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Welcome to the next installment of The Fives. I introduced this series of little posts I’ve had in mind for you with 5 Instant Ways to Be a Better Cook, and today I’m sharing 5 Favorite Cookbooks.

5 Favorite Cookbooks to own and for holiday gifts

With holiday shopping already hitting full swing (help! I’m behind), I thought this list might be helpful to those of you looking for a gift for the home cook in your life. Or, if like me you hoard cookbooks as if the world’s survival depended upon it, here are a five more, in no particular order, to add to your collection.

1. How to Cook Everything (+Vegetarian) by Mark Bittman. What I love about How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (I own the vegetarian version but have borrowed the “regular” one from the library) is that Mark begins by teaching a basic technique with a basic recipe—pesto, for example—then follows it with five or six different versions of the recipe to suit your tastes and the ingredients you may have on hand. I’ve been cooking my way solidly through this book and have yet to be disappointed. The recipes strike a perfect balance between giving clear guidance and leaving room for creativity.

Cookbook Gift Guide

2. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. Deb’s blog was one of the first I ever followed, and her decidedly unfussy, yet fearless approach to cooking continually inspires me. Her recipes elevate old-fashioned comfort foods to new heights (red velvet cake becomes red wine velvet cake) and celebrate seasonal ingredients. Each recipe is a clear product of love, and Deb accompanies all of her dishes with her clever, relatable humor. Reading this book is like talking to a friend whose house I want to invite myself over to for dinner every single night of the week.

Best cookbooks to give

3. The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovtiz. I could more appropriately call this, “The Ice Cream Bible,” and it is a must-have for anyone who owns an ice cream maker. David’s recipes are flawless, and the book includes everything from classics like chocolate and peppermint to more creative twists, such as pineapple champagne sorbet and avocado (both are wonderful). He even has chapters dedicated to “mix-ins,” such as mocha ripple and peanut butter sauce, and “vehicles” such as chocolate meringue nests and cookie sandwiches. The only hard part about this book is choosing which flavor to make first!

Holiday cookbook guide

4. Baking: From my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. It feels scandalous to say this, but if I could only have one baking-focused cookbook for the rest of my life, it would be this one. Dorie offers a wonderful breadth of recipes from homey bakery muffins to decadent chocolate torts, and I feel as if she is in the kitchen cooking beside me as I make each one.

Holiday Cookbook Gift Guide

5. Simply In Season. This cookbook is a collection of recipes from all over the country and is organized by season. From spring to winter, the cookbook highlights which fruits and vegetables are in their prime, then offers an array of recipes that make those ingredients the star. I find the dishes from this cookbook to be some of the most creative, approachable, and budget friendly of any I own, and I love that it makes it so simple to eat seasonally.

Simply in Season 

These are a few of the cookbooks I treasure most. What are your favorites?

Looking for more gift ideas for the foodie in your life? Check out my top cookware and bakeware picks right here.

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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  1. I’m always interested to see what cookbooks people read and love. I could read a cook book at night before going to bed like a novel. A couple of these are favorites of mine too, but I’m excited to read the new-to-me ones also!

  2. I adore the Dorie Greenspan one! It’s a go to for me. I love how helpful she is – so many tips and helpful tid bits.

  3. Those are some good ones! My sister has the vegetarian book and loves it has used it for years! I have Dories around my French table but I do not use it enough. I would say my favorite non church cookbook (cause good ol home cook church cookbooks are really the best!) is Pam Andersons Perfect One Dish Dinners I use it all the time!

    1. I’ve never heard of Pam Anderson’s book Sheila. Thanks so much for passing it along (and church cookbooks are always a good bet too!)

  4. Would you believe I don’t own that Mark Bittman book even though I’m a pseudo-vegetarian? Crazy! I’m obsessed with all things David Lebovitz does, too, but the ice cream bible (I call it that, too!) is the one that I give out to friends the most often. It’s approachable for people who don’t love cooking as much as we do, but want to make ice cream once a summer. Ya know?

    I go back to Heidi Swanson’s cookbooks again and again. They’re delicious beyond words, and healthy, which makes me feel doubly good. Do you own those?

  5. I’ve never heard of Simply In Season but will definitely have to check it out. I love the other 4 so it must be a good fit!

  6. Love the idea of a series of 5 favorites! Pure genius, my lady! Yup, all these cookbooks look like they’d make the perfect gift. I LOVE the Smitten Kitchen cookbook…just flipping through it while drinking a cup of coffee is strangely therapeutic, and I love all Deb’s recipes. Will definitely be checking out Simply in Season!!

  7. I agree 100% on the Smitten Kitchen book. Deb really knows what she’s doing! I’ve been eyeing Mark Bittman’s book for a while now but haven’t pulled the trigger. Maybe now’s the time!

  8. I have Deb’s book and it’s awesome! Even though I have to modify a lot of the recipes, they are perfect, every time. I do need a Mark Bittman book, how do i not own one?!

  9. I guess my favorite cookbook is the Muy Bueno Cookbook by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack et al – I love Mexican food, and that the author was born and raised where I now live. Part of the reason it’s hard to choose a favorite cookbook is because I now get most of my recipes from food blogs. So the recipe book I use all the time is my looseleaf notebook with mostly recipes from blogs.

  10. Although I get a lot of recipes on line now (love your site!)…I often go back to my original Fannie Farmer cookbook to look up things. I’ve had more than 30 years and it t is falling apart…..but it is good for basic info. I also love the original Moosewood Cookbook which popularized vegetarian cooking in the 1970. I hope to visit the Moosewood restaurant some day. I like to buy old church and junior league cookbooks at estate/garage sales too! No time to try them all, but maybe when I retire!

    1. Grace, one of my good friends who loves to cook swears by Fannie Farmer! I need to check it out, along with the Moosewood Cookbook. Thanks so much for sharing and for you kind words about my recipes too :)

    1. Cookbooks are one of the best collections a girl can have! Definitely check out Simply in Season. It’s wonderful!

  11. I always convince myself I don’t need to buy a cookbook…but the inspiration a good one brings is hard to beat. I just had Smitten Kitchen out of the library and really need to just buy myself a copy :)