To understand and learn more about Black culture, one place to look is its food. It’s complex, extremely diverse, and filled with endless creativity. The ingredients and recipes span from all over the globe, and go far beyond soul food dishes like fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. And though the number of Black chefs who make this delicious food continues to be disproportionately low compared to their white contemporaries, the influence of Black chefs on American cuisine is impossible to ignore.
In fact, you can trace this influence all the way back to the dark days of slavery, with African Americans believed to have introduced foods like black-eyed peas and okra to American dishes. Today, this influence continues to grow as more Black chefs carve out spaces for themselves and introduce the world to more delicious recipes across the culinary landscape. For example, renowned chefs like Edna Lewis are credited to have evolved the image of authentic southern cuisine, thanks to a focus on locally grown ingredients. More recently, chefs like James Beard award-winner Bryant Terry are helping introduce thousands to the wonderful world of vegan cooking.
So, whether you like your meals savory and spicy, or simple and easy to make, here are some of our favorite cookbooks by Black chefs and authors that belong on your kitchen counter.
Cookbooks by Black chefs and authors to add to your kitchen
For a deep dive into Black culture and its dishes in the U.S., consider this your modern encyclopedia. Written by acclaimed food journalist Toni-Tipon Martin, this book is a carefully curated list of more than 100 recipes from Black chefs and cooks both past and present that highlight the diversity of African American cuisine. From sweet potato and gumbo to mouth-watering pies and dinners, get to learn some of the oldest and most popular dishes that the Black community loves.
Calling all my plant-based lovers! Get your vegan taste buds dancing with this in-depth collection of recipes from James Beard award-winner, Chef Bryant Terry. In it, Terry breaks down a variety of different veggie options for you to try. This includes yummy side dishes like barbecued carrots with slow-cooked white beans and a mushroom gumbo. Additionally, you’ll learn the fundamentals of vegan cooking, how to master different grains in your meals, and what ingredients to use to take any plant-based recipe to the next level.
If the thought of having buttery cheddar grits with shrimp gets your mouth watering, this cookbook is for you. Two-time Chopped Champions winner Lazarus Lynch uses his storied experience as a culinary expert and longtime student of southern cooking to bring you a catalog of 100 soul food recipes to satisfy your comfort food cravings.
These days, it can be hard to get vitamins from food alone. But Chef Gregory Gourdet will teach you everything you need to know to make this happen. His book, Everyone’s Table, features 200 recipes with ingredients that are super rich in minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins so that your body feels just as good as your food tastes. A former contestant on Top Chef and founder of Kann restaurant, Gourdet draws upon his Haitian background and love of North and West Africa as inspiration for these health-conscious and unique dishes.
Thinking about baking a cake? Exercise your baker’s thumb with these 60 unique recipes from Chef Benjamina Ebuehi. In The New Way to Cake, the former Great British Bake Off contestant breaks down her signature cake dishes like masala-chai carrot cake and caramelized plantain upside-down cake. As a bonus, get to learn how to make ingredients like herbs, nuts and ripe fruit sing in your sweet dishes.
Cookies, pies and banana bread, oh my! What could be better? For bakers who want to amp up their skills, take a note from Black Girl Baking. Award-winning chef, writer and founder of food blog Chocolate for Basil, Chef Jerrelle Guy guides you through some of her favorite childhood food memories and recipes to help satisfy your sweet tooth. From an orange-peel pound cake to bruleed buttermilk pie, there’s a little something to help indulge every craving. Plus, there are vegan alternatives!
If you’re like me and trying to cut back on ordering Postmates, consider Cooking Solo as your guide to independent cooking. Pastry Chef Klancy Miller helps make cooking for a ‘party of one’ more manageable with 100 fresh recipes that you can cook any day of the week. The book includes dishes ranging from delicious mixed salads to savory and intricate meals like mackerel with lemon and capers.
From his youth in South Carolina, Chef Rodney Scott has always been a master at BBQ. His ability to throw down on the grill landed his own acclaimed restaurant in Charleston, S.C. and an award from the James Beard Foundation. In Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ, the pitmaster himself breaks down how to recreate his famous barbecued spare ribs, smoked chicken wings, smoked turkey and other signature BBQ recipes that will make your summer party a hit.
In his most recent book, esteemed chef and food activist Marcus Samuelsson highlights the influence Black chefs and creators have had in American culinary culture. The Rise is a curated offering of 150 recipes that honor top food creators, writers and activists in the Black community that underscore the impact and creativity of Black cuisine. The dishes extend beyond soul food and introduce diverse ingredients across different African communities.
For vegan soul food, look no further (well, that’s not true—keep on looking, there’s plenty to add to your collection!) than Chef Rene Johnson, whose cookbook, From My Heart to Your Table is a personal, beautiful culinary journey that highlights many of the dishes of her youth, with a major focus on vegan, elevated cajun and creole dishes. We love that the book gives readers step-by-step instructions so you’ll always feel like you can accomplish every single meal.
In a profile for Well+Good, Chef Rene Johnson writes, “My grandmother is the person who taught me to cook. She taught me the secret to making hot water cornbread. She taught me how to make the best potato salad you would ever taste. She made everything using fresh ingredients, most of which were grown right on her ranch. I still remember the rows of vegetables and the giant peach tree growing in her yard. I love taking the soul food I grew up eating and giving my own twist to it—usually a twist that makes it vegan. When I cook—whether it’s for a whole party of people or just my family—I want as many people to be able to eat what I make as possible. To do that, I keep the main dishes completely vegan and then have meat proteins that can be added in, if someone chooses to do that. You can still have a delicious mac-and-cheese while keeping it vegan. And then, if someone wants to have it with some chicken or fried fish, they can do that.”
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