Food & Drink

The Best European Comfort Foods

Why not try some local comfort foods on your next trip to Europe?

A big part of any trip abroad is enjoying dishes we might not typically have at home. And, when it comes to comfort food, Europeans don’t do things by halves. Whet your appetite with some of Europe’s best dishes that are perfect for cosying up with after a long day of exploring.

Red dish filled with potatoes, cheese and onion with a green garnish

Tartiflette - Savoy, French Alps

The deliciously rich tartiflette is one of the most popular dishes from this region, and particularly lovely in the colder months. Made using potatoes, reblochon cheese, onions, and lardons, tartiflette is actually quite a modern dish, based on an older (but less cheesy) French dish called péla. There are plenty of restaurants where you can enjoy tartiflette, and it’s a great meal to enjoy before hitting the slopes on a ski holiday!

Read more about traditional French food here.

Raclette - Saint-Maurice, Switzerland

Saint-Maurice is regarded as one of western Switzerland’s cultural hubs. People often come to visit its stunning historic Abbey, or to hike trails along the Rhône river. Another cheese-based dish, common in the mountain ranges of Europe, is raclette. A large wheel of firm cheese, raclette is usually cut in half and then melted, before being enjoyed with a range of different accompaniments like potatoes, pickles, tomatoes, ham, and cured meat. Traditionally enjoyed in front of an open fire, raclette is the ultimate comfort food and is great for sharing with family and friends.

black handled dish filled with dumplings served with peas and garnished with sprinkled cheese

Gnocchi - Bellagio, Italy

Bellagio in northern Italy sits on the banks of Lake Como. It’s in the Lombardy region, famous for its fantastic food and some of the best wine the country has to offer. Northern Italy is famous for several dishes, such as the deliciously sweet cake, panettone, but also gnocchi. Wonderfully soft, thick dumplings made from dough, gnocchi is an Italian staple since its creation in Roman times. Just north of Bellagio’s, at the Ristorante La Punta, they serve mouth-watering gnocchi, with a gorgonzola cream sauce.

Wiener Schnitzel & Kasnocken - Zell am See, Austria

When travelling from Italy into western Austria, we recommend visiting the stunning town of Zell am See, in Austria’s Salzburg region. Surrounded by mountains and lakes, Zell am See is great for skiing, and boasts a picturesque church, St. Hippolyte’s. While you’re there, try wiener schnitzel, a thin slice of veal meat, covered in breadcrumbs and pan fried. Typically served with salad and chips, it’s the perfect simple comfort food. But for the ultimate indulgent dish, combine wiener schnitzel with a Salzburg favourite, kasnocken.

The perfect accompaniment to the crispy, meaty schnitzel, kasnocken is essentially a luxury macaroni cheese. Using Austrian spätzle, cheese, and caramelised onion, kasnocken is rich and creamy, and works great as a side dish.

Dish filled with crisped potatoes and vegetables on a chequered red and white tablecloth

Baeckeoffe – Alsace

Inspired by a traditional Jewish dish called cholent or hamin, the Alsatian dish beckeoffe is a typical French winter stew. It’s made with sliced potatoes and onions, beef, mutton, and pork, marinated in Alsatian white wine and juniper berries, then slowly cooked in the oven. You may also find carrots, leeks, thyme, parsley, and garlic added for additional colour and flavour.

Translated from local dialect, baeckeoffe means ‘baker’s oven’, as that’s where this dish was traditionally cooked. People would take their casserole pots filled with meat, potatoes, and vegetables to their local baker in the morning. The baker would cover the pots with a bread dough lid and slowly cook them in the still-warm oven. They’d be collected later in the day for the families’ dinner.

Gromperekichelcher – Luxembourg

The name gromperekichelcher is certainly a bit of a mouthful, but it’s worth practicing your pronunciation if you’re planning a trip to Luxembourg. The smell of these delicious potato fritters fills the air at winter markets throughout the little country, although this dish can be enjoyed year-round.

Gromperekichelcher is predominantly made with grated potatoes, mixed with finely sliced onions or shallots, and parsley. Eggs and flour are then used to bind the potato mixture together before they’re shaped into patties and fried off. They’re quite similar to Switzerland’s famous potato röstis, another popular winter dish across Europe. Most Luxembergers dip their gromperekichelcher fritters in apple sauce, but you can also try ketchup or other condiments. 

plate of patterned biscuits with cinnamon sticks and spices next to them

Speculoos - Belgium/Netherlands/Rhineland

There seems to be a recurring theme across Europe when it comes to comfort food dishes – the humble potato. But if you fancy something a little different that will sate your sweet tooth, then take a trip to Belgium, home to the delicious festive biscuit speculoos. They’re also equally popular in the Netherlands, where they are spelled speculaas, and there is much debate over where they actually come from.

Whichever variety you choose to enjoy, they’re largely made the same way with a mixture of festive spices including nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and anise. The town of Hasselt in Belgium, however, is famed for its special local version created by Antonie Deplée in 1870, which is a kind of almond ‘bread’.

Pasta Alla Norma - Catania, Sicily

Apparently named after the famous Vincenzo Bellini opera Norma, this mouth-watering pasta dish is a Sicilian classic, which originates from the city of Catania on the east coast of the island. Freshly made rigatoni is boiled and then served, covered in a rich tomato sauce, then topped with a slice of grilled aubergine and layers of grated ricotta cheese. In case you can’t wait for your next trip to Italy, here’s a recipe for Pasta Alla Norma for you to try at home.

large black bowl filled with cheese surrounded by bread and being dipped into with metal skewers

Fondue – Switzerland

Fondue is a popular dish across Europe and beyond, but its original culinary home is Switzerland, even advertised as the Swiss national dish during the 1930s. It has become a popular choice for parties across France and Italy, as well as the perfect meal when you're in need of something comforting.

Traditionally, a fondue recipe is to simply melt a selection of your favourite cheeses, add a couple of glugs of white wine and a handful of garlic cloves, it's very easy! After stirring the cheese, simply tear a piece of bread from a freshly baked baguette and dip into the mix. To find the perfect wine to match an evening of fondue and great company, see our handy guide to pairing French cheese and wine.

Sauerbraten - Germany

This German favourite is the equivalent of the British beef stew, comforting, warming, and delicious. Picked as one of Germany's national dishes, sauerbraten is made of marinated beef in a mixture of wine or vinegar, water, herbs, and spices. The spices and herbs used tend to differ in each of the country's regions. The beef is seared in a lightly oiled, red-hot pan, then left to stew for a few hours, until the meat flakes away under slight pressure. The dish is traditionally served with rotkohl (red cabbage) and kartoffelklöße (potato dumplings), a hearty and rich comfort food.

Hungry after all this talk about food and in the mood for one of these tasty dishes?

We have plenty for foodies in our travel guides, including the best alfresco dining in Europe, and, even better with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, you can get from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes, so you can start your food tour of Europe in no time.

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