What makes food taste good? There are a few factors that go into it but one of the most important ways to make your food taste better is to balance flavors. What does that mean?
Our taste buds sense salty, sweet, bitter, sour, umami. I like to add spicy to that list too. Even if you don’t like spicy food, it can be an important component to flavor. Put one or more of these flavors together and your taste buds will cry out for more. Think about the flavors in some of your favorite foods:
- Chocolate – bitter + sweet
- Sour candies (my fav sour patch kids) – sour + sweet
- Pizza – sweet + salty + sour (tangy tomato sauce)
- Cheeseburgers – umami (meat) + salty (cheese) + sweet, salty, tangy ketchup
The number one piece of advice I can give you to make your food taste better is ADD SALT! Yes, it’s so simple but makes a HUGE difference. Salt has a magical ability to wake up your taste buds and allows them to taste all the other flavors better and more intensely. It is also a great ingredient for balancing sweet and bitter foods.
- This means salting your proteins and vegetables BEFORE you cook them. This way they will absorb the salt during the cooking process and will be flavored on the inside. If you wait until the food is on your plate, the salt flavor will only be on the surface.
- This means adding salt to the water when you cook pasta, rice, quinoa, oatmeal (yes oatmeal!) so that the flavor is absorbed all the way through.
- This means adding a pinch to all of your sweet recipes for balance.
The only time you will not need to add salt is if you are using a processed food that already has salt added or if you are adding a very salty ingredient like soy sauce, cheeses etc. More details about salting your food can be found in my post How to Salt Your Food.
Sweet, Bitter, Sour
Here’s the basics of the rest of the flavors. They all balance each other. If your food is too sweet, add a pinch of salt, a splash of lemon juice. If your food is to bitter, add sugar, agave, fruit juice or salt.
And last if your food is blah start with a pinch of salt. Then maybe a dash of sweet and splash of sour. Even a drop of something spicy like hot sauce, chili flakes or cayenne pepper will wake up your food with out making it spicy,
Taste Your Food
And the last best piece of advice I can give you to make your food taste better is to taste before you serve it. Sometimes just the smallest addition of something salty, sweet, bitter, sour or spicy will make all the difference!