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8 best student cookbooks

Impress your flatmates without breaking the budget by whipping up healthy, delicious meals

Whether you're trying to eat healthy on a budget or just looking to whip up a quick meal after a long day of lectures, our pick of books will keep you covered. 

We went looking particularly for instructions simple enough for novice cooks, budget-friendly ingredients, and speedy recipes.

Student Eats: Fast, Cheap, Healthy by Rachel Phipps: £9.99, Ebury Press

We love this book by recent university graduate Rachel Phipps for its practical advice and comprehensive selection of essential recipes that can be made with minimal utensils and affordable ingredients. There's a useful section on meal maths, which helps you combine different dishes in the book and make the most of leftovers, alongside emergency store-cupboard meal ideas. And with creative recipes such as loaded fajita salad, frying-pan lasagna and pesto, ricotta and parma ham bagel pizzas, you definitely won't be losing out on flavour, either. Effortless desserts include honeycomb crunch refrigerator squares, Nutella cheesecake cups and Thai fried bananas. We liked the visual layout, with ingredients being divided between store-cupboard and fresh, which makes planning ahead a breeze.

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The Vegetarian Student Cookbook: £9.99, Ryland Peters & Small

With more and more students opting to be meat-free, this useful introduction to vegetarian cooking is bound to be popular. The book runs through all the basics such as fusilli with tomato sauce, extra-crispy macaroni cheese, stir-fried tofu, quick vegetable curry and mushroom risotto. There's also a section on food to impress, which will teach you how to make sophisticated dishes like roast tomato, goats' cheese and rocket tartlets, pumpkin and gorgonzola risotto and aubergine, tomato and parmesan gratin. Simple but indulgent desserts include chocolate and hazelnut brownies and baked cheesecake. We love the straightforward instructions and the book's reliance on store-cupboard ingredients. There's also a helpful introduction that runs through everything from kitchen equipment and food hygiene to tips for storing and preparing ingredients. 

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Three Ingredient Baking by Sarah Rainey: £12.99, Michael Joseph

Have a sweet tooth but don't have the time or equipment for complicated baking? This handy book by journalist and baking enthusiast Sarah Rainey might just be the answer. Her way of baking is not only easier and more economical, but also means you'll be able to make the most of your inevitably limited ingredient storage space. We love how creative the recipes are: you can learn how to make bread using ice cream, meringues in the microwave, and slow cooker banana bread. Although it does feature some seriously indulgent recipes such as Oreo fudge and white chocolate cheesecake, other recipes such as the pecan pie cookies and banana bites happen to be dairy-free, gluten-free and refined-sugar-free. The book also features some simple savoury recipes such as cauliflower wraps and sweetcorn fritters. We love the fun layout and easy instructions that ensure even novice bakers will be successful.

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The Savvy Shopper’s Cookbook by Amy Sheppard: £14.99, Ebury Press

Busy mum Amy Sheppard knows what it's like to have to cook food on a budget with limited time, and shares all her tips and tricks in this handy guide. There is a handy introduction with advice about food shopping on a budget, a discount shopping list and a one-week meal plan. The book contains speedy, thrifty and flavoursome meals such as sweetcorn soup, garlic and soy roast potatoes, Moroccan chickpea curry and cashew chicken stir-fry. Sweet treats include chocolate brioche pudding, flapjack cakes and mixed berry and white chocolate cookies. Recipes use as few ingredients as possible and instructions are no-nonsense and easy to follow. 

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Tiny Budget Cooking by Limahl Asmall: £14.99, Bluebird

Food blogger Limahl Asmall aims to create amazing dishes that won't break the bank. This cookbook is particularly good for busy, cash-strapped students, as it's organised into four weekly meal plans with shopping lists, allowing readers to feed themselves for under £3.50 a day. This book offers great advice for using up leftovers and cutting down on food waste, but proves that being on a budget doesn't mean compromising on taste. You'll be eating satisfying and extravagant dishes such as red dhal with cumin-crusted potatoes, beef noodle salad in satay sauce, chocolate and banana pancakes, and chicken, leek and orzo pie. We love how the ingredients are laid out with easy substitutions on the side. For example, for the Mediterranean hummus baguette recipe, the baguette can be swapped out for four slices of bread, and the hummus can be substituted with grated cheddar.

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Fast & Fresh One Pound Meals by Miguel Barclay: £16.99, Headline Home

This book by the so-called One Pound Chef, Miguel Barclay is an absolute must for anyone cooking on a budget, proving that delicious meals can be made with limited money and time. It will teach you how to transform even the humblest of ingredients into mouth-watering meals, by shopping smart and making clever substitutions. Look out for hearty meals such as smoky fish tacos, falafel burger, Spanish chorizo stew and Cajun chicken with creamed corn. All of the recipes are very simple, using just a handful of ingredients, and instructions are straightforward. All the recipes are made for just one person, so it's perfect for students cooking for themselves, but if you're cooking for more people the ingredients are used in quantities that are easy to multiply.

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Gennaro's Fast Cook Italian by Gennaro Contaldo: £20, Pavilion Books

Pasta may be a reliable, easy and budget-friendly meal, but any student knows that consecutive days of pesto pasta can quicky become uninspiring. This book by TV chef Gennaro Contaldo provides a wealth of Italian recipe inspiration, and teaches you how to cook seriously delicious food with limited time. Split into sections on soups, salads, pasta, rice, meat, fish, vegetables, sauces and desserts, the book overs an enticing range of dishes from a simple but nutritious mushroom soup, a speedy marscapone and spinach pasta, a comforting tomato, mozzarella and basil risotto and a frugal mixed veggie stew. We love the minimalist ingredients and uncomplicated instructions.

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The Doctor’s Kitchen by Rupy Aujla: £14.99, Harper Thorsons

If you're struggling to think of easy yet healthy meal ideas, this book is for you. There is a seriously extensive introduction with over 100 pages of nutritional advice alongside a wealth of simple recipes. If Dr Aujla has enough time to whip these up during his hectic life as an NHS doctor, it shouldn't be a problem for busy students either. This delicious selection of everyday meals is particularly suitable for adventurous eaters, and includes filling breakfasts such as spicy baked eggs with tomatoes and chickpeas, nutritious snacks such as soy and cayenne seeds and nuts, and easy mains like comforting noodle soup and black bean tacos, as well as healthier desserts such as sweet chai-spiced apple. The book really celebrates vegetables and beans and offers fresh new ways to cook with them, which is great for students as they're much kinder on the wallet than cooking with meat. Recipes are simple and easy to follow, with stunning photography.

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The Verdict: Student cookbooks

We love Miguel Barclay's One Pound Meals for its frugal yet delicious fare, while Three Ingredient Baking gets top marks for creativity, but if you're looking for a book specifically for students, we'd recommend Student Eats for the wide variety of recipes and user-friendly layout.

All listed prices are RRP

Rhian Williams has a food blog, Rhian's Recipes, where she posts vegan and gluten-free recipes


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