Disclaimer: I'm a carnivore with mostly vegan friends. I'm not quite sure how this happened, but I'm incredibly grateful for it. They've taught me lots — from why almond milk makes for better coffee to how to incorporate more plant-based proteins into my diet. Their best lesson? A crash course on vegan comfort foods, because yes, even the healthiest among us stress eat. 

While I'm not quite ready to give up cheese, or classic yogurt, or butter for a dairy-free substitute, I'm very ready to embrace this whole vegan comfort food thing — and here's why.

What Even Is Comfort Food?

If case you are one of those well-adjusted people who don't turn to food after break-ups or major life changes (I envy you), comfort food is "broadly defined as anything that makes you feel better." While comfort foods often bring a sense of warmth and well being, they also coat themselves in nostalgia. 

Comfort foods can be anything, literally anything — doughnuts, mac'n'cheese, French fries, granola bars — so long as it boosts your mood enough to take over the world. And comfort food doesn't discriminate. Everyone eats to sedate their feelings in moderation, from the staunchest carnivore to the avid juice cleanser to the regular vegan. 

What Makes Vegan Comfort Food Different?

The only thing that makes the vegan version of your favorite dish inherently different from the "real thing" are its ingredients. Yeah, I know that sounds like a big deal. A vegan dish just simply means it's plant-based, where the flavor comes from products that don't exploit animals. 

In the grand scheme of things, this just means you can enjoy, say, a juicy burger with a side of poutine morally and nutritionally guilt-free. It's not exactly a surprise that the factory farm industry abuses the animals it profits off of, succinctly bereaving the cow behind your burger of adequate space and a healthy diet.

Moreover, just eating vegan comfort food one day a week yields some major health benefits. By choosing seitan over your favorite meat, you lower your chances of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Plus, meat takes effort to digest due to its saturated fat content, so a vegan food adventure gives your stomach some much needed R&R. 

How Can You Get in on This Whole Vegan Comfort Food Thing?

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Katherine Baker

You can start by stepping into either the most-frequented or threadbare room in your house: the kitchen. You can find tons of vegan recipes that will have even Paula Deen asking for seconds like poptarts, vegan lasanga, and banana ice cream. A bonus? Nobody will chastise you for eating raw cookie dough. 

If you live in New York City, these three restaurants may not have created the vegan comfort food craze, but they do a damn good rendition. 

1. Champs Diner

Yeah, the people at Champs Diner really have this vegan comfort food thing down to a science. Located on an easy-to-miss side street in East Williamsburg, this restaurant serves up some up the best diner fare — pancakes, burgers, and milkshakes — sans animal products. If you're not into food that tastes healthy, then this is the spot for you. 

2. The Cinnamon Snail

Anyone who knows me knows that I take my doughnuts seriously, and I can say that Cinnamon Snails makes some of the best doughnuts, vegan or not, in the game. Hunt down one of their trucks (or brave Midtown to head to their Pennsy locale) ASAP. You won't regret it. 

3. Urban Vegan Kitchen

Urban Vegan Kitchen is like the Target of vegan restaurants — there's something for everyone. You like tacos? They have tacos. You like cheese? They have things that taste like cheese. You like salads? They have salads. What more do you need?

The Bottom Line

Comfort food isn't something to be ashamed of. It's not something you should associate with baggy sweatpants, desperation, and guilt. It's a natural part of our diet and deserve a spot in our food pyramid, especially in the vegetable section.