What exactly is comfort food, and when do we want it? The answer to that question will change depending on your culture and what foods you crave when you need a bit of comfort.
Sometimes it is an old familiar favorite, and sometimes, it is just what you want at the moment.
Comfort foods may vary depending on the cultures you are part of. I look for foods that evoke a warm and cozy feeling or remind me of a happy memory.
The beauty of many of the dishes on this list is that they are simple enough that you can enjoy them on their own, or you can adjust them to your particular taste. As a result, they can fully fit your idea of what comfort food is.
Best Comfort Food
Read on to learn about some of the most popular comfort foods in the United States.
Macaroni & Cheese
Macaroni and cheese are perhaps one of the most beloved comfort foods available. It is creamy, warm, and comforting.
It is enjoyable as a stovetop dish or a baked casserole.
The main ingredients in macaroni and cheese are in the name. However, often people use noodles other than macaroni, and some may add ingredients beyond these two simple ingredients.
I love to use cavatappi pasta in this dish, and sometimes I add a dash of hot sauce and dijon mustard to the sauce. The cheese sauce itself can be roux-based or some other type of sauce.
Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken pot pie is a cozy dish that is perfect for a cold day or just a time when you need a little pick me up.
There are a few variations of this dish, but usually, it consists of a mix of a creamy sauce, chicken, peas, carrots, and other vegetables encased in a pie crust.
This pie is a fairly simple recipe that you can try at home, but you can usually find pre-made versions in the frozen aisle as well.
If you are a vegetarian, vegan, or have other dietary restrictions, plenty of pot pie recipes are available that may suit your needs.
If you are looking for comfort food, it is hard to find a better option than mashed potatoes.
They are warm and soft. Plus, you can add them as a side to several different meals.
Some recipes may get more complex, but when I make mashed potatoes, I usually simply use potatoes, butter, a small amount of cream, salt, and pepper. Sometimes, I like to add some cheese for flavor.
Mashed potatoes are one of the easiest comfort foods to make. There are also instant versions available if you do not want to peel potatoes.
Not only are mashed potatoes delicious on their own, but they can make a delightful addition to dishes, such as shepherd’s pie.
Meatloaf is another dish that has evolved over the years, but it also has a simple, traditional version.
The traditional dish includes ground beef, bread crumbs, onion, milk, ketchup, egg, Worcestershire sauce, and other seasonings.
Meatloaf is commonly eaten with a sauce that includes brown sugar, red wine vinegar, and ketchup.
Part of the beauty of this dish is that you can whip it up quickly at home when you need comfort. It is also sold pre-made.
Some of the other items on this list, such as mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese, make a great compliment to meatloaf.
It is no wonder that a certain orange cat favors this dish. Lasagna is one of my absolute favorite comfort foods.
It is warm, cozy, and very flavorful. Plus, it includes several food groups, which makes me feel like it is a bit healthier than eating a vat of macaroni and cheese.
Generally, this dish consists of long lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, and meat. I also have a mushroom version that I enjoy.
This dish also has pre-made versions, and you can eat it at Italian restaurants.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and meatballs are a childhood classic. I have fond memories of making the meatballs by hand as a child.
Sometimes I still undertake that process as an adult, but I also sometimes buy pre-shaped meatballs if I want to speed up the process.
This one is another dish that pretty much tells you the recipe in its name. The meatballs generally contain beef, sausage, garlic, bread crumbs, egg, flour, and seasoning.
They cook in a tomato sauce, and that goes on top of spaghetti. You can mix up this dish by using a different kind of meat or plant-based meat.
There are a few different types of beef stew that can hit the spot if you are craving comfort food.
This dish is another that is warm and comforting. It is an easy-to-make dish that warms you up from the inside.
Many beef stews contain beef, potatoes, carrots, peas, and onions. The French beef stew, beef bourguignon includes red wine and lacks the tomatoes often found in other beef stews.
Hungarian goulash is similar to these other stews except that it contains paprika and it has a somewhat different texture.
Pizza is another common choice when one requires comfort food. It is warm and cheesy. Plus, it is easy to customize into whatever comforts you.
This dish is easy to make at home, buy at a store, or get from a restaurant.
A classic pizza often consists of a crust, tomato sauce, and cheese. Countless toppings can go on top of the pizza.
Some popular toppings are mushrooms, onions, basil, sausage, and Many pizzerias offer options, such as an alfredo or pesto sauce.
Cheeseburgers bring to mind happy summer days, filled with barbeques and laughter.
This dish hits all of the flavor notes that I look for when it comes to comfort food.
I prefer my cheeseburgers with all the trimmings, but many people find a simple patty, cheese, and bun to be all they need.
The traditional cheeseburger toppings include lettuce, tomatoes, onion, pickles, and condiments.
However, many restaurants offer toppings that include mushrooms, caramelized onions, bacon, or fried egg. Cheeseburgers are also fairly easy to make at home if you want to have your happy barbeque.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
If you have a sweet tooth, chocolate chip cookies may very likely be your comfort food of choice.
They are simple, but they hit all of the notes that you are looking for if you need some comfort.
They can be warm, soft, a little sweet, and a little salty. The chocolate does not hurt either.
Chocolate chip cookies usually include butter, sugar, flour, vanilla, eggs, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chips.
Sometimes these cookies have the addition of nuts, butterscotch chips, and marshmallows. They are simple to make at home, or you can buy and bake pre-made cookie dough.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Not only is chicken noodle soup a common comfort food, but it is also commonly given to people when they are sick.
This dish is warm and comforting, especially in cold parts of the year.
Besides the obvious chicken and noodles, the soup also contains chicken broth, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, thyme, bay leaves, parsley, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
Chicken noodle soup is easy to make at home, or you can buy it in a can. Often people prefer the can because it reminds them of their childhood.
Ravioli is another pasta-based comfort food that provides comfort in every bite.
In some ways, it is even more comforting than other forms of pasta. There is just something about a plate of warm dumplings of any kind that make me feel safe and cozy.
Ravioli is commonly filled with cheese, meat, or vegetables. So, you can get whatever flavor is most comforting to you.
It is often served with a red, cream, or brown butter sauce. Sometimes when I am stressed, I find making homemade ravioli very relaxing. It is also nice to know that I can easily get premade ravioli at the store.
BBQ ribs are a warm, comforting food that goes with several other items on this list.
They are often served with macaroni and cheese and french fries. The ribs themselves often come from pigs. I find them comforting due to the process in which you eat them.
Ribs are often cooked with a dry rub and BBQ sauce. The ingredients of the rub and sauce vary greatly, but they often include a mix of spices, garlic, olive oil, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce.
When making BBQ ribs at home, there are a few ways that you can make them, including in the oven or on the grill. Great ribs can also be found at restaurants throughout the country.
French fries are a great comfort food because they are warm, fatty, and salty.
You can eat them, along with several items on this dish or their own. They pair well with different condiments, including ketchup, mayo, and mustard.
At their most simple level, french fries are made of potatoes, salt, oil, and maybe other seasonings.
They are also sometimes covered in other foods, including chili, cheese, kimchi, and more. If you do not want to make fries from scratch, frozen fries are also lovely.
Chili is great comfort food that is packed full of protein and flavor. I find it particularly comforting on a cold day.
While chili is delicious on its own, it is also a great addition to certain dishes like hotdogs. It also pairs well with a bit of cheese, sour cream, and toasty bread.
Chili is one of those dishes that can be whatever you make it. Typically, it contains beans, onions, chili pepper, meat, spices, broth, and other seasonings.
You can easily make vegetarian or vegan versions, or you can make other modifications. For example, my favorite chili was a dried fruit and nut chili.
If you do not feel like making this dish at home, you can easily buy it in the store.
This dish is comforting, thanks to its warmth and tasty flavor. Garlic bread is a classic companion to many other comfort foods.
Not to mention, it is delicious and comforting food in its own right. Pair it with any of the kinds of pasta on this list or enjoy it alone.
To make garlic bread, all you need is bread, butter, and garlic. If you want, you can also add some cheese on top. It is simple enough to make at home.
However, there are several ready-to-bake brands that you can get from the store.
This chicken dish is a fantastic one to try if you are in the need of comfort.
It is hearty and flavorful, as well as fairly healthy. This dish mostly consists of chicken, vegetables of choice, and plenty of seasoning.
Roast chicken is one of the easiest hearty meat dishes you can make at home. There are several ways that you can make roast chicken.
Sometimes it roasts with root vegetables, and you can use whatever seasoning you want.
My favorite way of making roast chicken is slathered in an herb or lemon butter, and placed on top of roast vegetables.
Best Comfort Food
- Macaroni & Cheese
- Chicken Pot Pie
- Mashed Potatoes
- Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Beef Stew
- Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Chicken Noodle Soup
- BBQ Ribs
- French Fries
- Garlic Bread
- Roast Chicken
Whatever the reason you need comfort, there are plenty of dishes that can help you feel a bit better. So, the next time you are feeling down in the dumps, try a few of the items on this list and see which ones bring you comfort.
Since everyone is different, you may want to take a different spin on some of these dishes to bring you maximum comfort.
Give these dishes your modifications of choice and see how your feel as you eat them. If you have children, you may even be influencing their idea of comfort food!
This page may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, we'll earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you.