This post is part of our community-driven book tournament, The Big Community Book-Off. With your help, we’re finding the best books across categories (from bread to pasta, one-bowl to weeknight-friendly, and cake to cookies, to name a few), and putting them through a series of rigorous reviews—considered, tested, and written by none other than you.
For the last year, ambitious community members have cooked their way through five cookbooks each month and dubbed a winner. From books about bread baking to everything you need to know about cooking with Instant Pots, we closed out 2020 with—what else?—the best book on cookies.
This month, we’re tackling vegan books—we’re talking 100 percent plant-based recipes, with no meat, cheese, or eggs. These are the five cookbooks our community was eager to review when it comes to exploring the wide world of vegan food.
1. Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
The oldest book of the bunch, Veganomicon, was published in 2007 and rereleased with 25 new recipes in 2017. With an extensive and overarching approach to vegan cooking, the book covers everything from “how to cook a vegetable” (or grain or bean) to veganized versions of classic recipes from myriad cuisines, from penne alla vodka to enchiladas to vanilla ice cream.
2. The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Over 100 Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out by Angela Liddon
After years of disordered eating and calorie counting, Liddon transitioned into following what she calls a “whole foods vegan diet,” focusing on whole grains, legumes, nuts, and produce over packaged food products. What began as a blog, Oh She Glows has become a vegan cooking empire, with three cookbooks and a recipe app.
3. Mississippi Vegan: Recipes & Stories from a Southern Boy’s Heart by Timothy Pakron
Inspired by the flavors of his childhood, Mississippi Vegan was Pakron’s blog before it was a book, exploring Southern, Cajun, and Creole foodways. From biscuits to gumbo, including recipes made by family and friends, Pakron’s book shares his experience growing up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast through food.
4. Sweet Potato Soul: 100 Easy Vegan Recipes for the Southern Flavors of Smoke, Sugar, Spice, and Soul by Jenné Claiborne
Claiborne, author of the book (and blog) Sweet Potato Soul grew up in Atlanta, eating her Nana’s sweet-potato pie and collard greens. When she switched to a vegan diet (and found various health complications diminishing), she thought she’d have to give up her childhood favorites; instead, she learned to make traditional flavors fit her new lifestyle. Being a vegan and loving Southern food were no longer antithetical—she still eats mac and cheese and smoky sausage, they just come together a bit differently.
5. The First Mess Cookbook: Vibrant Plant-Based Recipes to Eat Well Through the Seasons by Laura Wright
The voice behind the eponymous vegan blog, Wright’s The First Mess is packed with simple-to-prepare recipes tailored to the seasons. Growing up working at her family’s farm market, she developed a strong focus on produce-centric meals. Wright’s veganism is specifically environmentally conscious, but her recipes—like maple baked beans and nut-butter brownies—never sacrifice flavor.
“I read a review of Veganomicon that said: ‘Spending time with [Moskowitz’s] cheerfully politicized book feels like hanging out with Grace Paley.’ Seeing as Grace Paley is one of my favorite authors, I can’t wait to read and cook recipes from Veganomicon! I am not strictly vegan, but I eat mostly plant-based and am excited to try these recipes to up my plant-cooking game.”
“I nominated Sweet Potato Soul. I admittedly had, for the longest time, turned my nose up at vegan food, feeling as though in the U.S it was co-opted by a culture of wellness that often failed to acknowledge the history of vegan eating in many cultures around the world. I was incredibly wrong about that, and it was Jenné Claiborne’s book that for the first time made me feel connected to the wider world of vegan cooking beyond my preconceived ideas. It got me excited and inspired to try new flavors, techniques, and dishes that told a story. From the sweet, crunchy tempeh bacon in a barbecue sandwich to the soft and comforting ‘tender mess of collard greens,’ it was the simplest recipes that drew me to this book and have me ready to keep cooking more.”
“I nominated Sweet Potato Soul. I’ve eaten and enjoyed plenty of vegetarian and vegan food, but I have little experience with Southern food, having spent my entire life in the Northeast and Midwest. So I’m very excited to see how a different region interprets and plays with some of the ingredients and flavors I’m familiar with—seeing where the South and North’s tastes converge, and where they differ.”
To produce the most comprehensive reviews, Grace, Rohita, and Jared put together these guidelines:
Taste. Are the recipes delicious and full of flavor? Maybe even so good we’d want to make them again?
Storytelling. Does the book have a cohesive narrative or point of view? Is the book easy to follow? How are the recipes organized?
Accessibility. Are the ingredients easy to find? Are the price points of said ingredients accessible? Are there any extra tools you need?
Audience. Who is the book for? Will vegans and non-vegans alike enjoy it? Is it for both experienced and novice cooks? Is there guidance for those who may be new to a vegan diet? Or for those who may be less experienced cooks?
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Have you cooked from any of the nominated books? Tell us all about it in the comments!