The Cookbooks You Need for 2020, as Selected by Chefs

The authors Alison Roman, Niki Segnit, Diana Henry and more share the volumes they’ll be returning to again and again this year.

Comments: 45

  1. With climate change one of the most pressing issues of 2019, indeed of the last decade, you'd think there would be at least one plant-based or vegan cookbook on this list. C'mon now.

  2. @dc Totally agree! I was expected books that captured that some of that relevance; this list was a bummer

  3. @dc Actually, you wouldn't. You might think that there SHOULD be a vegan cookbook on the list, but this is a series of the favourite cookbooks of particular cookbook writers, and this year, none of these authors had a favourite cookbook that was vegan.

  4. There are so many wonderful new vegetarian, vegan or plant-based cookbooks and there are so many people who want to find recipes for vegetarian, vegan or plant-based meals. Couldn't the NYT do at least one cookbook for this ever-growing group of cooks? Isa Chandra Moskowitz has a wonderful, easy to use new cookbook called I Can Cook Vegan, why not include that one?

  5. @amazing Thanks for the recommendation. I have ordered "I can cook vegan" from my public library.

  6. These seem to be outstanding selections, but so were those from the Latino cuisine which were unfortunately snubbed once again.

  7. Which one would you recommend be added to the list? (I’ll add it to my own.)

  8. @Ruben Hernandez you are so right! Amà,Made In Mexico...and so many others! it was a banner year for great Latin cookbooks...I wish I could have chosen two.

  9. Plus either of Sean Brock's fine cookbooks, 'Heritage' and 'South'.

  10. This year, yes, I am way late!, I discovered Alison Roman and Dining In. What a double treat for this old lady. Watch her videos when I get a little down and she cheers me right up! Of course, THE chocolate chip cookie recipe is the ultimate. You can see her love of food and cooking and friends in every video and recipe. Have ALL of Diana Henry's cookbooks. Donna Hay, of Australia, has some real winners, too. A great year for cookbook lovers.

  11. I am so excited to cook from the recommended books. I'll put my wish list into the public library today. I could live in any town as long as it had a public library and a bakery. Cooking at home is a gift.

  12. @Sarah I requested the Diana Henry book from my library. Fun times!

  13. For some time now I have felt that cookbooks have evolved into the culinary world's version of the mystery novel; how many times can we recycle this plot. This year's lot is no different. These small 'vignettes' that slice out a small niche and hope it will catch the moment are secondary to the staples: Joy of Cooking, James Beard's American Cookery, 1,000 Vegetarian (or Italian, or Indian, or Chinese) and a full set of the delightfully thorough and easily references "365 Ways to..." That does it. Everything else is just fluff.

  14. @Jimmy Those books are very utilitarian. I enjoy cookbooks that are full of personality, and can be read like a novel. Edna Lewis is my all-time favorite.

  15. @Jimmy Love James Beard, love Joy of Cooking, but … Food and cooking have evolved a lot over the years. Just look at these new cookbooks to get a sense of the diversity. Also, consider how pantry 'essentials' have changed as we learn from other cultures and diets. How we understand food has changed as well. So don't read these if you don't want to, but please don't consider them as fluff. p.s. Here's to the mystery cookbooks!

  16. I ordered Diana Henry’s From Oven to Table online and when it arrived I was underwhelmed. But then I sat down and really looked it at and before I knew it I had bookmarked almost every page. Then I started cooking from it and fell in love. The pictures are a bit dark but the food is positively divine. Several recipes are now in my regular rotation.

  17. I am a middle-aged aspiring foodie. I started my culinary journey with sourdough (I'm a microbiologist by day), and have been exploring more diverse baking and stovetop adventures in recent months. My style is to compare recipes for the same product (whether chocolate chip cookies, risotto, or Thanksgiving stuffing), define core ingredient ratios, derive the key technical points in constructing the dish, and then, I improvise to develop a recipe that's my own. Cooking for me is all about satisfying a hunger for creativity. That said, I'm particularly interested in what Segnit has to offer in the way of principle-based cooking. Thanks for the recommendations!

  18. @Joel Griffitts I use that same process, Joel.

  19. @Joel Griffitts One of the all-time great cookbooks, Richard Olney's Simple French Food, isn't as explicitly "lateral" as Segnit's but has a lot of that spirit. His long headnotes often point out how some particular recipe generalizes to other ingredients. And anyway it's a great book.

  20. This is agonizing -- I can't decide which to buy first! Thank you for this wonderful list. Though it's a cookbook, I'd recommend The Jemima Code to anyone who hasn't read it.

  21. @Maggie Mae Get them from the library, then buy the book that's most useful for you.

  22. Aaaagggghhhh. I'm already overflowing with cookbooks, and then these must-have gems come along.

  23. @jim the same by me !

  24. @jim Donate unneeded cook books to your local food pantry. Inspire the hidden cooks out there.

  25. @jim I hear ya jim. The thought of expanding my cookbook library into an addition in the kitchen has been a constant thorn in my side.

  26. The New York Times cooking app is the best "cookbook" I own. It'll be a while before I need another one.

  27. @Bill B I concur. Great post Bill B.

  28. I hope they are ALL MEAT FREE. Because it's the easiest we can do for Planet Earth,,,,,again 50% of emissions come from animals. Lead us onto new great food. I've been meat free for 3 years now. Just need to give up the 1/2&1/2 for the coffee.

  29. @Calleendeoliveira Congrats on being meat free. Many of us aim to do this but haven't yet. Your stat, however, is NOT correct. You're confusing the share of emissions (actually 42%) from AGRICULTURE vs. total emissions. (Refer to articles on this site.) Acc to the EPA, AG is only 9% of total emissions in the US. So unless you've given up your car and are using solar etc. to heat your house, you're doing a good thing but not really addressing the key issues. Anyway, there are some great non-meat recipes in these books.

  30. Dunno. Why would I need anything other than the Settlement Cookbook? Not a one of these newbie books has a recipe for toast water.

  31. @Scott Rose A Victorian-style remedy for the unwell. Toast-and-Water beverage, it is advised that “Toast-and-water should always be made a short time before it is required, to enable it to get cold: if drunk in a tepid or lukewarm state, it is an exceedingly disagreeable beverage.” Disagreeable indeed....

  32. I stopped getting the NYT cooking newsletter as I tired of picking through it to find the vegan recipes. The Times feels very behind to me in this respect and this list is no exception. Not one have-to-have vegan cookbook? Step it up folks, it’s 2020.

  33. I suppose this 71 year old should find some kind a new cookbook before the vegan daughters and families come home for Easter.... Help!

  34. Ms. Sussman's effusive note to Ms. Tipton-Martin is emblematic of what I consider to be a real problem with today's food writing; it's so gushing, so reliant on the superlative, so overwrought, so performative... I look forward to a retreat from what frankly reads as parody.

  35. Not one Mexican or Latino cookbook. Really? Not one?

  36. No vegetarian cookbook you found worthwhile to share? That's too bad.

  37. Vegan, different, and fast: East, by Meera Sodha-- but those of us who read the Guardian and don't rely on the NYT for all our news already knew she was great, along with a whole host of other columnists there. We all need to be eating more vegan-ish, if not going vegan completely whole-hog, and the Guardian does a creditable job of representing the wide world of sustainable eating.

  38. I would love to see for once that you highlight gluten-free, dairy free and vegan cooking.

  39. It would have been nice to include a vegetarian recommendation. Dishoom comes closet to that.

  40. Missing from this list is a cookbook written by a Jewish foodie who has been cooking at home for more than 50 years. Recipes are in the "kosher style," but that doesn't limit the types of food developed on these pages. And the discussions of types of food, techniques, history, etc. provides so much usable information that it could be the basis of a cooking class. The name of the book is Deep Flavors, A Celebration of Recipes for Foodies in a Kosher Style, by Kenneth M. Horwitz.

  41. Alison Roman, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. True, there were no vegan or vegetarian cookbooks, a lot of ethnic ones (but apparently not enough according to readers). Too bad Northern American cooks were not included but I guess they just don't pass muster. They are really becoming a minority in more than one sense.

  42. Non of these seem to be vegetarian or vegan cookbooks. I hate spending 30+ dollars on a cookbook that only offers me sides and perhaps a few marinades.

  43. I had hoped this would be an empty page. You don't "need" any cookbooks. Trust me on this one. The Cookbook Police will not show up at your door and cart you away if you don't have one or all of these. Cooking is an art. Recipes are just ideas. I'm sure some of these books are full of nice, interesting ideas. But you don't "need" them.

  44. I’m not sure why I should purchase any of these cookbooks. As the writer travels through time in the effervescent aroma of galactic flavors and reunites with her childhood desires in a small East New Jersey pantry. The author goes shopping for a puppy and becomes a cat lover and discovers that the ice is thin in a world magnetized by a colorful array of organic spices.

  45. One chose the other, and the other chose the one. How odd and inside is this list of choices, all from each other. That is not quite a vigorous service, reaching over the table to you friend's cookbook and vice versa. This is not insider training, this is deeper inside than that.