Which UK dishes rate among the world's best comfort foods?

Culinary cuddles you shouldn't miss

<p>hussein fara/Shutterstock</p>

hussein fara/Shutterstock

Whether it's cold outside, you're feeling unwell, or you've simply had a bad day, there's nothing quite like indulging in a plateful of cosy comfort food to give your heart, soul and stomach a boost. But what do people in other countries eat when they're in need of a culinary cuddle? We've put together the ultimate ranking of comforting dishes from around the globe, looking at the history and heritage of each food as we go.

From carb-loaded creations to meals packed with cheesy goodness, these are the world's cosiest and most delicious comfort food dishes – read on to see how many you've tried.

29. Tortilla de patatas, Spain



A simple but delicious staple, this Spanish potato omelette can be served for breakfast or lunch, or as a tapa with drinks. There are many folk tales about how it first came to be; it could have been created by a poor farmer's wife, who had little else to feed a visiting general, or it might have been brought to Spain from Portugal by soldiers captured in a 17th-century war. The jury's out, but it's still a classic dish that can be found at restaurants and cafés all over Spain.

28. Dublin coddle, Ireland



Dating back to the first Irish famine in 1741, coddle is a thrifty stew made using leftovers. Back then, anything available was thrown into the pot – usually root vegetables, potatoes and scraps of meat – to provide a cheap, nutritious meal. Now it tends to be a meat-heavy affair, usually made with onions, potatoes, bacon and sausages. Enjoy it with a slice of soda bread on the side.

27. Meatballs, Sweden

<p>Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock</p>

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

There's no more typically Swedish dish than meatballs – despite theories that the dish may be based on an 18th-century Turkish recipe, brought back to Scandinavian shores by then-king Charles XII. Made with a mixture of minced beef and pork, these meaty treats are cooked in a rich, creamy sauce, and traditionally served with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam. The Swedes call this type of food 'husmanskost', which translates as comfort food, and you'll find restaurants dedicated to it across the country.

26. Pierogi, Poland

<p>Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock</p>

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Small, tasty crescent-shaped dumplings, pierogi have been an integral part of Polish food culture since the 13th century, and even have their own patron saint: St. Hyacinth. There are endless fillings to choose from, but the most popular are cheese and potato, cabbage and mushroom, meat, and soft fruits. The dough is a simple mix of flour and water (sometimes with an egg added) – and, once filled, the dumplings are poached in boiling water, then fried in butter.

25. Wiener schnitzel, Austria

<p>Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock</p>

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Some say that this breaded, fried veal cutlet originated in Northern Italy, while others say it's Austrian through and through (it was published in an Austrian cookbook back in 1831). Either way, these days, it's one of Austria's national dishes – and, if it's called wiener schnitzel, the law states it must be made with veal. It's usually served with potatoes or potato salad, with a wedge of lemon on the side.

24. Cheese fondue, Switzerland



Fondue comes from the French 'fondre', meaning 'to melt'. Although it's now associated with mountains and skiing, it possibly began life as a clever way to use up leftover cheese and stale bread. Once cornflour arrived in Switzerland in 1905, it was used to help stabilise the melting cheese and white wine into a rich sauce, perfect for dunking. Fondue became wildly popular around the world in the 1970s, when the Swiss Cheese Union launched a series of adverts depicting people partying over pots of melted cheese.

23. Bitterballen, Netherlands

<p>studio vanDam/Shutterstock</p>

studio vanDam/Shutterstock

So many of the world's comfort foods evolved as a way to use up leftovers. Made with scraps of meat from the weekend roast, bitterballen – Dutch meatballs – are no different. Here, a crispy, crumbed exterior envelops small pieces of beef in a béchamel sauce. Though they're rarely made in Dutch homes these days, they remain a popular bar snack, and can be bought from takeaway spots with a side of chips. Soft, gooey perfection!

22. Congee, China



Made by cooking rice in a copious amount of water until it breaks down into a creamy soup, congee is a thick, filling porridge that can be amped up with toppings like crispy shallots, eggs or berries. It's been eaten across Southeast Asia for 3,000 years, and is called 'zhou' in China – congee is the Anglicised name. It's usually eaten for breakfast, but it's also a go-to food for children and sick people, as it's so easily digestible.

21. Beef stroganoff, Russia



This satisfyingly creamy dish was named after Count Pavel Stroganoff, a member of Russia's 18th-century elite, who spent large amounts of his time travelling across Europe. As a nobleman, he had a French chef, who is said to have created beef stroganoff by combining mustard and onions with a Russian staple: sour cream. It had its heyday in the 1960s and 70s, but made well (that's without the can of condensed mushroom soup), it's a recipe that's always worth revisiting.

20. Goulash, Hungary



This hearty stew of slow-cooked beef, onions and vegetables in a rich tomato sauce, spiced up with paprika and caraway seeds, is synonymous with Hungary. Its origins have been traced back to the ninth century, when the stew was made and eaten by herders called gulyàs – and, although it's ever-present now, the paprika wasn't added until the 16th century. It's traditionally served with steamed dumplings for a warming, satisfying meal.

19. Sopa Azteca, Mexico

<p>Guajillo studio/Shutterstock</p>

Guajillo studio/Shutterstock

We could hardly create a collection of classic comfort foods without including a chicken soup – so here's a Mexican favourite. A light chicken broth flavoured with tomatoes, chillies, garlic, onions and fried tortillas, chicken tortilla soup is believed to have originated in Central Mexico as a way to use up soft, day-old tortillas. A hearty hug in a bowl, it comes topped with shredded chicken, more fried tortillas, avocado, coriander, Mexican cheese and lime.

18. Shakshuka, North Africa



Shakshuka is an Arabic word meaning 'mixture'. Some experts believe the dish originated in North Africa in the 16th century, when tomatoes were first introduced to the region from South America. It consists of a rich, spicy tomato sauce flavoured with onions, peppers and garlic, with eggs poached on top to serve. Now popular around the world, shakshuka is commonly served as a breakfast dish – but back in North Africa, it's usually eaten as an evening meal.

17. Spätzle, Germany

<p>Nina Alizada/Shutterstock</p>

Nina Alizada/Shutterstock

A classic German comfort food, spätzle are poached, fried dumplings made from flour, eggs, salt and water. They're often served as a side dish alongside a meaty main, or as a meal in their own right, with plenty of cheese and bacon. Their name is believed to come from the German for 'little sparrows', as they traditionally resembled small birds when shaped by hand (that is, before special presses were invented in the 18th century to make the job easier). To this day, the southwestern region of Swabia is the spätzle capital of Germany.

16. Khichdi, India



A humble dish of rice and lentils, khichdi has been around for centuries; in fact, the earliest mention of it dates back to the 8th century. You can find endless variations on the recipe throughout the country, each one using different spices and lentils. It's usually the first solid food Indian babies are fed, and it's also given to under-the-weather adults for a comforting, healthy boost. Hearty and full of protein, it's believed to have been the inspiration for the classic British-Indian dish kedgeree.

15. Bobotie, South Africa

<p>BBA Photography/Shutterstock</p>

BBA Photography/Shutterstock

It's thought that the Dutch brought an early version of bobotie to South Africa, where it's now the national dish. Here, it was adapted by the Cape Malay community, who added their signature blend of spices and sweetness. The dish consists of lightly curried mince – either beef or lamb – and dried fruits, topped with a savoury egg custard. It usually comes served with turmeric rice, chutney and sambal (chopped tomatoes, onions and coriander, dressed in vinegar and sugar).

14. Feijoada, Brazil

<p>Paulo Vilela/Shutterstock</p>

Paulo Vilela/Shutterstock

A labour of love that takes hours to cook, this hearty pork, beef and black bean stew – traditionally served with orange slices, spring greens and rice – is Brazil's national dish. Some say the Portuguese brought the original recipe across the Atlantic, while others think it was created by enslaved people who were given leftover meat and used cheap, nutritious beans to bulk it out. It was first seen on a swanky Brazilian restaurant menu in 1833, and it's been popular throughout the country ever since.

13. Kimchi-jjigae, South Korea



Nothing epitomises South Korean cuisine more than its national dish, kimchi. Mentions of the fermented vegetable favourite go all the way back to the 1st century AD – and, now, the average Korean consumes around 80lb (36kg) of kimchi every year. Made with pork belly, chilli, sesame oil and vegetables, kimchi-jjigae stew is an extremely popular comfort food, especially during cold winters.

12. Meat pies, Australia

<p>AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock</p>

AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock

Pies may be a globally popular comfort food, but they hold a special place in the hearts and bellies of many Australians. A popular snack while watching sports, and a must on any road trip, the classic Aussie pie is made with minced beef cooked in a rich gravy, encased in a shortcrust base with a puff pastry lid and served with a dollop of tomato sauce. The history of the pie can be traced back to the First Fleet – ships that brought the first British colonists and convicts to Australia – and you’ll find pie-lined trays at every bakery and servo (gas station).

11. Poutine, Canada



A soul-nourishing, carb-loaded Canadian delicacy, poutine was first served in the 1950s, in rural Québec. There are many who claim to be its creator, but one thing's for sure – if you need a lift, these gravy-smothered, cheese curd–loaded fries will help to chase your cares away. Want to make poutine at home? If you can't find cheese curds, mozzarella makes a tasty substitute.

10. Shepherd's pie, UK and Ireland

<p>margouillat photo/Shutterstock</p>

margouillat photo/Shutterstock

Shepherd's pie started life as cottage pie in 18th-century Britain, when those living in poverty often used potatoes as a way to create hearty dishes using scraps of leftover meat. As the years passed, potato-topped dishes made with lamb were given the name shepherd's pie, while versions made with beef were called cottage pies. Historically, any lamb or pork used would have been chopped by hand before being cooked with root vegetables and stock. These days, both shepherd's pie and cottage pie are more often made with mince.

9. Koshary, Egypt

<p>hussein fara/Shutterstock</p>

hussein fara/Shutterstock

A mixture of rice, lentils, chickpeas and pasta topped with spicy tomato sauce and crispy onions, comforting koshary is Egypt's national dish. Dating back to the 19th century, when the country was under British colonial rule, it contains a mish-mash of flavours and ingredients from both Indian and Mediterranean cuisines, all thanks to the influence of foreign traders and immigrants. It was once a food of the working class but, due to its affordability and nutritiousness, it's now a beloved Egyptian delicacy that can be found everywhere from street food stalls to fancy restaurants.

8. Mac 'n' cheese, USA

<p>George Dolgikh/Shutterstock</p>

George Dolgikh/Shutterstock

The true origin of mac 'n' cheese is a matter of debate among culinary historians. But, regardless of where the dish was actually invented, it's a classic American comfort food, found on menus (and in homes) across the US. The story goes that it came to the US via James Hemings, the talented cook enslaved by third President Thomas Jefferson; the pair travelled to Paris, where Hemings learned classic French techniques. In 1937, Kraft Foods launched Kraft Dinner: a boxed version of mac 'n' cheese, containing pasta and a sachet of cheese sauce mix. It's just as popular now, both in the US and worldwide, with around a million boxes sold each day.

7. Curry udon, Japan

<p>funny face/Shutterstock</p>

funny face/Shutterstock

Mild and warming, this saucy dish is one of Japan's favourite comfort foods. Believed to have been brought to the country by the British military at the end of the 19th century, it's more sweet than spicy, often containing ingredients like apple and banana. It caught on with the Japanese army and navy, as it was a cheap and easy way to feed the troops, and these days you can find it everywhere from fancy restaurants to fast food joints. Add in some thick, chewy udon noodles, and you have the perfect cosy bowlful to snuggle up with.

6. Borscht, Ukraine

<p>Lipatova Maryna/Shutterstock</p>

Lipatova Maryna/Shutterstock

A part of Ukraine's cultural heritage deemed worthy of protection by UNESCO, borscht is a comforting dish that brings families and friends together, and its history stretches back centuries. The name comes from an old word for beetroot, the vegetable that forms the base of this hearty soup. Now the country's national dish, borscht has evolved over the centuries, but it still contains beetroot, cabbage and meat stock, and often comes topped with a lovely dollop of sour cream.

5. Moussaka, Greece

<p>Irina Meliukh/Shutterstock</p>

Irina Meliukh/Shutterstock

Although we may think of moussaka – a baked dish of layered aubergines, potatoes, meat and tomato sauce, topped with béchamel – as quintessentially Greek, it has a complicated history, beginning life as a Turkish dish of fried vegetables and minced meat. The béchamel was added in the early 20th century to add a European touch, and now it's as Greek a staple as they come. Although it's widely thought of as a lamb dish, it's actually more commonly made with pork or beef (or a mixture of the two) in Greece.

4. Onion soup, France



Onion soups have been around since Roman times, but the classic French version is always a winner. It originated in its current form – a dish of slow-cooked, caramelised onions simmered in a rich beef broth, topped with slices of Gruyère-loaded baguette – in Paris in the mid-19th century. Popularised in the restaurants surrounding the huge 24-hour wholesale food market of Les Halles, it was eaten both by market workers and upper-class Parisians in need of a filling, hearty fix after a night at the cabaret.

3. Fish and chips, UK

<p>Ezume Images/Shutterstock</p>

Ezume Images/Shutterstock

The combination of fish and chips is such a huge part of British culture that Prime Minister Winston Churchill left the dish off the rationing list during the Second World War, claiming morale would be seriously damaged otherwise. A heavenly combination of fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside chips and juicy, flaky battered fish (usually cod or haddock), this takeaway favourite was served wrapped in newspaper until 1980 (greaseproof paper is considered a little more hygienic). Salt and vinegar are a must, while tasty accompaniments like tartare sauce and mushy peas are optional.

2. Grilled cheese sandwich, USA

<p>Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock</p>

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Although there are many tasty takes on cheese on toast across the world – take Welsh rarebit and croque monsieur, for instance – there's one comfort food creation that's so simple, sumptuous and downright satisfying that it had to feature near the top of our list: the grilled cheese sandwich. The grilled cheese skyrocketed in popularity in 1949, when Kraft produced Kraft Singles cheese slices for the first time. The melty squares of goodness were paired with another modern invention, sliced bread, resulting in an instant American classic.

1. Lasagne, Italy

<p>Esin Deniz/Shutterstock</p>

Esin Deniz/Shutterstock

The humble lasagne has its roots in Ancient Roman cuisine – though the original version would have been nowhere near as decadent as the rich, layered, sauce-smothered dish we know today. Lasagne is traditional in many parts of Italy, and each region has its own twist on the recipe. However, the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy is where the world-famous lasagne al forno (baked lasagne) was born – for which comfort food fans across the globe are eternally grateful.

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