Make Classic Comfort Food With These Recipes

All-American Favorites

Apple pie

Rita Maas / Taxi/Getty Images

What are comfort foods? They are soothing foods that evoke nostalgia or comforting childhood memories. They are safe foods, with uncomplicated flavors often blanketed in belly-filling carbohydrates. For most of us, these foods are far from gourmet. They are the epitome of home cooking.

What Makes a Dish Comfort Food?

Coziness is perhaps the most important quality in comfort food, and that kind of intimacy often calls for food that is warm (and ideally, that heats the home while it's cooking), soft, and creamy. Evoking mother's milk is not a coincidence here, as many comfort-food favorites are meals that could be served to small children to wean them, as well as to older adults whose teeth might not stand up to more rigid fare.

Of course, nostalgia foods are a big part of comfort cuisine. The menu of childhood birthday parties—pizza, hot dogs, cake—may rank as comfort food for some. Those raised in other parts of the world will show great fondness for the foods they loved as children: sweet Mexican avena rather than American oatmeal, for example.

Finding America's Favorite Comfort Foods

Revisiting favorite American comfort foods shows distinctive trends relating to age, childhood regional location, and upbringing. Comfort foods in southern Louisiana are different from those of coastal New England.

But there are some overlaps. It comes as no surprise that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, along with grilled cheese, ranked highest on our list, but who needs a recipe for those? The next most popular were meatloaf, mashed potatoes, brisket pot roast, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, and surprisingly, good ole tuna casserole. It's perhaps indicative of most American childhoods that very few vegetables made this list.

American Comfort Foods and Recipes

Here are the top comfort foods, each linked to an appropriate recipe either traditional or updated. They are listed in alphabetical order for the sake of convenience. Did your favorites make the list?