YouTube has a reputation for being filled with shouting streamers, terrible takes, and thinly-veiled bigotry, but it can also be a force for good. A less widespread but infinitely more nourishing category of YouTube content are the cooking channels, which feature people preparing gorgeous, presumably delicious meals.
Yet among these there is an even more calming and aesthetically pleasing subgenre. I am referring, of course, to the tranquil, quiet cooking channels featuring humble meals made from scratch.
The closest thing we have to a Ghibli film in real life, these beautifully shot videos capture the rhythmic calm of homestyle cooking accompanied by gentle instrumental music, diegetic sound, and minimal speaking. The serene, comforting clips focus not only on food but its story, using gorgeous cinematography to showcase frequently rural environments alongside simple food preparation.
Such channels aren’t about teaching you how to cook, instead inviting you into the kitchen to simply observe and enjoy the process. It’s a warm, heavy blanket and steaming mug of hot chocolate to shield you from the icy tundra of the internet.
Here are five soothing YouTubers that will calm your anxiety and remind you that there is good in the world.
Liziqi AKA Li Ziqi is the quintessential calming rural Chinese cooking YouTuber, having accumulated over 15 million subscribers in less than four years. Every shot in Liziqi’s videos could easily fit into a big budget fantasy film, the captivating cinematography recording her amazing skill in taking meals literally from farm to table.
Located in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan, Liziqi’s quietly stunning videos follow her through the process of cooking generous dishes and making beautiful clothes all the way from scratch. She even creates her own raw materials, meticulously planting potatoes and raising silkworms for her projects as well.
From the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan, Dianxi Xiaoge’s content is similar to Liziqi’s but with a slightly less ethereal tone. Instead, her gorgeous videos feel more cosy and rough, like a warm friend inviting you into her home to share a home-cooked meal. Actually named Dong Meihua, her nickname translates to “Dianxi little brother,” Dianxi being the name of the region.
Dianxi Xiaoge is basically a kindhearted Disney heroine made real — you get the impression that she lives in happy harmony with her family, her local community, and nature all at once. She is also frequently assisted by her big fluffy dog Dawang, who is as much a star as she is and a very good boy besides.
XiaoXi’s Culinary Idyll is basically what is says on the label — soothing, idyllic food-focused videos shot in Taiwan. Yet meditative cooking isn’t the only calming content this channel has to offer. Like Liziqi and Dianxi Xiaoge, much of XiaoXi’s focus is on traditional food preparation. However, he also makes items such as copper teapots, gardening hoes, and fishing nets using low-tech methods.
Most of XiaoXi’s woodworking and handicraft projects still fit the culinary theme, many of them being related to food in some way. In his most popular video, he even makes a set of bamboo steamers before proceeding to cook an entire yum cha meal in them. Get a man who can do both.
While Buzzfeed’s Tasty YouTube channel is full of bright, bold cooking videos, Tasty producer Alvin Zhou’s personal channel strikes a markedly different tone. Utilising more modern technology than previous creators in this list, Zhou’s slow, calming cooking clips focus on quietly highlighting food and preparation methods.
Zhao’s thoughtfully framed videos are shot in his New York kitchen, so you won’t see him plucking tomatoes or catching crabs. Instead, he provides gentle commentary in the form of subtitles, silently musing about the cooking process and speaking to his food. Zhao’s catalogue of clips is small, but most of his video descriptions include a list of ingredients to help anyone who might wish to follow along.
Summer Kitchen’s Chen Ershi describes herself simply as “a girl who likes cooking,” though she also appears to be very good at it. Shot in Taiwan, this soothing YouTube channel invites viewers along with Chen as she goes out, gathers ingredients, then returns to her cozy suburban home to quietly turn them into inviting meals. Each of her videos exude undeniable warmth and charm, and offer a comforting, homey atmosphere.
While Chen does pluck her own strawberries and harvest her own honey, Summer Kitchen’s videos focus more on what she does with ingredients than where they come from. She also doesn’t eschew modern conveniences, using tools and appliances many viewers will likely have at home. Of all the peaceful culinary dreams in this list, Summer Kitchen’s seems like the most achievable.
To be fair, these cooking and rural life YouTubers probably don’t live objectively better lives than us. Everything looks better through the magic of editing and cinematography — people aren’t going to show us the mosquitoes buzzing around, their burnt or undercooked attempts at a dish, or the monotonous hours spent completing just one simple task by hand.
But we don’t watch romance movies for a strictly realistic portrayal of love, and we don’t watch cooking YouTube for a strictly realistic portrayal of food. It’s just soothing to indulge our fantasies every once in a while.