Seeking: a good introductory cookbook for an 18 y.o. college student, VEGAN

My niece has not really picked up cooking (her mom & dad not being much into it) and since she’s gone off to college became first a vegetarian and then a vegan.

I would like her to be cognizant of what foods she has to eat in what combos to get appropriate nutrition, as well as how to come up with a meal that meets vegan standards but tastes delectable and not like grass clumps yanked off the bottom of the lawnmower.

Among other things, when she’s not in the university setting and is instead visiting either her mom’s home or MY mom’s home (= her grandma), those people will be going to great lengths to prepare fancy feasts for everyone else (esp. Christmas etc) and will say to her “Gee I know nothing about how to cook whatever it is that you eat, yonder’s the kitchen”. They won’t resent and disparage her (much) for doing her own food and not eating what everyone else eats, but I can’t imagine that it would be much fun for her to sit there eating the same old rice & beans every meal, or good for her either.

Admittedly what I want for her isn’t guaranteed to be a priority for her as well, but I’d like that to be part of my gift to her this year, an accessible, new-cook-friendly book or two on how to make vegan feasts that you can serve to omnivore visitors w/o apology, and how to make sure all the amino acids and whatnot get accounted for. Spices, combos of foods that taste good together, tricks for inserting proteins into various veggie dishes, etc etc.


I can’t help you with specifically vegan cookbooks, but…

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison is fabulous. It’s like The Joy of Cooking for vegetarians. My omnivorous family happily eats recipes from it all the time. Her recipes are flavorful and rich, not at all reminiscent of TVP and sawdust.

The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks At Home is good for everyday cooking, as well as having some nice special occasion recipes. It’s a little crunchier than Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, but still very omnivore-friendly. I’ve got their vegan Portugese White Bean Soup simmering on the stove right now.

Neither cookbook is exclusively vegan, but they both have a lot of vegan recipes, as well as recipes that could be made vegan with only minor alterations.

ETA: Depending on her level of familiarity in the kitchen, the Moosewood cookbook might be a slightly better choice. Madison’s book rawks, but it does assume that one already knows how to cook.

there are a lot of really good, easy indian recipes that are vegan and delicious- beans, lentils, chickpeas, and “curries” based on veggies sauteed with coconut milk and spices. Madhur Jaffrey is an icon in indian cookbooks, and this one, imho, is quite good. I’ve made some recipes from it with a friend of mine, and they always come out great!

Moved from IMHO to CS.

Mark Bittman has a new cookbook out, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, that supposedly has a fair number of vegan recipes in it. If it’s as good as his How to Cook Everything for someone who hasn’t managed to pick up cooking yet, it will be great (I haven’t read it yet- Mr. Neville’s getting a copy for Hanukkah, so it’s still in the Amazon box in our kitchen)

The Moosewood cookbooks are quite strong on vegetarian and vegan recipes. They tend to have more elaborate recipes than I want, but that might be what you’re looking for- some people do think more elaborate recipes are more appropriate for guests. Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home is one with less elaborate recipes.

From what I’ve heard, people used to think that you had to have complete proteins in every meal, but they don’t think that any more. So it’s OK to have rice one day and beans the next, for example- as long as you’re eating a decent and varied diet, it all evens out in the end.

I don’t have a copy of the full book on hand (just the smaller one with the recipies alone), but I remember Laurel’s Kitchen being really strong on the basics, and with a lot less dairy than the Moosewood books. It is print (in yet another new edition), so you can thumb through it at any big bookstore.

I have one called Vegetarian Celebrations by Nava Atlas that is pretty good for holiday cooking - not necessarily a basic cookbook for an 18 year old, but it does cover how to make vegan feasts that omnivores (of which I am one) find appealing.

I almost bought this book for a vegan friend who’s taking classes and has little spending money. It had a variety of recipes that were simple yet not bland.

I hear great things about Veganomicon, and so far everything I’ve had that was cooked from it has been pretty fantastic. (We own a copy. I am spoiled and only cook when my husband doesn’t feel like it. I haven’t cracked it yet, but he’s cooked from it quite a bit already.) He also cooks a lot from Vegan with a Vengeance, and again, everything’s been delicious and mostly healthy, and the whimsically named Extraveganza.

We eat pretty strictly vegan at home, although I am an omnivore. I cannot say that I find trying to adapt vegetarian recipes with eggs, dairy etc to make them vegan any more fun than I find trying to adapt recipes that use meat products. I can do it, and usually fairly successfully, but I am an experienced cook. If I were shopping for a newbie cook I would not be inclined to go for a generalized vegetarian cookbook. Mileages will obviously vary.

This from Alison and Simon Holst is great. Alison is a well known NZ cook, Simon is her student, vegetarian son (well, he was when the book was written). I’m not a vegetarian, but there are lots of things in there that I will cook and eat with relish
(then again, I’ll eat just about anything with a good relish :smack: ).

Great, easy recipes.


I’m going to second Laurel’s Kitchen for a beginner book, because the last 150 pages, in my 1986 edition, are devoted to explaining vegetarian nutrition. This is my second copy, and I wore the first plumb out. It was the book that taught me how to cook vegetarian at 19 (two and a half decades ago), and the nutrition section really helped with that. The protein issue is addressed at length, and there is an excellent chart section for vitamins and minerals, listing their use in the body, and best food sources.

It’s a tome, and not as flashy as newer cookbooks— no fancy photos— but has the warmth of a well-used kitchen. I’m looking now at the scortch marks my copy has due to being too close to the stove once, and the way the spine is bent due to all the bookmarks and openings to get the recipe done. Flecked with flour, stained with wayward food splashings… the markings of a really great cookbook!

I second the Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks, but try to find the original by Molly Katzan. They are very accessable to the beginning cook, and are interesting enough to intrique the experienced ones. Her second cookbook, “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest” is great, too. The later books are sans Molly, and I think, not as interesting.

Another good vegetarian author is Carol Gelles. Her “1000 Vegetarian Recipes” is not that difficult for beginning cooks. She has several books, and they are all at the same level (if you can follow a recipe in any magazine, you’ll have no problem with her).

A GREAT resource for vegetarians are any books put out by any cult that follows a quasi-eastern philosophy. The best cookbook Hubby has on the shelf is a paperback he bought 20 years ago from the Hari Krisnas for $2. Very accessable to new cooks, although, I don’t know where you can get it today. He bought his while waiting in an airport, of all places!!! :wink:

If someone is looking for a specific recipe, vegetarian or not, feel free to email me and I’ll search through Hubby’s library - we just rearranged it - almost 1000 cookbooks right now.


Jeanne Lemlin has written several vegetarian cookbooks (including some vegan recipes) that make even an all-thumbed culinary idiot like me look good.

I strongly recommend any of Anna Thomas’ cookbooks. I have 3 titles, use them all.

She was an early proponent of the “respect vegetarian food for itself, not as fake nut cutlets” school of vegetarian cookery. She is logical about why things go wrong in tricky recipes - follow her and you will make the most scrumptious potato souffle for example.

Oh, IANAV, but still use her book from the '70s. Had to buy a replacement as my copy was worn out from lending to people, who then got their own copies and returned mine slightly more damaged each time. For damaged, read “well used”!

Since the basics have been covered (back in my day, it was the original Moosewood), I’ll suggest one of Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian cookbooks. Not everything is vegan or even vegetarian, but lots of vegan options, for some interesting tastes.

And, I’m very suspicious of you, AHunter3. If you’re really from Manhattan, what do you from lawnmowers?

Thank you, everyone! I’m leaning strongly towards Vegan with a Vengeance by Moskowitz and Laurel’s Kitchen by Robertson Flinders and Ruppenthal. That plus a traveler’s spice rack + some additional spices and a collection of nut & seed butters.

I have my Mom’s permission to take responsibility for one major meal which I will prepare with abovementioned niece, with an aim towards generating lots of leftovers for reheating as well as demonstrating for my Mom and the other mainstream family cooks that there’s something other than salads or unflavored green beans that can be put out.

Heh. I came to NY in 1986 in my 20s. As a kid and teenager I did my share of lawm mowing for pocket change in Los Alamos NM and Valdosta GA. I even pushed the ancient manual ones once or twice as a kid. All more reason to be grateful for lawn-free existence :wink: