Cookbook Review: Thug Kitchen

About five months ago, my evening routine took a new turn. I began reading cookbooks, cover to cover. The author forward, the recipes and the commentary strewn throughout. Prior to then, my time spent on cookbooks was limited to quickly swiping through recipes a few hours before dinner to find one that looked tasty and not too difficult to throw together. However, our recent move to Asia brought with it a new way of looking at plant-based cooking, and a focus on simpler ingredients. I became intrigued with livening up modest ingredients using herbs, spices and other natural flavor combinations.

I started analyzing recipes to understand why certain ingredients were paired together, or not. I would experiment with flavor profiles the next day, mixing up different food concoctions. I learned a ton, but mostly which chefs truly understood flavor at its simplest level.

When I came across Thug Kitchen’s: The Official Cookbook by Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway, even with my amateur palate I had a feeling they knew their stuff. I was kind of surprised…and intrigued. Released in 2014, Thug Kitchen got a lot of press off the bat due to their edgy style and language, but I hadn’t heard how their food actually tasted. The recipes are all plant-based and aimed at those looking to keep their meals budget-friendly (which means…most of us). Reading through the recipes, I could imagine the flavors and was in awe of their simplicity. Each one I combed through I realized, ‘hey, I have all of those ingredients in my house!’

Excited to put it to the test, I earmarked several recipes and began cooking them the next week. I ended up cooking four of their recipes in a week, repeating two of them. As such a well-publicized and popular book, I thought a review of what I found might be helpful to others looking for similar fare.

For those of you not yet ready to commit to reading a cookbook from cover to cover, I’ve summarized my review of four of their delicious recipes and my favorite characteristics of the cookbook below.

Recipe Review

Lemony Red Lentil Soup

Any recipe with a base of lentils has my vote off the bat, which is why I chose it. I followed this recipe to a tee, except that I omitted the olive oil, and I also added 1/2 a red onion instead of white because didn’t read the instructions correctly. It still turned out fantastic! The soup came together really quickly, which is a trend with most of their recipes.

Note that they spike several of their recipes with lemon and/ or vinegar. I had done this with my food every once in a while in the past, but I’m going to be much more liberal with these ingredients in all future meals. It definitely takes them up a notch. I tried the soup before adding the lemon and although it’s good, you don’t want to miss the lemon!

Moroccan Spiced Couscous

I didn’t know you could prepare couscous so quickly – they have a great trick for it! We ended up making this recipe twice it was so damn delicious. For us it was a side dish to sandwiches as it was light and fluffy. The only ingredient I changed was greatly reducing olive oil in the dressing the second time around. So if you are not keen on oil, you can still make this recipe and enjoy it. This was Andrew’s favorite recipe of the four I made, which is wonderful because it was loaded with heart-healthy spinach. Bright and flavorful, it was added to our recipe rolodex.

Savory Tempeh and Carrot Sandwiches

This was such a fun sandwich to make and packed with deliciously marinated tempeh. Pair this with the Moroccan Spiced Couscous I reviewed above, as we did for a perfect lunch or dinner combo. The only change I made to this recipe was subbing chipotle pepper for the liquid smoke since I don’t like to use liquid smoke, and it would be difficult to find any in Taipei anyway. In the future, I would cut the the tempeh and carrot slices to more like 4” long rather than 2″. It would be easier to turn them in the pan. We enjoyed this in pita bread and will keep this on consistent rotation in the future.

Creamy Black Bean and Cilantro Dip

This was the last recipe we made, and I’m so glad we chose it. I could not believe all of the recipes we tried kept turning out so amazing. We used as a topping on a Chipotle-esque Salad. I didn’t change a thing in the recipe and it was bomb! Next time I might reduce how much water I add, maybe add it in slowly. Mine turned out a little soupier than I wanted. I highly suggest making this as their suggested dip, or adding to tacos and salad bowls.

Favorite Features of the Cookbook

  1. Language
    These are two funny mofo’s. I found myself drawn into the cookbook not only by the recipes, but by Michelle and Matt’s wit and humor. I was laughing out loud each time I made a recipe and reading quotes to Andrew every five seconds.
  2. Simple Approach
    They clearly want their readers to feel comfortable in the kitchen and to not make cooking an uptight affair. They provide lists of kitchen basics up front, such as ingredients, tools and appliances, keeping it very straight-forward and simple. You don’t have to be wealthy or break the bank to make healthy, really tasty meals.
  3. Few Ingredients
    As mentioned in the beginning of this post, they really know how to combine a few ingredients and pack a lot of flavor in a dish. When you only need to pick up an ingredient or two because you have everything in your kitchen already, that is a huge time saver! They are consistent in the ingredients they use, so if you are missing a few spices or sauces, it’s worth it to pick them up.
  4. The Intro
    If you have the time to read the book, I highly suggest not skipping the intro. Again, the humor is great but you also get a feel for their awesome personalities and dedication to healthy, not-fancy meals. They provide great background information on specific ingredients and why or why not you’d want to use them. I learned a lot reading through this part of the cookbook.

All in all, I would highly suggest this cookbook to anyone new OR seasoned in the kitchen. You can find it here on Amazon, in paperback or for Kindle. It’s fun and light-hearted but they really know their sh*t. So check it out and let me know if there are any recipes you’d also recommend! We will continue to work through this cookbook as there are just too many we can’t pass up.