favorite, I would say Life Is What You Bake It by Vallery Lomas. It’s a beautiful and inspiring cookbook. Vallery’s personal story throughout the book is so fascinating that I couldn’t put it down until I had read all the way through it. Each recipe feels personal to Vallery and perfected. I look forward to trying all of the delicious recipes throughout this cookbook for years to come.” —Maegan Brown, cookbook author and food blogger who runs @TheBakerMama on Instagram
6. The Joy of Pizza: Everything You Need to Know by Dan Richer
“I could eat these pizzas for every meal. I enjoyed how in depth it was in teaching the intricate components that go into making a truly great pizza. From start to finish, each recipe was so fun to make and the perfect date-night activity!” —Kelsey Lynch, author of Cooking Through Trader Joe’s and mastermind behind @TraderJoesFoodReviews
7. My Shanghai by Betty Liu
“My favorite cookbook released in 2021 is My Shanghai by Betty Liu. I was working on the opening team of a large Asian-inspired, multilevel restaurant in Hudson Yards where most of my research and development went into making nostalgia-inducing small bites, and Liu does a very good job of modernizing these types of flavors. My goal was to be able to recreate things you’d find at your favorite dim sum restaurant or things you grew up eating at home, and I felt that she was an extremely knowledgeable guide to me. Liu inspired recipes that I’d love to share with all of my patrons, family, and friends.” —Ross Philip Pineda, sous chef at Thai Diner, Soho, NYC
8. Black Food by Bryant Terry
“There are so many to choose from, but I’d have to say Black Food by Bryant Terry. Bryant is so thoughtful about his approach to this cookbook, featuring so many different voices and stories in addition to incredible recipes. It is always a pleasure to crack it open and let the pages drift between my hands, because his book is truly an immersive experience.” —Joanne Molinaro, YouTube creator, writer, and author of The Korean Vegan Cookbook
9. Let’s Make Dumplings!: A Comic Book Cookbook by Hugh Amano and Sarah Becan
“If you’ve ever attempted to replicate those delicious dumplings from your favorite dim sum spot, you know that it’s not as easy as it looks. This book takes something that is labor intensive and technique driven and transforms it into a beautifully illustrated step-by-step guide that is fun, engaging, and enjoyable from start to finish. Let’s Make Dumplings! is a perfect book for spending an afternoon with friends or family and learning how to make dumplings.” —Steve Valentine, associate creative director at Grillo’s Pickles
10. The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes From Omma’s Kitchen by Joanne Molinaro
“My favorite cookbook released in 2021 is the Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes From Omma’s Kitchen. You get the whole package…stunning visuals, rich storytelling, and simple-to-read recipes. The author, Joanne Molinaro, takes us into her life as she presents each vegan dish. I love how every recipe has a story somehow tied to her experiences. Also as a beginner cook myself, I appreciate the bonus tips that accompanied some of the ingredient introductions. My favorite thing about the book is that it’s unintimidating. I felt empowered to try cooking all the recipes because of how simple Joanne laid it all out.” —Lisa Nguyen, YouTuber and content creator
11. The Modern Tiffin by Priyanka Naik
“The Modern Tiffin by Priyanka Naik, a first-generation self-taught Indian vegan cook, showcases her take on original vegan dishes with an Indian influence, infused with Naik’s global travel memories from having visited nearly 40 countries. The recipes are designed to be carried in a tiffin, a segmented lunch box popular throughout India. Standout dishes include bucatini à la pumpkin with pink peppercorn & pistachio and green chutney quesadillas.” —Marisel Salazar, food writer, recipe developer, and host
“I’m a fan of Joshua and his energy, and I think he brings that to the book. It’s fun, funny, and has lots of recipes (some that are basic) that work well with my kids, coincidentally!” —Mohan Kumar, co-owner of Oddfellow’s Ice Cream Co.
13. That Sounds So Good by Carla Lalli Music
“My favorite cookbook of 2021 is That Sounds So Good by Carla Lalli Music. It’s the kind of book you can open in whatever mood you’re in and find a recipe perfect for that occasion. From healthy weeknight meals to long, lazy lunches, the photography, prop styling, and recipes are interesting, always delicious, and fun.” —Emily Schultz, social media manager at BentoBox
14. New Native Kitchen: Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian by Chef Freddie Bitsoie and James O. Fraioli
“As a tea blender, I focus on flavors and cuisines of regional and indigenous peoples in tea-growing locales. For instance, in our Sri Lankan tea gardens, our growers live on a staple of coconut and spices—which inspired one of my blends called Coconut Chai. Like tea blending, cooking with what grows in your neighborhood or region instills a sense of local bounty, as well as demanding a bit more creativity—this cookbook amplifies Native American reverence to living symbiotically with the land and celebrating nature’s bounty through the lens of tribes and family recipes, stories, and legends. What I love most about this book is it is as much a spiritual guide to the wisdom of North American native people as it is a book of delicious, regional, heritage-based recipes.” —Zhena Muzyka, founder and master blender, Magic Hour Teas
15. The Complete Cookbook for Young Scientists: Good Science Makes Great Food by America’s Test Kitchen Kids
“This book turns the kitchen into a welcoming place of wonder and is full of science experiments that you can actually eat! All of the recipes have been tested by real kids and the book is written in an easy way with lots of photos (meant for reading ages 8 through 12). It makes learning STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) fun and tasty for the whole family.” —Julia Collins Davison, host of Julia at Home on Pluto TV
16. Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown by Brandon Jew and Tienlon Ho
“Mister Jiu’s is my favorite restaurant in San Francisco. We also had the privilege of working with Brandon on a collaborative aperitif in 2020 for the Restaurant Project. I’ve learned so much from this book, and the sauce recipes alone are worth it.” —Helena Price Hambrecht, CEO and cofounder of Haus
17. Getaway: Food & Drink to Transport You by Renee Erickson
“My go-to cookbook this year has to be Getaway: Food & Drink to Transport You by Renee Erickson, which offers a beautifully curated collection of super simple yet sophisticated recipes. As the Director of Winemaking at SIMI Winery, balance is key to everything we do and this cookbook approaches food with that same mantra in mind, serving not-too-intricate snacks and effortless entrées that are both approachable and aspirational. Plus, it brings Erickson’s vision of easy, everyday escape to life! To us, food is another vehicle for storytelling, and Erickson is able to take us from the page to the plate with her interpretation of relaxed inspiration.