I’ve started doing research for a new middle grade novel, and part of that involves finding recipes that kids can make and will actually eat. So I’ve basically checked out every kid cookbook that was shelved in my local library, with a focus on meals and snacks instead of desserts and baking. With the holidays coming up, I thought it might be useful to breakdown some of the cookbooks I enjoyed in case anyone out there has a young chef in the house. Take a look at these awesome cookbooks, and then leave a go-to recipe in the comments that your kids just can’t live without.
For Budding Chefs (just starting to play in the kitchen):
This was released in 2017 and covers food in these categories: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks, and Desserts. It used a combination of real photos and cartoons, and I especially loved that it demonstrated how to use measuring spoons and such. It also mentions when a grownup will need to step in and help which is mostly when a skillet, blender, or knife is used. Some extras that came with it are the whisk, stickers, and a dry-erase menu planner.
Released in 2015, this one is pretty similar to the cookbook above, though it does put more of an emphasis on homegrown produce and farmers markets. There were a few recipes that were basically just ways to decorate the food with other food to make it look like a face, flower, etc. This is pretty common in kid cookbooks, but I’ve never loved them because the kids tend to not eat the veggies or fruits being used as decorations. However, I did enjoy the magnitude of veggie-focused recipes that were available in this one.
Probably the most recent book on this list, this cookbook was published in 2020 and I think it’s a good reference for beginning or more comfortable kid chefs. It had great step-by-step pictures, the recipes were very kid friendly and I think kids would enjoy these foods. I also really liked the holiday section they included because they chose holidays from around the world.
This is definitely a cookbook for the younger kids, and brings in a scientific approach that kids can easily understand. It was published in 2017 and doesn’t have a ton of recipes, but the graphics are very kid friendly and there are step-by-step pictures. Most of the recipes are easy enough for kids to recreate, but an adult will need to be present for most of them since it’s geared toward the younger ages.
Mini Bobby Flays (ready to cook solo)
Published in 2014 and written by Kid Chef Eliana, this cookbook felt much more like an adult cookbook. There weren’t any step-by-step pictures and the dishes were more complicated than a beginning kid chef could do. I also think these recipes required a more mature palette.
This cookbook was published in 2018 and is formatted like most adult cookbooks. The recipes are a bit on the lengthy side for a kids cookbook, and some don’t have a picture for reference, but I think older kids would enjoy most of the recipes. The photos are absolutely mouth-watering though.
Published in 2008, this one is probably more of a how-to book than a cookbook. It focuses on how to start a garden and successfully grow your own fruits and veggies, but then it also has a few recipes that are centered around those grown fruits and veggies. Lots of pictures and visuals for beginning gardeners and chefs, but I think the recipes are still on the older side.
This 2018 cookbook takes on the task of really teaching kids the ins and outs of cooking. The first part of the book is very comprehensive about cooking techniques, food staples to always have on hand, as well as vocabulary that is often found in recipes. I really loved how it would have a lesson and then follow up with a simple recipe that allowed the chef to practice the skills taught in the lesson. I also appreciated that the ingredient lists were minimal and usually contained everyday items.
Slightly older than its partner above, this cookbook was published in 2016 and is a great guide for kids who already love to cook. It has a similar format to its partner above (cooking techniques, food to have on hand, recipe vocabulary), and it also has multiple lessons with each one accompanied by a recipe to practice the newly learned techniques. This cookbook doesn’t have a lot of visuals and some of the ingredients are harder to come by.
Also published in 2018, this cookbook would make a great reference book as well. There is a lot of text which can look overwhelming at times, but there is a lot of good information and pictures that kids can go to if they have technique or terminology questions. The recipes seemed really kid-friendly, though some recipes had quite a few ingredients. With most recipes, there were notes along the sides that gave alternates to the dish to make it something anyone could enjoy.
This cookbook was published in 2020, but it has some really unique features in it that a lot of the other cookbooks on this page just didn’t have. First was how simple the recipes are. There are very minimal ingredients needed, and the cooking directions are very short and to the point. Maybe a little too short at times, but that’s why I’m putting the book in the category for more experienced young chefs. Secondly, it included a section in the back on how to do food-centered parties (grilled cheese bar, rainbow meal, etc). The illustrations were beautifully done in watercolor, and real-life photos were also included. This was one of my favorite cookbooks for this blog post.
Published in 2020, this cookbook for kids has easy-to-follow recipe instructions that use minimal ingredients. There’s fun facts with each recipe that tell about an ingredient’s history or the origin of a dish. There’s also fun activities and coloring pages for kids to complete as they work their way through the cookbook.
The first chapter of this cookbook focuses mainly on educating young chefs with everything they’d need to know about their ingredients, measuring, types of cooking, etc. I especially appreciated the page on how to read a nutrition label. This cookbook also had a lot of fun activities and trivia throughout the pages, and it distinguished the level of difficulty for each recipe. The only thing I wasn’t loving about this cookbook was that it didn’t have a picture of the finished dish for every recipe.