Food & Drink

The Best Cookbooks for Southerners in 2020

Our favorite guides to food and drink this year (here, find our other favorite book picks)

View as Slideshow

The Duke’s Mayonnaise Cookbook: 75 Recipes Celebrating the Perfect Condiment, by Ashley Strickland Freeman

For Ashley Strickland Freeman, a Charleston, South Carolina–based recipe developer, Duke’s mayonnaise is her secret ingredient and obsession, writes Kinsey Gidick. “Over the past three years, Freeman, the food stylist for Food Network’s Delicious Miss Brown, has gone through forty-eight pounds of the special sauce—putting it in everything from chocolate cake to hot chicken to green tomato pie—to craft her mayo opus.”

Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing Bayou, by Melissa M. Martin

Before baking these sweet potato biscuits or these pillowcase cookies, stirring this jambalaya, or gathering ingredients for any of the other delightfully Deep South recipes in this book, find a cozy chair and rejoice in the photographer Denny Culbert’s evocative images and the chef Melissa M. Martin’s poetic storytelling. “Louisiana’s coast, a thick, ever-changing blanket of marsh, is disappearing, and our wetlands and bayous are disappearing along with it,” writes Martin, the daughter of a fisherman and granddaughter of oyster farmers, who penned an ode to her home during hurricane season. “I want to make sure we put the Cajun food I grew up with and the people responsible for it on record.”

All the Thyme in the World: A Collection of Recipes from the Grounded Music Industry, edited by Maria Ivey

“When you get a cookbook passed down, it’s grease splattered, dog-eared, with notes in the margins,” says Maria Ivey, the Nashville music publicist who organized this project after she witnessed friends and colleagues lose gigs to COVID-19 and struggle to rebuild homes after this spring’s devastating tornadoes in Nashville. In true Junior League cookbook fashion, all proceeds go to a cause: the Music Health Alliance’s COVID-19 and Nashville Tornado Relief Fund. Read the full story by Dacey Orr Sivewright here.

Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes, by Bryant Terry

Growing up in Memphis, Bryant Terry piled a red-and-green cabbage slaw on his plate next to fried fish, the same style of slaw served at so many rib joints in his hometown. He shares that simple Southern masterpiece along with dozens of other fresh vegetable–based recipes (like these snappy pickled mustard greens) for that overflowing CSA bundle at your doorstep.

This Will Make It Taste Good: A New Path to Simple Cooking, by Vivian Howard

The North Carolina chef and TV personality Vivian Howard provides pep talks aplenty in This Will Make It Taste Good, as well as the Little Green Dress sauce she plops on everything from deviled eggs to pizza, and other can-do recipes such as these Gas-Station Biscuits.

I Cook in Color: Bright Flavors from My Kitchen and Around the World, by Asha Gomez

For I Cook in Color, the Atlanta chef Asha Gomez celebrates Southern ingredients and worldwide flavors: a Vidalia onion soup capped with Gruyère; a crawfish boil perfumed with cumin and saffron. Here, she shares a lovely Roasted Butternut Squash with Tomato Gravy.

Grow Fruit & Vegetables in Pots: Planting Advice & Recipes from Great Dixter, by Aaron Bertelsen 

The follow-up to the English countryside–based gardener Aaron Bertelsen’s best-selling The Great Dixter Cookbook, this lovely tome presents container gardening tips (Bertelsen offered some to G&G here) plus fifty recipes Bertelsen discovered on his travels, including to Texas and Tennessee. From a friend in Memphis for example, he learned how to sneak as many garden-grown greens into a bowl of soup as possible. Plus, he shared two more recipes with G&G: this gorgeous fig leaf ice cream recipe and a light and bright risotto.


Chaat: Recipes from the Kitchens, Markets, and Railways of India, by Maneet Chauhan, Jody Eddy

It’s not always on the menu at her Chauhan Ale & Masala House in Nashville, but Maneet Chauhan serves a tamarind gin and tonic when a guest asks for a tipple inspired by India. The chef and Chopped judge shares that recipe and more vibrant odes to her native country in Chaat.

Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes from My African American Kitchen, by Alexander Smalls, Veronica Chambers

Alexander Smalls won both a Grammy and a Tony for his cast recording of Porgy and Bess, and he earned a James Beard Award for his 2018 cookbook, Between Harlem and Heaven. Now, he brings all of his interests together in this symphony of a cookbook, which he described in a G&G interview earlier this year: “None of the recipes in this book are heirlooms—this is not your mama’s kitchen,” he says. “I’m older, I have a view, and now I’m presenting that to you.”

Welcome to Buttermilk Kitchen, by Suzanne Vizethann

This is Southern comfort food perfected. Suzanne Vizethann runs Buttermilk Kitchen restaurant in Atlanta, and while folks are cozy at home, she shares her breakfast and brunch favorites (heavy on egg and waffle dishes), as well as new twists on savory classics, and, graciously, an entire chapter devoted to leftovers. With G&G, she shared a brunch game plan.

A Good Meal Is Hard to Find: Storied Recipes from the Deep South, by Amy C. Evans and Martha Hall Foose

The beloved cookbook author Martha Hall Foose is back after a decade with this charming collection that pays tribute to old community cookbooks. Find within it these fun Delta Hot Tamale Balls, and never, ever forget that she’s the one who brought us these bacon crackers.

The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food, by Marcus Samuelsson, with Yewande Komolafe and Osayi Endolyn

In addition to recipes, this fall cookbook includes celebrations of the people behind them, including an homage to the authors Michael Twitty and Jessica B. Harris—grilled short ribs with a piri-piri marinade and saffron tapioca pudding.

See You on Sunday: A Cookbook for Family and Friends, by Sam Sifton

The New York Times editor (and former restaurant critic) Sam Sifton has years of recipe-collecting experience from his work at the Gray Lady, and in this comforting bear-hug of a cookbook, he shares some of his most interesting and beautifully told food nuggets from his Southern friends—collard greens in potlikker, Texas chili, and Pableaux Johnson’s perfect pot of Louisiana red beans and rice included.

The Good Book of Southern Baking, by Kelly Fields

Kelly Fields, the James Beard Awarded chef-owner of the bakery Willa Jean wants people to stop stressing about baking. She shared some tips as well as recipes from her delightful new cookbook here—don’t miss her riffs on Jiffy cornbread mix.

Flavor for All: Everyday Recipes and Creative Pairings, by James Briscione and Brooke Parkhurst

“Chef James Briscione has flavor down to a science,” writes editorial assistant Lindsey Liles. “During his time as the research director of the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, he studied the chemistry of food pairing—the hows and whys of what flavors go together.” His new cookbook Flavor for All: Everyday Recipes and Creative Pairings builds on his delicious, scientific knowledge of food.

An Entertaining Story, by India Hicks

Beauty and down-to-earth elegance mark every moment of hospitality created by the British tastemaker and designer India Hicks. In her new book, An Entertaining Story, Hicks and her longtime partner, David Flint Wood, who split their time between Britain and the Bahamas, share tips and ideas for entertaining with humor and generous fun—plus recipes, like this refreshing banana daiquiri to satisfy your wanderlust.

Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking for Whatever Reason, by Julia Bainbridge

“My Southern grandfather, the Virginia one who lived in Maryland, we loved drinking pickle juice together,” the author Julia Bainbridge told G&G. In her joyful new cookbook, an ode to not drinking alcohol (for any reason or amount of time), she shares yummy drink recipes collected on her travels such as this Nectar of the Gods recipe that includes pickle juice.