Looking For A New Cookbook? Here Are 2022's James Beard Nominees

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Cookbooks are a great way to break out of a kitchen rut since there are few things better than flicking through the content of a brand-new book for culinary inspiration. And despite the number of recipes now found online, surveys like the one conducted by NPD BookScan for 2018 show that the sheer number of free recipes on the internet has not taken away from the need for cookbooks. According to Forbes, it also indicates that cookery fans have continued to buy cookbooks — either to look for ideas or simply because they are good reads.

The James Beard Foundation, which honors the efforts of cookbook writers through its Book Awards, is holding this year's ceremonies under the theme "Gather for Good." As the Foundation's Vice President of Awards, Dawn Padmore, points out, it is inspired by the community's "celebration of excellence, community, and gathering together with food as our common ground." 

The awards stand out this year because while the coronavirus pandemic might be behind us to some extent, it continues to cast a long shadow over this year's media awards. The New York Times calls these cookbooks "cultural artifacts," which chronicle the evolution of the home cook and how techniques might have changed for so many ended up sheltering at home. As publisher Francis Lam of Clarkson Potter points out, "There's not one story about how we learned to cook or learned to love or hate cooking during the pandemic. People just became more of their cooking selves."

James Beard Nominees for Best General Cookbooks

If you're looking for all-rounders, there is a category that has you covered. Cookbooks, which were nominated under the "General" category, are meant to cover a wide range of recipes that come from different parts of the world and encompass different cooking styles.

To some, cooking means more than throwing ingredients together to create a meal. Nigella Lawson's "Eat, Cook, Repeat" proves just this, as she weaves her thoughts and life's narratives into her favorite ingredients and recipes. She writes: "Cooking is not something you do, and then it's finished with. It is a thread woven through our lives, encompassing memory, desire, and sustenance, both physical and emotional," per Amazon

In his book "Cooking at Home," celebrity chef David Chang reveals, "most of the rules you hear about cooking exist simply because someone made them up once. The fixation on rules means we've created generations of people who rely on recipes and can't actually cook a dish without one." This revelation, among others, is part of Chang's nominated tome, "Cooking at home," which Amazon shares is written with Priya Krishna. 

Umami is the keyword for Gregory Gourdet's acclaimed book, "Everyone's Table," where the chef offers recipes that have no gluten, dairy, soy, legumes, and grains. Bestselling author Michelle Tam is quoted on Amazon as calling Gourdet's book full of "show-stopping, umami-packed, globally inspired, technicolor dishes are the stuff dreams are made of."

James Beard Nominees for Baking and Desserts

If you're looking for dessert ideas, the James Beard Foundation has that covered with three nominations for Baking/Dessert cookbook for the year. The category, per the Foundation, covers books with recipes "focused on breads, pastries, and other desserts."

Cheryl Day's "Treasury of Southern Baking" stands out because of its tribute to the people behind the south's rich culinary tradition. As shared by Bon Appétit, author Cheryl Day writes: "This book would not have been possible without the millions of enslaved laborers who worked in the fields, plantations, and kitchens of the United States. My great-great-grandmother Hannah Queen Grubbs was born enslaved in 1838 and was among the women who created many of these Southern recipes."

Food blogger Kristina Cho's "Mooncakes and Milk Bread" is a tribute to Chinese baking tradition. Of the book, fellow food writer Molly Yeh writes: "This book brought tears to my eyes. Some of my tastiest childhood memories were at Chinese bakeries, and these photos, stories, and recipes have both transported me back in time and provided fresh inspiration to re-create these memories at home," (via Amazon). 

"Mother Grains" by Roxana Jullapat harnesses the power of natural grains from rustic rye to ground toast oats to showcase a selection of desserts guaranteed to please. Of the book, Civil Eats writer Hilary Macht says: "...reading her recipes makes you want to go out, buy some sorghum, and start baking," per Amazon.

James Beard Nominees for Vegetable-Focused Cooking

Asian cultures have long embraced vegetarianism, especially since two religions, Hinduism and Buddhism have made a plant-based-diet part of their practice, per the South China Morning Post, so it perhaps should be no surprise that two of the three Beard cookbook nominees for the category involve Asian cuisine.

Love, family, and food take center stage in Joanne Lee Molinaro's debut book "The Korean Vegan Cookbook." Lee Molinaro debunks the claim that you can't be vegan and Korean at the same time, especially since many of the traditional Korean small dishes showcased in the book are the same ones that come from her childhood (via Amazon).

As described on Amazon, family ties also figure prominently in Hetty McKinnon's tome "To Asia, With Love." McKinnon teaches readers how to make regional Asian dishes by making use of supermarket ingredients and introduces the reader to creative recipes with bold flavors.

Bryant Terry's book "Vegetable Kingdom" might seem like something of an outlier, but his book covers the essentials of vegan cooking, teaching readers how to make filling entrees, appetizers, soups, and mains, making it an important tool to help the reader master the skills needed in successful plant-based cooking, according to publisher Penguin Random House.

James Beard Nominees for Cookbooks on a Single Subject

We see how writing extensively on a single subject might trigger the writer to yawn a few times, but some people rise to the occasion with seeming ease. In honor of these writers, the James Beard Foundation recognizes those who have written books that focus on one ingredient, one dish, and a specific way to cook a dish.

It may be a highly specialized book for a specific audience, but Jesse Griffith's "The Hog Book" is written for the consumption of those who hunt to eat. Harvesting Nature says the book also acts as an "inclusive guide" written by a pro to entice others to pursue and eradicate feral pigs. 

On the other end of the spectrum is "Cool Beans," where Joe Yonan offers the best trade secrets for preparing different kinds of beans — from chickpeas to pulses. The compendium is thorough, leading Bon Appétit to call it "the bean bible we need."  The book leans into the culinary traditions of the Mediterranean, Africa, South America, Asia, and the American South, per Penguin Random House.

And lauded by Library Journal as "destined to become a go-to guide," this compendium on the different applications of grains — including barley, brown rice, and buckwheat — shows the reader to work with the different kinds of grains available to date. According to Amazon, "Grains for Every Season" shares grain origins, where each type is found, and how to use it.

James Beard Nominees for Restaurant and Professional

Neither for the faint of heart nor beginners, the James Beard awards' restaurant and professional division carries more advanced tips or techniques for cooking pros. 

Eater calls "Mister Jiu's in Chinatown: Recipes and Stories from the Birthplace of Chinese American Food" a chef's book, which provides perspective into Brandon Jew's take on the evolution of the cuisine in San Francisco. Co-authored with food writer Tienlon Ho, per Amazon, the book is described as "disciplined" and pays excellent attention to detail in how a dish is executed, from its ingredients to cooking methods.

This is one of the world's most popular dishes as we might never have seen it before. "Modernist Pizza" covers three volumes and a recipe manual on pizza, with the stories, the methods, and the science behind building the perfect pizza, making this the ultimate resource that any pizza geek can get behind (via Amazon). 

New York chef Missy Robbins's ode to pasta — aptly titled "Pasta" — is a detailed execution of an ingredient loved in nearly every corner of the world. According to the Amazon listing, the book features recipes and illustrations for making the most versatile pasta shapes by hand, allowing readers not just to make passable versions of an Italian staple but great ones.