Asian cuisine can be as varied as the cultures in Asia. Because there are so many variations and specialties, cooking Asian food can be overwhelming for newbies.
Typically, when one says Asian, Chinese cuisine is what quickly comes to mind. But there is more to Asian cooking than stir-frying ingredients in a wok. Asian food encompasses several major regional cuisines: Central Asian, East Asian, North Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and West Asian.
The most popular, obviously, is Chinese, followed by Japanese and Thai food. But while the rest of the regional cuisines aren’t as mainstream as these three, they’re no less flavorful. That’s because they all use the same base ingredients that contain amino acids like soy sauce or fermented fish. It’s what gives them the distinct salty and savory flavor called umami.
These days, one doesn’t have to go on a journey all over Asia in order to taste the best dishes of each region. There are cookbooks for that. A good Asian cookbook will not only give you a diverse and representative selection of classic dishes, but it will also teach you to do it easily and quickly, using ingredients that are available locally.
In this list, I’ve picked out the best ones that have authentic dishes or feature Asian-inspired cuisine that’s doable in a standard American home kitchen. Some are classic cookbooks, others are recent publications. Here are my top 10 Asian cookbooks.
And, for anyone not confident in their cooking skills, why not start out with a cookbook for beginners?
Best Asian Cookbooks
- The Easy Asian Cookbook for Slow Cookers: Family-Style Favorites from East, Southeast, and South Asia Paperback
- Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes: The First Cookbook from the Cult Food Magazine Hardcover
- The Complete Asian Cookbook Hardcover
- The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook: 101 Asian Recipes Simple Enough for Tonight's Dinner Hardcover –
- East Meets Vegan: The Best of Asian Home Cooking, Plant-Based and Delicious Paperback – Illustrated
- 101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die: Discover a New World of Flavors in Authentic Recipes Paperback – Illustrated
- East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing [American Measurements] Hardcover
- Instant Pot Asian Pressure Cooker Meals: Fast, Fresh & Affordable (Official Instant Pot Cookbook) Paperback – Illustrated
- The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen: Recipes for Noodles, Dumplings, Sauces, and More [A Cookbook] Paperback – Illustrated
- Easy Asian Cookbook: 100+ Takeout Favorites Made Simple Paperback
1. The Easy Asian Cookbook for Slow Cookers: Family-Style Favorites from East, Southeast, and South Asia Paperback
Asians like using slow cookers in their kitchens, not only because doing so is convenient but also because slow cooking brings out more complex flavors. The finished meal often almost tastes like it’s cooked in a restaurant and not in a home kitchen. This cookbook features over 80 classic recipes from all over Asia that have been tweaked so that they can be cooked in slow cooker.
This book is user-friendly; there’s a section that contains practical information on how to use a slow cooker. It also provides a breakdown of cuisine-to-country flavor profiles.
Recipes are easy to follow and use American measurements. The majority of them require only a 15-min prep. Dietary information is provided at the beginning of each recipe while cook and prep times are listed at the recipe’s end. Not every recipe is accompanied by a color photo of the dish, but those that do have beautiful photos.
2. Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes: The First Cookbook from the Cult Food Magazine Hardcover
This is a collection of 101 flavorful recipes that are distinctively Asian but are by no means traditional. Written in a quirky and irreverent manner, the book also demystifies ingredients, simplifies cooking techniques, and explains the origin of each recipe.
Recipes are easy to understand and include useful tips to minimize the screwups when making the dish. Most of the recipes have pictures for convenient reference. There are also tips on how to buy Asian sauces and condiments and how to pair them with the ingredients.
Almost every review of this book mentioned how easy all the recipes are. One liked how the book was well organized. If you’re looking for an Asian cookbook that teaches you how to make easy Asian-inspired dishes with humorous commentary, this book is for you.
3. The Complete Asian Cookbook Hardcover
This cookbook collects more than 800 authentic recipes from 16 Asian countries that can be easily made in an American kitchen using local, easy-to-source ingredients.
Each country has its own section that includes a description of the cuisine, its culinary customs and techniques, plus a list of common ingredients. Each recipe is identified by its native name along with its corresponding English version. There’s also an ingredient glossary at the end of the book.
Recipes are written clearly with step-by-step directions. One reader was impressed by the authenticity of the recipe selection. Another liked the book’s large collection of Indian and Sri Lankan recipes. If you’re looking for a definitive cookbook on Asian cuisine that also features great food writing, this book is an essential read.
4. The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook: 101 Asian Recipes Simple Enough for Tonight's Dinner Hardcover – Illustrated
This is an entry-level cookbook for anyone interested in making easy Asian dishes. Written by the blogger behind the popular Steam Kitchen food blog, this features recipes that use ingredients that are found in your local grocery.
The recipes are easy to follow and the resulting flavors were delicious and spot-on. Each one also comes with a beautiful color photo. The author writes in an accessible and humorous style so that even a newbie to Asian cooking will not be overwhelmed by all the information presented.
Readers liked the recipe collection because the recipes are all easy to do. One said that even if she skipped some of the steps, the dish still turned out to be delicious. Another liked the sauce recipes because they are not complicated.
5. East Meets Vegan: The Best of Asian Home Cooking, Plant-Based and Delicious Paperback – Illustrated
There are 90 vegan recipes here that are the plant-based versions of classic Asian dishes and street foods.
Beginning with an introductory chapter on Basic Recipes and Techniques, the book then presents its vegan versions of popular dishes from India, Thailand, Singapore & Malaysia, China, and Japan. There’s also a section on Mix-and-Match pairing where the author offers suggestions for combining leftovers so that one can make their own Asian fusion dish.
The recipes are straightforward and are accompanied by color photographs of the dishes. There’s also a substitution list for ingredients that may be hard to find in local grocery stores.
6. 101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die: Discover a New World of Flavors in Authentic Recipes Paperback – Illustrated
This cookbook features some of the best recipes from Asia and teaches you how to cook them in an easy way. Included with these recipes are some of celebrity chef Jet Tila’s tips on flavor, technique, and ingredients.
Recipes are written in an approachable and unpretentious manner. There are step-by-step instructions and they use standard cooking descriptions. Substitutions for both ingredients and tools are conveniently included. Each recipe is also accompanied by gorgeous photos.
Readers love the book for its non-intimidating approach to Asian cuisine. One appreciated the book’s simplified explanations of the differences of many Asian spices used in the recipes. Another found the sauce recipes easy to replicate and very flavorful.
7. East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing [American Measurements] Hardcover
This book collects vegan and vegetarian recipes from East Asian and Southeast Asian home cooks. The recipe collection is diverse, ranging from noodles to curries, rice dishes to tofu, and salads to sweets.
The recipes are very do-able, with a simple list of ingredients that are available in local stores. There are also substitute suggestions for the occasional hard-to-find ingredient. Most also require less than an hour of prep work.
Readers liked this book because unlike other vegetarian/vegan cookbooks, the recipes turn out to be really flavorful. One said that the combinations of both spices and ingredients are “spot-on”. Another liked the alternative contents table which has recommendations for breakfast, quick lunch, picnics, and seasonal food.
8. Instant Pot Asian Pressure Cooker Meals: Fast, Fresh & Affordable (Official Instant Pot Cookbook) Paperback – Illustrated
This cookbook shows you how to make authentic Asian dishes using an Instant Pot. There are more than 60 recipes presented here including Chicken Adobo (Filipino), Pho Chicken Noodle Soup (Vietnamese), Pad Thai Rice Noodles (Thai), and Kalbijjim Braised Beef Short Ribs (Korean). There’s even a handful of desserts that the Instant Pot can make like sticky rice with mango or Filipino caramel flan.
The recipes are well written and include even more detailed instructions for unusual ingredients or techniques, like for instance how to make the flan. There are sections for learning about the basics, such as cooking rice and making soup stock. All of these are accompanied by lots of process pictures.
This book will also show you how to source fresh condiments, ingredients, and spices from your local stores on a budget. If you have an Instant Pot, this is the book to read in order to fulfill your cravings for easy and healthy Asian dishes.
9. The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen: Recipes for Noodles, Dumplings, Sauces, and More [A Cookbook] Paperback – Illustrated
Asian food is usually off-limits for people suffering from Celiac disease, wheat allergies, and severe gluten sensitivities because most of its basic ingredients (like noodles and soy sauce) contain wheat. This book shows you how to convert classic Asian dishes into gluten-free ones.
There are 100 recipes here from China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. These range from classic dishes to Asian-inspired ones. Recipes come with easy-to-follow instructions and use ingredients that are easy to source. There’s also a chapter here for making your own Asian sauce from scratch.
Readers liked the simplicity of the ingredients used here to make the dishes. One appreciated how the book demystifies the ingredients and shows them how to navigate an Asian grocery store.
10. Easy Asian Cookbook: 100+ Takeout Favorites Made Simple Paperback
This cookbook shows you how to recreate your popular Asian take-out dishes at home using simple ingredients with minimal prep work (30 mins or less). Recipes include staples such as Pad Thai with Tofu, Honey Walnut Shrimp, Teriyaki Chicken, Sweet and Spicy Korean Short Ribs, Chicken Adobo, and Garlic Bok Choy.
The recipe selection is indexed by country of origin and there are convenient labels to help you find your desired dietary preference. Each one also comes with a “Swap It” option and a note for Serving Tips. There’s also a section for Themed Menus or you can create one using the variety of choices featured in the book.
Readers liked the innovative design of the book which makes it fun to read. One liked it because the recipes were so easy to follow. This book is a good entry point for home cooks who are not familiar with Asian cuisine.
101 ASIAN DISHES YOU NEED TO COOK BEFORE YOU DIE: DISCOVER A NEW WORLD OF FLAVORS IN AUTHENTIC RECIPES PAPERBACK – ILLUSTRATED by Jet Tila
Pick this book if you’re looking for an easy recipe collection that’s an equal mix of the familiar and the new. Tila makes Asian cuisine look easy and non-intimidating even for newbie cooks.
In this book, one can make a classic Asian dish of beef pho in under an hour instead of an entire day. It’ll also teach you how to make sriracha which, according to the marketing blurb, is a killer recipe.
Tila emphasizes flavor using fresh ingredients and streamlined prepping methods. With this cookbook, one still can make an authentic Asian dish or do a riff of it easily because all of the ingredients are available in American stores. Readers recommend the cookbook for its reliability and practicality.