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cookbook reviews: vegetarian + vegan ideas

by Grace Bonney

Many of you asked for more vegetarian recipes in the launch of this cookbook column but you also asked for cookbooks for special diets each week. So today we’ll be focusing on vegetarian/vegan friendly cookbooks and including a special vegan cornbread recipe at the end of the post! Also, if you’d like to try different crepe recipes (in addition to today’s crepe recipe), sweet or savory, Lou Seibert Pappas has an excellent book called Crepes (Chronicle Books) which is perfect! –Kristina


CLICK HERE for the cookbook reviews and a vegan recipe after the jump!

Tender: Volume I by Nigel Slater (Fourth Estate Ltd). British cook and food writer Nigel Slater’s courgette cake is among the most popular recipes we’ve featured on the In the Kitchen With column, and I guarantee that this book will be one of your favorites (I was surprised to see a cookbook ranked #23 on Amazon UK!). It is not a vegetarian book, but is the story of his move into his new home and the transformation of the back yard into a working garden and then goes into the recipes, organized alphabetically by vegetable. Slater’s recipes are all incredibly easy and non technical, perfect for an untrained cook like me. Each section tells you all the information you need to know about vegetable, and most recipes have an intro which put either the dish or the ingredients into context. This is a reading book as much as it is a cookbook, and even includes a few desserts (like carrot cake and beetroot seed cake). The book is printed on uncoated recycled paper which has a great feel and makes the beautiful photography of the vegetables and many of the dishes by Jonathan Lovekin stand out. This has moved into my number one spot in my list of books for this year, and maybe even last year.

The Vegetable Bible by Sophie Grigson (Collins) Similar in character to Slater’s book, the Vegetable Bible is a cookbook for which vegetables play the starring role, but it is not a vegetarian book. It is organized by vegetable type (roots, shoots and stems, fruits, etc.) and within each section, alphabetically by ingredient. Although there are meat recipes, I am sure that any vegetarian could manage just fine with omissions and substitutions and still derive all of the flavorful benefits of the original recipe. Grigson provides great notes on selecting, preparing, cooking, and storing the vegetables featured in the book. Between Slater and Grigson, I’ll become and expert grower and buyer!

college vegetarian
College Vegetarian Cooking by Megan Carle and Jille Carle (Ten Speed Press) Another college cookbook, you’re asking?? I like to include them in the round up for three reasons: (1) The recipes are easy, so perfect for people without great technical skill or people who want no fuss in preparation; (2) There is a budget angle, so it helps you learn how to economize or make more cost-effective decisions without compromising on flavors when shoppingl (3) It offers a solid repertoire of fundamentals and basic dishes which can be the jumping off point to bigger and grander cooking. This book checks all of those boxes. Not quite as sophisticated as The Ultimate Student Cookbook, it is nonetheless a great entry level resource for vegetarians. Enticing recipes include: Sloppy Joes, Falafel Pita with Cucumber Sauce, and Cheddar Cheese Soup with Irish Soda Bread. I love the “Impress Your Date” section, with a bit more involved recipes. Vegan desserts are also included! Photography by Penny de los Santos. Does it get any better?

The Visual Food Lover’s Guide (Wiley) This isn’t a cookbook, but after two weeks in a row of recipes using ingredients I’d never heard of (Aran’s orange cauliflower and Penny’s heirloom radishes), I thought it was time to do a bit more studying. Orange cauliflower is not in this book, but over 1,000 types of food are! Each entry contains nutritional, seasonal, buying, storing, and preparation information, and more. The only downside is that it is divided into sections by type of food, and alphabetized within each, but there is no index at the end to compensate for the lack of straight alphabetization. Nonetheless, I find it a useful reference source on food.

BabyCakes: Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York’s Most Talked-About Bakery by Erin McKenna (Clarkson Potter) Someone suggested this book on the first column. And now I have it. I have searched high and low (In Italy and in London) to find the ingredients to make at least one of the recipes, but have been unsuccesful! I therefore have included this week a recipe from the book for someone looking for an alternative to Jennifer’s crepes. For those of you who have this book, what has been your experience?

Corn Bread

makes 10 slices

Some recipes at the bakery were brought forth by inspiration, others by customer demand. The lobbying for corn bread began the very first day of business, with a customer spying an unfrosted vanilla cupcake and ordering “one of those corn muffins.” Rather than fight the will of the people, I dived right into development mode, and after a year of sorry results, finally perfected the recipe. I hope you’ll agree it was well worth the effort.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 7 x 4 x 3-inch loaf pan with oil.

Pour the rice milk and apple cider vinegar into a small bowl, but do not stir; set aside to develop into “buttermilk.” In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, corn flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt. Add the oil, agave nectar, applesauce, and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Stir the batter until well combined. Pour in the “buttermilk.” Mix gently until the ingredients are fully incorporated and a slightly grainy batter is formed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the corn bread on the center rack for 32 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees after 20 minutes. The finished corn bread will bounce back slightly when pressed, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

Let the corn bread stand in the pan for 20 minutes, then gently run a knife around the edge of the bread. Cover the top of the pan with a cutting board, and invert the loaf onto the board. Carefully lift the pan away and re-invert the corn bread onto another cutting board. Either cut and serve warm, or wait until completely cool before storing. Cover the uncut corn bread with plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

²⁄³ cup rice milk

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

¾ cup bob’s red mill gluten-free all-purpose baking flour

½ cup cornmeal

½ cup corn flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup coconut oil, plus more for the pan

¹⁄³ cup agave nectar

¹⁄³ cup homemade applesauce or store‑bought unsweetened applesauce

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Suggested For You


  • I’d recommend Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian as my number one cookbook of all time. It’s the cookbook you’d want if you were a vegetarian stranded on a desert island and you could only pick one. There are tons of basic recipes for everything under the sun, and each recipe comes with several variations, so learn to cook one dish and you can easily make a whole variety. I’ll definitely check these out next time I’m at the bookstore- thanks for featuring veggie cooking!

  • I am not a big fan of Babycakes’ book either. Not userfriendly in that the ingredients are a bit obscure for most. Bet it’s a great shop to visit and buy from! For dessert recipes that are easy to work with, stick with Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s & Terry Hope Romero’s cookbooks (a new one is due out soon, vegan cookie takes over the universe!)

  • Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison is one of the best American cookbooks for both veggies and meat eaters; it belongs in this roundup.

  • Hi J,

    Thanks for your suggestion! I try to review recent releases on the column, and actively encourage readers to include their own favorites in the comment section. So the fact that certain titles are not reviewed is in no way an omission!

    Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is indeed a fantastic book (although I’ve never seen any recipes with meat in it for meat eaters). Thanks to Ms. Madison’s kind permission, we’ve actually featured a wonderful recipe for beet risotto from it on the ITKW column: http://bit.ly/3vITRb

    All of her work is fantastic!


  • Hi Kathy!


    I have not been able to try the recipes in order to give an assessment, but so many people have spoken volumes about it. I can’t wait to try it out!


  • I like the Babycakes book. The only complaint I had is that many of the recipes I really wanted to try used spelt flour, which is NOT gluten free. But I’ve had no problem finding any of the ingredients (even spelt), and have had good success with the recipes I’ve tried.

  • Mollie Katzen’s Vegetable Heaven is a book I find myself returning to over and over, and I have several favorite recipes from it.

    Another (new) favorite of mine is Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson. I find the title a little goofy because it makes me think of ghosts cooking, but it’s full of beautiful photos and most of the recipes are easy to make and simple. The book’s focus is on foods that have high nutritional value, as well as ways to replace processed sweetners and incorporate a variety of grains into your diet instead of just wheat. There’s a really good recipe for thin mint cookies in here that I made to give for holiday presents last year, too.

  • I love Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero- it’s super approachable and educational with great tasting recipes that don’t taste like 1970’s vegetarian food. It has a good variety from soups to deserts. I also really like the Grit (from the restaurant in Athens, Ga). But if you buy one, I strongly recommend Veganomicon.

  • Ooh I can’t wait to try the cornbread. I had it all the time when I was living in Texas but back home in Australia not so much. I havn’t been able to find a recipe that tastes as good, I hope this is it! Thanks!

  • Thanks for the suggestions. I love Nigel Slater and I would love a veggie option from him.

    My two favourite cookbooks right now are Jack Bishop’s A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. Yummy recipes and organized seasonally which I love.

    And since it is soup season I am also heavily using Love Soup by Anna Thomas (the vegetarian epicure). Hearty, healthy warming soups and some soups and salads too. Plus most recipes are vegan.

    happy cooking!

  • In the cookbook world where coming up with new and different titles is key. I would have to say the College vegetarian cookbook concept sounds brilliant.
    For 3 summers I cooked for 20 something yr old tree planters and it was so sad to see so many of them who were “Vegetarians” and didn’t have a clue of proper nutrition; they were more of the tofu hot dog and Kraft dinner kind. I also learned so many different tofu techniques by the true not just picky eater vegetarians!
    If and when one of my children comes home with the “I am now a vegetarian!” announcement I will insist that they do the proper research and take themselves seriously so that it is not just a fad.
    Oh and Kristina I am guessing what J meant by saying that Deborah Madison’s cook book is good for both veggie and meat eaters is that you don’t need to be a vegetarian to use a vegetarian cookbook – as in the title of the book “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone”!

  • I got the Babycakes book when it first came out because I’m vegan and have a wheat allergy. I tried the gingerbread loaf, and it was ok, but not great. I also tried the lemon poppyseed loaf and it was a disaster! It wouldn’t cook no matter how long I had it in the oven, and the poppy seeds sunk to the bottom. I have also made chocolate mint cookies and they were edibly, but turned out really thin and crispy.

    At first, I was extremely excited about the book, but after trying these recipes and having them fail, I don’t know if I want to give it another chance. Its a shame because there are few, if any, cookbooks that are dedicated to vegan gluten-free or wheat-free baking.

  • I’m with vegan.eating and Alli, Isa Chandra Moskowitz is the best vegan chef & cookbook author- but also a hilarious amazing person- her cooking classes could be confused for standup comedy- I love her! My favorite Isa cookbooks are Vegan with a Vengeance and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Also, can’t wait to check out Alicia Silverstone’s brand new vegan book- the Kind Diet- I’ve heard rave reviews!

    xo Leanne

  • Thank you all for these suggestions! I will expand my collection. I often take cakes to work and have felt bad for a long time because I have never been able to bring anything in for my celiac colleagues (one of whom is also vegan). Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache was a start, and now I can look for these to provide more options.

  • my partner and i are trying to go veggie.. so thanks for the reviews! they look great..

    will also try the recipe for cornbread:)

  • The Veganomicon is my favorite. All recipes taste restaurant-quality. The Pineapple Quinoa Stir-Fry is amazingly good.

  • I baked Baby Cakes double chocolate chip cookies (vegan, gluten free, coconut oil) that GOOP wrote about and found all of the ingredients at Whole Foods. The cookies were truly amazing. I brought them to work and everyone loved them, only then did I surprise people that they were vegan, etc. The only annoying part is that the grocery bill for the ingredients was $60 for the cookies. Yikes. But yes, they were unbelievably good and I plan to make them again. –Katie

  • I can’t believe you haven’t mentioned Sarah Kramer’s vegan cookbooks. Especially since you showcased her house a few months back on your blog.

    I have all 4 of her cookbooks and she’s incredible. Her story is inspiring. Her recipes are easy to make, and are delicious. She encourages people to get crafty with their ingredients as well as in their day to day life (cleaning products made from baking soda, refurbishing found items, etc).

    She’s my hero (can you tell?).
    I think you should do an entire post/interview with Sarah. She has great style. I’d love to see her on here.

    • hi guys

      just a quick note- kristina’s cookbook columns are ongoing, they’re not a one-time definitive guide to veggie cooking. she’s posted a few books before in this genre and will continue to do so. so not to fear if you’re favorite isn’t featured right away ;)


  • That Nigel Slater book looks really good! I’ll definitely be checking it out.

    Also, I 2nd the Bittman vegetarian book. It’s awesome.

  • Great post, and thanks all for the addt’l suggestions. I’m banned from buying more cookbooks until I use the ones I already have, but they’ve been bookmarked for future reference ;-D

  • I also have tried several of the recipes in the Babycakes cookbook and have had great success with the ones I tried so far. I haven’t had a hard time finding ingredients (Whole Foods has most) and if you read her introduction where she explains about measuring, prepping certain ingredients, etc, all should go fine! Good luck!

  • I am quite excited about the Babycakes cookbook. If you’re a healthy eater, or have food intolerances – these recipes are a life saver. I just got the book, went to the natural food store, and got everything i needed to make the frosting with one substitution (couldn’t find coconut flour, so i used arrowroot). if you’re committed to this style of baking, you probably have at least half the ingredients on hand and can get the rest at whole foods or a natural food store. i also like Elana Amsterdam’s book: the Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook and blog (ALL are GF recipes).