The ES guide to the best plant-based cookbooks

Laura Hampson

The latter end of the past decade saw a vegan boom – the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled between 2014 and 2019, leaping from 150,000 to 600,000.

According to The Vegan Society, orders of vegan meals grew by 388 per cent between 2016 and 2018 and demand for meat-free food in the UK increased by 987 per cent in 2017.

And while veganism has taken off, ‘plant-based’ is the word you’re going to see everywhere in 2020. Adopting a plant-based diet is more flexible that veganism and the interpretation varies – but at its core it means adopting a more vegetarian diet.

In light of Veganuary, our team decided to trial the newest plant-based cookbooks and we gave our verdicts below.

Veg: Easy & Delicious Meals for Everyone by Jamie Oliver

Tested by Rosie Fitzmaurice, Digital Lifestyle Writer

Jamie Oliver’s new veggie-centric books packs in 100 plant-based recipes including all of those featured in Jamie's Channel 4 series Meat-Free Meals.

Standout recipe:

I was immediately drawn to the Sweet Leek Carbonara when flicking through the book, as one of my new year’s resolutions is to introduce veg I never use into my cooking repertoire.

We made this on Blue Monday, aka the most depressing day of the year, when we were very much in need of a bowl of something comforting after a busy weekend. Instead of the usual three eggs we put in a classic carbonara, we used one, and swapped crispy bacon bits for two large leeks and fresh thyme, as per the recipe. I was ravenous after the gym so improvised a bit on the step that instructs you to simmer the leeks in water for 40 minutes, and ended up just frying them off a bit instead. The end dish was tasty and heart-warming but lighter than our usual pasta dishes, although it did require extra salt (and parmesan) for seasoning. Next time I’ll allow for extra cooking time and expect this will result in added sweetness.

Best for:

Alternative mid-week dishes and brunches – we’ll be trying the Shakshuka, my style featuring chipped potatoes and fiery harissa at the weekend.

Veg: Easy & Delicious Meals for Everyone by Jamie Oliver, £26 | Buy here

Deliciously Ella, The Plant-Based Cookbook by Ella Mills

Tested by Suzannah Ramsdale, Digital Head of Lifestyle

A collection of over 100 plant-based recipes from the OG face of clean eating, Ella Mills (nee Woodward). From nutrient-packed stews to healthy sweet treats, it features the most popular dishes from her vegan London deli.

Standout recipe:

On a blustery, cold Monday night I opted for the Sweet Potato and Courgette stew. A warming, straightforward one pot which I served with rice and, since it serves 4, had as tasty leftover al desko lunches for the rest of the week. I had most of the ingredients already knocking around in my cupboard so it turned out to be super cheap. Some of the timings were a little off – if I had boiled the sweet potato for as long as instructed they would have turned to mush – but overall it was a solid supper.

Best for:

Not one for the gourmet chef but, rather, a handy guide for every day, idiot-proof veggie dishes. Useful for snackaholics too – Deliciously Ella’s peanut cookies are an easy, infinitely healthier alternative to reaching for the Hobnobs at 3pm.

Deliciously Ella, The Plant-Based Cookbook, £25 | Buy here

Veggie Lean in 15 by Joe Wicks

Tested by Laura Hampson, Digital Lifestyle Writer

The vegetarian version of Joe Wicks’ bestselling Lean in 15: The Shift Plan, Veggie Lean in 15 is packed full of over 100 vegetarian and vegan recipes. Wicks (a.k.a The Body Coach) has also included four exclusive HIIT and ab workouts in the back of the book – but it’s the recipes that will have you hooked.

Standout recipe:

Wicks’ take on parmigiana is a fantastic spin on the comforting classic. Loaded with veggies, this parmigiana layers baked aubergine, courgettes and peppers with a simple tomato sauce and plenty of mozzarella. The minimal ingredients means it's wallet-friendly and it left us full and satisfied on a chilly winter’s evening – we loved it so much we’ve made it several times since (but never in the stated 15 minutes). Be sure to up the quantities of the recipe as needed, the serving sizes in the book vary and this serves one – so double the recipe for two or more if you want leftovers.

Best for:

An ideal fit for the wary vegetarian, Wicks’ easy recipes will convince even the staunchest meat eater to make their first foray into a more plant-based lifestyle.

Veggie Lean in 15: 15-minute Veggie Meals with Workouts by Joe Wicks, £16.99 | Buy here

Vegan(ish) by Jack Monroe

Tested by Amelia Heathman, Senior Digital Tech Writer

100 budget vegan recipes from internet-famous cook and campaigner, Jack Monroe. Filled with simple and affordable recipes, it’s designed for both novice and veteran vegans.

Standout recipe:

There’s so many good looking recipes in Monroe’s new vegan recipe book, it was tricky to settle on one. Yet, as it was a dark, rainy Thursday night I went with something warm and filling with easy-to-find ingredients, which is how we landed on Kindanara, a vegan take on carbonara featuring nutritional yeast and sun-dried tomatoes. One hurdle was finding the nutritional yeast, Holland & Barrett didn’t come through but Whole Foods did – Londoners are clearly catching on to this cheese substitute.

The recipe was simple enough to make, whizz up onion, garlic, flour, nutritional yeast and dairy-free ‘mylk’ in a blender to make the white sauce, before frying up some mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes and cooking the spaghetti. Extra black pepper was essential, the yeast has a rather strong flavour that takes some getting used to and the sun-dried tomatoes offer a smokiness to offset the lack of bacon. I’d maybe cut down the mylk required, depending on how saucy you like your pasta, but as far as easy, tasty vegan recipes go, this has got to be up there.

Best for:

Venturing into vegan cooking that won’t cost the earth, Monroe’s simple to follow recipes will make trying out more vegan dishes a delight. Honestly, the whole chapter on sandwiches will make vegan lunches a staple of your weekly diet, the vegan take on a Reuben using jackfruit looks better than meaty versions.

Vegan(ish) by Jack Monroe, £16.99 | Buy here

Eat Green by Melissa Hemsley

Tested by Naomi May, Digital Fashion and Beauty Writer

Chef, author and bonafide influencer (120K followers on Instagram is no joke), Melissa Hemsley’s new cookbook, Eat Green, champions sustainable ‘flexitarian’ living. The recipes which do contain meat can easily be switched around to use beans or protein substitutes instead.

Standout recipe:

Imagine everything that’s really, really good for you thrown into a steaming bowl of happiness and you’ve pretty much reached Hemsley’s turmeric noodle and chicken coconut soup (which can be made vegan by replacing the chicken for extra chickpeas or any other beans). Inspired by Alison Roman’s viral recipe, ‘The Stew’, this soup is heart-warming, delicious and most of the ingredients can be found in the pesky jars that lurk in the back of kitchen cupboards – chickpeas, I’m talking about you.

Best for:

If, like me, cooking doesn’t exactly play to your strengths, then this book was practically made for you. Most recipes can be made in 30 minutes or batch-cooked, perfect for all of us time-poor Londoners.

Eat Green by Melissa Hemsley, £22 | Buy here

BOSH! Healthy Vegan by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby

Tested by Laura Hampson, Digital Lifestyle Writer

Since discovering the ‘power of plants’ in 2014, Henry Firth and Ian Theasby have set themselves a mission to educate the rest of the world on veganism. Healthy Vegan is the pair’s fourth book and contains over 80 nutritious recipes.

Standout recipe:

In my opinion, breakfasts are the trickiest meal of the day. I need something pre-prepared or it just won’t happen. Which is why BOSH!’s healthier take on banana bread, ‘Anna’s Blueberry Toast Loaf’, is the ideal make-ahead breakfast. Most of the ingredients were in my cupboard already, save for the fresh bananas and blueberries, so it was easy to whip up. While it’s not the most filling breakfast, it certainly satiated my hunger for most of the morning.

Best for:

One for the serious vegan, this book with its long recipes lists and often unusual ingredients can be a little intimidating for a novice like myself. Yet BOSH! knows that food is just one component of a healthy lifestyle, and they use the intro of the book to touch on the other pillars (exercise, sleep etc.) which is useful reading for anyone looking to make a lifestyle change.

BOSH! Healthy Vegan by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby, £16.99 | Buy here