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10 of this year's most soulful Southern cookbooks to add to your wishlist

If you're anything like me, you look forward to the holiday gifting season for one major reason: cookbooks. They're the perfect gifts for everyone from serious home cooks to those who prefer to explore cuisine from armchair. And this year, it'd be easy to gift cookbooks made entirely in the South. 

Our favorite Southern cookbooks of 2018 encompass everything from soul food to tacos, and they showcase the range of cuisines in our great region. Pick up one of each if you really want to impress.

Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover's Tour of the Global South
Virginia Willis
In her newest book, Southern Kitchen contributor Virginia Willis travels throughout our region to learn and share stories and recipes from the increasingly diverse array of Southerners who make and share our food. We get a glimpse of Mexican-American tortilla-makers in Appalachia, a French clamming evangelist in coastal Carolina, a generations-old African-American farm in South Georgia and more, all explored through detailed and exploratory essays in each chapter. Willis doesn't shy away from sharing the struggles and challenges of farming and preparing food in the modern economy either — yes, you'll see images of verdant fields and happy pigs, but you'll also learn that this business isn't always so rosy. It's an honest, exciting look at our region. 
Get the book

American Cookie: The Snaps, Drops, Jumbles, Tea Cakes, Bars & Brownies That We Have Loved for Generations
Anne Byrn
Southern Kitchen contributor Anne Byrn's new cookbook takes the home baker on a journey through the history of buttered, sugared and chocolate chipped confections. You'll learn about Emily Dickinson's favorite cookies and get the recipe for old-fashioned "wine drops." Everyday classics like oatmeal raisin, peanut butter and lemon bars are also, of course, in abundance, but in addition to well-tested recipes, you'll get the true story behind each and every one of these treats. 
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Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering
Joanna Gaines with Marah Stets
With recipes inspired by dozens of Gaines family favorites and classic comfort selections from the couple's new Waco restaurant, Magnolia Table, you'll get a taste of the "Fixer Upper" life with this cookbook. Magnolia Table includes 125 classic recipes — from breakfast, lunch, and dinner to small plates, snacks, and desserts — presenting a modern selection of American classics and personal family favorites.
Get the book

Between Harlem and Heaven: Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day
Alexander Smalls and JJ Johnson with Veronica Chambers
While they may own a restaurant in Harlem and not the South, Alexander Smalls' and JJ Johnson's book deserves a place on this list for its collection of recipes gleaned from three decades of traveling the African diaspora, meeting and eating with chefs of color, and researching the wide reach of a truly global cuisine.
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A Baker's Year: Twelve Months of Baking and Living the Simple Life at the Smoke Signals Bakery
Tara Jensen
This baker's dream cookbook will bring you into the kitchen with North Carolina's Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Bakery. Jensen bakes some of the best bread, pies and pizzas in the country, all using her wood-fired oven.
Get the book

Soul: A Chef's Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes
Todd Richards
Cooking through Todd Richard's cookbook, Soul, will give you not only a true look of modern Southern soul food, but also a narrative journey of the chef himself. The chapters are organized by featured ingredients, such as collards, onions, pork and tomatoes; each begins with a traditional recipe and then continues with Richards’ exploration of flavor combinations and techniques.
Get the book

Carla Hall's Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration
Carla Hall with Genevieve Ko
Beloved TV chef Carla Hall takes us back to her own Nashville roots to offer a fresh, look at soul food, tracing its history from Africa and the Caribbean to the American South. As fits the traditionally plant-based cuisine, Hall's recipes are fresh, seasonal and often healthy. Like Richards' cookbook, Hall's look at soul food is a blend of modern and traditional, a cookbook you'll return to for years to come. 
Get the book

Mississippi Vegan: Recipes and Stories from a Southern Boy's Heart
Timothy Pakron
Photographer-turned-blogger-turned-cookbook-author Timothy Pakron has found a way craft 125 plant-based twists on Cajun, Creole and other Southern recipes. Not only are the recipes creative and delicious, they are also photographed in a stunning fashion. 
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Chasing the Gator: Isaac Toups and the New Cajun Cooking
Isaac Toups and Jennifer V. Cole
This modern Cajun cookbook brings together the talents of Top Chef's Isaac Toups and journalist Jennifer V. Cole. You'll find expert recipes for everything from gumbo and boudin to Toups' signature double-cut pork chop and Toups Burger.
Get the book

Sweet Home Café Cookbook: A Celebration of African American Cooking
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Since the 2016 opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, its Sweet Home Café has become a destination in its own right. Showcasing African American contributions to American cuisine, the café offers favorite dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, adding modern flavors and contemporary twists on classics. Now both readers and home cooks can partake of the café's bounty with a cookbook filled with 109 recipes.
Get the book


Author image

Kate Williams is the editor-in-chief of Southern Kitchen. She is also an on-air personality on our podcast, Sunday Supper. She has been working in food since 2009, including a two-year stint at America’s Test Kitchen. Kate has been a personal chef, recipe developer, the food editor at a hyperlocal news site in Berkeley and a freelance writer for publications such as Serious Eats, Anova Culinary, The Cook’s Cook and Berkeleyside. Kate is also an avid rock climber and occasionally dabbles in long-distance running. She makes a mean peach pie and likes her bourbon neat.

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