Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, or simply want more healthy food in your life, buying plant-based cookbooks is a good investment to make.
Thankfully, there is no lack of choice on the marketplace these days.
However, you’ll often find that such cookbooks have recipes with costly oils, special flours, and other fancy ingredients.
Finding The Best Cookbooks
Going on extensive and expensive shopping trips may not be an issue for passionate “foodies”.
For most of us, though, these long lists of extra ingredients make a lot of cookbooks tiresome to use in day-to-day life.
On top of that, many of us prefer simpler recipes using mostly whole foods, which are usually healthier anyway.
With these criteria in mind, the search for great plant-based cookbooks becomes a lot harder.
Luckily for you, we’ve gone through stacks of books, and thousands of pages, in order to weed out the excellent from the mediocre.
Here are the 9 best whole food plant-based cookbooks on the market today.
1. The How Not To Die Cookbook
“How Not To Die” is a wildly-successful book written by Dr. Michael Greger.
He’s the brilliant mind behind Nutritionfacts.org and the popular Youtube channel by the same name.
“How Not To Die” explains, in scientific detail, how to prevent and even reverse some of the most deadly modern diseases.
Horrible things like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s are given a careful look through the lens of nutrition.
Turns out, there’s plenty of evidence that a plant-based way of eating could actually save your (or a loved one’s) life.
The book was a complete game-changer in the world of nutrition and dieting, and was well-received, to say the least.
As of this writing, it boasts over 3000 positive reviews on Amazon.
With the book’s groundbreaking success, people hungered for a cookbook based on its content.
Thankfully, Dr. Greger soon delivered.
“The How Not To Die Cookbook” is filled with 120 whole food plant-based (WFPB) recipes.
All come with beautiful, full-color pictures and a neatly-organized list of ingredients and directions.
The recipes are divided into 12 sections:
- Simple preparations
- Snacks, dips, and spreads
- Soups and chilies
- Salads and dressings
- Burgers, wraps and more
- Very veggie mains
- Bean cuisine
- Great grains
Each recipe has a handy reference list that shows you which of Greger’s “daily dozen” foods are included.
The book also gives you 14 days of meal plans based on the recipes, various kitchen techniques, as well as tips for shopping and stocking.
All in all, great value for the rather low price point.
Everything in “The How Not To Die Cookbook” is made up of whole plant foods.
Additionally, all of the recipes are free from refined sugar, oils, and salt.
This may sound a bit too hardcore to some.
Rest assured, however, that there’s still plenty of flavor to be enjoyed.
Instead of the refined sugar, for example, the book calls for things like date paste to deliver the sweetness.
The meals are quite varied when it comes to nutrition, taste, and texture.
Some of my favorites were the Burrito Breakfast Bake, Spicy Asian Vegetable Soup, and Whole Wheat Pasta with Lentil Bolognese.
Most of the recipes are rather simple and quick to put together.
For me, this is a good thing, as I like to make them in my day-to-day life.
However, if you’re looking for highly-prepared, extravagant dinners for events and holidays, you should probably look elsewhere.
All in all, though, it’s an excellent selection of nutritious and delicious meals based on whole plant foods.
2. Plant-Based On A Budget
Toni Okamoto runs the very popular website Plantbasedonabudget.com.
There, she explains in detail how to thrive on plant foods without breaking the bank.
She, herself, went vegan at the tender age of 20, when she struggled with low-paying jobs, student loans, and credit card debts.
Through the hard times, she learned how to not only survive, but thrive, on a plant-based diet while low on cash and time.
The cookbook “Plant-Based on a Budget” presents the very best recipes Toni discovered or created throughout the years.
The Plant-Based On A Budget cookbook contains exactly 100 recipes.
All of them come with full-color photographs of the finished creations.
The recipes are organized into 6 big chapters:
- One-Pot Meals
- Supper Staples
Additionally, you get a few in-depth informational chapters.
Firstly, Toni goes into her own journey towards a plant-based way of living and eating.
Then, there is a very useful chapter called “How to be Plant-Based on a Budget”.
This includes tips and tricks for saving time and money, as well as a section on cooking basics.
At the end of the book, you’ll also find a sample meal plan for one person, plus a handy conversion chart for metric measurements.
Not surprisingly, the recipes are all quite cheap to put together.
They’re also quick — thus very applicable in day-to-day life.
In fact, every single recipe can be made in under 30 minutes.
Obviously, the major selling points of the book are saving time and money while eating plant-based.
Thankfully, though, this has not overly impacted the nutrition and tastiness of the meals that are included.
Many of them are quite creative, and are easy to like if you’re already vegan or vegetarian.
While some recipes do call for oil, most of them do not.
So, even if you’re strict about only eating whole foods, you’ll still get plenty of value here.
A few of my favorite recipes are the Banana Zucchini Pancakes and the Lentil Tacos — cheap, quick, and easy to make, even on busier days.
It’s no wonder Dr. Greger from Nutrition Facts wrote the foreword for this cookbook.
This is simply quality, though and through.
If you’re a student wanting to eat plant-based, living paycheck to paycheck, or you simply want to save some money, this is a must-have.
3. The No Meat Athlete Cookbook
Matt Frazer is the man behind the fantastic website Nomeatathlete.com.
A few years ago, he launched “The No Meat Athlete Cookbook”.
According to Frazer, he wanted to show people that a plant-based lifestyle can work great with sports.
He also wanted to encourage vegans and vegetarians to get in better shape — to help fight the stereotype that they are “weak and preachy”.
On top of that, the book is also meant to be helpful to existing plant-based athletes — those who want to take their nutrition to the next level.
“The No Meat Athlete Cookbook” includes 125 whole food plant-based recipes.
The book is divided into two parts:
- The Prep Work
- Recipes and Meal Plans
In part one, Matt Frazer takes you through the ideas and various benefits of a plant-based lifestyle, as well as plans for organizing your kitchen for healthy eating.
In part two, all the recipes are laid out.
They are split into 7 chapters:
- Salads and dressings
- Small plates and sides
- Food for workouts — before, during, and after
- Spice blends and sauces
Besides the recipes, Frazer goes into the how and why of nutrition.
For example, explaining why the meals contain either no oils or an oil-free alternative.
He also goes into the many misconceptions about being a plant-based athlete.
The last chapter is dedicated to “making the recipes work in your real life”, and provides a number of meal plans you can try for yourself.
As you would expect, there are plenty of protein-rich dinners in this book, which is great to see.
It’s not a secret that many people fear vegan (or even vegetarian) diets because they think they lack protein.
The recipes featured in “The No Meat Athlete Cookbook” puts this fear to rest.
Though some of them seem a bit uninspired, most of the breakfast and dinner recipes are tasty and nutritious.
However, I’d say that nearly all of my favorites were found in the chapter on desserts.
This is perhaps a bit ironic given that the book is themed around athletic performance.
Nonetheless, recipes like the Banana Cream Chia Pudding Parfaits and No-bake Mocha Cheesecake definitely stand out.
Thankfully, the desserts are all relatively healthy, so you can eat them with a good conscience.
4. The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible
Pat Crocker is a culinary herbalist and home economist who has published several award-winning cookbooks.
Her most popular work so far is The Juicing Bible, which was incredibly well received — over 750 positive reviews on Amazon as of this writing.
The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible, on the other hand, is sorely underappreciated in comparison.
It is an excellent book with a generalist approach that’s friendlier to omnivores, flexitarians, and would-be vegetarians.
The first part of the book presents the many beneficial effects a vegetarian lifestyle can have on our bodies.
It explores things like our immune system, endocrine system, and nervous system, and how they can be greatly affected by what we eat.
Then, Crocker goes into the different whole foods included in the cookbook — their attributes and how to use them to their full potential.
The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible contains an impressive 250 recipes you can try out.
Like the name implies, all of them are vegetarian, but only some of them are fully vegan.
(So, if you want to steer completely away from dairy products, this one probably isn’t for you.)
The recipes are organized into 11 parts:
- Appetizers, dips, and spreads
- Breakfast and brunch dishes
- Soups, stews, and chowders
- Main dishes
- Vegetables and legumes
- Grains and pasta
- Dressings, pesto, salsa, and sauces
When I stated this was an excellent cookbook, I didn’t mean it had extravagant, exotic dishes you can impress your friends with.
No, The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible excels at something else entirely:
Day-to-day eating and living.
The majority of the recipes are one step above average.
They’re interesting enough to warrant the purchase, but not overwhelming in any way.
You won’t have to constantly hunt down fancy ingredients in expensive specialty stores.
The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible contains a wealth of approachable, nutritious, yet still delicious recipes that appeal to most people.
The Main Dishes section is especially solid when it comes to day-to-day dinner options.
Three Bean Enchiladas and Cantonese Noodles are two of my favorite go-to’s.
5. The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook
“Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure” is one of the best-selling books on nutrition.
It’s written by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., and is based on the groundbreaking findings of his extensive nutritional study which spanned two decades.
To date, the book has helped countless thousands regain their health — including famous people like Bill Clinton and Samuel L Jackson.
From this incredible-success comes “The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook”.
It was put together by the team of Esselstyn’s wife and daughter.
They’ve had plenty of experience creating nutritious and delicious recipes for his patients throughout the years.
With this cookbook, they’ve combined their talents to compile a mighty fine collection.
The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook includes 125 recipes.
Most of them are low-fat, and all of them are whole food and plant-based.
The recipes are divided into 9 parts:
- Hummus, Sauces, Spreads, Gravy, and Salsas
- Appetizers and Sides
- Hearty Salads
- Salad Dressings
There are beautiful, full-color pictures accompanying most of the recipes.
The first part of the book also contains two informative chapters:
- Getting Started In Your Prevent And Reverse Heart Disease Kitchen
- A Q&A with Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. MD
“Getting Started” gives you a 12-step program for plant-based eating, some staple recipes, as well as a rundown of the basic foods and tools you should buy.
In the Q&A chapter, Dr. Esselstyn goes over the most commonly asked questions related to plant-based nutrition, heart health, and his medical work.
There are many delicious meals in this cookbook, but there are also number of bland ones.
This is probably because Esselstyn tells his patients to avoid both oils and nuts (to really look after their heart problems).
If you’re allergic, or don’t mind a lot of low-fat meals, this may be a good thing.
For those of us who like a bit of fatty goodness here and there, it’s best to complement this cookbook with another one.
Remember, the title is “The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook”, not “Fancy Vegan Gourmet Dishes To Impress Your Friends”.
All in all, though, there is a nice collection of varied, healthy, and tasty recipes to choose from.
Most of them are also everyday-friendly — they don’t require a long list of strange, pricey ingredients, nor do they take hours to make.
6. The China Study Cookbook
This is another cookbook based on a hard-hitting bestseller on nutritional research.
“The China Study” was published in 2005, written by T. Colin Campbell and his son, Thomas Campbell.
It laid out the findings of the famous 20-year study funded by Oxford University, Cornell University, and the government of China.
The ambitious project looked at the diets and disease rates of 6500 people living in 65 different rural counties in China.
When it was finished, the researchers concluded that those who ate lots of animal-based foods had higher death rates from ‘Western diseases’ (heart attack, stroke, etc.).
On the other hand, those who ate primarily plant foods were much less likely to suffer the same fates.
The book turned out to be a smash-hit, and quickly became a must-read for vegans, vegetarians, and health-conscious people.
Eventually, Colin Campbell’s daughter, LeAnne, published a cookbook based on the eye-opening findings of the China study.
The China Study Cookbook includes a lengthy, but valuable, intro chapter.
Here, LeAnne Campbell goes through her own journey to a plant-based diet, and how you or your loved ones can make the transition as well.
She also goes into food storage tips, as well as her recommended kitchen tools.
The recipes of The China Study Cookbook are split into 8 parts:
- Breads and Muffins
- Breakfast Dishes
- Appetizers and Salads
- Sandwiches and Wraps
In total, there are a whopping 175 recipes, and the vast majority of them come with vivid, colorful pictures.
Everything is neatly organized and looks wonderful — truly a beautiful cookbook to have in your collection.
Additionally, each recipe is marked with one or more circular symbols that indicate what types of ingredients are used.
At the back of the book there’s a helpful recipe-and-food index, so you can easily find exactly what you want.
Like with the Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook, The China Study Cookbook contains zero recipes using oil.
Again, this may be a positive or negative, depending on your personal needs.
As opposed to “Prevent and Reverse”, though, you’ll find a number of recipes involving nuts, which makes the collection a bit more varied.
I discovered several new delicious and nutritious meals in this book.
Most of them are easy and quick to put together, with few special ingredients you need to hunt after.
7. Straight Up Food
Cathy Fisher is the woman behind the website Straightupfood.com.
On her website, she hosts a multitude of recipes and articles related to whole food, plant-based eating.
She teaches cooking classes at the TrueNorth health Center in California, and is a writer and editor for the National Health Association’s Health Science magazine.
With the help of crowdfunding, Fisher published a huge cookbook called Straight Up Food, based on her popular blog.
Unsurprisingly, it turned out to be a big hit.
The exact number of recipes included in the cookbook is hard to pinpoint.
This is because the author uses many “template” recipes, where ingredients can easily be substituted for others.
All in all, there are 110 of these recipes — several hundreds if you include the slight variations you can make to each.
Most of them, 67 to be exact, come with full-color photographs.
The recipes are divided into 8 chapters:
- Salad dressings
- Main dishes
- Soup and stews
- Side dishes
- Sauces and dips
Fisher also gives you a final, large chapter named “A Little Support”.
Here, she presents a lot of practical information.
- 15 Tips for making dietary change easier
- 10 tips for eating in restaurants
- Cooking without oil
- Using dried herbs and spices
- Menu planning
All the recipes in Straight Up Food are free from added salt, sugar, and oils.
Most of them call for ordinary ingredients you can easily find at your local grocery store.
The meals are, for the most part, simple and quick to put together.
Nutrition-wise the cookbook also deserves the praise.
If you’re looking for a strict whole food, plant-based cookbook, “Straight Up Food” fits the bill.
While there are many tasty dinners and desserts to choose from, quite a few of them are very basic and even a bit bland.
However, this also makes the cookbook a good match for newbies and the culinary-challenged.
8. Forks Over Knives – The Cookbook
Forks Over Knives is a documentary that promotes a whole food, plant-based diet as a way to get healthy and avoid deadly diseases.
It first premiered in 2011, and brought to light the many findings of the famous China study from the 1990s.
The film was critically-acclaimed and lauded by health-conscious people around the globe.
Though it naturally had its share of critics, it turned into a classic among vegans and vegetarians.
Since the documentary was so well received, a cookbook based on its ideas was published soon after.
Forks Over Knives – The Cookbook includes a massive collection of over 300 whole food, plant-based recipes.
On the cover, the book claims to provide recipes for a whole year of plant-based eating.
Considering that most of these meals can be eaten several times a week, it certainly delivers on that promise.
The abundance of recipes is divided into 13 sections:
- Basics (sauces etc.)
- Stews and chilies
- Wraps and spreads
- Pasta and noodles
- Stir-fired, grilled, and hashed vegetables
- Stuffed and baked vegetables
- Bean-based dishes
- Grain-based dishes
There is no fluff at all in this cookbook.
Besides the lengthy (and useful) introduction, plus a metric conversion chart, the book is simply a massive list of recipes.
That being said, many of the meal descriptions come with golden tidbits of information — such as nutritional benefits and why certain ingredients were chosen.
Since there are so many recipes included, there are not pictures for all of them.
Still, you’ll get a series of stunning images in the beginning of the cookbook, with the corresponding dish names and page numbers included.
While there are loads of different recipes to choose from, some almost seem to repeat themselves.
Especially in the “Great Grains” (grain-based dishes) section — there are many quinoa recipes that are just slight variations of pretty much the same thing.
Also, the liberal use of soy could be a turn-off for some people — especially those struggling with allergies or sensitivities.
If you can look past those points, though, you’ll have no trouble filling your week with a variety of plant-based, whole-food meals.
The dinners are especially good — very satisfying and filling.
Those on the spicier side, like the White Bean Chili and Spicy Thai Sweet Potato Stew, really stood out to me.
While I haven’t tried all of the recipes yet, I like what I’ve made so far, with the exception of the slight redundancy I mentioned.
9. The Happy Herbivore Cookbook
Vegan chef Lindsay S. Nixon is the mind behind the extremely popular food blog, Happyherbivore.com.
Through sharing her stories, advice, and favorite recipes, she has helped countless people transition to a plant-based lifestyle.
Her work has been praised by notable figures like T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Neal Barnard, and Dr. John McDougall.
Additionally, she has been a featured guest on the Food Network and Dr. Oz.
In The Happy Herbivore Cookbook, Lindsay Nixon has compiled an impressive collection of whole food, plant-based recipes.
The cookbook comes with 175 recipes.
They are organized into 12 sections:
- Breakfast and brunch
- Muffins and breads
- Soups, dals, and chilis
- Burgers, wraps, tacos, and more
- Quick one-pot dinners
- Tofu and vegan ‘meats’
- Pasta and casseroles
- Mix and match: Vegetables, grains, and beans
- Dips, snacks, and finger food
- Spreads, gravies, and sauces
- Condiments, spices, and more
Most of the recipes come with large, full-color photographs.
There’s also a 10-page introduction.
Here, Lindsay goes into the ideas behind veganism, fat free/low-fat diets, and her top 10 cooking tips, among other things.
Like with the Straight Up Food cookbook, the vast majority of the recipes are quite basic.
By that I mean that they are easy to make, use mostly ordinary ingredients, and are quick to put together.
That doesn’t mean they’re all lacking in taste, however.
In fact, there are some very enjoyable breakfasts and desserts to choose from in The Happy Herbivore Cookbook.
The Cinnamon Banana Toast Crunch and Carrot Cake Cupcakes are some of my favorites.
The cookbook loses a point for having a tad too many bland, uninspiring recipes.
On the whole, though, it has enough value to warrant a purchase, especially with a total of 175 recipes to choose from.
Time To Get Cookin’
And we’re done!
Those are the 9 best whole food plant-based cookbooks on the market today.
As you can see, all of them include recipes that are:
- Whole food, plant-based
- Involves little to no added sugar, salt, and oil
- Simple to put together
- Requires no lengthy preparation
- Calls for few to no exotic ingredients
- Can be easily made for everyday enjoyment and nourishment
With over 1000 recipes to choose from in total, you’ll definitely find something you like, love, and even must have.
I hope you’ve discovered your new favorite cookbooks, and that they keep you happy and healthy for years to come!