The 15 Best Cookbooks for Home Cook Beginners – Woman's Day

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With lots of pictures and easy step-by-step instructions, these are the essential guides every home cook needs.
Starting out in the kitchen can be intimidating if your idea of a home-cooked meal is a slice of toast (and no shame there, toast is great). Whether you’re a young adult or a late bloomer, if you’re new to cooking, making a simple smoothie can seem just as daunting as taking on a multi-step birthday cake recipe. But you don’t have to resign yourself to eating cereal for dinner forever — as long as you have the right cookbook on hand, that is! Once you build up your library of cookbooks for beginners with little experience, you’ll start feeling more confident in the kitchen as you expand your weeknight dinner repertoire.
On our list of the all-time best cookbooks for beginners, you’ll find a variety of options that deliver easy and healthy recipes that can be ready quickly thanks to clear step-by-step instructions, plenty of pictures and other helpful resources. When choosing which beginner cookbooks to add to your collection, it’s helpful to think of what type of meals you enjoy cooking most. Are you looking to whip up some vegan or vegetarian recipes? Or do you want to focus on quick 30-minute meals? Maybe you prefer to make a specific cuisine or use a particular kitchen tool (hello there, Instant Pot!). Either way, you’ll find a must-have cookbook that touches on all of these preferences and more, while also demystifying exactly what goes on behind closed kitchen doors.
You may have seen this massive yellow cookbook stowed away in your family’s collection. With over 900 pages and hundreds of simple recipes from chili to poached eggs, Mark Bittman’s 1998 cookbook is hard to miss on the shelf. How to Cook Everything has been the guide to basic home cooking for over twenty years — and for good reason. The cookbook is chock full of easy-to-follow recipes and an overview of basic techniques. This twentieth anniversary edition also includes helpful visual guides and updated ingredient lists to allow for more flexibility.
If you’re starting out in the kitchen, this cookbook is a must — and over 1,000 five-star Amazon reviewers agree. “This would be an excellent book for graduates and other young people setting up their first kitchens,” says one. “It is also a good choice for experienced cooks looking for a reference work to inspire their own creativity.”
When you are a beginner cook, seeing a recipe that has over 10 ingredients can often result in a quick veto. That’s where The Best 3-Ingredient Cookbook by bestselling cookbook author Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, comes in. As the title suggests, this beginner cookbook gives you 100 easy recipes that don’t require anything more than three ingredients that you already have in your pantry. Amidor’s cookbook delivers freezer-friendly, one-pot, and 15-minute meals that are ideal for amateur cooks, not to mention busy parents. From Peanut Butter Pancakes to Easy Eggplant Parmesan, this cookbook is a crowd-pleaser.
In addition to recipes, you’ll also find serving size suggestions, meal prepping guidance, and healthier alternatives. “This cookbook has brought me new confidence in the kitchen. I would definitely recommend,” says one Amazon reviewer.
Irma S. Rombauer self-published this iconic cookbook in 1931, and since then it has become a kitchen Bible for many. For the 2019 edition, Rombauer’s great-grandson John Becker and his wife, Megan Scott, developed 600 new recipes, tweaked thousands of original classics, and updated each chapter so ingredient lists are more relevant. You will still find tried-and-true favorites like Chocolate Chip Cookies and Southern Corn Bread, but also vegan and vegetarian recipes as well as gluten-free options. There’s also a new chapter that explains how to economize time and money when cooking and how to avoid food waste. You will learn modern techniques like low-temperature and sous vide cooking, fermentation, and smoking. In short, it’s a one-stop-shop cookbook that will light up your desire to start cooking.
With 6,000 five-star reviews on Amazon rave this edition is clearly a popular choice, but note that some reviewers say the Table of Contents in the Kindle version does not work well.
If you are a fan of the popular cooking show America’s Test Kitchen, then you can re-enact episodes from the series in your very own kitchen with this cookbook. The Best Simple Recipes features 200 recipes that promise to keep ingredients and cooking time to a minimum, which is ideal for beginner and/or busy home cooks. The test cooks behind this cookbook have worked hard to combine steps, minimize pans, and get creative in the kitchen so you can enjoy delicious no-hassle meals, like Salmon with Chive Butter Sauce and Chicken Tikka Masala.
“The way it’s written is easy for beginners to understand without being overly wordy or ‘dummied down’ for those that are more of a proficient cook,” says one Amazon reviewer who describes themselves as an amateur cook. “They use mostly ingredients I already have in the kitchen.”
If you are new to a plant-based diet or are looking for more heart-healthy meals to add to your weekly rotation, the Today Show‘s resident foodie Samah Dada’s cookbook provides 100 healthy vegetarian recipes that include innovative takes on beloved Indian dishes. Dada uses real, unprocessed ingredients in all of her recipes, so you can eat well without compromising your cravings. Many of her recipes are vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free while still being delicious. Sweet Potato Aloo Tikki, Chocolate Chip Tahini Cake with Chocolate Frosting, and Cauliflower Cacio e Pepe are just a few of the delicious meals you can make with this cookbook by your side.
“My picky eater teens even love them and ask for them. Knowing the recipes are healthy options but satisfying is key. This cookbook is a dream with so many uncomplicated recipes that we can make easily from our pantry,” says one Amazon reviewer. You can also follow Dada on Instagram to stay up-to-date with her latest recipes.
The name of this cookbook by James Beard Award Finalist Yotam Ottolenghi says it all. Each of the 130 flavor-forward recipes require 10 ingredients or less and a single pan, and can be ready in 30 minutes or less. Ottolenghi’s signature Middle Eastern recipes include Braised Eggs with Leeks and Cauliflower, Pomegranate, and Pistachio Salad, and Fig and Thyme Clafoutis. He focuses on using pantry staples and introduces meal-prep tips so you can have these delicious meals on the table faster.
“Normally when you see the name Ottolenghi, you’re thinking amazing… but complicated,” says one five-star reviewer on Amazon. “His version here of SIMPLE cooking is an acronym: Short on time, 10 Ingredients or less, Make ahead, Pantry, Lazy, Easier that you think — and each is color-coded.”
If you’re craving Ricotta and Spinach Gnocchi or Tuscan Minestrone, then you’re going to want The Silver Spoon cookbook on your bookshelf for easy access. This cookbook has been a bestseller since 1950 and is considered the “Bible of authentic Italian home cooking.” The latest edition has over 2,000 recipes plus 400 full-color photographs, which is a helpful feature for beginner cooks. Not only does it follow a user-friendly format, but it also includes information on Italian traditions. The eleven color-coded chapters include Sauces, Marinades and Flavored Butters, Antipasti, Appetizers and Pizzas, First Courses, Eggs, Vegetables, Fish and Shellfish, Meat, Poultry, Game, Cheese, and Desserts.
“These recipes, by the thousands, are no-fuss, each succinct and clear as a fine Pinot Grigio,” says one Amazon reviewer. “If you know how to boil water and turn the range knobs, you’re in.” Just note that some versions of this cookbook feature metric units, so be careful when purchasing yourself a copy.
Maybe you’re starting to feel like a more confident chef, but not so much a star baker. Heather Perine’s guide for beginner bakers will give you over 130 scrumptious recipes that you can tackle even if your baking experience is minimal. She breaks down basic techniques, like mixing, folding, creaming, and kneading, as well as reveals insider tricks such as ingredient substitutions and how to marshal batter run amok. You will soon become the resident baker in the family thanks to Perine’s recipes for Spiced Hot Chocolate Cookies, Zesty Lemon Bars, and Fresh and Flaky Summer Vegetable Tarts.
“LOVE this book. I’ve probably made 20 recipes from it now and everything has turned out well,” writes one happy Amazon reviewer.
If you have an Instant Pot sitting in your kitchen but haven’t used it as much as you would like to, then consider purchasing this cookbook that delivers over 350 delicious Instant Pot-specific meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. No matter what type of Instant Pot you own, the Instant Pot Bible lists timings for all sizes and models. The cookbook is the most comprehensive one for this kitchen device, thanks to its range of recipes from hearty breakfasts to centerpiece stews. Many recipes also include slow-cooking options, so you can prepare other dishes at the same time. Also included: vegan, vegetarian, keto-friendly, and gluten-free recipes.
“This is one of the best Instant Pot cookbooks on the market. Recipes are terrific and the instructions are clear and precise, also giving variations when applicable,” writes one fan on Amazon. “At first I was not sure if this would be the best book for a beginning Instant Pot user, but working with some of the recipes, they leave nothing to chance, no questions unanswered.”
While many cookbooks on this list include vegan recipes, if you follow a vegan diet it can be useful to also purchase a vegan-specific cookbook. This one by Miyoko Schinner has all the pantry staples you could want (as the name implies) from vegan yogurt and cheese, to dressings, sauces, and cookies. Her cookbook lets vegans swap often over-priced and over-processed products with homemade goodies. Miyoko’s recipes also don’t take long to prepare and she even guides you through techniques, making “slow food” fast without compromising flavor.
With over 2,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, this is definitely the place to start for vegan cooking. One review says, “Miyoko’s recipes are simple, require mostly standard ingredients, and create some of the most fantastic vegan food I have eaten to date.”
Ina Garten’s foolproof recipes will help give you confidence in the kitchen even if you are just a beginner. She answers questions, explains techniques, and describes her own process in the margins of each recipe so you don’t have to flip back and forth between sections. With each recipe that you make, whether it’s Cauliflower Toasts with Prosciutto and Gruyère or Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs, you’ll learn a new ingenious shortcut that will have you feeling like a pro in the kitchen. Both beginner and advanced cooks will appreciate this book, as it’s written by a home cook for a home cook — almost as if Garten is right there with you.
One Amazon review says, “She taught me how to cook, for heaven’s sake!” Enough said.
If you binge-watched Samin Nosrat’s Netflix special Salt Fat Acid Heat, then the next step is to purchase her cookbook under the same name so you can relive her cooking adventures in your home. Salt Fat Acid Heat is the contemporary equivalent to How to Cook Everything and the Joy of Cooking thanks to its revolutionary voice and philosophy. Nosrat has taught people of all ages and experiences how to cook under the belief that if you can conquer four base elements (salt, fat, acid, and heat) then you are on your way to becoming a pro. The cookbook bridges the gap between home kitchens and professional spaces, providing illustrated walkthroughs and 100 essential recipes.
One of the many positive reviews on Amazon says, “This was an excellent, excellent book. I read it cover-to-cover over the course of about two weeks. Despite a lifetime of mediocre-to-occasionally-excellent cooking, this definitely upped my game by giving me these four simple touchstones to examine each dish and ingredient through.”
Jocelyn Ramirez, Chef and Founder of Todo Verde, transforms the traditional Mexican dishes she made alongside her Abuela into plant-based meals every member of the family will enjoy. With just a few simple and affordable substitutions, you can reimagine Queso Fresco, Sopa de Tortilla con Crema, and Tacos de Yaca Carnitas into plant-based delights. All of the 60 recipes are made with nutritious ingredients that will convince even the most stubborn meat-eaters they can enjoy Mexican cuisine without the meat.
One happy customer on Amazon writes, “I love this cookbook! I recently went vegetarian and trying to go vegan. This has helped me eat all my favorite foods my mom makes (with meat). They recipes are pretty easy to follow. As a Latina who loved her tacos de asada this cookbook has made my transition a lot easier.”
Comfort food, like (but definitely not limited to) chicken pot pie, smoky bacon, and deviled eggs is an important niche to learn, as these classics can make a rainy day warmer and a stressful week better. Former co-host of The Chew and Top Chef: All-Stars Carla Hall’s 100 fantastic recipes will hug you with each bite of tried-and-true classics. Hall makes cooking less daunting by sharing tales of her own cooking journey, making this an enjoyable read and comforting cookbook with full-color photographs. To cook tasty comfort food, you have to prepare these dishes from the heart — and once you taste one of Hall’s recipes you’ll fall in love no problem.
“Her recipes did not disappoint…easy to find ingredients and clear instructions produced excellent results,” says one self-described “culinary non-talent” Amazon reviewer. “Her personal stories accompanying the recipes made me feel like I was a lucky tag-along friend who got invited to stay for supper.”
David Chang’s New York Times bestselling cookbook Momofuku shows how his restaurants of the same name altered the modern culinary landscape. His award-winning restaurants in New York City, Toronto, and Sydney sparked a cultural phenomenon in the food industry. Chang retells his rise to stardom, while also dishing out his much-loved recipes that feature bold Asian flavors. If you are a foodie and wannabe pro chef, buy yourself this book so you can make Chang’s pork buns in the comfort of your home (a.k.a. where there is no wait-time for a dinner reservation).
“The recipes range in difficulty but all are doable,” says one Amazon reviewer. “As a whole, they can be done at home but require special equipment, like a sous vide, but Chang offers plenty of alternatives if you don’t have said equipment.”

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