10 best kids' cookbooks to get little ones inspired in the kitchen
Encourage small people to don their mini chef hats and get involved in the kitchen with our pick of books for budding cooks
Whether you’re a master chef or can barely boil an egg, it’s hard to dispute that cooking is an awesome life skill to give a child.
Getting youngsters comfortable in the kitchen is the first step to what can be a lifelong pleasure, hobby, profession or obsession.
Cooking with children is different.
It’s always messy, usually takes longer than normal and is never disappointing.
Watching them taste the food they have prepared for the first time is nothing short of a joy.
But a good recipe book is about more than food. Much more.
It’s about learning tricks of the trade, how to pick the best produce at markets or methods for making dishes look more creative, playful or sophisticated.
They should be easy to digest and beautifully illustrated.
From first cookies to three course feasts, the below list of books are all brilliant for budding chefs.
‘Fantastic Eats by Angellica Bell’, published by Quadrille: £7.87, Amazon
This bright and juicy volume by Celebrity Masterchef winner Angellica Bell is her first. In the introduction she explains how, inspired by her grandmother, she spent a lot of time in the kitchen as child. She urges youngsters to have a go – striving for effort rather than complete precision.
Her recipes, however, are picture perfect. While they are designed for kids, almost all of them could be served at an adult meal.
The monster crispy treats are so inventive and fun – an update on the much-loved rice crispie cakes. But the standout are surely the little toads in the holes.
‘Cooking Step-By-Step’, published by DK: £7.94, Amazon
DK have been releasing excellent cooking books for children for years – we remember having one in the 80s that was dog-eared and totally beloved.
This incarnation of over 50 step-by-step recipes is just as exciting including pizza muffins, falafel and cheesecake.
It’s boldly illustrated with large, bright shots of food, equipment and mid-recipe pictures to keep little chefs on the right track. There’s a fabulous glossary at the back as well as fully-illustrated skills like prepping avocado and lining a cake tin. We defy adults not to learn something new!
‘Good Housekeeping Kids Cook!’ by Susan Westmoreland, published by Hearst Communications: £11.99, Amazon
With over 100 recipes to choose from, this collection will keep any family truly busy – and inspired. From simple tuna salad to more complex steak and finger fries or peach melba lollies, there is guaranteed to be something that any child will want to make (and eat).
The recipe format was clear with difficulty level stated at the top. Box outs of ideas for leftovers and equipment explanations mean that young chefs will get a comprehensive culinary education.
We were really impressed by the amount of basic prep on offer from rule number one “read through the entire recipe” to some essential food hygiene tips.
‘Gruffalo Crumble and Other Recipes’, published by Pan Macmillan: £7.43, Wordery
Fans of the Gruffalo will be over the moon with this cookbook dedicated to replicating all the flora and fauna found in the deep dark wood.
From mouse toast – a total crowd pleaser, take it from us – to a show-stopping chocolate cake depicting our hero’s warty, toothy face that will be perfect for birthday parties, this collection of recipes is ingenious, inventive and mainly, so much fun.
‘The Kew Gardens Children’s Cookbook’ by Caroline Craig & Joe Archer, published by Wayland: £9.35, WHSmith
The beautifully illustrated cover boasting a bounty of fruit and vegetables is seductive enough, but the contents are even better. Aimed at children aged between 6 and 8 years old, these pages will do as much to instil a love of gardening as cooking.
Little ones will be guided through the planting and nurturing of vegetables such as peas and carrots, before harvesting them and cooking up a storm.
‘20 Recipes Kids Should Know’ by Esme and Calista Washburn, published by Prestel: £12.99, Amazon
The first thing to say about this gorgeous book is that it is written by a 12-year-old and the photographs were taken by a 17-year-old. It aims to really teach young people how to cook, rather than just being a collection of recipes.
The opening introductory spread is a detailed overview of life in any kitchen with a glossary of terms – ‘to mince’, ‘to whip’, ‘to sauté’ as well as a load of important measurements and weights. The 20 recipes included are a thoughtful edit of useful and delicious staples. We must admit to finding the Dijon dressing completely sublime and making it on our own without any children there at all!
There is a fresh pasta recipe which is complex even for seasoned chefs but thanks to the detailed step-by-step breakdown it’s a brilliant bonding recipe for parent and child!
‘My First Cookbooks: Pancakes, Pizza, Tacos, and Cookies!’ by Lotta Nieminen, published by Phaidon: £34.16, Amazon
With arguably the four most delicious food groups placed front and centre, this collection is the real deal, arriving as a bright boxset: weighty and full of promise.
Inside are four brilliantly designed books each one focusing on recipes for a different delicacy: pancakes, pizza, tacos and cookies. But that’s not all. The recipes all come with a set of interactive features so that little chefs can experience every aspect of cooking.
The four-year-olds we cooked with could break eggs, sift flour and stir the mixture – (and that was just with the cookies) thanks to having tabs to pull, wheels to spin and best of all the ‘finished’ dishes are easy to create out of pop outs. Easily the most fun cookery book out there.
‘Little Green Kitchen: Simple Vegetarian Family Recipes’ by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl, published by Hardie Grant: £20, Amazon
The cover is gorgeous if a little intimidating to frazzled city-dwelling parents but this sort of barefoot, organic vibe is certainly something to aspire to! This is actually a book geared towards family cooking and eating, with some 70 fun and wholesome vegetarian meals to prepare together.
What we really loved was the options to have an “adult upgrade” where more sophisticated flavours can be added, or the “helping hand” guides, where you’re shown how little ones can help you chop tofu, form patties or press buttons on food processors.
Highlights include magic green sauce and tommy pepper soup.
‘Nadiya’s Bake Me A Story’ by Nadiya Hussain, published by Hodder: £10.49, WHSmith
The former The Great British Bake Off’s winner Nadiya Hussain has poured her baking talent into this beautiful book – a colourful blend of baking, storytelling and illustration.
Here, 15 original stories are paired with brand-new recipes from star-anise gingerbread men to elephant’s ears – AKA cinnamon palmiers. This works well, we found, especially for younger children who want to see features from the stories brought to life – and then eaten!
‘The World In My Kitchen’ by Sally Brown and Kate Morris, published by Nourish: £9.35, Amazon
Cooking goes global in this playful collection of recipes from across the globe. The writing is super playful and engaging, and kids will pack in a whole lot of information about geography, history and other cultures too.
The book is divided into continent sections the opening pages of each offering a visual feast of illustrations spread across a regional map – not to mention a list of little-known facts and figures relating to the culinary habits of the people who live there.
What we really loved about this book, aside from the charming illustrations, is how it encourages small children to get curious about the tastes and cooking methods that exist beyond their immediate spheres.
The verdict: Kids' cookbooks
We think DK’s Cooking Step-By-Step is a brilliant place for any child to start learning about food prep, nutrition and the ways of the kitchen – and an absolute bargain for how much information it manages to pack in. But for truly beautiful looking and fun food in a book that will brighten up any kitchen Angellica Bell’s Fantastic Eats wins the day.
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