Fats, sugars and carbohydrates. These are things our bodies crave when we are seeking comfort in food. Fried, baked, simmered, sauteed, crunchy or melty, the form the foods take are also important to us depending on just what kind of "junk" food we crave. There is no getting away from craving comfort food -- it's just part of our psychology, part of our physiology. But there is a way to satisfy that craving while still sitting squarely in the realm of healthy. Or at least, healthier.
We have gathered up some of our favorite comfort food recipes -- from fried goodies to baked sweets, from carb-rich soups to cheesy grilled sandwiches. These are your go-to recipes for when you want the comfort of food without the backslide into artery-clogging fast-food or processed and packaged portions. This is real food, made from scratch, that will hit the spot.
We start with a comfort food that most everyone loves: chili fries! Featuring potato strips that are baked, not fried, and vegetarian chili made from fresh ingredients, this recipe is an excellent option for when a craving for hot starchy goodness calls.
Speaking of fries, how about some that are not made from potatoes? If you're craving something hot and crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside like french fries, try these avocado fries. Filled with healthy fats and plenty of flavor, they satisfy that fried food craving but don't have any of the bad-for-you stuff that fills those frozen jalepeño poppers you might be eying.
Burgers are a great comfort food. Here's a delicious option that gives you all the yumminess of a burger right off the grill but with a fraction of the fat (and a fraction of the carbon footprint). The recipe also features the flavors of smokey chipotle and spicy jalapeño.
Southwest chipotle chickpea burgers
Sometimes comfort comes in a bowl of hot, thick soup, like this creamy potato, leek and roasted poblano pepper soup. Warming flavors, starchy goodness and a rich texture make this simple from-scratch soup and ideal comfort food. Oh and bonus: it's vegan.
During a busy or stressful day at work, something crunchy is just what you crave. But steer clear of that bag of potato chips and instead reach for your stash of freshly baked granola. Satisfying the need for something crunchy and sweet (and salty, depending on how you want to season this!) this recipe is the perfect healthier alternative for a stress food to have on hand.
Moving farther into the realm of sweets, many of us take comfort in chocolate. Rich chocolate-y goodness can be found in this recipe for vegan chocolate mouse, flavored with cardamom and candied ginger, and topped with hazelnuts.
Back to the comforts of fried food. A healthier version of hashbrowns can be found in this recipe for crispy fried zucchini pancakes. Lightly fried in a think coating of oil -- or baked -- these can be made up in a matter of minutes. They can also be made up ahead of time, frozen, and reheated in the oven if you know you'll be having some cravings when it isn't convenient to cook.
Crispy zucchini pancakes
Another idea for a healthier option when the fried food craving hits is this recipe for quinoa kale patties. You can fry these in a very thin layer of oil, or you can bake them up. Serve them with a little aioli or some lemon and they're sure to hit the spot.
Hot chili, topped with fritters? Talk about comfort in a bowl. A little bit of something hot and stew-like, a little bit of something crispy and fried, this recipe offers two versions of comfort food in one dish. The smokey flavor of black bean chili pairs perfectly with the zesty flavor of the fritters for a satisfying meal.
For many, comfort food comes in the form of a good grilled cheese sandwich. This recipe offers grilled cheese with a sweet twist, thanks to the addition of an apple and red onion confit. Basically, think of slowly sauteed apples and onions, then think of that inside a grilled cheese sandwich. Yum!
Mashed potatoes are one of the classic comfort foods. Starchy goodness. The body and brain love it. But not all mashed potatoes are created equal, let alone healthy. Making mashed potatoes from scratch is one way to be sure only the basics go in -- no additives or other junk -- and making mashed potatoes special means stuffing them into a bell pepper and popping them in the oven. This recipe is a great way to get maximum comfort out of this favorite food.
Raise your hand if you love bread. Thought so. Bread is a total comfort food, and you might as well make your own from scratch so you know exactly what is going into it (and what is staying out, such as preservatives!). This recipe is super easy, and even a first-time bread maker will find success with it. A crispy crust with a light, fluffy inside, just see how long it lasts after it comes out of the oven!
If you love bread, then you'll really love this banana blueberry bread. It is super moist, wonderfully sweet, and yet, this is also about the healthiest recipe you'll find anywhere for this favorite quick bread. It is vegan, has zero refined sugar, zero dairy, and zero oils -- and, if you wanted, this could be made with gluten-free flour as well. Yet it is so rich, gooey and decadent. Comfort for any time from breakfast to dessert.
Chocolate, cake, and strawberries. Sound like a little bit of heaven? We think so. Try out this recipe for vegan chocolate cupcakes filled with strawberry sauce. And the best part is that these cupcakes get sweeter with time, so they're even better the second day!
Sometimes a bit of comfort comes at the end of a long, hard day when you sit down with a bowl of creamy ice cream. Not exactly the healthiest thing for you, though, right? Well, now it is. Check out this recipe for rich, creamy ice cream that you can whip up in five minutes with just one ingredient (or several if you want a sundae!). It's the healthy, easy, vegan version of a favorite comfort food.