A Very Accurate Ranking of All the “Real Housewives” Cookbooks
You could create an entire book club based around Real Housewives publications and never run out. Tinsley Mortimer has a novel. Bethenny Frankel has a children’s book about her dog. The Dubrows have an anti-aging book where they refer to themselves as “Dr. and Mrs. Guinea Pig.” There’s almost a dozen tell-all-but-not-quite-all memoirs. And in the midst of all this Bravo-fueled literature, there’s a steady stream of recipes and food advice from your favorite brawling reality TV stars.
In the battle of the Real Housewives cookbooks, which one could actually teach you a thing or two in the kitchen?
I ranked (almost) all of the Real Housewives cookbooks based on which ones you could use as a real cookbook. I start with the best books and end with the … unfortunate ones. Note: There are a few lifestyle books in the mix, but they’re ranked solely on the food and recipe sections.
1. Simply Divine: A Guide to Easy, Elegant, and Affordable Entertaining by Lisa Vanderpump
Vanderpump’s book feels like a well-hosted party — the kind of event that straddles the line between flawless and cozy. This is a real cookbook with no Housewives gossip, no dated cultural references, and no insistence on the joys of low-calorie eating. She dishes out hearty British recipes like shepherd’s pie and cauliflower gratin, alongside genuinely useful advice on how to throw nearly every size and style of party. If you’re going to start cooking out of this book, make sure to buy some truffle oil, and don’t be alarmed by the various passages “written” by her dog, Giggy.
Best story to tell at a dinner party: That one time Sir Sidney Poitier ate dinner at Villa Blanca, right next to the cast of The Hills.
2. Indulge: Delicious Little Desserts That Keep Life Real Sweet by Kathy Wakile
Kathy Wakile is the master of elfin desserts. Her book is one petite, two-bite-sized sweet after another: babycakes, crumblekins, tiny pies. Broken down into seasons, this is the work of a low-key pro — the kind who shows up to Thanksgiving with a dessert spread fit for a miniature queen. That said, this book is for fairly experienced bakers, since her recipes are a bit complex and her love of tiny desserts requires lots of specialized equipment. Side note: I wish there was a reveal that Kathy keeps her sweets so small so she can feel like a giant.
Best bonus content: The throwback Jersey ’80s photos are too good.
3. The Skinnygirl Dish: Easy Recipes for Your Naturally Thin Life by Bethenny Frankel
If you’re a nervous or very new cook, Bethenny’s advice on stocking your kitchen and recommendations on variations for each recipe are straightforward and helpful. And her Boo Boo Banana Bread recipe is super moist, decadent, and shockingly healthy. The fact that her then-fiancé, now-terrifying-ex-husband is mentioned in nearly every recipe is unfortunate. This is, sadly, a common theme in the Housewives book world: Phaedra shows lots of love to long-gone Apollo in her book, and The Countess sings the praises of her first husband.
Best cameo appearance: The final chapter includes five recipes from Bobby Flay.
4. The Teresa Giudice Trio
There is not a huge difference between these books. They’re solid, Italian cookbooks laced with way more Housewives smack-talk than other books (this was actually a storyline on RHONJ). She gives Juicy Joe space to say a whole lot of nothing, and offers up cute recipe breakdowns from each of her kids.
Pick your flavor of Teresa’s food advice. Looking for something light? Try Fabulicious! Fast & Fit: Teresa’s Low-Fat, Super-Easy Italian Recipes. Not afraid of a full-calorie Italian meal? Fabulicious! Teresa’s Italian Family Cookbook is for you. Looking for light Italian food and a few digs at Bethenny Frankel? Check out Skinny Italian: Eat It and Enjoy It — Live La Bella Vita and Look Great, Too!
No matter what, you’ll get some decent advice and a handful of interesting recipes, with a hearty dash of dated drama.
Best chain restaurant nemesis: Olive Garden gets more shade in these books than Melissa Gorga and Caroline Manzo combined.
5. Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting by Bethenny Frankel
The diet advice is hit or miss, but some of the recipes are incredible. If you’re going to make one thing, make the butternut squash macaroni and cheese (and if you’re going to make two, bake a pan of the Joyful Heart chocolate muffins). There’s a lot of time spent on Bethenny’s career as a chef for celebrities. In 2017, it’s bizarre to think of a time when Bethenny was cooking for the stars instead of being one.
Best piece of trivia: Bethenny was Kathy Hilton’s assistant and used to babysit Paris Hilton.
6. Let Me Tell You Something by Caroline Manzo
Caroline’s book isn’t a cookbook, but you get a deep-dive into her family recipes that will make you want to be the next plus-one for a Manzo Sunday dinner. In between the antipasto and the Sunday sauce, she doles out advice on embracing your imperfect family and the joys of realistic holiday rituals. I don’t watch RHONJ and now I don’t want to, because I was accidentally charmed by her. Is she charming on the show? Tell me in the comments.
Best celebrity friend: Ellen Barkin?
7. I Can Make You Hot! The SuperModel Diet by Kelly Bensimon
Kelly Bensimon names an amazing amount of these recipes after herself. Kelly green juice, Kelly’s pink lemonade, Kelly green salad, Kelly Beet salad — you get it. Her breakfast recipes include scrambled eggs with frozen spinach, and the woman seriously loves her dehydrator. It’s a hodgepodge of pretty basic recipes, typically laced with some kind of dehydrated fruit or vegetable. She gets back to her RHONY roots with a gummi bear martini.
Best celebrity name drop: Russell Simmons wrote the foreword to this book. It also includes a recipe from Eric Ripert, who catered her wedding!
8. Skinnygirl Cocktails by Bethenny Frankel
Why does this book exist? Don’t we already have a take-home bartender in the form of Skinnygirl margaritas? There’s not a shot on RHONY these days that doesn’t include a bottle of Skinnygirl-something-boozy. Girl knows how to sell. Also the entire intro is lifted from The Skinnygirl Dish, and it’s focused on a drink-making formula, so you can basically come up with these cocktails yourself.
Best heavy-handed product placement: “Wine is delicious (especially my Skinnygirl wine collection) … ”
Phaedra keeps it really simple with just three recipes: sweet tea, Southern biscuits, and “The Belle’s Best Macaroni and Cheese.” There are a bunch of menus for various must-throw-Southern-Belle parties, including tailgates and sip-and-sees, but no culinary advice to match the menu items.
Best introduction: “Honestly, I sometimes feel sorry for women of the Northern persuasion.”
10. Love Italian Style: The Secrets of My Hot and Happy Marriage by Melissa Gorga
We hear about Melissa’s amazing culinary education at the hands of her Italian in-laws, but she shares nary a recipe or actual cooking tip. Just like this whole book, the vibe is “Do this to please your husband! Make sure you look hot!”
Best chapter title: “Full Body Gorgasm.”
11. Class with the Countess: How to Live with Elegance and Flair by LuAnn de Lesseps
There are food chapters and hostessing chapters, but the gist is “hire somebody, or a few somebodies, to cook, clean, and serve.” Which is cool advice that barely anyone can actually take.
Best side character: Honeychile, an eccentric and lovable princess who takes a young pre-countess LuAnn under her wing.
Honorary Mentions for Books That Don’t Exist
1. Sonja’s Toaster Oven Cookbook
Sonja, Sonja, Sonja. Your whole schtick was “elegant hostess with the mostess, toaster oven chef extraordinaire” for your first few seasons. Now it’s rude roommates and battles between cheesy boyfriends. Bring back the toaster oven! Let us in on your culinary secrets, you minx.
2. Carole and Adam’s Sexy Salads (aka The Reluctant Vegan)
This might still happen, but they are at least sort of broken up and recently unfollowed each other on Instagram.
I just don’t know you guys.
I hope we didn’t have to sit through all those snooze-fest vegan cooking scenes for nothing.
Note: Skinnygirl Solutions: Your Straight-Up Guide to Home, Health, Family, Career, Style, and Sex by Bethenny and Fabulicious!: On the Grill: Teresa’s Smoking Hot Backyard Recipes by Teresa were not included. They each have three books on the list. You get the idea.