A few months ago when I decided to transition to a plant based diet I also had to start transitioning my cookbook rotation.
Many of the books I already have and love feature vegetarian, if not actually vegan, recipes. And I could easily plop in some tofu for a chicken tray bake. But after a few online deep dives I have built a wish list (a long one) of plant based cookbooks to add to my collection.
[dream scenario is a Cookbook Library a la Martha Stewart but that’s gonna require building an addition]
This most recent transition to plant-based eating was not my first. I read Skinny Bitch in college (I also read French Women Don’t Get Fat) and neither stopped me from eating junk and binge drinking but they did each implant some knowledge for later. I saw Forks Over Knives and started to sprinkle in plant-based meals.
Fifteen years, two kids and one lockdown later I was finally connecting the dots between how I felt and what I ate. A bout with Noom helped with so many different factors of diet and exercise. I even had gone full vegan about a month before getting pregnant the first time and when I went to take a bite of my chickpea filled spinach salad I gagged and reached for the bacon.
For me, eating is about making the most healthful choice I can in the moment. When I am cooking and eating at home I stick to plant-based ingredients. I believe reducing animal products is good for our bodies and our planet but still I sweeten things with honey. I will enjoy some dairy. (I will also feel the GI side-effects of that dairy). So far I haven’t had any meat and honestly I don’t miss it. Ordering takeout can be tricky but luckily in Chicago there are a number of vegan restaurants to choose from.
The beauty of being human is that we can each define our diet. And we can each decide why we adopt certain parameters. Mine is focused on plant-based and local because I feel these ingredients are the most healthful for people and the most beneficial for the planet.
Maybe you start with Meatless Monday. Or Veganuary. Or by reading any one of these books and incorporating more vegetables into your diet.
1. Minimalist Baker by Dana Schultz
This has been on my cookbook shelf for years. I love the simplicity of each recipe and that it uses pretty basic ingredients. I find once I started cooking plant-based recipes things like nut flours and flax seeds and nutritional yeast were in the pantry.
2. Local Dirt by Andrea Bemis
This book doesn’t feature vegan recipes but it does highlight the seasonality of food. Andrea is a farmer in Oregon and decided to adopt a 100-mile rule for sourcing her ingredients. With a few exceptions (most notably coffee and citrus) she prepares food that is grown near her home.
3. Provencho by Edgar Castrejon
I know we all could eat Italian food every day but I have to admit that I would pick Mexican food over Italian. Give me all the tacos and rice and ancho sauce and then more tacos. The recipes in this book are delicious, easy to prepare and full of flavor. You don’t miss the meat!
4. Fast Easy Cheap Vegan by Sam Turnbull
Dan bought me this one for Mother’s Day and it is the “omg I forgot to meal plan” safety net. Most of the recipes feature pantry staples (again, once you start eating plant-based you’ll have more beans in your pantry than before) and are quick to whip up.
5. The Forest Feast Mediterranean by Erin Gleeson
Erin lives (one version of) my dream life in the mountains outside of Santa Cruz, CA. She does all the watercolor illustrations of her recipes and these two books (while vegetarian and not vegan) have several post-it noted pages. Her romesco sauce and fig spread are charcuterie board staples of mine.
6. Herbivoracious by Michael Natkin
I got this book when I attended a Blogger Event waaaaaaay back in 2012 and I got to meet Michael during his book tour. (The perks of being close friends with food bloggers were amazing). I haven’t used this one recently (one of those out of sight out of mind things) but now it’s back on the shelf and we’re going to dive in!
7. Sweet Laurel Cookbook by Laurel Gallucci, Claire Thomas and a forward by Lauren Conrad
Basically, yes, if Lauren Conrad endorses it I am sold. I bought this book at an adorable store in Lake Geneva, Summer Made, and it might be one of the best impulse buys ever. The cookies I’ve made from it are delicious and the pantry staple recipes (like gluten free vanilla extract and vegan caramel) are amazing.
8. Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables by Joshua McFadden
This was another Mother’s Day gift from Dan and it hits on the seasonality of fresh produce in a way that only a farmer can. Joshua starts the book with pantry staples, pickle brines and basic cooking tips and finishes strong by exploring how to prepare vegetables at their peak of flavor.
9. Deliciously Ella by Ella Woodward
This one might have also been a gift (I’m thinking my cousin Emily gave it to me for Christmas) but either way I love it. The book is broken down by ingredient (nuts, grains, plants) and each section has recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. The Chili is a favorite as well as the Sweet Potato Brownies (pictured on the cover).
10. French Market Cookbook by Clotilde Dusoulier
As much as I love Mexican flavors and foods I want to buy all the ingredients from a French market. The Farmer’s Market is my happy place and picking out produce for the next few days and finding a recipe that highlights the unique flavors of each ingredient is *chef’s kiss* perfection.
11. Vegetables on Fire by Brooke Lewy
This one is all about vegetables and grilling. And since in the US vegetables are freshest during grilling season this just makes sense. Tips for how to grill vegetables plus several easy and delicious recipes for summer meals.
12. The Plant-Based Cookbook for Women by Shannon Leparski
I included this one because part of my decision to move to a plant-based diet was because of mounting evidence that it helps to regulate hormonal fluctuations. This isn’t a post about my period so I’ll just leave it at this… since eliminating alcohol and transitioning to plant-based eating my PMS symptoms and my period in general have significantly improved, if not cured altogether.
There are many reasons to add more vegetables into your diet. Whether you go gung-ho like I have or dip your toe eating more vegetables can’t hurt and these cookbooks offer dishes that will delight you!
[P.S. The Meal Planner Notebook pictured is from Etsy and the shopping list on the side rips out and I definitely bought it because having it would make me feel like I was already a meal planner (like buying the new gym clothes on December 31st) but we do use it often and I’m a big fan.]
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