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The food industry has a long way to go in terms of inclusion, especially when it comes to celebrating soul food and taking Black chefs seriously.
Food inherently honors different cultures and backgrounds. Recipes are the culmination of a person’s direct experiences and palette, often passed down from generations. There’s Maya Angelou’s recipe for caramel cake, the treat her mother made to cheer her up when she was expelled from school. Or even consider the vegan version of barbecue sliders by Jenné Claiborne, a food blogger from Atlanta, Georgia determined to keep soul food in her plant-based diet.
While there are plenty more examples out there, these 11 cookbooks celebrate the culture, cuisine, voices and experiences of Black chefs and authors — and are all packed with really delicious recipes you’ll want to make again and again.
Toni Tipton-Martin is a food and nutrition journalist that with her latest book, aims to share “the real-life stories of this country’s invisible African American cooks.” Her cookbook, Jubilee, is a James Beard Award Winner, an IACP Award finalist and was named on of the best cookbooks of the year by The New York Times Book Review. The book includes recipes and stories by Black chefs, with dishes like seafood gumbo, buttermilk fried chicken, pork chops with lemon caper sauce (and my personal favorite, Honey-Soy Glazed Chicken Wings).
Lazarus Lynch is an author, artist, two-time winner of Food Network’s Chopped, host of Snapchat’s first-ever cooking show Chopped U and host of Food Network’s digital series Comfort Nation. While his credentials surely make him standout, it’s his passion for food, art and fashion that come through the pages of his cookbook. Try out recipes like Brown Butter Candy Yam Mash with Goat Cheese Brülée, Shrimp and Crazy Creamy Cheddar Grits and Dulce de Leche Banana Pudding, all printed amongst bright and bold photography.
This isn’t your average soul food cookbook — every recipe is vegan. Claiborne is a food blogger, YouTube star and chef that grew up eating the flavors of the South in Atlanta, Georgia. When she opted for a vegan diet, she didn’t give up those flavors, she simply tweaked them. Her book holds recipes for dishes like Coconut Collard Salad and Fried Cauliflower “Chicken” and Peach Date BBQ Jackfruit Sliders. If you’re vegan or simply trying out Meatless Mondays, you can’t go wrong.
Jerrelle Guy’s first cookbook was a 2019 James Beard Foundation Book Award Nominee in the Best Baking and Dessert Cookbook Category — and for good reason. The recipes are simple, yet inspired, namely by old memories. Guy is a food blogger and food stylist, founder of Chocolate For Basil, and has a knack for creating really amazing recipes, from Pepper Jelly Thumbprint Cornmeal Cookies to Banana S’mores Pizza, both in this book.
Brown Sugar Kitchen is Tanya Holland’s restaurant in Oakland, California, crafting “stick to your ribs” eats — and this cookbook features 86 of the recipes that keep the crowds coming back for more. From shrimp gumbo to macaroni and cheese, to revamped classics like B-Side BBQ Braised Smoked Tofu with Roasted Eggplant and a side of Roasted Green Beans with Sesame-Seed Dressing, these recipes are straight-forward. And you’ll definitely want to keep them your kitchen arsenal.
You don’t need someone to explain the greatness of Maya Angelou. While she wrote over seven autobiographies, three collections of essays, poetry, plays, movies and more, she also wrote this cookbook. Hallelujah! The Welcome Table pairs her memories with a meal. For example, there’s the maple cake her mother made her when she was expelled from school, or the onion tart she had at a dinner-party-gone-bad in London. Food isn’t just always just about eating, it’s all part of a story.
Marcus Samuelsson is a James Beard Award-winning chef (he was named Best Chef in New York City in 2003). Though he’s the author of several cookbooks, The Red Rooster Cookbook stands out. It’s based on the menu of his Harlem-based restaurant by the same name. The menu mingles Southern soul food classics with Samuelsson’s Swedish and Ethiopian heritage, as well as influences of the local Harlem scene. Sink your teeth into Ethiopian Spice-Crusted Lamb or the Green Viking and Apple Sorbet with Caramel Sauce.
Twenty-year-old Haile Thomas is an author, activist and motivational speaker. She was the youngest graduate (at only 16!) of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition as a certified integrative nutrition health coach. In her cookbook, she provides 80 plant-based recipes, including Fruity Jamaican Cornmeal Porridge, Shortcut Sweet Potato Pie Boats, Golden Dream Turmeric Berry Chia Pudding and more.
Nicole Taylor was born in Georgia, and according to the book’s description, she grew up trying to distance herself from her Southern roots. But when she moved to Brooklyn, NY, she craved a taste of the South. Inspired by her new surroundings, she combined the two cultures with recipes like grits mixed with New York State Cheddar and blue cheese, deviled eggs made with smoked trout and Collard Greens Pesto and Pasta.
You may recognize Carla Hall from competing on Bravo’s Top Chef or co-hosting ABC’s The Chew. In her cookbook, she provides recipes inspired by her Nashville roots, from Cracked Shrimp with Comeback Sauce to Field Peas with Country Ham to Poured Caramel Cake.
Many people live alone, and rather than scaling down recipes, Klancy Miller offers a cookbook with recipes made for exactly one. No more leftovers, but with recipes like these, you’ll probably wish there were. Make dishes like a Tahitian Noodle Sandwich or Mackerel with Lemon and Capers. There’s even a section for entertaining, because living alone doesn’t mean you’re always on your own.
If you liked this story, you may also enjoy reading about the teacher who went viral for her list of children’s books that deal with racism.
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