Joanna Gaines Discusses Her Cookbook Inspiration, Challenges & More

Everything Joanna Gaines touches is beautiful, including every recipe in her cookbook, Magnolia Table. We chatted with her about how she wrote the book while juggling many other projects.

joanna gaines with cookies

Photo by Amy Neunsinger

Photo by Amy Neunsinger

What inspired you to write a cookbook?

I think cooking is a way to celebrate time together as a family. To me, this cookbook is a celebration of these moments together with your family around the table. Like I was saying before, my kids appreciate a homecooked meal. When we sit around the table, I realize life is going by so fast, but these are the moments that seem to stand still. That’s what motivates me to always try to have something for my kids at the end of a crazy busy day. It’s the way that we all really connect, whether it be at breakfast or dinner. I think it’s really important.

Don't Miss Her Recipes from Magnolia Table:

What was it like writing a cookbook versus all of your other projects?

I think the heart of it was the same in that I hope when people read this, they actually feel inspired to try. It’s the same with design; I feel like people think, “Oh, I didn’t learn that. It’s not my deal.” To me, it’s just creating these beautiful moments in your home; it’s tweaking it a little in my mind and not thinking about it as a chore but rather as a privilege. That’s what I’m really hoping for this book. I hope that people feel inspired to just get out there and not think of it as “Ugh, I have to think of another meal.” Hopefully this helps.

What was the biggest challenge in writing this cookbook?

We were doing this at the same time we were doing the restaurant.  We were developing the recipes for the menu and we were doing the construction. There were just so many things that we had to do.

Also, when you’re writing a cookbook, you really have to fine tune everything. I’m the type of cook that just throws things in. I don’t measure exactly, and I had to really hone in on that.  Giving the exact specifics was interesting because I like to be a little more flexible, and that’s what I kind of say in the book: Don’t take this super literally. Have fun with it. If you have a little too much flour or a little too much sugar, give yourself a break. I think that’s what makes it fun. Just enjoying it.

Did your kids help you with the book at all?

Oh, yes. If I’m in the kitchen, there’s a guarantee that there’s always two or three of them in there with me wanting to lick the bowl or wanting to help, whether it’s peeling potatoes or turning the on button on a microwave. They love that. It’s a big deal. They’re definitely big helpers. And now that they’re older, they really understand what they love and don’t love. So just hearing them helps me tweak the process.

What are some of the standout recipes from your cookbook in your family?

The chicken enchiladas. I serve it with guacamole and salsa. I think that’s a family favorite. No one complains. Also, any type of casserole is a hit. When I get home at the end of the day, I want to be able to just throw something together, put it the oven at 350F for 30 minutes and call it a day. My kids love all those types of things. It’s comfort food.

Who do you look up to as a cook?

It’s funny, my mom would never call herself a cook, but what I always loved about my mom is how she throws things together and modifies if necessary. Half the time she doesn’t always have what she needs but she just wings it and she has fun with it. Her food is some of our favorite. She cooks a lot of Korean food and a lot of different things. Watching her makes me think cooking doesn’t have to be exactly by the book. And at the end of the day, we always love it. I always loved watching her not be so: “If it’s not exact, we can’t make it.” She loves doing it and it always turns out amazing.

Magnolia Table Cookbook

Photo courtesy of Harper Collins

Photo courtesy of Harper Collins

Dig in to more than 100 recipes (plus family stories!) in her Magnolia Table cookbook.