With a planet full of fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, and grains to choose from, there are lots of different ways to eat vegetarian—and there are hundreds of vegetarian cookbooks out there for the aspiring plant-based cook, offering thousands of meatless recipes. It can be overwhelming, whether you're a dedicated full-time vegetarian or omnivore looking to enjoy meatless meals once in a while.
Well, we're here to help. We've assembled this list of some of the best vegetarian cookbooks, from an encyclopedic tome and an old-school classic to a marvel of 21st-century creativity and a fun guide for kids. These titles make plant-based eating simple and appealing for anyone.
The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook: A Fresh Guide to Eating Well With 700 Foolproof Recipes
The always-reliable America’s Test Kitchen does it again with another comprehensive (700 recipes!) and trustworthy kitchen resource for meatless meals. To sweeten the deal, 300 of those dishes require 45 minutes or less, 500 are gluten-free, and 250 are vegan—all clearly labeled within the book. Packed full of photos, the book not only makes the recipes look delicious, but it also illustrates key techniques with step-by-step instructions.
The introduction details pantry and equipment essentials, offers knife lessons, and includes a lengthy produce guide. Whether you’re a strict vegetarian or not, recipes like summer vegetable gratin; twice-baked potatoes with broccoli, cheddar, and scallions; and frittata with asparagus and goat cheese will have you returning to this book time and time again.
Price at time of publish: $35 (paperback), $18 (Kindle)
Pages: 472 | Recipes: 700 | Published: 2015
Meatless: More Than 200 of the Very Best Vegetarian Recipes
As with all things kitchen-related, Martha Stewart’s guidance for meatless cooking is spot-on. The more than 200 recipes in this book are helpfully grouped into themed menus, which is a great help to choose a meal by mood or season. For example, the Fall Harvest Feast features stuffed acorn squash with quinoa and pistachios, plus mushroom, spinach, and scallion tart, while the Summer Farmer's Market Lunch offers smooth tomato gazpacho, and zucchini “pasta” with tomatoes and walnuts.
The book's informative introduction covers “protein powerhouses” to educate readers about the many sources of plant-based proteins, and every single recipe has a photo, which is helpful for the first time you make a dish and aren't quite sure what it's supposed to look like. Another nice feature is the extensive small-plates section: You're meant to mix and match these dips and apps to create multi-course meals.
Price at time of publish: $26 (paperback), $14 (Kindle)
Pages: 384 | Recipes: more than 200 | Published: 2013
Best New Release
Vegetarian Soul Food Cookbook: 75 Classic Recipes to Satisfy Your Cravings
Soul food is comforting. A bowl of gumbo, red beans and rice, collards, or Brunswick stew is perfect for bad weather (or a bad mood). Those items all typically use pork for fat and flavor, but Alexia Wilkerson's vegetarian versions amp up taste without meat. The North Carolina–born, Atlanta-based YouTube star known as Just Lexx shares her authentically Southern recipes in this book. It's got everything from grits to mac and cheese, as well as some fun vegetarian swaps for mushroom-based fried "chicken," chickpea "meatloaf" and even "barbecue" sliders.
Price at time of publish: $16 (paperback), $7 (Kindle)
Pages: 134 | Recipes: 75 | Published: 2022
Best for Quick Meals
The 30-Minute Vegetarian Cookbook: 100 Healthy, Delicious Meals for Busy People
For someone who loves to cook, spending hours in the kitchen working on a complex recipe can be a joy—when you have time to spend hours in the kitchen. That's not the case most weeknights, and this book's 100 recipes will ensure you have a satisfying meal on the table in under the titular half hour. The ingredients lists top out around 10 items, but there's an international variety of flavors including Caribbean sweet potato soup, Indian lemon dal, and Indonesian-style fried tempeh.
You'll find clever swaps such as spaghetti Bolognese made with mushrooms, and some extravagant creations like a jalapeño popper–topped pizza. The book doesn't even overlook dessert, with brownies, pistachio-cashew halva, and more. All the recipes here are vegetarian, and many are fully vegan, with easy-to-reference labels for other dietary preferences: gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, dairy-free, etc.
Price at time of publish: $18 (paperback), $5 (Kindle)
Pages: 220 | Recipes: 100 | Published: 2019
Best for Beginners
Simply Vegetarian Cookbook: Fuss-Free Recipes Everyone Will Love
The name of the game with this book is simplicity, because, as author Susan Pridmore puts it: “There are enough things to be stressed about in life. Dinner shouldn’t be one of them.” Instead of organizing by ingredient or cuisine, "Simply Vegetarian Cookbook" arranges its recipes by what makes them simple. There's a chapter for five-ingredient recipes and another for meals that take 30 minutes or less, as well as one-pot recipes and ones designed for slow cookers or pressure cookers (aka Instant Pots).
A wide variety of international flavors are represented here, with dishes like chickpea gyros, cornbread-topped skillet chili, and butternut-barley risotto that will appeal to vegetarians and omnivores. An educational introduction also breaks down vegetarian protein sources, provides carb swaps, and includes a produce cooking guide.
Price at time of publish: $17 (paperback), $7 (Kindle)
Pages: 228 | Recipes: 100+ | Published: 2018
Vegetarian Mediterranean Cookbook: 125+ Simple, Healthy Recipes for Living Well
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole grains, fresh produce, and olive oil, so it's not hard to find flavorful vegetarian dishes from the region. This book's recipes demonstrate the true variety that can be found around the Mediterranean, however, with Moroccan tagines, Middle Eastern hummus, Italian pasta, and lots more. But it's also designed with ease in mind, using produce and pantry ingredients you should be able to find at any American supermarket.
Author Sanaa Abourezk is something of an expert on Mediterranean food, with four cookbooks under her belt, as well as a restaurant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In fact, she wrote an earlier book on gluten-free vegetarian Mediterranean food if you're looking for even more of her recipes.
Price at time of publish: $17 (paperback), $7 (Kindle)
Pages: 202 | Recipes: 125+ | Published: 2020
Mumbai Modern: Vegetarian Recipes Inspired by Indian Roots and California Cuisine
Mumbai-born Amisha Dodhia Gurbani is a recipe developer and food photographer who found online fame with her blog Jam Lab before publishing this debut cookbook. As the name suggests, it's a mix of flavors from two different west coasts: India's, where Gurbani grew up, and California's, where she's lived since 1999. Think combos like pudla (a thin Gujarati pancake made from chickpea flour) topped with fresh cabbage-carrot slaw, and tiramisu flavored with rose and masala chai.
Gurbani's unique perspective creates some truly inspired fusion dishes, including breakfast naan pizza, aloo tikki arancini with saffron aioli, and pear-masala cinnamon rolls; all the recipes being meatless is merely a side benefit. We love the personal touches in the cookbook, like stories of the author's mother and how she inspired (and passed down) many of the recipes. The numerous sumptuous photos are another big plus, and they were shot by Gurbani herself.
Price at time of publish: $35 (hardcover), $14 (Kindle)
Pages: 400 | Recipes: 100+ | Published: 2021
The Moosewood Cookbook: 40th Anniversary Edition
In 1974, the chef of a small vegetarian restaurant in Upstate New York hand-wrote, illustrated, and self-published a spiral-bound notebook of its recipes. Nearly half a century (and many, many printings) later, Mollie Katzen's "The Moosewood Cookbook" is an absolute classic, and one of the things that moved plant-based cooking into the American mainstream.
Known for its "crunchy" aesthetic, this book looks pure '70s. But the Moosewood philosophy was ahead of its time in its emphasis on fresh, local, and in-season produce as well as its use of tofu, non-dairy milks, miso, and other ingredients 21st-century vegetarians take for granted. This 40th-anniversary edition reproduces the original in all its hippy-dippy glory (except the spiral binding), with a new introduction from Katzen. It deserves a spot in any cookbook library next to other all-time favorites like "The Joy of Cooking."
Price at time of publish: $20 (paperback), $5 (Kindle)
Pages: 256 | Recipes: 200+ | Published: 2014
Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London's Ottolenghi
Following up on the award-winning "Plenty," London chef Yotam Ottolenghi's second meatless cookbook is packed with stunning, vibrant photography that will inspire anyone to get in the kitchen and eat more vegetables. Full of bold flavors from all over the planet, the book is cleverly organized by cooking method, with chapters including “Braised,” “Grilled,” and “Tossed."
Recipes such as ricotta pancakes with gooseberry relish create delicious ways to use fruits and veggies in early breakfasts, all the way until your evening dessert of meringue roulade with rose petals and fresh raspberries. These refined, elegant, and restaurant-worthy dishes will expand your horizon, showing vegetarianism goes way beyond basic salads.
Price at time of publish: $35 (hardcover), $12 (Kindle)
Pages: 352 | Recipes: more than 150 | Published: 2014
Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed
"Remixed" is really a perfect word to describe the dishes in this cookbook from chef and food activist Bryant Terry. It takes ingredients and techniques from the African, Caribbean, and North American cuisines that all contribute to the food of the South and combines them in clever and tasty ways—no animal products required. Terry's flaky, coconut oil–based Jamaican patties are filled with maque choux, a Cajun mix of peppers, tomato, and sweet corn. Other recipes include a Moroccan tagine with America-native sweet potato and Lima beans, and black-eyed pea sliders with Ethiopian berbere spices.
But what we love perhaps just as much as the food is that each dish comes accompanied by one or more soundtrack suggestions. The cookbook doubles as a massive playlist including artists from all three regions it covers: Tinariwen, Bob Marley, A Tribe Called Quest, and lots more. Don't skip the dessert and drinks chapters at the end, either. The coconut rice pudding with nectarines and the sweet-spicy red summer watermelon cocktail are particular faves.
Price at time of publish: $28 (hardcover), $13 (Kindle)
Pages: 224 | Recipes: 100+ | Published: 2014
Best for Kids
The Vegetarian Cookbook for Kids: Easy, Skill-Building Recipes for Young Chefs
One of the best ways to get kids (and even picky eaters) to love food is to get them in the kitchen to help cook it. In this book, former preschool teacher Jamaica Stevens offers dozens of meatless recipes that littles will not only enjoy, but can also cook by themselves. The book's step-by-step instructions are designed to give 8- to 12-year-olds the confidence and skills to make these dishes with minimal adult supervision. (Grown-ups can, of course, still help with more dangerous steps, like chopping and sautéing.)
Though the procedures and ingredients involved are fairly basic, the dishes get pretty fancy: Kids will be making baked frittata muffins, grilled cheese sandwiches with cauliflower soup, and even from-scratch veggie burgers. That said, there are simple meals, too, with plenty of recipes requiring under 30 minutes, fewer than five ingredients, or just one pot.
Price at time of publish: $15 (paperback), $7 (Kindle)
Pages: 122 | Recipes: 50+ | Published: 2021
The title of "The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook" absolutely does not lie: This comprehensive guide is our top recommendation. For creative Southern classics sans meat, the recently published "Vegetarian Soul Food Cookbook" is our favorite new book.
What to Look for in a Vegetarian Cookbook
As with any kind of cookbook, a vegetarian cookbook might be targeted at complete beginners, trained professionals, or anybody between. When choosing one, consider your own level of experience and the amount of time you want to dedicate to cooking: Are you looking for 10-minute one-pan dinners or weekend-long adventures? You can find both, but not likely in the same book.
"Vegetarian" means different things to different people, so it's a good idea to make sure a cookbook's definition lines up with your own. None of the books above use meat in any form, but many do use eggs, milk, and cheese. It's easy enough to avoid individual recipes that call for ingredients you don't want to eat, but a vegetarian who avoids dairy probably won't be a big fan of a vegetarian cookbook that uses lots of dairy.
What exactly is a vegetarian diet?
That varies from vegetarian to vegetarian! There's no one single definition, but in general, a vegetarian diet avoids meat, especially pork, lamb, and beef. Beyond that, there are lots of different forms of vegetarian diets. A vegan diet (more details below) is a strict form of vegetarianism that cuts out all animal products. Lacto-ovo-vegetarians consume dairy products and eggs, while lacto-vegetarians eat dairy but not eggs, and ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy. Other vegetarian-ish diets allow certain types of meat: Pescatarians eat fish but avoid poultry and red meat, and "flexitarians" generally avoid meat but indulge once in a while.
What is the difference between vegan and vegetarian?
A vegan diet is a vegetarian diet—an especially strict one. Vegans do not consume animal products in any form. This obviously includes meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and all dairy products, but lots of other foods include animal-derived ingredients that are not so obvious: gelatin, for example, is made from animal bones, and many wines and beers are clarified using egg white or a protein that comes from fish. Some vegans—but not all—also avoid honey and any foods that contain it.
It's often tough to spot animal-based ingredients, especially in packaged foods, so if you plan to follow a vegan diet, you might want to look for a certification from one of several organizations that verify the vegan status of different kinds of foods.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This roundup was assembled and updated by a group of The Spruce Eats' experienced food writers: Alyssa Langer, Rachel Werner, Lacey Muinos, and Jason Horn. They encompass one vegan, one vegetarian, two lifelong omnivores, and a truly extensive collective cookbook library.