Must-Have Cookbooks

September 26, 2016

We believe we should all love where we live.

We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 




We're Chris + Julia

read more

What we're                   right now


browse the shop

Befores, afters, mood boards, plans, failures, wins. We’ve done a lot of projects, and they’re all here. 

We have a long-standing relationship with DIY, and love rolling our sleeves up and making it happen. 

Even when you don’t want to rip down a wall, you can make that space in your home better. Right now.

browse all

browse all

browse all




Popular Posts




Top Categories

Chris Loves Julia's Must-Have Cookbooks

We have more cookbooks in our home than any other type of book. We have a small batch on the kitchen counter that get rotated out from the shelf in the study. Chris keeps a stack on his nightstand and then there’s all the food magazine subscriptions we subscribe to filling our new sideboard and scattered throughout a few magazine racks in the house, too. All that to say, you can frequently find Chris lounging on the couch in the evening, after the girls go to bed, with a good cookbook–he reads them like novels. Some are labeled duds (sorry, The Kinfolk Table–you’re still a very pretty coffee table book), and others we use and reference all the time. Here are our 16 must-haves:

Chris Loves Julia's Must-Have Cookbooks

1. Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes by Yotam Ottolenghi–We aren’t vegetarians but we do appreciate and love vegetables and this book has definitely helped us step up our vegetable game. This book has helped us thoroughly enjoy meatless days around the house.

2. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael T. Murray–This is not a recipe book but more of a food reference guide. 8 years ago I was very ill and Chris essentially cooked me back to health. We still reference this book to better understand what our body needs for fuel if we are experiencing any ailments. (sidetone: We also believe in doctors.)

3. Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer–This is the classic, must have book that has been around for generations and recently went back to its roots (you can burn your 1997 version). Not only are their recipes, but if you are interested, this will actually hold your hand and teach you how to cook.

4. Pok Pok by Andy Ricker–Chris’s favorite cuisine is Thai so lately he has been absorbing all the information he can find on it. If you are wanting to learn more about Thai food and cooking it, this is the book for you.

5. The Professional Chef by The Culinary Institute of America--The actual textbook that Chris used for his culinary class (On Cooking) was 5x as much as this one and contained all the same information. An excellent book to keep handy if you want to reference how to cook/measure something specifically or if you’d like to teach yourself how to cook–this is the book.

6. The Flavor Bible by Karen PageChris’s all-time favorite cookbook that allows him to stretch his creative cooking. You can look up any ingredient and it will give you a list of other ingredients that it pairs well with along with substitutes, season and flavor profile. Incredible book.

7. One Pot by Martha Stewart Living–Recipes you can do in one pot, whether that is a skillet, crockpot, stock pot, roasting pan, pressure cooker or dutch oven. It’s really my kind of book–less mess, and quick, delicious recipes.

8. Good Eats 3 by Alton Brown–If you love the way Alton Brown explains food on tv, then you’ll fly through his books smiling the whole time. Amazing recipes and he answers all the “whys.” We saw his show last year and are now convinced, if Alton Brown does something, it’s going to be great. His books are no exception.

9. Sourdough by Sarah Owens–All about baking (sweet and savory breads!) with whole and sprouted grains and healing the body through naturally fermented foods.

10. The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt–Everything from how to organize your fridge and pantry to walking you through each meal (the book is divided by meal type) and how to char your steak but still have a perfect, medium-rare center. It even has 30 minutes or less recipes.

11. Sauces by James Peterson–The only sauce book you need. It covers everything from white Sauces for meat and vegetables to dessert sauces.

12. Project Smoke by Steven Raichlen–A step-by-step guide to cold-smoking, hot-smoking, and smoke-roasting, and a collection of 100 innovative recipes for smoking every kind of food, from starters to desserts.

13. Martha Stewart’s Cooking School by Martha Stewart–If you aren’t quite ready to read a culinary textbook on cooking (see #5) then this book is for you…errrr me. It goes through simple things like how to hold a chef’s knife, to how to make the perfect pot roast and nail that pie crust. It’s my favorite book we have.

14. Herbs & Spices by Jill Norman–After growing up on food that was seasoned only with salt and pepper at the table we put on ourselves, spices kind of eluded me. This book is packed full of thoughtful information about complimentary herbs and spices that would inspire any on-the-fly cooking adventurer.

15. It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig–This is the companion book to the popular diet (that we’ve done 3x now) The Whole 30. While I don’t agree 100% with what the Whole 30 preaches, this book helped us understand our food habits and how we look at food in general.

16. The Pizza Bible by Tony Gemignani–Our list wouldn’t be complete without a book about my favorite food. From fluffy Sicilian pan pizza to classic Neapolitan margherita with authentic charred edges, and from Chicago deep-dish to cracker-thin, I love them all and this book has more than 75 recipes covering every style.

What do you think?

  1. amy says:

    “sidenote: we also believe in doctors” Hilarious. Love it. Thanks for the suggestions – I love cookbooks too and not just for recipes. I love to read Jaime Oliver’s cookbooks even if I’m not crazy about his food. I just love to read all kinds and check them out of the library. Sometimes I even make recipes from them, too. :)

  2. Doni says:

    Actually, on that note would you/Chris consider a post on what spices/seasonings/oils/whatever that you often cook with (in particular maybe more unique ones or ones you use in a not-typical way)?

    I’m always looking for new things to add to my cooking and so ones that can be recommended as something you’ve found a variety of uses for would be awesome!

  3. Doni says:

    Thank you!
    I love knowing what cookbooks people who cook actually use. I love picking them up, but I never know if I’ll end up actually using it or not until I get it home. I feel much more confident knowing that it’s one your family really uses.

  4. Stephanie says:

    I love this!!!!!

  5. Kaitlin says:

    I used to love your blog but notice that I am not reading it daily anymore because there are too many advertisements and sponsored posts. Remember when you wrote a REAL blog? I felt so much more connected during that time. I know you have to make money, but it’s like reading a commercial every day.

    • Julia says:

      I’m sorry you feel that way. This is a real unsponsored post. So was yesterday’s and tomorrow’s and the day before. Not sure what you’re looking for but I hope you find it.

  6. Jeanna says:

    I love Alton Brown! Everything I’ve ever tried of his has always turned out :)

  7. Bethany says:

    Are Chris’ cookbooks still available???????

  8. Ling Wang says:

    Thanks for the recommendations: I’ve been thinking of buying PokPok but now I am sure I want it :) Also really curious about the Food Bible you recommend! It looks great too :)

  9. Caitlin says:

    I just picked up The Food Lab this weekend and thought about buying it! Guess I should, huh?
    PS-Long live Good Eats. Alton Brown has my heart.

  10. Libby says:

    Man, cookbooks are the only books that I buy brand new anymore. Novels I can buy on my e-reader or at the used book store in town. But cook books? I sure have a soft spot for them.

  11. Tavia says:

    “Sidenote: We also believe in doctors”- This had me ROLLING. Thanks for these great reviews, you’ve definitely piqued my interest in a few of them.

all the latest

We believe we should all love where we live.

We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 

HI! We're Chris + Julia

read more

Load More

Reader Faves

SHop all

What We're                     Right Now

What We're                 Right Now

Looking for our favorite things? A place to shop our home room by room, or just catch up on what Julia's wearing / loving right now? Browse the CLJ shop. 


looking for inspiration? 

Last week, Chris and I had the incredible opportunity to travel to London for work. We were invited by Williams Sonoma and William Morris and Co to preview their newest collaboration and the inspiration behind it. It was my first time in London and although it was a quick trip, they brought us all over […]

Can We Send You Our Love Letter?

Another way for us to stay in touch! Joining our weekly newsletter gives you access to exclusive content, never-before-seen photos, your questions answered, and our favorite DIYs. Sign up below!

Follow Along on Instagram

Welcome to our online community where we've posted home, DIY, style, renovations, and family since '09. Renovating our #cljmoderncottage in Idaho and headed for new adventures in Raleigh, NC. #cljfam #cljtransformations