While brainstorming these ten delicious and romantic books about food, I suddenly remembered a story from my childhood. When I was 8 years old, my parents took me out to eat for my birthday (in what would be the last year I was a meat eater.) We went to a sit-down restaurant and I ordered a hamburger with ketchup, and what arrived was indeed a hamburger…but with peanut butter on it. The waitress was completely flummoxed, and she took the burger away, and came back ten minutes later with another burger. Still no ketchup — this one had mayonnaise and chocolate syrup on it. Furious and red-faced, the waitress took it away, and that was the last we saw of her.
A little while later, a man in a suit who introduced himself as the manager, came to our table and explained that apparently our waitress had broken up with the chef that morning and he was really angry about it. He was fired and she was given the rest of the night off, and we were comped for our meal.
I hadn’t thought of that incident in decades, but for some reason it came back to me as I sat down to write this post. It was the first time I remember being consciously aware of workplace romances. (Even if that one didn’t end well. That poor waitress.) Maybe that’s why I have always especially loved romance in books that happens around food. Food is a love language, and it goes great with romance. (But do you serve it with a red or white wine?)
So here are ten great romantic books about food. The ovens aren’t the only thing heating up in these books. Bon appétit!
Romantic Books About Food
Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber
Sirine is a 39-year-old Arab American living in Los Angeles. Her family wants to see her married and raising a family, but Sirine’s passion is for cooking, which she does at a local Lebanese restaurant. Then she meets Hanif, a handsome Iraqi who teaches Arabic literature, and it changes everything she thought she knew about her life.
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
Once a month, eight students come together for a cooking class in Lillian’s restaurant. Each student has their own problems and grief they are dealing with — the loss of a love, a new baby, a new town, etc. And as they learn about the food and ingredients and how to prepare sumptuous meals, they learn that these recipes might be good for more than the stomach.
Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien
This is a cozy mystery set in a noodle shop! The last thing Lana Lee expected to be doing as an adult was working back in her parents’ noodle shop, but here she is. After a disastrous break-up and the loss of her job, she’s waiting tables again. But then someone murders the property manager and everyone in the restaurant is a suspect. Lana must now figure out a way to clear her name, so that the very cute detective investigating the case doesn’t think she’s a murderer.
Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev
And this is a delightful twist on Jane Austen’s Persuasion! Chef Ashna Raje thinks her prayers are answered when she’s asked to join the cast of Cooking with the Stars. Now she can get the money to save her restaurant and also finally impress her mother. But then she finds out her partner on the show is her first love, the man who broke her heart. Can she be a consummate professional or will she get scalded again?
Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
This is a classic novel of food and love, complete with recipes! Set in Mexico at the turn of the 20th century, it follows Tita, a talented cook who cries a lot. In the womb, she cried so hard that her mother went into labor in the kitchen. As an adult, Tita is known for her fabulous dishes, but it’s the bonus ingredient of tears that really make them so special.
The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo
When Clara Shin gets in trouble in school, her punishment is to work on her father’s food truck with one of her least-favorite classmates. But as the days go by, Clara realizes maybe things aren’t as bad as she thought. She has a new friend in Rose, a newfound appreciation for her dad’s business, and a new crush on a cute boy named Hamlet.
Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall
Of all the food/romance tales, I think my favorites are the ones set at baking competitions. Possibly because I love Nailed It! on Netflix so much. When it rains, it pours. Rosaline Palmer is a single mom who dropped out of college to raise her daughter. She works hard, but the house is in disrepair and she could use some extra cash. So she is delighted to get a spot on a national baking show. But she didn’t expect the ingredients to include falling for not one but two men.
A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey
When everything seems to crumble around Lila Reyes right before vacation, her parents send her to spend summer in England with a cousin. Lila is less than thrilled — she thought she would be head baker in her abuela’s kitchen, not serving crumpets and scones in a B&B. Life isn’t fair. But then she meets a cute delivery boy named Orion, who opens her eyes to the world around her.
Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
And what fun — a food novel by a famed restaurant critic! Billie Breslin is nervous about taking a job at Delicious!, New York’s most iconic food magazine. She quickly finds a home on the staff and contentment among all the food stalls at the local market. But when the magazine is shuttered, she discovers a cache of letters written by a young girl to the legendary chef James Beard. And through this story, Billie discovers the love and joy she has been missing in her life.
A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen
High school senior Liza Yang seems to have everything going for her, and she’s able to impress anyone — except her mom, the owner of Houston’s popular Yin & Yang Bakery. She thinks she has finally won approval when her mother asks her to host a baking competition at the bakery. But it’s a trap — all the contestants are eligible Asian American boys her mother wants her to date. And one of them has caught her eye. Can Liza finally show her mother how capable she is on her own, and have her cake and eat it too?
And looking toward the future of romantic books about food, I want to point out an upcoming book that I absolutely adored. Mark down The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox on your TBR now!