5 Gourmet Cookbooks For the Kosher Chef

Poopa Dweck's The Aromas of Aleppo

It’s hard out there for a kosher cook—one who observes Judaism’s strict dietary laws—in a culinary world where so many “forbidden” ingredients (pork, shellfish, the combination of meat and dairy products) form the building blocks for a plethora of cuisines. Jewish food has long been associated with simple fare such as chicken soup, bagels, and Kasha Varnishkes (it’s a real thing; look it up). But as more and more products have obtained kosher supervision, and education has become increasingly available through accessible literature, cooking shows, and culinary “boot camps,” haute cuisine for the kosher cook has become very much a reality. While the Kosher Palate and Kosher by Design series are excellent old faithfuls, here are five standalone kosher cookbooks to help broaden a more advanced home cook’s culinary horizons:

Entree to Judaism, by Tina Wasserman
There are a few kosher cookbooks out there that contain a similar breadth of international kosher cuisine, but as a home cook, this one’s my favorite in terms of organization, readability, and tips from the author. With recipes ranging from Greek to Tunisian to Panamanian to Ethopian, this book leaves no Jewish cultural home unexamined. Though the idea of making even half the recipes in this dense collection can be overwhelming, I highly recommend East African Groundnut (Peanut) Soup as a delicious place to start.

Aromas of Aleppo, by Poopa Dweck
Though this stunning cookbook looks more at home on a coffee table than a kitchen shelf, it’s packed full of intricate and delicious recipes for seemingly every kosher Syrian dish under the sun. They may be a bit labor intensive, particularly for those unfamiliar with the cuisine, but the results are worth it. Recipe highlights: Mehshi Basal (caramelized onions stuffed with ground meat and rice) and Kibbeh Nabelsieh (golden ground meat–filled bulgur shells).

Chef’s Confidential, by Michele RB Friedman
This is one of those “drool at every picture” kind of cookbooks, and yes, there’s one for every recipe. But my favorite thing about this book is actually the other thing accompanying each dish: plating instructions that actually feel accessible to the home cook. Oh, and the recipes aren’t bad either. Creamy cauliflower soup with crispy shallots is a personal favorite.

The Kosher Gourmet, by Batia Ploch and Patricia Cobe
The most condensed, tightly organized international kosher cookbook out there, this collection of recipes from the 92nd Street Y Kosher Cooking School has menus for every cuisine from Turkish to Tunisian, Caribbean to Vietnamese. Though the cultural histories are considerably less academic than in the above Entree to Judaism or, say, The Book of Jewish Foodby Claudia Roden, it’s definitely a solid choice for those who need a little more guidance in their menu planning, or want to create a theme meal in a pinch. The spinach with sesame dressing from the Japanese menu was a surprise hit for me.

Kosher Revolution, by Geila Hocherman and Arthur Boehm
The magic of this book isn’t so much in the recipes themselves as it is in all the other text. Hocherman’s approach is quite a unique one for a kosher cookbook: how to replicate non-kosher dishes using kosher ingredients, taking into account not just flavor but texture and mouthfeel as well. Hocherman, as she puts it in the introduction, “fell off the kosher wagon for a time,” allowing her greater insight into both sides of the coin. This cookbook is my standard for French Macarons, though my mother-in-law would definitely jump in here with a recommendation for the chicken and beef satays with peanut dipping sauce.

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