29 Comfort Food Recipes That Are Actually Healthy

Comfort food is often associated with indulgence. Creamy mac and cheese, pizzas laden with mozzarella, bowls of greasy, piping hot chili loaded with cheddar, and stacks of fluffy pancakes heaped with whipped cream and drenched in syrup are dishes that will warm the cockles of your heart but won't do you any favors health-wise. Now, however, there are more ways than ever to turn classic comfort food into healthy food without losing the essence of what makes it so darn soothing for the soul and palate. You can make wispy, crispy fried chicken without deep frying and produce a heaping bowl of pasta that has no grains in it whatsoever.

These recipes are designed to bring back all the feelings and memories associated with comfort food -– coziness, decadence, a full stomach, and happy memories of special occasions. Each dish in this collection has been carefully crafted to provide the same textures, flavors, and even appearances of the comfort foods you love but with a nutritional profile that leaves you feeling nourished instead of sluggish. You might even find yourself eating vegetables that you didn't think you liked or discovering that you actually prefer banana-based pancakes over flour-based ones. So, get ready to enjoy your favorite comfort foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner without that lethargic, overstuffed feeling that often accompanies them.

1. Healthy Coffee Oatmeal

Oats are indisputably healthy. Packed with fiber, phytonutrients, and vitamins, they are the underrated MVP of breakfast foods and have even been found to lower cholesterol ( per the American Heart Association). However, they don't have to be the bland, beige slop that you might have encountered during previous meals.

This recipe for coffee oatmeal is rich, creamy, and sweet, with an extra dose of caffeine. Vanilla, honey, and milk make it reminiscent of an autumnal Frappuccino, but you don't have to worry about overdoing it with saturated fats or sugar.

Recipe: Healthy Coffee Oatmeal

2. Healthy Baked Breaded Eggplant

There are many ways to prepare eggplant, but breaded and fried is at the top of the list. Crispy and just a little greasy, it's the kind of side dish that can enhance any meal, even breakfast.

Unfortunately, however, frying is not the healthiest way to cook, so we've devised a better way to indulge in crispy breaded eggplant that doesn't involve drowning it in oil. Don't worry, though, because it tastes just as delicious as the fried version. With a crispy coating of breadcrumbs and parmesan, it's flavorful and indulgent without piling on the calories.

Recipe: Healthy Baked Breaded Eggplant

3. Healthy Sweet Potato Quesadillas

When you think of quesadillas, you probably imagine strands of melted cheese stretching all the way from the plate to your mouth, and crispy, succulent meat. The indulgence in this particular food might prevent you from eating it as often as you'd like, but there's no need to moderate your cravings with our healthy version.

Made with mashed sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and slices of avocado, these quesadillas provide a creamy texture and plenty of nutrients. You can add cheese to the recipe, but they are so delicious without it that you probably won't notice its absence.

Recipe: Healthy Sweet Potato Quesadillas

4. Sheet Pan Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant parmesan is a classic comfort food. Layers of breaded eggplant drenched in marinara and cheese might not sound like the healthiest dish out there, but there's a lot going for it.

For one thing, the base ingredient is a vegetable (technically, eggplant is a fruit, but it is commonly categorized as a vegetable). For another, there is no frying involved, meaning that the amount of oil is minimal compared to other breaded foods. Our recipe also happens to have been created by Kristen Carli, a registered dietician, which is all the proof we need of its nutritional value.

Recipe: Sheet Pan Eggplant Parmesan

5. Easy Butternut Squash Pasta

Despite popular belief, carbs are not the enemy. They provide the energy we need to function, and they also have a habit of tasting delicious. That said, simple carbs, including white bread and pasta made with refined gluten, are not nutritionally well-rounded, which can lead to them being labeled as empty calories.

That doesn't mean that you have to cut them out of your diet, though. Instead, simply add nutrient-dense ingredients to them, and they will transform into a wholesome meal. This recipe does just that: slathering spaghetti in a puree of roasted butternut squash, onion, and seasonings. 

Recipe: Easy Butternut Squash Pasta

6. Instant Pot Spaghetti Squash

You can spiralize zucchini all day, but it still can't call itself spaghetti squash. That distinction lies with a vegetable that, when cooked, can be sliced open to reveal ready-made strands that look just like pasta. It might not taste identical to spaghetti, but there's an argument to be made that the sweet nuttiness of spaghetti squash is even more delicious than its gluten-based namesake.

Cooking this squash in the oven is time-consuming, which is why this recipe calls for an Instant Pot. With this miraculous bit of kitchen equipment, your spaghetti will be ready in a mere seven minutes.

Recipe: Instant Pot Spaghetti Squash

7. Simple Vegetable Soup

Few meals are as comforting as a hot bowl of soup. Whether it's potato leek soup, a creamy tomato bisque, or clam chowder, this category is a sure bet when the temperatures are dropping or you're feeling under the weather.

Soup can be as nutritious or as indulgent as you want it to be, but we prefer a balance between the two. This recipe is full of veggies, including carrots, celery, potatoes, and parsnips, but doesn't shy away from a hefty dose of parmesan and lots of seasonings. It will have you feeling warm and nourished in no time.

Recipe: Simple Vegetable Soup

8. Miso Soup

There are many ways to make miso soup, one of the most beloved dishes in Japanese cuisine. You can have it as nothing more than a simple broth, or fill it with dozens of ingredients. Recipe developer Maren Epstein has created a version that is full of flavor and guaranteed to pull you out of your soup-making routine.

Miso, a fermented soybean paste, comes in various strengths. White miso is milder and provides this soup with a light umami flavor to carry the ginger, tofu, noodles, and vegetables without overwhelming them.

Recipe: Miso Soup

9. 30 Minute Egg Drop Soup

Swap your usual protein source for eggs with this recipe for egg drop soup, a dish that is surprisingly easy to make at home and easily adapted. If you're wanting something substantial, toss in as many vegetables as you can find in your fridge. Almost anything will taste delicious with the gingery chicken broth, and recipe developer Tara Rylie even suggests experimenting with star anise, cinnamon sticks, and lemongrass.

The secret to smooth, velvety egg drop soup is to whisk the eggs with cornstarch. This prevents their proteins from bonding, which is a guaranteed precursor to the dreaded rubberiness.

Recipe: 30 Minute Egg Drop Soup

10. Vegan Shepherd's Pie

Between fatty meat and creamy mashed potatoes, traditional shepherd's pie can be rich. And while that makes it undeniably delicious, it also means that it isn't quite as healthy as those carrots and peas want you to believe. This recipe tips the scales in the other direction, leaving out the greasy meat and replacing it with healthy, fiber-rich lentils and chickpeas.

These vegetarian alternatives to lamb and beef are surprisingly filling, with a nutty flavor that quells any fears that the dish might be less tasty without meat.

Recipe: Vegan Shepherd's Pie

11. Split Pea Soup

Split peas are one of the best vegetarian protein sources. Creamy and filling, they can single-handedly turn a healthy recipe from something akin to rabbit food into something that feels like an indulgence. Split pea soup is a classic example. Split peas are known for their creamy texture when cooked, and anyone who takes a bite of this soup would be forgiven for assuming it's full of dairy.

If you don't have split peas on hand, you can swap them for green lentils, but recipe developer Maren Epstein notes that the consistency won't be as creamy since lentils hold their shape better.

Recipe: Split Pea Soup

12. Tomato Soup

Tomato soups are often sweet and creamy, the perfect antidote to a rainy day and an empty stomach. Despite their frequent appearances on lunch and appetizer menus, however, they are not the lightest fare. That luxurious, velvety consistency usually comes courtesy of lots of cream, and the sweetness is often the result of added sugar.

Recipe developer Maren Epstein has created a version of this cold-weather staple that uses only a single tablespoon of butter, no cream, and no added sugar. The result is savory, intensely flavorful, and just as comforting as less nutritious options.

Recipe: Tomato Soup

13. Healthy Lentil Bolognese

Lentils make a surprisingly seamless substitute for meat. Their sturdy texture allows them to stay chewy when cooked, making them similar to ground beef. Meanwhile, their mild, nutty flavor absorbs the seasonings and tomato sauce in this bolognese recipe like a sponge.

Mushrooms deepen the umami flavor, ensuring the dish is full of meatiness despite being completely vegan. For a strong, buttery umami flavor, recipe developer Kristen Carli recommends shiitake mushrooms. With a preparation time of only 10 minutes, this is an easy weeknight meal that will satisfy bolognese aficionados and health-conscious eaters alike.

Recipe: Healthy Lentil Bolognese

14. Creamy Broccoli Soup

Broccoli is often maligned as a fibrous, uninspiring source of nutrients that is so unpleasant to consume that parents have to bribe their children with dessert in order for them to eat it. While it may be chewy when eaten raw and bland when it's been boiled into a gray mush, broccoli is delicious when prepared well.

This creamy soup is a case in point. Made with leeks, potatoes, cream, spinach, and, of course, broccoli, it provides a perfect mixture of superfoods and decadence, all in one comforting dish. You may as well double the recipe because you're bound to want more.

Recipe: Creamy Broccoli Soup

15. Low-Carb Pepperoni Pizza Casserole

How can you make pizza casserole low-carb, you ask? With spaghetti squash. This delicious alternative to pasta has a sweet, nutty flavor and a look and texture so similar to spaghetti that your guests might not even realize the difference.

Registered dietician Kristen Carli created this recipe so that you don't have to choose between your pizza cravings and your health goals. It's low-carb due to the spaghetti squash but high in protein, thanks to the triple threat of pepperoni, cheese, and eggs. Why compromise when you can have it all?

Recipe: Low-Carb Pepperoni Pizza Casserole

16. Vegan But Hearty Lentil Chili

Vegan food isn't all green vegetables and nut milk. Lentils provide a rich, satisfying protein that can simultaneously beef up a meal and make it creamy without animal products. Chili is the perfect meat-based recipe to receive a vegan makeover because so many of its familiar comforts are the result of spices and vegetables rather than meat.

Aside from the substitution of ground beef or turkey with brown lentils, this recipe follows a classic formula. Chili powder, paprika, oregano, and crushed tomatoes are all featured, and although it doesn't include beans, you can easily add them.

Recipe: Vegan But Hearty Lentil Chili

17. Easy Corn Chowder

When you order clam or corn chowder at a restaurant, you're likely to get a soup that tastes more like cream than the headline ingredient, and while that is comforting on a cold day, it can also feel like lead in your stomach.

This recipe solves that problem by making a version that allows the corn to shine in all its sweet, refreshing glory. Instead of cream or half and half, it calls for reduced-fat milk and a couple of tablespoons of butter. When it comes to flavor, the results are just as delicious as heavier, cream-based chowders.

Recipe: Easy Corn Chowder

18. Simple Black Bean Brownies

If you haven't tried black bean brownies, you might be recoiling at the very thought of them, but trust us, this combination is not a joke, and it tastes delicious. Perhaps the automatic response people have to this pairing is that black beans are usually accompanied by lots of salt, but as soon as you try them with sugar, you'll realize they are no more inherently savory than nuts or zucchini.

Black beans are starchy, creating a perfect, high-protein substitute for flour and a flavor that is surprisingly mild to the point of undetectability.

Recipe: Simple Black Bean Brownies

19. 5-Ingredient Kale And White Bean Gnocchi Bake

Store-bought gnocchi makes the perfect base ingredient for a quick dinner that offers variation to your usual meal plan. And when you add a superfood like kale and a protein-rich legume like cannellini beans, you'll be satiated and nourished as well.

This recipe has the additional benefit of being made in a single dish, so you don't have to worry about doing the dishes afterward. Last but not least, there is lots of melted cheese to convince you that this is, in fact, the epitome of comfort food while being sneakily healthy.

Recipe: 5-Ingredient Kale And White Bean Gnocchi Bake

20. Hearty Beef Stew

"Comforting" and "beef stew" go hand-in-hand, and you can tweak your usual recipe to ensure that it's also nutritious. Meat and potatoes form the bones of this dish, but they are outnumbered by peas, carrots, onions, and a medley of fresh herbs.

There is no question that this stew is filling, but with so many healthy vegetables, it won't leave you feeling like you've overindulged. To maximize the flavor, make sure to sear the meat and sauté the onions and garlic in the leftover browned bits before adding the other ingredients.

Recipe: Hearty Beef Stew

21. 1-Pot Chicken Stew

Chicken soup might get all the attention, but on a cold day when you need nourishment, chicken stew is even better. Dense and chock-full of healthy, delicious ingredients, it will chase the cold from your body and even make the frigid outdoors seem less threatening.

This stew from recipe developer Catherine Brookes is made all the more mouth-watering with the use of chicken thighs, a part of the bird that is full of succulent fat and dark, flavorful meat. Cooked in a single pot with veggies, mustard, herbs, and a little flour, it's luxuriously rich and oh-so healthy.

Recipe: 1-Pot Chicken Stew

22. Quick Turkey Chili

If you love chili but are trying to cut back on red meat, you don't have to resort to vegetarian options (unless you want to, of course). Ground turkey, though not as fatty as most ground beef and pork, is mild and filling, making it the perfect protein for the other ingredients to infuse with flavor.

Recipe developer Kristen Carli points out that this chili is extremely flexible. You can change the ratio of spices and use whichever beans you favor as long as you leave in the turkey and the tomatoes.

Recipe: Quick Turkey Chili

23. Chicken And Hearty Vegetable Casserole

Casseroles and chicken soup are two of the most beloved comfort foods, and recipe developer Catherine Brookes has created something of a hybrid. Made with chicken thighs for a melt-in-your-mouth texture, this casserole also contains onions, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and celery.

For a sophisticated twist, these ingredients are doused in a mixture of herbs, broth, white wine, and lemon juice. This unexpected combination adds a bright flavor to the comforting, savory taste of the chicken thighs and veggies. Make sure to use bone-in, skin-on thighs for maximum flavor.

Recipe: Chicken And Hearty Vegetable Casserole

24. 20-Minute Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken noodle soup is the quintessential comfort food, a dish so soothing that it's the go-to recipe for anyone with a cold. It's also one of the few comfort foods that is inherently healthy. Warm chicken broth, veggies, and noodles have enough calories, carbs, and nutrients to set you on the road to recovery.

Our recipe focuses on efficiency and flexibility. It only takes 20 minutes to make and can accommodate a variety of vegetables and any cut of chicken. It's the perfect recipe for when you need a nourishing meal but don't have much energy to cook.

Recipe: 20-Minute Chicken Noodle Soup

25. Mushroom And Butternut Squash Tacos

Tacos come in many variations, some of which are healthy and some of which are the height of indulgence. And while we're all for splurging on the finest smoked brisket tacos that money can buy, it's worth having a healthy homemade recipe up your sleeve for when you want something a little less decadent.

Roasted mushrooms and butternut squash make a delicious combination inside tortillas, especially when you have all the fixings on hand. Without cheese or greasy meat, these are the healthy solution to your taco cravings.

Recipe: Mushroom And Butternut Squash Tacos

26. Healthy Freekeh Chili

For a new angle to a classic chili, recipe developer Miriam Hahn has created a version with the ancient grain known as freekeh, which has a nutty flavor and chewy texture. Although it isn't in as high a demand as brown rice or quinoa, many supermarkets now carry at least one brand of the grain, and it provides a quick substitution that makes a surprisingly noticeable difference.

Otherwise, this recipe follows the classic formula, though beans stand alone as the protein source. Top this chili with cilantro, sour cream, and cheese, and you'll have a wholesome spin on a beloved comfort food.

Recipe: Healthy Freekeh Chili

27. Lentil Meatballs

As far as this recipe is concerned, "meatballs" is a misnomer. Although you may only be familiar with beef-based meatballs -– or turkey, lamb, or pork, for that matter -– recipe developer Miriam Hahn is here to prove that meat is not an essential ingredient.

One bite of these lentil meatballs, and you're bound to agree. Once the lentils have been blended with, among other ingredients, parsley, onions, and parmesan, they take on a texture and flavor similar to ground meat-based meatballs. By the time you drown them in marinara and ladle them over spaghetti, you won't be able to tell the difference.

Recipe: Lentil Meatballs

28. 3-Ingredient Oatmeal Pancakes

There is nothing particularly unhealthy about pancakes, but when they're made with white flour and topped with sugary maple syrup and butter, they don't have many nutrients to speak of. For an alternative that will provide the complex carbohydrates and vitamins to fuel your day, these three-ingredient oatmeal pancakes are a no-brainer.

Made with nothing but oats, eggs, and milk, they are full of healthy fiber, protein, and vitamins to keep you energized and satiated. They have a denser texture than flour-based pancakes, but they taste just as delicious, especially when covered with your favorite toppings.

Recipe: 3-Ingredient Oatmeal Pancakes

29. Sheet Pan Fried Chicken

It may seem too good to be true, but we're here to prove that it is possible to make fried chicken without all the oil of deep frying while still maintaining that wispy, crispy texture. Thanks to meticulous experimentation from recipe developer Kit Hondrum, you can create a healthy version of this pinnacle of comfort food without having to mentally apologize to your arteries.

The secret is marinating the chicken in buttermilk, breading it with a mouth-watering mixture of flour, baking powder, breadcrumbs, and seasonings, and baking it at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until the breading is browned and crispy.

Recipe: Sheet Pan Fried Chicken