Even for someone as obsessed with cookbooks as I am, there was a period of time during quarantine that we were all a bit over home-cooked meals. The endless dishes in the sink, the Groundhog Dayness of preparing meal after meal using pantry staples… cooking from scratch lost its charm for a minute. My new motivation? The best new cookbooks of Spring 2021.
Thank goodness my malaise was short-lived, and my passion for cooking (and cookbooks) is back with a vengeance.
Lately, I’ve been relishing the act of settling into the couch on our back patio with a stack of favorite new cookbooks and a cup of coffee, and ear-marking contenders to make for dinner this weekend. From a book that makes me very excited to start hosting some parties this summer to one that’s inspiring me to experiment with Middle Eastern flavors, these books are exactly the flavor adventure my taste buds (and imagination) have been craving.
So, what are the best new cookbooks of Spring 2021? I thought you’d never ask. Scroll on for the books I’m loving this season, and I’d love to hear any of your current favorite cookbooks (and what you’re making from them) in the comments!
Best New Cookbooks of Spring 2021:
I’m a big Heidi Swanson fan—I credit one of her previous books, Super Natural Every Day, with inspiring my love of using alternative grains and plant-based ingredients. Super Natural Simple is exactly the next book I’ve been waiting for. These vegetarian whole food recipes will leave you feeling nourished and satisfied, never deprived. And the difference here is that each one is streamlined, with time-saving tricks and minimal ingredients (which feels perfect for the summer months ahead.) Think Spicy Chickpeas with Kale and Coconut, Crunchy Peanut and Saffron Citrus Salad, and Big Raspberry-Rye Cookies—every dish is bursting with color and interesting texture.
It’s not often that a cookbook makes me cry-laugh, but this one cracked me up on every page. Thanks to the witty banter and heartwarming mutual love between actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his best friend, recipe developer Julie Tanous, this book is as much of a feel-good read as it is a source of really delicious recipes. The friends and frequent cooking partners pay homage to their hometowns as they whip up modern California food with Southern and Southwestern spins. From Hatch Green Chile Mac and Cheese, Cheesy Cauliflower Enchiladas, and Gas Station Cherry Handpies, the recipes are unexpected, never fussy, and always fun.
I am so excited about an upcoming feature story we’re working on, profiling Mariana Velásquez, author of this year’s beautiful Colombiana. A recipe developer and food stylist—whose work has taken her across the globe to work with clients like Michelle Obama—Velásquez paints a vibrant picture of her native country through colorful recipes dedicated to Colombian food, as well as culture and entertainment. She includes traditional recipes like arepas and empanadas, as well as modern twists, like Lomito de Cerdo al Tamarindo y Menta (Tamarind Pork Tenderloin with Mint) and Gazpacho de Papaya y Camarón Tostado (Spicy Papaya and Charred Shrimp Gazpacho.) Not only have I learned from her stories and point of view; I want to take every single recipe for a spin.
Is it me, or does Nigella Lawson seem to get better with every passing year? I’ve loved her approach to food since before Food Network was even a thing, and in her latest cookbook, Lawson shares her perspective on taking pleasure in food and life while sharing new recipes that will become part of your regular rotation. From Burnt Onion and Eggplant Dip to Chicken with Garlic Cream Sauce to Cherry and Almond Crumble, this book has something for everyone. “Food, for me, is a constant pleasure,” she says. “I like to think greedily about it, reflect deeply on it, learn from it; it provides comfort, inspiration, meaning, and beauty…More than just a mantra, ‘cook, eat, repeat’ is the story of my life.” Nigella’s done it again and definitely, earns a spot on our list of best new cookbooks of Spring 2021.
Out of Bon Appetit’s many editors and Youtube personalities, Molly always shone bright. Her relatability and obvious expertise in the kitchen garner trust, and reading her first book is like hanging out with a really smart, funny friend who is here to teach you how to be a better cook, right where you are. Molly breaks the essentials of cooking down to clear and uncomplicated recipes that deliver big flavor with little effort: B-fast Tacos with Charred Scallion Salsa & Fried Pepitas, Pastrami Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy Onions and Dill, and her signature Caesar Salad. Her mission? To help you learn the basics so you can loosen up and have fun in the kitchen.
Honestly? I don’t make that many cakes. My mom happens to be really good at cake making, and since she lives just a couple miles from my house, why mess with perfection? However, thanks to Zoë Bakes Cakes, by author and expert baker Zoë François, I’m feeling inspired to break out my cake pans and go on a tear. With treats such as Coconut–Candy Bar Cake, Apple Cake with Honey-Bourbon Glaze, and decadent Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake, I don’t think anyone in my family is about to protest. Her step-by-step photo guides and expert tips will make you want to bake a cake and celebrate… just about everything.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve fallen head over heels for Middle Eastern flavors at new restaurants I’ve tried and now, I’m longing to dive deeper into making it at home. Written by the culinary forces behind Los Angeles restaurants, Bestia and Bavel, the cookbook invites home cooks to explore the broad and varied cuisines of the Middle East through “fragrant spice blends; sublime zhougs, tahini, labneh, and hummus; rainbows of crisp-pickled vegetables; tender, oven-baked flatbreads; fall-off-the-bone meats and tagines; buttery pastries and tarts; and so much more.”
What really stands out to me about this cookbook is the fascinating and fantastically qualified background of its author, Linda Shieu. Dr. Shieu is a renowned chef and physician who creates recipes to fuel the body and mind to function at their highest potential. Her focus here is the powerful anti-inflammatory effects of spices, as she crafts delicious recipes that leverage their vibrant flavors and healing, energizing qualities. From Pozole Verde to Kung Pao Tofu to her Grape, Feta, & Caramelized Onion Galette, Shieu takes you on a culinary adventure to places around the globe—right from your own kitchen.
This book makes me feel seen, tapping right into my passion for a beautiful grazing board. It’s also the one that’s making me most excited about gathering friends in the backyard for a pool party and snacks on snacks on snacks this summer. Tables & Spreads is a cookbook and lesson in styling a beautiful, inviting table with major wow factor, minimal fuss. From Ladies Night Lettuce Wraps to a Christmas Morning Dutch Baby Party or a Boozy Bloody Mary Bar, Worcel’s creative ideas will make any night (special occasion or not!) totally unforgettable.
This book arrived just in time to remind us that our slow cooker should not be relegated to the cozy nights of winter. It can be an invaluable tool for easy recipes with layers of flavor all year round, and Meynink proves it with her creative ideas that use a slow cooker with surprising results. She includes grains, soups, condiments, vegetables, and sweets, like freekeh with kale, chili, and pepita salad… red curry pumpkin with typhoon shelter crumb… fenugreek cauliflower curry… and Yuzu lemon pudding with lemon crumble. Beautifully styled, this is slow cooking like you’ve never seen before.
This cookbook has made me fall in love with grains all over again: there’s something about the simplicity of these ingredients and the complex flavor they can contribute to baked goods that gives me all the feels. According to Jullapat, “The key to better, healthier baked goods is in the grain. Barley, buckwheat, corn, oats, rice, rye, sorghum, and wheat will unlock flavors and textures as vast as the historic lineages of these ancient crops.”
There are one-bowl recipes such as Barley Pumpkin Bread and Spelt Blueberry Muffins, and there are “projects,” like her Cardamom Buns and Halvah Croissants. Through it all, she guides the grain novice through the how-to of using different flours to yield distinctive flavors, lighten up, or add chewiness to a recipes.
We’ve got a really fun story in the works with Valerie Rice this summer, and I knew the moment I opened her cookbook that this lifestyle expert would have some major inspiration and tips to share with us. The book is shot at Rice’s beautiful Mediterannean-style home and garden in Santa Barbara and every page reflects her motto to “eat and drink what’s in season and you’ll never grow bored, your menus will be less complicated, and everything will taste better.” This book is a collection of her favorite seasonal recipes for entertaining, family meals, snacks, and cocktails. It really feels like a celebration of full, wholehearted living.
I just love everything that Julia Turshen makes, and I’ve been anxiously awaiting her next book since I’ve basically made everything from her first, Small Victories, to death (though I’ll never stop making that chicken soup.) Simply Julia incorporates Turshen’s wonderful personal storytelling to weave a thread through these more nutritious takes on comfort meals. It’s divided by very cookable categories like weeknight go-to’s, make-ahead mains, vegan one-pot meals, chicken recipes, and easy baked goods, the entire book is accessible and unfussy. Dishes like Stewed Chickpeas with Peppers and Zucchini, Hasselback Carrots with Smoked Paprika, and Lemon Ricotta Cupcakes make this exactly the kind of book I want to cook (and eat) my way through all year long.
I’ve got to admit, when I first received this book inspired by “wild” ingredients in desserts, I thought it might be the type of book that I might want to keep out on my coffee table but not necessarily cook out of on the regular. That is until I actually dove in and started perusing each recipe that made me want to head into the kitchen and break out the summer berries and savory herbs, stat.
So, what do you think are the best new cookbooks of Spring 2021? Leave a comment and let us know any great ones we may have missed.