Chinese cuisine is now one of the popular food worldwide but there was a time when it was considered a daunting cuisine because of the variety of its ingredients, numerous cooking tools and unfamiliar cooking techniques.
That’s because Chinese food is rich and diverse (you just need to look at our list of Chinese breakfasts to see what we mean). In fact, there are eight Chinese culinary styles, each with its own unique essential ingredients and techniques. The most familiar is the Cantonese style which was popularized in America due to the Chinese immigrants from Guangdong who moved to the United States in the 1800s.
These days, however, the increased availability of essential Chinese ingredients in local markets has resulted in a renewed appreciation for the cuisine. Then there are the cookbooks. When it comes to Asian cuisine, Chinese cookbooks outnumber more than their other regional counterparts.
The most useful ones are those that feature a wide variety of authentic recipes and teach the basic cooking techniques. These cookbooks often categorize their recipes according to region and provide how-to illustrations or photos to describe the cooking technique.
Other cookbooks will focus on specialty cuisines. These range from regional cooking styles to fusion-style recipes. For Americans, a Chinese-American cookbook will provide an easy introduction to the ethnic cuisine. Those with immigrant backgrounds, however, will find the regional style cookbooks a good place to start for an exploration of their culinary past.
And then there are the vegetarian/vegan style Chinese cookbooks. In general, Chinese cuisine is vegetable-friendly, so it’s easy to substitute its meat ingredients with plant-friendly ones. But the best ones are those that feature quick recipes that creatively use local, seasonal produce.
In this list, I’ve picked the best of the classics and the new ones on Amazon. Here are my top 10 Chinese cookbooks.
Best Chinese Cookbooks
- Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking Hardcover
- Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food Hardcover
- Chinese Technique: An Illustrated Guide to the Fundamental Techniques of Chinese Cooking Hardcover
- All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China [A Cookbook] Hardcover – Illustrated
- Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking Hardcover
- China: The Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
- Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories Hardcover
- Chinese Heritage Cooking From My American Kitchen
- Essential Wok Cookbook: A Simple Chinese Cookbook for Stir-Fry, Dim Sum, and Other Restaurant Favorites Paperback – Illustrated
- The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking
1. Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking Hardcover
This cookbook is a classic much like in “The Joy of Cooking” tradition. According to one reader, it approaches Chinese cooking like a French chef approaches French cooking. It teaches the cuisine in a series of lessons that progressively build up one’s knowledge in skills, techniques, ingredients, and equipment.
There are more than 100 authentic and classic recipes here, accompanied by step-by-step brush drawings that illustrate techniques. The dishes are diverse, covering a wide range of styles from different Chinese provinces, with recipes as basic as making broth to sophisticated banquet food.
Readers liked the mix of everyday and banquet-style dishes. Another enjoyed reading the author's suggestions on finding ingredients in local markets. One compared this book to a master class on Chinese cuisine.
Recommended for anyone serious about building a strong foundation in Chinese cuisine.
2. Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food: Deliciously Doable Ways to Cook Greens, Tofu, and Other Plant-Based Ingredients Hardcover
his book features a selection of 75 vegetarian Chinese recipes that have been developed to be easily accessible for home cooks. This includes vegetarian versions of traditional meat-based dishes like dim sum.
It will also teach you practical tips like how to season and maintain a wok, how to substitute essential Chinese pantry staples, and what kitchen equipment one should have. It also provides a list of online Asian stores to make ordering less common ingredients more convenient.
The recipes are clear and easy to follow. Each one begins with tips or trivia. Most of them have photos of the dish. Samples of the recipes include Cauliflower with Spiced Shallot Oil, Kung Pao Tofu Puffs, Hot and Sour Soup, Ma Po Tofu, and Steamed Egg Custard.
Readers liked how the book demystifies ingredients and has a curated list of pantry staples for tiny kitchens and for large pantries. One reader enjoyed the anecdotes, while another liked how the book explains important tools like canning jars and steamers.
Recommended for vegetarians and all levels of cooks.
3. Chinese Technique: An Illustrated Guide to the Fundamental Techniques of Chinese Cooking Hardcover
This is a comprehensive cooking technique book that provides step-by-step instructions for Chinese cuisine. It comes with grey-scale illustrations to show the various essential techniques and a gallery of color photos of the dishes.
There are more than 100 traditional recipes that are primarily Cantonese in origin, although there are also some Sichuan recipes included. They’re also designed to build up your skills as you progress through the book so there’s an equal mix of easy and complex dishes.
Those who’ve tried the recipes said that most of them are very good, with a few that are unique. Another said that this is the only cookbook that taught him how to cut a fish for a squirrel-fish type of dish.
Recommended for those wanting to brush up on their techniques or home cooks looking for Cantonese style recipes.
4. All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China [A Cookbook] Hardcover – Illustrated
This book collects recipes from 35 regions in China, drawn from Chinese culinary texts and based on the author’s cooking experience in Taiwan. There are more than 300 recipes in this selection that range from the simple Fried Green Onion Noodles to the prep-intensive Lotus-Wrapped Spicy Rice Crumb Pork.
The book’s chapters are divided into regional cuisines, each one having a brief overview of the various influences on the regional cuisine, along with its main ingredients and characteristics. Then the basic, essential recipes are presented with clear, easy-to-understand steps.
Recipes vary in complexity; there are simple 3-step half page recipes to more complex 3-page recipes that come with their own diagrams. Most recipes have tips that help simplify shopping for ingredients and prepping them for cooking. There are also suggested substitutions for ingredients that are hard to find.
Recommended for experienced home cooks and those looking for recipes usually used in higher-end Chinese restaurants in America.
5. Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking Hardcover
This cookbook features the home cooking of Southern China where vegetables are the primary ingredient in the dishes. The selection includes recipes for stir-fried potato slivers with chili pepper, vegetarian “Gong Bao Chicken,” sour-and-hot mushroom soup, and the author’s emergency late-night noodles.
It also includes a comprehensive overview of the key ingredients and techniques of a Chinese kitchen, along with an informative section on Chinese cookware products and how to use them.
Recipes come with clear directions and beautiful color photographs. There are also notes that explain each one's cultural context as well as suggestions on how to adapt it. The total time for prepping and cooking each recipe is around 20-30 minutes.
Readers liked the simplicity and preciseness of the recipes. One liked how vegetarian-friendly the selection is because the meat can entirely be omitted from the ingredients.
Recommended for vegetarians or newbies and experienced home cooks.
6. China: The Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
This is a culinary bible of more than 650 authentic home kitchen recipes collected from 33 regions and sub-regions in China. Some of the recipes include the familiar Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs and Dim Sum, along with lesser-known favorites like Fujian Fried Rice, Jiangsu’s Drunken Chicken, and obscure ones, like Pork Lungs and Apricot Pit Soup. It also has a selection of recipes developed by Chinese chef stars from around the world.
The dishes come with their Chinese names but there are no transliterations. Similarly, some readers report that some ingredients are poorly translated. Recipes, however, are how straightforward and easy to grasp.
While the book covers methods of food preparation, there is not much focus on cooking techniques, regional cuisines, menu theory, or flavor combination aesthetics. The diversity of the recipes is the book’s main feature.
Recommended for skilled home cooks and chefs who are very familiar with Chinese cuisine and are looking for recipes for their repertoire.
7. Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories Hardcover
Stir-frying is a popular Chinese cooking technique and this book presents more than 100 classic stir-fry recipes from China and the rest of the Asian region. It also provides a comprehensive guide to equipment, preparation, and all other essential aspects of stir-frying, from dry stir-fries, moist stir-fries, clear stir-fries, and velvet stir-fries.
Recipes are clear, easy-to-follow, and well-illustrated with full-color photos. They are categorized into meat, seafood, and vegetable sections. There is also a special section for fried rice and noodles. Samples of recipes include classics like Hunan-Style Cumin Beef, Cantonese Chicken with Black Bean Sauce, and Stir-Fried Sichuan Beans and modern fusion ones like Chinese Jamaican Jerk Chicken Fried Rice, Chinese Burmese Chili Chicken, and Chinese American Shrimp with Lobster Sauce.
Readers who’ve cooked their way through the book found that the recipes all worked as written. One found the tips embedded in the recipes very useful.
Recommended for newbies, skilled home cooks and anyone looking for a good wok and stir-fry textbook.
8. Chinese Heritage Cooking From My American Kitchen: Discover Authentic Flavors with Vibrant, Modern Recipes Paperback
This is a cookbook that features Chinese-American dishes that are approachable for a home cook. There are more than 70 recipes here ranging from Sweet-and-Sour Baby Back Ribs, Five-Spice Seared Duck Breast with Kumquat Mustard, Scallion Pancakes with Hazelnut Pesto, Seared Scallops with Spicy Black Bean Sauce, Spinach Egg Drop Soup, and Beijing-Style Hot Pot.
Recipes are well written, easy-to-follow and despite their fusion style, are more authentic than most dishes in Americanized Asian restaurants. Most of them have a long ingredient list but the ingredients are familiar enough and easy to work with. They are all adaptable for vegetarian tastes.
Readers love that the dishes taste like they’re from a restaurant. Another liked that the meals can be easily created without using a traditional Chinese tool, like a wok.
Recommended for casual home cooks and those looking to try out Chinese-American recipes.
9. Essential Wok Cookbook: A Simple Chinese Cookbook for Stir-Fry, Dim Sum, and Other Restaurant Favorites Paperback – Illustrated
This is a practical guide to using a wok and includes tips on how to select, season, and take care of your wok. The recipe selection is comprised of American Chinese restaurant recipes, like Perfect Pork Pot Stickers, Easy Vegetable Stir-Fry, Lighter Egg Foo Young, Sweet Chili Shrimp, General Tso's Chicken, and Better Beef with Broccoli.
Recipes are detailed and come with step-by-step illustrations. They are also labeled according to time (30 minutes or less) and budget (under $10). There are also tips on how to swap ingredients or make the dish more healthy or spicy.
Readers liked that the recipes were very easy to do. One liked how the cookbook explained the difference between authentic Chinese food and what Americans think the food is supposed to taste like. Another liked how the dishes are gluten and vegetarian friendly.
Recommended for beginner home cooks and those looking for Chinese take-out recipes.
10. The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking: Including an Unorthodox Chapter on East-West Desserts and a Provocative Essay on Wine Hardcover
This is an out-of-print classic that shows how to adapt Chinese cooking techniques into a modern American home kitchen. While it provides advice on how to use traditional Chinese equipment like woks, cleavers, and steamers. It’s also practical enough to recommend the use of a Western-style skillet for stir-fry.
The recipes are authentically Chinese but are developed in the traditional Taiwanese framework. Most of the dishes have bold flavors and range from the easy Spinach Stir-Fried with Garlic and Salt, Pot Sticker Dumplings, to the more complex Pressed Birthday Duck, which takes four days to make and requires three cooking techniques, all of which are detailed clearly in the book.
Readers found the sections on Chinese kitchen equipment very useful. Another liked that the recipes are accessible and diverse.
Recommended for casual cooks looking to explore Chinese cuisine.
MASTERING THE ART OF CHINESE COOKING, by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo
This is a user-friendly cookbook for anyone who’s serious in learning about Chinese cuisine. It provides a fundamental understanding of how the Chinese cook their food which should delight any Chinese-American looking to explore their culinary heritage or inspire just about anyone who wants to learn how to cook authentic Chinese food.
It focuses on culinary techniques like steaming and stir-frying and provides the traditional recipes that will help one build his proficiency with the technique. The lessons are broken down into smaller bits so that it’s convenient to learn one small thing at a time, but it's also easy for anyone to dive in straight for a specific piece of knowledge.
Practical and useful, this is an essential cookbook to have in any home cook’s collection.