Best Cookbooks of 2021

The Best Southern Cookbooks of 2021

 Outstanding titles for gift giving or to add to your own bookshelf.
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Each year brings a tidal wave of new cookbooks, and it can be overwhelming to sort through them all, whether you're browsing on Amazon or at your local bookseller. These five titles, which all have a distinct Southern angle from baking to barbecue, are both fun to read and fun to cook from.

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Best Cookbooks 2021
Credit: Photo: Amazon.com

Cheryl Day's Treasury of Southern Baking

BUY IT: $32, amazon.com

Savannah, Georgia's Back in the Day Bakery is known throughout the country for its stellar baked goods, as well as for its beloved co-founder, Cheryl Day. Unlike her previous two books, which feature recipes from the bakery, this book takes a wider, grander view of Southern baking, and pays tribute to African-American cooks like her great-great-grandmother, Hannah Queen Grubbs, who was an enslaved pastry cook famous for her biscuits and cakes. Whether she is sharing a family story, or adding historical context to a recipe, the book is full of interesting tidbits and inspiring desserts. All the familiar favorites are there—biscuits, caramel cake, lemon bars, hand pies. A chapter called "Grits and Grains" reimagines classic desserts with new ingredients, like rye flour (Rye Brownies with Cacao Nibs) and Carolina Gold rice (Toasted Rice Panna Cotta)

Best Cookbooks 2021
Credit: Photo: Amazon.com

Rodney Scott's World of BBQ

BUY IT: $18, amazon.com

Cowritten by Lolis Eric Elie, award-winning pitmaster Rodney Scott shares his recipes and life story in this new book. If you or someone you know is a fan of whole-hog cooking, the book gives expert guidance on how to do it at home. And if your idea of a good time isn't tending to a large cut of meat for hours, the recipes for sides, drinks, and desserts (like the fantastic Ella's Banana Puddin') are worth the price of the book alone.

Best Cookbooks 2021
Credit: Photo: Amazon.com

Life Is What You Bake It

BUY IT: $22, amazon.com

On Instagram and her personal site, food writer and personality Vallery Lomas is known as "Foodie in New York," but before she moved to the big city, she grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her first cookbook, Life Is What You Bake It, tells her life story through recipes, starting from childhood, to studying in Paris, to becoming a lawyer, and to giving up that career to become a baker. The path wasn't always smooth, but Lomas's perseverance will inspire you to follow your dreams. And her recipes, like Grandma's Million Dollar Pound Cake and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Brownies, will inspire you to get in the kitchen.

Best Cookbooks 2021
Credit: Photo: Amazon.com

Southern Grit

BUY IT: $22, amazon.com

It's not often that a Top Chef winner makes a cookbook full of easy, weeknight-friendly recipes, but Alabama native Kelsey Barnard Clark is not your ordinary chef. She's a restaurateur, wife, mother of two, keeper of chickens, backyard gardener, and now she can add author to the list. Her first cookbook, Southern Grit, is geared toward busy people who have jobs and families, but still like to cook and entertain in true Southern fashion. The beautifully photographed book is packed with ingenious cooking advice and accessible recipes, many of which are family heirlooms, like Sweetie's Sweet Potatoes, her great grandmother's signature dish.

Best Cookbooks 2021
Credit: Photo: Amazon.com

Bress & Nyam, Gullah Geechee Recipes from a Sixth-Generation Farmer

BUY IT: $18, Amazon.com

One of the most exciting things happening in the cookbook world is a greater focus on regional foodways, including those in the South. Bress & Nyam, the debut cookbook from chef/farmer Matthew Raiford and co-author Amy Condon, is a window into life in coastal Georgia, specifically the Gullah Geechie community there. (The title is a Gullah phrase meaning "bless and eat".) Through recipes like Gullah Fish Stew and Effie's Brown Sugar Molasses Pound Cake, readers will be transported to Gilliard Farms, the land that has been in his family for seven generations. This land is a sacred space that has inspired the way he, and his loved ones, have cooked and gathered throughout those years. It feels like an honor that Raiford shared it with the world.