A Longtime (We Mean That) Vegan Picks His FavoritesFor the uninitiated, vegan means, essentially, using no animal products—no milk, no eggs, no meat (obvs), no leather, no wool, and, sorry, yes, no cheese (that one hurts the most). Because, you know, animals like not being fucked with and/or killed, I’ll bet. Or it means being from Las Vegas. Either one. I’ve been the former (not the latter) for approximately 20 years, which means A) I’m very, very old, and B) I get to act like your grandparents talking about the Great Depression when I’m around other vegans.
I’ll say things like, “The nineties were a rough time for My People.” And they were. Lots of falafel and hummus from box mixes, lots of shelf-stable, very gray oat milk, and lots of cooking at home, because almost literally no restaurants knew what the word vegan meant back then. My former self wishes my current self were exaggerating, but I/we aren’t. Silver lining, though—I got to be a pretty great cook by necessity, and thanks in no small part to the scant few vegan and vegetarian cookbooks that existed back then. Early on in those terrible, carob-filled days, two trail-blazers said it didn’t have to be that way—Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, two feisty New Yorkers who started a short-lived but seminal public-access cooking show out of Isa’s Brooklyn apartment called the Post Punk Kitchen.
Early on in those terrible, carob-filled days, two trail-blazers said it didn’t have to be that way.
Cut to today: The Cult of Vegan has blownthefuckup; vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants abound, your favorite celebrity just went vegan AND already stopped being vegan (yay/boo!), and there’s likely a wall of specialty vegan cookbooks at your local bookstore that venture into every sub-sub-genre at this point. And, much to their credit, Moskowitz and Romero have continued to lead the vanguard this past decade-plus, with a dozen vegan cookbooks between them and two successful vegan restaurants for Moskowitz (Modern Love Omaha and Modern Love Brooklyn). But the crowning accomplishment of the veganic duo remains their 2007 self-described “ultimate vegan cookbook” Veganomicon, 336 pages of basic culinary tips, general how-to, and animal-product-free recipes for all occasions that take anyone from “Wait, where will I get my protein?” to “Hey, check out this pumpkin baked ziti with carmelized onions and sage crumb topping I made you and by the way did you know that pumpkin seeds contain almost as much protein as turkey breast?” in no time.
On the occasion of the ten year anniversary of Veganomicon, Moskowitz and Romero have released a special edition of their vegan cooking bible, updating it with 25 brand new recipes, revisions and updates for the original 250+ recipes, new color photos, and a new cover design (I run a creative agency; we have to mention these things). Whether you’re thinking about jumping on board the SS Vegan for better health, a better environment, or in order to reduce your overall jerkiness to animals—or you’re simply vegan-curious—this is without a doubt the best place to start and very likely to become your go-to in the kitchen. The book also features soy-free, gluten-free, and low-fat recipes for those really looking to push the envelope and streamline recipes for the on-the-go jet-setting types.
In 2017 Moby actually comes to your home and feeds you three times a day.
“Things have gotten so easy. Too easy. Like, in 2017 Moby actually comes to your home and feeds you three times a day. In 2007 he would do it once, tops,” Isa answered when I asked how the scene has changed for vegans since those dark days. “No, but for reals, in America at least, we have amazing vegan cheeses and donuts. And kale. So, there is no excuse not to be vegan.”
No Meat, No Cheese, No Problem
Looking to venture deeper into the vegan culinary world? Much like the realm of mainstream cookbooks, vegan cookbooks have now branched out into every imaginable specialty and sub-genre, some awesome and welcome, some deeply regrettable. Here are some of my favorites:
Delicious and Simple Vegan Desserts for Everyone
Angeleno Clara Polito started baking at 12 years old and quickly started selling her vegan baked goods at local indie showcases around the city. Now at a venerable 19 years old, Clara’s become a cookbook author. Beyond being filled with awesome, easy-to-follow recipes and basic how-tos on vegan baking, the art direction and style of the whole book is spot-on, infused with the look and feel of the independent music scene in LA. With an intro by skate legend and artist Ed Templeton and lists of songs to listen to while you bake, Clara Cakes will make you feel like you’re hanging with the cool kids as you ice your Sexy Cake (that’s not something the cool kids say, it’s an actual recipe…or maybe it’s both).
The Vegan Cajun Cookbook
Kristen “Krimsey” Ramsey
“Vegan Cajun‽” you ask? “Yes, vegan Cajun, I say. And “Excellent use of the interrobang!” I also say. Louisiana-native and former petroleum engineer Kristen “Krimsey” Ramsey gave up the petrol game to pursue a new, cholesterol-free approach to Cajun food, opening the world’s first vegan Cajun restaurant and self-publishing her DIY 120-page cookbook. She’s got takes on classic like jambalaya, po’ boys, étouffée and more. If you can’t find the in-print version (she’s currently working on the second printing), you can download the digital version for immediate gratification.
The Seitanic Spellbook
Recipes And Rantings Of The Vegan Black Metal Chef
Ever wish you could somehow marry black metal, Dungeons & Dragons, and vegan cooking? Guess what—You can. Brian Manowitz is the Vegan Black Metal Chef: sound engineer by night, chef also by night (it’s black metal, sooo…). Brian gained notoriety back in 2011 after he started posting in-character, in-costume videos cooking vegan recipes to self-composed black metal songs. I know what you’re thinking: yes they ARE awesome.
The Homemade Vegan Pantry
The Art of Making Your Own Staples
Looking to get artisanal? Miyoko’s got your back. This follow-up to her 2012 book Artisan Vegan Cheese is a must for any soup-to-nuts type who wants to know the ins and outs of everything that goes into a meal. It covers animal-free condiments, creamy dressings, homemade nut-based cheeses, fresh, handmade pastas, and more. Feeling lazy? Miyoko makes and sells some of the best cultured butters and aged nut cheeses out there (don’t laugh) through her company Miyoko’s Kitchen.
Smith & Daughters
A Cookbook (That Happens To Be Vegan)
Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse
An Australian vegan cookbook? Kind of. Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse run Melbourne-based Smith + Daughters, a highly lauded all-vegan restaurant that gives a Spanish twist to most dishes. This cookbook and the restaurant’s style of cooking follow in the very of-the-moment trend of vegetable-forward plates that’s so popular in non-vegan cooking right now…they just don’t throw bacon onto of everything or cook it in duck fat.
Vegan Soul Kitchen
Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine
In Los Angeles, we’re lucky enough to have a couple great vegan soul/southern vendors who pop up from time to time (Clean South is a go-to), but if I want vegan soul food on the regular, it usually means making it myself. Sweet Potato Soul by Los Angeles-based Atlantan Jenné Claiborne will be dropping in early February and—by all accounts—seems like it’ll be the new plant-based soul food/southern cookbook to have; in the meantime, though, there’s no going wrong with Bryant Terry’s bible for anyone wanting to cook in the rich southern tradition sans animal (and cholesterol).
Homestyle Recipes Worth Waking Up For
Isa Chandra Moskowitz
An oldie but goodie, this is my favorite solo Isa cookbook and I break it out pretty regularly whenever I want a nice, warm home-cooked brunch. From masterfully done tofu omelets to fluffy flapjacks to chocolate beer waffles to jalapeño garlic grits to homemade vegan breakfast sausages, this covers just about anything you’d want to make for America’s favorite (and I’d say most important) meal of the day.
200 Authentic and Fabulous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers
Terry Hope Romero
This book changed not only how I approach Latin cooking, it changed how I approach all cooking. I seriously can’t go back to canned beans (the sodium alone, man). As with many of the other cookbooks I hold on high, this one covers really helpful kitchen basics from start-to-finish and makes what might seem too involved at first glance easy through its excellent instruction. Just don’t take cues from Terry’s cover—watch what you’re chopping! Safety first!
Simple Vegan Cooking
Like many vegans, Mary Mattern taught herself how to cook by necessity and ended up combining a few of our favorite things. She took a job selling merch on music tours with musicians to becoming a private chef to the likes of Elie Goulding. The eminently instagrammable dishes in Nom Yourself blend comfort and health in easy-to-follow recipes.