Shopping & Reviews

The Best New Cookbooks of 2017

This year, we turned to cookbooks to inspire, entertain, and educate us—here are our favorites of 2017

By SAVEUR Editors

Published on December 25, 2017

2017 was a strong year for cookbooks, from essential tomes capturing underrepresented cuisines to debut projects from celebrated chefs and one unpublished manuscript from a legendary fashion magazine designer. Through the good times and the bad, we turned to these texts to inspire our greatest kitchen endeavors, educate us on the history of dishes we'd otherwise be ignorant of, and entertain us with new levels of creative art and imagery. So much did we love this year in cookbooks that we launched our own Cookbook Club—it's not too late to join. It would be near impossible to share all the titles we loved this year, but here's a solid list to start.

Bravetart: Iconic American Desserts by Stella Parks

    I'll say it right away: Stella Parks's new BraveTart is the most groundbreaking book on baking in years. Full stop. While plenty of cookbook offer inspiring, pretty photos and reliable recipes, it's rare to find one that also gets deep into the science and history of cooking and baking. BraveTart does just that. The photos are indeed beautiful and inspiring, and don't worry: the recipes (and their dozens of variations) do work. But you can expect to walk away from BraveTart with a lot more than a plate of awesome cookies; you'll get a serious dessert education. — Kat Craddock, test kitchen associate

    Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking by Bonnie Frukmin Morales with Deena Prichep
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      If your parents or grandparents hailed from anywhere other than the place you live now—which, of course they did—you might relate to authors Bonnie Frumkin Morales and Deena Prichep's endearing beautiful new cookbook, Kachka. Sharing a name with Morales' Russian-ish restaurant in Portland, Oregon, the book gives background on her Belarusian heritage and how she rediscovered and belatedly embraced it in the kitchen. Detective work in the form of long talks with her mom helped Morales deeply delve into her childhood dishes and uncover some family recipe she had never seen before. Though technically, they are dishes from all over the former Soviet Union, Morales uses the word Russian in the way it was used to encompass all of these former territories. The chef puts her own special touches on many of them, bedazzling otherwise rustic or monotone dishes with a signature cheekiness, prettiness, and pop of color Kachka has become known for. — Stacy Adimando, test kitchen director

      Leave Me Alone with the Recipes: The Life, Art, and Cookbook of Cipe Pineles (edited by Sarah Rich and Wendy McNaughton)
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        Cipe Pineles was an acclaimed designer and art director whose work appeared on the pages of Vogue, Glamour, and Seventeen in the early days of women's magazines. Her other passion? Food, which manifested in an unpublished book of recipes with hand-painted illustrations. Pineles passed away in 1991, but editors Wendy MacNaughton and Sarah Rich discovered the long-lost manuscript at a book fair, and have since published it as Cipe originally intended. — Dan Q. Dao, deputy digital editor

        Burma Superstar by Desmond Tan and Kate Leahy
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          To start, I love Burmese food. So Burma Superstar immediately piqued my interest (even though I'd never been to the eponymous San Francisco restaurant). Over the past couple decades, the restaurant went from a local hole-in-the-wall specializing in an obscure Himalayan cuisine to an undeniable staple in the Bay Area restaurant scene. The book reflects both worlds in a way—that of the Wus, the Burmese-Chinese family that owned the struggling restaurant in the '90s, who quietly added a few of their favorite Burmese dishes to their mass-appeal Chinese-American menu, and that of Desmond Tan, the loyal customer who bought the place in 2000 with a vision for introducing his country's cuisine to a wider audience that didn't yet know what they were missing. Wondering where to start? We've been loving the chickpea-based shan tofu. — Alex Testere, associate editor

          Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen by Gonzalo Guzmán and Stacy Adimando
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            Named after his two authentic Mexican restaurants in San Francisco, and the Spanish word for the edible cactus leaves used in Mexican salads and side dishes, the book is a love letter to traditional Mexican food from a homesick cook who grew up there. Guzmán, who spent his childhood in a 400-person village in Veracruz, learned the recipes his mother and aunt would cook over fire after plucking and harvesting simple ingredients that grew nearby—cactus leaves from the yard, sweet potatoes from the garden, cacao from the trees, and corn from their nearby farm. His book—co-authored by our own Stacy Adimando—sheds light on fresh, soulful parts of Mexico's cooking culture that many of us may not yet know. — Katie Whittaker, associate digital editor

            The Fisherman's Wife: Sustainable Recipes and Salty Stories by Stephanie Villani
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              This new book from Stephanie Villani, the friendly face of Blue Moon Fresh Fish, is full of sustainable Long Island seafood recipes, "salty stories" about her life with fishing captain, Alex Villani, a smattering of Yankee fishing history, and tips for cooking and eating fish like you caught it yourself. — Kat Craddock, test kitchen associate

              Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat and Wendy MacNaughton
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                Samin Nosrat and Wendy MacNaughton instantly became two of my favorite people the moment I met them. That same infectious wit and enthusiasm is instilled in every single illustrated page of this book. Add to that a comprehensive fail-proof mantra for becoming a better cook, and you've got a definite keeper. This is one you will read from cover to cover and still go back to find something you'd glossed over entirely. — Alex Testere, associate editor

                The Pho Cookbook by Andrea Nguyen
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                  Andrea Nguyen is the doyenne of Vietnamese cooking here in the States. She grew up in Saigon eating this iconic noodle soup and shares its historical context with us. — Shane Mitchell, contributing editor

                  POK POK The Drinking Food of Thailand: A Cookbook by Andy Ricker
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                    I spent a good chunk of last winter testing through the recipes in the new POK POK book on Thai drinking food. Long story short, I didn't poison herself while testing home-fermented sausage, all the recipes worked, and I closed out the project with a newfound obsession with and appreciation for Thai cuisine. The spicy, aromatic ribs cooked under water is a new family favorite and the garlicy sour pork sausage fermented in banana leaves is addictive and delicious with sticky rice–just don't forget to chill a few cans of beer to wash it all down. — Kat Craddock, test kitchen associate

                    Meehan's Bartender Manual by Jim Meehan
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                      As a descendant of Tennessee moonshiners (on my mother's side), I appreciate a good yarn about booze. Meehan's compendium is a love letter to bar culture, new and old-fashioned, tiki and craft. Filled with bar wisdom accrued after years behind the stick, the book is ideal for professional bartenders and advanced home enthusiasts alike. — Shane Mitchell, contributing editor

                      The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty
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                        Michael Twitty's live-action historical roleplay meets memoir meets searing cultural criticism is many things, but it's not a cookbook. But insofar as we increasingly read cookbooks like novels to understand other people and times and places, I'm betting on The Cooking Gene becoming an essential text on the black roots that have created, nourished, and suffered for so much of American life. — Max Falkowitz, executive digital editor

                        Road Soda: Recipes and Techniques for Making Great Cocktails, Anywhere by Kara Newman
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                          I have never made as many drinks on planes as I have this year (I've bought a lot of airplane bottles for my trips), so on a personal level, this book from spirits guru and SAVEUR contributor Kara Newman really speaks to me. But it also speaks to how good cocktails made with fine spirits, using bona fide recipes, are more accessible than ever before. From tips and tricks to making mile-high cocktails to solutions to your hotel mini bar, this whimsical book is as fun to read as its recipes are to make. — Dan Q. Dao, deputy digital editor

                          Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden
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                            I didn't realize how brilliant this cookbook really is until I started getting my winter CSA vegetables—there's an excellent recipe for even the most random knobby root vegetable. — Chris Cohen, senior editor

                            Kristen Kish Cooking: Recipes and Techniques by Kristen Kish
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                              Kristen Kish Cooking: Recipes and Techniques a beautiful, easy-to-read text that can serve both as a bible for the Top Chef winner's super-fans (guilty as charged) and an aspirational manual of recipes for more advanced home cooks. Confidence you'll need if you want to tackle the not-for-the-faint-of-heart recipes in Kish's canon. Thankfully, she and her co-writer Meredith Erickson lead the book with a glossary of essential techniques—everything from properly reducing sauces to making confit—that she says she teaches to new cooks in her kitchen. The book centers heavily on these techniques, which admittedly, may require some independent research (and in my case, a few missteps) to master. — Dan Q. Dao, deputy digital editor

                              Istanbul and Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey by Robin Eckhardt
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                                Journalist Robyn Eckhardt and her travel photographer husband David Hagerman (both SAVEUR contributors) aim to prove that there's more to Turkish cuisine than baklava and kebabs. In this extensively researched text, the globe-trotting duo present a veritable tome of recipes—some of which have never been printed in English—for dishes like pumpkin-flavored meatballs, fava and bulgar-stuffed grape leaves, and köfte meatballs. Read our interview with the authors here. — Madison Roberts, digital editorial intern

                                Back Pocket Pasta by Colu Henry
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                                  One of our favorite cookbooks from spring of 2017, this beautiful, oversized volume is dedicated purely to pasta and its breezy ease, Colu Henry's Back Pocket Pasta has been highly anticipated in my household. Not just because I (an honorary Italian-American) and my partner (a real-live Italian-American) have had the pleasure of regularly eating Henry's food at her picturesque Hudson Valley home, but because we often throw our health-conscious inhibitions to the wind in lieu of carbs and cheese and carbs. Some brilliant highlights: Smoky garganaelli alla vodka (the book is worth all $28 just for this star), ramp & hazelnut pesto (hello, spring), and porchetta pasta (harness this for winter's end comfort). —Leslie Pariseau, contributor

                                  Modernist Bread by Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya
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                                    When Nathan Myhrvold released Modernist Cuisine six years ago, there had never been a book—or, more specifically, a volume of books—that so thoroughly unpacked contemporary food science. While Modernist Cuisine might have seemed like a once in a lifetime contribution to the world, Myhrvold actually wasn't finished. He joined forces with baking and pastry visionary, chef Francisco Migoya, for a second series, Modernist Bread. Without revealing too much, the five-volume, 2,642-page collection may be Myhrvold and The Cooking Lab's most ambitious project yet. Read our full interview with the authors. — Kat Craddock, test kitchen associate

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