clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

12 Essential Cookbooks From Los Angeles Restaurants

New, 2 comments

Hunker down and cook dishes from your favorite LA restaurants

If you buy something from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

Cavatelli alla norcina at Bestia.
Cavatelli alla norcina at Bestia

For Angelenos hunkering down and craving dishes from their favorite restaurants, cookbooks make it possible to capture a bit of culinary magic at home. From Josef Centeno to Roy Choi to Suzanne Goin, LA chefs are here to provide home cooks with ambitious recipes, personal stories, and a taste of comfort through the combined power of prose and photography. Far from comprehensive, here’s a short stack of 12 cookbooks that capture the hearts and bellies of diners in Los Angeles.

For those searching for stress baking inspiration, peruse this list.

L.A. Son by Roy Choi

Celebrities Visit Hallmark’s “Home & Family”
Roy Choi
Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

About: Very few cookbooks are as personal as L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi. Through warm prose and colorful language, Choi tells his story of growing up in Orange County and Los Angeles, including brushes with crime and a gambling addiction. Sprinkled throughout each chapter are recipes for everything Choi has ever enjoyed eating, from his mom’s kimchi to instant ramen with American cheese melted on top to recipes he picked up in culinary school to a recipe for a burger from his imaginary burger stand. These recipes are for cooking comfort food at home. [Bookshop | Amazon]

What to cook: Perfect instant ramen, $4 spaghetti that tastes almost as good as the $24 spaghetti, potato pancakes

Guerrilla Tacos by Wes Avila

Chef Wes Avila in Los Angeles, California
Wes Avila
Dylan + Jeni

About: Guerrilla Tacos by Wes Avila brings recipes from the streets of LA to home cooks across the Southland. The book contains how-tos for some of the more iconic tacos Avila ever made at his stand and the two iterations of his food truck. Beyond capturing the flavors that made Guerrilla Tacos a phenomenon are vibrant tales of the chef’s Mexican-American history growing up in Southern California. More than a few pages and images are dedicated to the places Avila has called home over the years, from Pico Rivera to his first stint in Downtown’s then-burgeoning Arts District. [Amazon]

What to cook: Sweet potato taco, taco pasta, pozole

Night Market by Kris Yenbamroong and Garrett Snyder

Kris Yenbamroong and Sarah St. Lifer
Kris Yenbamroong and Sarah St. Lifer

About: Dinner at Night + Market is as much about the energy in the room as the food on the table and this cookbook captures the best of both elements. “The real point of the book is how to do Night + Market at home,” says Yenbamroong. “That’s not to say a dumbed-down version. We’re not doing things to do them the hardest way or the most old-school way.” Written with the home cook in mind, recipes are taken straight from the restaurants’ kitchens and nearly all ingredients can be sourced at one’s local Whole Foods. In addition to Thai classics like pad thai and khao soi noodles, are recipes for playful dishes like Bangkok mall pasta and an homage to Panda Express’s orange chicken. [Amazon | Barnes & Noble]

What to cook: Chicken fried rice, cold noodles, stir-fried greens with mushrooms and tofu

Oaxaca by Bricia Lopez

Bricia Lopez
Bricia Lopez
Bricia Lopez

About: You’ll find no shortcuts at Koreatown’s Guelaguetza — no pre-made tortillas in the kitchen, no generic Michelada mix behind the bar. The restaurant takes real pride in bringing Oaxacan culture and food to hungry customers, and now with its cookbook, co-owner Bricia Lopez shares how to do the same at home. “If we didn’t care about the level of detail that goes into every dish, we would lose the essence of who we are,” she says. The book contains a plethora of hyper-regional recipes ranging from breakfast staples to tamales, soups, salsas, and sweets. Chapter 5, Our Moles, is dedicated to Guelaguetza’s prized sauces that can be served over chicken thighs or eaten straight with warm handmade tortillas. [Bookshop | Amazon]

What to cook: Mole negro, mezcal cocktails

Ama: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen by Betty Hallock and Josef Centeno

Amá cookbook by Josef Centeno
Amá cookbook by Josef Centeno
Wonho Frank Lee

About: Chef Josef Centeno, a San Antonio native who built one of the finest collections of restaurants in Los Angeles, made his name with playful, pan-Mediterranean cooking at Baco Mercat. In Amá, he writes that he spent his younger years trying to escape the food of his deep-rooted Tejano family, only to return to this cuisine with fresh eyes and renewed appreciation as an adult. Woven throughout the book are family recipes — including flour tortillas, carne guisada, and an essential range of salsas — mixed with family stories. [Bookshop | Amazon]

What to cook: Queso, nachos, flour tortillas

Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin

About: Every Sunday evening up until the restaurant closed this past March, Lucques played host to a simple, seasonal, and sensational fixed-price dinner. Regulars filed in religiously for dependably good cooking done with the kind of elegance that Lucques was famous for. With Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin, the weekly ritual is celebrated on every page. Divided by the four seasons, each menu suggests an appetizer, two main courses (usually a meat and a fish), and a dessert. Mixing and matching dishes is highly encouraged based on the availability of produce and pantry staples. [Bookshop | Amazon]

What to cook: Swiss chard tart with goat cheese, braised beef stew

Mozza at Home by Nancy Silverton

About: The recipes inside Mozza at Home by Nancy Silverton are designed for entertaining, but given the current COVID-19 climate, these recipes can be adapted for folks who like to prepare food in large batches and reheat throughout the week. Most recipes serve six or more and are intended to be eaten at room temperature, which is quite ideal for those working from home, balancing childcare, and too rushed to nuke lunch. Organized by occasion, each of the 19 menus provide a main dish along with a complementary selection of appetizers and side dishes. There is even an entire chapter dedicated to approachable desserts, like chocolate pudding and chess pie. [Bookshop | Amazon]

What to cook: Eggplant lasagne, braised oxtails, Dario’s olive oil cake

Crossroads by Tal Ronnen

Tal Ronnen
[Official Photo]

About: Tal Ronnen, the chef of trailblazing plant-based restaurant Crossroads, has a way with vegetables. Within the pages of the Crossroads cookbook, he imparts his hard-earned knowledge with home cooks, providing an approachable framework that leads and inspires with flavor and freshness. The Mediterranean-leaning recipes that fill each page promise to nourish and satisfy, but never deprive. To complement the array of spreads, salads, soups, and pasta are recipes for the restaurant’s fantastic cocktails. [Amazon | Barnes & Noble]

What to cook: Smoked white bean hummus, hearts of palm calamari, pappardelle bolognese

Gjelina by Travis Lett

Chef Travis Lett pulls a pizza from the oven, at Gjelina restaurant in Venice on APRIL 27, 2011.
Travis Lett
Photo by Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

About: Gjelina is a restaurant cookbook. Sure, modifications have been made for the equipment in a home cook’s kitchen, but when it comes to a home cook’s budget and time, the recipes require a good deal of both. Those who have a well-stocked pantry and a weekend to spare will be rewarded with complex, sophisticated dishes that embody the essence of their ingredients. The recipes, striking an unbeatable balance between tasting luxurious and feeling genuinely nourishing, call for plenty of prep work and a quick fire to serve — just like at the restaurant. [Bookshop | Amazon]

What to cook: Spaghetti with anchovies, beef bone broth with greens and poached egg, braised meatballs

Bestia by Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis

Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis 
Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis

About: A reservation at Bestia has been hard to come by ever since the Arts District stunner debuted in 2013. And now with the Bestia cookbook, which promises “Italian recipes created in the heart of LA,“ ambitious home cooks are carefully guided by chefs Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis to recreate the iconic dishes that have perpetually packed the dining room since day one. While the 140 recipes in the Bestia cookbook are as complicated as one might imagine, with some advance planning and a good dose of patience, nettle pappardelle with mushrooms, along with grilled fennel-crusted pork chops, are within reach. For those looking for the ultimate challenge, the charcuterie chapter has recipes for salami, ‘nduja, and mortadella. [Bookshop | Amazon]

What to cook: Cavatelli alla norcina, spinach gnochetti with roasted marrow bones, chocolate budino tart

Everything I Want to Eat by Jessica Koslow

Jessica Koslow, the cehf-owner, stands at Sqirl holding a plate of toast with jam.
Jessica Koslow
Wonho Frank Lee

About: Sqirl’s founder and chef, Jessica Koslow, has captured the ethos of her marvelous restaurant into the cookbook, Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking. The book evokes the whole portrait of a restaurant — the feel of it, as well as cooking, the ingredients, and even the clientele. So much that is good about Los Angeles, and about California, is gathered up into this handsomely produced book. As much art book as a cookbook, the contents are arranged by their main ingredient, from eggs to meat to grains and vegetables. Along with all the gorgeously plated shots and fine procedural photos, are a number of photographs of Sqirl’s clientele. [Bookshop | Amazon]

What to cook: Brown rice porridge, sticky toffee whole-wheat date cake, sorrel pesto rice bowl

On Vegetables by Jeremy Fox

Jeremy Fox
Jeremy Fox
Rustic Canyon

About: “What if cooking responsibly isn’t just about honoring things with heartbeats?” asks Jeremy Fox, the chef at Los Angeles mainstay Rustic Canyon, in his book On Vegetables. When he was the executive chef at Napa’s Ubuntu — where he was named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs and was awarded a Michelin star — Fox described the place as a “vegetable restaurant,” ushering in a distinction between vegetarian and vegetable-forward cooking in America. Fox is a cerebral guy, so On Vegetables offers just as much theory as instruction for the sharply flavored, softly focused, gorgeously green cookery he’s honed over the past decade. [Amazon | Barnes & Noble]

What to cook: Peas and pecorino, chickpeas in broth