Whole Foods Founder John Mackey Is Vegan and These Are the Cookbooks He Swears By

Whole Foods Market founder and plant-based entrepreneur John Mackey is celebrating World Vegan Month (which starts on November 1) with a list of his 12 favorite vegan cookbooks. Are any of these on your list, too? Here’s what they are and, if you’re missing a few of these plant-based classics, where to buy them.

But first, who is Mackey?

Who is John Mackey?

In 1980, Mackey co-founded Whole Foods Market with Renee Lawson in Austin, TX. It started as just one small store selling organic, natural products, but Mackey and Lawson saw an opportunity for growth. Over the course of the decade, they merged with several existing health food shops across Texas, New Orleans, and California, and the Whole Foods Market empire was born.

Today, Whole Foods Market, now owned by Amazon, has more than 500 locations across the US, UK, and Canada. Mackey stepped down as CEO in 2022 and has since gone on to launch a new wellness brand, called Love.Life. The brand opened its first vegan restaurant in Culver City, CA earlier this year.

Whole Foods Market, on the other hand, isn’t fully plant-based, but it is known for its extensive range of vegan products. Mackey is a longtime vegan and has been a vocal advocate for plant-based diets on several occasions. “There’s been only one diet to reverse heart disease. And that is a whole foods plant-based diet,” he told podcast host Joe Rogan, who is a fan of the carnivore diet, in 2020.


Why John Mackey champions a whole foods approach to diet

Mackey has made no secret that he is a fan of plant-based, whole foods, and he’s not such a big fan of processed vegan meat (such as bleeding burgers, realistic chicken, etc.). He admits they’re better for the environment, but for our health, they could do better.

“The [brands] who are capturing the imagination of people—and I’m not going to name these brands because I’m afraid I will be associated with the critique of it. But some of these that are extremely popular now that are taking the world by storm, if you look at the ingredients, they are super, highly processed foods,” he told CNBC in 2020.

“I don’t think eating highly processed foods is healthy. I think people thrive on eating whole foods,” Mackey added. “As for health, I will not endorse that, and that is about as big of criticism that I will do in public.”

Research suggests that processed vegan meat is better for our health than conventional, animal-based processed meat (like bacon and sausages), but most experts agree that plant-based, whole foods are superior. In fact, a whole foods, plant-based diet has been linked with a lower risk of various chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

This is why all of the books on Mackey’s list (which also includes his own cookbook) prioritize whole food and plant-based cooking. 

John Mackey’s favorite vegan cookbooks 

“I follow a whole-food, plant-based vegan diet and have eliminated both refined sugars and oils, so I stick to simple, whole foods that allow me to make healthy, simple, and delicious dishes,” Mackey notes in the new post on his website, before adding that the list is in no particular order. Here is a summary of his top picks.


1 Richa Hingle’s flavor-packed vegan cooking

Two of the books on Mackey’s list are by Richa Hingle, the founder of the popular vegan food blog Vegan Richa. The first is Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen, which you can buy from Amazon here. The book guides you through Hingle’s “collection of plant-based Indian recipes, inspired by regional cuisines, Indian culture, and local foods.”

The second book is Vegan Richa’s Everyday Kitchen, which embraces international cuisine. Expert to find plenty of curries, as well as burgers, casseroles, noodles, pizza, and much more.
get it here


2 Works by the Sarno brothers (the duo behind Wicked Kitchen)

Mackey also enjoys the innovative, creative dishes of Derek and Chad Sarno, two vegan chefs and plant-based entrepreneurs, who founded the Wicked Kitchen brand and Good Catch.

His list includes The Wicked Healthy Cookbook, which walks you through how to make delicious, show-stopping vegan meals using simple plant-based ingredients, like mushrooms and jackfruit. Get it for friends and family here.

The Sarno brothers also helped with another entry on Mackey’s list: his own cookbook, The Whole Foods Cookbook. The book includes more than 120 “delicious and healthy plant-centered recipes,” all of which were carefully crafted by the Sarno brothers. 
Get it here 


3 A doctor-backed approach to cooking

Mackey is very health- and wellness-focused, so it’s no surprise that two books on his list were written by two prominent plant-based doctors.

The first is the Eat to Live Cookbook by Joel Fuhrman, MD. Fuhrman has dubbed his approach to food as the Nutritarian diet because it emphasizes nutrient-dense plant-based whole foods. In this book, he shares recipes and menus designed to “let you live longer, reduce your need for medications, and improve your health dramatically.” Buy it here.

The second is Michael Greger, MD, FACLM’s The How Not to Die Cookbook. Greger is a US-based physician and author, who is known for his The New York Times bestselling book How Not to Die, which reveals evidence linking diet and disease. This cookbook is a follow-up to that release and guides you through how to make more than 120 delicious, healthy recipes.
get it here


4 Eat like an athlete

As well as medical experts, Mackey’s list also shows off the work of two successful vegan athletes: Rich Roll and Rip Esselstyn.

In The Plantpower Way: Italia, which is available here, Roll (a plant-based ultra-endurance athlete) and his wife (an author, plant-based chef, and meditation guide) share their favorite family-friendly vegan Italian recipes.

In The Engine 2 Cookbook, Esselstyn (a food writer and former firefighter and triathlete) and his sister Jane Esselstyn (a plant-based nutritionist) share tasty vegan recipes inspired by Esselstyn’s own diet book The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan That Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds.
Get it here


5 Cooking animal-free with Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Another favorite of Mackey’s is Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a popular vegan chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author.

The first entry on his list by Moskowitz is Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook, which was written with fellow vegan chef Terry Hope Romero and released back in 2007. It features more than 250 delicious vegan recipes, like Hot Sauce-Glazed Tempeh, Samosa Stuffed Baked Potat, and Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti. Check it out here.

The second is Vegan with a Vengeance (10th Anniversary Edition), which is a re-release of Moskowitz’s first-ever cookbook. It’s all about helping you cook “amazing vegan meals” with cheap, easy ingredients.
get it here


6 Easy, everyday classics

And finally, two entries on Mackey’s list prioritize simple, healthy, everyday cooking. Everyday Greens, written by chef Annie Somerville, aims to make restaurant-level flavor simple and accessible for everyone. It’s inspired by the menu at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, where Somerville has been executive chef since 1985. Check it out here.

Then there is Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons by Nava Atlas. Learn how to make more than 120 delicious, low-fat, plant-based hearty meals that are nourishing, satisfying, and easy to pull together–in fact, they only require one dish.
Get it here

For more vegan cookbooks, read:

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