The sensation of taste includes the five established basic tastes, including sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. In addition to these basic tastes, smell, texture, and temperature all contribute to the overall taste profile of a food.1 All together, these sensations lead us to an overall flavor experience.
Do you remember the last time you entered into a cozy room and inhaled that sweet aroma of an apple pie baking in the oven? You could barely wait to dig in for dessert as the scent takes you back to the last time you bit into a delicious, warm, and freshly baked apple pie. When you sit down for the apple pie, you are already salivating. In front of you, you admire a generous slice of pie with big chunks of apples covered in a thick brown sugar sauce with specs of cinnamon, the crust is flakey and browned, and there’s a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream slowly melting on top. You bite in and everything comes together… the warm sweet apples, the crunchy salty crust, and the creamy cold ice cream.
The flavor experience of this apple pie story comes together through it’s complementary tastes, smells, textures, and temperatures found in each bite. The salty piecrust enhances the sweetness of the apples; the warm pie compliments the coldness of the ice cream; the softly cooked apples elaborate the crunchiness of the piecrust. The list could go on and on about how wonderfully this flavor experience is, but let’s stop drooling and take a look at why these flavors come together so flawlessly.
This great graphic by CooksMart shows how these five basic flavors work together to balance or enhance each other. By utilizing this flavor wheel, we can begin to re-create the apple pie flavor experience with other deliciously complimentary and curated flavor experiences.
Here’s our list of 5 irresistible flavor combinations that you need now…
1. Sweet & Salty Flavor Combinations For Desserts
Sweet enhances salty and visa-versa. When you combine sweet and salty flavors, you bring out the best of each. Here’s the best sweet and salty flavor combinations you need in your life now.
- Caramels with sea salt
- Banana dipped in salted peanut butter
- Home baked French fries with sea salt and organic ketchup (Annie’s)
- Melons wrapped in prosciutto
- Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews (Whole foods)
- Maple Glazed Bacon Wrapped Dates
- Caramel and cheese popcorn (Garrett’s Mix from Garrets is incredible!)
- Chicken and waffles
- Watermelon sprinkled with salt
2. Sweet & Bitter
Sweet and bitter work together to balance the intensity of the other out. On their own, one may be too overwhelming. So, by using both of these flavors together, you can counteract the other one to achieve a perfectly tasty balance.
- Brussels sprouts with a sweet & spicy sauce (See the Sweet & Sour Sauce Recipe from our “The Five Best Ways to Cook Brussels Sprouts”)
- Vegetable Curry
- Espresso con panna (Starbucks)
- Root beer float
3. Umami & Sweet
If you’ve never combined umami (that savory, meaty taste found in meat, mushrooms, and soy sauce) with a sweet compliment of sugar, you have never experienced an ultimate taste paring.
- Tomato soup with grilled cheese
- Bread pudding
- Strawberry, Steak, and Blue Cheese Spinach Salad
- Teriyaki sauce on steak or salmon
- Sourdough bread, cheese, and dried fruit
- Cheese & Fruit: Cheddar and apple (Apple Stuffed Sharp Cheddar Grilled Cheese), blue cheese & pears (Blue Cheese, Pear & Honey Crostini), goat cheese & figs (Baked Figs with Goat Cheese)
- Hawaiian Style pizza or burgers with pineapple and Canadian bacon
- Honey, soy sauce, and root vegetables
4. Bitter & Hot
Some foods taste better burnt (or the taste known as bitter) and hot with temperature. Most foods contain some amount of sugar and when the food is burnt, the end result is caramelization accompanied with a bitter taste.3 This caramelization effect stands out best in the following foods:
- Lasagna with burnt cheese and crispy edges
- Brussels sprouts with crispy leaves (See the Simple Brussels Sprouts Recipe from our “The Five Best Ways to Cook Brussels Sprouts”)
- Charred asparagus
- Burnt cheese: Parmesan crisps
- S’mores with overly roasted marshmallows
- Caramelized banana foster
5. Bitter & Cold
On the other hand, some foods taste much better when cold! According to a new study, “taste perception is enhanced as the temperature of food and beverage products increase, explaining why beer is more bitter and ice cream is sweeter when consumed warm.”3 Try out these cold combos for the best taste:
- Ice-cream (rested on counter for 5-10 minutes before serving)
- IPA Beer served in a frozen mug
- Chilled red wine
- Frozen dark chocolate (Throw some Bark Thins in your freezer!)
You can start making all your foods taste better today by maximizing your understanding of how taste, smell, texture, and temperature interact together, utilizing “The Flavor Star” to enhance and balance flavors, and trying these 5 irresistible flavor combos! What are you waiting for?? Go get to cooking, ordering, or eating now!
A flavor experience quote about the perfect pairing of an ice cream float:
“An ice cream float is the perfect food pairing because it connects flavor with taste. It’s a balanced taste pairing as the creamy, oily ice cream is cut down by the acidity and astringency in root beer. It is also an elegant flavor pairing as the compound vanillin found in ice cream compliments safrole; a flavor compound found in the sassafras root used to make root beer.”
– Wine Folly