Want to make real Thai food at home? Then you need these Thai cookbooks. Tasty (authentic) recipes, dishes that go beyond phad thai, and gorgeous food photography – these are the best Thai cookbooks around.
Andy Ricker opened a small restaurant called Pok Pok in a Portland neighborhood in 2005 after spending years traveling and eating around Thailand. The shop soon became a national phenomenon (and now has more locations in Portland and New York) and in Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand Ricker shares some of the simple, tasty recipes that helped with his success.
The title says it all. Thailand: The Cookbook looks like the Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Thai food….plus gorgeous photos. Jean-Pierre Gabriel’s book features 500 recipes from across Thailand coupled with stunning photos of Thailand’s food, people and scenery. It’s probably the most beautiful book I’ve ever owned.
I’ve mentioned the Thai food blog She Simmers before for its fantastic Thai food recipes, photos and explanations. When I ate something in Thailand and wanted to know what was in it or how to make it, I would visit this blog. Now the author behind She Simmers, Leela Punyaratabandhu, has her own cookbook filled with home-style recipes and, again, gorgeous photos. Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen also an excellent choice for American cooks as Leela’s spent many years in the U.S. and breaks down how the dishes are traditionally made in Thailand as well as how they can be adapted for ‘stateside Thai chefs’.
Living in northern Thailand, I think I know the food, but this book that just came out in the past year is a real deep dive into the culture by someone who clearly loves both the region and the cuisine. Part cookbook, part photo journal, Austin Bush traveled province by province to document the local food culture, exploring what makes it different and unique. While you may have to do some searching or make some substitutions for the ingredients needed in The Food of Northern Thailand, it’s totally worth it and you’ll be fascinated by every page. Fun fact, Austin did the photos for the first Pok Pok cookbook and got help on this one from his pal, Andy Ricker.
Who doesn’t love Thai street food? As a successful chef and restauranteur, you might think someone like David Thompson would be above street eats, but the beauty of Thai cuisine is that it works at every level, whether it’s a Michelin plate or a greasy skewer that’s perfect on the go. Each recipe in Thai Street Food, like crunchy prawn cakes or deep-fried banana fritters, comes with big, beautiful pictures and a story from David himself that gives you a better feel for life on the streets of Thailand.
Bangkok’s the kind of city where you can eat like a king for pennies or spend a real fortune eating genuine royal cuisine. And it’s delicious. All of it. Leela Punyaratabandhu’s Bangkok captures the flavors of the city in 120 incredible recipes for everything from pork belly curry to Thai iced tea. While Leela’s an excellent writer, each recipe is introduced with a personal story, she’s also clearly a recipe perfectionist. If you want to recreate the authentic taste of Bangkok in your kitchen, this book is a must-have (along with, fair warning, maybe about 20 fresh ingredients for each).
Named after the hip L.A. restaurants of the same name, Night+Market captures Thai cuisine with energy that zaps off the page. Truly the kind of cookbook that goes great with a beer, it’s as much fun to read as it is to try out the recipes, which are stripped down enough to make what can sometimes be a complex cuisine accessible to anyone, and of course you’ll want to invite all your friends around the enjoy what you’ve made together.
Because the first Pok Pok cookbook wasn’t enough, Andy Ricker and JJ Goode came back in 2017 with this followup dedicated to the wonderful foods Thai people eat when they’re drinking. The subject could have just been a great excuse for “research” but what they’ve put together are 272 pages of bold photos, bar tales and incredible food and drink. The recipes in The Drinking Food of Thailand are inspired by Ricker’s Portland, Oregon, restaurant, Whiskey Soda Lounge and highlight the flavors of Isaan, the lesser known northeast corner of Thailand with a serious taste for herbs and spice.
You think you know Thai street food, but you don’t know it the way Chef James Syhabout does. Born to a Thai mother and Lao father, these are the flavors of James’s youth, filtered through the experiences of his diverse career in fine dining. The cookbook shares, not just mouthwatering recipes and colorful photos, but the story of his parents, his upbringing, and his ethos on how to cook, eat and live well.
Note: The links above (in the titles) take you directly to where you can buy the books on Amazon and I receive a small commission with no added cost to you.
Hey! I'm Alana and I've spent nearly the past decade living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, working as a writer and photographer. I started Paper Planes as a place to share local insight, special places, and how to travel well through a range of experiences — from hostels to high-end hotels, street meat to multi-course meals.
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Just the covers of these books are already great!
Hopefully one of the winners will be very happy with the book!
I know! Do you know of any good Chinese cookbooks that you like, Yvon?
Oooh, really want this book. Love She Shimmers. Cool giveaway!
Don’t they all look great? A bit different than the Thai cooking school ones I’ve collected… 😉
Thai food is my absolute fave. I’ve entered 🙂
Thanks, Lynsay – mine too 🙂
I followed you & entered! 🙂 I’ve really enjoyed following your blog. I live in the Seattle area…my husband is Thai, and he desparately misses Thailand and the FOOD! I would love to be able to make some for him (I haven’t been able to duplicate very well thus far. hehehe…)
Wow – it sounds like we have a bit in common! I’ve cooked a bit, but still haven’t mastered any dishes…they always seem to come out differently each time. What are your husband’s favorite Thai restaurants in Seattle?
I’ve loved reading your blog! And would love to try some of these dishes – they sound delicious!
Oo! I bought Pok Pok a few months ago and LOVE it! I’ve read it cover to cover and can’t wait to go to Portland to try out the restaurant. I’ve tried out some basic thai recipes (that I’m sure are not remotely authentic) but nothing to that caliber just yet.
And I just started following She Simmers! Such a great blog.
(PS. of course I follow you on Instagram!)
She Simmers is fantastic! Thanks for reading, Bethany!
I loved Pok Pok! Definitely gonna have to check out the others, too 🙂
We lived in Chiang Mai and traveled thru SE Asia and I swear I’ve become such a snob as in no other Thai food tastes as good as it does when you’re in Thailand! I’m ruined forever. I’ve been hearing good things about Pok Pok looks like I should pick up a copy!
Following you on Insta for ages 🙂
Where do you live now – are there any decent restaurants or markets around you? I’ve found some places where the food is fine…but it’s just SO much more expensive! :/
This is just what I need for my new (not yet existant), kitchen!
There are so many good Asian markets around too!
Thanks for your recommendations. I’ve been thinking about learning to cook some Thai food because we couldn’t get enough of it when we went there a few years back. I remember the best places were the hole in the wall kind of eateries and the multitude variety of noodle soup dishes. Those were so good!
So good – it’s fun to cook too, but a lot of chopping and preparation!
18 Comments on The Best Thai Cookbooks