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 that uses an easy-to-make cashew cream in place of traditional sour cream. And the sensational Banana Nice Cream 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 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; 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 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 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; 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 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 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 and Cocoa-Oat Truffles. And the surprising ingredients in this wildly popular vegan Chocolate Pudding include avocados and bananas for creaminess and nutrition — and total comfort!