Comfort food

Comfort food is food that provides a nostalgic or sentimental value to someone,[1] and may be characterized by its high caloric nature, high carbohydrate level, or simple preparation.[2] The nostalgia may be specific to an individual, or it may apply to a specific culture.[3]

Chicken soup, a common classic comfort food that is found across various cultures

Definition and history

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."[4] According to a research by April White at JSTOR, it might have been Liza Minnelli who used the term for the first time in its modern meaning in an interview, admitting to craving a hamburger.[5]

When the term first appeared, newspapers used it in quotation marks. In the 1970s, the most popular comfort food in the United States were various potato dishes and chicken soup, but even at the time, the definition varied from person to person. During the next decades, the nature of comfort food changed in the USA, shifting from savory dishes to sweet ones, while comfort food themed cookbooks started to spread and restaurants started to offer items labelled as such, when originally the term was used for food items consumed home alone. Worldwide diet trends, emerging in the 1990s, like the low fat or the low-carb diet were unable to end the cravings for comfort food. According to White, the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the world in 2020 further strengthened people's need for comfort food that evokes nostalgia and the feeling of belonging.[5]

Psychological studies

Consuming energy-dense, high calorie, high fat, salt or sugar foods, such as ice cream 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.[6][7] These feelings can also be induced by psychoactive ingredients found in other foods, such as coffee and chocolate.[8] 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.[9]

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 affect, and indications that the medical-therapeutic use of particular foods may ultimately be a matter of mood-alteration.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12] The provocation of specific hormonal responses leading selectively to increases in abdominal fat is seen as a form of self-medication.[13]

Further studies suggest that consumption of comfort food is triggered in men by positive emotions, and by negative ones in women.[14] The stress effect is particularly pronounced among college-aged women, with only 33% reporting healthy eating choices during times of emotional stress.[15] For women specifically, these psychological patterns may be maladaptive.[16]

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.[17]

By region

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


Comfort foods in Afghanistan are:

  • Aushak – stuffed dumplings and sauce
  • Bolani – filled flatbread[18]
  • 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[19]
  • Chainaki –
  • Chalaw or Challow – steamed rice with spices
  • Kabuli palaw or Qabuli Pulao – steamed rice with raisins, carrots, and lamb[19]
  • Karahai – meat cooked in a traditional karahi pot
  • Kebab – grilled skewered meat[18]
  • Korma Gosht or Qorma-e-Gosht – braised meat[20]
  • Mantu – meat-stuffed dumpling[18][20]
  • Naan – flatbread[19]
  • Sabzi Palu – spinach (sabzi) with spices
  • Sher Berinj – rice pudding[21]

Australia, New Zealand and South Africa

A Pavlova garnished with fruit and cream

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


A plate of classic poutine at a Montreal restaurant.


Comfort foods in Catalonia include:

  • Pa amb tomàquet (bread smeared with tomato and olive oil, and sometimes garlic)
  • Allioli (Aioli) (sauce which is an emulsion of garlic and olive oil. The name literally means "garlic and oil" in Catalan)
  • Catalan-style cod (with raisins and pine nuts)
  • Escalivada (various grilled vegetables)
  • Escudella i carn d'olla (a broth, it may be served as soup with pasta and minced meats and vegetables, or as the soup first and then the rest)
  • Canelons (Cannelloni with a bechamel sauce)
  • Fricandó
  • Esqueixada (salted cod salad with tomato and onion)
  • Mongetes amb botifarra (beans and pork sausage)
  • Suquet (a seafood casserole)
  • Savoury coca
  • Mar i muntanya ("Sea and Mountain") dishes, which combine meat and seafood
  • Embotits, a generic name for different kinds of cured pork meat, including fuet (a characteristic type of dried sausage), salchichón or llonganissa (salami) and different kinds of cold cut botifarra.
  • Calçot (specially cultivated onion, grilled and served as a "Calçotada")
  • Caragols a la llauna (cooked snails)
  • Sonsos and many other Mediterranean fresh fish
  • Crema catalana (custard made from egg yolks, milk, sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon)
  • Panellets (bite-sized cakes in different shapes, mostly round, made mainly of marzipan)

United Kingdom

Bangers and mash is a British comfort food.[39]

United Kingdom comfort foods include:


Ful medames served with hard-boiled eggs, a staple in Egypt.


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.



German comfort foods may include the following foods:


Hong Kong


Puliszka with curd cheese and smoked lard (left) and plum preserve (right)



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.[89] 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.[90]

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.[91] Indonesian comfort foods include:





Pork adobo


Steamed pierogi, with fried onions on top

Some Polish comfort food include:

Puerto Rico

Arroz con pollo: chicken with rice

Some Puerto Rican comfort foods include:

  • Arroz con gandules – rice with pigeon peas[141][142]
  • Arroz con pollo – rice with chicken[141]
  • Bistec encebollado – steak and onions[143]
  • Carne Guisada – stewed beef[142]
  • Carne mechada – Puerto Rican style meatloaf
  • Churrasco – grilled flank or skirt steak[143]
  • Cuchifritos and Fritanga – assortments of fried appetizers (alcapurrias, bacalaitos, pastelitos/pastelillos, piononos, sorullos/sorullitos)[143][141][142]
  • Habichuelas guisadas con calabaza – beans stewed with pumpkin[143]
  • Lechón asado – roast pork[143]
  • Mixta – white rice, stewed beans with pumpkin and stewed meat with potatoes and carrots
  • Mofongo and trifongo – fried mashed green plantains[143][144]
  • Mofongo relleno de mariscos, carne o pollo – Fried mashed green plantains stuffed with seafood, meat or chicken[141]
  • Pasteles – Puerto Rican tamales[142]
  • Pastelón de plátano maduro – ripe banana casserole with ground beef and cheddar cheese[142]
  • Pinchos – Puerto Rican skewers[144]
  • Tostones – fried plantain slices[143][144]


Russian comfort foods may include:

South Korea



Fondue is an emblematic comfort food[157]

Traditional Swiss cuisine is characterized by its simplicity and extensive use of dairy products like cheese, cream and butter. Fruits (often apple compote) are also used in many (main) dishes,[158] notably Älplermagronen and Maluns.


Dan zai noodles


Mantı, with yogurt and red pepper sauce

Some Turkish comfort foods are:


Ukrainian comfort foods include, 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
  • 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 — baked 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

United States

American comfort foods may include the following foods:

See also


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Further reading

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