October 17, 2021

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8 best vegan cookbooks to help you go meat and dairy free in 2021

From West Africa to West Bengal, these are the books you need to make the change (iStock/The Independent)
From West Africa to West Bengal, these are the books you need to make the change (iStock/The Independent)

After the excesses of the festive season, many of us look to cut down on meat in January – or Veganuary – but a new and novel way of cooking and eating can prove challenging.

Why not invest in a dedicated cookbook to help whet the appetite?

Even committed vegans who have long eschewed dairy, meat, fish and eggs will find it still pays to inject a bit of kitchen magic into those same old weeknight dinners.

We’ve cast our eye over vegan cookbooks old and new to bring you a selection of tasty tomes that will get you cooking up a plant-based storm in no time at all.

From super-healthy titles bursting with nutritious and delicious recipes, to those packed with practical everyday tips and tricks to make a meat-free month easy, and cuisine-specific books for anyone looking to cook their way through a country, there’s a whole host of cookbooks to inspire you on your January journey.

There are an awful lot of plant-based cookbooks out there, so to make it into this list, each book needed to offer something fresh.

We were looking for books with recipes that were tempting and achievable – they did not have to be healthy – and that had us bookmarking lots of pages. These books have been chosen because they are unpreachy, use mostly accessible ingredients, and have bags of flavour. Let’s tuck in…

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.

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‘Speedy BOSH!’ by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby, published by HQ, Harper Collins

The BOSH! boys can do no wrong, it seems, as this book is their fourth Sunday Times Bestseller. Speedy BOSH! is a collection of hundred-strong plant-based recipes that can be on your plate in under 30 minutes using supermarket ingredients – meaning there’s no excuse not to cook something fresh and delicious of an evening. We like that this book contains so many comforting, hearty recipes for fragrant curries and warming stews which are just right for this time of year: think jackfruit rendang, mushroom keema and spicy Dan Dan noodles to die for. It’s not all winter warmers though; Henry and Ian cover all bases with low carb high protein recipes for gym bros, inventive salads (we’re into the broccoli, mango and miso one), fancy dinner party-worthy creations and plenty using store cupboard ingredients for when it’s close to payday.

Buy now £14.99, W.H. Smith

‘The Green Roasting Tin’ by Rukmini Iyer, published by Square Peg

OK, so this book isn’t strictly vegan – it’s half vegan, half veggie – but all of the books in the Roasting Tin series by Rukmini Iyer are so brilliant and so widely loved that we had to include, anyway. Based on the idea of one-pan oven cooking, every recipe in this book involved minimal washing up, and the methods are so easy that any novice cook will be turning out high flavour, veg-packed meals in no time at all. The style of cooking and subject of the book means that most of the recipes are super-healthy, but there is no compromise on comfort or taste. We love the West African flavours of the sweet potato groundnut stew, the oven baked ratatouille is a reliable crowd-pleaser and the book is also bursting with ideas for inventive and exciting side dishes like our favourite crispy tamarind sprouts with peanuts and shallots. The ingredients are global, but generally easy to find in the world food aisle of large supermarkets – if not they’re worth sniffing out. Many of the vegetarian recipes can be converted to suit vegans – often it is just a matter of swapping dairy for coconut yoghurt, though some of the cheesy bakes will be more of a challenge. However you choose to use this book, we can all agree it is a godsend on a busy weeknight.

Buy now £9.99, Argos

‘Vegan Japaneasy’ by Tim Anderson, published by Hardie Grant books

Masterchef winner and owner of the Nanban restaurants, Tim Anderson, brings us this beautiful tome of “embarrassingly easy” vegan Japanese recipes which is sure to add a few strings to your cooking repertoire. While some of the recipes and ingredients may feel daunting to anyone unfamiliar with Japanese cooking, we promise that everything is attainable, achievable and genuinely easy. Have a read through, make a trip to an Asian supermarket and get stuck into cooking up dishes like sweet potato with truffled ponzu – it’s just a gourmet jacket potato – get to grips with gyoza and serve up platters of vegan sushi in your sleep. While Japanese cuisine may bring to mind non-vegan ingredients like fatty tuna, wagyu, soy eggs and fried chicken, when you get back to basics it’s inherently vegan: Anderson shows you how to achieve that elusive umami-rich flavour without relying on meat, fish or dairy. It’s a true eye-opener of a book – for the soy sauce butterscotch brownie recipe alone.

Buy now £22.00, Stanford’s

‘The Seasonal Vegan’ by Sarah Philpott, published by Seren

The author of The Occasional Vegan, Sarah Philpott, brings us this new title, a guide to healthy vegan eating with a seasonal focus. This book is a year in eating (mostly) British produce, when it is at its best – its most abundant and cheapest – and begins with a calendar of fruit, veg and herbs divided up by season to help you get started. There’s a brief explainer on vitamins, then its straight into the recipes. From a glorious summer veg lasagne – which uses an innovative vegan bechamel rather than vegan cheese, happily – to a tempting raspberry tahini blondie recipe, summer berry coconut milk lollies for midsummer, a creamy swede miso and maple gratin, and a rib-sticking French onion soup that shines thanks to the inclusion of Marmite. A good selection of everyday, special occasion, healthy and hearty recipes.

Buy now £9.79, Blackwell’s

‘What Vegans Eat’ by Brett Cobley, published by Harper Collins

Just because you’d like to eat a more vegan diet, doesn’t mean you’re looking to be especially virtuous when doing so: vegans are human, after all! This book, from vegan chef Brett Cobley, is packed with fun food, cheat day meals and treats along with creative, fresh and healthy everyday recipes with one eye on protein. One day enjoy a zingy, watermelon Sslad or a scratch-baked pesto muffin, the next day indulge in a mac’n’cheese burger – not cheese cheese, of course – an onion bhaji burger, or spring roll burrito. Drool. We like how this book balances nutrition and indulgence, and how it flags up good supermarket products to help you on your plant-free journey.

Buy now £16.99, Waterstones

‘Be More Vegan’ by Niki Webster, published by Welbeck

This, from lifelong vegan and blogger Niki Webster, is where to start your first forays into giving up animal products. Webster takes an “every little helps” approach to introducing veganism, pointing out that even if you have the odd Big Mac, just one plant-based meal a week make a difference – something we should all consider. Filled with compelling ethical, health and environmental arguments for following a vegan lifestyle, Be More Vegan manages to be non-judgemental and make it all feel very doable. Segueing neatly from advice on buying cruelty-free beauty and household products into simple recipes for oat pots, sweetcorn fritters with smoky red pepper dip, tasty-looking sweet potato, mushroom and sweetcorn quesadillas, this book is aimed at young people but useful to all thanks to its no-nonsense language, everyday ingredients and a particularly dreamy carrot cake mug cake recipe.

Buy now £10.49, Amazon

‘The Happy Skin Kitchen: 60 Recipes to Feed Your Skin From Within’ by Elisa Rossi, self published

Going vegan isn’t always an ethical or taste-led choice: after years of contending with hormonal acne and experimenting with medications, Elisa Rossi discovered that following a plant-based diet and scratch cooking finally gave her skin its glow back. She started documenting her progress on her Happy Skin Kitchen blog and has now self-published this collection of over 60 vegan and gluten-free skin-friendly recipes to help others nourish their skin from the inside out.

This book uses whole foods only, so you won’t find processed vegan sausages, mock cheeses or hard-to-find ingredients: instead, Rossi talks us through her favourite skin-boosting foods. Did you know that broccoli may help tackle dark circles thanks to its high vitamin K content? Or that zinc-packed chickpeas are a valuable weapon in fighting breakouts? You do now.

Cook it all up in her simple-to-follow, everyday recipes – most take 30 minutes – and enjoy flavourful, easy meals like tofu ricotta stuffed pasta shells, lentil ragu and balsamic mushroom polenta and a chapter on genuinely tempting salads. We’re all over the peanut butter mocha smoothie and sweet potato and miso coconut porridge; both so creamy you’d never know they were vegan.

Buy now £14.99, The Happy Skin Kitchen

‘Great British Vegan’ by Aimee Ryan, published by White Lion Publishing

Great British Vegan, from blogger Aimee Ryan aka The Wallflower Kitchen, is sure to excite many ethical vegans missing meat. Born of a desire to enjoy classic British staples like a full english, scones and stews instead of the stereotypical salads, falafel and hummus of a vegan diet, Ryan set about creating her own meat-free meaty versions.

You’ll need some specialist ingredients, but otherwise, you can largely follow her “easy swaps” table for cheese, eggs and other staples and cook up recognisable dishes like a fairly convincing “bacon” sandwich using rice wrappers, a portobello steak ‘n’ kidney bean pie, and lots of really good sides like cauliflower cheese, crispy roasties and stuffing. This book really comes into its own for sweet treats: there are loads of easy to follow recipes for coffee and walnut cake, Victoria sponge, bakewell tart, crumbles, tarts and all the big names. Some recipes may take a little more effort and forward planning than others, but when you’ve got a craving and nothing else will do, who cares?

Buy now £17.90, Book Depository

The verdict: Vegan cookbooks

Speedy BOSH! gets our vote, as it is such a handy all-rounder to have in your cookbook arsenal – vegan or not. Tasty recipes, basic ingredients and all cooked up in next to no time makes this a very useful book for real life and real kitchens. Got a little more time? Why not spend January getting better acquainted with veganism via some Japanese ingredients: homemade gyoza and korokke might just make 2021 a bit better.

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