While we rely on food to sustain us physically, we also depend on it for its comforting properties; sometimes a dish just knows how to convey so much more than words ever could.
From greasy fish and chips in Great Britain to the lasagna-likemoussaka in Greece, here are 26 comfort foods from around the world that everyone should try.
FRANCE: French onion soup
French onion soup is winter comfort food as it should be: rich, warm, and blanketed under a generous portion of creamy cheese. It’s best enjoyed with a slice of crusty bread.
From the sodium-heavy instant packs found in every American college dorm to the Michelin-star winning joint in Tokyo, Japan, ramen has developed into a global obsession.
Here’s where you can get the best bowl in every state.
We have Montreal to thank for Canada’s unofficial national dish, poutine (which also sometimes goes by its informal nickname, “Canadian salad”). The iconic dish consists of crispy, golden fries topped with cheese curds and drenched in gravy.
Chilaquiles — which translates to “in a sauce of chiles” from Nahuatl — is a traditional Mexican dish consisting of heaps of crisp tortilla triangles tossed in a pan with salsa, and then piled sky-high with crumbled cheese and crema. Even better, chilaquiles are often enjoyed for breakfast.
GREAT BRITAIN: Fish and chips
If you’re harboring any reservations about just how delicious battered fish and crispy fries taste when dipped in a creamy tartar sauce, do yourself a favor and embark on a mission to try these top fish and chip shops in every region of the UK.
AUSTRIA: Wiener schnitzel
Wiener schnitzel, the national dish of Austria, consists of boneless, mallet-thinned meat (usually veal) that is then breaded and deep-fried until it reaches prime crispiness.
ITALY: Spaghetti alla carbonara
Originally from the region of Lazio (which is around Rome), this decadent spaghetti is a creamy mix of crispy bacon, velvety olive oil, fatty egg yolk, and nutty Parmesan cheese.
AUSTRALIA: Sausage rolls
Think of these Aussie favorites as the larger, heartier, and more sophisticated version of pigs-in-a-blanket.
Pierogies are boiled dumplings that are typically filled with a mixture of potatoes and cheese curds, and often enjoyed with a generous dollop of sour cream and caramelized onions.
ISRAEL: Matzo ball soup
Matzo balls — which are made from matzo meal and eggs, and often consumed during Passover— are doughy, rich soup dumplings that have a delicious tendency to soak up all the flavors of the broth in which they’re submerged.
Congee — a soothing type of rice porridge that is so extensively cooked that the individual grains of rice coalesce into an almost homogeneous base — is popular in many East Asian countries, and is often fortified with different garnishes and ingredients to amplify the flavor.
AMERICA: Grilled cheese
The simple comfort mainstay known as the grilled cheese sandwich can come dressed up or au naturel— just as long as it comes with a side of tomato soup for dunking.
Check out how to make the perfect grilled cheese, according to a cheese expert.
Arguably Germany’s most widely valued culinary contribution, bratwursts are thick German-style sausages that are frequently paired with stewed sauerkraut and a tall, cool beer.
Check out how to pour beer like a German.
Kare-kare is a nutty and sweet Philippine stew. Its signature flavor derives from a thick and savory peanut sauce.
Rich, smoky, vibrant, and nourishing, Valencians take their paella (a rice dish topped with seafood) seriously; it is Spain’s best-known culinary export, after all.
Khichuri is an ancient Indian comfort dish made from rice and lentils that is typically prepared in one pot.
PUERTO RICO: Mofongo
Mofongo, a ball-shaped dish of pickled, fried, and then smashed plantains that are flavored with garlic, salt, and oil in a wooden pilón, is a Puerto Rican staple usually served alongside a hearty stew or broth.
Moussaka — a baked dish that can be described as Greece’s version of lasagna — typically features layers of fried eggplant, potatoes, ground meat, and spices, all topped off with grated cheese and a cream sauce such as béchamel.
Shakshuka is a stew of eggs poached in a spicy sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions flavored with cumin. While it likely originated in North Africa, it is a popular dish throughout the Middle East.
Picadillo, a Cuban-style hash, routinely features a base of ground beef and tomatoes, but you’ll find different renditions of the dish depending on which region you’re eating it in. Some prefer it with olives for a salty kick; others enjoy it with raisins for sweetness.
Goulash is a hearty, paprika-flavored stew with cubes of seared beef, parsnips, carrots, and potatoes.
Commonly served straight from the skillet, äggakaka — which translates from Swedish to “egg cake” — is redolent of a thick pancake, albeit a fluffy one.
PERSIA: Asheh Reshteh
Thick, stick-to-your-ribs soups make up the backbone of Iranian cooking — in fact, there are more than 50 varieties. Asheh Reshteh, a Persian noodle soup full of beans, herbs, and yogurt, is arguably the most popular type.
Soft, pillowy, and marked with gorgeous golden spots, naan, which is baked in is a hot tandoori clay oven, is a type of Indian bread that’s perfect for dipping (or relishing on its own).
JAMAICA: Ackee and saltfish
Jamaica’s national fruit, the ackee, is the star of ackee and saltfish, the island’s national dish, a salty and savory sautée that’s often served with fried plantains and rice.
Borscht — a sour soup with a vibrant red color, thanks to its primary ingredient of beets — is traditionally made with meat or bone stock, sautéed veggies, and fermented beetroot juice, although there are countless variations of the dish.