Foodal’s Favorite Cookbooks and Food Reads for Holiday Gift Giving

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Have you made your list and checked it twice? The holiday season is in full swing, and you know what that means – it’s time to share your love of all things food with lucky friends and relatives!

Vertical image of a pile of books with pastel green, purple, pink, and blue covers on a wooden folding chair, in front of an evergreen tree decorated for the holidays, printed with red and white text.

And who knows, maybe if you’ve been really good, you’ll find a few of these tasty tomes under the tree with your name on them as well this year.

Every chef worth his or her salt has a collection of favorite cookbooks and food reads, and most are hungry for more.

Spice up those bookshelves or add a few bits (bytes?) to their Kindle library with these tasty selections.

1. Cheese Sex Death

We all have that one friend or family member who is obsessed with cheese!

Fuel their infatuation as they read the pages of cheesemonger Erika Kubick’s “Cheese Sex Death: A Bible for the Cheese Obsessed.”

Cheese Sex Death: A Bible for the Cheese Obsessed, available on Amazon

This informative yet amusing guide will teach you all about cheese – or “Cheesus,” in this biblically-inspired thematic book.

Following Kubick’s “Ten Commandments of Cheese Church,” her top 10 rules for enjoying an obsessively cheese-filled life, you’ll learn about how cheese is made and explore several key styles.

Well-structured sections on buying, storing, serving, tasting, pairing, and plating cheese help readers to quickly flip through the reference to answer any questions they may have, while bold photography keeps the eyes entertained.

Foundational recipes that appear at the end, like Sainty Sandwiches and Sacred Salads, will give readers the easily customizable basics they need to creatively introduce cheese to their menus.

Buy it now on Amazon, and you’ll soon be blessed with so many delicious cheese plates in your future.

2. Citrus

From its bright yellow and orange cover to Mowie Kaye’s colorful photographs which are included throughout, “Citrus: Recipes That Celebrate the Sour and the Sweet” is a riot of color, just begging whoever sees it sitting on the coffee table to open it up and look inside.

Citrus: Recipes That Celebrate the Sour and the Sweet, available on Amazon

Filled with 170 juicy citrus recipes, food writer and broadcaster Catherine Phipps explores all that citrus fruit can be, featuring irresistible varieties of orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and more in preparations enjoyed throughout the world.

Citrus is featured in everything from soup to nuts – or at least alongside nuts. I have the “Lemon Ice Cream with Almond and Fennel Praline” bookmarked in my copy, and I absolutely cannot wait to try it!

If you know someone who’s lucky enough to have their own citrus trees that they can pick from, buy them this book and then beg them to make each and every one of these recipes for you.

You’ll find it via Amazon.

3. Eight Flavors

“Eight Flavors” is an enticing read about the history of American cuisine, written by historical gastronomist Sarah Lohman in a conversational style that’s easy to digest.

Though most experts will claim that there’s no one true “cuisine” in the US, Lohman covers eight basic flavors that she believes unite our cookery, and she explains their significance in this deliciously fascinating book.

Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, available on Amazon

For anyone who is into the history of food, this is an absolute must-read. Plus, recipes are included in each chapter for the reader’s enjoyment, to bring all of the flavors explored throughout to their own kitchens.

The chili-themed “El Diablito” shaved ice dessert with pickled fruit, and homemade pineapple and jalapeno syrups, sounds incredible.

Pick up a copy now at Amazon.

4. Harvest

Sure, we know you’re already on board with the whole local and seasonal eating thing, but what about your mom, cousin, or aunt and uncle?

“Harvest: 180 Recipes Through the Seasons” by Emilie Guelpa takes recipes from the Hardie Grant Books archives and presents them as a curated collection of seasonal eats to get hungry home cooks excited about fresh, locally sourced ingredients with an international flavor.

Harvest: 180 Recipes Through the Seasons, available on Amazon

Featuring Guelpa’s lovely photographs and watercolor illustrations, this book emphasizes enjoying the best of what’s available when it’s truly at its best, and reveals to skeptics that they don’t in fact have to live in the Golden State to enjoy delicious seasonal foods through the cold winter.

Barbecued quail with baby carrot salad and black quinoa, anyone? Be right back, I have to go do some grocery shopping real quick… That should give you enough time to add this one to your holiday shopping cart!

It’s available via Amazon.

5. How to Taste

Subtitled “The Curious Cook’s Handbook to Seasoning and Balance, from Umami to Acid and Beyond – with Recipes,” this little book is a true gem.

Written by private chef, humorist, and cooking instructor Becky Selengut, “How to Taste” explores the experience of taste, and how to pair ingredients and adjust recipes accordingly for the best possible outcomes.

How to Taste, available on Amazon

This book was written for those whose cooking could use a little fine-tuning, or who want to learn more about how to improve the creations coming out of their kitchens. It’s a fun read that will help to take their food from good to great, with a better understanding of how flavor really works.

The importance of color and texture are included as well, along with a recipe fix cheat sheet, and a selection of delicious recipes including “Honey, Rhubarb, and Thyme Jam,” “Coffee and Chocolate-Braised Short Ribs,” and “Cinnamon and Ginger-Scented Lamb Stew with Tamarind Sauce, and Saffron and Turmeric Rice Pilaf.” Yum!

This book is available from Amazon.

6. Ferment for Good

With a blurb on the front cover by modern-day fermentation god Sandor Ellix Katz, you know that what’s contained within these pages has got to be good.

And whether your giftee is a newbie to the fermentation game or a seasoned expert, these healthy probiotic-rich recipes and the skills that are explained to make them mean “Ferment for Good: Ancient Foods for the Modern Gut, The Slowest Kind of Fast Food” by Sharon Flynn is a good fit for lovers of funky ferments at any skill level.

Ferment for Good, available on Amazon

One of my favorite things about this book is that it also features recipes and tips that show you how to use your ferments once you’ve made them.

Rather than languishing in their jars in the back of the fridge, the funkmaster in your life is going to be excited to make a batch of kimchi pancakes, scrambled eggs with sauerkraut, or preserved lemon marinated olives. And the attached ribbon bookmark is a nice added touch.

Find it on Amazon.

7. Land of Fish and Rice

I’ve long been a fan of Chinese-food writer and chef Fuchsia Dunlop, at least since the early “Lucky Peach” days (RIP), and this book is such a treat.

Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China, available on Amazon

“Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China” begins with the author taking us on a journey to the Lower Yangtze region of China, and she sets the scene so enticingly, with beautifully crafted descriptions of the area and the flavors that are to be found there.

This is followed by an incredible selection of recipes for appetizers, protein dishes, vegetables, soups, rice dishes, noodles, sweets, and drinks, plus my favorite section – dumplings and snacks!

A nominee for the 2017 James Beard Cookbook Award and the 2017 IACP Cookbook Award in the international category, it’s beautiful to read and to look at. The gold-embossed cover and ribbon bookmark make it an alluring option for gifting.

Once they open it up and take a look at the mouth-wateringly delicious photos contained within, interspersed throughout over 300 pages of deliciousness, they won’t be able to put it down.

Available via Amazon.

8. Le Diners de Gala

Sensual, sumptuous, and surreal, Salvador Dali created an outrageously decadent fusion of extravagant recipes and jaw-dropping artwork in his cookbook, “Le Diners de Gala.”

A unique gift for any Dali enthusiast, this is a perfect surprise for those who didn’t realize he published a cookbook!

Dali. Le Diners de Gala, available on Amazon

Based on the lavish dinner parties hosted by Dali and his wife Gala, this cookbook is “devoted to the pleasures of Taste,” as Dali writes in the introduction.

Divided into twelve chapters – including a chapter on aphrodisiacs – with 136 elaborate recipes, each section is overflowing with Dali’s illustrations as well as fun photography of some of the recipes and images of Dali posing with others in outlandish party scenes.

Most of the recipes are in the style of French haute cuisine, involving complex cooking techniques, ingredient lists, and plating presentations. Among the many pages, you will find calf kidneys in pastry shells, jellied cod fish, and “breasts of Venus,” among other enticing dishes.

While the techniques and ingredients may be too complicated for the typical giftee to prepare in their home kitchen, this book is a delightful collector’s item of Dali’s works, as well as an entertaining coffee table read!

Originally written in French, it has been translated to English and is available on Amazon.

9. Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian

Many of us grew up watching the inimitable Lidia Bastianich doing her thing on TV, and I always felt a special sort of connection to her show, since it featured Italian home cooking.

Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian: 220 Foolproof Recipes That Make Every Meal a Party, available on Amazon

Perfect for the holiday season, “Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian: 220 Foolproof Recipes That Make Every Meal a Party” by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and her daughter Tanya Bastianich Manuali focuses on taking the opportunity to treat every meal as if it’s a celebration, with everything from cocktails and appetizers to soups and salads, sides and protein or pasta mains, and desserts.

I am not lying when I say I want to try every recipe in this book.

If your favorite foodie is throwing a New Year’s Eve party and you’re invited, give this one to them for the holidays – they’ll get the hint.

As soon as they take a look at the table of contents and the crave-worthy photos, they’re going to scrap whatever party menu they already had going and start planning a fabulous Italian-style cocktail fete instead, with a fantastic New Year’s Day feast soon to follow.

Grab one for them (and maybe one for yourself, too!) now on Amazon.
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10. My America

Do you have a friend or family member who religiously follows the career trajectories of past contestants on Top Chef?

Buy them Kwame Onwuachi’s “My America: Recipes from a Young Black Chef”!

My America: Recipes from a Young Black Chef, available on Amazon

Onwuachi was a 2015 contestant on Season 13 of Top Chef, and has continued to gain serious culinary recognition since then as a cookbook author, restaurant owner, and James Beard award winner.

“My America” is a cookbook dedicated to food of the African Diaspora in America within the context of his travels, culinary education and career, and his family’s cultural heritage.

Influenced by his own family history in Nigeria and the Caribbean, as well as in the American South and the Bronx, all of Onwuachi’s 125 recipes are individual tributes to his personal identity and to the adaptive diversity of American cuisine.

Read reviews and check current prices on Amazon.

11. Pokē

In the middle of winter, who wouldn’t love escaping to Hawaii for a relaxing vacation?

“Pokē: Hawaiian-Inspired Sushi Bowls” by Celia Ferrar and Guy Jackson is the next best thing, and it makes the perfect gift to remind your loved ones who love to cook that they can escape the dark days of winter in their very own kitchen.

Pokē: Hawaiian-Inspired Sushi Bowls, available on Amazon

Have you ever tried making pokē at home? For those not in the know, this Hawaiian raw fish dish is pronounced “poh-kay” – helpfully pointed out on the book’s cover – and it’s a delicious spin on sushi, no restaurant required.

Fans of grain bowls and the like will love the level of customization that’s possible here, and vegetarian options are included as well.

Plus, plenty of recipes are provided so they can make their own delicious pickles, ferments, marinades and toppings, as well as sides and snacks, alongside instructions for building their pokē pantry, selecting and cooking fish and rice, and building bowls.

Umeboshi pickled rhubarb? Yes, please! Oh, and don’t forget the drinks, and desserts too!

This book is available from Amazon.

12. The Tivoli Road Baker

If the pastry lover on your list is not familiar with the famous Tivoli Road Bakery already, it’s time for them to get acquainted with the incredible delicacies coming out of this world-renowned Australian bakery with “The Tivoli Road Baker: Recipes and Notes from a Chef Who Chose Baking.”

The Tivoli Road Baker: Recipes and Notes from a Chef Who Chose Baking, available on Amazon

Both sweet and savory baked goods are included, as well as a few sandwiches and salads.

Baking newbies will love the rundown on the basics that’s provided, from puff pastry to sable, choux, shortcrust, and more. And “Great British Baking Show” fans will enjoy the “British Bakes” section, which includes traditional Cornish pasties and Eccles cake.

Pastry fanatics will go crazy for… well, just about everything contained within these pages. What’s not to love about this book?

It’s beautifully photographed, detailed, and carefully written, with a wealth of fantastic recipes alongside short features on the local growers and suppliers who provide the basic ingredients to support Michael and Pippa James’ business.

If I ever find myself in South Yarra, or anywhere nearby, this will be my first stop as soon as I get off the plane. Until then, we have this beautiful book. With its gorgeous embossed cover, it’s perfect for coffee table display.

And it’s available from Amazon.

13. Unreasonable Hospitality

Restaurateur William Guidara is the former co-owner of the legendary award-winning restaurant Eleven Madison Park in New York City.

With this esteemed background of hospitality experience, Guidara is a knowledgeable source of impeccable customer service. He shares his philosophy in “Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect.”

Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect, available on Amazon

Guidara explains how his theory and practice of extreme hospitality can be applied to business as well as one’s personal lifestyle.

Guidara advises passionately giving more and doing more, rather than giving less and taking away.

Across all disciplines, including in the restaurant and hospitality industry, Guidara believes those who are successful are often incredibly persistent in pursuing their vision.

He explains that the success of Eleven Madison Park was due to relentless, supercharged behavior among the staff and a meticulous approach to ensure customer satisfaction.

Reminiscing on one memorable story, Guidara recalls surprising a family that visited the restaurant from out of state with sleds to go sledding in Central Park – since they had never seen snow before!

This book is an ideal choice for anyone who is looking to gain more insight on the practices of the elite hospitality industry, and how they might apply those practices in their own lives.

Find it now on Amazon.

14. What’s for Dessert

New ideas for desserts are always welcome, aren’t they? Who would turn down an expertly written collection of fun recipes for cookies, cakes, pies, and more?

“What’s for Dessert: Simple Recipes for Dessert People” by Claire Saffitz brings the reader 100 easy and efficient recipes to make as the memorable final bites to complete any meal.

What’s for Dessert: Simple Recipes for Dessert People, available on Amazon

They’ll find recipes for cakes, brownies, bars, cobblers, custards, cookies, loaves, tarts, pies, and puddings. Covering pretty much every category of dessert, Saffitz has created a simple version of it to present in this cookbook!

And better yet? These are all recipes that don’t require a stand mixer – you can make all of these by hand.

Buy it now on Amazon.

15. The Wok

Buying someone a wok is an excellent idea for an impressive food-focused holiday gift… but it should go hand-in-hand with appropriate reading material on how to use it properly!

“The Wok: Recipes and Techniques” by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the perfect cookbook and guide for using a wok with tasty success.

The Wok: Recipes and Techniques, available on Amazon

Lopez-Alt is the reputable source to help you discover and practice wok basics – the man has serious credentials!

As a New York Times food columnist and Chief Culinary Advisor for Serious Eats, his first debut cookbook “The Food Lab” helps home and professional cooks develop a science-based methodology to complete everyday cooking techniques.

“The Wok” teaches readers the mechanics of different methods for utilizing this style of pan, and explains the science behind cooking various wok-based dishes.

It includes over 200 recipes and over 1,000 color photographs – providing for nearly endless opportunities to use the wok in various applications!

And if the kids are interested in cooking in the kitchen, Lopez-Alt inspires children to learn about the importance of community and respecting cuisines across multiple cultures in his children’s book “Every Night is Pizza Night,” also available on Amazon.

Buy “The Wok” now on Amazon.

A Foodie Bookworm’s Paradise

Armed with this list of favorites, you’re all set to fill up those shopping carts and give the gift of reading this holiday season in a form that all of the culinary enthusiasts on your list are sure to eat right up.

A Santa hat is arranged on top of a pile of books with pastel-colored covers, on a chair draped with a gray blanket with fringe, in front of a Christmas tree.

Clear the way from the tree to the kitchen, because they’ll be strapping on those aprons, setting up their cookbook stands, or brewing a hot cup of their favorite seasonal beverage in preparation to curl up on the couch and settle in for a long, cozy read before you know it.

Which of our top picks will you choose, and what are some of your favorite food-themed books for gift giving? Please share with us in the comments below.

And be sure to check out Foodal’s holiday baking ideas as well – because nothing goes better with a good book or a fun frolic in the kitchen than a delicious homemade cookie!

For more help around the holidays, Foodal can point you in the right direction! Get our advice for all of your holiday prep, starting with these helpful articles:

© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on December 2, 2018. Last updated on November 16, 2022. With additional writing and editing by Nikki Cervone. Credited photos via Amazon. Uncredited photos via Shutterstock.

About Allison Sidhu

Allison M. Sidhu is a culinary enthusiast from southeastern Pennsylvania who has returned to Philly after a seven-year sojourn to sunny LA. She loves exploring the local restaurant and bar scene with her best buds. She holds a BA in English literature from Swarthmore College and an MA in gastronomy from Boston University. When she’s not in the kitchen whipping up something tasty (or listening to the latest food podcasts while she does the dishes!) you’ll probably find Allison tapping away at her keyboard, chilling in the garden, curled up with a good book (or ready to dominate with controller in hand in front of the latest video game) on the couch, or devouring a dollar dog and crab fries at the Phillies game.

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