Thai food is one of the popular cuisines in the world. It distinguishes itself by the preparation of light dishes with strong aromatic components and a spicy edge.
Until twenty years ago, the only way one can eat Thai food was if one went on a culinary trip to Thailand. If that wasn’t possible, the next option was eating at a Thai immigrant household. Only when Thai restaurants began opening all over LA in the 80s did the Americans began their love affair for tom yam, pad Thai and green curry. These days, Thai cookbooks make it easy for people to prepare their own versions of Thai dishes.
A perfectly made Thai meal is dependent on the balance of five important flavors: sour, bitter, salty, sweet, and spicy. This is achieved by using traditional ingredients that carry these flavors. Fortunately, with the global economy, one does not have to travel far and wide for these ingredients. One can easily get tamarind, curry paste, and fish paste in your local Asian grocery store.
Learning Thai cooking techniques though can be a bit more difficult. If you don’t have time to take a cooking class, reading a good Thai cookbook is your next best option.
There are many types of Thai cookbooks in the market. Some are written by American chefs who have visited Thailand and studied the cuisine. Part travel memoir and part cookbook, these books offer authentic recipes that have been kitchen-tested so that any American home cook will find them foolproof.
And then there are the cookbooks written by Thai immigrants. These books offer recipes whose dishes will look different from those in Thai restos but nevertheless, are still authentic in both flavor and texture. That’s because these are home cooked dishes that are found in the average Thai household.
In this list, I’ve also included the best classic Thai cookbooks as well as those that offer modern Thai-inspired recipes. These books offer more than just recipes; they also teach you things like flavor balance, level of spicing and how to serve a Thai meal. Practical stuff that’s handy to know especially if you’re going to go full Thai for your meal.
Here are my recommendations for the top ten Thai cookbooks on Amazon.
Best Thai Cookbooks
- Classic Thai Cuisine Paperback
- Maenam: A Fresh Approach to Thai Cooking Hardcover
- Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen [A Cookbook] Hardcover
- Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand [A Cookbook]
- Complete Book of Thai Cooking
- Vegan Thai Kitchen: 75 Easy and Delicious Plant-Based Recipes with Bold Flavors Paperback
- Thai Street Food: Authentic Recipes, Vibrant Traditions [A Cookbook] Hardcover – Illustrated
- Thailand: The Beautiful Cookbook Hardcover
- Nong's Thai Kitchen: 84 Classic Recipes that are Quick, Healthy and Delicious Paperback – Illustrated,
- Thailand: The Cookbook Hardcover
1. Classic Thai Cuisine Paperback
Despite its age (it was published in 1993), this cookbook’s collection of Thai recipes are the most reliable and close to authentic Thai cooking. Recipes are presented in three main sections: appetizers, snacks and noodles, and finally, main dishes and desserts.
The recipes are easy to follow and there is little repetition. Both English and Thai names are given for each recipe and recipes include useful info on the dish's ingredients and serving suggestions. There is also a short note about the history of the dish. Most of the recipes, however, are seafood-based.
The book also includes a glossary that has detailed explanations about selection, freshness, substitutions, and preparation. Readers liked the reliability of the recipes. One said that this cookbook is a good introduction for anyone interested in cooking very good Thai food but would also like recipes that are not what is usually offered in one’s local Thai restaurant.
2. Maenam: A Fresh Approach to Thai Cooking Hardcover
This cookbook features more than 100 Thai recipes from the award-winning Vancouver Thai restaurant Maenam. This restaurant is known for its modern and inventive take on traditional Thai cuisine.
The recipe collection blends traditional Thai flavors and French cooking techniques with local and seasonal Pacific Northwest produce. It also includes foolproof instructions from Maenam chef Angus An so that any cook will be able to create the dish. Whether you're looking at a Thai street food-inspired snack, or a quick noodle and one-bowl meal, or deliciously seasoned stir fries, this book will show you how to do it.
Readers like the book’s featured seasonal menus. One noted that its curry mixes and dressing recipes are great. If you’re looking for approachable recipes that result in refined and elevated dishes, this is a good book to add to your collection.
3. Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen [A Cookbook] Hardcover
This is a collection of 100 recipes from the author of the popular Thai cooking blog She Shimmers. The recipes are mostly versions of classic Thai recipes that have been updated so that busy American home cooks can easily make Thai dishes that taste authentic. There are also some beloved family recipes as well as some popular street food recipes.
The book is divided into chapters on Thai pantry essentials and tools, base recipes, one-plate meals, classic rice accompaniments, and Thai desserts. In general, the recipes are easy to follow but require specific ingredients. Unfortunately, the book does not provide substitutes for most of the key ingredients but if you’re able to obtain them, the recipes are relatively quick to make.
Readers liked the book’s homemade cooking style approach. One said that the best thing about the book is its selection of curry recipes. This is a good cookbook to use when looking for recipes on Thai home cooking.
4. Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand [A Cookbook]
Part travel book and part recipe collection, this cookbook features more than 50 popular recipes from Thailand and the menu of the popular Pok Pok Thai restaurant in Oregon.
It also teaches you how to master basic Thai cooking techniques and skills and understand Southeast Asian flavor profiles so that you can combine several dishes to create flavorful Thai-based meals.
The recipes are clearly written and do a good job of showcasing the regional styles in Thai cuisine. They also require a certain degree of dedication because some of the recipes will require specific ingredients and/or kitchen equipment. There are also some recipes that call for some pastes and stocks that one needs to prepare beforehand.
Readers liked how precise and authentic tasting the recipes are–as long as you have the right ingredients. One liked that it isn’t a dumbed-downed version of a Thai cookbook. If you like a “reading” cookbook that also shows you the beauty of Thailand, this is one of the better ones in the market.
5. Complete Book of Thai Cooking
This is a collection of 200 Thai recipes that have been streamlined so that they can be prepared with a minimum amount of time and yet still taste authentically Thai.
The book covers the basics, from making curry pastes to sauces and dips. Each recipe is easy to understand and replicate in an American home kitchen. It also does not use a lot of exotic ingredients and vegetables. There are also numerous side bar tips for variations to the basic recipe.
Readers liked the variety of the recipes. Examples of these range from the classic spring rolls and pad thai to the Thai-style pulled pork and roasted chicken. One said that even if some ingredients are swapped, the recipes still turn out delicious and authentic.
6. Vegan Thai Kitchen: 75 Easy and Delicious Plant-Based Recipes with Bold Flavors Paperback
This recipe collection reimagines classic Thai cuisine by using plant-based and gluten-free ingredients. Samples of the recipes include Tofu Satay, Spicy Basil Tempeh, and vegan desserts like Mango Sticky Rice.
The recipes are written simply and clearly with their Thai names also provided. There are color photos all around. The book also includes some insight into the flavors and cultural significance of the featured dishes.
Readers like the book’s innovative take on recreating vegan dishes that reflect Thai flavor. One liked how the recipe ingredients were easy to find in local grocery stores. Another liked the variety of the desserts, teas, and smoothies featured.
7. Thai Street Food: Authentic Recipes, Vibrant Traditions [A Cookbook] Hardcover – Illustrated
More of a coffee table book than a cookbook, this collection of nearly 100 authentic recipes will delight any fan of Thailand’s street food. The photos it features are gorgeous and capture the essence of Thai culinary street culture.
The book is separated into three sections, morning, noon, and night, and the recipes are categorized by food type (curries, desserts, snacks etc). The recipes aren’t complicated but some use ingredients that are hard to source and unfamiliar. Some samples of the recipes include Steamed Fish with Chilli and Lime Sauce, Pork Satay, Roast Duck and Egg Noodle Soup, and Sweet Banana Roti.
Readers liked this book for the photography but also because the recipes are very detailed. One said that it even tells you how the recipe should taste when it’s done. Another liked it because it explains the best way of dealing with some of the exotic ingredients when cooking.
8. Thailand: The Beautiful Cookbook Hardcover
This cookbook collects authentic recipes from each of the four regions of Thailand. But more than just a recipe collection, it is also a travel book in that the recipes are accompanied by notes on how the dishes are influenced by the historical, physical, racial, and cultural aspects of Thai society.
The book is divided into courses (Soups and Appetizers, Curries and Main Courses, Salads and Vegetables, and Desserts) and discusses ingredients that may seem exotic to Western tastes. There’s also a chapter on how to eat a Thai meal.
Recipes are quick to prepare, and easy to follow. The food styling and photos are gorgeous. Readers liked this book because it doesn’t get bogged down by historical or culinary facts and instead presents them both adeptly. Those who have tried the recipes have found them to be consistent, reliable, and authentic.
9. Nong's Thai Kitchen: 84 Classic Recipes that are Quick, Healthy and Delicious Paperback – Illustrated
This cookbook features master chef Nongkran Daks’s recipes for making classic Thai dishes using ingredients that can be found in American grocery stores.
Nong is known for her Pad Thai but there’s more than just noodle dishes in this book. Samples of the recipes include Chicken with Thai Basil, Shrimp Soup in Coconut Milk, Spicy Beef Salad with Mint Leaves, and Roasted Duck Curry.
Readers liked this book because most of the ingredients were recognizable and available, and the preparation manageable. One review blog described it as “restaurant-quality Thai cooking in a way that is approachable to the home cook.”
10. Thailand: The Cookbook Hardcover
This book has the most number of recipes on this list with 500 authentic recipes from every region in Thailand. From exotic dishes like roasted crickets to the familiar classics like pad thai, this book will show anyone how to integrate the four elements in Thai cooking (salt, sweet, sour, and spicy) so that you can create authentic flavors in your dishes.
Most of the recipes are written clearly, and some may just require some common sense. The book includes advice on essential Thai cooking techniques and there is a glossary to help home cooks with the less familiar ingredients. There are also beautiful photos to help bring to life the culinary history of Thailand.
Readers liked the breadth and depth of the recipe collection. One noted that this book has recipes that aren’t found elsewhere in Thai cookbooks.
CLASSIC THAI CUISINE PAPERBACK by David Thompson
There’s something to be said about the classics. They’re reliable and foolproof. The recipes in this classic cookbook are more than just the run-of-the-mill recipes in most Thai cookbooks. These are authentic dishes that haven’t been popularized just as yet.
It’s also a practical cookbook that doesn’t have essays and anecdotes about Thailand. It’s all about the recipes and how to make them easily. And judging from its reviews on Amazon, the dishes turn out to be all good. So if you’re looking for a nice, handy book that offers authentic recipes for an occasional Thai-inspired meal in your household, but don’t like the big book formats of most modern Thai cookbooks, this book is for you.