When the air has a particular chill in it, it’s time to fire up your stove. Colder weather not only brings the luxury of opening up your windows, but it also allows you to get back into the kitchen without risking turning into a puddle of sweat. And what better dishes to make in the fall and winter months than classic comfort foods? You know the ones: those dishes that fill your home with rich scents of stewing beef or lots of cheese. In addition to staples like pot pie, beef stroganoff and lasagna, there are also some warming dishes we think should become regulars in your fall recipe repertoire.
Often thought of as just another use for leftover chicken, pot pies can be so much more than that. Take, for instance, this chicken and sage biscuit pot pie, which uses delicate, poached chicken and root vegetables. If you want all the flavor of a pot pie but have none of the time, you can use biscuit mix as a hack for a pot pie recipe that requires only five minutes of prep time. Not a meat-eater? You can still have hearty, comforting pot pie filled to the brim with mushrooms and brown gravy.
Ranked among the best Thanksgiving side dishes and a classic childhood dinner (you know the one straight from the box), macaroni and cheese can certainly be a star comforting dinner all on its own. There are tons of amazing mac and cheese recipes suited to every palate, from a classic ooey, gooey version to a decadent cream cheese-loaded pie. Take your mac to the next level by adding your favorite mix-ins, such as beer and bacon, lobster or Buffalo chicken.
Lasagna is one of those nostalgic comfort foods that will instantly transport you to the holidays and sitting on your grandma’s countertop as she chopped onions and grated cheese. And there’s really no wrong way to layer your sauce, noodles and cheese, whether you want to keep it simple with ground beef, go all out with ground beef and pepperoni or incorporate sausage into the sauce. Need a vegetarian option? You can still fill your home with the warming smells of sauce and cheese with a pumpkin and kale lasagna or a simple slow cooker veggie variation.
A classic beef stew, with carrots, potatoes, pearl onions and mushrooms, is an absolute must for cold weather. If you want to make it extremely comforting, add a tub of sour cream for a jager beef stew or a pint of Guinness for a rich, fulfilling Irish beef stew. If you need to head to work and want a heartwarming meal to come home to, consider a sweet apple and beef stew made in the slow cooker — the seasonal fruit makes the recipe perfect for fall.
Shepherd’s pie just might be the ultimate comfort food. Seasoned ground beef, hearty chopped vegetables and a rich gravy with a splash of red wine in it is already pretty decadent, and then the whole thing is made even better with a crust not made of dough but of fluffy, freshly whipped mashed potatoes. It’s gut-busting in the absolute best way possible. And while a shepherd’s pie is a certifiable classic, you can still play around with the formula. Consider a smoky ground turkey and black bean shepherd’s pie for those nights when you want a little kick with your comfort. Adobo sauce is the secret ingredient that brings bursts of flavor perfect for the coldest of nights.
Speaking of creamy meat dishes (which, truly, is the definition of comfort food), perhaps no dish has the luxurious texture of beef stroganoff, thanks to plenty of cream of mushroom soup and a swirl of sour cream. Put the whole concoction on top of egg noodles and you’ll be in a time machine straight to your childhood dinner table. And speaking of retro recipes we need to bring back as the weather gets increasingly colder, consider whipping up some stuffed peppers, pot roast, chicken noodle soup or Swedish meatballs.
If you never thought that chicken could be as comforting as beef, pork or cheese, then you’ve never made butter chicken at home. A longtime staple of Indian cuisine, the dish features a creamy sauce with the heartwarming spice blend garam masala, red chili powder and tangy tomatoes, as well as plenty of butter. Within this flavor-packed mixture, the chicken cooks to a melt-in-your-mouth texture. All you need to finish it is a bed of fragrant jasmine rice
If you’re looking for the kind of comfort that can only come from heat and are looking for vegetarian-friendly dinner options, consider whipping up a batch of mapo tofu, a dish frequently found at the best Chinese restaurants in America. The hearty dish uses tons of ginger and garlic for aromatics and flavor, and you can douse it in chili sauce such as Lao Gan Ma for an extra kick. Pair it with some homemade egg drop soup, which is so easy to make you’ll forget all about takeout.
Oxtail is a seriously underrated cut of meat and is exactly what it sounds like: the tail meat from an ox or a cow. It’s fatty and on the bone, which makes it an ideal cut of beef for braising or slow cooking, as in this oxtail stew. You may never go back to chuck roast again.