Books to devour.
Enjoy my picks for the top cookbooks of 2021, from the best, most inspiring baked goods to essential weeknight and weekend fare.
All About the 2021 Top Cookbooks
Creating a 2021 best cookbooks list was, and remains, an inherently subjective process. People are drawn to different styles of writing, cooking, and eating.
And yet, certain cookbooks stand out for some reason, and those reasons may vary. Maybe it’s truly gorgeous photography that inspires us to head right into the kitchen. Maybe it’s the cookbook author’s good recipe writing: clear, descriptive, and helpful. Another top cookbook may simply be page after page of “Yes, I want to cook that!”
These selections of my favorite cookbooks for 2021 cover a range of cuisines, cooking, and cooking levels. I hope you find something that inspires you!
Best Baking Cookbooks 2021
Let’s start with dessert first. Here are my top picks for the year’s best baking books.
Baking With Dorrie
Dorrie Greenspan always turns out a reliable cookbook, filled with great recipes — especially when it comes to dessert. Baking With Dorrie is particularly good, with recipes that feel elevated but uncomplicated. Recipes cover breakfast, plated desserts like tarts and cakes, and treats like scones, cookies, and more.
Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking
Quite simply, Cheryl Day has pulled together a sweet collection of every homey dessert you want to bake. Think: peach cobbler, brown betties, brownies, grits, layer cakes, preserves, pies, and lots more.
Best Italian Food Cookbooks 2021
There is always room for Italian food. These picks for top Italian cookbooks of 2021 require a little more beyond basic skills, but make inspiring Italian fare with a side of food history steeped in a sense of deep tradition.
The geniuses behind NYC’s famed Don Angie restaurant have put together a cookbook of new beloved recipes that seem at once both familiar and brand new. The cookbook covers everything from antipasti to 10 kinds of meatballs to lots of baked pastas (look at that cover lasagna!), meaty mains, family recipe desserts, and even drinks.
Not every chef or cookbook author could get away with a title as simple, yet impliedly authoritative as Pasta. But chef Missy Robbins has all the cred to back up her tome. Missy Robbins is the chef and pasta whisperer behind famed Lilia restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn — which, after years of being open, remains one of the city’s toughest reservations. Luckily, you can make her recipes right at home, and learn a whole lot in the process.
Best Cookbooks for Asian and Middle Eastern Cooking
To Asia, With Love
Truly, I cannot say enough good things about Hetty McKinnon’s beautiful cookbook, a book written with such heart and a deep appreciation for her Asian roots — and the value of riffing off them. Here’s a collection of easy, allergy-sensitive, vegetarian recipes with lots of substitutions and suggestions. There’s a reason this has been on practically every Best Cookbook list this year.
The Arabesque Table
Reem Kassis published a beautiful book this year, subtitled “Contemporary Recipes from the Arab World.” These recipes will be new staples, with bright and satisfying flavors and fresh ingredients. Each recipe feels at once new and grounded in tradition.
Essential Good Cooking for Home Cooks
These cookbooks cover all the dinners, home-cooked meals, and snacks you want to eat right now.
That Sounds So Good
And it tastes so good, too! Carla Lalli Music made a name for herself at Bon Appétit, and has found continued success in her cookbooks. This one consists of down-to-earth, seasonal recipes with an Italian slant.
Once Upon a Chef: Weeknight/Weekend
The wonderful Jenn Segal has a knack for knowing exactly what you want to eat, and her second cookbook is just as essential as her first. I love how Jenn organizes her recipes here into accessible, can-do weeknight meals of all varieties, and more intensive weekend feasts. Best of all: Jenn Segal’s recipes are always trustworthy.
Grains for Every Season
I’d buy anything Joshua McFadden writes. His recipes are accessible and unpretentious, but sophisticated at the same time. His latest book (Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables is his award-winning previous book) carries you through a year of plant-based recipes like millet porridge, grain salads, and fudgy chocolate oat layer cake.
Julie McConnell says
I have both of Jenn Segal’s books and love them. I have others that you’ve recommended too. I’m about to get Pasta- by Missy Robbins.
One of my AP chemistry students just gave me Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz. It’s one of her favorites. She even annotated it! We both have a love of baking so it was a fun year (she’s off to college next year..)–I’ve shared your site and some of your recipes that I love with her.. Hummingbird cake, fruit tart, sprinkle birthday cake, to name a few.
Thank you for the recommendations!
Hi, Julie! Dessert Person is great. I love Claire Saffitz. Cookbooks are such a love of mine, and I am glad you are a kindred spirit in that department 🙂 Thanks also for sharing your kind words about my recipes! I have some more good baking recipes coming up. Thanks again.