Some taste combos just feel right. They’ve become part of our collective food culture — strawberries and champagne, apple pie and ice cream, pizza and beer, PB&J.
Other taste pairings are so wrong you’d never intentionally do them twice (or even once). We’re talking toothpaste and orange juice. The less said, the better.
Then there’s a third category: food pairings that don’t sound right, but once you try them you’ll never go back. You know what we’re talking about — when you hit the right combo, it’s gold.
Here are seven of our faves. We promise, no bizarre fusion experiments (kimchi cupcakes, anyone?). These goodies are all common and inexpensive enough for you to try this week in recipes that are super easy to put together.
1. Bratwurst and kimchi
You already know sauerkraut is great on a hot dog, adding a piquant bite and a satisfying crunch. This is creative spin on that classic — with a lot more zing.
Kimchi is sort of like sauerkraut but with more authority. The traditional Korean garnish is essentially pickled cabbage with chili powder, and its powerful flavor has earned it devotees worldwide.
Try it by picking up a jar of kimchi at the supermarket or your local Trader Joe’s. For your next casual Sunday dinner or cookout, grill up some bratwurst, hot dogs, or other sausages and spread it on just like you would your favorite ’kraut.
2. Avocado and broccoli
Other people see it more as a delivery vehicle for butter or cheese sauce.
If you fall into either group, we encourage you to add the creamy taste and texture of avocados to your next broccoli dish. “Avobroc” gives you the advantages of the butter or cheese sauce, but in a much healthier version.
Try it with one medium avocado for each broccoli head you’re cooking. Dice the avocado into cubes about half the size of your thumb, add it to the cooked broccoli, and gently toss before serving on a plate. Bonus points if you sprinkle on a pinch of kosher salt just before serving.
(Warning: Avocado goes bad much faster than broccoli, so this doesn’t make for great leftovers.)
3. Cheese and jam
PB&J is a classic for a reason, combining the sweetness of your favorite jelly and the savory flavor of peanut butter into a protein-packed snack that has filled lunchboxes for generations.
For a more adult take, smear some jam on a slice of your favorite cheese and let that sweet/savory mixture change your world. Some folks like to stick to just the cheese and jam, while others prefer it served on a cracker. We’re not here to judge, so go with your heart on that one.
Try it by cycling through different cheese-jam combinations. In each case, cut a slice of cheese (aim for about twice the thickness you’d put on a sandwich) and add jelly, just like you’d put cream cheese on a bagel.
Some perennial favorites:
- fig jam with brie
- orange marmalade with Camembert
- pear jam with Gorgonzola
- apple jelly with cheddar
- plum jam with Gouda
- blueberry jam with manchego
4. Watermelon and feta
This unexpected combo works for the same reason cheese and jam does. The watermelon’s sweetness pairs amazingly well with the savory, salty creaminess of the feta. And it’s really easy to make.
One thing to keep in mind: Don’t use the crumbled feta that comes in the little tubs. The small pieces will fall to the bottom of the salad and off your fork. Buy feta in wedges or cubes.
Try it by chopping a small watermelon (one of the round ones about half the size of a basketball, not a gigantic oblong one) into bite-size pieces. Break the feta into rough pieces about the size of dice. Toss gently, and then serve.
If you feel like getting fancy, slide alternating cubes of watermelon and feta onto wooden skewers and briefly grill them. Or you can add mint, onion, and olive oil for Jamie Oliver’s delectable take on this combo.
5. Strawberry and basil
Basil is powerful stuff, and even a little of the fresh leaves or a teaspoon of pesto can utterly change the flavor of a previously familiar dish… or drink.
A sprig of basil in a strawberry margarita or strawberry daiquiri gives an earthy richness to the otherwise sweet, fruity drink. It’s hard to describe exactly what’s going on with this, but trust us. You’ll be a convert once you’ve experienced it.
Try it by replacing the standard mint sprig in your next strawberry cocktail with a sprig of fresh basil. Cheers!
6. Creme brulee and porter
At first glance, these two may seem like unusual partners in crime — kinda like Coco Chanel hooking up with a salty British pirate. But the rich malty, chocolaty taste of a good porter is an amazing partner for the caramel cream flavor of creme brulee.
Even better, there’s something about how to the two mix in your mouth. Take a bite of the brulee and then a swig of the beer. Swish it around and let the porter dissolve and merge with the custard before you swallow. But not too quickly. Savor it.
Try it by ordering a pint of porter the next time you have creme brulee for dessert. The hardest part of this recipe is having enough room for both at the end of your meal.
7. Hummus and curry paste
Hummus never ceases to amaze us with its shape-shifting abilities, serving as a dip for breads and veggies one minute, an ingredient to thicken side dishes another minute, and even a tasty swap for mayo on sammies. So, is there even a way to up the already high-stakes hummus game?
The answer is yes. Blend in some red curry paste and hummus suddenly becomes far more interesting. The heat and compelling flavors from the curry infuse it, while the hummus’s cooling creaminess keeps the spice from being overwhelming.
Try it by adding a tablespoon of red curry paste to a standard carton of hummus. Stir thoroughly and serve it however you like. You can also add a tablespoon of coconut milk, though that’s not necessary for this dish to work its magic.
(Warning: For some reason, green curry paste does not work here. The flavors clash. Yellow curry paste is palatable but not as good as the red.)
Whether you’re intrigued by the idea of spicing up your same old store-bought hummus, or you’re more of a cheese-and-jam adventurer, go ahead and tickle your taste buds. They deserve it!