Favorite Cookbooks: What are Yours?

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Cookbooks can play an important part in our relationships as well as the food we put on the table. Favorite cookbooks are worth more than their purchase price.

favorite cookbooks

Cookbooks have personality. They become a part of our family. I know that I can get lost for hours, browsing my cookbook collection because it evokes so many memories.

My favorite cookbooks are those that are connected to an experience, ritual, or tradition in my family today or from childhood or those that I use all the time because their recipes are so reliable and pleasing to our family.

I love my vintage cookbook collection. My mom always cooked out of that Big Yellow Cookbook. That’s the very one that she made most meals from while I was growing up!

(Don’t worry, years before she was ready to pass it on, I bought my sisters their own copies off eBay, so there would be no hard feelings.)


I have a number of books that my Aunt Cass has given me from her childhood and young adult years. They are from the 1950s and 1960s, back when all cookbooks contained real ingredients instead of being branded with a commercial product. Cream cheese is cream cheese, people.

I discovered the Susan Branch Cookbooks during college when I was in France, believe it or not. My friend Julie had married a Frenchman and moved to France. She took her favorite cookbooks with her, even though it might be hard to find all the ingredients.

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to write my own favorite cookbooks with recipes my family and I have created together. It’s going to cost me a fortune to make sure all six kids each get a complete set, but it’s worth passing on this important part of our life together.

Like I said last week, a cookbook, well used, allows you to get to know the author, imparts knowledge, and helps you make great memories with the people you love. I would love to know what’s on your cookbook shelf. What must-have cookbook should we add to our collections?

What are YOUR favorite cookbooks?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. heather says

    This is easy for me. My go to cook books are the Betty Crocker cookbook, the Basics and More Cookbook (a local one that uses easy to find ingredients) and the Ball Kerr Caning book. I also have a few local church cookbooks for certain recipes. But I’m a minimalist when it comes to cookbooks, if I don’t use them why keep them. why not just keep the recipe you do use.

    Don’t get me wrong I’ve read yours, and Good Cheaps Eats Breakfast cookbook, but I don’t own them although I learned something from both.

    • I honestly wasn’t fishing. 😉 I think it’s good to hear what people like so we can find new helps in the kitchen.

  2. Angie S says

    Great topic! I’ve been on a declutter kick this summer, so the cookbooks that get to stay are: BH&G for basic stuff (beat out Betty Crocker because it includes grilling), More-with-Less (got it as a newlywed), the La Leche League cookbook (got that as kids grew), Ball Blue Book, Julia Child, and a couple of veggie cookbooks to help me deal with CSA mysteries. I also have a few Kindle cookbooks, including your Not Your Mother’s cookbook. 🙂 I use Plan to Eat, so all our favorite recipes are saved there.

    • I thinned my shelf too, and what I found was that I don’t have many pretty books. They’re all so old and tattered. Battle scars, I know. haha.

  3. Janet says

    I keep very few cookbooks. The three I never consider giving up are my Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cook Book – First Edition, which I received from my mother in the 1960s. The Betty Crocker cookbook my grandmother gave me when I moved into my first apartment. Cooking Healthy with a Man in Mind, which I bought after marrying and struggling to get my husband to eat anything that resembled a fruit or vegetable. I have a stack of hand written recipe cards from various relatives — mother, grandmothers, aunts– many of which I never use anymore, but I cherish for the memories.

  4. vanessa says

    Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom by Julia Child is one of the few cookbooks Ive kept. Great gift for brides, college kids in their first apts, etc. It’s short but has all the basics of simple, from scratch cooking and it isn’t intimidating.

    My current favorite is The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook by Maggie Green. It’s seasonal, fresh ingredients but approachable, lots of veg and salads.

    For veg-only dishes that are incredibly simple, Eat Like A Farm Girl is great.

    Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead seems to be the Fisher cookbook that gets the most raves when I give as gifts. But the 100 Juices for Kids cookbook is the Fisher cookbook I use most often.

    • I’m surprised about the Juices book. Interesting. You may be the only person. Haha!

      • Vanessa says

        Anything to tame that soda-craving demon! The kids still like best the “regular” juices they get at snacktime at school best (added fructose, grrr) but they do enjoy making them.

        My other problem is hubs can’t eat cheese, and daughter has problems with lactose, so some of my absolute-fave Fisher recipes are enjoyed by me, me and me. I need to find someone I can share them with!

        • Or, I need to direct you to the dairy-free recipes. 😉 There are over 130 in the new book.

          • Vanessa says

            Ooo! Oh! I missed that bit of info! I will definitely be ordering,then!

        • Just checked that list. 108. But, others with easy tweaks. I’ll send you the list.

  5. Karen says

    my favorites; the joy of cooking, the looneyspoons collection, eat great food by the dieticians of canada and a new release; brown eggs and jam jars by Aimée Over at Simple Bites.

  6. Debbie says

    How To Cook Without A Book by Pam Anderson (not the Baywatch actress) Teaches techniques, flavor combos, and some recipes, but more importantly, how to put together your own dishes. Gave one to each of my daughters as they went off on their own.

    • Sally says

      I second this one! Some of the recipes in her other cookbooks follow the same format (as did many of the recipes in her now defunct column in USA Weekend). I also gave the cookbook to my daughters when they left home. A few recipes on her web site are similar.

      I recall sitting in a restaurant in Chicago eating a bowl of soup and grabbing a piece of paper to write down the ingredients because I realized I could make the soup using her quick supper soup formula. I also realized I could make cioppino using the same formula.

    • I don’t have that book, but I just might need to get it. Years ago she wrote for Bon Appetit (or was it Fine Cooking?) and I learned so much from those types of articles.

  7. Katherine says

    The cookbooks I use all the time are The Pioneer Woman cookbooks, Feast for 75 Dollars a Week by Mary Ostyn, your freezer cookbook, Katie Lee cookbooks, and Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook for non cooks, it is great!

  8. I have a tendency to hoard cookbooks, and I love to pick one up and just read it for fun (I come by it honestly, my mom and grandmother do too!)

    Cookbooks that get the most actual use in my kitchen are: The Joy of Cooking, the first Our Best Bites cookbook, a couple of Cooking Light books (Slow Cooker and Real Family Food) and Sally’s Baking Addiction cookbook for treats.

  9. Alice E says

    I also just read cookbooks for fun, and have shelves full. But, I have started donating quite a few and need to cut down on them even more. The ones that I would always keep include my copy of my first Betty Crocker cookbook that I got as a teenager, it’s the one with the white (not red) cover. Also, my mom’s copy of Practical Cookery from the late thirties and a copy of Grandma’s Cooking by Allan Keller that is full of stories and recipes. Also my Ball and USDA canning cookbooks. Other favorites come and go. I still have all those baking recipes I’ve used since my childhood in a recipe box. I cook without recipe a lot of the time, really, but wouldn’t want to do without the cookbooks for inspiration.

  10. Melinda says

    Some of my favorites include BH&G (classic!), Any Junior League cookbook from Spokane or Seattle, Southern Living BBQ, and my homemade notebook filled with recipes I grew up eating assembled by my mom! My homemade notebook is probably my favorite since it includes recipes from my grandma and great-grandma. It has lots of notes from my mom about substitutions, variations, stories from our family surrounding a specific recipe, etc. I got this as a high school graduation gift and it is well-loved in our household!

  11. VanessaKC says

    Essential Pepin. The man is legendary for all the right reasons. Many believe French cooking equals spending tons at the store for ingredients, but that is not always true. Many formulas are super simple and quite open to variation! Jacques is the King in my culinary heart.

    • I will have to check that out. I know “of him” but never cooked from his books.

    • Vanessa says

      I love his TV series (I found them on Amazon or Netflix or somewhere), especially hearing the French accent. Fast Food My Way was pretty good.

  12. Margaret Davis says

    I “stole” the hard sided – 3 ring binder version of the Better Homes and Garden cookbook (I think it is mid to late 60’s version) from my mother before my sister could claim it. My mother, grandmother and aunt all referred to specific shortcuts or information that was in the specific version as I learned to cook and some of the best recipes have fingerprint or ingredient stains on the edges of the page. Additionally there are several hand written pages that were hand punched to fit in the binder with family adjustments to recipes, substitution suggestions, etc. I bought my sister a copy of the newer cookbook and then we spent a couple nights transposing all the family notes into her version and comparing recipes between one version and the next.

    • Isn’t it interesting how the newer versions change? Did you find many similarities?

    • Vanessa says

      Well-loved family cookbooks are wonderful! Treasure the ones you have – my mom’s were destroyed or given away when she died – along with all her handwritten notes, the messy cookie-dough fingerprints from us kids “helping” when we were little, the handwritten recipe scraps from grandma. Sis and I cried when we found out they were gone!

  13. Ellen says

    The first source for me for any recipe is any of the America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks. The one I reach for first is the last 10 seasons of shows, which is now out of date as there is one with 15 seasons. I love the ATK commentary and recommendations. I love that ATK does reviews of gadgets. I now buy items based on these recommendations. ATK has notes on what worked well in the taste tests and what did not. It does seem I should clarify that because there are a huge row of non-ATK cookbooks I own.

    When and what cookbooks I use next depends on the issue I’m after. If it’s not in ATK, it’s in my 3 ring binder, my Ellen cookbook. This is my self created cookbook filled with my favorites through the years. It’s magazine recipes, hand me down, or printed from the internet, all tried and true with my notes all over them. The key is the plastic sleeve that keep the recipes clean from the creative kitchen splashes.

    Other favorites are your Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead. Really do love this for so many items to even list. If Google counted, I’d say Google. Others are stuff in the stack, and in my head by picture, not name.

    • I love ATK’s Cook’s Country magazine. It was a little more chill than the main one. 😉

  14. Melanie says

    When I moved into my first apartment 10 years ago my mom got me the big red Betty Crocker Cookbook, which I still use quite frequently. Another go-to is a book simply titled Bread Machine by Jennie Shapter and it has THE BEST bread recipes. What’s funny is that I bought this book before even owning a bread machine, but the pictures were so beautiful that I had to have it! If I’m feeling like destroying my kitchen and dirtying every dish in the pursuit of the perfect meal I will every so often break out Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child.

    Keep up the good work Mrs. Fishmama, I love your website 🙂

  15. 1) GCE: Dinner in 30 Minutes or Less (seriously, this one stays out on my counter & is referenced OFTEN).
    2) Williams-Sonoma “The Essentials of Slow Cooking” – gourmet recipes… in a crockpot. Yes, please. 🙂
    3) Carrabba’s Italian Grill Cookbook: Recipes from Around Our Family Table – cheaper than eating out. 🙂

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