Updated February 16, 2017
Comfort foods have a lousy reputation: too fatty, too starchy, too sugary, and too high in refined everything. “If it tastes this good it’s got to be bad” is a common refrain, but I think it’s an unfair one. The tastes and textures that soothe our souls don’t have to wreak havoc on our plans to eat healthily.
Got a craving? The right recipe and a few ingredient swaps can give you all the delicious TLC your body needs.
Rich and Creamy
High-fat dairy ingredients aren’t the only thing that can satisfy a yen for silky, tongue caressing foods. Tofu, avocado, and pureed fruits and vegetables can all add terrific mouthfeel to your dishes. Nuts are packed with nutrients and healthy fats; they can bring richness to recipes like this Mushroom Stroganoff opens in a new tab that uses an easy-to-make cashew cream in place of traditional sour cream. And the sensational Banana Nice Cream opens in a new tab relies on blended frozen bananas for a rich dairy-free snack or dessert.
Savory and Meaty
Want something hearty and substantial on a cold day? These vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes opens in a new tab swap out ground beef for fiber-packed brown lentils and are tops for a quick, comforting feast. You’ll find another alternative to ground beef in this delicious Bison Chili opens in a new tab; the recipe calls for just a 1/2 pound of lean, super-flavorful ground bison and pumps up the dish with kidney beans and a half-dozen veggies for big gratification. And nothing takes the chill off like meaty tasting (but completely vegan!) Eggplant Bolognese opens in a new tab over whole wheat spaghetti.
Hot and Spicy
Sometimes nothing satisfies like a big dose of spice or fiery chiles. Make up a batch of this sweet-and-spicy, fiber-packed Mango-Black Bean Salsa opens in a new tab to snack on with chips or veggie dippers, then use it again as a zesty topping for healthful entrees like baked tofu or steamed fish. Or, for exotic curry flavor combined with classic comfort ingredients, bake up a pan of this easy Curried Turkey and Rice Casserole opens in a new tab; you can even use chicken or a meat substitute in place of turkey.
Crisp and Crunchy
Steering clear of high-fat, high-sodium snack chips is easier when you’ve got delicious alternatives on hand. Cheezy Kale Chips opens in a new tab are a revelation in big flavor and stellar nutrition by using some very tasty plant-based dairy alternatives. For a crisp and chewy bite that packs concentrated fruit flavor, Dried Apple Slices opens in a new tab are tops, and with only two ingredients (apples and cinnamon), they’re totally economical to make.
Sweet and Chocolaty
What makes a dessert blissful? For many of us the answer is simple: Chocolate! The best news is that you can indulge without refined oils and sugars. Cocoa powder with ground nuts and dates is the winning combo in decadent-tasting Chocolate Mousse opens in a new tab and Cocoa-Oat Truffles opens in a new tab. And the surprising ingredients in this wildly popular vegan Chocolate Pudding opens in a new tab include avocados and bananas for creaminess and nutrition — and total comfort!