10 Essential Cookbooks for College Students

Help your student learn to fend for themselves with these brilliant (and budget-friendly) cookbooks.

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July 14, 2022

College is all about trying new things, making new friends and exercising some independence. And one of the smartest ways for your student to do all of the above is by learning how to cook for themselves. They can test recipes on their roommate, share dishes with people on their floor and have a solid backup plan just in case they get sick of the dining hall. (It happens!)

And the best part is that they don't need a lot of time, money or gear to cook while they're in college. Here are 10 cookbooks that cover all of the basics and will help keep them fed for the next four years.

Barnes & Noble

They might not have signed up for "Cooking 101," but they'll still get a crash course with Spoon University's How to Feed Yourself. We love this book because it's unpretentious and filled with practical tips, like exactly where to find pizza dough in the grocery store and how to bake without any cookie cutters. Plus, the recipes are bomb and out-of-the-box. Think breakfast tacos and chicken and pesto pasta.


If they never learned how to crack an egg or boil noodles, then prepare to get schooled by food writer and mom of three Katie Sullivan Morford. In her latest book, Prep: The Essential College Cookbook, Katie shares all the wisdom she'd impart to her own college kids, like the meanings of basic cooking terms, the proper way to hold a knife and which products to keep stocked in the fridge. And, of course, she offers easy-to-follow recipes for everything from omelets to loaded nachos.


Sure, they could learn how to cook for one, but what will help them make friends (or stretch meals across multiple days) like cooking for two? This approachable cookbook by Robin Donovan features wholesome, healthy ingredients plus budget-savvy shopping lists and tips on meal planning. Needless to say, it will make a fabulous addition to their library.

Urban Outfitters

If they recently decided to forgo all animal-derived products, then they need a copy of Broke Vegan: Speedy by Saskia Sidey. Inside, your college student will find over 100 recipes, like chickpea curry and freezer-friendly burritos. Best of all? Everything can be made in just 15 to 30 minutes and prepared in big batches.

Urban Outfitters

Smoothies are incredibly easy to make and will help your college student power through classes and extracurriculars. Need more proof? Just hand them a copy of Feel Good Smoothies by Sandra Wu and Rocio Egio. This colorful hardcover is packed with nutritious breakfast boosts, refreshing tropical blends (for those late-night study sessions) and soothing post-workout concoctions.


When author Candace Braun Davison says "easy," she really means it. Her college cookbook is designed with busy schedules and meager budgets in mind, and she even offers tips on how to save big on small appliances and the best places to buy nonperishable items.


In case you haven't heard, you can definitely make breakfast, lunch and dinner with just a microwave. For proof, just look to Denise Smart's Meal in a Mug. Inside you'll find 80 recipes that range from peanut butter and jam oatmeal (yum!) to sweet-and-sour chicken. And every single recipe can be made with just a microwave and a ceramic cup.


For the guy who's ready to go beyond the frozen foods section, we suggest A Man, A Can, A Plan by David Joachim. This cookbook's easy-to-follow format and simple ingredients (with pictures, no less) make it a big hit among men — young and old — who are just learning how to fend for themselves. Better still? It's available as a board book, which means that it's basically indestructible.


What food should they eat while cramming for a test? What about after an intramural game (or a night spent partying)? They'll find the answers to all of these questions and more in The 5-Ingredient College Cookbook, which is basically a manual for navigating the college years and surviving early adulthood. They'll learn practical skills like how to pick produce and save money in the process, how to hold a knife and dice onions, etc.


Here's a sure-fire way to make friends in college: Whip up something by one of the most popular bakers on Instagram and TikTok. As long as your student has access to an oven, they can make and share these delectable treats by Eloise Head (AKA @Fitwaffle). Best of all? More than half of the recipes require only three ingredients!

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