Gift Edit

15 Cookbooks That Make Great Mother’s Day Gifts

updated Mar 14, 2023
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This feature is part of The Kitchn’s Gift Edit, our editor-curated collection of gift ideas. Need more inspiration? Check out all our guides here.

There was a time when receiving a cookbook for Mother’s Day may have been as “exciting” as receiving a vacuum — useful, sure, but a bit lacking in glamour. But, with today’s gorgeous options, receiving a cookbook is an invitation to dive into something creative and inspired. A good cookbook can also be a practical tool to take care of dinner even when you’re not feeling totally up to the task. And, if your mom is already an enthusiastic cook, then a beautiful new volume will only encourage and enliven her time in the kitchen.

Of course, there is no one way to be a mother and there are many stages of motherhood, from the all-consuming days of infancy to watching your children grow up and live lives of their own. We chose cookbooks that try to represent this range, and hopefully, one of these titles will match up well with the mother in your life, bringing her and everyone she cooks for the joyful contentment of a belly well fed.

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Unforgettable pulls its recipes from author Paula Wolfert’s classic books, chosen with an emphasis on brain-healthy ingredients in response to her Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The photographs capture Wolfert’s food while Emily Thelin’s prose tells her story from her early years in New York City during the 1950s to her travels to Tangier, France, Morocco, and the Mediterranean. If you’re looking for a gift for a curious, bold, genuine, passionate cook who loves adventure, this is it. But be sure to buy two because you’re going to want to keep one for yourself.

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The authors of Kebabs take a global approach to kebabs, so while there’s obviously recipes from the Middle East, you will also find things from Japan, France, the U.S., West Africa, Thailand, and just about every country in between. All the proteins are represented, plus there are vegetarian/vegan substitutes. There’s also a great general how-to section on the skewers, the fire, marinades, and mops — and many recipes come with accompanying sauces and dips. If your mama is happy to stand before a mighty grill, bathed in sweat, smoke, and the delicious perfume of charred meat, then this book is for her!

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This cookbook is for the sugar mamas, for sure. But it’s also for that person who thinks candy making is too scary or too hard, because author Jami Curl (owner of Quin Candy in Portland, Oregon) makes it clear that the opposite is true: Candy is fun, creative, easy, and yes, magical. Recipes for lollipops, caramels, marshmallows, chews, sauces, and gumdrops cover the basics. Then, the excitement kicks in with flavors like black pepper, balsamic vinegar, smoked salt, roasted fruit, Aleppo pepper, and popcorn. Practical things like flavorings and tools are covered as well, and a source guide for ingredients and equipment helps a sweet-toothed mom find everything she will need to take her own magical journey.

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This book has a broad appeal. A beginner can pick it up and find wise and practical instruction; a more seasoned cook will page through, nodding and finding new inspiration. Deborah Madison’s recipes are minimal and straightforward, making it possible for the busiest mom to bring bright, vibrant food to her family table any day of the week. A beautiful offering, inside and out.

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A New Way to Bake offers a new approach to baking, which means it features better-for-you ingredients like whole-grain flours and natural sweeteners. There’s even an extensive DIY section for nut butters, handy charts, and other helpful techniques to build a modern pantry. From whole-wheat sticky buns to lemon-yogurt cupcakes, there is much happiness to be found in this book of baker’s delights.

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Author Elisabeth Prueitt used her experiences as a mum, professional chef, and business owner to create Tartine All Day, a cookbook she hopes will be as useful and relevant to her readers today as Joy of Cooking was for her in the past. This cookbook has a practical manual for every meal of the day, including snacks and desserts. It also covers large meals with recipes for a holiday turkey and leg of lamb. While it isn’t entirely gluten-free, it often uses alternative flours in innovative ways (Prueitt herself is gluten-intolerant). From its gorgeous, vivid pink and gilded cover to its final, heartfelt acknowledgements, this is a warm, welcoming, and exciting book.

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Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will give you the kind of sharp-but-fluid kitchen instincts that help you prepare meals more quickly and without having to double check how much of each ingredient to use. Author Samin Nosrat’s exuberant-but-exacting cooking style comes through and is shared generously. This book is definitely her baby — lovingly and carefully created and offered out into the world. It will instruct, cajole, delight, encourage, inspire, and motivate anyone who is even slightly interested in cooking. And it will make better cooks of those of us who already spend a decent amount of time in the kitchen.

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Learning how to cook for children is a big challenge for many mothers. Balancing nutrition, picky appetites, and busy schedules is no small task. If you know of a mom who might need some solid advice and inspiration for feeding her family, this is the book for her. Arranged by season with 10 complete meal plans for each one, there is plenty here, whether the mom in your life is feeding a baby or looking for prep help from older children. The recipes are the author’s family favorites and have been field tested in her own kitchen.

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If your mom loves art, food, and takes a more unconventional approach to life, she’s going to be thrilled with this book. Written by a woman who grew a garden on the roof of a museum in Queens, New York, Salad for President does indeed focus on salads, with more than 75 recipes from artist/cooks such as William Wegman, Tauba Auerbach, Laurie Anderson, and Alice Waters. There are plenty of studio visits and stories to be told, but seriously — this book is no slouch in the recipe department. It’s got my vote.

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Are you looking for a cookbook that is beautiful, innovative, accessible, modern — and, oh, just happens to be plant-based and mostly gluten-free? Then pair the mom in your life with this cookbook for a perfect meeting of delicious, healthy intentions and aspirations. Laura Wright’s cooking certainly has one foot in the hippie camp: There’s plenty of hemp, millet, and tempeh, which gives the book a grounded, earthy feel. But, a closer look reveals a sophisticated, international touch as well, with plenty of fresh herbs, chili, and citrus bringing a lively balance and brightness. There are many family-pleasing recipes here, including a significant dessert section, as well as drinks, small bites, and breakfasts.

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Written by New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark, this cookbook is all about helping you figure out what to have for dinner and showing you how to get it done quickly. The book is organized by main ingredients such as chicken, seafood, pasta, vegetables, etc., so you can start there and then find the specific recipe that suits your taste, available amount of time, and which other ingredients are in your fridge. You'll also find easy ways to upgrade dishes, such as by stirring charred lemon into pasta or tossing a grain bowl in Caesar dressing, so you're always left with food that's enticing and fresh.

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This book proves that the salad is a phenomenal starting point for delicious (and surprisingly hearty) meals. Through 60 recipes, you get ideas for upgrading your salads and for transforming seemingly random ingredients in your fridge and pantry into purposeful and nutritious salads that you enjoy eating. You'll also pick up tips that will change the way you think about salads forever, including a trick for fixing overly-salty dressing and one for keeping cut avocados green. Great for salad lovers and salad tolerators alike.

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Sarah Michelle Gellar developed this cookbook after realizing it was easier to get her kids to eat a wider variety of foods — including leafy, green vegetables — if she could involve them in the cooking process. The book focuses on food crafting ideas, such as turning ordinary brownies into frosted brownie pops, and it's organized by month, so you can find fun recipes for every major occasion and holiday. Pick this up to make sure your next Super Bowl or Halloween party really pops.

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Here, world-renowned chefs share their secret family recipes, along with personal anecdotes and stories about the beloved relatives that passed the recipes down. Part oral history, part cookbook, this collection offers fascinating (and delicious) insights into the ingredients, cuisines, and cooking techniques that inspired some of your favorite chefs. The book includes stories and recipes from chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Yotam Ottolenghi, Stanley Tucci, and more.

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With ice cream as its starting point, this book was guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser. You'll find recipes for creative and unexpected ice cream and frozen dessert flavors, such as grilled watermelon cremolada and spiced fudgesicles, as well as tons of ideas for fun toppings and mix-ins. The book also teaches you how to make homemade ice cream without an expensive ice cream maker and shares inspired tips for sprucing up store-bought ice cream. Plus, the editors share tips for turning completely melted ice cream into its own special treat.