Autumn Cooking: Fall Foods, Guidelines, and Recipes

bowl full of roasted zucchini, bell peppers, and tomatoes

Each year, the environment provides subtle hints that fall is on its way. The air smells different, the winds are stronger, and there’s a slight crispness to the atmosphere.

Fall is a time of preparation and change for the colder days ahead. It evokes images of bundling up, sitting around fires and enjoying warm, soul-soothing meals.  

Fall also brings a predominance of Vata—the air element according to Ayurveda—which has the following qualities:

  • Rough
  • Windy
  • Erratic
  • Cool
  • Light

With so much change occurring around this time of year, it’s best to incorporate lifestyle choices that encourage a sense of grounding and warmth, especially when it comes to food.

It is no coincidence that cravings for soothing foods that are sweet, salty, sour, and spicy can increase during the fall months. Pumpkin pie, apple cider, and roasted green chilies are fall traditions that actually help to counter the erratic effects of the season.

As Mother Nature goes through her process of transitioning into fall, your own internal environment has a similar response.

Vata’s “airy” influence can sometimes aggravate symptoms such as:

  • Dry skin
  • Cold extremities
  • Stiffness
  • Dry bowels
  • Irregular appetit

Your mental state can also be affected by experiencing:

  • Restlessness
  • Spaciness
  • Nervousness
  • Desire to be more carefree and light

Whether or not you experience these symptoms, be mindful of seasonal fluctuations. Adjust eating and cooking habits as needed to help ensure adequate nourishment for the body and mind.

Fall Fundamentals

During the fall season, Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of incorporating warm and cooked foods that are substantive. On a windy day, having a hearty home-cooked casserole is more satisfying than a cold salad.

Opposite action creates balance in Ayurveda. To maintain balance during the Vata season, choose foods that are:

  • Grounding
  • Stabilizing
  • Warming
  • Moisturizing
  • Softening

Foods that carry these qualities are well-cooked, oily, and nourishing, as well as high in protein and fat. Of course, this doesn’t give the green light to head to any fast food chain you see.Nourishing is an important key word here—eat food that enlivens and maintains longevity.

Foods to Buy

Seek out and purchase locally grown food that is harvested in-season. Nature provides fruits and vegetables that help harmonize our body with the environment and soothe bodily disturbances. This is why pumpkins, squash, and potatoes are in abundance during the fall in certain regions. They are perfect examples of seasonal foods that contain the essentials of what we need in a fall balancing diet.

Plan a trip to the farmer’s market or find a grocery store that supports local agriculture and get an idea of what’s available. As you plan your meals, consider what foods are in season and use them to create your menu.

Check out this seasonal food guide for foods that are in season in your area (U.S. only). You can also try cooking with these fall favorites:

  • Cooked fruits
  • Ghee
  • Butternut squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beets
  • Nuts
  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Mangoes
  • Dates (fresh)
  • Plums
  • Pumpkins
  • Root vegetables
  • Hearty grains

Helpful Tips

Remember, you don’t have to be an experienced chef to bring life to your recipes. Using herbs and spices liberally as both flavor and health enhancers can turn dull food into a celebration for the taste buds. Try using popular herbs and spices such as:

  • Basil
  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Cumin
  • Ginger
  • Italian herb mix
  • Nutmeg
  • Rosemary
  • Turmeric
  • Vanilla

Feeling short on time? Use a slow cooker to cook stews and other recipes all day or all night. Add cooked grains, such as quinoa, for a good base and pair the meal with steamed or roasted vegetables and beans. Roasting vegetables is an easy “go to” method and can be prepared with various combinations of spices and oils.

Since warm soups and stews often call for broth, try making your own by freezing the unusable pieces of vegetables you chop. When you have a full bag, cook them into a delicious homemade broth.

Keep It Simple

Ultimately, there are no strict rules for fall cooking. The goal is to cultivate habits that help you be the best version of yourself. You may already put a lot of this information into practice out of instinct or tradition.

This is a season that represents change and transition, which is a good thing. When you face these changes with a good heart and strong body, you are more able to overcome challenges. Diet is one thing you can easily control and has a powerful impact on physical and mental well-being.

Here are some food and cooking guidelines to help you embrace this time of year from a place of stability, strength, and gratitude.

  • Favor warm food and drinks
  • Include more heavy and oily foods in your diet
  • Keep hydrated
  • Start the day with warm lemon water
  • Experiment with various herbs and spices
  • Favor sweet, sour, and salty tastes
  • Limit intake of raw vegetables and cold or frozen foods
  • Set and follow regular meal times
  • Make your plate colorful and enticing
  • Sit at a dinner table and savor your meal

Now, without further adieu, here are five recipes to try this fall…

Hot Breakfast Cereal

Hot cereal is a good alternative to cold or traditional breakfasts. Try this recipe to wake up your body with a warm, soothing taste.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats, uncooked*
  • 4 cups of water
  • ½ teaspoon salt, optional
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup organic milk, soy milk, or nut milk
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

*Try experimenting with other grains such as quinoa, couscous, and millet. Cooking times will vary.

Directions: Combine rolled oats with salt and water in a 2-quart saucepan. (Toasting the grains until golden brown first in a dry sauté pan lends a nutty flavor to the cereal.) Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer. Add the spices and begin to add the soymilk or rice milk as the mixture begins to thicken. Add more milk if needed to create a thick and creamy cereal. Let the cereal cook for 5-7 minutes. Just before serving, add maple syrup. Serve with sautéed fruit or fruit syrup.

Serves 4

Potato Leek Soup

Soups provide an easy way to nourish the body and warm the soul. They can also be stored easily and reheated for multiple meals. Try this recipe for a satisfying soup on cooler nights.

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium red or white potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon ghee or olive oil
  • 2-3 cups chopped leeks or shallots
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Bragg Liquid Aminos or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • Nutmeg              
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions: Place the cubed potatoes in a bowl of cold water and set aside until needed. Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the leeks, pepper, and aminos. Over medium-heat, sauté the leeks until golden brown, then add the tarragon, thyme, and salt. Drain the potatoes and add to the sauté. Stir the potatoes until well coated with the herbs and continue to sauté for 4 minutes or until the potatoes begin to brown. Cover the potatoes with vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Let the soup cool for 10 minutes, then purée the soup using a hand blender, blender, or food processor. Garnish soup with a sprinkle of nutmeg and freshly chopped parsley.

Serves 4

Basic Roasted Vegetables

Vegetables are great sources of nutrients for your body. Try this roasting recipe to add some spice to your next dinner. Use them as a main course or pair with an entrée.

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons ghee or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 cup peeled, cubed eggplant*
  • 1 large yam, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 cup asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces (approximately 10 spears)
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into ¼-inch slices

*Feel free to substitute vegetables based on preference or what is in season.

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a sheet pan with olive oil. In a large bowl, combine the oil, aminos, vinegar, basil, pepper, and dill and whisk together with a fork. Add the prepared vegetables to the mixture. Combine the vegetables and the oil mixture until the vegetables are well coated. Spread the vegetables on the oiled sheet pan and place in the oven for 20-30 minutes. As an alternative, you can thinly slice the vegetables, toss on the oil mixture, and barbecue the vegetables on an oiled outdoor grill.

Spicing Variation: Replace the basil with 1 teaspoon curry powder and 1 teaspoon garam masala.

Serves 4

Cardamom Butter Cookies

To satisfy your sweet tooth, try this recipe for a fall-inspired cookie that will please any palate.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup cold butter, cubed
  • ½ cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions: Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Oil a cookie sheet and set aside. In a mixer, combine the butter and sugar until creamy. In a separate bowl, combine the pastry flour, salt, nutmeg, and cardamom. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Continue mixing at a low speed and slowly add the lemon juice until a stiff dough forms. Using a 1-ounce scoop or a tablespoon, place the cookie dough on the cookie sheet. Leave 2 inches between cookies. Flatten lightly with the palm of your hand. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until light golden brown.

Makes 12 cookies

Ginger Tea

Tea can help keep you hydrated as the temperature drops and the air gets drier. Try this simple recipe to enjoy alone or with a friend.

Ingredients:

  • Whole ginger
  • Water

Directions: Coarsely chop an unpeeled 2-inch piece of whole ginger. Place the pieces into a 2- or 3-quart pot with one quart of purified water. Bring the water just to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the tea simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the tea and pour it into a thermos bottle or store in a glass jar. Reheat the tea as needed. Use the ginger pieces from the tea in your vegetable stockpot.

*All recipes are from the Chopra Center Cookbook by Deepak Chopra, M.D., David Simon, M.D., and Executive Chef Leanne Backer.

Discover more ways to commit to a healthy lifestyle at our 6-day Perfect Health workshop. At Perfect Health, you'll learn your unique mind-body type and how to best care for yourself through personalized routines and lessons that will last a lifetime. Click here to learn more. 

Share This Article
About the Author

Rachelle Williams

Vedic Educator
As a Chopra Center Vedic Educator, Rachelle is certified in Primordial Sound Meditation , Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga , and Perfect Health: Ayurvedic Lifestyle . She started working at the Chopra Center in 2007 and has loved it ever since. Rachelle teaches at Chopra Center events in addition to leading private classes. She is grateful to share her knowledge and passion for these teachings by inspiring others to become empowered and...Read more