What are the must-have vegetarian cookbooks?
June 4, 2015 4:49 AM   Subscribe

I am not a vegan or a vegetarian, but I would like to increase my consumption of plants. As such, I'm looking for practical vegetarian cookbooks. I don't want complex recipes that take hours of prep, I want practicality. My favorite cookbooks are The Joy of Cooking and How to Cook Everything. Is Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian a good option?
posted by sonic meat machine to Food & Drink (40 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian might be great for you. I'm a long term vegetarian, and I find that I rarely make recipes from the book, but I often get ideas on what to do with a specific veggie or ways to combine them that I might not have considered.
posted by peppermind at 5:03 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Moosewood cookbooks are sort of the original vegetarian bibles. Lots of good soups in there!
posted by damayanti at 5:05 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Bittman's book is definitely more a reference than a traditional cookbook.

My all time favorites are Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian.
posted by something something at 5:29 AM on June 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'll put in a good word for Jeanne Lemlin's cookbooks, which are generally my go-to books for weeknight vegetarian cooking.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:29 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm not vegetarian or vegan, either, but I cook that way probably 80% of the time. I'm busy and cook an average of five nights per week. I have owned that Bittman title for years, but I never cook from it. The practical cookbooks I turn to again and again are:

Isa Does It
Appetite For Reduction (don't be put off by the idea that this is a "diet" cookbook, it rules)
Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian
posted by little mouth at 5:31 AM on June 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty is pretty remarkable.

The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen is a good option, too.
posted by bcwinters at 5:34 AM on June 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

Here are some I have and use a lot:

Lorna Sass - Complete Vegetarian Kitchen - all vegan, often quite easy, very inventive.
Veganomicon - this has been useful for me and my omnivore friends love it. They approach me and act embarrassed and ask if I know about it and then explain that they're not going vegan, but wow, this is a great cookbook.
Nicky Garratt's Mango and Mint - yes, Nicky Garratt of the UK Subs. Indian, Arabian, and North African, good instructions, all very easy, one of my favorites.
Hot Damn and Hell Yeah / The Dirty South - two cookbooks that come together full of cheap and simple veg recipes.
Terry Romero's Viva Vegan, which is all South American and super delicious.
The Asian Vegan Kitchen - does what it says on the tin, very good overview of different Asian cuisines.
reFresh, which I did not expect to like as much as I did but has a lot of good simple veg food.
Vegan Yum Yum by Lauren Ulm. I got this after her eponymous blog won some significant best food blog award. Not best vegan food blog, best food blog. Inventive and easy to use.
Anna Thomas' The New Vegetarian Epicure. My dad still tells me every time I get sick that I need steak. He loves this cookbook and it's quite easy to use.

I'll second Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian as something something said above. World Vegetarian has one of my favorite curry recipes.

I do not like the Moosewood books but YMMV.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:42 AM on June 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Nthing the Deborah Madison book, which is my go-to. I will say, though, that it's a poorly proofread volume, with all kinds of errors in its recipes. Frustrating, but navigable nevertheless, and worth it because the food it yields is good.
posted by Dr. Wu at 5:44 AM on June 4, 2015

The all-in-one cookbooks are good if you are a new cook learning everything from scratch, but I don't think it's what you want here (I practically never use my Bittman, and I gave my Deborah Madison away a few years ago).

My regular rotation for weeknight recipes is:
- The Grit Cookbook
- Seconding Moosewood titles, especially Moosewood Cooks at Home, but also Sundays at Moosewood
- Donna Klein's books are excellent, especially Supermarket Vegan (which focuses on quick convenience recipes from common supermarket ingredients) and the Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen
- Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure. You'd need a pressure cooker for this one to prepare these recipes in under an hour, but it's really worth considering if you don't have one already -- it makes it very easy to prepare meals quickly.
posted by veery at 5:55 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nthing Deborah Madison.
posted by geekBird at 5:57 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have both Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I think they are both good, but satisfying different niches. I think the former is better if you want to go the extra step, or if you need to find out what to do with vegetables that are not encountered in a typical U.S. supermarket. Bittman is more suited to people who have more basic pantries and requirements. Between the two of them I've found recipes and ideas for most vegetables. As others have mentioned, I also find myself using the Bittman book more as a reference / idea source than as a practical cookbook.

I have found Japanese home cooking cookbooks (such as the ones from Harumi Kumihara or Makiko Itoh's Just Hungry or Just Bento blogs) to be good sources for simple vegetarian dishes. But as they'd be mixed in with non-vegetarian recipes, or provided as a variant of a non-vegetarian recipe, you might find it a bit more work than a vegetarian-only cookbook.

I've never liked the Moosewood cookbooks, as whatever I made from their recipes always seemed to be lacking something, or just didn't taste good. I'm somebody who hates wasting food but I have thrown out more than one batch of soup I made from a Moosewood recipe. YMMV.
posted by needled at 5:59 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I like the updated version of Madison (The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone) and Peter Berley's Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. But I also recommend a vegetarian cooking blog called 101 Cookbooks. Try the "quick" section. I'm firmly in the anti-Moosewood camp (I think the recipes not only taste bad, but take too long).
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:06 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Seconding Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
posted by John Cohen at 6:08 AM on June 4, 2015

I've had The Meatless Gourmet: Easy Lowfat Favourites by Bobbie Hinman for nearly twenty years now, and it must be the cookbook I've used the most, although I'm not vegetarian. It has recipes for meals that are so satisfying I don't miss the meat, and I love meat.
posted by orange swan at 6:11 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've been a vegetarian since birth and generally can't stand self-aware vegetarian cookbooks. Browse the "vegetables" section of cookbooks you already like, and use recipes you already like and just don't put in the meat, for some things, or replace it -- use mushrooms, eggplant, paneer, eggs, that sort of thing, sometimes beans, depending on the recipe. Add a generous wodge of butter or splash of heavy cream if it is a fatty meat you are removing, don't be afraid to use MSG, and other flavour boosts like herbs and well-caramelized onions are nice to have on hand.

The exception is vegetarian cookbooks for cuisines that already tend towards vegetarianism; I have some Madhur Jaffrey on my shelf. But too often a self-aware veg*n book is actually a "how to cook healthy" book in disguise. Nice, but if you do not want to eat meal after meal of balsamic-infused endive over a bed of millet, not very helpful for finding out about dishes that will really become part of your regular rotation. Fat and salt and sugar make food taste good, but "vegetarian" is expected to be in line with health food store fare, and likes to omit the cream (but you can make a gently unsatisfying "creamy" sauce from overcooked and blended millet!).
posted by kmennie at 6:12 AM on June 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon is great for when you don't know what to do with a vegetable. It's got a few options, mostly simple, for just about every kind of veggie out there.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:15 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

+1 for Plenty.

And can I recommend a website too?

posted by hz37 at 6:20 AM on June 4, 2015

Wild About Greens: 125 Delectable Vegan Recipes for Kale, Collards, Arugula, Bok Choy, and other Leafy Veggies Everyone Loves focuses on green things, with recipes for interesting sauces and different cooking techniques for getting down those greens.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 6:23 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian a good option?

I like it, and used to use it a lot when I cooked more than I do now, but many people consider it too vague and general (it often takes the approach of throwing a lot of ideas at you and letting you decide the details of how exactly to prepare the dish) - in other words, aimed at pretty good cooks who use recipes as inspiration rather than exact formulas for making the dish. (I've talked to people who complain that when following Bittman's recipes to the letter it often seems like "something is missing.")
posted by aught at 6:44 AM on June 4, 2015

I've never liked the Moosewood cookbooks, as whatever I made from their recipes always seemed to be lacking something, or just didn't taste good.

I used to use the first couple Moosewood books a lot when I was younger (80s and 90s). I got away from them in part because it seemed like they relied a lot on piling on the cheese and oil to make up for the lack of meat in dishes.
posted by aught at 6:49 AM on June 4, 2015

I grew up in a household with minimal cooking and taught myself to cook from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. While it is as much a reference book as a cookbook, I wouldn't knock most of the recipes, especially given that you're looking for practicality. I think 90% of the recipes are perfectly good as directed. Since you like the regular How To Cook Everything, pay the haters no heed because it will appeal to you.

My favorite cookbook right now is Terry Hope Romero's Salad Samurai. It's main-dish ready salads, all vegan, most of which take about half an hour to prep. I haven't had one that was less than delicious yet. An inspiring book if you're at all salad inclined.

Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking is really great, too. Not all of the recipes are practical, but enough are. Like Bittman, it's encyclopedic and as good for learning techniques as for reproducing individual recipes.
posted by vathek at 7:22 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've never made a bad recipe from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop (of America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country fame.)
posted by Room 641-A at 7:31 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

(And the recipes are casual and straightforward.)
posted by Room 641-A at 7:33 AM on June 4, 2015

It's a real doorstop, excludes huge swathes of what most westerners think of as Indian food, and I honestly have no idea about its 'authenticity' (which is a slippery concept in any case--it was written by an American devotee of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada), but for vegetarian Indian recipes I've had good luck with Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking. Honestly I just go ahead and add back in the missing garlic and onions, as I have no religious compunctions about eating them.
posted by pullayup at 7:48 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Bryanna Clark Grogan is one of two authors whose recipes I'll take to a party without testing them first (the other is Joanne Stepaniak).

Grogan: 20 Minutes To Dinner has lots of simple recipes, and Nonna's Italian Kitchen is a great book with recipes that range from simple to really complex, all delicious.

Stepaniak: Vegan Vittles is a good for straightforward dishes.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:55 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would recommend pretty much anything Isa Chandra Moskowitz has written. I was given the gift of the Silk Road Vegetarian cookbook and everything I've made from it has been tasty and delicious. Also, I quite like Yotam Ottolenghi's books as well.
posted by Kitteh at 8:06 AM on June 4, 2015

I love bittman's and use it all the time for ideas. I make his waffles and the cold sesame noodles on a regular basis.
posted by biggreenplant at 8:06 AM on June 4, 2015

Thirding the Moosewood in general. Seconding Sundays at Moosewood, and also recommending - as is my habit - Moosewood Daily Special. Their Moosewood Celebrates is fun too, for more festive occasions.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:31 AM on June 4, 2015

Our most used cookbook is Intimate Vegetarian.
posted by ethidda at 8:54 AM on June 4, 2015

Lots of good suggestions in here. Deb Madison's recipes can get a little... fussy, if you will, and she irks some people (e.g. when she recommends making chicken stock in a vegetarian cookbook). Equally fussy chefs who really make you happy to put up with the fussiness would be Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby. Their Horizons: New Vegan Cuisine is possibly my favorite colection of recipes I've ever bought, and the hearts of palm moqueca on the cover has been my favorite Sunday summer supper for the last couple years. Part of the book's value is that it's so spice heavy, and many of the recipes in it make use of one of three spice blends that the book directs you to make and have on hand in the beginning. That alone is an invaluable time-saving step for a good cooking: spend a weekend afternoon gathering the components needed to fill some jars with spice mixes that can be used to quickly make the base for a soup, sauce, rub, sprinkle, and so on.

Appetite for Reduction, mentioned above, advertises itself as a "diet" book, but it's actually the most versatile, tasty, and simple set of rewarding vegan recipes I've ever come across. It's what I give to new vegans/vegetarians as a template. The green gooddess dressing recipe from it is a new classic.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:39 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

How To Cook Everything Vegetarian is the one cookbook I would keep if I had to give up all but one. And I'm an omnivore. I never learned to cook by intuition, only by recipe, but Bittman has moved me far along the way toward that kind of freedom.
posted by janey47 at 10:09 AM on June 4, 2015

I don't think anyone has mentioned 'Vegetarian Planet' by Didi Emmons. That's one of our favourites.
posted by Poldo at 11:49 AM on June 4, 2015

It's not groundbreaking, but if it's practical you want, I love Pam Anderson's Cook Without a Book: it gives general ideas for basic but delicious foods (bean burgers, frittatas, etc) and ideas of herb/vegetable combinations that would work well. I love it for those moments when I just can't think of a single thing to make, YMMV. I'd imagine it's also a great resource for experienced cooks who mostly do meat-centric stuff and can't think of what a good, basic everyday vegetarian dish might be.
posted by R a c h e l at 12:48 PM on June 4, 2015

Additionally, it is much shorter than the more encyclopedic books above and has a picture of every recipe, I think.
posted by R a c h e l at 12:51 PM on June 4, 2015

River Cottage: Veg Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is excellent. We use it constantly, both for mid-week cooking and at weekends.
posted by patricio at 1:45 PM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Anna Thomas's Vegetarian Epicure books are classics, if a bit on the crunchy hippy side. But we just got her Love Soup and it's been fucking killer.
posted by klangklangston at 10:06 PM on June 4, 2015

Seconding the River Cottage book.
This unassuming Good Housekeeping Step by Step Vegetarian cookbook is probably the best I've used, in terms of quantity/quality/reliability of recipes, and the fact that all recipes have photos. It's the one I used the most back when I actually was a vegetarian. I see there's an updated version with even more recipes - can't vouch for that.
posted by chill at 1:21 AM on June 5, 2015

Nthing Jack Bishop - both his cookbooks are superb. His Italian cookbook is possibly his best.

I'm a very experienced cook and read a lot of cookbooks, I like Mahur Jaffrey in principle but be aware it a) has virtually no pictures and b) goes for quality over quantity. There are a huge number of recipes, hundreds, but they are not all equally good. It's meant to be a tome, but I prefer a more actively curated policy.

Nthing Heidi Swanson of 101 cookbooks.

Adding A modern way to eat by Anna Jones - Jamie Oliver alumni, lovely, contemporary, fuss-free vegetarian. Best vege cookbook I've read for a while and a nice variety to the recipes.

I have a bias for vegetable based stuff, cookbooks with pictures (bishop is the exception cause his recipes are so damned good - i think this is a cultural thing, too. UK and Aus cookbooks mostly have pictures) and no weird shit I can't buy easily.

If you like Indian there's a whole subgenre of Indian vegetarian cookbooks, which wold really deserve it's own askme!
posted by smoke at 2:11 AM on June 5, 2015

I swear by Roz Denny's Ultimate Vegetarian Cookbook and am surprised it hasn't been mentioned already! It's set up with lots of photo illustrations, the recipes are generally dead simple and tasty, and it doesn't require many special ingredients. I particularly swear by the corn chowder and the stuffed vegetables.
posted by whitewall at 6:15 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I asked this question a while back, you might find some tasty recipe suggestions here http://ask.metafilter.com/254095/Decadent-veggies-what-is-your-best-recipe
posted by rpfields at 9:37 AM on June 11, 2015

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