Cookbooks are kind of like snowflakes: No two are exactly alike. Some are straightforward and practical, with recipes you make again and again. Others are stunningly beautiful and a touch aspirational, with recipes you wish you could make again and again. Here, our guide to the cookbooks every home chef, regardless of kitchen prowess, should own.
27 Cookbooks Every Home Chef Needs in Her Kitchen
1. "Joy of Cooking" by Irma S. Rombauer
This encyclopedic tome has been in publication for 85 years for good reason. Even more impressive? Its recipes were written, tested, illustrated and initially self-published by a mother-daughter duo in St. Louis in 1931.
2. "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman
When the cover says “everything,” it pretty much means everything. This collection of 2,000 recipes is simple and user-friendly, requiring only the most common ingredients and most basic equipment. Bittman’s style is direct and no-frills, but these are the types of recipes that become “your famous” dishes.
3. "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" by Ina Garten
We’ve come to love (nay, adore) Ina Garten for her effortlessly elegant approach to cooking. Her recipes aren’t always healthy, but they’ll delight whoever’s eating them. Which is totally fine in our book.
4. "The Essential New York Times Cookbook" by Amanda Hesser
Spanning 100 years of recipes from the Gray Lady, Hesser’s collection provides interesting historical background on lots of the recipes, along with frozen-in-time reader letters. All in all, it’s as much a culinary guidebook as it is a history lesson.
5. "The Way to Cook" by Julia Child
The beloved American chef gifts us with more than 800 recipes that cater to all types of home cooks, from those who have zero experience to those looking to diversify an already impressive oeuvre. Tip: Don’t miss her recipe for split pea soup—it might change your life.
6. "Better Homes and Gardens: New Cook Book"
When a book reaches 16 editions, it’s got to be good. Such is the case with this classic collection of more than 1,200 recipes that fulfill pretty much every cooking need—from meals that are healthy to not-so-healthy, easy to challenging, and everything in between.
7. "It's All Good" by Gwyneth Paltrow
Yes, this is technically a “celebrity” cookbook, but once we gave it a try, we totally forgot about her Oscar or whatever. Here she gives us recipes for simple yet delicious dishes like salmon burgers with pickled ginger and lightened-up huevos rancheros.
8. "Minimalist Baker's Everyday Cooking" by Dana Shultz
Based on one of our favorite food blogs of all time, this book has recipes that are vegan but don’t taste it. They all require fewer than ten ingredients and take less than 30 minutes to prepare, making this an essential reference book for weeknight meals that taste good and are good for you.
9. "Plenty" by Yotam Ottolenghi
When it comes to vegetarian cooking, Israeli-born London chef Ottolenghi is the guy to beat. His smash-hit 2011 cookbook, with its Mediterranean approach to produce, proves time and time again that healthy stuff doesn’t have to be boring.
10. "The French Laundry Cookbook" by Thomas Keller
The New York Times once called Keller’s Napa Valley restaurant “the most exciting place to eat in the United States.” His recipes aren’t exactly approachable, but they’re a must for experienced chefs looking for a challenge.
11. "RenÉ Redzepi: A Work In Progress" by RenÉ Redzepi
From the chef of famed Copenhagen restaurant Noma comes a fascinating three-part volume including a yearlong journal about creativity and the meaning of success. Its emphasis isn’t solely on recipes, but daring chefs will delight in its instructions for making fresh tender squid with white currant broth or spicy and sweet cucumber with pickled elderflowers.
12. "Dominique Ansel: The Secret Recipes" by Dominique Ansel
Waiting in line for one of Ansel’s famed cronuts is decidedly unfancy, but the techniques the pastry chef employs are far from quotidian. His recipes are wildly inventive and difficult to execute, making his book a must-have for home chefs looking to make desserts a touch more involved than the typical Betty Crocker fare.
13. "Simple French Food" by Richard Olney
French cooking can seem intimidating, but Olney does an excellent job of making it accessible. His recipes aren’t necessarily groundbreaking, but his emphasis on simplicity (like crafting the perfect omelet) makes his book a hit with those who want to experience French cooking without enrolling at Le Cordon Bleu.
14. "Essential PÉpin" by Jacques PÉpin
More than 700 recipes fill the pages of this wide-reaching collection—a greatest hits of sorts from Pépin, one of the most recognizable names in French cooking. Expect classic French country dishes, haute cuisine and even a few recipes for contemporary American meals.
15. "Simple Cuisine" by Jean-Georges Vongerichten
The famed chef with countless hit restaurants goes back to the basics in his first cookbook, initially published in 1990. Complex flavors belie simple preparations in recipes you’ll cook again and again, like scallops with garlic and saffron oil and lamb with artichokes and olives.
16. "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by Marcella Hazan
Hazan revolutionized Italian cooking in America. Her recipes are fresh, delicious and authentic, but most of all, they’re simple (especially her four-ingredient tomato sauce) and accessible to the average (or below-average) home cook.
17. "Lidia's Italy" by Lidia Bastianich
Drawing inspiration from her ten favorite places in Italy, this collection of 140 recipes is diverse and delectable. Even the most experienced Italian chefs stand to learn something new, from techniques and ingredients to how to prepare Limoncello-soaked cakes.
18. "The Silver Spoon" by The Silver Spoon Kitchen
The best-selling Italian cookbook of the past 50 years features more than 2,000 recipes for authentic Italian dishes, as well as lessons on regional delicacies and how to set an Italian table. Basically, it’s a must.
19. "Pok Pok" by Andy Ricker
The chef and owner of the popular Pok Pok restaurants takes on Thai cuisine in a bold and authentic way, cultivated over decades of traveling through Thailand. More than just recipes, it provides essential lessons on Thai cooking techniques as well as tips on sourcing the best ingredients.
20. "At Home with Madhur Jaffrey" by Madhur Jaffrey
Jaffrey covers traditional dishes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in this sprawling collection of flavorful recipes. Add to that Jaffrey’s obvious love for food and cooking and you’ve got a delightfully joyous book full of must-try meals.
21. "Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking" by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo
Many Americans equate Chinese food with the stuff you get at Panda Express at the mall. Yin-Fei Lo proves that it’s so much more than that and does an excellent job making this ancient cuisine accessible to less-experienced cooks.
22. "Mexico One Plate at a Time" by Rick Bayless
The perfect intro to Mexican cooking, Bayless’s recipes are authentic but don’t require the hard-to-find ingredients you might come across in a more in-depth volume. Nevertheless, this is just simple good food.
23. "1080 Recipes" by Simone and Ines Ortega
Published more than 35 years ago, 1080 Recipes (which, yep, contains 1,080 recipes) is basically the bible of traditional Spanish cooking. With recipes, menu plans and cooking tips and advice, the Ortegas’ book is approachable and authentic.
24. "Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America" by José Andrés
Small plates are great: They let you try a ton of different dishes without having to commit to one. Equally great is Andrés's fresh and flavorful take on tapas, including mouthwatering recipes like figs with Spanish ham and Basque-style stuffed blue crabs.
25. "Baking: From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan
In her comprehensive collection of 300 recipes, this frequent Julia Child collaborator writes charmingly and deliciously about everything from raisin swirl bread to French chocolate brownies.
26. "Momofuku Milk Bar" by Christina Tosi
Cereal milk. Compost cookies. Crack pie. These three recipes alone make Tosi’s cookbook worth buying. Innovative, delicious dishes—from classic cookies to kimchi croissants—have made it a classic in just five years.
27. "Room for Dessert" by David Lebovitz
Lebovitz had us with the title of this 1999 collection (because there really is always room). What follows are 100 recipes for cakes, custards, sorbets and soufflés—basically anything you can fill with sugar and cover in chocolate.