We have picks for bakers and consummate hosts. We have options for people ready to spend hours in the kitchen, those who just want to get a good meal on the table in minutes and even those struggling to find the motivation to cook. Some of these books will take you to other countries, and others will help you understand and appreciate the ever-evolving story of America.
Here are our 10 favorite cookbooks of 2022, each selected by a Voraciously staffer.
By Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein (Knopf, 304 pages, $35)
At the age of 33, Kwame Onwuachi has already proven adept at a great many things. He earned a James Beard Award for his cooking at Kith and Kin, a restaurant that lost its battle with the pandemic. His first book, “Notes From a Young Black Chef,” was an unflinching memoir, full of pain, love and redemption; it was quickly optioned into a Hollywood film. Onwauchi has released product lines, too, including a spice blend that pays homage to his mom, a chef and caterer. The guy has even done a little stand-up comedy, taking the stage without a single joke written in advance. Onwuachi is fearless explorer of his own life.
This year, Onwuachi released his first full-fledged cookbook, “My America,” which, as the title suggests, looks at the world of cooking through the chef’s own colorful, multicultural prism. His America embraces both Louisiana jambalaya and Nigerian jollof rice — and can even trace the line between the two. His America reveres Creole hash browns, West African groundnut stew, Jamaican ackee and saltfish and Ethiopian doro wat. Onwuachi’s America truly marvels at the country’s melting pot, perhaps as only a millennial child of New York City can.
But Onwuachi is also a storyteller. His recipes pass along not just family history, but larger historical truths, too. “Long before kale became a bourgeois obsession,” Onwuachi writes, “it counted among the brassicas that sustained generations of Black Americans.” As Onwuachi once told me, “If a dish tells a story, it has a soul.” The dishes collected within these pages have more soul than James Brown and Leon Bridges combined.
The Complete Chinese Takeout Cookbook
By Kwoklyn Wan (Hardie Grant, 352 pages, $35)
If you grew up loving Chinese takeout, you’ll probably dive into this cookbook as quickly as I did. We rarely ate out as kids, but every now and then we’d get to go to the Chinese Kitchen for crispy egg rolls, fried rice and sweet-and-sour pork.
This cookbook delivers those recipes and just about any other dish you’d commonly find on a takeaway Chinese restaurant menu. In the 1960s, cookbook author Kwoklyn Wan’s grandfather emigrated from China and opened a restaurant in the United Kingdom. His father continued in the business, enlisting Kwoklyn and his siblings to be his kitchen staff.
Wan feels a deep connection to and respect for the food as part of his own childhood experience. His book earned a coveted spot on my crowded shelf because his recipes are clear and efficient, with step-by-step instructions and tips that enable me to get that mmm-just-like-I-remember-it result.
What makes the book so universally appealing? Wan put it best: “We’ve got these East Asian dishes that we all grew up with — White, Black, Chinese — regardless of your background, whether you grew up in America, in England or Germany, you’ll have this memory. This food brings everyone together.”
By Tara Jensen (Clarkson Potter, 304 pages, $35)
This is the book I wish I had when I made my halting start into sourdough bread baking back in 2020. Even though I’ve gained skill and confidence since then, it’s never too late to learn more, and I’m excited to have Tara Jensen in my kitchen to help me.
“Flour Power” allows for any number of entry points, whether you’re ready to make your first starter, mill your own flour or experiment with new recipes or types of starters. Cooks of any level will appreciate the smart way the recipes have been written. Each includes a snapshot that briefly lays out the advance work so you know what you’re getting into, as well as easily perused information on the weight of the finished loaf, the size of the pan, the desired dough temperature and the skill level (beginner, intermediate or advanced). Instructions are clear and descriptive. Unlike some authors that have made me crazy by having one set of dough instructions for the entire book, there’s no need to jump around to other pages here, as each recipe is printed in full.
You could certainly just focus on the recipes, which include a simple miche, cardamom bun bread, everything bagel fougasse, pitas and a trail mix bread I see in my immediate future. But I would encourage you to let Jensen take you a little deeper into her approachable explanations of the methods and science of sourdough, as well as the joys of whole grains (stay tuned for a cookie recipe from her along those lines). For the bread baker or wannabe in your life, I can’t imagine a better teacher.
The Vegan Chinese Kitchen
By Hannah Che (Clarkson Potter, 320 pages, $35)
When she became vegan, Hannah Che wondered how she could reconcile the grain bowls of her new diet with the traditional Chinese cooking of her family. “It’s impossible to separate who we are from what we eat, and animal products are deeply ingrained in the food traditions of most cultures,” she writes. “How do you remove yourself from these traditions without a fundamental sense of loss?” As Che demonstrates so vividly in her stunning debut cookbook, which she wrote and photographed, the process of answering that question led her to discover just how integral plant-based cooking has been in China for millennia. The result of her years of research illuminates the philosophy and practice behind some of the nation’s greatest gifts to world gastronomy.
I’d want this book for her in-depth explorations of tofu and seitan alone. The former is certainly broadly known in the West, but only on a certain level where the primary cooking methods involve pressing, marinating and pan-frying or roasting. Che opens up a world of shredded tofu sheets, soft curds suspended in a glossy sauce, and simply blanched firm tofu cubes tossed in herbs and other aromatics. In a similar vein, she shows how homemade seitan isn’t rubbery and dense like the store-bought stuff, but can become pleasantly chewy, crisp, tender and/or moist, depending on the method. In Che’s hands, these and all her other recipes and techniques read like precious gifts, and I’m grateful she’s sharing them.
By Nicole A. Taylor (Simon & Schuster, 288 pages, $30)
I was initially drawn to this book by its subtitle alone: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations. It’s the first of its kind from a major publisher, but beyond that novelty, the book speaks to the lives of Black Americans at large, particularly the experience of the past few years. In addition to celebrating the holiday, “Watermelon and Red Birds” is about regularly finding moments of joy, despite whatever else is going on in one’s life or the world. “Every day can be filled with the essence of Juneteenth, which is about joy, which is about freedom, which is about celebrating no matter how rough things have been or how much sorrow continues to be in our life,” Taylor said.
She wants people to find that joy through food. A self-described “intuitive cook,” she knows her way around a kitchen and how to create flavorful food and drink. Every recipe in the book looks and sounds so enticing, such as apricot lamb chops with green garlic chimichurri, sweet potato spritz, and strawberry and black pepper slab pie. However, her recipe for pretzel fried chicken, which I shared when the book published, has stayed with me ever since my first bite. The use of whole celery seeds and cumin seeds in the coating was revolutionary, offering up bursts of flavor when you bite into the chicken. This recipe is one of the ones that Taylor also kept going back to, and it is sure to be a dish that will stay with you, too.
By Mike Le and Stephanie Le (Workman, 252 pages, $30)
Any book where the theme of the recipes is tied together by a long strand of pasta is going to instantly win my undivided attention. I became aware of “That Noodle Life” when I saw the recipe for spicy sesame chile oil noodles. I made them, they became an instant favorite, and I knew I wanted to know more. The authors seem to be my kind of people, loving both carbohydrates and incessant wordplay. The bulk of the recipes can be made quickly with ingredients I normally have on hand and lean on classic Italian and Asian iterations. Sometimes, those noodle cultures get conflated in interesting and intentional ways: a dish of butter and garlic noodles is dubbed “Secret Ingredient Noodles” — and this might be a spoiler, but that secret is oyster sauce.
Things get interesting when the recipes go in unexpected directions. Philly cheesesteak noodles. French onion soup rigatoni. Taco filling on udon. Chipotle ramen. Fondue in the style of the Korean Army. I don’t even know what that last one means, but it looks good enough to go on an enlistment poster.
One quibble is that I found myself intuitively using higher heat and/or cooking for longer than the directions suggested — or wishing I had — which suggests that either I need to call a repairman or that the recipes were tested on high-powered professional equipment.
But all is forgiven over a comforting bowl of quirky noodles.
The Mexican Vegetarian Cookbook
By Margarita Carrillo Arronte (Phaidon, 416 pages, $55)
There’s a pernicious idea that Mexican food and meat are synonymous. Minds jump to dishes replete with pork, steak and chicken. While meat does, of course, play a big role in Mexico’s food culture, I think this misconception that it is essential is limiting to a cuisine that is so rich and vast.
That’s why I’m grateful for cookbooks like this one from Margarita Carrillo Arronte that not only challenge the notion that Mexican food and vegetarianism are incompatible, but also highlight the culinary diversity of the many regions of the country. You can find tropical flavors in such recipes as spiced poached papaya from the Yucatán Peninsula just as easily as chiles with Chihuahua cheese from the eponymous northern state. Indigenous ingredients such as corn, cactus, yuca and chile that predate the arrival of Spanish colonizers, and, by extension, livestock and dairy in the country are treated with reverence, a recognition of the native roots of the land.
The book is a balance of vegetarian classics, such as saucy chilaquiles and creamy enfrijoladas, and new twists on traditional dishes, such as vibrant wedding asado made with cauliflower. Either way, these recipes aren’t lesser imitations of meat-heavy dishes requiring store-bought substitutions or elaborate replacements. They respect the vegetarian traditions that have existed in the country for centuries, acknowledging the deep-rooted place that this kind of cooking has in Mexican culture. This cookbook is a resource that’s just as indispensable as Arronte’s original “Mexico: The Cookbook,” pushing us to reimagine what Mexican food is, was and can be.
by Jorge Gaviria (Chronicle, 271 pages, $35)
Every perfect tortilla starts with masa, a dough made from stone-ground corn that’s gone through a process of nixtamalization, rendering it pliable and tender, nutritious and versatile. But masa doesn’t just produce tortillas. It’s also behind tamales, sopes, arepas, pupusas, tostadas, chalupas and hundreds of other Mesoamerican foods. Masa’s ubiquity and specificity inspired author Jorge Gaviria to travel to Oaxaca, Mexico, to learn what it takes to make exceptional masa. Gaviria went on to found Masienda, a company that partners with traditional farmers in Mexico to import into the United States the type of corn that great masa requires.
He documented his research and findings in “Masa.” Before you learn how to nixtamalize corn and knead your own masa at home, read about the prehispanic history of corn in the Americas, study corn anatomy, examine the tools Indigenous makers used to grind dried corn into powder, understand instant masa and see how waves of accords and treaties between the United States and Mexico dictate corn production, sale and processing to this day.
“Masa” is not a book of recipes — though it does contain around a dozen of them, including a step-by-step guide to making perfect tortillas that puff on the comal as they cook. It’s more important as a critical deep dive into an ingredient that’s an essential part of the culture of millions of people north and south of the Mexico-U.S. border. It’s also a lesson in how one food can shape generations of people.
By Ruby Tandoh (Knopf, 352 pages, $35)
As someone responsible for 99 percent of the meals that emerge from my kitchen, I’m most excited by cookbooks that not only inspire but equip me, a self-taught cook, with recipes that deliver delicious results with minimal ingredients and time. When “Cook As You Are” by Ruby Tandoh landed on my desk, I might have squealed with excitement.
Tandoh has a rare talent of putting together common words in the most uncommon and beautiful way. I can make a fine evening just reading her headnotes, chapter introductions and interstitial stories. There are also whimsical illustrations in lieu of photos — I promise you won’t miss the latter — that subtly communicate inclusivity, such as an image of two dads having a meal with their children, as well as suggested reading in each chapter that will introduce the readers to a new voice, or perhaps remind them of a favorite food writer to revisit.
As for the recipes, they are flavorful and fun. Consider the five-ingredient gnocchi with chili crisp sauce, capers and parmesan, which takes under 20 minutes to put together. I was delighted by how satisfying it was and jealous I didn’t come up with it on my own. Similarly, a roasted okra, green beans and paneer with green chutney and lime was a delight that made a weeknight meal far less mundane, and a sheet pan orzo with broccoli and mozzarella sent my imagination in a multitude of directions for my own spin on the idea.
The book isn’t solely focused on lightning-quick meals and low-effort cooking, although those are my favorites; Tandoh also has chapters on longer projects and special occasions. She meets the home cook, be they accomplished or novices, with hours to putter around the kitchen or with mere minutes to spare, on their own terms.
by Leanne Brown (Workman Publishing, 476 pages, $20)
Every so often, cooking stops being a solace or a source of pleasure and feels like a tedious chore that never ends. I was in just that kind of funk when I picked up “Good Enough,” and it felt like a lifeline. More than a collection of recipes, it’s kitchen encouragement, with essays and an overall tone that reminds readers that feeding yourself and your people doesn’t have to be either drudgery or an elaborate performance.
Such dishes as Spicy Umami Pasta or Pato’s Weeknight Farro seem like the kind of things I usually wouldn’t need a recipe for — but when I’m facing my kitchen with dread, they’re just the nudge I need to make myself something that feels nourishing. (My favorite part is the “TL;DR” at the start of each recipe, which lets you quickly get a sense of what’s involved before you commit.) “Good Enough” might not sound like an aspirational title for a cookbook, but Leanne Brown’s message applies to how we approach both our food and ourselves: “Perfection is a fantasy,” she writes. “So it doesn’t make a great goal.”
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