Few things delight quite like sitting down on the couch with a newly purchased cookbook, giving the spine a good crack and thumbing through those glossy, yet-to-be-sauce-splattered pages. But when hundreds of cookbooks publish every year, the opportunities for culinary wonder can feel endless. Where does one begin? At The New York Times Food desk, with a color-coded spreadsheet and an appetite, of course. Our staff read and tested dozens of books in our annual search for the most compelling stories, the sharpest cooking instruction and the most mouthwatering recipes. These 16 books managed to transport, teach and entice in ways that distinguished them from the pack — and to convince us that yes, there’s always room for one more title on the shelf.
— TANYA SICHYNSKY
‘Bludso’s BBQ Cookbook: A Family Affair in Smoke and Soul’
Time is the secret ingredient for transcendent barbecue, but as Kevin Bludso shares in “Bludso’s BBQ Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press), generations of barbecue know-how is key, too. Mr. Bludso made a name for himself with a Texas-style barbecue restaurant in Compton, Calif., but his first book celebrates the family-style cooking and the gifted cooks in his family that made him the chef he is today — like his Granny (his paternal great-aunt Willie Mae Fields) in Corsicana, Texas, who taught him brisket, and his uncle Kaiser in Compton, Calif., who taught his mother how to barbecue. While recipes for dishes like shrimp and grits smothered in a deeply rich gravy, red chili burritos and smoked oxtails birria show his culinary versatility, it is the barbecue that will bring you to tears. The brisket, just four ingredients and your time, is the best thing I cooked all year. — SARA BONISTEEL
‘Chicano Bakes: Recipes for Mexican Pan Dulce, Tamales and My Favorite Desserts’
Esteban Castillo was inspired to write “Chicano Bakes” (Harper Design) when he noticed that readers of his first cookbook, “Chicano Eats,” consistently turned to its dessert section. This book, which he created to help people in Latino communities who are intimidated by baking, was built on a foundation similar to that of his first: Create something that people could relate to, and present Mexican food through a Mexican American lens. Recipes like horchata tiramisù, café con leche flan and several versions of his renowned chocoflan are the result of that effort. This cookbook is especially relatable and fun for readers who feel constantly pushed and pulled between two cultures (like myself). But it strikes a balance and also includes classic Mexican desserts like conchas, pan de muerto and moist, poundcake-like pan de elote. “Chicano Bakes” showcases Mr. Castillo’s humility and passion for teaching people how to bake in the most practical ways possible.
— CHRISTINA MORALES
‘Cook As You Are: Recipes for Real Life, Hungry Cooks and Messy Kitchens’
As soon as I started reading and cooking from Ruby Tandoh’s practical and generous new book, “Cook As You Are” (Knopf), I wanted to buy a copy of it for just about everyone I know: my 84-year-old friend who lives alone and cooks most nights, my cousins in their 30s who just had a baby, my 17-year-old niece applying to college. Ms. Tandoh is a warm and deeply considerate recipe writer who understands that putting dinner on the table is a daily necessity that should bring you the maximum amount of joy for the least amount of work. Her recipes are clear, detailed and easy to follow, and I love how she squeezes in substitutions, workarounds, shortcuts and notes on storage and reheating for each one.
— TEJAL RAO
‘Delectable: Sweet & Savory Baking’
Claudia Fleming’s first cookbook, “The Last Course” is a cult classic among pastry chefs, who still study the irresistible plated desserts she developed for Gramercy Tavern. But I loved “Delectable” (Random House) because it brings her classic, cozy sensibility to family-style breads, cakes, tarts, cookies and some savory baking — the olive- and anchovy-rich escarole pie is a marvel, with a particularly light and flaky crust. Ms. Fleming shares cup and spoon measurements a bit reluctantly, making it clear she’d prefer you to use a scale and a thermometer as you follow her recipes, but cook her buttery, salty toffee to 295 degrees, and you’ll understand why.
— TEJAL RAO
Despite the description on her book’s cover, Illyanna Maisonet writes early on in “Diasporican” (Ten Speed Press) that “This is not a Puerto Rican cookbook.” Rather, she states, it’s a cookbook for Puerto Ricans who, like Ms. Maisonet, are cooking from the contiguous United States, geographically close but spiritually distant. You’ll find the classics — a pernil with crackling-crisp skin and a succulent underbelly, an arroz con gandules spiced with a vibrant homemade sazón — and the not-so-classic — a Puerto Rican laab, a Thanksgiving mofongo dressing with salami. Each recipe is easy to follow, and each chapter is an education on Puerto Rican food, and the colonial history that shaped it. Ms. Maisonet lets us into her own kitchen, alongside her Mami and Nana, sharing their resilience and care for one another. “Diasporican” reads like the best memoirs: engaging, educational and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny.
— KRYSTEN CHAMBROT
‘Dynamite Kids Cooking School: Delicious Recipes That Teach All the Skills You Need’
There are a lot of children’s cookbooks out there, but most don’t pass muster with my kids, who fancy themselves fairly kitchen savvy. Some are too complicated, others too pedantic, but “Dynamite Kids Cooking School” (Clarkson Potter) by Dana Bowen and Sara Kate Gillingham happily straddles the line between fun and educational. The kid-friendly but not at all babyish recipes — a Dutch baby, pan-fried dumplings, lasagna and salsa fresca — are ones that my children actually want to cook and the whole family can enjoy. Each recipe teaches a tip or technique, so readers can bounce around between pages, or cook through the book from start to finish like a cooking class. There’s even a section on pan sauces and mounting with butter! My 10-year-old has made the fresh pasta twice in the last two weeks, and that alone makes it worth the cover price. — MARGAUX LASKEY
‘My America: Recipes From a Young Black Chef’
Kwame Onwuachi’s first cookbook, “My America” (Knopf), is a love letter to the “proper nouns” — what he calls his loved ones and culinary influences — in his life. This collection of recipes establishes a more inclusive legacy of American food, one that might be recognizable to everyone: the America of jollof rice and ata din din; of cheesy grits, callaloo and collard greens; of jerk spice, curry powder and ginger-garlic purée. “My America” honors a tradition while moving it forward, and each recipe includes cultural origins to show how food travels within the African diaspora. It is a robust, if not essential, education for American food lovers. As a Southerner, I’ve made grits for years, but Mr. Onwuachi’s carefully detailed recipe showed me a different way: Instead of dumping everything in at once, he stirs the grits with water, then streams the mixture into simmering milk for a result that’s creamy and light. I’m grateful for the lesson. — ERIC KIM
‘Plant-Based India: Nourishing Recipes Rooted in Tradition’
“Plant-Based India” (The Experiment) has my favorite kind of recipes: minimal effort, high reward. Weeknight cooking can often make you feel like you have to sacrifice flavor for the sake of efficiency. Dr. Sheil Shukla’s dishes, many of them rooted in his family’s Gujarati roots, reminded me of the complex-tasting spreads that my mother would whip up from six ingredients in 20 minutes after getting home from work. The makai no chevdo, made with corn, cashew cream and spices, was better than any version of creamed corn I had prepared. The ringan na palita, eggplant coins crusted with coconut, peanuts and spices, is now in my weeknight rotation. Don’t let the title scare you off if you eat meat: This is wholesome, exciting cooking that just so happens to not include animal products. You won’t miss them. — PRIYA KRISHNA
‘Rambutan: Recipes From Sri Lanka’
“Rambutan” (Bloomsbury Publishing) captures Cynthia Shanmugalingam’s intimate relationship with Sri Lankan cuisine. Intimacy is the book’s most potent theme: The narratives are personal and moving, the recipes are inviting and approachable, and the photography is eye-catching and vibrant. Ms. Shanmugalingam’s firm instruction guided me as I worked through parathas, curry plantains, quick-pickled green mangoes and her family’s aptly named “love cake.” Trust her voice: It’s there to lead you through the beautiful cuisine of Sri Lanka, from sourcing to serving. But most rewarding were her stories of immigrant life and the rediscovery of the self through food. I couldn’t wait to return to the dishes, described in her own words as “the best recipes from my mum, grandmother and all the generous aunties and friends.” Now go get some fresh curry leaves! — YEWANDE KOMOLAFE
‘Saka Saka: Adventures in African Cooking, South of the Sahara’
“Saka Saka” (Interlink Books) contains conversations with artists and cultural icons from across the African continent alongside recipes inspired by those conversations. The collection is an ambitious survey of familiar dishes that strives to take readers on a journey through East, West and Central Africa. Anto Cocagne’s solution to connecting the cuisines south of the Sahara is clever: Many of the base sauces introduced in the beginning of the book accent or anchor the recipes throughout. For example, the red nokoss, a condiment, is the base for the Central African red rice and is also used as a marinade for the Ivorian rabbit kedjenou. By revisiting these foundational components, the recipes highlight the versatility of the regions’ ingredients. Experienced cooks and those with some familiarity of African cuisines will feel challenged, inspired and right at home.
— YEWANDE KOMOLAFE
If making your own homemade pasta seems like one step too far into a cheffy abyss, Odette Williams’s new book, “Simple Pasta” (Ten Speed Press), will change your mind. The author of “Simple Cake,” Ms. William’s latest volume streamlines the pasta-making process, removing every fussy obstacle. She even makes a convincing case for the soothing rhythm of rolling out pasta dough by hand. I tried it for her pansotti with potatoes, leeks and Gruyère, and was surprised by how easy it was. Ms. Williams’s warm, funny voice is encouraging and thorough, but never judgmental. If you don’t have the energy to make the fresh stuff, she gets it: “You can always use dried pasta.” There are also dozens of nonpasta recipes with stylish twists, like a white Bolognese with cannellini beans; burrata with nectarines and cucumber; and a killer sesame and honey panna cotta. — MELISSA CLARK
‘Snackable Bakes: 100 Easy-Peasy Recipes for Exceptionally Scrumptious Sweets and Treats’
There are two camps in baking: project bakers and on-the-fly bakers. Some people really enjoy making croissants, but more often than not you just need something delicious and quick to bring to the gathering. Jessie Sheehan gets that, which is why she created an entire book of low-effort, high-reward bakes that look like you spent all day on them, but that actually come together in about an hour or so. In “Snackable Bakes” (Countryman Press) there is no resting, chilling, proofing or bain-marie-ing; just whisking or mixing, setting and forgetting. And though dedicated project bakers might not feel blown away by the selection of simple but tasty quick breads, muffins, cupcakes and scones, there’s no denying that sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day — and that’s when this cookbook will be your best friend.
— NIKITA RICHARDSON
‘Tokyo Up Late: Iconic Recipes From the City That Never Sleeps’
Many cookbooks delighted me this year, but none delivered as much openness and discovery in the kitchen as Brendan Liew’s “Tokyo Up Late” (Smith Street Books). It’s a sharp look at Tokyo night life through carefully chosen recipes. The dishes are recognizable favorites, but there’s a real point of view within them: rubbing mayonnaise into your sticky rice before frying it to separate the grains, placing a marinade-soaked towel over fish so the yuzu-miso deliciousness extends beyond the bottom. In the basics section, there’s a stovetop trick for onsen eggs, those custardy soft-cooked eggs that slip out of their shells like oysters. This book is filled not only with simple delights like these, but also moments of surprise. It’s in the step-by-step instructions where you can really understand a cook’s voice — and here, Mr. Liew’s is vibrant. — ERIC KIM
‘To the Last Bite: Recipes and Ideas for Making the Most of Your Ingredients’
It’s hard to know whether Alexis deBoschnek has really committed to the bit in her first cookbook, “To the Last Bite” (Simon & Schuster), which is pitched as a guide to the Sisyphean task of combating climate change in the kitchen. She tucks ideas at the end of recipes that most efficient home cooks already employ: Use a spatchcock chicken carcass for stock, make broth with a Parmesan rind, use leftover red onion in another recipe. But even experienced cooks who might not need those useful tips will find a terrific, fresh cookbook from a woman who made her name in Buzzfeed Tasty videos before returning to her roots in the Catskills, where her mother had taught her to grow food and cook conscientiously. Like a lot of modern cookbooks in this sphere, meat and fish take a back seat to vegetables. A puff pastry pie with a jumble of greens and herbs from the refrigerator is endlessly adaptable, and three members of my household have already made her tropical granola with pecans, flakes of coconut and nuggets of candied ginger. — KIM SEVERSON
‘The Vegan Chinese Kitchen: Recipes and Modern Stories From a Thousand-Year-Old Tradition’
In her introduction to “The Vegan Chinese Kitchen” (Clarkson Potter), Hannah Che chronicles her journey of adopting a vegan diet in college and the tension that arose when confronted with the seafood- and meat-centric diet of her parents, immigrants from China. At first, she feared that going vegan would alienate her from her culture. Ultimately, she realized that much of Chinese food is inherently plant-based, with a rich culture going back thousands of years. She brings that tradition to life in this book, which is interspersed with scenes from her time growing up in China and the United States, as well as culinary history lessons. It’s a cookbook for anyone who wants to broaden their understanding of Chinese cooking. To guide you, there are two chapters dedicated to tofu’s many forms, recipes inspired by traditional Buddhist temple dishes alongside recipes from popular vegetarian restaurants in China and much more. — KASIA PILAT
‘The Woks of Life: Recipes to Know and Love From a Chinese American Family’
Bill, Judy, Sarah and Kaitlin Leung, the family behind the popular The Woks of Life blog, have provided a wonderful collection of classic Chinese recipes in their first cookbook of the same name (Clarkson Potter). I loved learning how the recipes were handed down through generations and eventually shared with their online audience. In “The Woks of Life,” the family offers an excellent guide on kitchen tools, essential pantry ingredients and key techniques so you can successfully execute every recipe. While all of the recipes are built on a similar base of ingredients, they result in vastly different flavor profiles. The salt and pepper fried oyster mushrooms are savory and crunchy, and the vegan fuqi feipian, which replaces beef with seitan, is brightly spiced with Sichuan pepper. Those who are experienced in Chinese cooking as well as those who are cooking Chinese food for the first time will find a lot to love. — NATASHA JANARDAN
How We Evaluated These Books
New York Times Food and Cooking staff members reviewed all of the books we considered this year. Each book was read cover-to-cover, and then one or more testers chose at least two recipes to cook at home. They were asked to assess how easy it was to find ingredients and to cook the recipes exactly as written, determining not only whether the recipes worked but also whether they lived up to their expectations. Each tester provided detailed feedback of their overall impression of the book: How likely were they to recommend it to a friend or family member? Did it open their eyes to a way of cooking they hadn’t considered before? Did they enjoy reading it and find the visual elements compelling? Were the recipes delicious, and would they cook from the book again? If they said yes to all, the book landed on this list.
We did not test or include cookbooks from writers who work with New York Times Cooking or are members of The New York Times Food department to avoid conflicts of interest. You can find their works highlighted below.
Books From New York Times Staff and Contributors
“Dinner in One: Exceptional & Easy One-Pan Meals” (Clarkson Potter) by Melissa Clark
“Food52 Simply Genius: Recipes for Beginners, Busy Cooks & Curious People” (Ten Speed Press) by Kristen Miglore (with NYT Cooking recipe developers)
“I Dream of Dinner (so You Don’t Have To): Low-Effort, High-Reward Recipes” (Clarkson Potter) by Ali Slagle
“Korean American: Food That Tastes Like Home” (Clarkson Potter) by Eric Kim
“Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture From My Kitchen in México” (Clarkson Potter) by Rick Martínez
“Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Extra Good Things” (Clarkson Potter) by Noor Murad and Yotam Ottolenghi
“Watermelon & Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations” (Simon & Schuster) by Nicole A. Taylor
“What’s for Dessert: Simple Recipes for Dessert People” (Clarkson Potter) by Claire Saffitz
“The Wok: Recipes and Techniques” (W.W. Norton & Company) by J. Kenji López-Alt