Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

As an early childhood educator, I love to use cooking with kids to teach. I use it to teach math, culture, and reading. And you can do the same at home—use our Read-with-Me Recipes to help your child practice reading skills in a fun way in the kitchen. And you can pair your cooking activities with a great book (or several) to build on the learning and enjoyment. Use this curated list of 11 picture books for kids who love cooking to whip up some great cooking-themed story times. Your child will learn about different cultures and find recipes in each one to boot!

MayaSmart.com has also produced a collection of Read with Me Recipes that are designed to help kids practice reading skills while preparing simple snacks and meals. They’re gathered together in a free printable PDF, along with specific teaching tips for each recipe.

Cora Cooks Pancit

by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore, Illustrated by Kristi Valiant

Cora Cooks Pancit is a darling story about Cora, a young Filipina girl, and her mother. Being the youngest sibling means that Cora never gets to help in the kitchen like her siblings. Today, however, it’s finally Cora’s turn! Enjoy this cooking adventure as Cora learns independence and the family learns to appreciate how much she’s grown. (Recipe included: Pancit)


The Ugly Vegetables

written and illustrated by Grace Lin

This is one of my favorite children’s books of all time. Springtime has arrived, and every house in the neighborhood has a garden going. But while most are filled with beautiful flowers, our young narrator is disappointed by her family’s garden. It’s just full of ugly vegetables! As the gardens continue to grow, we see the main character struggle with her mother’s traditional Chinese garden and her own desire to be like other families. But when it comes time to harvest the vegetables, everyone in the neighborhood wants in on the delicious soup they make! (Recipe included: ugly vegetable soup)


Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

by Kevin Noble Maillard, Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

This book won the 2020 Robert F. Sibert Medal for the most distinguished informational book for children and was named a 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Honor book. And it’s not hard to see why! This warm story shows children helping an elder to make a traditional Native American dish, fry bread. In the tale, the fry bread is lovingly prepared while given cultural context. Your heart and stomach will be full after this book. (Recipe included: fry bread)


Sweet Potato Pie

by Kathleen D. Lindsey, Illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb

This tale recounts the experience of a black family in the 1900s, close to losing their farm after a terrible drought. How will they ever earn the money to pay the bank when all they’ve grown is sweet potatoes? Never fear, Mama has it under control! With a little help from the whole family, Mama’s mouth-watering sweet potato pies will save the day. (Recipe included: Sweet potato pie)


Bilal Cooks Daal

by Aisha Saeed, Illustrated by Anoosha Syed

Yum—daal! Bilal loves to cook with his father, especially the South Asian dish of daal. But today, Bilal won’t just be cooking with Abu, he’s going to show all of his friends how to make daal, too. This book is a wonderful way to introduce cooking as a community activity to your child. What’s more, this father-son cooking story offers much-needed representation, since many cooking books focus on mothers and daughters.(Recipe included: Chana Daal)


Every Night is Pizza Night

by J. Kenji López-Alt, Illustrated by Gianna Ruggiero

Chef, restaurateur, author, and dad J. Kenji López-Alt has written a book about Pipo, a kid who is determined to prove to her whole family that pizza is, in fact, the best food in the world. Her family dreams of trying other cuisine, but it looks like it might be an uphill battle! In the name of science, Pipo visits her neighbors and tries their favorite foods in a bid to demonstrate that pizza is #1. This is a great book for your selective eaters and illustrates that being open to new things doesn’t have to mean giving up the things you already love. (Recipe included: Pipo’s pizza).


Freedom Soup

by Tami Charles, Illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara

This book packs a punch! It’s a story within a story. A Haitian grandmother tells her granddaughter the story of Haiti’s revolution as they cook together, the family recipe for Freedom Soup. The story ends with the glow of hope and, luckily for us, the recipe for this fabulous dish. (Recipe included: Freedom soup)


Bee-bim Bop!

by Linda Sue Park, Illustrated by Ho Baek Lee

Told in rhyme, this adorable story is narrated through the eyes of a young Korean girl. We see her family go through every step of the process to make delicious bee-bim bop. From the grocery store to the family table, your child will see the joy of making this meal and how each person can customize it to their unique tastes. Be careful though, after reading this book, I immediately have a craving for bee-bim bop! (Recipe included: bee-bim bop)


How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World

written and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

You’ve probably heard the expression “as American as apple pie.” Well, in this book, you and your child will go on adventures all over the world to make this classic dessert. From Italy to England to Jamaica and beyond, you’ll get to see just where all of the ingredients come from to make the perfect apple pie. It’s a lovely way of intertwining imagination and cooking together. (Recipe included: apple pie)


Our Little Kitchen

written and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

This one is a book for the senses. Filled with wonderful illustrations to gaze upon, onomatopoeias galore, and recipes in the back, you and your little chef will be entranced by this volume. What’s wonderful about Our Little Kitchen is that it is so much more than a book about any one specific dish. It’s a book about community and about food as a way to bring people together and to help others. It teaches about using food that we might otherwise waste and being grateful for all we can do for one another. (Recipe included: apple crumble)


A Very Asian Guide to Korean Food

by Michelle Li, Illustrated by Sunnu Rebecca Choi

Journalist Michelle Li has created a feast for the stomach and eyes with her book on Korean cuisine. After facing public vitriol from people after she described what foods are eaten for Korean New Year Celebration, Michelle started the Very Asian Foundation. This book furthers the mission by introducing dishes and explaining their flavors, their history, and their pronunciation, plus fun facts. After reading it, I immediately headed out to stock up on all these yummy delights! (Recipe included: Mandu)