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The Evolution of Vegan Cookbooks

The past decade has witnessed a remarkable rise in the popularity of veganism and plant-based diets. Some people choose them because of ethical and environmental concerns; others because of a desire for better health and wellness. Or a combination thereof.

More and more of our customers are interested in vegan recipes and cookbooks,  reflecting the growing interest in plant-based culinary creations. At the same time, vegan cookbooks have evolved from passionate beginnings to the diverse and innovative range of recipes that now grace our kitchen shelves. So, join us on a journey celebrating the vibrant and flavorsome world of plant-based cuisine.

The Early Days of Vegan Cookbooks

Vegan cookbooks can be traced back to the 19th century when vegetarianism and plant-based diets started gaining traction. One notable publication during this time was The Young Housekeeper by William A. Alcott, published in 1838. Although not strictly a vegan cookbook, it played a significant role in promoting vegetarianism and plant-based eating.

The Young Housekeeper emphasized the principles of health and moral living. Alcott advocated for a diet centered around fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes while abstaining from meat, fish, and alcohol. The book contained recipes and practical advice on vegetarian cooking and household management, addressing topics such as meal planning, food preservation, and nutrition.

In the following years, other influential cookbooks emerged, further contributing to the development of vegan cuisine. In 1910, Rupert H. Wheldon’s No Animal Food: Two Essays and 100 Recipes—generally considered the first expressly vegan cookbook—was published. The Vegan Cookbook by Fay K. Henderson, published in 1949, also played a pivotal role in introducing plant-based recipes and promoting veganism. 

It's worth noting, however, that the term "vegan" was not coined until 1944 by Donald Watson, and the concept of veganism as we understand it today was still developing during that time. Therefore, earlier vegetarian cookbooks may have included some vegan recipes or plant-based options, even if they did not explicitly use the term "vegan."

These early vegan cookbooks set the stage for the evolution of plant-based cuisine and the diverse and creative vegan cookbooks we enjoy today. They laid the groundwork for future authors and chefs to explore innovative techniques, experiment with plant-based ingredients, and showcase the possibilities of vegan cooking.

The Challenges Early Vegan Cookbook Authors Faced

Early vegan cookbook authors faced an uphill battle finding publishers willing to take a chance on their books. Most early books came from small publishers whose reach was primarily to alternative bookstores. Mainstream publishers and bookstores were typically hesitant to embrace works promoting plant-based diets, often considering them too niche or unconventional. As a result, these authors struggled with limited distribution, and their cookbooks did not reach a wide audience.

During most of the twentieth century, veganism and plant-based diets were not widely recognized or understood.  Veganism faced cultural resistance and stereotypes based on misconceptions. Plant-based diets were seen as restrictive, tasteless, or nutritionally inadequate. 

For instance, there was a mindset that vegetarians were at risk of not getting enough protein, and vegans even more so. So nuts, beans, and soy products were often crammed into every dish for vegans, while vegetarians often found recipes with lots of eggs and cheese. It didn’t matter if these added ingredients made the dishes taste better, and they often did not.

So it fell to vegan cookbook authors to dispel these biases by showcasing through their recipes that vegan (and vegetarian) food could be appetizing, diverse, and healthy.

There was also a prevalent notion that even if someone chose to give up meat, they would still desire food replicating the taste and texture of meat. This belief had an impact on how recipes were approached and created. Rather than exploring innovative and delicious ways to showcase ingredients like chickpeas, the focus shifted towards finding ways to utilize chickpeas in recipes that mimicked the appearance and flavor of traditional meat dishes, such as meatloaf. As a result, the emphasis shifted from culinary creativity to replicating familiar meat-based meals with vegan alternatives.

Despite the odds, early vegan cookbook authors were pivotal in laying the foundation for the wider acceptance and popularity of veganism and plant-based diets. Their tenacity, creativity, and dedication to promoting plant-based eating paved the way for subsequent generations of authors, who built upon their work and contributed to the burgeoning interest in vegan cuisine.

Vegan Cookbooks in the 21st Century

Book cover Veganomicon

The 21st century has witnessed an explosion of vegan cookbooks, reflecting the growing popularity and interest in plant-based diets. These cookbooks showcase the creativity, variety, and flavors of vegan cuisine while addressing the needs and preferences of a diverse audience. Here are some notable examples:

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Moskowitz & Terry Romero, published in 2007, quickly became a staple in vegan kitchens. This comprehensive cookbook offers over 250 recipes ranging from comfort foods to international dishes. It provides a wealth of information on vegan ingredients, cooking techniques, and tips for creating flavorful meals. Veganomicon has played a significant role in dispelling the myth that vegan food is bland or lacks variety.

And it doesn’t hurt that Moskowitz and Romero are fun and irreverent writers. There’s nothing preachy about Veganomicon. The authors want you to enjoy and have fun eating plants.

In 2015, Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant That Is Reinventing Vegan by Tal Ronnen introduced readers to the innovative and upscale vegan cuisine served at the renowned Crossroads Kitchen restaurant in Los Angeles. The cookbook features elegant and sophisticated plant-based recipes. Tal Ronnen's book aims to challenge preconceived notions about vegan food, emphasizing that it can be refined and satisfying for even the most discerning palates.

Of course, the internet and social media have played a large part in the rising popularity of veganism. For example, Joanne Lee Molinaro, a star on TikTok (@thekoreanvegan), offers an appealing array of traditional dishes and her own adaptations that are full of flavor. Her book, The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes from Omma's Kitchen, published in 2021, celebrates the vibrant flavors of Korean cuisine in a vegan context. Molinaro shares personal stories, cultural insights, and traditional Korean recipes adapted to be plant-based. 

These books, among many others, contributed to the mainstream popularity of vegan cookbooks in the 21st century. They showcased the versatility of plant-based ingredients, debunked myths about vegan food, and demonstrated that vegan cooking could be accessible, appetizing, and suitable for various culinary preferences and cultural backgrounds. 

How the Availability of Ingredients Has Affected the Growth of Veganism

Vegan cooking and cookbooks have also benefited from the fact that, in many places, a much wider range of fruits and vegetables is now available than in the 20th century. At the same time, it’s easier to find prepared foods that are plant-based, such as fish sauce replacements. Cookbook authors have taken advantage of this new wealth to develop innovative recipes catering to a wide range of tastes and preferences.

Book cover Mission vegan

Published in 2020, Mission Vegan: Wildly Delicious Food for Everyone by Danny Bowien showcases plant-based recipes inspired by his popular restaurant, Mission Chinese Food. The book reflects the expanding availability of ingredients by featuring unique and globally influenced vegan recipes. With the increased use of ingredients like specialty spices, exotic fruits, and alternative proteins, authors like Bowien have been able to create vegan dishes capturing the flavors and essence of diverse cuisines.

Released in the same year, Bryan Terry’s Vegetable Kingdom, the Abundant World of Vegan Recipes, celebrates the abundance of plant-based ingredients and their versatility. The book explores the diverse range of vegetables, grains, legumes, and herbs, showcasing how they can be combined to create flavorful and satisfying vegan dishes. Alert to the possibilities inherent in the spread of farmers' markets, organic produce, and specialty ingredients, authors like Terry have highlighted the richness and potential of plant-based cooking.

The expanded availability of ingredients has also contributed to the development of vegan substitutes and alternatives. This has allowed cookbook authors to recreate traditional meat, dairy, and egg-based recipes using plant-based ingredients, enhancing the appeal and accessibility of vegan cooking. Plant-based milk, vegan cheeses, meat alternatives, and egg replacements have become more widely available, enabling authors to create familiar and comforting dishes that align with vegan principles.

Additionally, the availability of ingredients has supported the exploration of global cuisines in vegan cooking. Cookbook authors have been able to draw inspiration from different cultures and adapt traditional recipes to align with plant-based principles. The increased availability of international spices, condiments, and specialty ingredients has allowed for the creation of authentic and diverse vegan dishes encapsulating the essence of various culinary traditions.

How Vegan Cookbook Authors Now Cater to a Range of Needs

Vegan cookbooks have evolved to cater to a wide range of dietary needs, ensuring individuals with various preferences and requirements can find suitable recipes.

Take The Vegan Pastry Bible by Toni Rodriguez, published in 2018. This book addresses the dietary needs of individuals who follow a vegan lifestyle but still want to enjoy indulgent baked goods. The recipes in this book replace animal-based ingredients like eggs and butter with plant-based alternatives, allowing individuals to create pastries free from animal products while maintaining taste, texture, and visual appeal. This book is directed towards professional bakers—an indication that bakeries and restaurants are embracing plant-based desserts in response to customer demand.


Book cover Sushi Modoki
Sushi Modoki: The Japanese Art and Craft of Vegan Sushi by Iina Sawabatake unravels the exquisite craftsmanship behind preparing sushi tailored for those adhering to a vegan lifestyle. It stays true to the authentic flavors and techniques of traditional Japanese cuisine.


The book provides plant-based alternatives to fish and seafood, using ingredients like tofu and vegetables in creative flavor combinations to recreate the experience of sushi without animal products. 

Then there are books for those with less time to cook vegan dishes, like Five Ingredient Vegan: 100 Simple, Fast, Modern Recipes by Katy Beskow. This book helps people with limited time or minimal cooking experience by providing quick, straightforward recipes requiring only a few key ingredients.

The Impact of Vegan Cooking

The impact of vegan cookbooks extends beyond just the culinary realm. They have served as powerful tools in spreading awareness about the benefits of plant-based diets, including improved health, reduced environmental impact, and ethical considerations. By offering enticing alternatives to traditional meat-based dishes, these cookbooks have debunked the misconception that vegan food is restrictive or lacking in flavor.

As we continue on this transformative journey towards more sustainable and compassionate food choices, it is essential to recognize the vast array of vegan recipes available. These cookbooks are a treasure trove of creativity and inspiration waiting to be explored. Whether you are a seasoned vegan or just beginning to dabble in plant-based cooking, these resources offer endless opportunities to experiment with flavors, ingredients, and cooking techniques.

We have a variety of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks available online to inspire you. If you can’t see what you’re looking for on the website, contact us at, and one of our expert team will find the perfect book for you.
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