One of our favorite ways to conjure memories of a favorite vacation is to make some of the foods we discovered away from home, ideally with ingredients we’ve brought back.
Tortilla soup reminds us of Mexico City and tofu with ground pork and rice takes us back to Laos. Treacle tart makes us remember a fine Sunday roast in Edinburgh.
Cooking can be a way to introduce your kids to a new culture you’ll be visiting before you travel somewhere new. And it can be a way to armchair (or kitchen chair) travel and learn about new cultures during a stay-at-home vacation—or a long spell of social isolation.
Here are 20 books that with recipes that will transport you from California wine country to Kazakhstan and lots of places in between.
None are intimidating. They all have clear directions that make these easy to cook with your kids. Or maybe let the kids take the lead and pick up some new kitchen skills along with new tastes.
20 Cookbooks That Let Your Kids Explore Global Cultures
The World in 1 Book
1. International Night: A Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World
by Mark Kurlansky
This is a different sort of cookbook, organized into 52 complete meals from all over the world. Each one has an appetizer, entrée, maybe a side, a dessert and sometimes something to drink.
He includes three different regions of Italy, while Hawaii and New Orleans represent the U.S. You can also explore the foods of Senegal, Khazakstan, Mongolia and French Guiana.
You can do one full meal a week, eating your way around the globe for a year, as Kurlanski did with his daughter.
Or you can do what Tween Traveler has been doing and mix and match. She made Cornish pasties and Brazilian sweets one night. On another we had Philippine pork adobo with Iranian rice and Mexican limeade.
It’s a great book for exploring the world through food and also for pushing picky eaters a bit out of their comfort zone. Just beware of the desserts; we’ve found a lot of those recipes to be very poorly written.
Plan an International Night
Choose a meal from one of these books + one of these 47 movies that take you around the world.
Cookbooks To Take You Across The U.S.
The Southeast Coast
2. The Pat Conroy cookbook
by Pat Conroy with Suzanne Williamson Pollack
This is a cookbook and memoir in one. If you love Pat Conroy’s writing (I do) or just enjoy the food of South Carolina Low Country (I do) you’ll enjoy the trip he takes you on with this book through the South and beyond.
Enjoy the recipes for fried catfish and shrimp and grits, gratefully accept his tips on crisp pie crust and accept as a pleasant surprise the homemade tagliatelle he learned to make on a honeymoon in Rome.
California Wine Country
3. Sharing the Vineyard Table
by Carolyn Wente and Kimball Jones
Carolyn Wente is part of the fourth generation of family to own Wente Vineyards (you’ve no doubt had their chardonnay). Kimball Jones spent time as the winery’s executive chef.
The cookbook is organized by season with seasonal ingredients and a nod to California cuisine. The recipes all have wine suggestions for them. And they’re interspersed with beautiful Livermore Valley wine-country photos and historic black-and-white photos from the winery’s archive.
Everything in this book sounds delicious; don’t read it when you’re hungry! Try green garlic and spring onion pizza with fennel sausage from the spring menus, or braised lamb shanks with tangerine gremolata and fried winter vegetables when the air starts to get chilly.
4. The Lost Kitchen: Recipes and a Good Life Found in Freedom, Maine
by Erin French
I love this cookbook, says Elizabeth Lindemann at Bowl of Delicious. I picked up a copy when I was lucky enough to eat at French’s restaurant in Maine.
Flipping through it brings back great memories of the best meal I’ve had in my entire life and of Maine’s unique local ingredients and culture. And the fact that I got to meet and chat with Erin French and that she autographed the book makes it all the more special!
The macerated shallot vinaigrette is just one of the recipes become a staple in my house.
Cookbooks To Take You To The Caribbean
5. Flavors of Belize
by Tanya McNab
I bought this book because I love learning about cultures and foods in other countries, says Ellen Lafleche-Christian at Confessions of an Overworked Mom. I treat cookbooks as not only a source for great new recipes, but as a way to learn about places that I’ll probably never visit.
Flavors of Belize was a treat to read. I honestly knew very little about Belize before I got the cookbook. I was surprised to learn that so much of the cuisine involves seafood. My favorite recipe was the Escabeche, which is a classic marinated chicken or fish dish.
6. A Taste of Puerto Rico: Traditional and New Dishes from the Puerto Rican Community
by Yvonne Ortiz
One of my favorite cookbooks of all time, I found this book many years ago on a trip to Puerto Rico, and have found it to be one of the easiest cookbooks to use, says Kirsten Maxwell at Kids Are a Trip.
Recipes are straight forward, and I love how she starts the book with some history and Puerto Rican pantry basics. Some of our favorite recipes include besitos de coco (coconut cookies), Puerto Rican sangria, and the island classic, arroz con pollo (chicken and rice). Read more about Puerto Rico.
Cookbooks To Take You To Central America
7. Mexico: The Cookbook
by Margarita Carrillo Arronte
After spending a few months exploring Mexico at the beginning of this year I wanted to recreate the magical flavors of the dishes I had experienced on my travels, says Elaine at Show Them the Globe.
I invested in the beautifully presented Mexico: The Cookbook and it has quickly become my reference point for Mexican home cooking.
Arronte is a renowned Mexican chef who has dedicated more than 25 years to perfecting the art of Mexican cooking. The comprehensive book has more than 600 recipes ranging from street-food snacks and classic dishes to drinks and desserts.
My family’s favorites change as I work my way through the collection of recipes But at the moment we love the the blue crab soup, grilled pork tacos and a layered tres leches cake.
8. False Tongues and Sunday Bread
by Copeland Marks
I bought this book following a trip to Guatemala to meet my husband’s family for the first time and it has since become one of my beloved favorites, says Michele Peterson at A Taste For Travel.
Published in 1985, False Tongue is a collection of more than 300 recipes gathered during the author’s own travels through Latin America.
Unlike modern cookbooks filled with glossy photos, this cookbook features simple line drawings and personal narratives of his travels through the rural regions of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. He beautifully captures the countries’ culinary traditions along the way.
His recipes for black bean soup, pepian (a spicy stew), jocon de pollo (a chicken and tomatillo stew) and other traditional Guatemalan dishes have become favorites in our house. And the book has been an invaluable resource and source of inspiration to me.
Cookbooks To Take You To Europe
9. The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook
by Dinah Bucholz
Alright, probably not the most authoritative book on modern British cuisine. But your kids will enjoy it and the recipes are easy for them to follow.
And you will also find plenty of authentic English sweets and savories here, from toad in the hole, mulligatawny soup and myriad meat pies to treacle tart, Dundee cake and knickerbocker glories (basically ice cream parfaits, but the name makes them sound so fabulous).
You can also find out what those rock cakes are that Hagrid is always eating. And try making some of the candy from Honeyduke’s. (Read about Harry Potter fun in London.)
10. Wild Honey and Rye: Modern Polish Recipes
by Ren Behan
According to Katherine Hackworthy at Veggie Desserts, Ren took inspiration for these unique recipes from her own Polish heritage and the food of her childhood, but she’s also woven in flavors from the fashionable restaurants and markets of modern Poland.
Poland has long been on my bucket list of travel destinations, Hackworthy says, both for its picturesque towns and as a foodie destination in Eastern Europe. Ren’s beautiful book has made me want to go there even more.
Until I can, I’ve been enjoying taking a culinary tour through these recipes. She’s shone a spotlight on Polish foods. The expected flavors of dill, beetroot, sauerkraut, honey and rye are twisted and tweaked to make them at once traditional and current.
We love the making the lemon mini babkas (babeczki), which are light and delicate cakes traditionally made in Poland at Easter.
11. The Paris Café Cookbook
by Daniel Young
I love this cookbook; it made me feel like I knew a bit of Paris long before we visited the city of lights. The big mingles stories and black and white photos from 30 well-known Paris cafes with recipes from their menus.
Try your hand at authentic potato croquettes made with choux pastry, steamed chicken with tarragon sauce, an onion tarte.
On the sweet side, you can make real French crepes (with lemon juice and sugar or Nutella, both kid favorites) or chocolate profiteroles if you’re feeling more adventurous.
Pour yourself a glass of wine, close your eyes and pretend you’re looking at the Seine instead of your kitchen.
2 From Italy
12. The Silver Spoon for Children: Favorite Italian Recipes
by Amanda Grant and Harriet Russell
This is one of our favorite cookbooks, says Terumi Pong of An Emerald City Life. In addition to an ingredients list and photos, each recipe has easy-to-follow diagrams and simple step-by-step instructions.
My 11-year old guys have been using it a lot lately to make their own pasta.
We went to Italy a few years ago and we loved the food there so much-we took a cooking class! We would really like to revisit one day but getting to make foods that we enjoyed on our trip is one way to relive some of our memories.
Look for simple, hearty dishes like white beans and sausage as well as red-sauce classics.
13. Every Night Italian
by Giuliano Hazan
Hazan’s mother, Marcella, is the godmother of Italian cooking for many home chefs. This cookbook isn’t the food you find in Italian restaurants so much as what you’d find in people’s homes.
Quick weeknight meals like linguine and shrimp, hearty make-ahead soups with beans, barley and escarole, or cabbage and sausages.
There are also simple dishes that will impress at a dinner party, like salmon with capers and anchovies followed by a Sicilian orange tart.
There aren’t many pictures, which is a shame, but the recipes are easy to follow and he claims you can turn them all out in 45 minutes or less. This book could quickly go from being one you buy for cultural exploration to one of your nightly go-to cookbooks, just as the title says.
¡Delicioso! The Regional Cooking of Spain
by Penelope Casas
This is a fun book because it’s broken down by region, helping the reader to appreciate how varied Spanish food can be.
The northern coast of Galicia offers hearty seafood soups, wild mushrooms and rice pudding. The southern coast puts a Mediterranean accent on its seafood and salads and is the capital of paella.
In Andalucia poultry and rabbit dishes mix savory seasonings and the sweetness of fruit.
She offers a brief travelogue and a guide to wines for each region, and talks about key ingredients like saffron.
The first chapter is a tour of Spanish tapas, which is just the best excuse to throw a wine party, even if the only guests are your immediate family. These tasty little bites are a low-risk way to try new foods and the kids can help to make them. (Read about Madrid)
Cookbooks To Take You To Asia
2 From India
15. Rick Stein’s India
by Rick Stein
Aside from being a first-class chef, Stein is also a wonderfully poetic writer who simply loves food, according to Brian Jones, who writes the Krumpli food blog.
This book is born from his travels through India and features recipes from both home kitchens and some of India’s finest restaurants. I have more 50 curry recipes on my site and Stein’s book is often my first call for research into new techniques!
Ammas pork curry is my favorte at the moment because it’s the basis of a new recipe I’ve been working on. One of my go-to dishes inspired by him is a quick-and-easy prawn curry.
16. The Essential Indian Instant Pot Cookbook
by Archana Mundhe
This is one of my recent favorite cookbooks by the “Minister of Curry,” says Priya Vin from Outside Suburbia. You’ll find many authentic Indian dishes in the book and her recipes are easy to follow.
But what I love most is that it caters to my modern life with recipes designed for Instant Pot. No need for the scary old-school pressure cooker that you find in most Indian homes.
The Chicken Briyani is a staple weekend meal at our house. This complex but not complicate dish is always a hit. And I really love that I only have to clean one pot.
2 From China
17. Land of Plenty: Authentic Sichuan Recipes
by Fuscia Dunlop
Authentic Sichuan food is hard to come by in the U.S., even in large Chinese communities. But this book by Fuschia Dunlop, probably the most prominent western ambassador for Chinese cuisine, is a great introduction.
Sichuan dishes have a few elements that make them quite different from the Cantonese food most Americans know.
You’ll find flavors that you associate more with middle eastern food, like cumin. Steamed wheat flour buns are as common as sticky rice.
And then there are the Sichuan peppercorns, spicy and floral, that get tossed into everything. You’ll find them online if you don’t have a Chinese grocery store nearby.
The books explains Sichuan cooking techniques and ingredients. And the authentic recipes range from simple noodles with chicken to Sichuan roast duck. If you don’t mind heat, this is a great way to explore a part of China that’s less familiar to most of us.
18. Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes From Hunan Provice
by Fuscia Dunlop
This book focuses on the food of the Hunan Province. Again it begins with a few key regional cooking techniques and pantry tips.
You’ll find some familiar items, like General Tso’s chicken, steamed dumplings and a trio of spring rolls.
But you’ll also find a wide entrees that depart from the usual Chinese stir fries, like a homey braised pork and a variety of braised, steamed and grilled fish dishes.
Silver needle tea and duck eggs might be hard to come by, But most of the main ingredients, spices and condiments are things you have or can easily get, like rice wine vinegar and anise.
If you want to try more adventurous and authentic Chinese dishes than what your neighborhood takeout offers, but are scared of the heat in Sichuan food, this book is a good one to try.
A Cookbook To Take You To The Middle East
19. Shuk: From Market to Table, the Heart of Israeli Home Cooking
By Einet Admony and Janna Gur
Few people have a real sense of what Israeli food is, beyond pita bread and hummus. But with ample fresh produce and seafood available, Israeli dishes are diverse with some surprising flavors.
New York restaurant tour offers fresh and healthy meals like green shakshuka with chard, kale, spinach and poached eggs, a chick pea salad with goat cheese or beet latkes with yogurt sauce.
If you’re ambitious you can follow the diagram for making your own couscous. There are plenty of full-color photos of Israeli dishes and markets and recipes they’ve adapted from neighbors, like Ethiopian Doro Wat.
A Cookbook To Take You To Africa
20. South African Cooking in the USA
by Aileen Wilson and Kathleen Farquharson
Wilson is a South African who moved to the U.S. to be with her daughter and grandchildren.
The family wanted a book that helped them adapt their favorite foods from home to American kitchens and supermarkets. So Wilson, a food scientist who developed recipes for supermarkets, decided she would write it.
South African food is a lively mix of European, African, and Southeast Asian flavors. You can learn to make monkey gland sauce (which doesn’t involve any monkey parts) and chakalaka (which is fun to say), their counterpart to salsa.
Try samoosas, the South Africa version of the savory Indian pastry, and melktert, a custard pie with Dutch roots in its name.