When the weather gets cold, nothing tastes better than a warm bowl of comfort food—and it doesn’t have to be mac and cheese or butter-laden mashed potatoes to fit the bill. Made with healthful, savory ingredients, these stews provide warmth and heartiness without a lot of calories and saturated fat, plus they’re high in protein and fiber. Whether you’re into poultry, tofu, oysters, or black beans (or all of the above), you’re sure to find a recipe among these nine to brighten up a cold day.
This recipe calls for dark meat chicken, which is higher in saturated fat than white meat but also more flavorful. Since we use skinless thighs, the fat content is still relatively low; but if you prefer white meat, feel free to substitute chicken breasts (you’ll need to reduce the initial cooking time in step 2 in that case).
Sweet potatoes’ thick flesh makes them well suited to slow cooking in liquid. They’re also among the most nutritious of all vegetables, supplying plentiful fiber plus substantial amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin C, iron, potassium, and vitamin E. One orange-fleshed sweet potato also contains over 100 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin A in the form of beta carotene, which the body converts to that vitamin.
The skinless turkey breasts in this recipe are an excellent source of low-fat protein. The potatoes add heft, while the broccoli adds vitamins and fiber. This stew works well with leftover turkey too.
When you think “stew,” you may instantly think meat—and this stew was indeed inspired by ropa vieja, a Cuban shredded beef dish whose name translates as “old clothes” (not exactly appetizing!). But here the meat is replaced by tofu. While this soybean-derived food itself is pretty bland, it absorbs the essence of whatever it’s cooked with—in this case, onion, jalapeño peppers, wine, cilantro, and other fiery flavors, creating a highly satisfying dish.
Not only does this stew taste great, but you can feel truly good about eating it: Beans are a type of “pulse,” or seeds of plants in the legume family. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization has deemed pulses an “unexpected ally against climate change” because they have a smaller carbon footprint than many other foods. Pulse farming is good for farmers, too, since these crops can be cultivated in a variety of climates and even in poor soil conditions.
Whether oysters are really aphrodisiacs, as is sometimes claimed, remains uncertain. But there’s no question that they supply a rich compendium of nutrients, including a good amount of iron and zinc. They also contain an extraordinary amount of vitamin B12. Unless you have experience shucking live oysters, it's safer and faster to have the fish seller do it for you.
Yes, this stew contains beef, but this often-maligned red meat doesn’t have to be bad for you. There are more than 300 different retail cuts of beef, so there’s a lot to choose from. This recipe uses the bottom round, or rear section of the steer, which is leaner than most other cuts. We keep it moist by dredging it in flour, then browning it to seal in its juices.
There’s a secret ingredient in this recipe that provides its African flavor: Peanut butter! It adds a wonderful richness of flavor as well as almost 3 grams per serving of healthful unsaturated fat. And the sweet potatoes in the recipe contribute a nice dose of beta carotene.
Lamb is considered “red meat" because it’s high in myoglobin, a protein in muscle that turns red when combined with oxygen. While red meat is often high in saturated fat, this recipe calls for leg of lamb, which can be leaner than some higher-fat poultry (chicken wings or thighs with skin, for instance, or duck). And it’s a good source of iron and zinc.