Giving a food book as a gift offers the recipient the possibility of both reading pleasure and kitchen magic. Giving a vegan or vegetarian book offers the additional potential of extending health and well-being, both personal and planetary. Plant-based books can induce us to eat more plants, and eating more plants is linked with a long list of improved health and climate outcomes. Who among us couldn’t use some of that in this pandemic- and climate-rattled world of ours?

This year, my mailbox was stuffed with fresh takes on plant-based eating in its many nuances. I’ve read through them to find the best plant-based books of 2023, which I share with you here. In addition to cookbooks, I’ve included two recommendations for veg-themed fiction. Another notable addition is a U.S. travel guide to vegan and vegetarian restaurants released by Hardie Grant. All would make excellent gifts during the winter holidays.


“Seed to Plate, Soil to Sky: Modern Plant-Based Recipes Using Native American Ingredients,” by Lois Ellen Frank with culinary advisor Walter Whitewater. Hachette Go. $30.

Centered on eight internationally important foods first cultivated by Indigenous people living in the Americas before Columbus arrived – corn, beans, squash, chiles, tomatoes, potatoes, vanilla and cacao – the book sets a flavorful table free from animal products. It deftly mixes ancient recipes and techniques with contemporary re-imaginings and ingredients. The authors have serious credentials: Lois Ellen Frank is a James Beard Award-winning author who holds a doctorate in cultural anthropology and is the chef/owner of Red Mesa Cuisine in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Walter Whitewater, who is Diné (Navajo), is a chef at Red Mesa Cuisine and has appeared on many television food programs. The cookbook covers nixtamalizing corn, offers guidance on plant materials to burn to create culinary ash, and provides nutrition-conscious, vegan recipes such as chile empañaditas, healthy Indian tacos, Navajo minestrone soup, hominy harvest stew, poblano corn bread, sweet potato tamale masa, corn pudding parfait and chocolate piño cake.

“Plentiful: Vegan Jamaican Recipes to Repeat,” by Denai Moore. Hardie Grant. $35.


“Plentiful” is the first cookbook from British-Jamaican musician-turned-chef Denai Moore. It combines memories of her Jamaican childhood, where her home was surrounded by an orchard and a garden, with flavors she’s savored while traveling as an adult. The cookbook freely uses ackee (a staple Jamaican fruit), hard food (a dish boiled in salted water with yams, plantains and dumplings), patties (hand pies), and rundown sauce (made with coconut, thyme, scallions and Scotch bonnet chilies) in recipes such as pick up salt fish and pressed green plantain; ackee carbonara; brown stew mushrooms with silken tofu; sorrel hoisin fried chicken burgers; coconut gizzada streusel loaf; and coffee miso caramel chocolate pudding.

“The Plant-Powered Plan to Beat Diabetes: A Guide for Prevention and Management,” by Sharon Palmer. Union Square & Co. $25.99.

Packed with information, this book includes a selection of strategies for avoiding added sugars and salt, a sample meal plan, a shopping list, 100 recipes, and an overview of the medical evidence that plant-based meals can manage and sometimes reverse Type 2 diabetes. Dr. Robert Graham, a chef and an integrative medicine physician, wrote the introduction, outlining how medical “studies have shown that eating a 90 percent plant-based diet can improve and even completely reverse type 2 diabetes.” Chef, nutrition expert and Prof. Sharon Palmer (author of multiple cookbooks including “The Plant-Powered Diet”) developed the vegan recipes that make a meal plan of high-fiber, no added sugar or salt, and very low fat-added dishes a reality. The recipes range from breakfast to dinner to dessert and include sriracha tofu breakfast sandwiches, carrot cake overnight oats, shawarma-inspired cauliflower-bulgur bowls, poke watermelon bowls, vegetable paella, strawberry cashew cheesecake dip, and chocolate chia pudding.

“Comfort & Joy: Irresistible Pleasures from a Vegetarian Kitchen,” by Ravinder Bhogal. Bloomsbury. $35.

In this artistic book, Ravinder Bhogal, the chef behind the Michelin Guide-listed and mostly-vegetarian Jikoni in London, weaves her Indian heritage, her Kenyan childhood, her English home, and her world travels into a love story about plant-based ingredients and vegetarian cooking. Bhogal, who spent her earliest years on her grandfather’s Kenyan vegetable farm and never ate supermarket produce until she moved to England at age 7, calls vegetables the “soul of the kitchen.” She shows how to infuse them with warm spices and bring out their natural flavors through frying, stewing, baking and roasting. “Comfort & Joy” includes both vegetarian and vegan recipes, such as green goddess dhal with preserved lemon, crisp kale chaat, hot and sour sweetcorn risotto with lime leaf butter, lentil and chestnut dan dan noodles, strawberry falooda milk cake, and rhubarb and Sichuan pepper crumble galettes.

“Plant-Based on a Budget Quick & Easy,” by Toni Okamoto. BenBella. $26.95.


In her third cookbook, host of the “Plant-Powered People Podcast” Toni Okamoto shares her tips for saving both time and money in the pursuit of flavorful, nutritious vegan meals. Many of the recipes are designed to be batch cooked, used in multiple dishes or frozen for a later meal. The book includes a shopping list, a meal plan and an introduction from Dr. Michael Greger, the best-selling author of “How Not to Die.” Short combinations of familiar and affordable ingredients create dishes such as one-bowl breakfast bread, smoothie freezer packs (five ways), simple black bean chili, meal prep pasta salad, hummus pizza, tater tot casserole, chocolate dipped stuffed dates, and Depression-era vanilla cupcakes. The book also includes a section of recipes for proteins, vegetables, grains and condiments that can be combined to create a seemingly endless number of mix-and-match bowls.


“The Vegan,” by Andrew Lipstein. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. $27.

Can one right fix one terrible wrong? The question is at the heart of “The Vegan,” an intriguing, gripping novel where main character Herschel Caine’s careless, imprudent prank takes a dark turn. One surprising result is his sudden inability to physically ingest animals or their secretions. He becomes an instant vegan. But will it last? Caine, a social-climbing hedge fund CEO living with his wife in a Cobble Hill townhouse in Brooklyn, races through an interconnected series of events that expose some of the ethical dilemmas of eating and owning animals. We also see Caine’s petty obsessions and catch a glimpse of modern-day wealth inequality in New York City. Despite – or because of – the lack of chapters, the story moves swiftly to an incendiary climax followed by a mundanely sinister conclusion.


“Average {Vegan} Teen,” by Christen Mailler. Vegan Publishers. $13.99.


Soon-to-be seventh-grader (and the only vegan at her school) Kessa Caliper is forced out of her Rhode Island hometown and away from her friends to again spend the summer with her dad at his camp on a Maine lake in “one of the prettiest middle-of-nowheres.” The camp lacks internet service, and Kessa resents the journey. But once there, she reconnects with the children who live next door and soon is dining on vegan pancakes, mac and cheese, chickpea salad sandwiches and lots of Oreos. This middle-grade novel takes a turn into fantasy when Kessa discovers she has “the Gift” and the magical abilities and powers that come with it. Along the way, the excitement of a first kiss, the drama of long-distance friendships, a sprinkling of Wabanaki culture, multiple visits to a local animal sanctuary and lots of encounters with squirrels, birds, fish and even an alpaca transport readers to a magical summer at a Maine lake.


“Plant-Based USA: A Travel Guide to Eating Animal-free in America,” by Veronica Fil. Hardie Grant. $29.99.

It’s been a while since a new guide to vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the U.S. was published, so it’s nice to see that we’ve finally got an updated one. With lots of local color, restaurant history and insider recommendations, “Plant-Based USA” offers helpful insights to finding exciting plant-centric eats in 18 major American cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver and Austin. The book profiles well-known veg eateries (Slutty Vegan in Atlanta, Tacotarian in Las Vegas, The Chicago Diner, Monty’s Good Burger in Los Angeles, Beyond Sushi and Dirt Candy in New York, Detroit Soul Vegan, Vedge and HipCityVeg in Philadelphia, and Greens in San Francisco) along with newer, lesser-known gems. This isn’t a comprehensive guide, since all of New England (ahem, Portland, Boston, Providence) and other areas of the U.S. are omitted. Even so, “Plant-Based USA” offers an enticing, mouth-watering look at the contemporary plant-based dining scene in the U.S. I hope the book boosts support for these restaurants and inspires more such travel guides in the future.

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland, Maine. She can be reached at

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: