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72 best comfort food recipes to nourish your soul

Get your cozy on in the kitchen.
/ Source: TODAY

Whether your day was long, cold or both, sometimes you just need a comforting meal to cozy up with. From our best stew recipes to a cheesy baked pasta, homemade dumplings to hotdish — a midwestern specialty that takes Americana comfort foods to the next level with a crispy-crunchy topping of either Tater Tots or mozzarella sticks — our best comfort food recipes are sure to soothe your soul and warm you from the inside out.

In the spirit of comfort, we're rounding up, not just a handful, but over 70 of our favorite recipes that we promise will hit the spot. Some require a slow-cooker, some have multiple steps and some only use one pan or pot (aka less cleanup!). How’s that for a little tranquility?

Here you'll also find recipes that feature beef, lamb, poultry and vegetarian dinners, which are suitable whether you’re planning your meals in advance or need to prepare dinner at the last minute. There are fuss-free recipes when you’re short on time as well as more involved recipes that are slow and methodical (which provides another form of comfort). A few ingredients that you’ll definitely want to stock up on: stock or broth, breadcrumbs, butter, a few boxes of pasta, a wedge of aged cheese like Parmesan, root vegetables and a bottle of wine. Plus, you’ll need a casserole dish or a skillet, as nearly all of them are made to be family-friendly. We’ll provide the best recipes so that you can choose the happy ending. For a truly relaxing (and delicious) experience, light a candle and crack the spine of an enthralling book. You deserve it.

Cozy beef, pork and lamb recipes

Mozzarella Stick Hotdish

Hotdish is a dinner time staple across the country, but mainly throughout the Midwest — and it’s a proven hit for a reason. A mixture of ground beef, veggies and a can of creamy soup are topped with a starch (usually crispy tater tots) to create an over-the-top weeknight casserole. What’s better than tater tots, you ask? Mozzarella sticks, of course!

Easiest-Ever Beef Enchiladas

Making traditional enchiladas is a bit of a process, so we’ve made a few smart shortcuts that promise delicious results. To save time, use store-bought red enchilada sauce, cooked seasoned ground beef and a can of mild green chiles.

In under 30 minutes, recreate this takeout favorite with flank steak, broccoli, red bell pepper, garlic and green onions. Serve it over steamed rice for an easy family-friendly meal.

This saucy nacho dish is perfect for the days when you feel like changing up your usual weeknight dinner or want to impress dinner guests. Not only is this recipe incredibly straightforward, but there's also tons of room to be flexible. Use plant-based meat crumbles instead of the ground beef or use other seasonal vegetables in place of the mushrooms, bell pepper and zucchini.

"The Pioneer Woman" Ree Drummond gets creative with her choice of noodles in this deconstructed lasagna soup. "The soup is delicious, the noodles are big and bold and the ricotta 'dumplings' are such a yummy treat," she says. "It's perfect for when you can't decide between soup and lasagna!"

This moist, juicy cut of pork basically cooks itself in the slow cooker or a pressure cooker — all you need to do is add a few aromatics and spices (smoked paprika, ground cumin and cayenne pepper), then toss it with your favorite store-bought barbecue sauce and you're set.

Shepherd's Pie

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Shepherd's Pie

McGillin’s Olde Ale House

It's hard to resist the savory and comforting flavors of shepherd's pie. From the velvety gravy and tender vegetables to fluffy mashed potatoes, each bite is a taste of the ultimate comfort food. This dish can be served family-style in a large baking dish or individual-sized crocks.

A giant pot of beef stew is the ultimate comfort food. Searing the beef until it's super dark and sautéing the tomato paste before adding any liquids will result in a deeper flavor with very little effort. It's a great make-ahead comfort food and can easily be portioned and frozen for busy winter weeknights.

This recipe actually comes from Dylan's husband's great-grandmother from Sicily, who taught it to his (very Irish) mother how to make the perfect meatball. Light, flavorful and fluffy, they'll start to fall apart if they sit in sauce too long, so eat up.

Caramelized Orange Pork Roast

There are more than a few ingredients that make the marinade for this fuss-free pork special: white wine, soy sauce, brown sugar, Sriracha, mustard, rice wine vinegar, garlic and orange zest. Despite the large number of ingredients needed, this recipe couldn't be easier to make. Leftovers, if there are any, are perfect for sandwiches.

Silvia's Pozole Rojo

Pozole, one of Mexico's most iconic dishes, was first prepared by the Aztecs hundreds of years ago. The word "pozole" has Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs) origins and means "foam" (pozolli in Nahuatl). It is thought to be a description of the appearance of the cooked hominy which, when properly prepared, puffs up and opens like a flower. These days, you can find pozole made with pork, chicken or even seafood.

Philly Cheesesteak

This sandwich is the most iconic dish in all of Philly, and for good reason. It's a handheld, uber-satisfying bite of steak, peppers, onions and cheese. If you can't make it to the City of Brotherly Love to get an authentic cheesesteak, this homemade version will satisfy your cravings ... and then some.

Green eggs and ham get a clever twist in this hearty stew. White beans are cooked with savory ham and fresh leafy greens, then served with a perfectly cooked fried egg on top. It's a versatile dish, which makes it great for clearing out your pantry and fridge.

Nkatsenkwan, as this dish is known in Ghana, is most frequently eaten with fufu (pounded green plantain), but you can also serve it with boiled yams, cassava or even rice. It's also delicious served on its own with a sprinkling of gari (fermented, dried and ground cassava). Peanut butter may seem like a surprising ingredient for stew, but it adds so much nutty flavor and silky texture to the dish.

If there’s anything that can make preparing spaghetti and meatballs more enticing, it's cooking them with ease using a slow-cooker. This recipe makes a generous amount of meatballs, so pick up some rolls, a box of pasta or a loaf of crusty bread and enjoy them for days to come.

The tender pastry on this pie make it oh, so delicious. Want to know the secret? Instead of using diced potatoes in the stew filling, they're riced and folded into the pie dough along with salted Irish butter. The filling is meaty and rich, which is a delicious contrast to the buttery topping.

It doesn't get much more Irish than a pot of beef stew slow simmered with Guinness. Smoky bacon, sweet red peppers, fresh herbs and tender cubes of butternut squash make this humble dish a bit more refined. But in its essence, it's still a traditional, warm and comforting Irish farmhouse-style dinner.

Croque Monsieur

This recipe makes a simple ham and cheese sandwich totally decadent, thanks to the rich bechamel sauce. It is a classic and one of Katie Lee Beigel's favorites, especially on a cold winter evening.

Cheeseburger Pasta

This super nostalgic recipe is an ode to Hamburger Helper and can be pulled together with ingredients that are likely in your pantry and fridge, such as ground beef, garlic and onions, beef stock, cheddar cheese and pasta.

One-Pot Beef Stew

Ready to try the best beef stew ever? This flavor-packed, one-pot version is incredibly easy to make. Ketchup, which adds a touch of sweetness and extra body, is the secret to balancing the bold, rich beefy flavors.

Mini Ravioli Soup

This recipe, which calls for store-bought ravioli, Italian sausage and marinara sauce, is a staple in Laura Vitale's household. "This recipe was born from leftovers, and every time I make it, it's slightly different depending on what I have on hand," she says. "My sister begs me to make this for her when she comes out. It's become a real family favorite, plus nobody can resist a mini ravioli!"

Anthony Contrino understands the desire to warm up with a hot bowl of soup in the winter. "When the weather gets chilly, I love coming home to my apartment, lighting the fireplace and enjoying some leftover soup," he says. "This recipe is one of my favorites and I make it by the vat. If you are going to freeze the leftovers, cook the pasta separately and do not add it to the pot of soup until you're ready to serve."

A combination of Irish whiskey, sharp mustard and sweet honey create a marinade for these outstanding pork chops. Once the chops have rested, the marinade is then boiled down to a sticky, sweet finishing sauce. Serve alongside buttery herbed carrots and classic champ mash for dinner.

Thanks to the short prep time, this brisket is a low effort but high reward recipe. It slow cooks for nearly six hours until the meat is so tender, it’s practically falling apart. Use the leftovers to make tacos, sandwiches and more throughout the rest of the week.

Life is a bit more fun when you break the rules, and this double cheeseburger does just that. With double the cheese, a juicy patty piled high with sweet and spicy candied bacon and a tomato-y jam, this is the perfect burger for a richly flavored comfort meal.

"This version in particular is a favorite of mine because the celery adds a nice, fresh crunch and releases liquid which makes the filling more juicy. I like to make them small so that they're one-bite wonders," Kathy Fang says about these irresistible dumplings.

Comforting chicken and turkey recipes

Forget the boxed soup mix — this casserole gets enough flavor without it. But don’t worry about losing that simple shortcut: Even without the soup-mix timesaver, it still comes together in a snap! All you need is 15 minutes to chop and mix the ingredients in the slow cooker.

"If I’m looking to host a soul food-inspired dinner, I make this incredible fried chicken and hot honey mustard dipping sauce recipe," says Will Coleman.

Rotisserie Chicken Stuffed Shells

"This recipe is one of my cozy meals that I love to pull out during the winter because each bite is more comforting than the last. The combination of chicken and broccoli — along with the savory, creamy sauce — is absolutely irresistible," says Jocelyn Delk Adams.

Alfredo sauce is usually made with a combination of butter, starchy pasta water, heavy cream and Parmesan cheese. This lighter version introduces puréed cauliflower and almond milk, plus the expected pasta water and cheese, for a better-for-you pasta dish that’s as appealing as the original version.

Not only can this chicken and rice casserole be made ahead and frozen, but it's also a brilliant way to get your kids to eat their vegetables. Bake it for 30 minutes and serve.

Adam Richman's Chicken Chile Verde

Adam Richman gives chicken stew a vibrant change of color in this warming recipe. "I think most people are used to the traditional brick red spicy, smoky chili that we all know and love," he says. "But in New Mexico, I was introduced to this delicious variation on the theme. The color is bright, it's still rich but oddly refreshing due to all the greens used in it."

With star anise and lemongrass, the broth in this ramen is more reminiscent of a pho-style soup. Pro tip: when making noodles at home, use baking soda and the result will turn out springy and tender.

This slow-cooker dish is the bell (pepper) of the ball! Stuffed with whole grains (leftover brown or wild rice works!), protein-packed ground turkey, savory feta and colorful veggies and herbs, these peppers hit the mark. They’re loaded with nutrition and are so easy to make

Easy Skillet Chicken Parm

This is a quick but just as cheesy version of chicken Parm — no deep-frying required! Melissa Clark's daughter loves it with a big green salad on the side, so you know that it's kid-tested and approved.

Padma Lakshmi's Chicken and Pepper Stew

This is not your usual one-pot stew. Bell and poblano peppers, tangy tomatillos, sweet dried apricots, briny olives and lemon juice make this easy chicken dish amazingly flavorful. Serve it with bread, rice, quinoa or simply on its own.

This extra-crispy, oven-fried chicken is the ultimate dish for fried chicken lovers everywhere. The buttery cracker crust provides a salty-yet-sweet flavor that's hard to resist.

Turkey Bolognese

This dish is pure comfort food — lean Bolognese is packed with ground turkey, bell peppers and mirepoix (celery, carrots and onions). Make the sauce and serve it over spaghetti squash, zoodles or whole-grain pasta — eater's choice.

These baked chicken and ricotta meatballs are lighter than their beefy counterparts and don't require a lot of work. Baking them cuts down on the cook time and eliminates a huge mess, so all you're left with is just one mixing bowl and sheet pan to clean at the end — and, most importantly, 20 delicious meatballs.

A combo of two of Molly Yeh's favorite dishes (hotdish and chicken pot pie), this recipe is everything you could ever want on a cold winter's day. It's got tater tots — need we say more?

Three-Cup Chicken

This is a classic Taiwanese recipe that is perfect for an easy and speedy supper. It's called three-cup chicken because traditionally it uses one cup of soy sauce, one cup of rice wine and one cup of toasted sesame oil. It is a foolproof, inexpensive recipe for a fabulous family meal.

This sheet-pan Parm skips the frying and calls on roasted garlic bread and broccoli to make it a complete meal with very little cleanup.

Spicy Chicken and Orzo Soup

Melissa Clark puts leftover chicken to good use in this spicy soup. It's a great mid-week meal, as it's so cozy and comforting, while still being packed with nutrients. It's extra easy to make since the soup is made of mostly pantry ingredients and leftovers.

This meatloaf is light in texture but bold in flavor. When combined with Siri Daly's favorite potato recipe and cooked on just one sheet pan, it's an award-winning dish.

Chicken Biryani

"Growing up in India, biryani was one of my favorite family meals," says Palak Patel. "The robust flavor of a variety of spices like cumin, coriander and garam masala bring warmth and heat to the biryani. The saffron and milk add color and aroma."

Chicken Potpie Casserole

This recipe transforms a traditionally individual dish into a family-friendly, shareable meal. The biscuit topping is a fun and flaky touch that makes it all the more delicious.

Once you see how easy it is to make these oven-baked chicken nuggets, you'll be whipping them up at least once a week.

The Good Chicken

"When I tell my kids we're having chicken for dinner, they always ask if it's 'the good chicken,'" says Elizabeth Heiskell. "'Yes, the good chicken,' I reply, and the celebration begins. This is the chicken breast that's gussied up and gets them excited."

Chicken Parm Meatballs

Two family-friendly entrées come together for one genius bite. Ground chicken is mixed with Parmesan, breadcrumbs, basil and garlic, then stuffed with mozzarella and shallow-fried until crispy.

When regular chicken noodle just doesn't cut it, add some zesty flavors to change things up a bit such as spicy curry paste, creamy coconut milk and a squeeze of lime. The crisp veggies and tender noodles also add lots of satisfying textures to this exciting dish.

Gluten-Free Chicken Piccata

"One of my favorite Italian meals of all time is chicken piccata. For those that have some food allergies or are looking for a low-carb option, this version is gluten-free and dairy-free while still being rich with flavor. The coconut cream creates the ideal, creamy piccata sauce," says Kevin Curry.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

A quick peek in your pantry will prove that you can whip up this chicken soup in no time. All you need are jalapeño peppers, diced tomatoes with chiles, ground cumin, ground paprika and chicken stock.

Hearty vegetarian dishes

French Onion Mac and Cheese

The best part about this recipe is the combo of savory, umami and nutty flavors from the caramelized onions, Worcestershire sauce and Gruyere, Asiago and Parmesan cheeses. With bites of buttery, crunchy panko throughout, it's hard not to crave this unique take on a classic.

Skillet Lasagna

Lasagna typically isn’t a weeknight-friendly dinner — that is, until now. Save time with no-boil noodles, which are layered with store-bought marinara sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, herbs and peas.

Chile-Cheese Toast

Who doesn't love cheese toast? This version is energizing with jolts of brightness and flavor from the chile and peppers — a perfect pick-me-up any time of the day that can easily be adjusted based any diners' heat preferences.

Slow-Cooker Scalloped Potatoes

Creamy, cheesy scalloped potatoes are a Sunday side dish that no one can resist, and now this traditional party-pleaser is even easier when you make it in the slow cooker. Who knows? This simple hands-off method might even convince you to make this indulgent, elegant comfort food part of your weeknight dinner rotation.

Vegan 3-Bean Chili

This smoky three-bean chili recipe celebrates all there is to love about the classic dish, but happens to be completely vegan and super-affordable at that — two things that come in handy when cooking for a crowd, some of whom may not eat meat.

Mom's Dal

"I used to sit at the kitchen table finishing my homework as my mom would whip something like this together for all of us to eat as we all finished up our respective activities," says Sarah Thomas about this nourishing (and easy to make) dish.

Eggplant Chicken Tenders

Any recipe from Nikki Dinki's cookbook, "More Veggies Please," is packed with smart tips about how to get kids to eat more veggies. For these plant-based tenders, she uses an eggplant purée to increase tenderness while infusing a naturally smoky flavor into each bite.

Love spinach artichoke dip? This dish is basically the same recipe as the classic dip in the form of a baked pasta. What could be better?

Vegan Sloppy Joes

This recipe is a home run for people who are worried about walking away from the table unsatisfied. It's great for large groups and can be served year-round. We promise, you won't miss the meat.

Sheet-Pan Gnocchi

Store-bought gnocchi are one of Ree Drummond's go-to ingredients for quick meals. The meatless marvel is both a cinch and a revelation: soft and tender gnocchi pillows roasted on a sheet pan with a variety of veggies and topped with Parmesan and basil.

This is one of Padma Lakshmi's favorite stews because it's both hearty and healthy. It's adapted from a dish originating in North India called rajma, which is made with kidney beans, but swapping those out for white beans gives it a buttery, creamier texture. Serve it in a bowl over rice or with warmed tortillas.

Al Roker's Vegetable Lasagna

Lasagna is always a crowd-pleaser, but Al Roker’s stands out for being packed with vegetables — he uses a colorful mix of red bell pepper, zucchini and yellow squash. Leftovers will be a welcome sight for lunch the next day.

You don't need permission to dig into macaroni and cheese for dinner tonight. This one is extra creamy, thanks to a combination of cream cheese, two types of cheddar cheese, sour cream and heavy cream.

Sumac-Dusted Chana Masala

Chickpeas and other legumes are packed with fiber and plant-based protein and therefore deeply satisfying and healthy. The spices in this recipe are not just belly-warming and flavor-enhancing but also help the digestibility of the legumes, which can be challenging for some. This dish improves over time so make extras and freeze for a quick and delicious weeknight dinner.

Ikarian Stew

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Ikarian Stew

The Blue Zones Solution

This savory one-pot meal fuses the iconic flavors of Ikaria with the faintest hint of sweet fennel. As is customary in Ikaria, a small amount of olive oil is used to sauté the vegetables, then a generous drizzle finishes the dish. This practice is instinctively brilliant: Heat breaks down the oil, so saving most for a final drizzle assures its rich flavor and maximum health benefits.

Vegetable Lo Mein

We’ll never say no to ordering dinner, but making some of our favorite takeout meals at home can be even more satisfying. A bevy of vegetables including dried shiitake mushrooms, napa cabbage, carrots and scallion are tossed with fresh egg noodles. Feel free to add beef, pork or chicken, too.

A deep, flavorful veggie stew is a must in the cold weather. This wintry take on ratatouille is loaded with sweet potato, parsnip and sage sausage. Be sure to serve it with a side of crusty bread for dipping.

Mushroom Bolognese

Two varieties of mushrooms — button and maitake — add plenty of heft to this vegetarian Bolognese recipe that’s super satisfying.

Mexican Quinoa Stew

Loaded with beans, quinoa and veggies, this Mexican-inspired stew is guaranteed to make mouths water! This dish is vegan, but it also tastes great with shredded chicken.

Laura Vitale never makes this stew the same twice. It's always changing based on what's on hand, and is always comforting and filling. If you keep a rind or two of Parmesan in your freezer, add it at the beginning of the simmering stage to infuse your stew with delicious, cheesy flavor.

Lidia Bastianich gives French onion soup an Italian makeover. Mushrooms add an extra layer of earthiness to the soup while slow-cooked caramelized onions add deep flavor. Toasty bread, melty fontina and nutty Grana Padano provide the perfect crunchy, cheesy topping.

Stouffer's-Style Macaroni and Cheese

Sometimes comfort meals need to be nostalgic. This recipe is inspired by Stouffer's macaroni and cheese and delivers a creamy, comforting bite with a consistency that's slightly more set than a stovetop version, thanks to a final bake in the oven.