Best American cookbooks 2022: From Southern cooking to Italian American classics

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hen we think of American food, we imagine an endless stack of pancakes drenched in maple sauce, crispy and saucy meats sizzling on the BBQ and burgers with more patties than we have fingers on our hands.

Of course, these all staples in the offering from our friends across the pond, but the cuisine provides so much more. Contrary to the Hollywood depiction, there are plenty of recipes and meals that aren’t served in a greasy diner or late night takeaway shacks.

In fact, American food may be one of the most interesting cuisines out there as it’s a reflection of the country’s melting pot immigration history – think inspiration from Italian, Irish and Mexican migrants.

We spoke to former Democratic state senator-turned-chef Capri Cafaro to find out more about American cuisine today.

“Whilst things like hot dogs, burgers, smores and ice cream sandwiches are ‘traditional’ in that they work brilliantly for BBQs and outdoor dining, more often than not it involves people bringing dishes that are traditional celebration foods in their household, community or country . It’s a wonderful opportunity to tell the story of your background, heritage and how you’re influenced by this every day.

“Telling the stories about what makes up ‘American Food’ is an immensely exciting task because our country has grown from immigration over its almost 250-year history. We must embrace this, and part of telling this story is looking at the produce that’s been available to people here. Dishes have been adapted over the years according to what they can grow, what’s seasonal, and what they can afford”.

We’ve rounded up the best American cookbooks that cover all the classics like burgers and ribs as well as more innovative dishes that show off American food as the global cuisine that it is.

Break and Egg!: The Broadway Cookbook

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Best for: musical lovers

If music, as Shakespeare eleven eleven famously declared ‘be the food of love’, then this cookbook is the perfect soundtrack. Featuring an eclectic mix of recipes inspired by the greatest musicals of all time ranging from hamilton to The Sound of Musicyou’ll be cooking (and singing) all day long.

Each page contains a synopsis of a musical and at least one related recipe. With this cookbook alone you’ll be able to whip up a delicious three course meals and drinks thanks to creations such as Mama’s Well-Peppered Ragu from Chicagothe indulgent and extravagant Angel of Music cake inspired by Phantom of the Opera and a refreshing Cuban Milkshake straight from the heart of Guys and Dolls.

Alongside pictures of the food are beautiful illustrations making this cookbook the perfect gift for a musical lover.

United We Eat: 50 Great American Dishes To Bring Us All Together

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Best for: crowd pleasing dishes

Looking to be the hostess with the mostess? This cookbook is an absolute kitchen shelf must-have as it provides endless mouth-watering dishes that are perfect for sharing. With a dish per state, you’ll be able to try delicacies all the way from the Deep South to Alaska. We loved the Memphis Rendezvous Pulled Chicken Sliders for a new take on a BBQ dish and the Apple Cheddar Pie with Cracker Crust for the perfect mix of sweet and savory.

Alongside great recipes, the book has a deeper reading as each recipe is submitted by a Democrat or Republican politician who includes stories and information on how food can bring people together in a nonpartisan way. If there was ever a cookbook that highlighted the power and importance of food, it would be this one.

Northern Soul: Southern-Inspired Home Cooking from a Northern Kitchen

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Best for: feel good food

Ditch the calorie counting and restrictive diets and dive right into the heart of the delicious American food we know and love. This cookbook from superstar chef Justin Sutherland shows off the best of Southern Cooking inspired by his Northern upbringing and African-American and Asian heritage. Our favorite dishes? It’s got to be Mac ‘n’ Cheese topped with Hot Cheetos or the Hog Burger that has one of the best marinades we’ve tasted in a long time. The BBQ beans are not one to be missed thanks to the versatility – a perfect snack on its own, part of a comforting breakfast or poured on top of a piping hot and cheesy jacket potato.

If the names of the recipes aren’t enough to tempt you, one glance at the exquisite photography will leave your stomach rumbling for the rest of the day. This is American food like you’ve never seen it before.

Dirty: Dirty Food For Your Filthy Chops

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Best for: treat yourself meal

Grab the napkins, things are about to get messy. Plow into any of Dirty’s scrumptious 60 recipes featuring the most coma-inducing of comfort food.

Think classic Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Pizza Fries and a Lasagna Pie that will hit the spot – and then some. The pictures alone are enough to get your drooling but thankfully, it only takes 30 minutes to make these recipes so you won’t be waiting long.

Try the hasselback potatoes and dirty fries for the perfect BBQ sides.

Fire Food: The Ultimate BBQ Cookbook

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Best for: innovative BBQ

Authored by the one and only DJ BBQ, this cookbook will add a bit of fun to your next barbecue. It offers an array of inventive BBQ meals from good ol’ spag bol to mac ‘n’ cheese pancakes (yup, really).

BBQs can be healthy, but you’re better off looking for them in places other than this take. Carnivores, prepare to delight: Fire Food features an entire chapter on the dirtiest and tastiest barbecue treats that will floor your next BBQ guests.

There’s also an inventive chapter on breakfast BBQ meals for those who grill around the clock. As for our favourite, we still daydream about the French toast grilled cheese, inspired by DJ BBQ’s Stateside travels.

Italian American: Red Sauce Classics and New Essentials: A Cookbook

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Best for: Italian food with a twist

We all know that pizza wasn’t actually created in Chicago, but the influence Italian food has had on American cuisine is enormous. Migration in the early 1900s saw at least four million Italians hit the shores of the USA, and ever since the two cuisines have sufficiently amalgamated. This cookbook brilliantly celebrates Italian American food that’s rich in flavor and highly nostalgic.

There’s a recipe for everyone here whether that be family classics of bold pasta dishes or more creative meals such as Pinwheel Lasagna and Shrimp Parm Meatballs. If you’re looking to go all out with the flavor combinations try the Ribs Glazed with Orange and Campari – a sweet and sticky explosion of flavour.

The Burger Book

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Best for: burgers

If you, like us, feel very strongly about creating the ultimate burger to rival that of Five Guys, then this cookbook will get those taste buds tingling. Written by DJ BBQ, this cookbook is a comprehensive and dedicated guide to everything burger related, from the buns and the filling, to the sauces and the sides.

What we love about this book is that even though all of the recipes can be cooked on the barbecue, they can also be made just as easily indoors. So if the weather doesn’t hold out, simply relocate inside and cook equally as delicious meals.

The Happy American Cookbook: 200+ Easy and Modern Food Recipes

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Best for: an endless supply of recipes

With a whopping 200 recipes, this cookbook will teach you everything there is to know about American food. Thanks to the extensive recipe collections on everything from sauces and soups to puddings and pies – crowd-pleasing and hearty dishes are in abundance. Those looking to eat healthier food without cutting out what they love are in for a treat as this book has nutrition and health at its core.

Try out the Apple Pie Pull-Apart Bread With Vanilla Glaze for a simple but delicious dessert, or for those adventurous eaters looking to expand their palette, have a go at making the Brazilian American Chicken Croquettes and Honduran American Tacos.

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