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10 Healthy Comfort Food Recipes to Warm Your Heart Through Winter

10 Healthy Comfort Food Recipes to Warm Your Heart Through Winter

Daughter hugging her mother and smiling at Christmas dinner tableSteaming bowls of chili, rich and creamy mac and cheese, hearty pastas and pot roast… is your mouth watering yet? While comfort food is some of the tastiest and most tantalizing—especially during the chilly winter months—it can come with a hefty amount of sugar, fat, and sodium. Meaning it isn’t always the healthiest choice.

There’s a simple solution: make your favorite comfort food dishes healthier! There are plenty of ways to maximize nutrition without sacrificing taste. So gather your family around the table and try some healthy comfort food that’ll fill you up and make you feel good!

Tips for Healthier Meals

Healthy winter comfort food is possible with a few tips and tricks. Try these suggestions:

  • Go meatless a few nights each week
  • Minimize preservatives and cook with as many whole, fresh foods as possible
  • Do a little meal planning and make a list before going to the grocery store to maximize fresh ingredients
  • Cut the carbs with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles in pasta dishes
  • Lighten up mashed potatoes with cauliflower or turnips
  • Use wild rice, brown rice, or whole grains like quinoa or bulgur instead of white rice
  • Substitute milk alternatives (oat milk, coconut milk, almond milk, water) when you can—just be mindful of the flavors
  • Let your kiddos help cook to learn healthy habits (and when they lose interest, keep them entertained with crafts or games while you cook).

Healthy Comfort Food Recipes

Making cozy winter meals is easier than you think. Try these healthy comfort food dinner ideas.

1. Vegan Mac and Cheese

4 oz raw, unsalted cashewsVegan macaroni and cheese in a white ramekin, cashew cheese sauce, seasoning
¾ cup plain, unsweetened nut milk
2 tbsps olive oil
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon onion powder
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup nutritional yeast
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
16 oz pasta

In a large bowl, cover cashews completely with water and soak for 2 to 6 hours (or refrigerate and soak overnight).

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, onion powder, and nutmeg, and stir until onions are tender. Remove from heat and whisk in nutritional yeast and tamari.

Pour mixture into a blender or food processor, along with the nut milk. Drain the cashews and add to the blender. Blend until completely smooth and thick, stopping to scrape the sides as needed. There should be about 1 ½ cups.

Cook pasta to al dente per instructions. Drain and return pot to the stovetop over medium-low heat. Pour the mixture over the pasta. Stir and heat until sauce is warmed through and coating the pasta. Serve immediately.

2. Vegetarian Chili

1+ cup water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 (15-oz) can fire-roasted tomatoes (plus half of can liquid)
1 (15-oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-oz) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1–2 chipotle chilies in adobo, minced
1–2 tbsp adobo sauce
3 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen and thawed
Ground black pepper
1 cup green onions, chopped
¾ cup plain Greek yogurt

Heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup water and bell peppers, and cook until soft, about 5 to 8 minutes, stirring and adding more water if needed to prevent sticking.

Turn heat to medium-low. Stir in the beans, chipotles, adobo sauce, cumin, chili powder, and oregano. Stir in tomatoes and corn. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir occasionally and mash the beans against the side of the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and sliced green onions, plus blue corn tortilla chips or cornbread.

3. Instant Pot Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium butternut squash
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 apple, such as Honeycrisp, Fuji or Gala, cored and diced
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh sage
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 ½ cups vegetable stock
½ cup unsweetened coconut milk

Add butternut squash, onion, carrots, and apple, sage, thyme, salt, nutmeg, and vegetable stock to an Instant Pot. Mix together.

Set to manual high pressure cooking setting and seal the lid. Let the mixture cook for 8 to 10 minutes. When done, carefully use the venting and quick release setting. When all the steam has been released and the valve has dropped, remove the lid and discard the sage and thyme sprigs.

Stir in the coconut milk, then use an immersion blender or transfer to a traditional blender to purée the soup until smooth. Add additional salt or seasoning to taste. Serve warm with a drizzle of coconut milk.

4. Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Homemade chicken noodle soup with carrots and crackers
1 ½ lbs chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 tbsp olive oil
½ cup carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
½ cup onion, chopped
¼ cup celery, chopped
1 teaspoon oregano
12 cups chicken broth
2 egg yolks
2 tbsps lemon juice
8 oz pasta, like egg noodles or orecchiette
Ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, and oregano, and sauté until onions are translucent.

Pour chicken broth into the pot with veggies. Increase heat and bring to a bright simmer. Add pasta, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking, and let simmer about 5 more minutes. Turn heat to low.

Beat egg yolks and lemon juice in a separate bowl. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in ¼ cup of hot broth to temper the eggs. Then, slowly pour the egg mixture into the soup pot, stirring constantly. Add the shredded chicken to the pot and simmer on low for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with warm French bread.

5. Stuffed Bell Peppers

6 bell peppers, any color
¼ cup water
1 lb ground beef
1 cup brown rice, cooked per instructions
1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn (fresh, canned or frozen and thawed)
1 onion, diced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Greek yogurt or sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut off the tops of the peppers and remove the ribs and seeds. Rinse and dry them, then set them in a greased baking dish with ¼ cup water in the bottom. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, then remove and set aside (leave the oven on).

In the meantime, make the filling. Combine cumin, ancho chili powder, salt, and garlic powder in a small bowl and set aside. Brown the ground beef in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat with half of the spice mixture. Remove from heat and drain excess liquid. Transfer ground beef to a large mixing bowl. Mix in rice, black beans, corn, and onions, then the remaining spice mixture.

When bell peppers are done, fill each to the top with the filling. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Top with cheese, then bake for about 10 more minutes. Cheese should be melted and lightly browned, and the peppers should be soft and slightly blistered. Serve with sour cream and cilantro.

6. Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

12 corn tortillas
1 large sweet potato, cooked and peeled
1 onion, diced
1 (15-oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ancho chili powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup cotija cheese
2 cups verde enchilada sauce
Sour cream

For the verde enchilada sauce: Roast tomatillos, jalapeño, and garlic with olive oil in 400-degree oven until soft and slightly blistered, about 15 minutes. Blend with the remaining ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Adjust salt and lime juice to taste

10–12 tomatillos, husked and quartered
1 jalapeño, halved and seeded
2 cloves garlic, halved
1 tbsp olive oil
1 (8 oz can) green chilies, rinsed and drained
½ cup white onion
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
¼ cup cilantro
¼ cup water
1–2 tbsps lime juice

For the filling: Combine onions and black beans with cumin, salt, ancho chili powder, and black pepper. Mix in sweet potato until fully incorporated. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling into each tortilla, careful not to overfill, wrap tightly, and place seam-side down in the baking dish. Enchiladas should fit together snugly in the dish. Needed dish size may vary depending on the size of the tortilla and the amount of filling. Evenly pour verde sauce over the filled tortillas. Sprinkle with ¾ cup of cotija.

Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let stand to cool for about 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining cotija and cilantro before serving.

7. Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs

16 oz spaghetti, cooked per instructions
1 lb ground turkey
½ cup plain bread crumbs
1 egg
¼ cup milk
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon rubbed sage
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Whisk together egg, milk, Worcestershire sauce, onion, and garlic in a large mixing bowl. Add dry herb mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined. Mix in ground meat until all ingredients are evenly and thoroughly combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes.

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Spray a 13×9-inch baking dish and an 8×8-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. When the meatball mixture is chilled, remove from the fridge and form the meatballs to about the size of a golf ball. Place in the baking dish about ½ inch apart. You should have approximately 2 dozen meatballs. Bake until cooked through, about 20 to 25 minutes.

8. Simple Slow Cooker Beef StewBeef meat stewed with potatoes, carrots and spices in ceramic pot on wooden background

2 onions, quartered and layers separated
2 cups baby carrots
1 celery rib, chopped
4 turnips, quartered
2 gold potatoes, cut into large chunks
2 tbsps tomato paste
2 ½ cups beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
½ cup water
1 tbsp dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 ½ lbs stew meat chunks
Black pepper

Set the slow cooker to high. Place the vegetables, tomato paste, beef broth, red wine, water, dried herbs, and bay leaves into a slow cooker.

Season the stew meat with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove garlic if it starts to burn, mince, and add it to the slow cooker. Carefully place the beef in the skillet and brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and add to the slow cooker.

Secure the lid on the slow cooker and set to cook for 5 hours. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

9. Simple Stir Fry (Instant Pot) Quinoa Bowl

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 ½ cups water
½ teaspoon salt

2 tbsps olive oil
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup fresh snow or sugar snap peas
½ teaspoon salt
2 green onions, chopped

To make the sauce, combine the following in a small bowl:

¼ cup hoisin
1 tbsp soy sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss sweet potatoes and broccoli with olive oil and salt in a large mixing bowl. Spread evenly onto a rimmed sheet pan. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake uncovered for about 10 more minutes, until vegetables are soft with slightly crispy edges.

To make the quinoa: Add quinoa, salt, and water to an Instant Pot and stir. Set to manual high for 3 minutes. When done, allow pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes, then carefully release any remaining pressure. Allow all steam to escape and valve to release before opening.

Spoon quinoa evenly into four bowls. Top with sweet potatoes, broccoli, and snow peas. Drizzle with sauce and top with green onions to serve.

10. Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

12 oz mixed greens or baby kale
1 medium butternut squash, cut into ½ in cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1–2 apples, such as Honeycrisp, Fuji, or Gala, thinly sliced
½ red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup walnuts, roasted
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup goat cheese crumbles

For the vinaigrette, combine the following ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. Adjust to taste.

½ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp water
2 teaspoons maple syrup
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl, toss butternut squash with olive oil and salt. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until squash is soft and some edges slightly crispy. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Reduce oven to 300 degrees. Spread out walnuts on a separate baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 5 to 8 minutes, checking frequently to prevent burning.

In a large serving bowl, toss greens, apple slices, red onion, walnuts, dried cranberries, and goat cheese. Toss with apple cider vinaigrette when ready to serve.

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