Have you ever been to a Thai restaurant, fully enjoyed a meal, then wished to yourself that you could make it at home too? If so, you’re in luck! There are many experienced Thai cooks and authors out there that have written incredible and mouthwatering cookbooks full of recipes from their culture’s food. These Thai cookbooks allow you to create delicious Thai recipes from the comfort of your own home and kitchen.
Thai Food History
Before we get into listing the best Thai cookbooks, we wanted to provide you with a bit of history about Thai food first. In case you didn’t know, Thai food is up there with the most popular cuisines across the globe! Thai food is a very unique cuisine, it uses mixtures and combinations of both Eastern and Western influences.
Thai food is known for having the following flavors: sweet, salty, spicy, and bitter. There are a few regions in Thailand, so the food will vary depending on the region it came from. The regions include Central, North, Northeast and South.
Thai food originally was made primarily out of aquatic animals and plant life. Something you’ll notice about Thai food is that there are rarely large chunks of meat. When you do see meat, it’s usually in strips or shredded. In the past, Thai cooking mainly consisted of stewing, baking and/or grilling. Today, many of the classic Thai dishes are fried. Pad Thai and Khao pad (fried rice) are definitely classic Thai dishes.
Do you consider Thai food spicy now? Apparently, it used to be spicier back in the day, but over the years the heat level was taken down a notch. Thai curries used to be full of spices and dried chillies. Today, these spices are mostly replaced with fresh herbs and peppers (lemongrass, galangal, and Thai chill peppers are all popular ingredients used now).
Even though Thai food is an Asian cuisine, none of this culture’s food is typically eaten with chopsticks. Mostly all meals are eaten with forks and spoons. Even in the past, chopsticks weren’t used – instead, food was eaten from the right hand with individuals sitting down on floor mats or carpets. Traditional families still eat this way even today.
You might notice that this happens to many counties and cuisines, but unfortunately, Thailand experienced a surge in American cuisine and restaurants. KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s and other fast food chains can be found all across the country, sometimes replacing traditional Thai restaurants.
Although Thailand is a popular tourist country, it’s not just the tourists that are eating this untraditional American fast food – Thai people are eating it too. That’s why we’re so grateful that Thai cookbooks exist. In a world with fast food around every corner, most of us have the privilege of choosing what to eat and having the ability to cook our own meals. For those of us who are interested in Thai food or love eating it, we can learn how to cook these delicious dishes for our friends and family (or even just ourselves!) at home.
Now, let’s get started on listing these Thai cookbooks!
Best Thai Cookbooks
Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen
This 236-page hardcover cookbook was written by Leela Punyaratabandhu. There are over 100 delicious recipes to choose from in this book. Thai food is known for being fresh and vibrant. The recipes included in this cookbook prove nothing short of that. Some examples of the recipes include Pad Thai with Shrimp, Golden Fried Spring Rolls, and Savory Pork Toast with Cucumber Relish. Talk about mouthwatering!
Leela Punyaratabandhu is a Bangkok native who first started out with a Thai cooking blog called She Simmers, which was so successful it led her to write this Thai cookbook. In this book, you’ll find personal family recipes, Thai street food recipes, and classic/iconic dishes of the country.
If you think you’re too busy to cook recipes from cookbooks, this book will prove you wrong. The recipes have been specifically created for anyone on a time crunch to complete them. The author also includes some chapters on the most important Thai ingredients and cooking techniques. Other chapters include Thai sweets, rice recipes, and one-plate meals. If you want to experience some flavors your mouth has never tasted before, this is a great cookbook to start with. Just a teaser of a couple more out of the 100 recipes in this book are: Crispy Wings with Three-Flavored Sauce, Leaf-Wrapped Salad Bites and Stir-Fried Chicken with Chile Jam.
“Simple Thai Food is a beautiful snapshot of Leela’s effort to stay connected to her Bangkok roots through food, and a wonderfully practical guide for those of us who want to create authentic Thai flavors at home.”
—James Oseland, editor-in-chief of Saveur and author of Cradle of Flavor
My Thai Cookbook
If you were ever going to judge a book by its cover, this would be a winner. If you haven’t seen it yet, the cover has a blue and yellow background with real-life Thai ingredients beautifully presented such as chili pepers, garlic, coconut, lime, crushed red chili, star anise, coriander, and more. Tom Kime is the author of this 256-page hardcover cookbook.
If you like recipe books with full-color photographs, this is definitely a cookbook for you. Every single delectable recipe is paired with a stunning colored photograph of what the end result looks like. It’s truly an inspiring cookbook that really brings out the vibrancy and colors of Thai food. There are four main food groups included in this cookbook. They include hot, sweet, salty, and sour.
If you think making Thai food is difficult, Kime debunks that much. Every recipe is easy to follow. The author includes a section on all the must-have traditional Thai spices so that you’re prepared to make any recipe from this book. You’ll also find a glossary of all the key ingredients so you’ll know everything you need to know about them. There’s also a section explaining how to make all the basics such as relishes, curry pastes, and hot sauces. Who wouldn’t want to know how to make their own traditional curry paste? It will likely be cheaper and tastier compared to buying it pre-made in the store.
There are over 100 delectable recipes included in this book. Just a few out of these 100 are listed below:
- Banana & Coconut Pancakes
- Shrimp, Basil & Lemongrass Salad
- Sesame-Seared Tuna with Ginger
- Hot & Sour Orange Curry
- Turmeric Grilled Whole Fish
- Pineapple, Lime & Mint Crush
Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand
This 304-page hardcover cookbook was written by Andy Ricker. Ricker is a well-known chef, he’s also the owner of the successful Pok Pok restaurants. Ricker learned everything he knows about Thai cookery through travelling in Thailand for decades. Even though he’s not Thai himself, he’s still very respected and well-known for his Thai cooking skills. Many people consider him to be the leading American voice and chef that introduces Thai cooking to thousands of people.
This cookbook contains 70 of his most-loved and popular recipes. Some of them are served in his Pok Pok restaurants, others are from Thailand. In case you haven’t been to Pok Pok and you’re wondering about the quality of the dishes there – it was rated the 8th most important American restaurant by Bon Appétit. All the recipes have been thoroughly tested for making the dishes taste as good as possible. A couple of examples of recipes included in this book are Fish-Sauce Wings and Northern Thai Curry Noodle Soup with Chicken.
What makes this cookbook unique is the fact that it isn’t only a cookbook. In addition to recipes, you’ll also find a master course detailing everything you need to know about Thai cookery. You’ll learn how to find the best ingredients, what the best cooking secrets and techniques are, and how to create specific flavor profiles. Additionally, there are also well-written and colorful essays that Ricker wrote about his travels in Thailand. You’ll learn a lot about the history and culture of Thailand after reading this book.
Thailand: The Beautiful Cookbook
This 256-page hardcover cookbook was written by Panurat Poladitmontri. He is both the chef and the owner of a very popular Thai restaurant in Seattle called the Lemon Grass Grill. Panurat is considered to be one of the leading Thai chefs living in America. This cookbook isn’t just a celebration and collection of tasty Thai dishes, it also celebrates the overall culture and people of Thailand.
As we’ve mentioned before, Thai food is a cuisine that has so much diversity. You truly get a glimpse of this diversity and variety in Thailand: the Beautiful Cookbook. Readers and home-chefs get to recreate curries and seafood dishes from the South, and glutinous rice dishes from the North. If you like heat, you’re sure to love the spicy recipes from the Northeast.
To make this cookbook even better, each recipe is individually styled and photographed by professionals. John Hay is a popular food photographer, but he also presents a beautiful collection of Thailand’s beautiful scenery and people. Ann Creber is a food stylist that has made each recipe beautifully presented. William Warren helped write the non-recipe part of this cookbook, introducing readers to Thai culture and history. He isn’t just any writer though, he has an inside-knowledge and personal connection to everything he writes about after living in Thailand for years.
If you look at the title of this book (Thai Food) some might think that the cookbook might be simple and straight to the point. The author, David Thompson, made this book anything but basic. It’s one of the most thorough Thai cookbooks we’ve come across, containing an impressive 688 pages full of Thai inspiration. This book took literally a decade to create, so it’s truly a masterpiece.
David Thompson had never intended on going to Thailand. After having some last minute changed plans, he found himself in Thailand. It didn’t take him long to fall in love with the culture, people, and most importantly, the food. After this first experience in Thailand which happened over 20 years ago, Thompson now considers Thailand his second home. Being a renowned chef himself, Thompson has worked alongside many experienced and talented Thai chefs.
Since Thai Food is nearly 700 pages long and took 10 years to create, it’s definitely the most comprehensive Thai cookbook ever created. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced cook, the recipes in here are for everyone. If you are looking for unique recipes that aren’t found in many other Thai cookbooks, look no further. Thompson does an incredible job at including hundreds of lesser-known authentic Thai recipes. Green Curry Chicken and Thai Fish Cakes are amazing, but so are Dried Lily Stalks and Deep-Fried Bean Curd with Crab. Before the recipes, there are 200 pages of some short essays and a glossary with popular Thai ingredients. It’s important to know what ingredients like bai yor and dried lily stalks are before seeing them included in recipes!
Earl Carter is the photographer for this cookbook. Many of the photographs were taken at Thompson’s restaurants located in London and Sydney. Others were taken in Thailand. Overall, this cookbook is an absolute must-have for anyone who loves Thai cuisine.
True Thai: The Modern Art of Thai Cooking
Victor Sodsook is the author of this 432-page hardcover cookbook. There are 250 recipes included in here, all of them delicious and unique in their own way. The recipes all have little notes with helpful tips. This isn’t just a cookbook, it’s a cultural book as well. A perfect description that shows the diversity of the book (taken from an excerpt of a review) is: “True Thai takes us from the jostling Bangkok streets and canals to countryside rice paddles and mango groves, from distant mountain villages to Thailand’s stately Royal Palace, delivering True Thai taste in every sense of the word.”
Sodsook is a native Thai who opened a very successful restaurant in Los Angeles called Siamese Princess. He’s both the owner and chef in this eatery. This book includes not only a glossary of the most popular ingredients but also a section on where to find them. Not only that, Sodsook goes as far as providing recommended brands for the main Thai ingredients such as fish sauce and coconut milk.
In today’s world, most people regularly eat fast food full of red meats, saturated fat, and oils. We all know that eating this way isn’t good for our health. Thai food is the opposite of fast food, and instead of damaging your health, many recipes will improve your overall well-being. Thai food is fresh, vibrant, and full of healthy produce. A couple of the many recipes in this cookbook include Crispy Sweet Rice Noodles and Fiery Grilled Beef Salad. There’s even a vegetarian cooking chapter! This chapter could literally be an entire book in itself. Here you’ll learn how to make meat-free soups, appetizers, entrees, and one-dish meals.
Other chapters in this cookbook include a salad chapter, drink, and dessert chapter. There’s even a section where Sodsook shows and explains to readers how they can incorporate these new and unique Thai flavors into their traditional American cooking.
May Kaidee’s Thai Vegetarian and Vegan Cookbook. 3rd Edition
This 132-page paperback cookbook was written by May Kaidee. As you can tell by the title of this book, it contains a mixture of both vegetarian and vegan recipes. In case, you didn’t know the difference, vegetarian means no meat. Vegan, on the other hand, is where you don’t eat any animal products. No meat, no dairy, no eggs, and usually no honey either.
This is the 3rd edition of this Thai vegetarian cookbook, which came out just recently in 2018. The first editions were successful with over 30,000 books sold. This new 3rd edition is full of updated and more vibrant photos and it also contains more information about the author herself. There’s also more information in general about Thailand and plant-based cooking. All the recipes in this cookbook are the same as the earlier editions.
The types of recipes included in this cookbook are Salads, Appetizers, Soups, Pastes, Curries, Drinks, and Desserts. Kaidee is a well-known chef around the world – this shows in her three restaurants located in Chiang Mai, Bangkok and even New York City! If you know anything about vegan cooking, you’ll know that making recipes usually requires you to be more adventurous and creative with cooking. Just a few of the recipes included in this cookbook include Massaman Curry, Black Sticky Rice with Coconut Milk, Pumpkin Hummus and delectable Spring Rolls.
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian yourself, someone who wants to try eating a few more plant based dishes, or if you’re someone who has vegetarian/vegan friends or family that you want to impress – this is a great Thai cookbook option for you!
The Food of Northern Thailand
Thailand has a few different regions, and each reason has different Thai foods and recipes. It’s great to have a Thai cookbook that focuses on one specific region. This 336-page hardcover cookbook was written by Austin Bush. Northern Thailand is known for its noodles, herbs, and fiery dips. Northern Thailand contains so many ancient dishes that haven’t even been translated into English before this cookbook. You’ll also learn about the history and culture of this region.
Just a few recipes include Spiced Fish Steamed in Banana Leaves and Coconut Beef Curry with Boiled and Crispy Fried Noodles. The publisher has even provided readers with a mouthwatering recipe called Tam Makhuea. We’d love to share it with you here!
Tam Makhuea (A Pounded Salad Of Grilled Eggplant)
- 4 green Japanese eggplants (600 grams / 21 ounces total)
- 6 medium fresh chilies (12 grams / ½ ounce total; see page 324)
- 5 grams Thai garlic (or 1 standard garlic clove, peeled)
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon unfiltered fish sauce (plaa raa; see page 325)
- ¼ teaspoon MSG (optional)
- a few sprigs cilantro (5 grams total), chopped
- 1 small bunch mint (15 grams / ½ ounce total)
Thai Kitchen Tools
- Thai-style charcoal grill or barbecue
- clay mortar and wood pestle
- Using a Thai-style charcoal grill, light the charcoal and allow the coals to reduce to high heat (approximately 450°F to 550°F, or when you can hold your palm 3 inches above the grilling level for 2 to 4 seconds).
- Using a fork, poke holes in the eggplant and grill until fragrant, limp, and charred, approximately 5 minutes on each side. Remove from the grill and cool.
- Remove the grate; skewer and grill the chilies directly over the coals, turning frequently, until fragrant and slightly charred, about 2 minutes.
- When cool enough to handle, peel the eggplant and chilies, discarding their burnt exteriors. Chop the eggplant roughly.
- With a mortar and pestle, pound the chilies and garlic to a rough paste. Add the eggplant, fish sauce, unfiltered fish sauce, and MSG (if using). Pound and grind until the seasonings are distributed and the mixture has the consistency of a chunky paste.
- Taste, adjusting the seasonings if necessary; the tam makhuea should taste equal parts spicy, salty, and smoky.
- Remove to a serving dish, garnish with cilantro, and serve with a side of mint and sticky rice as part of a northern Thai meal.
Feeling hungry? We sure are after writing about all these Thai cookbooks! It’s such a delicious cuisine that everyone should experience at least once in their life. But why stop at just one authentic Thai food experience? With any of the Thai cookbooks included in this list, you can be feasting on true Thai food from the comfort of your own kitchen. Whether you live in Australia, America, Canada or anywhere else in the world, you can enjoy this cuisine thanks to the dedicated authors who wanted to share the magic of this incredible cuisine.
We hope this list made your search of Thai cookbooks easier, and hopefully, at least one of the cookbooks included caught your eye! There is no right or wrong Thai cookbook to buy, it’s entirely up to personal preference. Happy cooking!