The Best Summertime Comfort Food Recipes

Grilled skewers of halloumi cheese and vegetables with addition aromatic herbs on a blue ceramic plate


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Grilled skewers of halloumi cheese and vegetables with addition aromatic herbs on a blue ceramic plate

Cool Comforts

When people think of comfort food, it usually involves a lot of casseroles, creamy sauces, and other heavy dishes. But there are plenty of comfort foods that are lighter, healthier, and make you feel great when you eat them. Those recipes tend to take full advantage of summer produce at its peak, and as a bonus often don't require much cooking. When you need something comforting to eat and want to keep your kitchen as cool as possible, try these recipes. Do you have your own favorites to share? Tell us in the comments.

Related: Delicious Casseroles That Are Actually Healthy

Pasta with vegetables, pesto, and pine nuts

Pasta, Green Beans, and Potatoes

A huge bowl of carbohydrates is comfort food to a lot of people, and this classic Italian recipe includes two types: pasta and potatoes. They're cooked together, along with fresh green beans, to minimize pots and cooking time, then tossed with a quick, fresh pesto made with tons of basil. If you're someone who has an abundance of basil in summer, this recipe is for you.

Recipe: Martha Stewart

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Asian Noodles with red pepper and sesame.

Sesame Noodles

Sesame noodles are a Chinese-American takeout staple, and they're simple to make yourself. Besides boiling the pasta, there's no cooking required — just mix the sauce ingredients and toss with the cooked pasta. If you'd like to turn these simple noodles into a full meal, add some shredded chicken and whatever fresh vegetables you have on hand.

Recipe: Gimme Some Oven

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Korean Dak Bulgogi Chicken

Egg Roll in a Bowl

Egg rolls are great, but they're complicated to make at home, especially when that means deep frying in the middle of summer. Egg roll bowls solve that problem by creating the filling in a skillet, then eating it as is for a low-carb meal or putting it atop rice. Using a bag of coleslaw mix means one less prep step.

Recipe: Pinch of Yum

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Banh mi sandwich. Classic Japanese Vietnamese or Thai cuisine favorite. Variety of sandwiches made w/ beef broths, rice noodles, pork, chicken, tofu, scallions, mushrooms, cilantro, peanuts, bean sprouts, eggs, peanut & chili pepper sauce.

Grilled Chicken Banh Mi

Sandwiches of all types are comforting favorites, and Vietnamese banh mi are a fresh variant full of tangy flavors. This recipe marinates chicken breast in fish sauce, lime, and garlic before being grilled for a light char. Carrots and daikon are quick pickled for tartness, and cucumber, raw jalapeño and cilantro add freshness to a complex sandwich.

Recipe: Food & Wine

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Close-up of 3 fish tacos on white plate with colorful napkin

Buffalo Chicken Wraps

Buffalo wings are a bar staple, but they're far from good for you. Buffalo chicken wraps are a great way to get that spicy fix in a healthier package. Use any kind of chicken you want in these, including rotisserie chicken from a store or leftover grilled chicken. Adding lots of veggies such ad romaine, tomatoes, and avocado keeps it saladlike and colorful.

Recipe: Inside BruCrew Life 

Related: Cheap and Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes

Zucchini boats stuffed with ground meet and topped with cheese

Stuffed Zucchini

If you have a garden — or know friends or neighbors who do — you've probably had an abundance of zucchini to use up in summer. Stuffed zucchini is a great way to do it. This simple version takes a cue from pasta recipes with a stuffing of Italian sausage, garlic, and cheese. A jar of marinara sauce adds moisture and plenty of sauce to sop up with bread.

Recipe: AllRecipes

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Ceviche 2
Luiz Henrique Mendes/istockphoto

Classic Ceviche

Ceviche is famous for using citrus juice to cook raw fish, meaning there's no actual cooking required in this recipe — only chopping and tossing everything together. Besides white ocean fish, this version includes olives and avocados, making it filling enough for a light lunch or dinner with tostadas or tortilla chips.

Recipe: Food & Wine

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Halloumi cheese and vegetables grilled skewers

Halloumi and Summer Vegetable Kabobs

Grilling is a great way to keep the house cooler in summer. Instead of grabbing the usual steak or chicken, try these unusual vegetarian kabobs instead. They include cubes of halloumi, a type of salty Mediterranean cheese that holds its shape when heated and won't melt into the grill. Lots of fresh basil and mint give the cheese and veggies a flavor boost.

Recipe: Serious Eats

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Feta Spinach Pizza.
Oksana Shyriaieva/istockphoto

Crispy Spinach Pizza

This super easy pizza recipe piles heaps of fresh spinach leaves atop pizza dough (store-bought is fine). The spinach wilts and some of it gets nice and crispy in the oven, giving the sauceless pizza a unique and fun texture. A layer of rich and sharp cheeses — gruyere, pecorino, and mozzarella — anchors the spinach to the crust. 

Recipe: Smitten Kitchen

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Thai, Seafood Noodle Stir fry with Peanut Sauce

Spicy Thai Noodles With Peanut Sauce

Thai peanut noodles are similar to sesame noodles in that you can just whisk together the sauce ingredients in a bowl while the pasta boils, then toss them together and it's done. The sauce is rich and balanced, and the dish can be served warm or cold. This recipe is vegetarian, but feel free to add chicken, shrimp, or other meat.

Cooking Classy

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Cobb  salad Blue cheese avocado egg bacon tomato grilled chicken
Carolyn Sandgren Kempf/istockphoto

Cobb Salad

There's no reason a salad can't be considered comfort food, especially when it's a classic such as Cobb salad. Chicken, bacon, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, and blue cheese make this a filling, complete meal. The dressing is a simple honey mustard vinaigrette, but feel free to use a favorite bottled dressing to make this even easier to whip together.

Recipe: Two Peas and Their Pod

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Chicken Fajitas

Easy Chicken Fajitas

Though fajitas are a big production with lots of sizzle in a restaurant, they're actually easy to make at home and a great way to enjoy fresh bell pepper. A simple spice mixture with chili powder and cumin flavors the chicken. Cooking the chicken separately from the veggies ensures the pan stays hot and you get some flavorful char on everything. 

Recipe: Spend with Pennies

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Grilled salmon with fried potatoes and vegetables served on black stone plate on wooden table

Sheet Pan Salmon and Asparagus With Potatoes

Fish is a great summertime protein because it cooks quickly and doesn't weigh your stomach down. This meal, with honey dijon salmon, roasted potatoes, and asparagus, cooks all on one sheet pan, and in just about 15 minutes. Preheating the sheet pan while the oven heats ensures everything cooks quickly and evenly.

Recipe: Creme de la Crumb

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Raw Organic Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl with Rice and Veggies close-up. Horizontal

Spicy Tuna Poke Bowls

A lot of people consider sushi a comfort food, but it can be expensive to order out and takes a lot of time to learn how to make well. Poke bowls are a great compromise because you get lots of fresh, delicious fish, plus rice, cucumber, avocado. and other elements of sushi that you love in a fast-to-put-together package.

Recipe: Skinny Taste

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Cheese Frittata with Asparagus and Prosciutto

Spring Ramp and Asparagus Frittata

Egg-based meals are great for warm weather because they cook quickly and are easy on the stomach. A frittata is like a crustless quiche, so it needs only a few minutes on the stove followed by a quick run under the broiler to cook completely. Ramps, a wild onion that grows in spring, are delicious, but you can substitute other leafy vegetables if they're not in season.

Recipe: Serious Eats

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Asian Stills: Chicken Curry with Broccoli in Bowl

Thai Red Curry

Recreating Thai red curry at home is easy. It's just a mix of premade red curry paste, coconut milk, a few seasonings, and whatever vegetables or proteins you like. This version includes chicken and broccolini, but add anything. A couple splashes of fish sauce will make this even more like your favorite takeout.

Recipe: Damn Delicious

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Mexican Traditional Food

Crispy Bean Tostadas with Smashed Avocado and Jicama-Cilantro Slaw

Lots of people love Mexican food, but a lot of it is heavy and covered with cheese, especially at restaurants. These vegetarian bean tostadas are a great, light alternative to typical Tex-Mex fare. A simple slaw with cabbage and juicy, crunchy jicama is coated in a lime-juice dressing and piled atop crunchy bean tostadas with avocado and tomatoes.

Recipe: Cookie and Kate

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Dry-Fried Green Beans with Minced Pork and Preserved Vegetables

Chinese Dry-Fried Green Beans

Stir frying is a relatively quick and simple process, so the speed at which it happens helps keep a kitchen cool. Using a bounty of fresh green beans or Chinese long beans is easy with this vegetarian recipe in which they take center stage. You cook them for a few minutes until they're blistered and charred using just a tablespoon of oil, keeping the dish light.

Recipe: Epicurious

Grated zucchini with grater

Zucchini Grilled Cheese

Everyone is familiar with putting a slice of tomato into a grilled cheese sandwich, but what about zucchini? It's a surprising way to change up this comfort food classic. Grated zucchini is drained of extra moisture, then mixed with plenty of grated cheese. The resulting mixture is slapped between good bread, and melts down into a homogenous, gooey green filling. 

Recipe: Smitten Kitchen

Related: Ways to Make an Ordinary Grilled Cheese Extraordinary

Chicken burrito bowl

Chicken Burrito Bowls

Who needs Chipotle when you can just make your own burrito bowls at home with exactly what you want in them, and as spicy (or mild) as you prefer? It's especially fun to set up all the components of these bowls — marinated chicken, rice, beans, pico de gallo, avocado, and more — and let everyone in the family create their own bowls with all the fresh ingredients they like.

Recipe: Easy Chicken Recipes

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Turkey Burger with Lettuce and Tomato

Extra Juicy Turkey Burgers

Turkey burgers have a bad reputation for good reason: They're often dry and flavorless compared with beef. But these turkey burgers include mashed avocado and mayonnaise in the meat mixture, which adds fat and moisture while they cook. A simple Sriracha mayo and lime-dressed red cabbage top the burgers. 

Recipe: Bon Appetit

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Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce
Angel Orduna/istockphoto

Pasta With No-Cook Tomato Sauce

Using up farmer's market tomatoes in summer is a treat. Their sweet flavor and juiciness shines in this pasta dish because they're not cooked, retaining their freshness. Letting the chopped tomatoes sit at room temperature with the other sauce ingredients brings the flavors together and ready to be tossed with hot pasta. 

Recipe: Bon Appetit

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Creamy Parmesan Orzo with Shrimp and Asparagus

Roasted Shrimp and Orzo

This pasta salad made with tiny, ricelike orzo can be served at room temperature or straight from the fridge. It's full of chopped fresh dill and parsley, plus cucumber, scallions, salty feta cheese, and simply roasted shrimp. With all those herby flavors, it's dressed simply with fresh lemon juice and olive oil.

Recipe: Food Network