Fall is such a special time of year for so many reasons and one of the best ways to savor it is with comforting meals. Dinner in autumn is a magical thing. It brings much of the cooking back indoors after the season prior kept the grill on high. But as temperatures simmer, so do the soups and stews and braises. And a whole sensory experience is suddenly happening in the kitchen — a cozy welcome after school, work or time outside in the crisp air.
Wondering what to cook in the autumn months? As the leaves deepen with golden hues, seasonal produce becomes sweet and hearty. Richly flavored kale, Brussels sprouts, leeks and broccoli rabe are aplenty. Naturally maple-tasting butternut squashes, tart cranberries and pomegranate bring bright pops of color and delicate flavor to a myriad of mains, sides and salads.
Chilly days mean soup season, and there's nothing like enjoying time outside in a sweater, and then coming inside for a steaming bowl of all your favorite ingredients cooked together in one pot. All that's left to do is open a bottle of red wine or boil a pot of warm-spiced tea, pick out a fall dessert (perhaps a pumpkin-flavored one?) and settle in for a night of food and sensational fall feelings.
Sides and starters
Give your favorite tomato bruschetta a fall makeover with creamy roasted butternut squash, ricotta and caramelized leeks. Hit it with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and you've got a perfect sweet and salty app for autumn.
The combo of pecans and Parmesan provides a wonderfully rich, textured crispness to the tender roasted squash without using breading. This recipe works equally well for a casual family dinner or as part of a fancier spread when entertaining guests.
These aren't your mama's Brussel sprouts. Dylan Dreyer has elevated the classic combination of bacon and Brussels by adding a satisfying, umami-rich walnut-Parmesan crunch. The best part? They look fancy but only require one mixing bowl to prep them.
This may look like a side dish, and it can be, but the mighty cauliflower is hearty enough to be a main dish, too. And combined with a variety of flavors and textures, including cumin, lemon and pomegranate, it'll be anything but bland.
This non-traditional dish from Karen Akunowicz borrows ideas from three different countries: The Caesar salad was invented in Mexico, the migas (toasted seasoned bread) hails from Spain and the dressing has a dollop of Japanese miso in it. She elevated a humble vegetable with a symphony of textures and umami flavor.
Delicata squash rings get battered in tempura and fried, then stuffed with a simple salad of raw pear, dried cherries, feta cheese and a few sprigs of arugula in this incredible fall starter. The result is a sweet yet savory wonder, perfect for autumn entertaining.
Kale isn't the only cruciferous vegetable that tastes great raw. Marcona almonds, cheese and hard-boiled eggs make this salad hearty enough for dinner, but you could toss in some additional nuts or some chickpeas or white beans to pump it up even more.
Cozy, colorful soups
YouTube star and cookbook author Laura Vitale gives the classic, creamy butternut squash soup a fragrant, textural twist with crispy sage leaves.
Ree Drummond's creamy soup tastes like Thanksgiving in a bowl. Herbaceous cranberry sauce, creamy broth with white wine, chicken and hearty kale all come together to make a nourishing soup that feels like two courses in one.
Don't toss your carrot tops! Use them to make pesto that'll brighten up dishes like this one. The fresh ginger adds a touch of heat while the coconut cream keeps the dish cool and velvety.
Some people might think Italian wedding soup is complicated because there are a lot of ingredients, but this recipe all comes together in one pot and has everything you'd want in a hearty meal. Tender meatballs, perfectly cooked pasta and wilted kale make this a perfect supper or lunch.
Gail Simmons and her family love this soup for its smoky flavor and how it's packed with protein from chicken stock and hearty beans. Serve it in a piping hot bowl with some crusty bread and a bright side salad for the ultimate cozy, comforting meal at lunch or dinner. Like all soups, the flavors come together even more the longer it sits, so make it in big batches to eat through the week or freeze. It tastes even better the next day.
Make something that's hot and sweet this season: butternut squash soup with fiery, smoky chipotles and sweet maple syrup to tame the flame.
This vegan and gluten-free soup gets its creaminess from the magical combination of cauliflower and coconut milk. Not only is it super easy to make, it's also a great soup to freeze for a later date.
This hearty, veggie-packed soup from Padma Lakshmi is perfect for prepping ahead, freezing and enjoying another day.
The naturally sweet flavor of the pumpkin pairs wonderfully with savory sausage in this piquant soup. When seasoned with some cracked pepper, garlic and garnished with Parmesan cheese, it's irresistible.
Isn't a steaming bowl of tomato soup the ultimate comfort food? While heating up a can of tomato soup may do in a pinch, the real thing is so much better — with slowly sautéed onions and leeks plus good Italian tomatoes and a hint of saffron. You'll never go back to that can again!
People always think of butternut squash soup, but what about our good friend the sweet potato? This recipe is so full of flavor, it will be your go-to. Fresh garlic, onions and ginger build the foundation of this soup, the coconut milk brings richness and the miso paste provides a well-rounded depth of flavor that can't be beat. Top this soup with toasted coconut flakes, creamy labneh, toasted sesame seeds and tangy sumac, and you're in for a seriously delicious, healthy dinner.
A lot of chicken soups have to simmer for hours before they get that rich chicken flavor. This easy recipe doesn't take long to prepare at all! You'll have the whole family warmed up and eating well in under an hour.
This vegan and gluten-free carrot soup recipe is packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Serve with buttered toast or salad and you've got yourself the perfect fall lunch.
This light and spicy broth is so wholesome and warming. It's Zoe Adjonyoh's go-to dish on chilly days to stave off cold symptoms … and it works every time!
This super oishii spicy ramen is made with basic pantry staples, such as miso paste and tahini. Candice Kumai loves adding extra Sriracha for heat and topping it all off with a slightly runny, soft-boiled egg.
For another spin on butternut squash soup, this recipe infuses warm, autumnal spices like clove and anise to create a smooth and comforting soup.
Compared to summer and spring, fall gets a pretty bad rap for not having colorful food. But are you seeing this beautiful bright yellow color (achieved with some butternut squash, onions, cumin and turmeric)? Looks pretty colorful to us.
This is a hearty dish with all the flavors of fall. Earthy sausage takes the place of classic ground beef or bolognese and a pumpkin-cream puree brings sweet flavors to the mix. It's great the first night and leftovers are even better!
This veggie-centric salad is so good for you but the bit of fresh mozzarella and the hint of sweetness in the vinaigrette make it feel decadent. Or you could remove the maple syrup entirely and the roasting of the squash still brings a wonderful caramel flavor to this dish. It's the perfect sweet and savory way to welcome pumpkin season!
This recipe is so comforting, especially with the cold weather. It's traditionally made with ground lamb, but this recipe incorporates somewhat lean beef and creamy, cheesy mashed potatoes instead. You can actually make this entirely in advance and bake when ready to serve.
Ready to try the best beef stew of your life? Our flavor-packed version (thanks to ketchup — yes, ketchup!) is incredibly easy to make because it all comes together in one pot.
Pickled pepperoncini are the secret ingredient here, adding spice and tanginess. They also serve to brighten up the meaty pork chops, nutty chickpeas and earthy broccoli.
On a chilly fall night, there's nothing better than tucking into a hot, hearty potpie with buttery homemade pie crust. The fact that you can throw it together in less than an hour is also a wonderful respite from the more labor-intensive potpie recipes.
Strata is the ultimate breakfast-for-dinner dish. In Giada's version, an unconventional strata ingredient — apple — brings a welcome acidity and sweetness to an otherwise heavy and cheesy dish.
New Orleans chef Alon Shaya braises tender short ribs with fall vegetables and juicy golden raisins to add a lovely sweetness.
When it comes to chili, it's hard to go wrong with the classic. This versatile recipe uses either ground turkey or beef and packs an extra spicy kick that gets smoothed out with avocado or a dollop of sour cream.
Ina Garten preps her pork tenderloins by seasoning them with rosemary and thyme and wrapping them with prosciutto. She then roasts them just before dinner. You could go for the traditional apple sauce pairing, but if you want to pack in a little more spice, go for Ina's apple chutney.
A melt-in-your-mouth meatloaf, silky potatoes, and caramelized onions make for a cozy — dare we say romantic? — night in.
This dish uses some of your favorite root vegetables infused with vinegar to accent the richness of center-cut pork chops. The result is a wholesome way to warm up.
Fall-off-the-bone tender smoked turkey gives collard greens an unbelievable flavor. But just a warning: This isn't a quick weeknight meal; this is a soul-satisfying side worthy of a special event.
With four — count 'em, four — cheeses, a creamy white sauce, and a mix of roasted wild mushrooms, this vegetarian lasagna is the definition of decadence.
This chicken recipe takes a basic comfort food and turns it into something really special. The spicy harissa, sweet pomegranate, crunchy walnuts and fresh mint hit all the flavor notes. Also, the whole thing only takes about 30 minutes to make, so you've got a full dinner on the table fast.
Think you need cream to make creamy pasta? Think again. Chloe Coscarelli's vegan beet fettuccine alfredo uses beets, caramelized onion, olive oil, cashews, water, and lemon juice to accomplish that silkiness.
Somehow, the creamy sweet potato in this mac and cheese makes it better than better than any other mac and cheese — even fancy restaurant macaroni and cheese with white truffle or lobster.
This is Gaby Dalkin's go-to vegetarian dinner. It's so easy, everyone loves it (including meat eaters), and it makes for excellent leftovers.
Cioppino is a seafood stew that is pretty complicated to make on the stovetop, but Giada’s version with salmon makes it simple to-do. It’s savory, satisfying and all you need to add is some crusty bread to soak up the rich broth.
This recipe is just so cozy! Chicken and potatoes are a classic and jazzing it up with harissa and yogurt adds spice, tang and richness.