Weather turning brisk? Leaves changing colors? Far too often, “comfort food” brings to mind images of deep colors, layered flavors and generational recipes. But the truth is that feeling comfortable at mealtime, especially this time of year, is just as simple as any other meal: planning and a willingness to try!
Check out our list of best comfort food recipes that are sure to impress throughout this fall and winter.
1. Beef stew
Let’s start simple: This classic staple of American comfort cuisine has been warming hearts and bellies for generations. Whether you’re a thin broth or thick broth person, or a carrot or potato connoisseur, beef stew is easy to make and hard to mess up with the first of our best comfort food recipes.
- First, start by browning about 2 lbs. of stew meat in oil in a Dutch oven. Don’t sweat the brown bits, they’re necessary for flavor!
- Next, add to the pot 1 cup of chopped onion, 1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, about 10.5 oz beef broth (condensed), 3 Tbsp quick-cooking tapioca (or corn starch), 1 minced garlic clove, 1 Tbsp dried parsley, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and 1 bay leaf. Bring that whole mixture to a boil.
- Then cover the pot, put it in a 350-degree oven and let bake for an hour.
- Once the hour is up, stir in 6 chopped carrots, 3 diced potatoes and 1 cup chopped celery.
- Return to the oven to bake for another hour or until everything is nice and tender, then cool and enjoy!
2. No-knead bread
Very few things are as intimidating to the average home chef as baking fresh bread. But with this borderline foolproof recipe, all you need is 24 hours of patience and four (yes, four) ingredients. Therefore, you’ll be snapping off chunks of crispy, warm bread in no time at all.
- Start by combining 4 cups bread flour, 1/2 tsp instant yeast, 2 tsp salt and 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large bowl.
- Add 2 cups warm water and stir until blended into a shaggy dough. If it’s too dry, feel free to add a little bit more water.
- Then, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 14-18 hours depending on how relatively warm or cool your kitchen is.
- Lightly flour a work surface, transfer the dough to it, and fold it once or twice.
- Cover and let it rest for another 15 minutes.
- Shape the dough into a ball and transfer, seam side down, onto a floured kitchen towel.
- Cover and rest for another 2 hours (patience is key).
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees with a cast iron or ceramic pot inside.
- When the oven is preheated, flip the dough into the hot pot, seam side up. Put the lid on, and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove the lid and bake another 30 minutes. Cool and enjoy!
3. Vegan mushroom soup
Another word that automatically triggers fear in many home chefs is “vegan.” But this simple recipe for vegan mushroom soup could even fool a committed carnivore. Creamy, flavorful and satisfying, this three-step wonder will impress the pickiest of eaters.
- In a large pot, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat.
- Saute 1 large chopped onion and 4 cloves of minced garlic for 5 minutes.
- Add 2 lbs of sliced mushrooms, 1 Tbsp fresh thyme and 1/2 cup dry white wine, cook for 5 minutes.
- Add 4 cups vegetable broth, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- In the last five minutes, add 1 can of coconut or plant milk, continue cooking for five minutes.
- Mix 3 Tbsp cornstarch with 1/4 cup cool water. Add to the soup and stir frequently for 1–2 minutes until the soup slightly thickens. If the soup is too thin, add more cornstarch slurry as needed until desired consistency is reached.
- Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup chopped parsley.
- Season with salt and pepper.
4. Mulled wine
Let’s be honest, wine is good all year long. But in the winter, when you have an excuse to spice and boil it, everybody’s favorite flavorful fermentation takes on a much homier, comforting lilt.
- Combine 4 cups apple cider, 1 bottle red wine, 1/4 cup honey, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 orange’s zest, that same orange’s juice, 4 whole cloves and 3 star anise in a large saucepan.
- Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
- Pour into mugs, add an orange peel to each and enjoy!
5. Eggplant Parmesan
First things first, let’s talk about carbs. With all the comfort and peace of mind that comes with eating a salad, but also all of the indulgence that comes with eating a pizza, eggplant Parmesan is possibly the most satisfying comfort compromise on this list. Now let me be completely transparent: This is an involved recipe. But the payoff is well worth the additional effort.
- Arrange 2 medium eggplants cut into 1/2 inch thick slices on several baking sheets and sprinkle generously all over with kosher salt. Set aside to let the bitter juices weep from the eggplant, about 1 hour.
- Transfer the eggplant to a colander in the sink, and rinse well under cold running water. Transfer eggplant to a work surface and blot very dry with paper towels.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the 1.5 teaspoons salt, 5 cups breadcrumbs, 1 Tbsp oregano, 1 Tbsp thyme, and season with black pepper.
- Place all-purpose flour in a medium lipped plate or bowl. In another medium bowl, whisk 6 large eggs and 2 Tbsp whole milk together. Dredge an eggplant slice in the flour, then dip it in the egg, and finally dredge it in the breadcrumb mixture. Shake off any excess breading and transfer the eggplant to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
- In a large straight-sided skillet, pour vegetable oil to a depth of 1/2 inch. Heat the oil over medium heat until it registers 400 degrees on a deep-frying thermometer.
- Working in small batches, fry the eggplant slices, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per batch. Using tongs, transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and season with salt to taste. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Lightly brush a 15×10 baking dish with olive oil. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with 1/3 of marinara sauce and arrange half of the eggplant over the sauce. Cover the eggplant with another 1/3 of the sauce. Scatter half of the Parmesan and half of the mozzarella over the sauced eggplant. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella.
- Bake until hot and just beginning to brown, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
6. Guinness pumpkin pie
This deeply comforting and boozy take on a holiday classic takes the full-bodied notes of a classic stout and pairs it with the airy texture of a traditional pumpkin pie. The result is a caramel-colored, well-spiced finish to any chilly autumn day. Keep it in rotation for your Thanksgiving dinner, sit back and enjoy the praise. Slainte!
- Place 1.75 cups AP flour, 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp kosher salt in a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Add 11 Tbsp cubed butter and pulse until butter is broken down into small pieces. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Sprinkle 6 Tbsp ice water over the ingredients and stir to combine. The mixture will be slightly crumbly but still, hold together when squeezed. If needed, add another tablespoon of water.
- Dump the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and use the wrap to gather it all together into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour (and up to 24 hours).
- Unwrap dough. Cut off a quarter of it and set it aside. Roll out the rest of the dough on a floured surface to create a circle approximately 12 inches in diameter. Trim edges with a knife to make an even circle. Wrap crust around the rolling pin and unroll onto a pie dish. Nestle crust into the dish and crimp the edges. Place in refrigerator.
- Roll out the reserved pie dough and cut out a shamrock shape using a cookie cutter. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees (400 for convection).
- Whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg and 1/4 tsp ground cloves in a bowl. Then, whisk in 2 eggs and 1.75 cups pumpkin puree. Whisk in 3/4 cups of Guinness. Pour filling into chilled crust. Brush crust with whisked egg.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Remove pie and lower the heat to 350 degrees (325 for convection). Brush shamrock with egg and place in the center of the pie. Return to oven and bake for another 45–50 minutes, or until filling is set.
- Remove from oven and let cool completely. Then slice and serve with freshly whipped cream.
7. Baked macaroni and cheese
You can’t have a list of best comfort food recipes without macaroni and cheese. The only thing that can improve upon this perfect marriage of cheese and pasta is the satisfying crunch of well-baked breadcrumbs. If you’re feeling like molten gold on a chilly evening, don’t look for it in a blue box.
- First, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook 2 cups macaroni according to package directions for al dente; drain.
- In a Dutch oven, heat 1/3 cup butter over medium heat; saute 3/4 cup onion until tender.
- Stir in 6 Tbsp AP flour, 1 tsp ground mustard seed, 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper until blended; gradually stir in 4.5 cups milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir until thickened.
- Stir in 4 cups shredded cheese of choice until melted. Stir in macaroni. Transfer to a greased 13 x 9-in. baking dish.
- In a microwave, melt 1/4 cup butter; toss with 3/4 cup bread crumbs. Sprinkle over casserole.
- Bake, uncovered until heated through, 30-35 minutes. Enjoy!
8. Cinnamon apple pancakes
It’s breakfast time (or lunch or dinner…), and your sweet tooth is acting up — no better way to satisfy the craving than with this fall-inspired twist on a timeless classic.
- In a bowl, whisk together 2 cups whole wheat flour, 4 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/2 tsp salt.
- In another bowl, whisk together 2 large eggs, 2 cups fat-free milk, 2 Tbsp honey and 1 Tbsp canola oil; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moist. Stir in 1 medium chopped apple.
- Preheat a lightly greased griddle over medium heat. Then, pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls onto griddle; cook until bubbles on top begin to pop and bottoms are golden brown. Finally, top with honey and cinnamon, and enjoy!
9. Lemon garlic roast chicken
Stuffed full of pancakes? Having some post-mealtime regret? Make it up to yourself with an equally satisfying, if not equally indulgent, dinner. A good roast chicken is a classic way to scratch that comfort-food itch.
- Arrange a rack in the center of your oven, and preheat to 425 degrees. Cut 1 lemon in half crosswise and remove any visible seeds.
- Cut 1 head of garlic in half crosswise.
- Melt 1/2 stick butter in a small saucepan or microwave in a small bowl.
- Place 1 (3–4 lb.) whole chicken on a cutting board. Pat the whole thing dry with paper towels. It’s super important to get the chicken as dry as possible, which helps with browning
- With chicken breast facing up and legs pointing toward you, use a sharp knife to slice through the loose area of skin connecting the leg and breast, making about a 3-inch-long incision. Continue cutting downward until you hit the joint that connects the thigh to the body, then stop (once you get through the skin, there’s not much there; if you are cutting through flesh, you’re too close to the breast). Repeat on the second side.
- Season every surface of the chicken, including skin along the backbone, inside the cavity, under the wings and inside part of the leg you just exposed, with lots of salt and pepper. If you’re using kosher salt, it should take you around 4 whole teaspoons.
- Transfer chicken breast side up to a large oven-safe skillet. Arrange lemon and garlic cut sides down in skillet around the chicken.
- Drizzle chicken all over with melted butter and spices of choice and transfer to oven.
- Roast until chicken is nicely browned and cooked through, checking for doneness after 45 minutes.
- Let chicken rest in skillet at least 15 minutes before carving and enjoy!
10. Au gratin potatoes
The only thing better than pasta and cheese is potatoes and cheese. Now that you’ve repented at the altar of roast chicken, it’s time to lean into your cravings once more with this best comfort food recipe that will be sure to satisfy all involved.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Boil 1 lb. of the potatoes of your choice until just tender, 20–25 minutes; drain.
- When cool enough to handle, peel and dice into 1/2 inch pieces.
- Put potatoes in 3 qt. round casserole or rectangular baking dish.
- Then, in a large saucepan, melt 5 Tbsp butter over medium heat.
- Add 6 Tbsp flour; stir while cooking, 1-2 minutes.
- Whisk in 4 cups milk and add 2 crushed garlic cloves.
- Season with 2 tsp salt and cayenne pepper to taste.
- Stir in 2 cups cheddar cheese, or any other melting cheese you enjoy, and all but 2 tbs of 1/3 cup parmesan cheese.
- Add potatoes to sauce and stir to mix evenly.
- Pour into a casserole dish.
- Sprinkle remaining parmesan cheese over top.
- Bake casserole for 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender and the dish is bubbling and lightly brown on top.
- Finally, let stand 5 minutes before serving and enjoy!
Find comfort in any season with these food recipes
While all of these best comfort food recipes will be sure to keep you full and cozy all winter long, don’t be fooled into thinking that comfort food is relegated to the frigid months or the latter meals. Seek comfort at any mealtime in any season!
Feel free to start with this list of the best comfort food recipes, and then let your imagination take you the rest of the way.