Is “comfort food” compatible with a healing diet like the paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP)? I asked some of my blogger friends who create recipes that are compliant with the protocol for their perspective and got the resounding answer… YES! They buck the conventional wisdom that the nostalgic and sentimental dishes we consider comforting might be good for our psyche but never good for our health, and generously shared their favorite AIP-compliant comfort food recipes with me to prove the point.
Click here to jump directly to the AIP comfort food recipe links, or scroll down to read their stories too!
What is comfort food?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is “food that comforts or affords solace” (my English teachers always told me you aren’t allowed to use the word or phrase in the definition, but I guess the OED gets away with it) and traces its etymology back to a 1977 article in the Washington Post magazine article about two very non-AIP foods of the American south: grits and black eyed peas! Having been raised in the upper midwest, the first thing that comes to mind for me when you say the words are cheesy and carbohydrate heavy casseroles. Clearly, the specific dishes that you consider comforting are going to vary depending on your upbringing and personal tastes. But I still thought we could come up with a working definition that was better than the OED’s rather lazy one! So, I turned to my AIP blogging friends and here is what they said…
Bethany, who told me that she would call 90% of the recipes on her blog Adventures in Partaking “comfort foods,” says they are foods “that don’t require lots of time in the kitchen, don’t have to be perfectly plated to eat them and rarely need a fork and knife.” She went on to say that “comfort foods are almost always best eaten in a bowl, often with a spoon, and could just as easily be enjoyed in front of the TV, by a fire, on a patio, or at the dining room table.” She offered her recipes for Veggelicious Shepherd’s Pie and Caramelized Banana Pudding as perfect examples of a savory and sweet dish that meet that definition completely.
Alex, the blogger behind the blog Don’t Eat the Spatula, thought along the same lines as Bethany and shared another version of a Shepherd’s Pie, saying “this meal defined my childhood. It was the meal I always wanted for every birthday meal because it just made me think of home and family and that is why it is one of my favorite comfort meals.” Alex also named chili as a favorite childhood comfort food, especially when the weather turns cooler, and offered this recipe for Three Squash Beef Chili as a delicious AIP alternative.
Martine, who runs the gorgeous blog Eat, Heal, Thrive, shared her recipe for Ginger-Lime Sticky Chicky and said it is “super comforting because it’s reminiscent of tasty takeout so there’s some nostalgia there.” Like me, Martine has Crohn’s disease and she added that this dish is also literally comforting because it “contains no nasties”and therefore doesn’t upset her GI tract. She also added that occasional treats like these marshmallows bring comfort, especially when Mom makes them!
Proving the point that one’s definition of comfort food is highly dependent on the foods of your childhood, Jo of the British-based blog Comfort Bites, said that she really missed the Indian spices of a curry. She combined those flavors with a good roast chicken, which I agree is the ultimate in comfort, to make this delicious AIP-friendly recipe for Indian Spiced Roast Chicken. She also shared a unique and comforting recipe for Blueberry Topped Baked Sweet Potato and told me it was great eaten with a spoon on a rainy day!
It is no surprise to me that a busy working mom like Emma, also known as The Bacon Mum, would say that for her it is “food that takes minimal time to prepare but is there for you at the end of a long day, when you are out of energy and just want to eat without spending heaps of time in the kitchen.” Her nightshade-free BBQ Apple Ribs, Braised Red Cabbage, Pork and Butternut Stew, and Teriyaki Pork can cook all day in the slower cooker while you are doing something else and her Beef Bourguignon is ready quickly, thanks to my favorite kitchen gadget, the Instant Pot!
My friend Petra, who runs the blog Petra8Paleo, is clearly as much of a word lover as I am because when I asked her for a comfort recipe she gave me this one for Peach-Glazed Beef & Broccoli and these poetic lines…
Some happily pastured ground beef. Classically presented. With broccoli.
And one homey-exotic twist: a peach.
So your comfort isn’t mundane.
It’s elevated. A bowl full of meat that’s full of comfort, exultation and well-being.
And then for something slightly less elevated but still not mundane, she added this recipe for Guacamole with Blueberries and Cucumber Chips, “because it’s quick, feels special and has that keep-putting-chips-in-your-mouth satisfaction.”
Holistic health coach Joanna Frankham responded to my question about comfort food this way: “I’m a Kiwi (yes, its true!) and if you don’t already know, that means that sheep outnumber people by about 7:1. If I’m after comfort food, I can’t go past my lamb dishes. And, I wheel them out frequently. The only thing that makes them EVEN better is when I watch them in front of an All Blacks game!” Her favorite lamb dishes are these RIDICULOUSLY GOOD (her words, not mine – but I agree!) Herbed Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks, a Jamie Oliver-inspired Four Hour Lamb, and another take on the ever popular Shepherd’s Pie.
My friend Rory, better known as the Paleo PI, said “comfort food is something that makes me feel relaxed and content when I consume it. It has to be easy to eat (i.e. with a spoon or fork) and is something I eat in front of a good movie or reading a good book.” He added that anything with an ice-cream consistency usually hits the spot and shared this recipe for a healthy three-ingredient “Ice Cream” and this one for a sweetener-free Banana Coconut Pudding.
If you want comfort food with a French flair, then you will love these contributions from Sophie of the blog a Squirrel in the Kitchen. She told me this Chicken and Meatball Blanquette is a traditional French dish that her grandmother used to make for family reunions (and that the leftovers are even better – a classic trait of my comfort food in my opinion!). Sophie also said this Braised Belgian Endive with Bacon is a favorite dish she ate a lot when growing up in Belgium and rounded out her list of favorites with Honey Lavender Oven Baked Apples for dessert.
Like many of the bloggers I surveyed, Kate of Healing Family Eats also invoked her childhood. “Comfort food for me is a reminder of my childhood and the meals my mother made for us all. I imagine chilly days and large steaming bowls of nourishing foods that have been cooked long and slow. When I was growing up my Mum would put a casserole in the oven and, whilst it simmered away, we’d all go out for a long, hearty walk. It was lovely coming back to a warm house with delicious smells coming from the kitchen,” she said. You’ll fill your house with those delicious smells too if you try Kate’s recipe for Rich Beef Stew with Pomegranates, Beef Stew with Orange and Cranberries, Lamb Stew with Butternut, Apples, and Ginger, and Lamb Tagine with Oranges and Prunes. And if all of that isn’t enough, she also gave me this outstanding recipe for a proper British Sticky Ginger Pudding. (NOTE: All of Kate’s recipes are also SCD and GAPS legal!)
Dora, the blogger behind Provincial Paleo, said, “comfort food for me reminds me of dishes my mom would make when us kids weren’t feeling well. There’s nothing like a piping hot bowl of bone broth-based soup to make one feel better, just like this Watercress, Pork & Pear Soup. But as I grew up and experimented with foods outside Chinese or Asian cuisine, I learned to appreciate and recognise foods from other cultures as comfort foods, dishes that filled one’s belly with a sense of warmth and satisfaction. This Savoy Cabbage with Cream is an example of a German recipe that would absolutely fall under the comfort foods category. A lot of comfort foods (to me) are dishes that have been simmered for hours until the whole house becomes wrapped in the scent of homely cooking, though with modern conveniences such as the Instant Pot, quick comfort foods like this Cooked Cabbage with Minced Pork are possible too and fantastic for weeknight dinners. And finally a sweet dish, nothing screams ‘comfort food’ more than a hot sweet soup (especially for many Asians). One example of such a dish would be this grain-free Tang Yuang.”
AIP casseroles, stews, and other main dishes
- Chicken Pot Pie
- Fish and Chips
- Veggelicious Shepherd’s Pie
- Ginger-Lime Sticky Chicken
- Traditional Shepherd’s Pie
- Three Squash Beef Chili
- Indian Spiced Roast Chicken
- Peach-Glazed Beef & Broccoli
- Beef Brisket and Gravy
- Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks
- Sublime Four Hour Lamb
- Shepherd’s Pie with Crispy Leeks
- Chicken and Meatballs Blanquette
- Rich Beef Stew with Pomegranates
- Beef Stew with Orange and Cranberries
- Lamb Stew with Butternut, Apples, and Ginger
- Lamb Stew with Black Olives and Rosemary
- Lamb Tagine with Orange and Prunes
AIP meals made in the slow cooker
AIP meals made in the pressure cooker
- Instant Pot Beef Bourguignon
- Pressure Cooker Beef Stew
- Watercress, Pork, and Pear Bone Broth Soup
- Savoy Cabbage with Cream Sauce
- Cabbage with Minced Pork
AIP snacks and sides
- Crispy Sweet Potato Oven Fries
- Guacamole with Blueberries and Cucumber Chips
- Blueberry Topped Sweet Potato
- Lime Yuca Fries
- Fig Meatballs
- Braised Belgian Endives with Bacon
AIP desserts and treats
- Peach Cobbler
- Caramelized Banana Pudding
- Banana Coconut Pudding
- 3 Ingredient Healthy Ice Cream
- Honey Lavender Oven Baked Apples
- Sticky Ginger Pudding
- Marshmallows 3 Ways
- Tang Yuan