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12 Cookbooks for Light and Delicious Summer Meals

Three cookbook covers featuring colorful, veggie-filled dishes
Avery/Harper Wave/Avery

If you want to lighten up your cooking for summer but don’t know where to start, try picking up a cookbook that specializes in the kind of light, bright meals that sound perfect on a hot summer day!

Summer cooking is all about finding ways to incorporate fresh ingredients and bright flavors while avoiding the kinds of heavy meals that sound delicious during cold weather but are just too much for summer.

Meal prep and other meals that are less labor-intensive are great options for summer, too, since they can help limit the amount of time you have to spend working over a hot stove. As a bonus, these lighter meals often include a lot of delicious and good-for-you ingredients—it’s a win-win! Get started with one (or more) of these cookbooks today for summer meals you’ll love.

Skinnytaste Meal Prep

Gina Homolka’s cookbook features 120 healthy, easy-to-make recipes that are light, fresh, and delicious. The focus is on meals that can also be prepared ahead of time, which can be a relief if you don’t feel like cooking on a hot summer afternoon (plus it’s budget-friendly!)

The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook

Mediterranean eating is all about food that’s fresh and light (even if you’re more familiar with Americanized, heavier dishes). From the experts at America’s Test Kitchen, this cookbook includes over 500 recipes using the flavors of Greece, Italy, Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, and more. It’s all flavorful dishes that won’t feel too heavy during the summer.

Eat Better, Feel Better

This summer brings a new book from celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis, focused on eating well and feeling well. The recipes are geared for a well-rounded diet, plus options for gluten-free, dairy-free, and other dietary restrictions. It even has supplementary suggestions for other healthy living practices.

Half Baked Harvest Super Simple

Tieghan Gerard offers up recipes for comfort food with plenty of options for lighter, healthier options. There are some classic dishes in there too, but also a lot that use plenty of veggies, lighter and brighter flavors, and simple but flavorful combinations for food that’s warm and cozy without feeling too heavy.

The Well Plated Cookbook

Erin Clarke’s cookbook is another way of looking at comfort food and classic dishes but with a lighter twist. It focuses on efficient, effective cooking techniques (such as using one ingredient several ways), as well as ways to lighten up your favorite comfort dishes, all while keeping your budget and time waste-free.

Love and Lemons Every Day

Focusing on plant-heavy recipes is a great way to lighten up your cooking for the hotter months. This book by Jeanine Donofrio includes plenty of vegetarian recipes that are full of flavor and a lot more creative than just another pan full of roasted veggies—plus seasonal cooking guides to take advantage of the freshest ingredients all year round.

Sweet Laurel Savory: Everyday Decadence for Whole-Food, Grain-Free Meals

Laurel Gallucci and Clarie Thomas share their tips for grain-free, healthy recipes that will sound appetizing and sit well when you’re looking for a summer meal. 85 recipes cover every meal of the day (plus snacks) with tips on how to get the most out of your groceries and plan meals that feel light but are packed with flavor.

Milk Street: Tuesday Nights Mediterranean

Embrace fresh flavors and light dishes with this Mediterranean cookbook by Christopher Kimball. It’s a roundup of diverse dishes from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, all made with healthy ingredients and without a huge amount of prep and cooking work.

Danielle Walker's Against All Grain

Looking for gluten-free, dairy-free, and paleo-friendly meals? Walker’s recipes taste great and are easy to make even in the hot months where you don’t feel like cooking something that requires a lot of effort. There are even recipes designed specifically to repurpose leftovers!

Simply Julia: 110 Easy Recipes for Healthy Comfort Food

Julia Turshen shares plenty of classic meals with a healthy twist, with a focus on the kind of simple, tasty meals that are go-tos for busy weeknight dinners during the hotter months. Everything is designed to be affordable and accessible—no fancy ingredients or in-depth directions!

Oh She Glows Every Day: Quick and Simply Satisfying Plant-based Recipes

Thinking about trying plant-based cooking for everyday. Plenty of summer staples get the lighter, veggie-er treatment in this cookbook by Angela Liddon, which also includes tips and ideas for how to make recipes kid-friendly or how to adjust them for dietary sensitivities.

Love Real Food

Kathryne Taylor’s fresh, seasonal cookbook centers on how to make food that’s good for you and good for your wallet. Plant-based cooking and lighter grains are staples of great, light, easy summer recipes, and that’s what the bulk of this cookbook features.

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »

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