What are your favorite offbeat cookbooks?

Updated Oct 12 2015
I have a friend that loves to cook and loves cookbooks.

I'd like to get her a fun cookbook as a house warming gift but something beyond the realm of The Silver Palate and other "normal" cookbooks.

What's out there for the offbeat chefs that produces tasty results?


I know a LOT of you left some great Megan-simple cookbook ideas for me back when I was doing my cooking challenge. What about cookbooks for people who aren't afraid to get experimental? Not that this will surprise you, but here are MY offbeat cookbook suggestions…

The Unofficial Game of Thrones CookbookThe Game of Thrones cookbook is a collection of hearty meals inspired by George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series! Including recipes for Arbor Red Wine, the Stark's Venison, Apple, Cheddar Plaits, The Imp's Wild Strawberry Fool and Wilding Grilled Pork Chops with Stir-Grilled Apples.

The Star Wars CookbookThe Star Wars cookbook will show you how to make Wookie Cookies, Jedi Juice Bars, Dark Side Salsa, Boba Fett-Uccine, and Crazy Cantina Chili. (Psst: there's one for Trekkies too!)

The Manga CookbookThe Manga Cookbook is an illustrated guide to preparing Japanese cuisine. Learn to identify and make the same things you see in all your favorite manga, including: onigiri, rice balls, yakitori, skewered chicken oshinko, pickled vegetables udon, Japanese noodles, and loads more.

What are YOUR (possibly less nerdy) suggestions for offbeat cookbook ideas for people who actually LOVE to cook?

    • Yes! A friend of mine gave me the Redwall Cookbook for Christmas, and it is amazing. The other day I made deeper'n'ever turnip'n'tater'n'beetroot pie, and it was absolutely delicious. At some point I'll have to get some friends together and throw a proper Mossflower Feast.

    • oh my. i looked for one of these for *years*. because, not only do i have the redwall collection, but i think i was a better cook in 3rd grade (when the collection started) than i am now. oh, how dearly i wanted this then. i am so excited to see that it exists now.

  1. My favorite cookbooks include…

    Fresh and Fast Vegetarian – easy but super interesting main dishes, sides, etc that you can mix and match

    A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen – cooking by the seasons. This is at least relevant in the northeast US but I'm not sure of other locales.

    How to Cook Everything Vegetarian – by the same publishers of How to Cook Everything, but for veggies. While this book does offer recipes, I use it more as a reference manual than anythign else. For instance, I want ot make ice cream, I can find the basic recipe, they're suggested substitutions and make anything I want with their ratios.

    These are really only offbeat for their vegetarian factor, but I still thought they were very valuable and still wrth mentioning!!

    • Similar idea is Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese – tells you all the stuff thats worth making yourself and whats not, comparing costs of materials to cost of store bought, and effort put in with how good the results are etc. The writing it light and easy, but soooo informative!!

    • I have this, it's awesome! Great anecdotes and some really fantastic recipes. Look out for Lemmy's recipe for Krakatoa Surprise!

    • I NEED this book!

      If nothing else I keep hearing about Ron Thal's chili and now I've got a chance to try it for myself. But the whole book sounds awesome.

  2. The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook is fun for a fan of the series, and reminds me of watching Alton Brown (good eats) because all the recipes are accompanied by 'sponsor tips' with fun information on cooking techniques. Aimed at a younger audience for sure, but has a couple wild game recipes, which isn't necesarily standard to find.

    • We were given this one for our wedding, and I'm so excited to read it โ€” the little bits I've read have been truly excellent!

  3. On the topic of nerdy cookbooks, years ago my husband bought Nanny Ogg's Cookbook and we have not regretted it. (To be fair, we read it more than we cooked from it. The only thing he made were the Strawberry Wobblers, because, you know, it's not a party until you're eating a penis desert. #MatureAdults!)

  4. The cookbook I wish I had the skills to use more often: Marcel Desaulniers's "Death by Chocolate". Oh, the cakes in that book! Although they aren't so much chocolate cakes as they are chocolate aedifices…or chocolate castles =)

    The cookbooks I actually use daily are "Nourishing Traditions" (Sally Fallon), "50 Great Curries of India" (Camellia Panjabi) and (for Australian readers, although there may also be a US edition) "Frugavore" by Arabella Forge. The curry book has some really intricate party dishes and dessert ideas, as well as simple 'weeknight' curries.

    My kitchen bible, however,is my mum's 1950s edition of "The Constance Spry Cookery Book". Apparently it is now back in print (hurrah!!) and is well worth a look if you like tasty food from the best of the English and French traditions.

  5. I 10000000% reccomend the LEON cookbooks. I bought them in one of their London restaurants (but have bought them from amazon for friends), and there hasn't been a single recipe (and we've tried many) we haven't absolutely loved. Plus, they look amazing and make for great gifts, and it's wholesome, healthy food with a dose of indulgent recipes. I can't say enough good things abou them.

  6. I'm going to get the Official Game of Thrones cookbook, A Feast of Ice and Fire. The reviews said it was worth it.

    Our most used cookbook in the kitchen is I Heart Cheesecake. With it, you will never buy cheesecake again!

  7. I am a huge food nerd, so sorry if I bombard you with cookbook suggestions!

    The Urban Cookbook is a great cookbook with an emphasis on international street food that is full of gorgeous photos & interviews with graffiti artists/skaters/djs whathaveyou. It is pretty and interesting enough to sit on your coffee table.

    The Moosewood Cookbook is a classic vegetarian cookbook – I think my parents had it in the 70's. Some of the recipes are a little retro, and it's definitely not for vegans (SOOO MUCH YOGURT!) but it's a fun throwback with a charming hippie vibe.

    Not Your Mother's Cookbook is for those of us who cook because it's fun – it's full of weird, geeky, food experiments (like eggs cooked for 12 hours in Turkish Coffee) and classic weird food tricks (beer can chicken). Funny writing as well.

    I am loving Make The Bread, Buy The Butter, which was a birthday gift from a friend. It's great for those of us who want to Make More Stuff – like yogurt, bagels, cheese, & sausage) foodie nerds (why yes, I did make these cocktail bitters myself!) and Cheap Asses (homemade bread costs less than $1 a loaf?!), with cost comparisons for every item. I am all three, so this book has been open on my kitchen counter for months.

    I am also really partial to a little book called Far East, Down East, an asian cookbook specifically for New England ingredients. It combines my international tastes with my locavore ambitions.

  8. I love Mollie Katzen's "The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest." It's a beautiful hand illustrated vegetarian cookbook, and a bunch of her recipes have become staples in our house (her leek and potato soup recipe is amazing!). There's also a section that helps guide you into creating concoctions of your own, and it lists flavours/spices/foods typical of different kinds of cuisines that can help you throw something together in a particular style.

  9. Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide To Hosting the Perfect Funeral —-> funny, plus you get some good recipes. Two recipes from this book are on my standard potluck rotation. The second book in the series is about weddings and is pretty good, but most of the recipes are a lot more work (Somebody is Going to Die if Lilly Beth Doesn't Catch That Bouquet).
    The third isn't really worth it.

    I'm also a huge fan of the My Cooking Class series. So pretty! (also delicious)

    • Ooh, thanks for recommending this! I want to start getting a list of cookbooks together to ask for for Christmas (I've only been vegan since February) and I was hoping someone would recommend a vegan cookbook.

      Though I would definitely love to try to veganize some of the recipes in the Game of Thrones cookbook(s).

    • I cook all the time and have been vegan for about a year now after cooking vegan on and off for about 3 years. Vegan with a Vengeance is my FAVORITE cookbook!!! Every single thing I have cooked from that book has been excellent and adored by all, both vegan and omnivore. Awesome pancake recipe and vegan spanakopita to mention a few of my favs. :o)

      I also love Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero's vegan dessert cook books, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, Vegan Pie in the Sky, and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

      Every recipe I have ever tried by Isa has never failed, and I have messed up my fair share of creations, esp. vegan ones. In my opinion Isa is a go-to for vegan cooks! :o)

  10. i know it's not particularly offbeat… but my without a doubt, absolute favorite cookbook is America's Test Kitchen: The Complete TV Show Cookbook (which appears to come out annually). The recipes seem pretty ordinary, but they are 1. beyond delicious, and 2. they have a section before each and every recipe explaining how they came up with their variations on the traditional recipe and why, and about any special techniques they may use. it's fascinating, and really helpful to understand the 'why's' of recipes. the folks at America's Test Kitchen are like kitchen scientists (or wizards!) and really bring a whole new level of interest to cooking. not to mention Christopher Kimball (the chef/host) always wears a bow tie. *gushing complete*

  11. My favorite easy-to-find cookbook is "World of the East Vegetarian Cooking." Tons of delicious Asian recipes, all vegetarian, that make your house smell amazing and use every spice in your cupboard.

    My favorite obscure cookbook is one I found while visiting Wyoming: "The Cowboy Cookbook." It has lots of historic trail recipes, including one stew I've fallen in love with, and lots of fun cowboy information (guide to cattle brands, where the chuck wagon goes on the cattle drive, etc.). It also includes a recipe for a pit barbecue for 1000, and I keep searching for an excuse (and the money and space) to do it. Who doesn't love a recipe that starts by directing you to dig a long, deep trench?

  12. OOH COOKBOOKS! While I myself am a non cook, (seemingly) EVERYONE I am close to is the total opposite. Having an interest in learning to cook I get SOO many cookbooks as gifts, so these are just my favourites.

    The Everyday Flexitarian: Recipes for Vegetarians & Meat Lovers Alike is amazing because it offers lots of options. Each meal has both a meat and a vegetarian or vegan option great for families that have different needs or chefs that like trying new things.

    Giving a local (but still available for shipment worldwide) option, For the Breast of Friends: Women Working Together for a Cure is the first of six cookbooks made by a group of women that give the net proceeds from all their books to cancer organizations and research (they started with breast cancer then expanded). The recipes are amazing (and SO easy to understand) and interspersed with great quotes and facts. Explore their website and pick their book that seems the most what you are looking for, but I would say that the earlier you go the more focused they are on good old fashioned home cooking.

    I will let you know that their latest book (Breast Friends Inspire Health) has moved into the realm of "healthy" eating, and that they have also based their organization on personal experience, so they can be a little "only women get breast cancer" and "let's pray about this" but damn can they cook.

  13. I love the Moosewood cookbooks, which have already been mentioned. My favorite offbeat baking cookbook is Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. It's got lots of interesting and creative flavor combos, and the best brownie recipe EVER! They have a second book out too, but I haven't looked at it yet. I'm sure it's just as awesome!

    I also love The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook. It's written as a year in the life of a restaurant, so you get perspective on living in one of the most beautiful places in the country as well as a bunch of delicious recipes. Lots of rustic desserts and some non-traditional entree options such as venison, rabbit, and quail.

  14. Not a specific cookbook, but my dad collects cookbooks and has given me a few vintage ones that he found at yardsales or in second hand stores. Their lots of fun, some of my favorite recipes come from my vintage cook books.

  15. I LOVE vintage cookbooks! And I think they make great gifts! You can find them at antiques stores and on ebay. I have one from the 40s called "The American Woman's Cookbook." with great old fashioned recipes and instruction on canning and hosting a party! Plus it came with its former owners hand-jotted recipes and news-clippings inside.
    Another vintage cookbook I love is Peggy Bracken's "I Hate to Cook Book." Its from the 60's and is designed for housewife who don't like to cook with simple recipes and cute illustrations. I love to cook, but I still love that cookbook.

  16. One of my personal favorites is one I inherited from my Grandma when she moved into an assisted living facility: Get It On In The Kitchen (Grapefruit Publishing, Seattle, 1974)

    The recipes are suprisingly good, and it has boobies and grapes on the cover. There's sections like "After hours" and "for the inlaws" and a recipe for Pasties and Celery. Sadly, it seems to be out of print. ๐Ÿ™

  17. Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood is FANTASTIC and will make you rethink everything you know about baking delicious cakes. Most of the recipes (the scones call for spelt flour) are wheat/gluten free as well, which works well for celiac me! The whole philosophy is that ingredients like butter should be saved for the parts of the cake where you can taste it (like a delicious buttercream icing) and replaces the butter etc in the cake itself with vegetables. And it works! The cakes are amazing.

  18. Soul Veg! It's a loving tribute to plant based soul food. I love the collard greens redux and the peach salsa. Also, each recipe comes with a song or book recommendation to help get you in the mood for the food.

  19. You're all probably going to laugh, but if you find a good condition vintage Joy Of Cooking, buy that thing! You'd want anything prior to the 1995 edition. Don't think it's offbeat? Name another cookbook that will tell you the proper method of cooking a porcupine. Joy totally has that! I also loooove my Moosewood cookbook for some of their quirky fare. The Zucchini crusted pizza is a staple in my house. Happy browsing and I know your friend will enjoy whatever she receives!

  20. I didn't even know such cook books existed!! I'm going to have to get to the book store for a proper browse as opposed to an online browse! I've been living too sheltered!!

  21. I don't know if it's offbeat, but it's awesome and sort of science-y. The Flavor Bible is basically an ingredients index – look up an ingredient (chickpeas, for example) and it tells you all the other ingredients that go with it! So very useful, especially if you're new to cooking.

  22. I've got to recommend Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management for any history and/or Victorin era buffs. It's 90% neato Victorian recipes (and illustrations!) with the rest being tips on running a household such as how to remove stubborn stains, the best way to organize a closet and what servants should be paid. Plus gotta give some props to a book that's been continuously in print for over 150 years.

  23. I have a ton of antique cookbooks that were my mothers and my grandmothers. The ones from the 50s crack me up. The campbells soup cookbook, the homemakers guide, all kinds of bizarre retro confections to be found in there.

  24. For the historical nerds, Colonial Williamsburg has a number of really yummy cook books in their collection. The recipes are a combination of classics done perfectly to a number of extra yummy classics that have been more or less forgotten. I got two of them for wedding gift and I haven't had a flop yet.

  25. There have been a lot of shout outs to Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero's books, but nobody mentioned the Veganomicon, which even if you're not vegan, just has an awesome name. Also, "The Kind Diet" by Alicia Silverstone has recipes but also explains the environmental impact of the food you eat. My dad's side of the family is all aging hippies, and they love the recipes from that book when I bring them to family gatherings. I would also recommend picking up cookbooks at museums or ethnic church fairs. My mother has a cookbook with old German family recipes that her mother gave her (my grandmother grew up in Munich, North Dakota, which is like Chintatown but for Germans). I'm in MA, so we have places like Old Sturbridge Village and Plymouth Plantation, and they sell cookbooks and craft books like they had in ye olde days.

  26. I echo the calls for Vegan with a Vengeance, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and that whole series, as well as the Veganomicon.

    One I finished reading recently was How to roast a lamb, which has a lot of awesome Greek food in it, as well as the author's recounting of what it was like growing up in a Greek food-centric family.

    I love Conscious Cook for fancy vegan recipes. The kind that have presentation, come on little plates, and are somewhat impractical. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Beloved children's author Roald Dahl has a few cookbooks. The fun children's Revolting Recipes and a wonderful personal anecdote-filled look into his life and favorite recipes

    I haven't actually bought any of the below yet, but they've gotten good reviews and they're all on my Amazon.com wishlist.

    Expensive but OMG do I want this! Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. The set breaks down the whys and hows behind things (want crispy fried fish? know what temp, how much oil, etc.) and there are AMAZING photographs. Check 'em out — This stuff isn't PhotoShopped. They actually cut pots & pans in half to show the inner workings and check out the bullet through the eggs! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Highly recommended: Momofuku.
    Delicious twists on standard recipes of different Asian cultures and also uses the word F*ck. ๐Ÿ™‚ Seriously, check out the reviews on this one.

    Various Vegan/Vegetarian from around the world:
    Kansha: Celebrating Japan's Vegan and Vegetarian Traditions
    Buddha's Table: Thai Feasting Vegetarian Style
    The Asian Vegan Kitchen: Authentic and Appetizing Dishes from a Continent of Rich Flavors
    Korean Vegetarian: Explore the spicy and robust tastes of a classic cuisine, with 50 recipes shown in 130 step-by-step photographs
    Flavors of Korea: Delicious Vegetarian Cuisine (Healthy World Cuisine)
    The Enlightened Kitchen: Fresh Vegetable Dishes from the Temples of Japan
    Vegan Fire & Spice: 200 Sultry and Savory Global Recipes
    Vegan Italiano: Meat-free, Egg-free, Dairy-free Dishes from Sun-Drenched Italy
    The Indian Vegan Kitchen: More Than 150 Quick and Healthy Homestyle Recipes
    Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen
    The New Now and Zen Epicure: Gourmet Vegan Recipes for the Enlightened Palate

    Vegan soul/comfort cooking:
    Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine
    Quick & Easy Vegan Comfort Food: 65 Everyday Meal Ideas for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with Over 150 Great-Tasting, Down-Home Recipes

    Soul Kitchen (Korean Edition)
    A Korean Mother's Cooking Notes

    The Kimchi Chronicles: Korean Cooking for an American Kitchen

    The Food Substitutions Bible: More Than 6,500 Substitutions for Ingredients, Equipment and Techniques
    The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions: Veganize It! Foolproof Methods for Transforming Any Dish into a Delicious New Vegan Favorite

  27. I'm looking forward to getting the Manga Cookbook someday… and to any other anime fans, specifically ones who like Ouran High School Host Club, Vampire Knight, Fullmetal Alchemist, an international fan club I am in (Risembool Rangers) is soon to release a Cookbook full of fun recipes, art, and even poems (one of which I contributed). I can't wait to purchase mine!

  28. You wanna talk about Megan-simple cookbooks, check out the "The (Reluctant , Nervous, Lazy, Broke, Busy, Confused) College Student's Cookbook" by Joshua N. Lambert. For the extreme beginner, tells you things like how to boil water and walks you through the process of setting up a basic kitchen and what tools you need and what staples to buy. Lots of cook-ahead recipes and everything is very simple ingredients.

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