Cooking at home is a big deal for our family. It’s an awesome way to spend time with the kids, choose the best quality ingredients, save money, and build skills (both for you and the kids!). The benefits of cooking at home are priceless.
One of the biggest tips I can give for cooking at home more is to have a handful of cookbooks you love, especially those rooted in the values that matter the most in your kitchen.
Cookbooks are awesome resources for learning new recipes (obviously), but they can also teach you new kitchen skills, help you meal plan, and simply get you out of a rut when you don’t know what to make. These eight books are some of our favorites.
All of these books prioritize whole foods and (mostly) high quality ingredients. A few of the books call for seed oils, but you can simply swap those for healthier fats. Getting seed oils out of your kitchen is one of the easiest ways to improve your health. Check out our e-book on swapping out seed oils for healthier fats in your kitchen.
Now, onto the best cookbooks for ancestral cooking!
The Best Cookbooks for Ancestral Cooking
1. Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
A classic for traditional fats and grain preparation, this book will guide you to replace every processed food in the house!
Nourishing Traditions is a very thorough and sometimes dense reference for the ways that modern diets have failed us and why and how to return to traditional foods. It is like the Joy of Cooking of nutrient-dense, traditional foods.
Fallon covers parts of nutrition in the beginning and gives a great deal of information and context about nutrition and related studies on the margins throughout the whole book. This book is an excellent resource for learning to cook organ meats and desserts with natural sugar. Fallon also gives instructions on how to properly prepare legumes and grains through soaking and fermentation so that they are easily digestible and their nutrients are available for our bodies to process.
These sections, a bit on beverages, along with the thorough basics of soups, fish, poultry, eggs, and vegetables makes this book one of our go-tos.
2. Healthy Living Made Easy by Thrive Market
If you’re looking for a one-stop shop for meal prep, here it is. Every recipe comes with a QR code that will quickly add the ingredients to your shopping cart on Thrive Market. Meal planning couldn’t be easier than that. If you’re busy and trying to get in the kitchen more, this is a great tool.
This book has a ton of super simple, nutrient dense recipes with many options for folks with different dietary needs like gluten-free, dairy-free, and nut-free, so you can navigate meals for yourself, family, or guests with different allergies or sensitivities. Organized by breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this book makes it easy to pick out a few meals for the week and get the ingredients you need. I really like the recipe for salmon cakes and the superfood breakfast cookies.
We love shopping at Thrive Market. They have organic options at reasonable prices, and I love using the auto-ship feature for pantry staples that I don’t want to run out of.
Use this link for 40% off at Thrive Market, and in most cases you can get this book free with a membership purchase too!
3. Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat
This book teaches you the theory of cooking, aka how to cook without a recipe. (It has some great recipes too.)
This is one of my first recommendations to folks who are trying to get in the kitchen more but don’t have a natural confidence for cooking. Nosrat teaches you how to properly salt things, what elements in the kitchen are acidic, and how to combine the basic flavors to create something balanced and delicious. She breaks down different cooking terms and techniques like braising, poaching, sauteing, blanching, etc, and gives some super helpful basic how-tos including the best way to slice and dice an onion.
All of her recipes have multiple variations and invite you to substitute what you have available in your kitchen or what you are most drawn to. Oh, and the illustrations are awesome.
One caveat is that this book does call for grapeseed or canola oil in a few recipes. At My SuperHero Foods, we avoid seed oils whenever possible, so we recommend simply swapping out another fat for these–such as olive oil for a mayonnaise or grass fed tallow for frying.
4. Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg
This book is a great one for revamping vegetables in your kitchen.
It’s not the most beginner-friendly book on our list, but if you are excited about bringing more vegetables to your family’s plates, then give it a whirl.
The book is organized by season (splitting summer into early, middle, and late) and then by vegetable, so you can find a recipe based on what is available. This book is set up to accompany you to the farmer’s market where you can buy the freshest vegetables in season.
5. Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection by Jessica Prentice
Full Moon Feast is a great book for practicing reconnecting your cooking with the seasons. It contains thought-provoking essays about our modern relationship to food organized by seasonal moons as well as simple and nutritious recipes. This is a great choice if you are interested in the greater context food has in culture and want to dive deeper into seasonal eating.
I love her desserts which are rich in healthy fats and use traditional, unprocessed forms of sugar like maple syrup and unrefined palm sugar. She also has recipes for rendering lard and making ghee and some really interesting beverages like homemade root beer and a peaches and cream smoothie. The book also has a great assortment of soups and stews.
6. Small Victories: Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home Cooking Triumphs by Julia Turshen
If I had to choose just two words for this book, they would be accessible and encouraging.
This book, like Salt Fat Acid Heat ,is great for newer, less confident cooks. Though to be honest, even confident cooks sometimes need a reminder about how simple things can be delicious.
Each recipe includes a “small victory” like transforming leftover bread into something delicious, “learning to embrace water as an ingredient,” and massaging greens with oil and salt to soften them. You can take these little tips way beyond the recipe to improve your home cooking game. I appreciate the spin-offs offered for each recipe as well.
One of the most versatile recipes this book offers is “A Bowl of Anything Soup” which encourages you to use up whatever leftover ingredients are hanging around the fridge and prepare with frozen stock for these last minute weeknight moments.
This is another book that gets the seed oil caveat; it calls for grapeseed or canola oil in a few recipes. Again, we avoid seed oils whenever possible, so we recommend simply swapping out another fat for these–such as olive oil for a mayonnaise or grass fed tallow for frying. This book also uses olive oil to cook most things. We prefer to use olive oil raw or at low temperatures and choose a more stable fat like tallow or ghee to roast or fry.
7. Heirloom by Sarah Owens
This is a book for the adventurous!
Sarah Owens uses all sorts of interesting ingredients like pomegranates, scuppernong grapes, amaranth, emmer flour, and dandelion greens. Owens cares a lot about quality ingredients, encouraging readers to get what they can from the farmer’s market or even to forage it.
Her chicken and sourdough dumpling soup is amazing, and the orange cardamom cake recipe is so good, you can eat it for breakfast the next day (it calls for six eggs, two whole oranges, and sweetened with a cup of honey; it’s nearly a sweet quiche!).
This book has a host of sourdough bread and pastry recipes and traditional fermentation techniques to make drinks like kvass and snacks like probiotic granola bars. Recipes are accompanied by stories and tidbits about the ingredients, and the book is organized by season to help you step into seasonal eating.
8. Back to Butter: a Traditional Foods Cookbook by Molly Chester and Sandy Schrecengost
This book is like a mini version of Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions.
Back to Butter spends a good chunk of the book discussing the quality of ingredients like sprouted wheat, whey, quality raw dairy, pastured meat, and more. And the focus of this book (which is why we love it) is getting back to traditional fats like butter!
All the recipes in this book use traditional fats like butter, lard, and ghee. They also include recipes for condiments like ketchup, mustard, and sauerkraut. It finishes with some sweet dessert recipes that use traditional, unprocessed sugars.
There you have it! We hope at least one of these best books for ancestral cooking excites you and inspires you to get in the kitchen and try something new.