'The Complete Plant-Based Cookbook' Takes a Flexible Approach to Meatless Eating

You can make vegan or vegetarian versions of its 500+ recipes.

woman making granola
Woman making granola.

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If you are trying to eliminate or reduce meat from your diet, one of the best things you can do is buy a really great cookbook to guide you along the way. Having a selection of appealing, reliable recipes makes all the difference in the world. It creates an incentive to cook and builds skills and confidence in the kitchen.

"The Complete Plant-Based Cookbook" is one such book. Published in December 2020 by America's Test Kitchen (ATK), I've spent the last several months working my way through many of its recipes, and every single one has been delicious. This book follows in the footsteps of ATK's "The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook" and "Vegan for Everybody" (reviewed here), also excellent cookbooks in their own right, but this one strives to be a connector of sorts between those two styles of eating.

From the book's introduction: 

"With this new guide, we prove how easy it is to build a bridge between those two camps to move back and forth between them with ease, depending on your lifestyle and your taste preferences. 'The Complete Plant-Based Cookbook' takes the next step in the evolution of plant-based eating as we see it. Our plant-forward philosophy means moving vegetables, grains, beans, and legumes to the center of the plate and eliminating or minimizing animal products, all with the end goal of achieving a healthier, sustainable everyday diet."

What's neat is all of the recipes can be prepared vegan, but there are options for dairy-based ingredients and eggs whenever possible. The book explains: "For example, our recipe for Carrot Cake Pancakes calls for either plant-based milk or dairy milk in the ingredient list. We’ve tested both options in the recipe and the results are equally delicious and successful, but the choice of which ingredient to use is up to you."

Another example is Tofu Rancheros with Avocado, which is just as tasty as when made with eggs. For anyone following a flexitarian (or "reducetarian") approach to eating, this flexibility is appealing. 

Complete Plant Based Cookbook cover


The book opens with a detailed chapter on how to set up a plant-based kitchen, from storing produce to stocking the pantry to building flavor with "umami bombs." It discusses protein sources, including plant-based meats, and delves into lengthy discussions about plant-based dairy products. A list of "superstars of the plant world" includes ingredients that every plant-based cook should know and use – things like cashews, oyster mushrooms, lentils, carrots, aquafaba (liquid in chickpea cans), and jackfruit. One particularly useful section looks at building a satisfying meatless meal, i.e. which recipes are best paired with crusty bread and a green salad, over a bed of grains, with pasta, or with beans as the focal point.

Then there are the recipes. An initial section outlines the most useful building-block recipes, such as stock, pesto, nut milks, vegan mayo, and more, and subsequent chapters cover every category from brunch to mains to desserts. There's a chapter dedicated to electric pressure- and slow-cookers and another to snacks and appetizers. 

Every category has great recipes, but my favorites include sweet potato hummus, a guaranteed crowd-pleaser; Mumbai Frankie Wraps made with homemade chapatis, potato curry, and cilantro chutney that my kids loved; pan-seared tempeh steaks with chimichurri sauce that finally convinced my family that tempeh can be tasty; and, of course, kale Caesar salad.

I've tried a lot of plant-based cookbooks in recent years, and this one stands out not just for the quality of its recipes, but also for its sheer number of options. It's a hefty 400-page book that has something for every occasion, whether you're entertaining guests or scraping together a last-minute weeknight meal. For anyone serious about slashing meat intake, this is a worthwhile investment.