27 Cookbooks for the Most Beginner of Beginner Chefs
Opening up an actual cookbook for the first time can be super intimidating—especially if you’re deep in the “work all day, takeout all night” kind of mindset. (Same, don’t worry.) But in the wise words of Chef Auguste Gusteau (RIP) from the highly influential and culturally important film, Ratatouille, "Anyone can cook."
Unfortunately, there's no vlog or TikTok channel by Chef Gusteau and Remy the rat that you can just click on and suddenly become the head chef of your home kitchen. I know, Disney needs to get on that... But! There are still *plenty* of excellent books out there from A+ chefs that hold Gusteau's leading ethos at heart. Love to see it!
Below, we rounded up the best cookbooks for beginners out there. Whether you're perpetually busy, perpetually hangry, or perpetually single (peep #8 on this list), there's definitely something for everyone in this carefully curated list. So even though you burn broccoli 99 percent of the time, remember that according to a dead animated chef (and me! hi!) you can cook—with a little help from these authors.
1. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
This ultimate beginner-friendly cookbook is the inspiration for the Netflix show of the same name. Besides giving you a basic recipe for the ultimate roasted chicken, Nosrat fully breaks down the four things you need for a good meal. Hint: They're in the title of the book.
2. Where Cooking Begins
Whether or not you know her from Bon Appetit's wildly successful YouTube channel, Lalli Music is the cheerleader you need (and get!) during your cooking journey. FWIW: The recipes here are super laid back, which I very much appreciate (because whomst has the time)?
3. Snacking Cakes
Snacking? Check. Cakes? Check. If you want to get into baking to satisfy your midnight cravings (yeah, same), then you must read this book.
It really feels like Teigen is talking directly to you within the pages of this cookbook. And that's great since Teigen's personality is basically the secret ingredient to her cheesy jalapeño cornbread, which you should make on day one.
5. The Pepper Thai Cookbook
Speaking of Chrissy, her mom Pepper just came out with her own cookbook. Trust when I say the power of these two women in your corner as you attempt to not burn down your kitchen via bacon grease is a kitchen miracle.
The super-trendy restaurant (with locations all over the world) from chef, restauranteur, and host of Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, David Chang, now comes in cookbook form—and it's not too hard to follow! Start with the ginger scallion noodles and work your way up to thee famous pork buns. (And then invite me over for dinner.)
7. Midnight Chicken
Put this in your cart immediately if you need to buy a housewarming present. The recipes here are so personal that it feels like someone's right there in your kitchen sharing a bottle of pinot. Plus it's pretty as all hell.
8. Cooking Solo
A love letter for everyone who lives in blissful solitude (aka alone), Miller's single-serving recipes will save your groceries. When you're craving lamb chops, you can still make the lamb chops with absolutely *zero* pressure to eat the leftovers the next day.
9. Momofuku Milk Bar
When you bring Tosi's apple pie cake to your next Thanksgiving dinner, people will bow at your feet. Seriously, you will be able to make her Insta-famous desserts to satisfy any sweet tooth in no time.
10. Cook This Book
Here's your gold standard for uncomplicated recipes that pack a lot of flavor. Plus, there's a heavy emphasis on improv (aka making things up as you go) which is always a plus for any beginner cook.
11. Time to Eat
If you sobbed when Nadiya won the Great British Baking Show, then you're ready to take your stan-ship one step further. Her family-focused cookbook breaks down impressive meals that you can make when you literally have no time, like a stellar teriyaki salmon with mango salsa.
Honestly, attempting anything other than steaming your broccoli is a villain origin story. Especially because cooking vegetables is not a one-size-fits-all thing. Seriously, you'll learn SO much about all the leafy greens out there—because carrots and asparagus do not have the same cooking time.
13. Eat Like Every Day's the Weekend
From the editors of Delish.com, this book is just every recipe from your wildest dreams. Hello, chicken parm soup.
14. 30-Minute Cookbook for Beginners
This book will show you how to whip up something yummy without wasting hours of your time. A honey-lime chicken in just a half-hour? Yes, please!
15. The Joy of Cooking
This is an 85-year-old classic that someone in your family probably passed down to you, battered pages and all. And there's a reason for that: More than 18 million copies of this book have been sold since it was published in 1931. This means your grandma's famous no-knead sourdough most likely came from this book and not an ancient fam recipe. Sorry.
16. Barefoot Contessa at Home
You know Ina Garten. You love Ina Garten. She's written so many cookbooks, but I find the recipes in this one to be especially yummy and perfect for beginners. The roasted pepper and goat cheese sandwich is an all-time favorite.
17. Good and Cheap
Brown wrote this book especially for people on SNAP/food stamp benefits. Still, the book, which you can download as a free PDF, works for everyone. It will teach you how to plan, shop, and cook on a budget—important life skills to have no matter your circumstances.
18. Sweet Potato Soul
All of your favorite soul food dishes get a vegan-friendly twist in this easy-to-follow cookbook.
19. Bowl + Spoon
The recipes manage to be healthy and comforting at the same time. Definitely try the Hippie Bowl recipe; it will change your life.
20. A Modern Way to Cook
There are 20-minute meals, like a one-pot kale and cherry tomato pasta that I've made too many times to admit (and the book just came out in August), and a chapter of "super-fast breakfasts" in addition to "investment meals." It's the most practical way to organize a cookbook if you ask me.
21. The Forest Feast
This book is a visual feast full of beautiful photographs and illustrations that will make you want to get out into nature and make a pretty meal. Bonus: Everything in the book is very approachable and tasty.
22. Brunch the Sunday Way
I promise it won't be too hard to cook up your favorite brunch dish when you have this book to guide you. Plus, your friends will definitely be impressed when they see how fluffy your pancakes turn out.
23. The Art of Escapism Cooking
You might wanna put some popcorn in the microwave before opening this book because the stories are just as entertaining as your favorite Netflix show. Oh, and, of course, the recipes are delicious too.
24. The Taste of Country Cooking
Known as the Grande Dame of Southern Cooking, this chef and cookbook author was an authority on America's homegrown culinary traditions.
25. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
The blogger's voice is what draws so many to her site, and it's there in her cookbook, which has the added benefit of featuring very accessible recipes.
26. Beginner's Baking Bible
May we present to you: Baking 101. Are you someone who loves baking, but baking doesn't really love you back? I feel that. This book has all the tips and tricks and teaches you the basic "building block skills" that go into the art of baking.
I've probably made everything in this book at least once, and I've made the carrot cake dozens of times. The chef-owner of Boston's Flour Bakery has so many yummy recipes to share that it's hard to resist a single one.
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