11 best vegetarian cookbooks

Mark National Vegetarian Week by cooking up a meat-free feast

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The Independent Online

More and more people are turning to vegetarian food, with an estimated 1.2 million of us in the UK now choosing to eschew meat. People are spurred on by healthy-eating campaigns such as Meatless Mondays, reports that cutting back on meat is environmentally-friendly and ever-tightening supermarket budgets. 

While the thought of no bacon with your full English and no roast chicken for Sunday dinner might upset committed carnivores, we want to draw attention to the fact there are so many tasty and nutritious all-veggie recipes out there to add to your repertoire

The cookbooks on this list are packed full of flavoursome, balanced meal ideas (you’ll still get your protein fix). They include a range of options to suit all lifestyles, with many helpfully separating the recipes into sections depending on how much time you have to prepare meals. 

Whether you have identified as vegetarian your whole life or have only recently considered going green, below is a selection of books to get you thinking about food in a modern, inspired way. Every book has either been released in the last year or is set for publication in the coming months, meaning you’ll be bang-up-to-date on the latest veggie trends. We tried some of the most delicious-sounding recipes to test how reliable and easy they were to make. If we can do it, you can too.

1. Very Veggie Family Cookbook by Sara Ask and Lisa Bjarbo: £14.99, Pavilion

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Bjarbo is a food blogger and Ask is a paediatric dietician, which makes for a stellar team in our opinion, especially as this book is aimed at parents hoping to build a more inventive, family-friendly repertoire of nourishing meals. Divided into three chapters (“Chaotic Days”, “Normal Weekdays” and “Weekend At Last”) for time efficiency, it is written in a fuss-free style, with none of the confusing jargon that often repels would-be cooks. Try the taco burger for a veggie twist on a kids’ favourite or the kale and blue cheese pasta bake for a quick but impressive dinner party dish. 

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2. Raw by Solla Eiriksdottir: £24.95, Phaidon 

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Described by actor Ben Stiller as “some sort of food fairy”, Icelandic chef Eiriksdottir has been a supporter of the raw food movement since the early Eighties and this one’s ideal for anyone with a special diet. Well ahead of the trend, her 75 high-nutrient dishes are clearly marked with symbols indicating their suitability for gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, raw and vegan diets, with high-quality photographs illustrating the meals and her country’s stunning landscape. Recipes from quinoa pizza and ginger pears to wholesome smoothie bowls are accompanied by “activity sections” featuring advice on picking wild berries in autumn and growing vegetables in confined spaces. Co-written with her daughter, who studied nutritional science, Eiriksdottir’s easy-to-follow book is the top choice for those who strongly believe that you are what you eat. 

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3. The Part-Time Vegetarian by Nicola Graimes: £20, Nourish 

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Not everyone wants to be a full-time vegetarian and the writer behind this clever, “flexitarian” cookbook knows that. These recipes are all veggie, but many also offer a “part-time” option suggesting how to add meat or fish if fancied. It’s an ideal selection of ideas for when hosting both veggie and non-veggie guests and struggling to please everyone. Halloumi hash is a fabulous way to use up leftover roasties and veg while cauli cheese rarebits make a great post-work snack and take just ten minutes to prepare. Never made your own ketchup? Try Graimes’ red pepper version and impress all your friends during BBQ season. 

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4. The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook by Salma Hage: £24.95, Phaidon

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This vibrant book from Hage, an authority on Middle Eastern cooking, proves just how exciting veggie food can be. She brings to life all the flavours of her Lebanese homeland, focusing on the ancient culture of mezze-style dining, with glossy, professional photographs to get you salivating. Her falafel and tahini sauce recipe is a great staple to have under your belt while the asparagus and feta quiche takes just 20 minutes to whip up and is fabulous for a picnic lunch. The drinks section at the front is a lovely accompaniment: blood orange juice with pomegranate and rosewater, anybody? Heavenly.

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5. The World of the Happy Pear by Stephen & David Flynn: £18.99, Penguin Ireland

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It’s hard to find two more enthusiastic veggie chefs than these former meat-eaters, the Flynn twins, who have earned the praise of none other than celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. This is their second cookbook, following on from bestseller The Happy Pear, and features even livelier, more tempting recipes for all the family. Delicious variations on hummus and pesto are highlights, not to mention the naughtier chocolate cookie dough balls. It also includes useful tips on introducing children to new food, stocking your cupboard and cooking the perfect veggie barbecue. Out 2 June.

Pre-order now 

6. Near & Far by Heidi Swanson: £20, Hardie Grant Books

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Swanson has been journeying all over the world in search of the yummiest dishes, from her hometown of San Francisco to Italy, Japan, Morocco, India and France. Bring a taste of the exotic into your kitchen simply by stocking up on the handy list of ingredients she provides at the start of each chapter - from couscous and tumeric to lentils and pine nuts, you’ll never suffer that demoralising ‘oh, I forgot a key ingredient’ moment again. You'll need kitchen gear such as a processor and pestle and mortar for some of the more advanced recipes, but newbies shouldn’t be put off. Classics such as tagine and tempura are definitely worth practising. 

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7. 200 Veggie Feasts by Louise Pickford: £4.99, Hamlyn

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Hamlyn’s easy-to-follow cookbook helps debunk the myth that vegetarian food takes longer to prepare. Split into sections from delicious brunches and hearty main meals to lighter salads and mouth-watering desserts, there are old favourites alongside more adventurous suggestions. Master the home-baked beans and you’ll never buy Heinz again. It’s small enough to keep in your bag and flick through when needing inspiration on your weekly shop, with full-page colour photographs accompanying each recipe. 

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8. The New Vegetarian by Alice Hart: £25, Vintage Books

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Feel-good food is the order of the day in this new book from the popular writer, where the emphasis is on using colourful, natural ingredients. Fans of Southern Asian and Vietnamese flavours will enjoy some of her Eastern-inspired recipes, while those following sugar-free and raw diets will also find tempting ideas to try. The “Thrifty” chapter is a plus for those on a budget and the roast pineapple, coconut and kaffir lime sorbet, the perfect pudding on a hot day, is one of our favourites. Recipes are clear and easy to understand, even in the midst of cooking stress. 

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9. At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well by Amy Chaplin: £25, Quarto

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Processed and refined foods are banned from Chaplin’s gorgeous book full of inspiring recipes that turn simple everyday ingredients into works of art. Roasted plums add tanginess to sweet honey vanilla ice-cream, while the humble aubergine forms the centrepiece to a fragrant Indian curry. Expect tempting but relatively simple recipes, accessible to experienced cooks and amateurs alike. 

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10. Vegetable Perfection by Mat Follas: £16.99, Ryland Peters & Small

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This cookbook from a former MasterChef winner is organised by types of produce, so if there’s a veg with a special place in your heart you can focus on the dishes that celebrate it. Follas’ wintery slow-roasted bakes stand out, as does his inventive pea panna cotta, luxurious champagne mushrooms and reinvigorating juices. 

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11. The Yoga Kitchen by Kimberly Parsons: £20, Quadrille 

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This new book from the founder of the health food Retreat Cafes combines vegetarian eating with recipes that Parsons sees as helping to balance your mind and energise your body, complementing the health benefits of yoga. Even if you’re not a committed yogi, you’ll find a lot to like here. Recipes are inventive and both free from refined sugars and all gluten free. The sweet potato scones are to die for and we’re big fans of the (slightly) less virtuous raw caramel slice with bee pollen. Out 19 May.

Pre-order now 

Verdict

It's hard to beat the concept of The Part-Time Vegetarian for the increasingly popular 'flexitarian' diet, but the Very Veggie Family Cookbook wins our top prize for accessibility, ease and eye-catching design. Near & Far is beautiful but perhaps too advanced for newbie chefs while Raw is the best option for anyone in need of a lifestyle cleanse. 

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