12 best vegan cookbooks to help you go meat and dairy free in 2020
Veganuary becomes bigger every year, but it needn’t be just for one month as these cookbooks make it easy and accessible
According to the Vegan Society, there are three and a half times as many vegans as there were in 2006, and since the Veganuary campaign started back in 2004, more than 500,000 people have registered with reasons for taking part, which include health, environment and animal welfare.
In fact some of the biggest news stories of the year have centred around this growing movement, with Greggs’ vegan sausage roll making the headlines and the realistic plant-based bleeding burgers from Beyond Burger and the like gaining huge popularity.
Whether you’ve long-shunned animal products, or are simply keen to give it a go – these vegan cookbooks (the majority of which have been released within the past six months) are sure to give you a dose of tasty inspiration.
From tempting tofu, juicy jackfruit and luscious lentils, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more flavoursome collection of recipes.
Many of the authors featured have only switched to a plant-based diet in the past few years or so (often after a heavy reliance on meat or unhealthy lifestyles in the past) – which was all the motivation we needed. If they can do it, why not us?
To ensure these cookbooks will actually be useful instead of just collecting dust on your bookshelf, we’ve only included releases that feature easy to obtain ingredients, stunning photography and sensible instructions (unfortunately some titles had items listed that we’d never heard of, so they didn’t make the cut).
So without further ado, let’s get Veganuary and beyond off to a great start with our round-up of the best vegan cookbooks.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
‘Dirty Vegan Another Bite’ by Matt Pritchard, published by Octopus Books: £20, Octopus Books
After 10 years of hard partying finally caught up with him, Matt decided to switch from the crazy pranks of MTV’s Dirty Sanchez to fitness – and is now a completely vegan endurance athlete. Believing a natural diet is key, Matt’s second cookbook is brimming with recipes full of veggies and largely focuses on un-processed ingredients (keeping the vegan cheese or meat-substitutes to a minimum). Some of Pritchard’s favourites include laksa, sticky tofu bao buns and rhubarb and custard doughnuts. If you’re yet to convince your pal’s that veganism is the way forward, we reckon the Dinner with Mates chapter will convert a few of them, with all the recipes you need to create a Mexican feast, a perfect picnic, a banging barbecue or a cracking Christmas spread. All in all we found recipes really varied, with us ear-marking nearly all of them to try at once.
‘Zaika: Vegan Recipes from India’ by Romy Gill. Published by Seven Dials: £10, Amazon
Growing up in a small town in West Bengal, India, very few people, including Romy Gill’s own family, ate meat regularly. It’s this home-cooked vegan food of her childhood that the chef and food writer wanted to share with us through her debut cookbook Zaika – meaning taste, or flavour. There’s an entire section dedicated to bread, including gram flour turmeric pancakes which are perfect with chutneys, a variety of rotis and parathas and light naan bread with nigella seeds. The Light & Breezy chapter is all about showcasing the freshest ingredients – think watermelon and mint salad; while the Warming the Heart chapter is where you’ll find hearty comfort food such as spicy red lentil dahl. The section we most fell for though was Labours of Love for when you’ve got time to really get lost in the kitchen – rich, creamy and so warming, we recommend the Baingan masala with baby aubergines, dill and coconut.
‘Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats’ by Rachel Ama. Published by Ebury Press: £12.87, Amazon
Since launching her vegan YouTube channel in 2017, Rachel has gained a heap of hungry followers who lap up her simple, delicious recipes (and the dance moves that go along with them). Dishes are often one-pot, can be prepped ahead, and most include a song recommendation so you can dance along as you cook. Within these pages, you’ll find plenty of meals inspired by Ama’s Caribbean and West African roots – from crispy jerk barbecue tacos or ackee “saltfish” with dumplings to peanut stew. Although this is really a celebration of all cultures – and with vegan takes on everything from Thai green curry to creamy cashew and vegetable no-pasta lasagne, we’re pretty confident you’ll find your favourite comfort dish has been given a plant-based makeover. With most ingredients easy to obtain and meals quick to put together, this is modern cooking, for the meat-shunning millennial.
‘Five Ingredient Vegan’ by Katy Beskow. Published by Quadrille: £12.08, Amazon
Let’s face it, at the end of a long day the last thing any of us want to be doing – whether we’re following a plant-based diet or not – is trying to track down long lists of hard to find ingredients. This is the fourth book from the award-winning cook, writer and cookery tutor Katy Beskow and follows a similar simplified format, with each recipe requiring just five ingredients. Chapters include soups, lunches, suppers, sweets and basics, with recipes beautifully laid out and gorgeous photography accompanying each one. Far from being basic, we were amazed to see we could create a beautiful Mediterranean briam (a layered courgette, potato and red onion bake from Greece) which was as delicious hot with crusty bread as it was cold for lunch the next day.
‘7 Day Vegan Challenge’ by Bettina Campolucci-Bordi. Published by Hardie Grant: £9.72, Wordery
If you’re tempted to give this vegan thing a whirl but you really don’t know where to start, the 7 Day Vegan Challenge is here to help. There are three menu plans to choose from complete with shopping lists: The Easy Peasy Way (quick meals for those that don’t mind repeating some dishes), For the Planners (which requires a Sunday night batch-cooking session) and Fast and Fresh (quick and simple recipes). So a typical weekday might look like, banoffee oats for breakfast, a convincing vegan take on the classic BLT sandwich for lunch and creamy satay noodles with salt and pepper fried tofu for tea.
There is also a helpful Q&A intro, which aims to answer the most commonly asked questions for those just starting out – including pros, cons, where you get protein from, is vegan food expensive and whether it’s healthy. Many meals are freezable or can last three days or longer in the fridge, so whether you give it a go for seven days or longer is up to you.
‘Rebel Recipes: Maximum Flavour, Minimum Fuss’ by Niki Webster. Published by Bloomsbury: £18, Amazon
The debut book from award-winning blogger and food consultant Niki Webster shares the same ethos as her blog Rebel Recipes – that healthy food needn’t be boring or lacking in flavour. Taking inspiration from around the globe, you could never accuse these recipes of being dull. If only we could start every day with creamy spiced coconut porridge and sticky sesame banana. Instead of relying on stale vegan ingredients and recipes – this is new-school vegan cuisine for those seeking full flavours. Recipes were easy to follow and largely uncomplicated – with lots of spicy curries, pulses, flatbreads, salads, dips and pickles making an appearance. With mouth-watering photography throughout, the Can’t Believe It’s Vegan Desserts chapter is a particular highlight, with the likes of chocolate ganache tart, easy espresso martini pots and lemon curd and thyme tart.
‘BOSH! Healthy Vegan’ by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby. Published by HQ: £10.87, Amazon
Working with a registered dietician to ensure recipes follow trusted NHS guidelines, the BOSH! boys (aka, Henry and Ian) have bought us their healthiest cookbook to date. Recognising that just because a plate of food is vegan, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy (vegan junk food certainly exists), this is a collection of 80 new recipes showcasing their flavoursome vegan food with a healthier focus. Along with advice on sleep, movement and relaxing, there’s guidance on ensuring you get all the nutrients you need. And although the boys insist this isn’t a diet book, you’ll find recipes to help you reduce fat, build muscle and generally be a bit healthier. So whether you’re looking to up your protein intake (try the ultimate veg tacos), reduce your sugar intake with a summer-berry granola bowl or keep your calorie intake to under 500 per portion with puttanesca potato stew, you should be left feeling suitably inspired to kick-start the new year.
‘Incredible Plant-Based Desserts’ by Anthea Cheng. Published by Quarry Books: £11.89, Amazon
Calling all sweet-tooths! This collection of recipes from Australian blogger Anthea Cheng is celebratory food for the keen baker. You certainly couldn’t call dried rainbow pear slices convenient, quick or easy to make, however the impact they have when used to decorate her chai cake is truly show-stopping. If that all sounds a little intimidating, we found the Snack Time chapter much more manageable, with the likes of bliss balls, chocolate cups and cookies vying for attention, as well as instagrammable breakfast bowls, beautifully presented with nut butters, granola and oats.
‘Happy Vegan’ by Fearne Cotton. Published by Seven Dials: £13.46, Amazon
Despite Fearne Cotton not being a fully-fledged vegan herself (or perhaps because), this book got rave reviews from our panel, with both flexitarians, meat-eaters and vegans alike. Recipes are approachable, inexpensive and perfect for the whole family, so we can see ourselves working through them all in time. The broccoli katsu curry was a particular favourite and surprisingly easy to make and for tea time we’ll be trying our hand at her date and almond cake with caramel sauce, which uses white miso paste and coconut cream to great effect.
‘Vegan One Pound Meals’ by Miguel Barclay. Published by Headline Home: £10.75, Amazon
If ever there’s a time we feel the pinch, it’s January, with the festivities of Christmas long behind us but the credit card still to pay. Thankfully eating a plant-based diet could be the answer and in this book, you’ll find over 85 recipes all coming in at a frankly unbelievable £1 a portion. Our concerns that we’d be living off of beans on toast were quickly alleviated as we tucked into black bean meatballs and sticky aubergine bao. Full-flavoured, quick and easy, we couldn’t really ask for more.
‘Vegan (ish)’ by Jack Monroe. Published by Bluebird: £10.66, Amazon
Don’t be fooled by the title, every one of the 100 recipes within this book is completely vegan. The “ish” comes from Jack Monroe’s belief that if we were all to incorporate a few more plant-based meals into our diet each week, we’d be better off both environmentally and financially. So you needn’t be a full-time vegan to appreciate the practical, inexpensive solutions within this book. Although perhaps not the sexiest food chapter to ever be written – the whole section on sandwiches was inherently helpful for midweek meal inspiration (especially when you consider the “standard” fillings of cheese, ham, tuna, etc obviously aren’t vegan). In true Jack Monroe style, we loved the no-nonsense, easy to follow recipes and believe we’ll turn to this cookbook on a regular basis.
‘Green: Veggie and vegan meals for no-fuss weeks and relaxed weekends’ by Elly Pear (Curshen). Published by Ebury Press: £14.99, Amazon
While this title isn’t 100 per cent vegan, half of the book is made up of plant-based recipes so we felt it was still well worth including. Acknowledging that most of us have more time to experiment in the kitchen at the weekend yet need dinner on the table pronto mid-week, Elly Pear’s book separates dishes accordingly. We’re very keen to incorporate more Sunday night batch-cooking into our weekly routine, in order to eat better later in the week and with tray bakes, one-pot wonders and freeze-able options, this will keep us suitably inspired.
The verdict: Vegan cookbooks
While we loved the Indian flavours in Romy Gill’s Zaika and were hooked on Rachel Ama’s Caribbean and West African-inspired recipes, it was the well-rounded nature of Dirty Vegan Another Bite by Matt Pritchard which we’ve awarded the IndyBest Buy to. Easy to follow whether you’re a complete novice, yet exciting enough for those that have been around the plant-based block a few times, we couldn’t wait to get stuck into each and every recipe.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.