When most of us dream of becoming absolutely superb home chefs, we imagine ourselves whipping up gourmet entrees and fancy hors-d'oeuvres. But often, the most gratifying dishes to master aren’t the kind of thing you’d find on a restaurant menu. Instead, they’re the classic comfort food recipes you grew up with—that ooey-gooey mac and cheese, that crispy fried chicken, those delightfully fluffy pancakes. Sure, DIY caviar toast and homemade pâté are enough to fill anyone’s heart with pride. But they’re not accompanied by the immense feeling of “home” that’s embedded in all your favorite childhood dishes.
Of course, comfort food looks a little different for everyone. For me, it’s chicken and dumplings, green beans cooked in bacon grease, and thoroughly whipped mashed potatoes. These Southern staples pervaded my childhood—appearing at every family gathering, at every holiday celebration, and even at the occasional weeknight dinner. For my partner, though, it’s a well-baked rack of lamb or an “Irish fry”—an expansive breakfast platter, composed of fried meats, sautéed veggies, and two kinds of bread. For my friend Kim, it’s pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup, and congee, a type of rice porridge. “Both are great for sick days (and the soul),” she says.
For you, it could be anything. The dish your family ate at dinner every single week. The coveted family recipe that’s been passed down from generation to generation. The incredibly indulgent dessert that only made appearances on special occasions. Even the store-bought snack you couldn’t get enough of in your youth. Comfort food can take any number of forms—all of them inherently special, welcoming, and cozy. The magic has nothing to do with the complexity of the recipe, and everything to do with how you feel once you’ve made it.
The Recipe: This creamy cashew chicken is Indian restaurant-worthy takeout you can whip up in your own kitchen. With just a pound of chicken breast, a couple potatoes, some cashews, some milk, and a ton of spices, you’ll have a flavorful chicken curry sure to leave your stomach (and your heart) feeling full for hours.
The Pro Tip: If you’re a fan of traditional Indian food, be sure to add a dash of garam masala to your spice blend. “While my family loves the spices used in Indian cooking, turmeric is not one of them. So for this recipe I have adapted it slightly to my family’s taste,” she says. “If you are a huge fan of Indian flavors I highly recommend adding a little garam masala to this. It’s still delish without it, but with it there is more of a traditional cashew chicken flavor.”
The Recipe: Grilled cheese is delightful in any format—but it’s even more delightful when loaded with three kinds of cheese and covered in an everything spice blend. Though this everything spice grilled cheese may look intense, it only requires 5 minutes of prep work and 5 minutes of cooking—meaning this delicious dish could be yours in no time at all.
The Pro Tip: Bread can make or break a sandwich, so Half Baked Harvest recommends using a loaf you love. “I bought some really good seeded sourdough from Whole Foods that I thought was a pretty good pairing,” she says. “But use your favorite loaf.”
The Recipe: Satiate your sweet tooth with one of these salted dark chocolate fudge donuts, which are served with freshly-made icing drizzled on top. So long as you’re stocked up on baking essentials, you won’t have to buy many ingredients for this recipe. Just snag some cocoa powder, some expresso, and a bag of chocolate chips, and you’ll be good to go.
The Pro Tip: It might be hard, but wait until your donuts have cooled to dip them in the icing. “They are so light and fudgy that the chocolate icing can weigh them down and cause them to crumble, so process with gentleness,” How Sweet Eats says.
The Recipe: This delightful creamed spinach mac and cheese recipe combines two comfort foods, creating a dish that’s almost unimaginably cozy. Loaded with three kinds of cheese, one kind of spinach, and a handful of cloves and onions, this recipe is rich, indulgent, and delicious—and generally low-maintenance to make.
The Pro Tip: Top your mac and cheese with something a little crunchy. “I like to use those crispy onions you may still have hiding in your pantry from the holiday season (use ’em up! they’re going to expire soon!),” How Sweet Eats says. “But you can also use breadcrumbs, cracker crumbs, heck—even pretzel crumbs!”
The Recipe: This Instant Pot chicken taco soup offers comfort and convenience in equal measure. Spend 15 minutes prepping your ingredients—chicken breasts, peppers, onions, and diced tomatoes—and then pop them in your Instant Pot to cook for 25 minutes. After 40 minutes from start to finish, you’ll have a warm, spicy soup fit for hot summer days and cool winter nights, alike.
The Pro Tip: Be sure not to shred your chicken breasts too finely before dropping them into your soup. “Large shreds of chicken work best in soups,” Boulder Locavore says.
The Recipe: Soups are inherently cozy, and this slow-cooker Korean beef stew is no exception. Packed with spices, rice, and tender Bulgogi meat, this stew promises to fill your mouth with all kinds of flavor.
The Pro Tip: When whipping up this dish, you’ll want to find a way to thicken your stew. Food Faith Fitness recommends using tapioca starch for this recipe, but she says cornstarch works just as well. “Coating the beef in a little bit of starch prevents it from losing it juices into the other liquids while it cooks,” she says. “Adding more at the end really brings the thick and hearty goodness that you think about when your brain thinks ‘stew.’”
The Recipe: If you grew up with spelt bread of any kind—and even if you didn’t—you’ll surely appreciate this spelt banana bread recipe with pecans and chocolate chunks. With a few baking essentials and a handful of ripe bananas, you can whip this banana bread up in no time. And The First Mess invites you to toss in add-ons as you see fit.
The Pro Tip: Don’t have spelt flour? The First Mess recommends subbing in whole wheat pastry flour, whole kamut flour, or whole wheat flour. “[Just be] mindful of the fact that whole grain flours will make the loaf more dense,” she says.
The Recipe: Even hearing the name of this recipe—Chicken Pot Pie Pizza—will fill your heart with warmth. Combine classic chicken pot pie veggies with pizza cheese and a shredded chicken breast, and house it all in a pot pie biscuit crust. The result is a dish that feels all kinds of nostalgic—and tastes all kinds of wonderful.
The Pro Tip: You may be tempted to skip out on the homemade crust here, but FoodieCrush says the extra effort is worth it. “Topping it all on a flaky biscuit crust is what turns this traditional pie into a game-changer,” she says. “I mean...biscuits as pizza dough? That was a new one, and one that has quickly made itself into the family recipe books.”
The Recipe: Yes, it’s completely possible to whip up this restaurant-worthy side dish from the comfort of your own kitchen. Russet potatoes, truffle oil, Parmesan, and sea salt come together to create an absolutely magical batch of Parmesan truffle fries—one you’ll be tempted to recreate every day from here on out.
The Pro Tip: If you’re using an all-natural truffle oil (rather than a synthetic one), you may need to throw in a little more than the recipe calls for. “If you use an all natural truffle oil, like Urbani natural truffle oil, the flavor is more subtle,” A Couple Cooks say. “If you buy a truffle oil that is not marked with ‘natural flavor’ anywhere on the package, it will be stronger.”
The Recipe: The most wonderful thing about these simple banana oatmeal pancakes? You can make them using ingredients you likely already have. The 20-minute recipe calls for baking standards like eggs, milk, and vanilla extract—though if you want to honor the oatmeal portion of the recipe, you’ll need to swap your go-to flour for oat flour.
The Pro Tip: Instead of buying oat flour, make it. All you need to do is throw three cups of oatmeal into a blender, and blend them on high speed until they turn into a powder. “Store leftover flour in an airtight container or jar, and use it in smoothies—or the next time you are making these pancakes,” Sugar Salted says.
The Recipe: Any dish that combines pizza and pasta has thoroughly earned its place in the comfort food zeitgeist. And this zucchini noodle pizza lasagna sounds all kinds of delightful. Combine your favorite lasagna ingredients—turkey, onion, and garlic—with your go-to pizza toppings—cheese, pepperonis, peppers, and olives—and prepare for a dish that’s warm, cozy, and incredibly yummy.
The Pro Tip: Make substitutions as you see fit. “The beauty of all of this is that you can get a little ca-ray-zay with it,” Food Faith Fitness says. “I mean, you can put whatever pizza toppings you like on it!”
The Recipe: Though you might’ve dreaded meatloaf night growing up, you can’t deny that this home-style Instant Pot meatloaf just looks and feels like home. True to tradition, this dish calls for classic ingredients, like ground beef, ground pork, eggs, and ketchup—with smoked paprika, garlic powder, and dark brown sugar thrown in for an extra dose of flavor.
The Pro Tip: Though your Instant Pot is great for cooking meatloaf, the dish may stick to the inside of it. Prevent this by creating a homemade aluminum foil sling. “The sling is used to lower the meatloaf into the Instant Pot and out when it is done,” Boulder Locavore says.
The Recipe: These crispy beef flautas are packed with fresh flavor, thanks to ingredients like shredded zucchini, chopped cilantro, and diced tomatillos. Though the dish takes more than four hours to come to fruition, only 50 minutes of that time is prep work—meaning you can set it and forget it, while you spend a little time doing something else.
The Pro Tip: Make sure your tortillas are hot before you roll them to make your flautas. “This will prevent them from cracking and breaking,” Hola Jalapeno says. If it’s your first time making flautas, feel free to take things step by step. “Meaning, warm all your tortillas first and keep them warm in a clean kitchen towel or tortilla warmer,” she says. “Then move on to filling and rolling each one and placing on a baking sheet. Then heat the oil and fry them.”