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Winter Comfort Foods 2023 (25 Cozy Main Dishes)

Our recipes for cozy winter comfort foods – main dishes with quick prep time – will satisfy the cravings of chicken & meat lovers, vegetarians and busy cooks. There’s nothing like them on a cold winter night.

Where I live, we hunker down for the long winter months with lots of yummy, soul-filling comfort food like hearty soups and stews, casseroles, pastas and roasts. .

collage of winter comfort foods

In this post, we’re focusing on MAIN DISHES. Many are oldies with a twist or added veggies in an attempt to make them a bit healthier without compromising the comfort part.

We do include some lower calorie dishes on the list, but I’m not going to lie. Calories are not the point here.

We selected perfect winter dinner recipes with minimal prep time (20 minutes or less) and most (not all) have a total time of an hour or less.

What are comfort foods?

Comfort foods are supposed to make you feel good. Warm and cozy, even nostalgic. They are often carb-y and high fat foods, but not always.

There’s a huge range of comfort foods of course. Side dishes like French fries and mashed potatoes. Desserts like apple pie and chocolate chip cookies. And main dishes like mac and cheese and thick hearty soups.

I like to update a few of the oldies by adding veggies. I figure if I’m going to eat carbs and calories, I might as well add a bit of extra nutrition 🙂

Winter Comfort Foods – Hearty Meals

For Chicken Lovers

Smothered Chicken In A Skillet

chicken and vegetables in sauce in skillet 1
Smothered chicken is one of my favorite comforting dish recipes. Tender moist chicken smothered in onions, carrots, celery, red peppers and spinach and a yummy sauce – all in one skillet. Food for the soul, this one pot meal of chicken and vegetables goes way back, over 30 years at least. 10-minute prep, 70 minutes total time
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Chicken Meatloaf Recipe With Vegetables

sliced chicken meatloaf with coleslaw on plate
Chicken meatloaf with vegetables is NOT dry and boring. It's soft, super moist and tasty with lots of hidden nutrition thanks to the onions, carrots and spinach. Great with a traditional glaze and surprisingly low calorie and healthy. Your family will love this easy meatloaf recipe. 15-minute prep, 45 minutes total time
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Simple Roast Chicken and Potatoes

roasted chicken leg with roasted potatoes and asparagus on white plate
The ultimate in Friday night or Sunday dinner comfort food – roast chicken and potatoes. The chicken is moist and flavorful, but it's the potatoes that are outstanding. They absorb the juices from the chicken, lemon, onion and garlic – and taste sublime. 5-minute prep, 65 minutes total
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Roast Chicken Breast with Gravy

sliced chicken breast on cutting board with gravy on the side
It's hard to beat a roast chicken breast dinner with gravy for comfort food. The simple gravy is the crowning glory on this easy family comfort meal. And this recipe is pretty low calorie for those of you who are looking for that. This recipe is easy and elegant enough for company. 10-minute prep, 60 minutes total time
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Chicken Stuffing Bake (One Pot)

piece of roast chicken on top of stuffing on plate
This one pot chicken stuffing bake recipe is made from scratch and designed to satisfy those comfort food cravings. Tender seasoned chicken over delicious homemade stuffing.10-minute prep, 50 minutes total time
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Recipe for Chicken Fricassee

chicken fricassee top view in skillet f
You will love this simplified recipe for chicken fricassee, a classic French dish of chicken and vegetables in a creamy wine sauce. It's a rustic, yet elegant, versatile and delicious main course for family dinners or special occasions. 10-minute prep, 60 minutes total time
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For Meat Lovers

Instant Pot Veal Stew

bowl of veal stew
The Instant Pot creates a tender flavorful veal stew with tomatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, onions, spinach and potatoes, bathed in a rich sauce.
10-minute prep, 60 minutes total time
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Homemade Spaghetti Meat Sauce (The Best)

plate of spaghetti with fork lifting some up
An old time favorite on my regular rotation. I've been making this homemade spaghetti meat sauce for 40 years. No one will let me change a thing. It's thick, rich and delicious. And freezes perfectly, making it an easy weeknight meal. 15-minute prep, 75 minutes total time   
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Boneless Pork Roast with Gravy (Reverse Sear)

sliced pork roast with gravy on cutting board f
I love using the reverse sear method with a boneless pork roast. It takes a little bit longer, but the meat always comes out super moist and tender edge-to-edge. Add some roasted veggies and a quick homemade gravy for a delicious comfort food meal. 10-minute prep, 90 minutes total time
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Healthy Meatloaf Recipe with Mushroom Gravy

This healthy meatloaf recipe with mushroom gravy is packed with finely chopped vegetables, making it a moist, nutritious and delicious home-cooked meal. Just simple old fashioned comfort food. 15-minute prep, 60 minutes total time
  
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Sous Vide Chuck Roast (for French Dip Au Jus)

beef chuck roast sliced on bread with caramelized onions
Sous vide chuck roast is magical. You can achieve a super flavorful, tender, medium rare cook with a normally very tough cut of meat. It's perfect for a delicious French dip au jus or just plain with gravy. It’s not a quick recipe, but well worth the extra time. It tastes very close to prime rib! 10-minute prep, 32 hours total time
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Sous Vide Short Ribs (Boneless Beef)

beef short ribs sliced over mashed potatoes
If you own a sous vide machine or are planning to get one, do not miss these boneless beef Sous Vide Short Ribs. Beyond easy and mouthwatering! Definitely worth the 15-minute prep time and 48 hours cook time.
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Cast Iron Skillet Pork Chops (with veggies and apples)

pork chops and veggies in skillet
Cast iron skillet pork chops is an easy and quick weeknight meal made in one pan with thyme, apples, lots of veggies and gravy. It’s simple, yummy comfort food at its best and an easy way to get a warm dinner ready on a cold winter day in a hurry. 10 minutes prep time, 28 minutes total 
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Old Fashioned Beef Stew Recipe

bowl of beef stew
There's nothing like tucking into a cozy, old fashioned beef stew on a chilly weekend. Tender beef, carrots, celery, onions and potatoes in a rich, beefy gravy. The best one pot meal with everyday ingredients. 15-minute prep time, 2 hours 15 minutes total time
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Hamburger Steak With Onion Gravy (Sous Vide or Pan Fry)

one sous vide hamburger steak on plate with onion gravy
Sink into a hamburger steak with onion gravy for pure and simple delicious meal the whole family will love. Moist and tender seasoned ground beef patties in a rich oniony sauce. Serve with mashed potatoes. Classic hearty comfort food! Sous Vide or pan fry method. 10-minute prep time, 1-hour total time
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For Vegetarians

It’s not all about meatloaf and chicken pot pie. We all know there are some very yummy vegetarian comfort foods. Think Mac and Cheese dishes and satisfying hearty soups (healthy comfort food?) served with a slab of crusty bread and butter.

Spinach Mac and Cheese

spinach mac and cheese in casserole dish
Mac and cheese might be old school, but face it, as the ultimate cozy winter comfort food, it's hard not to get the occasional craving. Give in. This spinach mac and cheese is creamy, cheesy and delicious. With some added nutrition. 20-minute prep, 40 minutes total time
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Pumpkin Risotto Recipe (Instant Pot)

Pumpkin Risotto in bowl beside pumpkin ff
I've come to view risottos as comfort food over the years. This one hits the spot. This rich, creamy, flavor-packed Instant Pot Pumpkin Risotto recipe is pure comfort food that tastes amazing and feels like a warm hug in a bowl. It's a knockout vegetarian dinner for fall or winter nights. Substitute butternut squash if you can't find pumpkin. 13-minute prep, 40 minutes total time
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Quinoa Mac and Cheese

piece of quinoa mac and cheese on plate F
Looking for a healthier but equally delicious version of mac and cheese? This quinoa mac and cheese packed with veggies, that’s perfect vegetarian weeknight meal. 20-minute prep, 40 minutes total time
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Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

piece of vegetarian shepherds pie on plate
This unique vegetarian shepherd's pie is made with plant-based 'beef' and topped with a root vegetables mash. Same tastes and textures as a classic beef shepherd’s pie and just as delicious. 15-minute prep, 60 minutes total time
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Vegetable Barley Soup

bowl of vegetable barley spup.
You will not miss the meat in this hearty, healthy vegetable barley soup with fiber and protein-rich beans. I make a big batch and serve it as a meal-in-a-bowl for lunch all week. It's one of those recipes for winter soups you'll want to keep in your back pocket for those chilly nights. 7-minute prep, 67 minutes total time
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For Busy Cooks (30 min or less)

It’s true that many comfort foods require a long simmering or roasting time. But that doesn’t mean hands-on time has to take long. In fact, for these easy comfort food recipes, the hands-on time is 15 minutes or less and the total recipe time is 30 minutes or less!  And, yes, still delicious comfort food recipes.

Simple Chicken Meatballs with Sauce

meatball stew in skillet with spinach added
This easy chicken meatballs recipe has a lot to brag about. Tender, juicy meatballs. Healthy veggies. A delicious light savory sauce. Tastes like chicken pot pie with chicken meatballs that’s on the lower calorie side. 12-minute prep, 30 minutes total time
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Creamy Salmon Pasta

creamy salmon pasta in bowl
Make a delicious one pot pasta, bake salmon at the same time, add it to the skillet and voilà – healthy, creamy salmon pasta with just a few fresh ingredients in 6 minute-prep time, 23 minutes total time
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Skillet Chicken Pot Pie (30 minutes)

chicken pot pie topped with puff pastry crust on plate
This is simply chicken pot pie, made in a skillet with agreat [uncompromising] shortcut that cuts the normal time almost in half. This rich, scrumptious chicken pot pie with puff pastry is the ultimate quick comfort food. 15-minute prep, 30 minutes total time
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Easy Veg Gnocchi Recipe in 20 Minutes (Indian-Style)

veg gnocchi in an indian sauce with spinach in white bowl
With a few store-bought items, this easy gnocchi recipe delivers deep, rich Indian flavors with warm spices in a tomato-based creamy sauce. Soak it up with naan or some crusty bread for a simple, but decadent Indian style pasta that's perfect for any night of the week. 5 minute-prep, 20 minutes total time
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Meatball Marinara Sub Recipe

meatball marinara sub on plate
This easy recipe for tender meatballs simmered in a simple marinara sauce, topped with melted cheese in a buttery toasted sub roll. This meatball marinara sub recipe is satisfying comfort food with options for a homemade or shortcut version. 
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Easy Gnocchi Gratin (with pre-make gnocchi)

gnocchi au gratin in serving bowl
The pillowy gnocchi in this easy gnocchi recipe au gratin is transformed with a rich, velvety white cheese sauce. Serve it as an appetizer, side or main dish using fresh store-bought gnocchi for a great shortcut. 12 minute-prep, 22 minutes total time
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Instant Pot Cabbage Rolls Unstuffed

bowl of unstuffed cabbage rolls
These unstuffed instant pot cabbage rolls taste exactly like my grandmother's without all the work! They're a breeze to make in the pressure cooker and take about a third of the time. And just delish. 6-minute prep, 35 minutes total time
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8 ways to make comfort food healthier or lighter

Most comfort foods are loaded with calories and fat. Here are a few ideas to make them healthier or lighter and still give you that favorite comfort food factor.

1. Load up on veggies in stews, soups, pasta dishes and stir fries. We do this a LOT in the easy dinner recipes you see in this post. Also use lower sodium broths in soups.

2. Bake instead of fry. We’re talking fish, chicken, even eggplant parmesan.

3. Swap heavy cream with milk or Greek yogurt in soups, casseroles and sauces.

4. Use lower fat cheese in mac and cheese, pizza, lasagna.

5. Cut down the calories in cakes and quick breads. If a cake calls for 1 cup of sugar, you can cut it to 2/3 or 3/4 cup. And substitute unsweetened applesauce for oil (1:1) in baked goods to keep them moist without all the added saturated fats.

6. Use oats instead of bread crumbs. This is perfect for meatloaf or meatballs.

7. Use nutrient-dense quinoa instead of rice. It can even replace bread for a quinoa stuffing  .

8. Eat less🤣. This is my personal favorite. Indulge in your favorite comfort foods and just eat smaller portions. (not so easy!).

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