• Fire up your meals to put a smile on your dial. (Getty Images | Westend61)Source: Getty Images | Westend61
March 20th is the International Day of Happiness. As we face a global crisis together, let's find positive ways to look after ourselves and each other. We're leaning on these recipes to help lift our spirits.
19 Mar 2020 - 10:58 PM  UPDATED 19 Mar 2020 - 10:58 PM

Food is never more important than when facing troubled times. As well as providing nourishment, it can bring focus to long days and lift spirits in both physical and mental ways. Each of these recipes has been carefully chosen to inject some happiness into everyday life and we can only hope these foods bring a little smile to yours.

Colour therapy

While the jury is still out over whether colour therapy is actually beneficial, there's certainly no harm in cheering yourself up with an injection of strong colours. Many people report feeling happier when surrounded by colours they love, so see whether one of these recipes gives you a boost.

Punchy pickles

These pickles brighten meals everywhere in Yucatán, Mexico. Their punchy flavours come from red onions and red wine vinegar, and not much else. Pickling is a very satisfying activity that puts your future-self front and centre. That's bound to make you feel good.

Flipping sunshine

These turmeric-yellow crêpes look like sunshine on a plate. It's early days yet, but curcumin, the active anti-inflammatory compound in turmeric, has also been shown to have a positive effect on the physiological systems that may cause depression.

8 real ways to eat yourself happy
From communal dining to being brave in the kitchen, try these happiness-inducing tips to start seeing your glass half full.

Jammin' the yam

Just saying 'yam jam' really fast a few times is enough to make you feel good. Add the vivid purple colour and you're practically singing. Just look at that yam jam up there! You can get ube - purple yams - from Filipino shops and some Asian speciality stores.

Turn up the heat

Eating chillies floods your brain with endorphins and "induce a pervasive sense of happiness, even a rush, which can be addictive,” says Michael Mosley. So, punch it up!

Go hard

Liberian home cook Judy Cole says this volcanic chilli sauce, "will take you to Africa and back again!" See, we told you we'd make you happy!

Jerk you around

It's called 'jerk chicken', which always makes us smile. It seems like an unfair name for such a delightful dish. That said, the heat level is mean as a cut snake...

It's a jungle out there

This sand whiting jungle curry is powered by loads of chilli.

Thai jungle curry is for those who prefer to brave their chilli powers. Keep in mind that this is some serious heavy-lifting; the recipe uses 12 chillies... you may need to use slightly less.

Michael Mosley on why your love of chillies may make you a thrill-seeker
Why do some people derive pleasure from the burning pain created by a hot chilli? Find out in 'Michael Mosley’s Secrets of Your Food'.

Eat the rainbow

'Eating a rainbow' means you get a full burst of antioxidants and phytochemicals, which are sure to put an extra spring in your step.

Colour your health

For days when you're just not feeling it, this salad is a nutritional health bomb that will soon make you feel better. Positively packed with all the good stuff like apple, rocket, spinach, capsicum, tomato, avo, goji berries... there's a lot.

Good for your 'toush

A big serve of fresh vegetables and herbs means this Lebanese salad full of goodness. The dressing alone is packed with garlic, lemons, sumac and olive oil - all big-hitters on the immunity-boosting chart. If you make your own Lebanese bread to go with your salad, you'll add points for self-satisfaction too.

Pineapple whine-apple

Pork pineapple tacos

Pack your salsa with colourful vegetables and then start a rousing debate over whether pineapple has any right to be in a pork taco. Plus, pineapples are a great source of tryptophan, which has been shown to improve mood. Good for the soul, all of it. 

Food on sticks

Food on a stick is basically just happiness on a stick that you can easily eat. There's no way to explain it other than there's no cutlery required.

Happy dipping


Blackened paneer skewers

These blackened paneer skewers are just made for dipping, and luckily there's a tomato relish for that. You'll feel your mood lifting with every dunk.

Pop your mood

Tired looking early-autumn strawberries sing again in these delightful coconut, lime and strawberry popsicles. See, food on a stick is just irresistibly good.

Four more times sticks made us happy
Pina colada popsicles

These are the popsicle equivalent of the quintessential cocktail and are a perfect summer treat for adults (or hold the rum to make them kid-friendly), and they couldn't be easier to whip up. I use freshly squeezed pineapple and lime juice, and I always squeeze a little extra as a special drink for myself. These pina colada popsicles are insanely delicious; I promise they will wow.

Dairy-free Black Forest popsicles

You know Black Forest cake, right? That delicious German creation stuffed with chocolate, cream and cherries? Well, this recipe is the same, except there’s no dairy and I skipped the maraschino cherries, which taste like cough syrup. Instead, I used a sour cherry compote and topped it all with dark chocolate shavings. I’m telling ya, this is good.

Milky ice pops

This recipe makes 2 cups of chocolate milk mixture, so the shape and size of your ice pop moulds will determine how many ice pops you will make. It's really easy to halve or double the ingredients of this recipe to suit the size and quantity of your moulds.

Water popsicles (paletas)

A welcome street snack in Mexico on hot summer days, paletas de agua, or ‘water popsicles’, make the most of fresh seasonal fruits. Watermelon, strawberry and lime are among the popular flavours.


Finger food

Eating with your hands is casual, messy, and maybe even primal. It just makes you feel good. Ditch the cutlery tonight and make one of these dishes to scoff for dinner.

Load that sourdough

Malta's answer to bruschetta is hobż biż-żejt - or shallow-fried sourdough topped with all your favourite things. Even the cracking crunch of the bread is enough to make you weep with delight.


These lentil dumplings are popular at weddings, parties, anything in India. You can bring a little bit of the party home by making a huge batch for dinner. Dip them in a spicy chilli for an added kick. 

Sherry on

There's a special not-so-secret happiness-helper in these mushroom sherry tarts. Let's just say that if you're cooking for kids, you'll need to leave out the sherry in this recipe... and if not then go for gold.


Dose of happy
Blueberry and chia seed muffins

Ideal for snacking on at any time of the day, these muffins use oats, mashed banana and wholemeal flour to up the fibre and keep you fuller for longer.

Neapolitan cupcakes

Which Neapolitan ice-cream flavour were you? 

Curly rainbow salad

A creamy tahini dressing and crunchy, honey-roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds really make the shredded raw vegetables of this colourful salad shine. You'll be glowing too after you eat it!

Harvey Milk-shake

All the colours of the rainbow in one easy milkshake. #Mardigras40

Jewel box labne balls

What’s a party without a cheeseboard? Go for a healthier option and make your own labneh, an addictively creamy yoghurt cheese, eaten all over the Middle East. Labneh is simply strained yoghurt. 

Muhammara (Turkish walnut-capsicum dip)

I've added pomegranate molasses and preserved lemon for a bit of tang to this classic Turkish roasted capsicum and walnut dip.