4 super-healthy ways to get your comfort food fix

Sweet & Sour Stir-fry Even if kale salads and macro bowls are your typical go-tos, sometimes you just want to sink your teeth into a big, juicy burger or dive headfirst into a giant plate of pasta—without feeling like a truck hit you afterward.

vegetarian_comfort_foods_book_cover Enter the new Vegetarian Comfort Foods: The Happy Healthy Gut Guide to Delicious Plant-Based Cooking, which offers the best of both worlds. Jennifer Browne—who’s devoted to plant-based, whole foods that heal—shares 75 delicious recipes for those seriously compelling comfort food moments for dishes like burgers, pasta, tacos, and brownies.

The clincher? The recipes are nearly 100 percent plant-based, and most are also gluten-free or vegan, which Browne says makes the dishes healing, especially for digestion (a big focus for her). “The foods included in this book can only make your body feel better, and become noticeably more nourished,” she promises.

Ahead, four recipes that put the “comfort” back in healthy food. —Larkin Clark

(Photos: Vegetarian Comfort Foods)


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Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms
Vegetarian, gluten-free

Serves 4

“This is a great side for its presentation qualities alone,” says Browne. “It also makes a great entrée if you want to double your portion. (Because they’re that good.) This dish is easily made vegan by substituting the goat cheese or feta for Daiya.”

4 portobello mushrooms
1 small fennel bulb
½ yellow onion
½ cup shredded zucchini
2 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp sun-dried tomatoes
2 Tbsp goat cheese or feta
1 Tbsp avocado oil
1 Tbsp olive oil
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash mushrooms and pull of stems. Dice mushroom stems, fennel, and onion; shred zucchini; and mince garlic. Place avocado oil in frying pan and heat. Add garlic and onion and heat in pan for about 30 seconds. Add the fennel and mushroom stems and cook until they are just softened.

Remove from heat, and add sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini, and cheese (if using). Pull the rosemary off its stems and rub between fingers to release flavors. Rip apart and add to mixture. Stir well. Scoop ¼ of mixture into cavity of each mushroom. Brush the sides with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through.

Remove from heat, garnish with seeds, parsley, and additional rosemary, and serve alongside a salad or some sprouted brown rice.


Yam Burger Yam Burger
Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free

Serves 4

“This totally vegan burger is super delish and full of fiber,” says Browne. “It’s also really messy, so I suggest being prepared with napkins.”

1 large yam
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup drained and rinsed lentils
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup gluten-free rolled oats
8 large pieces leaf lettuce
2 Roma tomatoes
1 yellow, red, or orange bellpepper
2 Tbsp avocado oil
1 cup guacamole (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel, chop, and roast your yam on a baking sheet for about 30 minutes, or until tender. Remove from oven and combine yams, quinoa, lentils, chili powder, and salt in large bowl. Mash together roughly until well combined but still chunky. Add oats, mix well, cover, and refrigerate for one hour.

Meanwhile, wash remaining produce, dry leaves, and slice tomatoes and peppers thinly. Once burger mixture is ready, heat oil in skillet on medium heat. Separate burger mixture into four parts, and shape into patties. Drop onto the oil and cook for about 5 minutes on each side, until golden and slightly crusty on outside.

To assemble burgers, lay one piece of lettuce on plate, top with tomato and pepper slices, 1/4 cup of guacamole, a yam patty, and then another piece of lettuce over top. Make sure you have a napkin, and enjoy! Goes well with a side garden salad.


Squashed Puttanesca Squash Puttanesca
Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free

Serves 2

“This gorgeously healthy dinner will satisfy the Italian in you, Who needs pasta? Not I! I have never made this when it was not been a total score. It’s super high in fiber and is fabulously flavorful,” Browne says.

1 spaghetti squash
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 small white onion
2 garlic cloves
1 small fennel bulb
3 cooked artichoke hearts
1 16-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp capers
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup fresh, chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut squash lengthwise into two halves. Grease cookie sheet with half the oil and place squash flat-side down on sheet. Bake for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, dice the onion, mince the garlic, slice fennel into “v” shapes, and quarter your artichokes.

Place pot on stove and heat on medium. Once hot, add remaining oil and throw in onion and garlic. Let them brown while pushing around with spatula for about 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes and fennel. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Then remove cover and add artichokes, capers, and olives, and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Remove squash from oven and flip over. Set two plates close to stove. Remove the middle stringy, seedy part of the squash using a large spoon. Using a fork, scrape the cavity of the squash so that it comes out in strips, like spaghetti. Once squash is plated, it should resemble spaghetti noodles. Top with sauce and then garnish with chopped parsley.


Sweet & Sour Stir-fry Sweet & Sour Tofu Stir-Fry
Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free

Serves 4

“This recipe is restaurant-style, and absolutely does not disappoint,” says Browne. “Use it to convince even the most carnivorous of meat eaters that vegan cooking is incredible.”

2 cups brown rice
1 small white onion
2 garlic cloves
1 carrot
1 small thumb of ginger, peeled
1 package firm tofu
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
1/3 cup orange or pineapple juice
1 Tbsp gluten-free tamari
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sesame seeds

Cook rice according to package directions and set aside. Chop the onion, mince the garlic, julienne the carrot, grate the ginger, and cut tofu into even chunks.

Heat oil in large frying pan and add onions and garlic. Saute for 3–4 minutes, until fragrant. Add carrots and ginger and stir-fry for another 3–4 minutes. Add tofu and stir-fry until it begins to brown (about 10 minutes). Add pineapple, juice, tamari, and vinegar.

Cover and cook for another 5–7 minutes. Serve hot over brown rice and drizzle a little extra tamari on there, if you’d like. Garnish with some sesame seeds.


More Reading

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