30 Weird But Totally Amazing Food Pairings
Sure, you know apple slices taste delicious with a bit of cheese, or that chocolate and peanut butter are a match made in heaven. But there are plenty of people who swear by, shall we say, less traditional weird food combinations.
Even with some of the tried-and-true factors, like the fact that salty foods go so well with sweet ones, some of these food combinations are truly next-level. But they all work, as long as you’re willing to try something new. Here are some of the weirdest—and most loved—food combinations out there. Hey, don’t knock ’em ’til you try ’em.
Ice Cream and Fries
If you’ve made a face when your friends dipped fries into a Wendy’s Frosty or McFlurry, it turns out they were onto something. This takes the combination of salty and sweet to the next level. Because in addition to the flavors, you’re also mixing the heat of a fresh box of fries with the coldness of the ice cream. Salty, sweet, hot, and cold all at the same time—what’s not to love? There’s no way of telling what brave soul first tried this combination. But we’re thankful for it, whoever they are.
Still not convinced this is a flavor people actually enjoy? Just ask Coolhaus! The brand sells a pint of “Milkshake & Fries” ice cream that includes bits of fries, along with malt balls, blended into vanilla ice cream.
Chocolate and Avocado
We’re not just talking about adding a piece of chocolate to your morning avocado toast, although that does sound delicious. Avocado’s creamy, buttery texture naturally lends itself to chocolate-flavored recipes, of which there are many to choose from. Dip your toes into the flavor combination with a creamy avocado and chocolate milkshake, which features cacao powder and a quarter avocado.
Olive Oil and Ice Cream
If you haven’t tried it, you might be hesitant about this combination, but plenty of people swear by it. For a true salty-sweet combo, try adding a drizzle of olive oil and a few sea salt flakes to vanilla ice cream. You won’t regret it.
Another option is to try olive oil gelato if your local scoop shop offers it. But if you’re able to assemble the olive oil sundae yourself, you might be surprised to find you enjoy the taste after all.
Coca-Cola and Chicken
Recipes for “Cola chicken” are so abundant that Coca-Cola itself even has one on its website. While most people are more familiar with the soda in its drinkable form, there’s apparently something to be said for frying chicken in it, too. If you think about it, it is still a salty-sweet combo. And it’s not really much weirder than other sweet meat flavorings, like teriyaki or sweet barbecue sauce.
Strawberries and Balsamic
Strawberries and balsamic vinegar are an age-old Italian combination that works surprisingly well. As Plated explained, the savory balsamic flavor makes strawberries taste even more sweet, complementing their already-juicy nature. Intrigued? Try this grilled strawberry shortcake recipe to give the strawberry-balsamic combination a try.
Cheddar Cheese and Apple Pie
Fresh apples and cheese slices are a common combination, so it was only a matter of time before the cheese idea hit apple pie, too. As Atlas Obscura reported, the tradition of adding cheese to apple pie seems to have originated in England, and it’s been going on for centuries. The outlet posits that today, cheddar-topped apple pie is more popular in dairy-producing regions of the United States like the Midwest and New England.
If you want to try out this trend, you don’t have to throw a yellow slice on top of the next slice of pie you eat. Try baking cheddar into your pie crust to test out this intriguing combo.
Peanut Butter and a Burger
While many of the options on this list rely on salty-sweet combinations, this is more of a salt and more salt situation. Apparently, adding melted peanut butter when forming beef patties will make them juicier. For an even more daring take on the combo, try adding Thai peanut sauce to your next burger for an unforgettable flavor combination.
Chocolate and Chips
If you’ve ever poured a box of M&Ms right into your popcorn at the movie theater, this one’s for you. The salty-sweet combination is just delicious—there’s a reason chocolate-covered potato chips are a thing. Lay’s first released its chocolate-covered potato chips in 2013, but the pairing goes back way further than that. (If you’d rather stick to dipping your Lay’s in French onion dip, though, we don’t blame you.)
Banana and Bacon
While the true origins of this combo aren’t clear, it’s long been attributed, along with peanut butter, to Elvis Presley. There’s the sweet, carb-heavy banana, paired with creamy peanut butter and salty bacon, an unlikely but delicious trio perfect for sandwich-making.
Proscuitto and Melon
Combining salty and sweet flavors can be as simple as enjoying a bit of meat with fresh fruit. This Italian classic is perfect for a snack on a hot summer day. You can wrap the prosciutto around melon slices, or just eat the two side by side.
Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwiches
The New York Times caught a lot of flak for suggesting readers add peas into their guacamole, but the paper also caused a bit of controversy with this peanut butter and pickle sandwich suggestion. For pickle lovers, there’s not much the tart flavor can’t improve, and peanut butter is sturdy enough to withstand the pickle juice without the sandwich falling apart. Or, as the Times put it, “The vinegary snap of the pickles tempers the unctuousness of the peanut butter, and it’s an unusual pantry sandwich for when luncheon meats leave you cold.”
Chicken and Pickle Brine
At this point, we’ve already conceded to frying chicken in Coca-Cola—and compared to that, chicken in pickle brine sounds downright normal. Supposedly, Chick-Fil-A cooks its chicken in pickle brine, which could explain why the fast-food chain has so many devotees. The pickle brine keeps the meat juicy, without overpowering its natural flavor.
Pizza and Ranch Dressing
A school cafeteria classic, this tried-and-true combination really hits the spot. The tangy ranch complements the tomato sauce perfectly—you wouldn’t think it would work, but it does.
As The New York Times reported, the pizza and ranch combination seems to have started when Domino’s offered ranch dressing alongside its wings in 1994. Endeavoring customers used the dressing for their pizzas, not just the wings, and the trend caught on.
Ketchup and Ranch Dressing
The orange-hued dressing that comes from mixing ketchup and ranch is so popular that Heinz is now making bottled “Kranch”. The dressing sounds like it would be good on anything from fries to sandwiches to salads. And you can always mix your own at home.
Blueberries and Steak
Google “blueberries and steak,” and you’ll find plenty of recipes for blueberry-based sauces to add to your filet. The fruit is sweet, but not too sweet, and it won’t overpower the meat’s flavor. If making your own steak sauce sounds too complicated, start off with a blueberry steak salad.
RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.
Watermelon and Salt
If you haven’t tried this combo, you might think that salt would dry out the watermelon’s watery, sweet flavor. However, the opposite is true. As with many of the other savory-sweet combos on this list, a pinch of salt will actually enhance the flavor of the watermelon’s natural sweetness. And as HuffPost explained, the salt actually makes the watermelon taste less bitter, too.
Pickles and Ice Cream
Supposedly, this is a common pregnancy craving—there’s even a pregnancy-focused cookbook called Pickles and Ice Cream. As Slate explained, there was even an episode of I Love Lucy where a pregnant Lucy dipped a pickle into a papaya milkshake while she was pregnant. (If you thought it was weird to dip French fries into a Frosty, imagine this concoction.) Of course, you don’t have to be pregnant if you want to try this combination on your own. No judgment here!
Bloody Mary and Steak
We don’t just mean ordering the two items together at brunch this weekend. No, there are plenty of recipes for combining the two items, with the Bloody Mary serving as a sort of marinade for the meat. Once you try this Bloody Mary skirt steak recipe, you’ll be a convert. It’s not clear what endeavoring brunch-lover first had the creative marinade idea, but you’ll be thanking them once you’ve tried it.
Strawberry and Basil
If you’ve opened your mind to the possibility of combining strawberries and balsamic vinegar, strawberries and basil are just as winning a pair. The combination is delicious in drinks like lemonade, but there are plenty of recipes that combine the fruit and the herb, too. Whether you want to try a strawberry basil compote to top your desserts or a strawberry basil frozen yogurt recipe that stands on its own, the two of them really do pair well together.
Mango and Chili Powder
Spicy food lovers might be interested in adding a sweet element to their next heat-filled dish. As this recipe for a chili-mango chicken stir-fry will show you, adding sweet elements into a spicy dish only makes the flavor more delicious. Adding hot sauce to mango is a Mexican standby, and once you’ve tried it, you’ll understand the appeal.
Sesame and Chocolate
You might think of sesame seeds as the topping for to-go Chinese food or the buns from McDonald’s. But sesame is wonderfully versatile, and there’s a reason there are plenty of recipes for sesame and chocolate desserts. From black sesame truffles to sesame chocolate chip cookies, this is a simple but delicious flavor pairing you didn’t know you needed. Even Lindt makes a sesame chocolate bar!
Peanut Butter and Bacon
As with the banana and bacon combo, it looks like Elvis really was on to something. Even if you don’t include the banana in the combination, the contrasting smoothness of peanut butter and crunchiness of bacon really do elevate the experience of eating them together.
Sriracha and Peanut Butter
If you’re bored of the same-old PB&J, meet PB&S. Sriracha has that sweet aftertaste without the sugar overload that jams can bring. Plus, the peanut butter will help cut some of the sriracha’s spiciness. You don’t have to use a fancy recipe with this combination, either: Just load up a sandwich with both sriracha and peanut butter.
French Fries and Honey
If you want to add a bit of sweetness to your fries without a full-on serving of ice cream, honey can do the trick. Its sweet flavor goes perfectly with fast food’s salty goodness—there’s a reason McDonald’s offers honey among its chicken nugget dipping options.
Honey and Pizza
In a similar vein, honey makes an unexpectedly delicious pizza topping. Hot honey, in particular, is a delicious offset to the salt overload that comes with meat toppings like pepperoni. There’s a reason Emily in New York City has a cult following for their Colony pizza, which combines honey, pepperoni cups, and peppers for a sensory overload.
Hot Sauce and Ice Cream
If topping ice cream with olive oil is old hat for you, why not step it up a notch? Milk is a standard go-to for people trying to get that spicy taste out of their mouths, so this seems like the next step, in a way. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could even make your own sriracha ice cream.
Green Apple and Salsa
Fruits like pineapple and mango are perfect in salsa, so why wouldn’t green apples be? Their tart flavor is perfect for spicy recipes, offsetting some of the heat while adding a tangy taste to the mix.
Miso and Butternut Squash
If you’ve only had the seasoning in the soup that comes at a Japanese steakhouse, you’re really missing out. Roasting butternut squash with miso or adding the seasoning to butternut squash soup adds a rich umami flavor to the sweet taste of the squash.
Watermelon and Feta
Feta is the star of the classic Greek salad, but it’s just as delicious when paired with fruit. Its dense texture makes it the perfect way to add more flavor to a juicy watermelon salad. Add in mint, and you’re good to go.
Peanut Butter and Mayo
This unlikely sandwich combo has a surprising number of fans. The Southern tradition came about in the Depression, but it’s stuck around for years, especially in those Southern states. While it may have been created out of lack of resources, the sandwich has stuck around thanks to its ability to meld two distinct flavors into one filling meal.
Now, are you brave enough to try out any of these unlikely treats?