If ever there were a year to buy your loved ones vegan cookbooks, 2020 is that year.

We’re surrounded by more vegan meats than ever before, while in the midst of accelerating climate change fueled by animal farming and an ongoing pandemic linked to animal confinement. The reasons for eating vegan in 2020 and beyond are clear. The only struggle is picking which vegan cookbooks to give as gifts.

That’s because publishers continued to shower the market with vegetarian titles in 2020, including solid new offerings from such accomplished vegan cookbook writers as Bryant Terry (“Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes”) and Robin Robertson (“The Plant-Based Slow Cooker: Over 225 Vegan, Super-Tasty Recipes”).

I recently read through the stack of plant-based books that arrived at my home office during 2020 and selected these seven as the most unusual and best-suited to spreading holiday cheer during a season when we’re all hungry for change.

“Vegan Christmas: Plant-based Recipes for the Festive Season,” by Audrey Fitzjohn. Smith Street Books. $14.95.

With gorgeous photos and zero chat, this slender hardback serves up an elegant French Christmas worthy of holiday aspiration. Paris-based writer Fitzjohn sticks to Christmas classics (mushroom Wellington; frosted sugar cookies) and dishes designed to look great on display (festive fir artichoke puff pastry; praline-coated snowballs). The book is divided into five sections and contains recipes for sweet breakfasts, starters, festive mains, desserts and a whole chapter devoted to vegan yule logs (panna cotta with almond; chestnut cream with mango). The book gives both preparation and cooking times for all dishes. A few of the recipes, such as roasted tempeh with sweet potato mash or vegetable pies, might work into a weeknight routine, while most, including citrus punch, blinis with caviar, roasted seitan with vegetables and Black Forest cake, demand a festive occasion.

“Evolving Vegan: Deliciously Diverse Recipes from North America’s Best Plant-based Eateries — for Anyone Who Loves Food,” by Mena Massoud. Tiller Press. $29.99.

Best known for playing Aladdin in the 2019 Disney live action hit of the same name, Massoud is an actor and a vegan who was born in Egypt, grew up in Toronto, lives in Los Angeles and thinks the world is becoming more vegan. His fun compilation book highlights this shifting food scene with tempting recipes from his own kitchen, his mother’s kitchen and the kitchens of 35 vegan restaurants in major cities in the U.S. and Canada. Professional recipes in the hardback include loaded pancakes (Veggie Galaxy in Cambridge), jackfruit flautas (No Bones Beach Club in Seattle), Szechuan beef (YamChops in Toronto) and ice cream cookie sandwiches (FoMu in Boston). Massoud’s own contributions include tofu pad Thai and sweet potato lasagna, while dishes such as koshare, moussaka and basbousa come straight from his Mamma’s recipe box.

“Two Dollar Radio Guide to Vegan Cooking: Recipes, Stories Behind the Recipes, and Inspiration for Vegan Cheffing,” by Eric Obenauf. Two Dollar Radio. $14.99.

It’s a bright yellow, palm-sized cookbook with an off-kilter point-of-view, yet it’s also something more. Tucked between recipes for fish tacos and sausage sammies is a quirky vegan short story about Jean-Claude van Randy, Speed Dog, Rach, the Drunk Publicist and a restaurant called Tofu Daddy’s Nacho Emporium. What the story lacks in plot, it makes up for in eggplant cook-offs, 1988 gray Aerostar vans and The Flaming Lips. In between the tiny chapters of this oddly engrossing plant-based tale is a (vegan) cheese-friendly menu of chicken wings, tater tots, breakfast sandwiches, crab cake Benedicts and Italian casseroles. The book includes two dessert recipes (Devilish cheesecake; maple-frosted cookie dough bars) and eight vegan life hacks.

“Southern Vegan: Delicious Down-Home Recipes for Your Plant-Based Diet,” by Lauren Harrtmann. Page Street Publishing. $21.99.

Hartmann, a long-time vegan, is a culinary school grad and pastry chef who grew up in the South. That combination produces a must-have cookbook stocked with recipes perfect for the winter season. These comforting dishes include Cajun Brussels sprouts with cheesy grits, barbecue tempeh with sweet corn pudding, Hoppin’ John risotto and smothered steaks with greens. The book includes both a baked white mac and cheese and a mac ’n’ cheese soup. Yes, there’s a recipe for pimento cheese spread and another for biscuits with gravy, plus recipes for fried broccoli with creole rémoulade, jalapeno hushpuppies, and fried pickles. Dessert brings out banana split sugar-dusted beignets and Mississippi mud cheesecake.

“Effortless Vegan: Delicious Plant-Based Recipes with Easy Instructions, Few Ingredients and Minimal Cleanup,” by Sarah Nevins. Page Street Publishing. $21.99.

From the creative force behind food blog A Saucy Kitchen, this book serves up 75 gluten-free recipes that come together quickly using pantry staples. Nevins, an American living in England, delivers a menu rich in beans, grains and vegetables populated with dishes such as cheesy broccoli soup, 15-minute tomato soup, black bean chilaquiles, spicy cauliflower lettuce wraps and sweet potato-spinach curry. Chickpeas are a particular favorite and appear in recipes including 10-minute smashed chickpea scramble, Mediterranean chickpea-spinach stew, and savory socca pancakes with balsamic mushrooms. No-bake treats such as edible cookie dough and chocolate dipped peanut butter oatmeal bites dominate the desserts. The book finishes with 5-minute sauces.

“Vegan Junk Food: A Down and Dirty Cookbook,” by Zacchary Bird. Smith Street Books. $24.95.

Fast food classics get the vegan treatment and emerge as temptingly familiar dishes such as The Big Zac and mushroom po’boys in this hefty hardback. Bird, who is based in Melbourne, Australia, offers a recipe for fablova (his vegan spin on pavlova, a favorite dessert Down Under) but it is one of few hints about his background. Otherwise the recipes for breakfast sandwiches, Philly cheese steaks, tofu banh mis, bratwursts and pizza waffles read like an American menu, as do appetizers such as mozzarella sticks, jalapeno poppers and poutine. The Southern-fried chicken drumsticks deserve mention for their innovative use of jackfruit in place of chicken flesh and cauliflower stocks doing duty as chicken bones. Desserts include baklava and chocolate hazelnut ice cream, while a chapter of vegan pantry staples closes the book.

“Smoothies That Taste Like Girl Scout Cookies: Your Favorite Cookie Flavors Using Healthy, Whole-food Ingredients,” by Colin McCullough. $4.99.

Self-published by the Portland, Maine-based author who wrote the 2019 “The Healthy Vegan Cookbook,” this slim volume packs in a strong list of cookie-themed drinks. Usual ingredients such as Medjool dates, cacao powder and bananas abound, yet there are many surprise ingredients too, such as quick oats, sweet potatoes and yellow squash. Flavored oils allow for the recreation of the classic cookie tastes. A portion of the proceeds supports the Girl Scouts of America.

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at
[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila


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