Cooking For Two Cookbooks

Are you new to cooking for two after years of feeding a big family? Starting out on your own for the first time? Or are you just looking for a little mealtime inspiration?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you’re in the right place! Because today we’re sharing some of our favorite Cooking For Two Cookbooks. They’re full of easy small-batch recipes that will help you get dinner on the table (without leaving you stuck eating leftovers all week).

Photo of two wooden spoons on a table.

For each book, you’ll find a quick overview, a little about the recipes, and all of the stuff you should know before purchasing. I’ve also included a section for who will get the most out of each cookbook since we can’t all be looking for the same thing.

Once you’ve gotten your fill of these books, check out this list of Cooking For One Cookbooks for those days when mealtime is just for you!

Shopping Tip

Before purchasing a cookbook, check to see if your local library has a (physical or digital) copy available.

Some books might only have one or two recipes that interest you. If you find yourself wishing you didn’t have to return the book, that’s a good sign you’ll be happy to have it in your cookbook collection.

Toaster Oven Perfection by America’s Test Kitchen

It’s no secret we’re big fans of America’s Test Kitchen. Their recipes are well-tested and have instructions that are clear and easy to follow (though sometimes a little fussy). So when they released Toaster Oven Perfection I quickly ordered a copy. 

Toaster Oven Perfection book cover featuring a variety of dinners and desserts.

We’ve already cooked a handful of recipes from the book and each one has been a hit. The Make-Ahead Scones were perfectly light and tender inside while the Baked Quinoa with Kale and Chickpeas was bright, tangy, and packed with protein. 

The puff pastry on the Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart was surprisingly crisp and flaky but it was the crazy impressive Savory Dutch Baby (we swapped a few ingredients to make it sweet) that was our favorite. We cooked all of the recipes in our Breville Smart Oven Pro (BOV845BSS) and found the temperature, time, and rack placements to be spot-on. 

Toaster Oven Requirements: 

  • While some of the recipes will fit in a medium-sized toaster oven (or can be adapted/resized) the majority are designed for a large-capacity oven. According to the book, an oven with an interior that’s a minimum of 12½ inches long, 9½ inches deep, and has 4½ inches of space between the bottom rack and the top heating elements will have the most success cooking the recipes.
  • Most of the recipes use the Bake or Broil functions but there are quite a few that call for Convection or Air-Fry. *The headnotes usually include directions to use the standard Bake function if your oven does not have Convection or Air-Fry. 
Dining room table with a dutch baby and puff pastry tart.
Dutch Baby and Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart

Beginner’s Advice: The first chapter is called Toaster Oven 101 and includes an overview of the different parts of a toaster oven, explanations for the common functions, a few toaster oven reviews, cooking tips, and some equipment recommendations. 

Toaster Oven Recipes: There are recipe chapters covering sheet pan meals for two, breakfasts, snacks and sides, desserts, and casseroles. There’s also a diverse meals chapter called Baked, Roasted, and Oven-Fried and one titled Ten Reasons We Love Our Toaster Oven which pairs a recipe with each reason like Spicy Oven-Fried Chicken Sandwiches for reason #2 It Fries Food Without The Fryer. 

Every recipe is accompanied by a large color photo and a detailed headnote. Many of the recipes may be familiar to you if you own other ATK cookbooks. I recognized quite a few from their Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook but you can tell from the headnotes that each recipe has been tested and adapted for the toaster oven. 

*Like all toaster oven cookbooks, some of their tips/directions might conflict with your manufacturer’s specific instructions. So always make sure to read your manual! 

Things You Should Know: A microwave is used for par-cooking and prepping ingredients in a lot of the recipes and a food processor is called for in a couple of the baking recipes.  

  • Most of the recipes serve 2 people, but there are some that make 4 to 6 servings (especially the casseroles) and a handful that serve 8 to 10.
  • There are a few single-serving recipes (that can be scaled up) for things like roasted chicken breasts, salmon, and pork chops.
  • Some of the appetizer and baking recipes are larger (24 cookies, 8 scones, etc.) but most include directions for storing leftovers.  

There are over 50 dinner recipes. Most of them feature chicken, pork, fish, or beef as the main protein. I counted only 9 vegetarian dinners, 3 of which were a similar combination of pasta and cheese. 

While a few recipes require a loaf pan or pie pan, the majority call for one of the following: 

  • Quarter sheet pan and cooling rack
  • 13 x 9-inch cake pan (without handles)
  • 8 x 8-inch pan 

Lastly, nutritional information for each recipe is included at the end of the book. If you have specific dietary needs (like gluten-free, low-fat, low-sodium, etc.) I’d highly recommend seeing if your library has a copy you can test drive before buying. 

Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate 
Recipe Effort: Easy to Medium 

This Cookbook Is For:

  • Anyone who owns a large toaster oven and wants to get more comfortable cooking with it.
  • People that want to cook meat (fish, chicken, beef, or pork) in a toaster oven. 
  • Couples and singles looking to add more variety to their usual recipe rotation. 

The Ultimate Instant Pot Cookbook For Two

If you’re cooking for two people and own an instant pot or just bought one (we’re newbies ourselves) then you need to check out The Ultimate Instant Pot Cookbook For Two cookbook by Janet A. Zimmerman.

The Ultimate Instant Pot Cookbook For Two book cover featuring two bowls of rice and stew.

In just one weekend we tried Lentils with Red Peppers and Feta, Brown Rice and Broccoli Cheese Casserole, Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Cranberries and Almonds, and Coconut-Vanilla Rice Pudding (← Tim liked it so much, we made that one twice!).

Chapters & Recipes: There are 9 chapters total with the first one focusing on Instant Pot and Cooking For Two Basics. Things like terms, accessories, help to choose a model, troubleshooting, and tips for scaling down recipes are covered in a comprehensive but easy-to-digest format.

The remaining 8 recipe chapters cover breakfasts, veggies and sides, beans and grains, meatless mains, seafood and poultry, beef and pork, desserts, and kitchen staples.

The recipes have nutritional information, make just 2 servings (though we did find the lentil servings very generous), and work in either a 3-quart or 6-quart instant pot.

Things You Should Know: There are almost no photos. Also, some of the recipes call for specialty ingredients like pine nuts, sun-dried tomato paste, and malt vinegar. Substitutions or homemade options are suggested when possible.

While there’s a variety of recipe types, I’d describe the majority as comfort food. That said, after trying the initial recipes as written, we had no trouble substituting lighter ingredients or adding more vegetables when desired.

Extras: If you struggle with food waste (who doesn’t really?) there are “Use It Up” notes directing you to other recipes where you can put leftover ingredients (like half a can of diced tomatoes) to use. Also, if a recipe is suitable for doubling that will be noted along with any required adjustments to the ingredients or cooking time.

Lastly, the Cooking Time Charts at the end have basic guidelines for a variety of foods from vegetables and beans to seafood and beef. Yes, you can find these things online but it’s super convenient to have them all in one place.

Skill Level: Beginner
Recipe Effort: Easy to Medium

This Cookbook Is For:

  • Couples looking for Instant Pot recipes that won’t create a bunch of leftovers.
  • Anyone who wants to get more acquainted with their 6-Quart or 3-Quart Instant Pot.

The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook

One of my all-time favorite cookbooks, The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen is written specifically for small households and includes shopping tips along with ideas for using up ingredients.

The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook book cover with chicken breasts cooking in a skillet.

Chapters & Recipes: There are 17 chapters and 650 recipes designed to feed two people. For omnivores, there are chapters dedicated to chicken, beef, fish, and grilling.

There’s a nice variety of recipes in the vegetarian mains chapter too. But nothing too funky. Most of the recipes call for common meatless proteins like beans, quinoa, tofu, and tempeh.

In addition to main dishes for two, there are chapters for soups, salads, burgers and sandwiches, slow cooker, vegetable sides, grains, and breakfast. If you enjoy baking there are chapters with quick breads, pies and tarts, and cookies and cakes.

It truly is a complete collection of recipes for two.

Things You Should Know: Some of the recipes do seem overly complicated and dirty more than a few dishes.

Also, while the majority of the recipes use pantry staples some do call for specialty ingredients. Things like miso paste, sesame oil, liquid smoke, and saffron.

Extras: Sprinkled throughout the book you’ll find lots of how-to photos for certain instructions and cooking methods. There are also notes explaining the why’s of each recipe and information about different ingredients.

The ‘Basics Of Cooking For Two’ area has everything you need to set up your kitchen. Including tips for purchasing and storing items, using up ingredients, and the best kitchen equipment for small households.

Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Recipe Effort: Medium

This Cookbook Is For:

  • Couples and singles looking for a wide variety of recipe ideas that won’t leave them with lots of leftovers.
  • Empty nesters that want to make smaller portions of their family-favorite recipes.
  • Anyone learning to cook for themselves for the first time.

P.S. America’s Test Kitchen published an All-Time Best Dinners for Two Cookbook. Looking through the reviews it appears all the recipes are from The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook. Given that, we’d get the full cooking for two cookbook, as it’s a better value for your dollars.

One Pan, Two Plates: Vegetarian Suppers

Carla Snyder’s One Pan, Two Plates: Vegetarian Suppers features over 70 one-pan vegetarian dinner recipes designed to make just two servings. The recipes are meant to be quick, easy, and with very little clean up, so you can actually cook them on a weeknight!

One Pan, Two Plates Vegetarian Suppers digital book cover on a tablet.

Chapters & Recipes: A wide variety of meatless dinner recipes can be found throughout the book’s 6 chapters. There are warming soups, hearty grains and beans, super veggie-focused meals, unique pastas, easy egg dishes, exciting pizzas, and savory tarts.

The recipes use lots of fresh vegetables and nutritious proteins like eggs, beans, grains, and a few with tofu. But don’t worry, there are plenty of yummy recipes for cheesy comfort food too.

Things You Should Know: The recipe format is a little tricky. With the ingredients side-by-side above the recipe directions (which are also side-by-side). In my experience, it’s easy to skip an ingredient or recipe step with this style.

Also, a lot of the recipes take 40 minutes or more. Depending on your schedule these might not qualify as weeknight cooking for you.

Extras: There are so many special touches in this cookbook. One of my favorites is the conversational headnotes that make you feel like you’re cooking with a friend.

If you’ve got a bigger appetite you’ll enjoy the ‘Extra hungry?’ section on the recipes. Each one has tips for making the meal more filling. It’s nice for those days when one of you wants something a little heartier.

Carla included a few pages of great weeknight cooking tips at the beginning of the book. But what you’ll like even more is the ‘It’s that easy’ area on each recipe. They’ve got info about unique ingredients, cooking tips, and alternative serving ideas.

Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Recipe Effort: Easy to Medium

This Cookbook Is For:

  • Your favorite vegetarian couple or single friends that loves to cook.
  • Anyone cooking for one or two that’s interested in eating more meatless meals.

P.S. If you’re digging this one-pan cooking for two style make sure to check out Carla’s other cookbook One Pan, Two Plates: More Than 70 Complete Weeknight Meals for Two. It’s mostly meat and chicken recipes but there are some vegetarian recipes too.

More Cooking For Two Cookbooks

I have a bit of a cookbook addiction and am always picking up used ones at our library’s bookstore. One of my many lofty goals is to write up a review for each one that I find.

Here’s what’s on my bookshelf (and tablet) right now. Which book would you like to see us review next?

  • Baking For Two by Tracy Yabiku
  • The Essential Air Fryer Cookbook For Two by Gina Kleinworth
  • Healthy Cookbook For Two by Rockridge Press
  • Vegetarian Cooking For Two by Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence
  • Down Home Cooking for One or Two by Taste of Home
  • Right Size Recipes from Betty Crocker

Your Turn!

Do you have a favorite Cooking For Two cookbook? Please share your suggestions in the comments!

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One Comment

  1. I have 200 meals for Two by Louise Blair, which I use a lot. Short, simple recipes with pictures for each one.

    But the best recipes are in the collection of Cooking for Two by America’s Test Kitchen. I have bought several of their soft cover books ( more magazine) at Costco, the 2016 issue on Baking for Two, and both 2017 and 2018 on Dinners. They now have compiled all their soft cover annual editions and more into one large hardcover book.