Cookbook Gift Guide

Did you know that there are only ten more shopping days before Christmas? Ten! I’d better get my act together. As a follow-up to my holiday gift guide post, I thought I’d share my favorite cookbooks in categories that (I hope) will help you decide what to give those difficult-to-shop-for loved ones on your list. Maybe, just maybe, if you give just the right book to a non-cook, it will inspire him to step into the kitchen. I wouldn’t blame you if you add a cookbook or two to your own wish list, too!

For the Creative Cook
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
Everyone’s favorite good-humored food blogger, Deb of Smitten Kitchen, produced this ingenious cookbook. I really appreciate that she made sure to provide at least one photo for each of her 100+ well-tested recipes. The book offers roughly equal numbers of meaty and meat-free main dishes, along with salads, sandwiches, pizzas, breakfast and over 100 pages of incredible desserts. I’d feel confident giving this cookbook to cooks of all skill levels.

For All Cooks
Keys to the Kitchen: The Essential Reference for Becoming a More Accomplished, Adventurous Cook by Aida Mollenkamp
Aida Mollenkamp, a trained chef of Cooking Channel fame, has put together this gorgeous cookbook. She shares invaluable cooking techniques alongside fantastic, well-tested recipes. Many of the recipes are accompanied by beautiful photos. I’d be just as likely to give this book to a fellow vegetarian as I would be to give it to my friends who are learning how to cut the meat they receive from their CSA.

For the Health-Conscious Cook
The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods by Sara Forte
Fresh, inspiring recipes by one of my favorite food bloggers, Sara of Sprouted Kitchen. Most (but not all) of the produce-focused recipes are vegetarian and gluten free.

For the Dessert Lover
Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts by Alice Medrich
Alice produces dessert recipes I know I can trust. This cookbook, which absolutely lives up to its title, offers simple, gourmet, from-scratch desserts accompanied by stunning photos.

For the Baker
Home Baked Comfort: Featuring Mouthwatering Recipes and Tales of the Sweet Life with Favorites from Bakers Across the Country by Kim Laidlaw
This book offers unique, inspired recipes for baked goods (lots of sugar and butter involved), plus fun features on renowned American bakers. I have bookmarked quite a few decadent treats to try from this one.

For Good Measure
Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes by David Lebovitz
David Lebovitz is another chef who produces dessert recipes I trust. This book is brimming with over 170 brilliant dessert recipes, some of which offer more conventional flavor profiles than others. From fresh ginger cake to zimsterna (star-shaped almond swedish cookies), I find tons of dessert inspiration every time I flip through this book.

For the Artist
What Katie Ate: Recipes and Other Bits and Pieces by Katie Quinn Davies
This coffee table-worthy cookbook by Katie of What Katie Ate is full of gorgeous made-from-scratch recipes and delicious, high contrast photos. This would make a great gift for an artsy home cook.

For the Intimidated Cook
Fresh & Easy: What to Cook and How to Cook it by Jane Hornby
Each recipe in this book is accompanied by step-by-step photos that illustrate the cooking process. While not a vegetarian cookbook, I love that this one focuses on fresh ingredients and simple preparations.

For the Vegan
Pure Vegan: 70 Recipes for Beautiful Meals and Clean Living by Joseph Shuldiner
This book presents beautiful vegan recipes, organized by meal time, in a large format, coffee table-sized book. I love that he included a “very late night” recipe section and that his vegan recipes don’t call for a lot of fake ingredients.

For your Best Friend
Very Fond of Food: A Year in Recipes by Sophie Dahl
Sophie’s writing style makes her seem like an old friend. She offers wholesome comfort food recipes that are seasonally organized and beautifully presented.

For the Traveler
Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Chef Ottolenghi did it again. I’m captivated by his representation of the city of Jerusalem and its food.

For the Improv Cook
The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
The Flavor Bible lists which flavors pair well with others, which is convenient when you’re improvising with what’s on hand. I don’t know what I’d do without it. Give this to the guy who refuses to use a cookbook.

For the Hip Gardener
Wilder Quarterly
Wilder Quarterly is a publication “for people enthralled by the natural world.” Published seasonally, Wilder explores subjects related to gardening, culture, travel, food and design. I am head over heels for the simple graphic design, thick matte paper stock and stunning photos.

For the Reader
Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz
A captivating biography of Julia Child’s life. I haven’t found the time to read through the whole thing (it’s 576 pages long), but I may start listening to the audiobook version on my drive home for Christmas.

For the Poet
The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink by Kevin Young
It’s been years since I read poetry, but I’ve really been enjoying this compilation of food-related poems. The New York Times book critic Dwight Garner may have nominated it for The Best Bathroom Book of 2012, but I have been reading it in bed.

Gifts that Keep on Giving
Bon Appétit Magazine
I get a little giddy each month when my copy of Bon Appetit arrives. It’s full of inspiring, on-trend recipes and stellar photos. I really admire the art direction as well.

Turntable Kitchen Pairings Box
These music-and-food gift sets are created by husband-and-wife duo, Matt and Kasey, of Turntable Kitchen. Give this to the indie music-loving home cooks in your life and they will think you are the coolest ever. I don’t have a full pairings box to show you, but it includes a 7-inch vinyl single, TK-curated digital mixtape, one to two premium dried ingredients and original, seasonal recipes. One month and three month subscriptions are available.

Saveur Magazine
Saveur is for people interested in food in general, and offers much more than recipes. It explores international cuisines, flavor origins, culinary trends and kitchen tips and techniques. Each issue is different from the next; the magazine never ceases to inspire.

Disclaimer: Most of these links are affiliate links, which means I’ll get a small percentage of the sale if you click over and make a purchase (thank you in advance). If you are looking for stocking stuffers, check out my holiday gift guide. Happy shopping and happy holidays!


  1. says

    I’m thinking of getting a year’s prescription to Bon Appetite for my Mom! Oh my this is an ultimate list! I really want to get What Kate Ate…I saw it I think in Anthropologie and I fell in love. “Very Fond of Food” jumped out at me…I may have to check that one out further! If I had the money I would want every type of cookbook…I’d never eat the same meal twice! hehe. =) I got a friend of mine the True Blood Cookbook, yes it’s a little bit of a joke, but the recipes are legitimate. Hopefully she makes something and then invites me over! =)

      • says

        Wow! These all came out pretty recently… I have been wanting some of these books and it took so much willpower not to get any. I did get the Smitten Kitchen for a friend and bought Keys to the Kitchen on Kindle for $9.99. I wish I bought the real thing though…
        As for What Katie Ate and Home Baked Comfort, I found them for almost half the price at TJMAxx and it took much willpower, again, not to buy them. I absolutely love the pages in Katie’s book, the thickness of it and the pictures that jump out, as well as the interesting fonts! Very modern, chic, yet vintage and country at the same time. I am jealous that you own all these books!

        • says

          I definitely have a cookbook problem! I get so excited every time a new one arrives at my doorstep. Katie’s book is absolutely beautiful but I haven’t cooked from it yet. She does have some good vegetarian options.

  2. Lyndsey says

    Thanks for this! I was getting my best friend some cook books (“The Science of Good Cooking” and “How to Cook Without a Book”), but added “Keys to the Kitchen” to the set.

    • says

      I think your best friend will really enjoy “Keys to the Kitchen”! It’s like a modern-day Joy of Cooking. The other two books sound great, too.

  3. says

    both the smitten kitchen and the sprouted kitchen are such gorgeous looking cookbooks and it is so exciting to see their work and efforts available in print!

  4. Sini says

    Just ordered the Smitten Kitchen, Jerusalem, What Katie Ate, the Sprouted Kitchen as well as Aran’s Small Plates and Sweet Treats. All for me :) Can’t wait to get cooking!

  5. says

    Your list is fantastic. Not only are you sharing delicious books with the rest of us, but your little write ups on each book is just right. SO helpful.
    I hope your holidays are going well. I like to think that you are flipping through all these great books while snacking on Peppermint Bark Popcorn:)
    xxxxooo to you and your family,

  6. Allegra says

    This is a great list! I am so excited to be receiving Jerusalem tomorrow – I may or may not have helped my dad with his Christmas shopping today, and he was grateful for the guidance. I also got him a cookbook – How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. And the Smitten Kitchen cookbook for my sister, too. Hmmm. Hadn’t realized what a culinary extravaganza of books tomorrow will be until right now. And you’ve made me want several more, too! Happy holidays, Kate, and thanks for all your hard work – I’m a big fan.

    (Also, thanks for noting that those were affiliate links. I appreciate the openness, and if I still needed to buy any would do it through your links, even more so because of your honesty!)

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