If you’re new to cooking from scratch, you might wonder how some people can just make a dish without a recipe.
While there are many dishes that you won’t need a recipe for after making them a time or two, cookbooks can be helpful if you’re completely new to cooking from scratch.
Cookbooks can also help if you’re stumped for meal ideas or want help to put together a meal from individual ingredients.
These are my top 4 (well, 4-ish, as you’ll see later in the post) cookbooks if you want to start cooking homemade, nourishing food at home for your family!
This has long been one of my favorite cookbooks and is, by far, the most used cookbook on my shelf.
While some of the recipes use more processed ingredients, a majority of them start with the individual elements and are super simple if you’re just starting to cook from scratch.
Some of my favorite recipes to make from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook are:
- Banana Bread
- Double Chocolate Muffins
- Fettuccine alla Carbonara
Looking at that list, you can tell I love using recipes from this cookbook for baking breads and desserts. I think this is mostly because I tend not to use recipes for our staple savory dishes that we make pretty often.
Though, when I’m in a bit of a supper rut (like I am right now), there are lots of delicious recipes for those as well, so I should check out some of the savory sections again!
The Better Homes and Gardens cookbook also has some really handy reference sections, including:
- different cuts of meat
- how to cook specific grains, rice, or beans
- how to adapt cooking times based on the size of pan that you’re using
Plus, this cookbook has been around for so long that you can find it in pretty much any thrift store!
When my parents started getting more involved in organic and sustainable agriculture, one of the groups they became familiar with was the Weston A. Price Foundation.
The WAPF focuses on helping people return to the traditional diets of past cultures and away from the highly-processed foods that are wreaking havoc on our bodies and our health.
One their books is a combination research book and cookbook called Nourishing Traditions, written my Sally Fallon Morell.
My mom made quite a few recipes out of this cookbook as we learned how to prepare food in more traditional ways.
When I moved into my own house, I got a copy of Nourishing Traditions so I wouldn’t have to ask my mom to send me recipes when I wanted to make them and realized I didn’t own the cookbook.
Some of our favorite recipes to make from Nourishing Traditions are:
- Soaked Breakfast Porridge
- Vanilla Ice Cream
Nourishing Traditions also has a ton of information about the nutritional benefits of certain Whole Foods, how to ferment foods to increase their nutritional benefits, and how/where to source healthy foods for your family.
Related Post: Where to Buy Natural and Organic Products on a Budget
Okay, so this isn’t one cookbook, but I love using cookbooks from Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman!
Ree is a ranch wife, and her recipes are no-nonsense and down to earth. Most of them, unless she’s sharing a menu for a party or other special event, stick with pretty standard ingredients that are easy to keep on hand.
I own two of Ree’s cookbooks, but she has many more. I’d encourage you to get any of them, because I have yet to find recipes in them that I didn’t like (my mom and sister have some of her other cookbooks so we’ve tried quite a few of her recipes).
Some of my favorite recipes from the Pioneer Woman cookbooks are:
- Biscuits and Sausauge Gravy (I tend to stick with my usual biscuit recipe from BH&G, but I follow Ree’s gravy instructions!)
- Breakfast Burritos
- Cheesy Olive Bread
If you’re a visual learner, these cookbooks are great! Each step of the recipe has a photo to go with it so you know actually what you’re supposed to be doing in that step.
My grandpa gave me and my sister this cookbook since he knew we liked cooking. I haven’t used it a ton, but it’s an axcellent resource if you want a one-stop reference on how to cook a lot of different foods!
Like the name states, this cookbook has recipes for (pretty much) everything. I would add a disclaimer that it is focused more on how to cook every “kind” of ingredient (think a fruit, vegetable, cut of meat, etc.) and less on having recipes for every single recipe you’d ever want to make.
That being said, this cookbook is a solid 3 inches thick and you could cook a new recipe every day and still take years to work your way through the entire book.
You can look up specific ingredients in the index of the book, or search by dish/meal type in the individual chapters.
Some recipes that we’ve made from How to Cook Everything include:
- Vanilla Ice Cream
Okay, so I feel like I’ve cooked more from this cookbook and had good success with the recipes, but for the life of me can’t seem to remember what else my sister or I have tried from it.
It has such delicious-looking recipes, though, that I need to get on that and try some more of them!
These recipes do tend to be a little more in-depth and science-focused than those in the BH&G cookbook, but they’re still delicious and a good reference if you have an ingredient and want to know how to use it!
The only reason this cookbook is in the honorary mentions is because I got it for Christmas and (embarrassingly) haven’t actually used it yet.
However, I know my sister and quite a few other people who love to cook from scratch who can’t stop raving about this cookbook.
Instead of diving right into recipes and assuming you know how to cook, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat starts by teaching you the different elements of dishes and cooking techniques that you’ll need to cook the recipes in the rest of the cookbook.
If you start and work your way through this cookbook and all its instructional recipes, you’ll probably know more about cooking than I do!
Family recipes or local town/school cookbooks
Since we’re all from different areas, we almost definitely won’t have access to the same local cookbooks, but these and family recipes are a great place to start cooking from scratch!
Now, I would add a note that if you’re new to cooking from scratch, you probably shouldn’t start with the recipes your grandma only made once a year for Christmas or another special occasion. These recipes tend to be more time-consuming and complex.
Instead, look for those recipes you remember you mom or grandma (or someone else) making all the time. Those recipes that were on an almost weekly rotation tend to be the staple recipes that only took a little time and effort to throw together.
Cookbooks put together for town or church anniversaries or by schools tend to have these types of recipes in them, just from other people’s grandmothers instead of yours.
In fact, a lot of the recipes I remember my grandma making all the time when I was growing up (we lived just down the road from her) were from these types of cookbooks.
When I got married and moved back to my husband’s hometown, his grandma gave us some of the town’s local cookbooks, so I’ve been using them some as well!
I hope this gives you a good starting place for cookbooks to use when you’re just getting started cooking from scratch!
Once you start cooking from scratch and taste the difference from store-bought, you’ll wonder why people like the taste of the more processed foods. Nothing can beat the taste of a good, home-cooked meal!