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Comfort Food

Comfort food is food that provides a nostalgic or sentimental value to someone, and may be characterized by its high caloric nature, high carbohydrate level, or simple preparation. The nostalgia may be specific to an individual, or it may apply to a specific culture.

nostalgia culture comfort

1. Definition

The term comfort food has been traced back at least to 1966, when the Palm Beach Post used it in a story: "Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called 'comfort food'—food associated with the security of childhood, like mother's poached egg or famous chicken soup."[1]

2. Psychological Studies

Consuming energy-dense, high calorie, high fat, salt or sugar foods, such as ice cream, chocolate or french fries, may trigger the reward system in the human brain, which gives a distinctive pleasure or temporary sense of emotional elevation and relaxation.[2][3] When psychological conditions are present, people often use comfort food to treat themselves. Those with negative emotions tend to eat unhealthy food in an effort to experience the instant gratification that comes with it, even if only short-lived.[4]

One study divided college-students' comfort-food identifications into four categories (nostalgic foods, indulgence foods, convenience foods, and physical comfort foods) with a special emphasis on the deliberate selection of particular foods to modify mood or effect, and indications that the medical-therapeutic use of particular foods may ultimately be a matter of mood-alteration.[5]

The identification of particular items as comfort food may be idiosyncratic, though patterns are detectable. In one study of American preferences, "males preferred warm, hearty, meal-related comfort foods (such as steak, casseroles, and soup) while females instead preferred comfort foods that were more snack related (such as chocolate and ice cream). In addition, younger people preferred more snack-related comfort foods compared to those over 55 years of age." The study also revealed strong connections between consumption of comfort foods and feelings of guilt.[6] An article, "The Myth of Comfort Food" asserted that men tend to choose these types of savory comfort foods because they remind them of being "pampered" or spoiled, while women choose snack-related foods because they are associated with low amounts of work and less "cleanup." It also suggested that women are more likely to reach for unhealthier foods in times of stress due to more weight-conscious mindsets.

Comfort food consumption is seen as a response to emotional stress and, consequently, as a key contributor to the epidemic of obesity in the United States.[7] The provocation of specific hormonal responses leading selectively to increases in abdominal fat is seen as a form of self-medication.[8]

Further studies suggest that consumption of comfort food is triggered in men by positive emotions, and by negative ones in women.[9] The stress effect is particularly pronounced among college-aged women, with only 33% reporting healthy eating choices during times of emotional stress.[10] For women specifically, these psychological patterns may be maladaptive.[11]

A therapeutic use of these findings includes offering comfort foods or "happy hour" beverages to anorectic geriatric patients whose health and quality of life otherwise decreases with reduced oral intake.[12]

3. By Region

A partial list by region of comfort foods around the world.

3.1. Afghanistan

Comfort foods in Afghanistan are:

  • Aushak – stuffed dumplings and sauce
  • Bolani – filled flatbread[13]
  • Borani Banjan or Borani-e-Banjan – baked eggplant with yogurt sauce
  • Borani Kadoo or Borani-e-Kado – sweet and savory braised pumpkin with yogurt sauce[14]
  • Chainaki –
  • Chalaw or Challow – steamed rice with spices
  • Kabuli palaw or Qabuli Pulao – steamed rice with raisins, carrots, and lamb[14]
  • Karahai – meat cooked in a traditional karahi pot
  • Kebab – grilled skewered meat[13]
  • Korma Gosht or Qorma-e-Gosht – braised meat[15]
  • Mantu – meat-stuffed dumpling[13][15]
  • Naan – flatbread[14]
  • Sabzi Palu – spinach (sabzi) with spices
  • Sher Berinj – rice pudding[16]

3.2. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa

A Pavlova garnished with fruit and cream.

Comfort foods in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa may include:

  • Braised lamb shanks[17][18]
  • Bread and butter pudding[17][18]
  • Butterscotch apple dumplings[18]
  • Casserole (beef or chicken)[18]
  • Chicken soup[18]
  • Golden syrup pikelets[18]
  • Honey and oat slices[18]
  • Hot chips[17]
  • Lamingtons[19]
  • Mashed potatoes[17][18]
  • Meat pie[17][18]
  • Pea and ham soup[18]
  • Pie floater[20]
  • Porridge, topped with brown sugar or honey, yogurt, nuts, and fruit[18]
  • Potato wedges[17]
  • Pumpkin soup[18]
  • Rice custard[18]
  • Roast meat (beef, chicken, or pork with crackling)[17][18]
  • Roast potatoes[18]
  • Sausage and mash[18]
  • Sausage roll[17]
  • Shepherd's pie[18]
  • Spaghetti[18]
  • Steak and kidney pie[18]
  • Sticky date pudding[17][18]
  • Vegemite or Marmite on toast[21]

3.3. Canada

A plate of classic poutine at a Montreal restaurant.
  • Butter tart / Tarte au sucre – small sweet tart-shaped pastries[22][23][24]
  • Cake[25]
  • Cheesecake[26]
  • Chili and beans[27]
  • Chocolate bars[24]
  • Cookies[23]
  • Fish and chips[28]
  • Fried chicken[25]
  • Fried rice[29]
  • Ginger beef[30]
  • Grilled cheese sandwich[23][28][29][31]
  • Hamburger[23][31]
  • Ice cream[24][25]
  • Lasagna[25][32]
  • Macaroni and cheese[23][24][25][28][29][31][33]
  • Nanaimo bar[24][28]
  • Pancakes with maple syrup[23][31]
  • Pea soup[29]
  • Pierogies[29]
  • Pizza[23][29][31]
  • Potatoes such as French fries, Hash browns, Mashed potatoes,[25] Potato chips,[24] and Potato salad
  • Poutine[21][22][23][24][28][29][31]
  • Rhubarb pie[32]
  • Scrambled eggs on toast[29]
  • Tourtière – meat pie with pork and lard[22]

3.4. Egypt

Ful medames served with hard-boiled eggs, a staple in Egypt.
  • Basbousa – sweet unleavened cake
  • Falafel – fried bean ball
  • Fatteh – meat on cooked rice with crisp flatbread
  • Ful medames – bean stew
  • Hawawshi – pita bread stuffed with flavored meat
  • Kushari – casserole of rice, macaroni, and vegetables
  • Macarona béchamel – baked pasta dish with ground meat and béchamel sauce
  • Mulukhiyah – soup or stew made with mallow leaves
  • Roz bil khalta - brown rice with nuts, raisins and meat bits.

3.5. France

A madeleine. A madeleine de Proust is a French expression specifically referring to Marcel Proust's description of comfort food in In Search of Lost Time.
  • Crème caramel – custard dessert[34]
  • French onion soup – onion soup with cheese and bread[34]
  • Gratin dauphinois – potato slices baked with cream[21]
  • Pâté – cold meat paste[34]
  • Pot-au-feu – beef stew[35]
  • Tomates Farcies – Tomatoes stuffed with ground meat

3.6. Hong Kong

  • Baked Porkchop Rice - a type of Hong Kong-style western cuisine
  • Cart noodle - an à la carte noodle dish traditionally sold using carts
  • Cha Chaan Teng food - a Hong Kong Style-Cafe
  • Dim Sum - small bite-sized portions of food served in small steamer baskets during yum cha
  • Egg Tart
  • Hotpot
  • Macaroni in broth - a type of Hong Kong-style western cuisine
  • Pineapple Bun - a type of pastry that resembles a pineapple
  • Put chai ko - a palm-sized pudding cake snack
  • Siu Mei – meats roasted on spits over an open fire or in a large rotisserie oven

3.7. India

  • Biryani - Mutton, chicken, beef or lamb
  • Samosa
  • Cutlet
  • Radhaballavi - Deep-fried flatbread with a filling
  • Kochuri
  • Rolls
  • Momo
  • Fish fry
  • Sambar
  • Puri - Fried flatbread
  • Masala Dosa - rice crepes, with or without a filling of potatoes and onion
  • Khichri - Made with Rice and Legumes(Lentils,Mung bean etc)
  • Pav bhaji - Curry served with buttered buns.
  • Rasam and Curd rice - particularly in South India
  • Maachh-bhaat
  • Daal chawal - particularly in North India
  • Curd rice - Rice mixed with yogurt

3.8. Indonesia

Bubur ayam (chicken congee) is an Indonesian comfort food.

Some popular Indonesian foods are considered to be comfort food, usually served hot or warm, and either soupy or with a soft texture. Most of them are high in carbs or fat, such as congee, fried rice, and noodles which are high in carbs; while meatballs and grilled skewered meats contain fair amounts of fat and salt. Comfort foods often are the kind of food that provides nostalgic sentiments, as they often called masakan rumahan (home cooking) or masakan ibu (mother's dishes). In Indonesia, the warm and soft texture of bubur ayam is believed to help people to recover during convalescence.[36] Sayur sop or sup ayam is Indonesian chicken soup that often sought during flu. The warm soup contains chunk of chicken, bits of potato, carrot, and common green bean served in chicken stock.[37]

Some Indonesian comfort foods are traditional Indonesian food and some are derived from Chinese influences. For some Indonesians, especially those who are abroad, comfort food might also be a certain brand or type of Indonesian instant noodle, such as Indomie Mi goreng.[38] Indonesian comfort foods include:

  • Bakmi or mie ayam – noodles (mi) with pork (bak) or chicken (ayam)[39]
  • Bakso – meatball soup[36][40][41]
  • Bubur ayam – chicken congee[36]
  • Gado-gado – salad containing vegetables, tempeh and egg in peanut sauce[42]
  • Indomie Mi goreng – fried noodle[36][38]
  • Nasi goreng – fried rice[41]
  • Nasi tim – steamed chicken rice[43][44]
  • Sayur sop or sup ayam – Indonesian chicken and vegetables soup[37]
  • Sate – skewered barbecue with peanut sauce[41]
  • Soto ayam – spicy chicken soup[36][45]

3.9. Italy

  • Gnocchi – small soft dough dumplings[46]
  • Lasagne – flat noodles (pasta) layered with meat, cheese and tomato sauce[47][48]
  • Pasta all'amatriciana – pasta with guanciale, tomato sauce and pecorino cheese
  • Pasta alla carbonara – pasta with egg guanciale, and pecorino cheese
  • Nutella – sweet spread of cocoa and hazelnuts[49]
  • Pizza – baked flatbread with toppings

3.10. Japan

  • Chazuke/ochazuke – rice with green tea[50][51][52]
  • Miso soup – soybean-flavored clear soup[50]
  • Mochi – rice cake[52]
  • Onigiri – rice ball[50][52]
  • Ramen – soup with thin noodles[52][53]
  • Takoyaki – octopus balls[52]
  • Tempura – battered, deep-fried pieces of meat or vegetables[50][52]
  • Udon – soup with thick noodles[50][52]

3.11. Philippines

Pork adobo.
  • Adobo – A salt and vinegar marinated meat preparation with different variations all around the country.[54][55]
  • Arroz Caldo / Lugaw – A savory rice porridge, often served as breakfast, on rainy days, or when someone is ill.[56][57]
  • Batchoy – A noodle soup with a variety of meats.[58]
  • Filipino spaghetti - Sweet and savory spaghetti
  • Ginataan – A coconut cream-based dessert with bananas, sticky rice balls, sago (tapioca balls), taro and langka (jackfruit).
  • Bulalo – A beef bone marrow soup.[57]
  • Champorado – A chocolate rice porridge, sometimes served savory (as with tuyô)[21][57][59]
  • Dinuguan - A pork offal stew.[59]
  • Halo-halo – A cold crushed ice dessert dish of mixed sweets.[54][58]
  • Kare-kare – A stew with the components of ox tripe and ox tails in a yellow, peanut-rich sauce. It is regarded as a local variation of Indian curry.[55]
  • Lumpia – Spring rolls with a vegetable or meat filling.[55]
  • Lomi – A hot noodle soup with distinctly thick egg noodles.[57]
  • Pancit – Fried noodles, often served during birthday celebrations.[55][60]
  • Puto – Steamed rice cake[59]
  • Sinampalukan - Sour chicken soup[61][62]
  • Sinigang – A sour soup of different varieties with meats or fish[54][57][58]
  • Sopas - A creamy soup (usually made with chicken) with macaroni elbows.[57][63][64]
  • Suman – Glutinous rice cake[58]
  • Tsokolate – Hot chocolate drink[57]

3.12. Poland

Steamed pierogi, with fried onions on top.

Some Polish comfort food include:

  • Soups and stews
    • Bigos – hunters stew
    • Barszcz z uszkami – clear beetroot soup with forest mushrooms dumplings
    • Gulasz – goulash / meat and vegetable stew
    • Kapuśniak – sauerkraut soup
    • Rosół – chicken soup with fine noodles
    • Zupa grzybowa – wild mushroom soup
    • Zupa ogórkowa – sour cucumber soup
    • Zupa pomidorowa – clear tomato soup with rice or noodles
    • Zupa szczawiowa – sorrel soup served with boiled egg
    • Żurek – sour rye soup
  • Budyń waniliowy z malinami – vanilla pudding with raspberries
  • Kotlet schabowy – pork schnitzel
  • Golonka – pickled ham hock
  • Jagody ze śmietaną – blueberries with cream
  • Kopytka – small potato dumpling
  • Łazanki – large flat noodles with fried sauerkraut
  • Makaron ze śmietaną i truskawkami – pasta with cream and strawberries
  • Mielone z ziemniakami i mizerią – pork burgers with mashed potatoes and cucumber salad
  • Naleśniki z twarogiem – pancakes with milk curd
  • Pierogi – filled dumplings[21][65][66][67]
  • Placki ziemniaczane – potato pancakes
  • Sernik – baked cheesecake
  • Śledź w oleju – pickled herring
  • Zapiekanka – toasted open-face sandwich

3.13. Puerto Rico

Arroz con pollo: chicken with rice.

Some Puerto Rican comfort foods include:

  • Arroz con gandules – rice with pigeon peas[68][69]
  • Arroz con pollo – rice with chicken[68]
  • Bistec encebollado – steak and onions[70]
  • Carne Guisada – stewed beef[69]
  • Carne mechada – Puerto Rican style meatloaf
  • Churrasco – grilled flank or skirt steak[70]
  • Cuchifritos and Fritanga – assortments of fried appetizers (alcapurrias, bacalaitos, pastelitos/pastelillos, piononos, sorrullos/sorullitos)[68][69][70]
  • Habichuelas guisadas con calabaza – beans stewed with pumpkin[70]
  • Lechón asado – roast pork[70]
  • Mixta – white rice, stewed beans with pumpkin and stewed meat with potatoes and carrots
  • Mofongo and trifongo – fried mashed green plantains[70][71]
  • Mofongo relleno de mariscos, carne o pollo – Fried mashed green plantains stuffed with seafood, meat or chicken[68]
  • Pasteles – Puerto Rican tamales[69]
  • Pastelón de plátano maduro – ripe banana casserole with ground beef and cheddar cheese[69]
  • Pinchos – Puerto Rican skewers[71]
  • Tostones – fried plantain slices[70][71]

3.14. Russia


Russian comfort foods may include:

  • Bliny – pancakes
  • Dressed herring – layered herring salad
  • Golubtsy – cabbage rolls[21]
  • Kasha – porridge
  • Kotlety – meatballs
  • Kholodets – savory gelatin
  • Kvass – fermented drink made with bread
  • Napoleon – layered pastry
  • Okroshka – cold vegetable soup
  • Olivier salad – vegetable salad
  • Ponchiki – yeast-raised pastry bun
  • Pelmeni – meat-filled dumpling
  • Pirozhki – meat-filled bun
  • Rassolnik – pickled soup
  • Shashlik – skewered and grilled cubes of meat
  • Shchi – cabbage soup
  • Solyanka – spicy and sour soup
  • Syrniki – fried quark
  • Ukha – clear, fish-based soup
  • Vareniki – filled dumplings (pierogi)

3.15. Spain

Chocolate con churros.
  • Castañas asadas – roasted chestnuts
  • Chocolate con churros – hot chocolate drink with fried dough
  • Cordero asado – grilled lamb
  • Fried seafood, such as boquerones fritos (fried anchovies) and calamares fritos (fried squid)
  • Gazpacho – cold vegetable soup
  • Jamón serrano – Serrano ham
  • Paella – rice with saffron, cooked in a shallow pan[72]
  • Sausage, such as chorizo, morcilla, and salchichón
  • Sobaos pasiegos – sweet bread
  • Stew, such as cocido madrileño (Madrid stew)[73]
  • Tarta de Santiago – almond cake or tart[72]
  • Torreznos – bacon
  • Tortilla española or tortilla de patata – potato-onion omelet[72][74]

3.16. Taiwan

Dan zai noodles.
  • Beef noodle soup[75]
  • Dan zai noodles – noodles and prawn with broth[76]
  • Minced pork rice[76]
  • Oyster omelette[77]
  • Red bean soup[78]
  • Small sausage in large sausage – grilled sausage in a rice casing[77]
  • Tangyuan – filled rice dumplings in sweet syrup[78]
  • salt and pepper chicken - fried chicken with salted pepper powder.

3.17. Turkey

Mantı, with yogurt and red pepper sauce.

In Turkish, comfort food is closest in meaning to Turkish: Anne yemeği, "mother's dish", especially in terms of providing a nostalgic feeling, or Turkish: Ev yemeği, "home dish". Some Turkish comfort foods are:

  • Mantı – spicy meat dumpling[79][80][81]
  • Kuru fasulye – bean and tomato stew[21][82]
  • Pilav – rice dish[83]
  • Mercimek Çorbası – a soup based on lentils
  • Börek – baked filled pastries, a wide variety of regional variations of börek exists
  • Menemen - commonly eaten for breakfast
  • Yaprak Sarma - stuffed grape leaves[84]
  • Gözleme - a stuffed flatbread , commonly stuffed with spinach,minced meat and potato mash[85]

3.18. Ukraine

Ukrainian comfort foods includes, but aren't limitied to:

  • Borscht — beetroots soup, also there are few variants:
    • Green borscht
    • White borscht
    • Cabbage borscht
  • Deruny — potato pancakes with sour cream
  • Holubtsi — small, medium or large rolls with prepared rice
    • Cabbage roll
    • Grape leaves roll
  • Kasha — kind of porridge
  • Kholodets —
  • Kolach — sweet, round shaped pastry
  • Mlynci — pancakes.
    • Nalysnyky — pancakes with fillings
  • Pampushky — small savory or sweet yeast-raised bun
  • Pyrizhky — backed or fried small donuts with different (mostly fruits or meat) fillings.
  • Syrnyky — fried quark pancakes, garnished with sour cream
  • Varennia — jam
  • Varenyky — Filled dumplings cooked at boiling water
  • Vinehret — Beans and potato salad colored with beetroots

3.19. England

Bangers and mash is a British comfort food.[86]

English comfort foods include:

  • Bacon butty (bacon sandwich)[87][88][89]
  • Bangers and mash – sausages and mashed potatoes[86][88][89][90]
  • Cauliflower cheese[88][90][91][92]
  • Chicken Tikka Masala[90][91][92]
  • Cornish pasty[88][90]
  • Cottage pie (Shepherd's pie)[88][89][90][91]
  • Custard[91]
  • Curry – India-inspired stew over rice[89]
  • Egg and chips[89][93]
  • Egg and soldiers – toast sliced into approximately six to eight pieces lengthwise, to dip into soft-boiled egg yolk[89][94]
  • Fish and chips[88][89][95]
  • Fruit Crumble – stewed fruit with crumbly topping[21][88][90][91]
  • Full English breakfast[88][89]
  • Lancashire hotpot[91]
  • Pies
    • Cheese pie, with potatoes or other savory ingredients[90][91]
    • Fish pie[90][91][96]
    • Pork pie[88]
    • Steak and kidney pie[91]
  • Potatoes
    • Jacket potato[89]
    • Mashed potatoes
  • Puddings
    • Bread and butter pudding[91]
    • Jam Roly-Poly – suet pudding rolled in a spiral with jam
    • Rice pudding[90][91]
    • Spotted dick – steamed pudding with dried fruit[88]
    • Sticky toffee pudding[90]
    • Treacle pudding[88][91]
  • Roasted meat, such as roast beef[21][88][89][90] or chicken[88][90]
  • Scotch egg – hard-boiled egg baked in sausage[88][90]
  • Soups and stews
    • Beef stew with dumplings[89]
    • Cock-a-leekie soup[88]
    • Lobscouse or lobscows – meat stew[92]
    • Potato, leek, and Stilton soup
  • Stottie cake – heavy, round bread[97]
  • Toad in the hole – sausages baked in Yorkshire pudding[89][90][91]
  • Toast
    • Baked beans on toast[89]
    • Welsh Rarebit – hot cheese sauce on toast[90][91]
  • Toastie – grilled sandwich[91]
  • Yorkshire pudding[88][90][98]

3.20. United States

Macaroni and cheese is an American comfort food.[99]

American comfort foods may include the following foods:

3.21. Germany

German comfort foods may include the following foods:

  • Rindsrouladen
  • Münchner Weißwürscht
  • Obazda
  • Auszogne
  • Schweinshaxn
  • Pichlstoana
  • Gaisburger Marsch
  • Sauerbraten
  • Currywurst
  • Saumagen
  • Regensburger
  • Frankfurter
  • Käsespätzle
  • Schwäbische Spätzle
  • Hamburger Labskaus
  • Hamburger Aalsuppe
  • Kohlrouladen
  • Franzbrötchen
  • Spanferkel
  • Arme Ritter
  • Bouletten, Frikadellen, Fleischpflanzerl etc.
  • Steckerlfisch
  • Schlachtplatte
  • Leberkäse
  • Mett
  • Nürnberger Lebkuchen
  • Maultaschen
  • Rote Grütze
  • Schweinsbraten
  • Kartoffelpuffer
  • Laugenbrezn, Laugengebäck
  • Fleischsalat
  • Nürnberger Rostbratwurst
  • Bratkartoffeln


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