I wish everyone who loves to cook would have this assignment. Reviewing the best cookbooks of 2022 forced me to cook with purpose rather than reluctance, soak up inspiration from creative recipes (mushroom and cauliflower carnitas in Cooking with Mushrooms), and shake up my routine like a can of coconut milk. When I made two spice mixes and chicken curry from Rambutan, a Sri Lankan cookbook, my house filled with a savory cinnamon and clove perfume. Even the mailperson was like, “What’s for dinner?” The books below range in difficulty and focus, from savory baking to vegetarian dishes from every region of Mexico. I’m telling you: pretend you have my job and pick up a book that’ll nudge you out of your usual culinary territory. You’ll soon realize why you fell in love with cooking to begin with.
For the Unapologetic Fusion Lover
Reading Mezcla, which is not a mezcal book, gave me a jolt of energy, probably helped by the neon design scheme. Ixta Belfrage, who co-wrote Yotam Ottolenghi’s Flavor, writes recipes that feel ahead of their time. They’re imaginative and playful, inspired by her mish-mash (“mezcla” means “mix/mixture/blend/fusion” in Spanish, Belfrage writes) upbringing in Italy and extensive travels in Mexico and Brazil. A recipe that combines Brazilian short ribs and Mexican mole caught hold of my tastebuds, as did shrimp lasagna with habanero oil. There’s a range of unexpected everyday dinners (Pappardelle With Chipotle Pancetta Sauce) and impressive projects to show off at your next dinner party (Red Curry Sweet Potato Gratin). I made the Sticky Coconut Rice Cake With Turmeric Tomatoes this summer and can’t wait to make it again; the rice cake squares were such a satisfying crispy-gluey texture—a very good thing.
For the Bao Babes
Reese’s Puffs Brownies. Lion’s Head Big Macs. Lap Cheong Corn Dogs. First Generation by Frankie Gaw is So. Much. Fun. The blogger behind Little Fat Boy is an inventive recipe developer and a hilarious writer (there’s a long dream sequence involving Antoni from Queer Eye eating a fish eyeball—stay with me). He weaves together his life’s story as a Taiwanese American gay kid in Cincinnati with recipes for hand-pulled noodles, tons of dumplings, and hybrid dishes that “will probably make my ancestors pass out.” I made the Roasted Salmon With Soy-Orange Glaze and loved every bite. The dessert chapter, though, which uses boxed cereal in nearly every recipe as a nod to Gaw’s childhood, was my favorite. I made the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Butter Mochi—impressive and delightful. I feel like this cookbook is just the beginning of what Gaw has to show us.
For the ‘Shroom Head
Andrea Gentl’s Cooking with Mushrooms is a book that’s as beautiful as it is wildly creative. Mushroom and cauliflower carnitas, king trumpet au poivre, brown sugar buttermilk porcini pumpkin pie, oh my, I want them all. It’s a healthy-ish, hippie-ish cookbook that gives the funkadelic mushroom the respect it deserves. Gentl, a revered food photographer who’s done extensive work with Bon Appétit, creates photos that are shadow-flecked and sultry; who knew spindly, dehydrated mushroom jerky could look enticing? But now it’s a resource in my kitchen whenever I’ve got enoki mushrooms and am wondering what the heck to do with them. (Treat them like pasta and make alfredo? Okay!).
For the Cook Who’s Figuring Things Out
British food writer Ruby Tandoh’s Cook As You Are was the cookbook I kept turning to when I was supposed to be trying recipes from others. The premise is a little loose—follow these recipes to learn how to love cooking and to find the style of cooking that works for you. There are truly easy recipes (see the chapter “Feed Me Now”), overflowing with substitutions. Tandoh is a skillful writer, and I can’t help but love her Britishisms like “fiddly work” (chopping things, which you don’t do too much of in this cookbook). Gochujang and mushroom udon was a favorite, Eden Rice speckled with spinach is a new staple, and cheddar and kimchi cornbread muffins were the tomato soup pairing I didn’t know I needed. The recipes are so spring-loaded with inspiration that each chapter has an included reading list, from Fresh India to The Hobbit. Though flavors from Tandoh’s British and West African roots make appearances (see: her Ghanaian groundnut soup), there’s an exciting variety of dishes from all over the globe, like rosemary buns based on the ones from Panadería Rosetta.
For the Restaurant Regular
The Via Carota cookbook is finally here. Jody Williams and Rita Sodi’s cozy, always packed Italian restaurant in New York’s West Village is famous for dishes that are simply impeccable; their cacio e pepe will always be better than your homemade version, no matter how hard you try. The uncluttered cookbook is laid out by season and includes all of the dishes regulars have come to rely on. You can recreate the plate of grilled maitake mushrooms and smoked scamorza cheese or the duck ragù with hand-rolled spaghetti or even the fried cardoons (if you can find them). The reason dining at Via Carota is so special is because of the incredible care they take to source the best of every ingredient, down to every lettuce leaf in their fluffy salad, deemed “the best green salad in the world” by Samin Nosrat. So this is a cookbook for the person who’ll track down the good cheese, you know? It’s also a great gift for restaurant lovers and New York ex-pats, and anyone willing to take on a 10-layer cacio e pepe lasagna. I’m ready if you are.
For the Mole-Loving Vegetarian
Mexico: The Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte is a huge, hot pink cookbook that’s on my very small kitchen shelf of essentials only. I know it’ll have the most straightforward version of whatever Mexican dish I’m craving. There aren’t photos for every recipe, and the recipes only take up half a page; it’s like the Mexican Joy of Cooking (and since my Mexican grandmother finds no joy in cooking, this is how I make a tiny connection to my foremothers). Arronte’s in-depth follow-up, The Mexican Vegetarian Cookbook, features over 400 recipes that show how vegetable-diverse Mexican food is across every region. I made a homey and simple poblano and pea soup that I froze and defrost as a comfort lunch. I flagged an almond mole that you spoon over broiled portobello mushrooms. Spicy cauliflower enchiladas, bright green veggie pozole, savory carrot soufflé, a sweet tomatillo tart—I’ve got my year cut out for me.
For the Cook Who Remembers Blogs
This book feels like an old friend who shows up to the party with the eggs you’ve run out of—plus a perfect carrot cake. What I mean is, on a drab September night, I searched through all of the new cookbook PDFs for dinner inspo, and Smitten Kitchen Keepers was the only book that delivered a quick recipe that didn’t require a grocery trip (Creamy Coconut Rice With Chili-Lime Vegetables, loved it). For her third cookbook, Smitten Kitchen blogger and former BA columnist Deb Perelman collected her most tried-and-true recipes—like the deep dish broccoli cheddar quiche she’s perfected through years of reading every blog comment—and some new favorites, including an apple cider old-fashioned I made last night. Like her first cookbook, which helped me gain confidence as a young cook, it’s an instant staple, and I wouldn’t have minded if it was twice as big.
For the Diehard Dessert Person
Former Bon Appétit editor and Gourmet Makes star Claire Saffitz’s second cookbook, What’s for Dessert, is full of baked goods that are simpler than those in her first, all-baking book, Dessert Person. The recipes still feel fancy, with clever touches that elevate the whole shebang (think: nutty salted blondies but with cashews in toffee). But they’re simple to execute, no stand mixer required. I made an impressive ruffled phyllo pie that tasted like baklava but wasn’t as much work as the real thing. As a pudding lover, this book is worth the price alone for its many custard recipes, including salted caramel pudding with malted milk powder (want) and panna cotta with goat’s milk and guava paste inspired by Cuban pastelitos de guayaba (need). Nostalgic bakers will get a kick out of throwback desserts Claire brings back to life, like floating islands and cherries jubilee.
For the Pie-Hard Dessert Person
I’ve been following Justice of the Pies on Instagram for years, patiently waiting for this cookbook so I can recreate some of Maya-Camille Broussard’s ridiculously beautiful pies at home. The author owns a Chicago bakery that has a charitable mission (hosting workshops, stocking community fridges, and a variety of fundraising efforts) in honor of her late father, a criminal defense attorney. The cookbook is a mix of sweet and savory pies, tarts, and biscuits coupled with profiles of social activists like Tanya Lozano of Healthy Hood Chicago and Kleaver Cruz of the Black Joy Project. The pies are showstoppers, period. The Strawberry-Basil Key Lime Pie is electric green. The purple-dabbed, bacon-striped Fig and Pig Quiche could grace the cover of a magazine. I’m thinking of doing the Sweet Potato Praline Pie for Thanksgiving. The recipes are whimsical (chilaquiles quiche), glamorous (lavender lemon tart), and bring the party (tequila lime whoopie pies). And doesn’t that cover all the bases?
For the Person Who Prefers Quiche to Pie
This! This is the baking book I’ve been waiting for. Savory Baking by BA and Food52 contributor Erin Jeanne McDowell is the cookbook for everyone who prefers a ham and cheese croissant to a chocolate one. She’s a friendly teacher who makes you feel like you can tackle any recipe and carve your own stuffed pretzel path. (If you haven’t seen it, her video series Bake It Up a Notch is pure joy.) Pine Nut and Salami Quickbread was the first thing I baked—a decadent companion to my morning eggs and a little treat to slice up for cocktail hour. I loved this book so much I was almost offended by the insertions of sweet recipes among the savory. They have their own books! I want more ways to fill corn muffins. There are project recipes like pizzas and bagels, but also plenty of easy breakfasts (jalapeño cornmeal waffles) and clever combinations, like French onion muffins or an Italian sub…you make in a Bundt pan. You’ll have to get the book to see what I mean.
For the Philosophical Cook
Is This a Cookbook? by British chef Heston Blumenthal messes with the genre, just a wee bit. It’s laid out more like an illustrated journal. The recipes (like a Bacon Butty sandwich) are annotated with scribbled notes for ingredient tips and dreamlike digressions about science, digestion, health, flavor building, the planet, and happiness. Blumenthal wanted this book to “put a greater emphasis on a sense of fun and sensory stimulation and exploration and experimentation without any fear of failure.” He uses the word “quantum” 28 times, and it’d be a little pretentious if it weren’t also so thought-provoking. (How does your expectation of a dish’s flavor influence how it actually tastes? Whoa…). His sorta-cookbook stirs up inspiration and helps us think about flavor—and the experience of eating—differently. It’s trippy like that. I was hooked by a gutsy chapter of cricket recipes, sketching out a future that (might) embrace those nutrient-rich bugs as an alternative protein source. Hell, that’s fun. It’d make an unexpected and great gift for curious, science-minded cooks, or pro chefs who like to get a little weird.
For the Cook Who’s Stocked with Duke’s Mayo and Chaat Masala
Chef cookbooks don’t usually reflect how people cook at home, which is why we eat at those chefs’ restaurants. But I Am From Here by Snackbar chef Vishwesh Bhatt is a nice balance of the more labor-intensive-but-big-pay-off recipes (Red Chile and Yogurt-Braised Lamb Shoulder), cheffy side dishes (Not Your Mama’s Cornbread—get the book to find out why), and quick-ish dinners that can be pulled together on a weeknight (Dirty Rice Grits, Lamb Kheema). And I love the way it’s organized by meaningful ingredients in Southern cuisine: whole chapters on okra and peanuts! The catfish chapter is my favorite; I can’t wait to make the catfish in spicy coconut sauce. The writing is conversational and funny and feels like it reflects Bhatt’s big-hearted personality and way of cooking. It’s also just interesting to see how naturally Indian flavors blend into Southern dishes and vice-versa, like Corn Korma (yes please).
For the New-ish Cook
Marcella Hazan’s four-ingredient tomato sauce (one of those ingredients is salt) is arguably the most famous tomato sauce there is. Her influence on modern cooking is undeniable. In First Generation, author Frankie Gaw has a recipe for stir-fried rice cake bolognese that references Hazan’s long-simmered sauce. But maybe you, or someone you know, has never heard of the famous cookbook author or her seminal cookbook, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. This new edition has a beautifully updated design that doesn’t look *too* modern. (Though I wonder what it’d be like to have a food stylist and photographer shoot some of the recipes—it’s illustrated with the original line drawings). The recipes, like Risotto With Porcini Mushrooms, are classic, clear, and instructional, especially great for newer cooks who don’t know that you can’t just throw ingredients in a pot with water and call it soup. If you’re hunting for a gift for a recent college grad or someone moving into their first apartment, this is the one.
For the Cook Who Loves a Good Story
“To sex up your mediocre bananas…” writes Cynthia Shanmugalingam in Rambutan, and sorry! I’m not going to tell you the answer. Every line of this exceptional Sri Lankan cookbook is worth reading because Shanmugalingam’s writing is like a friend divulging her family’s juiciest gossip, and that gossip is usually about buying coconuts. The recipes—based on the London chef’s family recipes and years of research—range from easy (yellow rice cooked in coconut milk and chicken stock with whole spices that float to the top when done) to layered and complex (red chicken curry that comforted me to my core). And in between the recipes, Shanmugalingam writes about her family with vivid detail and sharp humor. In the introduction to a pork belly curry: “Sri Anna was the kind of unrepentant gourmand [who required] a cocktail of drugs to deal with his arteries, and who once woke up from an open-heart surgery asking for kalu pol, a wild boar…curry.” Hero. And then there are the photos and portraits. Former BA staff photographer Alex Lau traveled to Sri Lanka to shoot the book and somehow found a way to capture scent, soul, and story on film. A gorgeous, inspiring cookbook that will keep me cooking until the last of my Sri Lankan curry powder is used—in which case, I’ll have to blend a fresh batch.
For the Gochujang Gang
For my favorite spring cookbook, Korean American, by Eric Kim. I made a full Super Bowl dinner for two from the New York Times columnist’s debut book: crispy yangnyeom chickpeas as an app (here’s a sneak peek), LA kalbi with Sprite (!) that got perfectly charred in the oven, and spinach namul on the side, with rice. It’s a sweet and personal book with expertly written, easy-to-follow recipes (the creamy bucatini with seaweed is a weeknight favorite, so much so that we snagged the recipe to share the love). It also has a bildungsroman quality—an annoying word to convey that you can feel Kim growing up as he writes the book, telling his mother’s story alongside his own, finding his way in the kitchen while charming his way into ours. I can’t wait for the next chapter.
For the Bake-Off Wannabe
Another top contender in the best cookbooks of 2022, IMO, is Benjamina Ebuehi’s A Good Day to Bake. I’m legally obligated to mention she’s a former Great British Bake Off contestant, but Ebuehi doesn’t need that IMDb credit to give her work legitimacy; she’s a fabulous baker with another cookbook to prove it. A Good Day has a breezy, impulse-baking feel—you know, when you wake up on Sunday morning and think, “Scones?” (In those moments, rosemary and honey scones are the answer.) I made the brown sugar custard to have with strawberries for a weeknight dinner party, but the savory bakes were my favorites, especially an easy and decadent roasted carrot-and-harissa galette with mascarpone. There’s an entire chapter lovingly dedicated to “the best of beige” recipes—ha! But seriously, how good does malted brown butter pound cake sound?
For the Burnt-Out Home Cook
We ran a few recipes from Ali Slagle’s I Dream of Dinner in our March issue because her style of cooking is perfect for the section of the magazine we call “Family Meal.” They’re realistic, simple, well-balanced dishes, like a stir-fry with asparagus, beans, and fish that comes to life with a just-barely spicy lemon vinaigrette. Slagle is good at revitalizing ingredients I get bored with come March, like these sweet potatoes with green salsa, and keeping recipes minimal but flavorful (pasta with rosemary-fried walnuts, nice). It’s the kind of food that helps you remember to eat vegetables because sometimes you forget. The recipes have bullet lists of creative tweaks, and she skips the long headnotes to get right to the point: dinner.
For the Snack Queens
Perhaps you know someone who likes to make dinner out of popcorn and a sleeve of frozen Thin Mints. The beauty of Weird Dinner is given its proper due in Lukas Volger’s Snacks for Dinner, which has the most tempting dip chapter in town—a competitive category! Give me that dilly white bean spread, mushroom pâté, eggplant chickpea whip, and a bag of tortilla chips—and leave me alone on a beach for eight hours, please. The truth is, these aren’t just snacks for dinner but clever ideas for picnics and parties too. The Parmesan-pecan crackers, feta and onion jam tart bites, and ramen Chex mix are all invited to my beach shindig.
For the Kenji Superfans
I keep a copy of The Food Lab by my desk for easy reference because J. Kenji López-Alt usually has (most of) the answers. He brings his meticulous, obsessive, scientific approach to The Wok, a technique-driven cookbook. You’re here to learn how to cook, not just what to cook, and López-Alt is the ultimate teacher. He fills the pages with pH charts and glutamic acid breakdowns, but his writing’s so funny he keeps you rapt. That said, you’ve also got plenty of “what” to cook, from Sichuan-style blistered green beans to cheesy scallion pancakes. Sidebars on oxidation and proper freezing technique will make you realize that this book is about much more than one kitchen tool. The Wok is a goldmine.
For the Big Green Egg Head
Kevin Bludso learned the art of brisket at his granny’s “illegal, bootleg BBQ stand” in Corsicana, Texas. His own spot in Compton took off (thanks in part to a rave review from Jonathan Gold) and made way for a Bludso’s barbecue mini-empire. Every sentence of this cookbook full of rubs, ribs, and curried oxtails is seasoned with Bludso’s colorful voice, heart, and sense of humor. (His ex-wife accidentally buys a stewing rooster instead of a chicken and “that shit is like trying to roast your little brother.”) The introduction about his transition into barbecue after working for the Department of Corrections is so engrossing I’d have read an entire memoir. There are some fun surprises in Bludso’s BBQ Cookbook, like the “Sweetest Things I’ve Ever Known” chapter (desserts), which opens with a recipe for Hennessy on the rocks.
For the Cookout Connoisseur
We got a preview of Nicole A. Taylor’s Juneteenth cookbook last summer and have been waiting patiently for the book’s publication ever since. Watermelon & Red Birds is the first cookbook dedicated to Juneteenth, the day enslaved Africans found out they were free in Galveston, Texas (two years after the Emancipation Proclamation). Taylor honors that history while pushing the recipes forward, defying stereotypes of what Black Southern food is and can be. “This book is intended to be light with the pleasures of good food and heavy with the weight of history,” she writes. The recipes embody Taylor’s “kaleidoscopic feasting,” from strawberry-sumac cake to very green coleslaw with charred poblanos and a bright red hibiscus snow cone.
For the Hemisphere Hopper
Take a quick trip to the Torres Strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea with Nornie Bero, who is from the Komet tribe of the Indigenous Meriam people. In Mabu Mabu, Bero writes that the best way to teach others about her culture is to cook them sop sop (yams in coconut cream) and a chicken, soy sauce, lemongrass, ginger, and vermicelli noodle dish called semur. At the mention of both of those dishes, she had my attention, and soon I was shopping for cinnamon myrtle and earthy wattleseed. It’s a sunny and colorful cookbook that preserves the flavors of a Native Australian community for generations to come. “Mabu mabu,” by the way, means “help yourself” in Mir, the Meriam language, and is also the name of Bero’s food business.
For the Étouffée Enthusiast
Have a quart of shrimp stock ready: We’re making gumbo this weekend. My America is Kwame Onwuachi’s follow-up (with Joshua David Stein) to his celebrated memoir Notes from a Young Black Chef. Onwuachi mixes his past with broader cultural histories in the deeply researched headnotes to these recipes, which loosely feature Louisiana-Bronx flavors by way of Nigeria and the Caribbean. After a few pages, I couldn’t get Onwuachi’s voice out of my ear—Ethiopian braised short ribs are “achingly tender and totally on fire”—and I couldn’t shake the sudden urge to fill my fridge with remoulade and jerk paste.
For the Magazine Hoarder: Eaten magazine
Not a cookbook, but hey, there are eight breakfast recipes from 1859 in the latest issue of Eaten, an indie food history magazine with zany-wonderful art direction. Editor and historian Emelyn Rude oversees the magazine’s smart, well-researched contents. The latest issue—breakfast-themed—includes the history of Earl Grey, a croissant investigation I didn’t see coming, and a poetic piece on Singaporean fishball noodles. And actually, a mutton chop for breakfast sounds pretty great?!
Andy Baraghani’s The Cook You Want to Be is a collection of very-Andy recipes, which longtime Bon Appétit readers will know means flavorful condiments and crunchy toppers, tons of vegetables that look as gorgeous as they taste, and luscious pastas. Big Shells With Spicy Lamb Sausage, at your service. Here are a few recipes as preview: Clams With Crispy Ham and Butter Beans, Kuku Kadoo, Buttered Potatoes With Salted Lemon, Smoky and Crunchy Peas With Creamy Nuoc Cham, and Shawarma Roast Chicken With Shallots and Lemon.
Anna Stockwell’s For the Table is a cookbook actually designed for feeding a crowd, with full menus all planned out from apps to dessert and consideration for a range of dietary needs. I flagged the vibrant green-and-red spinach and ricotta dumplings in a Calabrian chile-tomato sauce to make ASAP. It’s impeccably organized and delightful, just like Anna.
Rick Martinez’s Mi Cocina is a party. I love this book for the salsa chapter alone (I have so much salsa de aguacate in my freezer, ready for breakfast tacos and whatever else life throws at me), but it’s also an ambitious collection of regional Mexican recipes based on years of Rick’s research and travels. I love the citrus-filled Yucatàn chapter and can’t wait to make the Oaxacan albóndigas, one of my favorite foods of all time. Pre-order this book, buy some guajillo chiles in bulk, and start dreaming of the tortas that’ll soon be within reach.