Brace Yourself: These Weird Food Combos Are Unexpectedly Delicious
Ice cream and soy sauce. Peas and white chocolate. Peanut butter and beef. It turns out that some of the most oddball ways to eat your favorite foods are also some of the tastiest.
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When I was seven, I baffled my parents by drinking orange juice and milk together. I wouldn't touch vegetables or many other perfectly normal foods, but for some reason, I couldn't get enough of that gross juice mixture. I called it sunshine milk.
Today, I wouldn't touch sunshine milk with a 10-foot pole, but I still love trying strange dishes. When eating out, I usually find the weirdest food combinations to be the most delicious. I love dipping McDonald's french fries into one of their milkshakes and have even enjoyed sriracha on a peanut butter sandwich. Also, as soon as that infamous macaroni and cheese-flavored ice cream becomes available again, I'll be first in line to try it.
Many of the pairings below, such as veggies and panna cotta, ramen and peanut butter, or marshmallows and Cheez-Its, sound entirely nuts. But they work. Some of them taste good because they feature a combination of high-fat ingredients, such as mayonnaise, white chocolate, cheese, peanut butter, olive oil, beef, or avocados. Fat carries flavor, and doubling up on it often smooths out bitter or earthy tastes. Contrast is also vital: Tangy mango is satisfying against the complexity of fish sauce, and the sweetness of jelly balances rich, savory sausages. Don't believe me? Some of these recipes have been widely enjoyed for decades or more.
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Strangely delicious chocolate food pairings
Salty, creamy foods can heighten chocolate’s appeal
Savory nachos are delicious primarily because they feature crunchy, salty chips with hot, rich cheese. This sweet version keeps all those key elements — crisp, flavorful chips and warm, lush topping (albeit caramel and fudge in this case). While the idea of eating tortilla chips for dessert might sound strange, they are neutral and salty enough to complement this sugary sauce perfectly. If you want to try an easier version, potato chips dipped in Nutella would make a great alternative.
This recipe swaps in melted chocolate for tahini to make a creamy, rich dessert dip. While chickpeas and chocolate may sound off-putting, chickpeas (and various other beans) are longtime dessert staples. Try this chocolate hummus on top of strawberries, with pretzels, or alone on a spoon!
Surprisingly, beets can also kick major butt in brownies and chocolate desserts in general. The vitamin- and mineral-packed root is naturally sweet, but its moist texture comes through here more than its flavor. This recipe calls for wholemeal flour (or whole wheat), which some prefer for health reasons, but all-purpose flour will certainly do.
Surprisingly savory ice cream toppings
Savory condiments can make for weirdly great sundaes
Technically, the olive oil here is part of a candied kumquat topping, but the flavor should still come through. While olive oil sounds strictly savory, it can lend a nuanced, rich flavor that is lovely with simple vanilla ice cream. Just make sure you're using a quality bottle, one that tastes smooth and fruity. This recipe invites you to make the ice cream from scratch, but feel free to use store-bought ice cream to save time.
Although this sounds truly weird, soy sauce is a popular ice cream topping in Japan. Some recipes call for just pouring soy sauce directly on vanilla ice cream and digging in. If you'd like a gateway recipe, try this soy sauce caramel version: You get all the salty, sweet soy sauce flavor with delicious caramel overtones.
The flexible flavor of peas … and white chocolate!
Together or separate, these two flavors complement both sweet and savory foods
Peas can be fabulous in desserts, as they are naturally sweet and subtle. This recipe has both sweet and savory notes due to the addition of sweet crab, mango, and rich cream. This dish pushes the definition of what dessert can be.
Believe it or not, this dish is savory. This combination is so genius that Jeremy Fox, the chef who made it famous, created a sweet version, too (they resemble brownies). While assembling the pea stock can be time-consuming, it's 100% worth it for the unexpectedly delicious final product.
A few years ago, I splurged and made white chocolate macarons with caviar at a very fancy dinner party. Guests went wild for them, and they remain one of my favorite foods of all time. Food scientists say that white chocolate and caviar go well together because they share the flavor compound trimethylamine (flavor compounds are elements that contribute to how we taste and smell some foods). If you don't want to go to the trouble of making macarons, you can serve your caviar on a high-quality white chocolate bar.
Unexpectedly yummy ways to eat cheese
Cheese is unexpectedly delicious in dessert
Chocolate, peanut butter, and Cheez-Its may sound pretty out-of-left-field, but the combination is similar to the Butterfinger, one of the best candy bars of all time. This recipe takes the Butterfinger-like cookies a step further and turns them into s'mores. Someone needs to turn THIS into a candy bar!
Apples and cheddar cheese are a pairing as old as time. Why would pie crust mess that up? As the author notes, the cheddar, which is baked into a delicious flaky crust, adds a subtle, salty flavor to the pie and rounds out the taste. Top your warmed slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Meat and … what?!
Don’t rule out fruit, jelly, and soda alongside beef, pork, and chicken
I love a good steak salad. This version features raspberries and blueberries, adding color, flavor, acidity, and sweetness to an otherwise rich meal. While berries and steak may sound like a strange pairing, they work beautifully together. This delightful recipe also makes use of balsamic vinegar and features creamy feta and crunchy almonds for textural contrast.
I'll admit, even an adventurous eater such as myself thought this flavor combination might be off-putting. But then, I realized that Coca-Cola adds sweetness to the barbecue sauce and helps to tenderize the chicken, making it extra succulent and delicious. Barbecue sauce already contains sugar, so adding sweet, zingy soda isn't that far-fetched.
If you've ever enjoyed meatballs or even turkey with cranberry sauce, you can understand why salty little sausages are made tastier by a sauce sweetened with grape jelly. It sounds daring at first. But this smoky, savory and sweet appetizer has been a popular Southern dish for decades!
Unusual and yummy ways to eat fruit
You may have already tried these surprising flavor combinations without realizing it
If you've ever tried a Vietnamese mango salad or even a Thai papaya salad, you're no stranger to the tasty interplay of juicy, crunchy, tart fruit and spicy, sweet, and salty sauce. Fish sauce, full of umami and pungent, briny flavor, is sweet, making it a fitting complement to bright, sour green mango. Try this pairing with chili and sugar, as described in this simple recipe, for an easy, satisfying snack.
Apples with salt and pepper are one of those strange flavor combinations that tastes good. This recipe takes it one step further and subs in green apples for tomatillos in a bright, spicy salsa. Sound weird? It shouldn't. Some apples, including these tangy green ones, aren't all that much sweeter than a ripe cherry tomato anyway. We associate them with sweet foods, but their crisp, tart flavor is a genius foil for jalapeño, tomatoes, and other traditional spices. Eat this with corn chips for a refreshing snack.
The power of peanut butter
Ever tried peanut butter in your soup?
I will never forget the first time I had a peanut butter burger. The peanut butter added creamy, mellow richness to the already juicy patty, making it extra decadent. (This one also had banana on it, officially making it an Elvis burger.) Peanut butter is one of those superstar ingredients that can pair well with almost anything — including lettuce, onion, and tomato toppings. And if you were to add a few slices of bacon to this nut-buttery burger, you would not be sorry.
I know, peanut butter in ramen noodles seems … wrong. However, adding a scoop of salty peanut butter to your spicy soup thickens and adds flavor to the broth. The final product is reminiscent of the flavors in Pad Thai, one of the most beloved Thai dishes on the planet.
Weirdly good ways to enjoy avocado
Avocado is surprisingly yummy with everything from bananas to chocolate
Avocados and bananas don't immediately jump out as compatible foods, but both are neutral enough to complement the other. Banana is sweet enough to flavor this simple, nutrient-rich smoothie all on its own (although you can add honey if you want to pump up the sweetness). There's a reason that chefs use both bananas and avocados as bases for ice cream: They are both super creamy and mellow.
Yummly readers adore these naturally high-fiber brownies for their fudgy texture and surprising star ingredient. Bold cocoa and buttery avocado have been BFFs since time immemorial (they work well together in many desserts). The beauty of this recipe is that you don't need oil or butter to get that rich, creamy consistency — just humble avocado. Enjoy as-is, or sprinkle with powdered sugar as a finishing touch.
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