If there’s one thing I love about cooking, it’s the delightful surprises that often await us in terms of unique flavor. While we all have our go-to combinations, there’s an endless universe of infusions just waiting to be explored.
I’m thrilled to share some of my favorite unexpected flavor combos. Some seem like unlikely partners at first glance but these food pairings are surprisingly good together.
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1. Dark Chocolate and Bacon
Two of my favorites: Chocolate and Bacon! At first glance, you might raise an eyebrow or two, but trust me, this combination is a winner in my books.
The magic here lies in the contrast. The deep, slightly bitter notes of dark chocolate perfectly offset the savory and salty goodness of bacon. The result is a delightful explosion of contrasting yet complementary flavors.
Ways to Enjoy: Try crumbling crispy bacon over a bowl of chocolate ice cream for a decadent dessert. You can experiment with bacon-wrapped chocolate truffles, chocolate-covered bacon strips or chocolate bacon bark!
2. Watermelon and Feta Cheese
Next up, we have a dynamic duo that brings refreshing sweetness and tangy saltiness together. Watermelon and feta cheese is a summery match made for warm days and lazy picnics.
The natural sweetness of watermelon complements the briny saltiness of feta cheese in a way that surprises and delights. It’s all about balance and this pairing nails it.
Ways to Enjoy: To fully embrace this combo, try your hand at crafting a watermelon and feta salad. Simply cube the watermelon, crumble the feta cheese on top, drizzle with a touch of olive oil, and sprinkle with fresh mint leaves. You can also get creative with watermelon-feta skewers or watermelon-feta salsa.
3. Blue Cheese and Honey
This combo is as timeless as it is unexpected. The pungent tang of blue cheese meets honey in a delightful sweet and salty infusion.
Blue cheese’s bold and savory notes might seem overpowering, but when you drizzle a touch of honey over it, magic happens. The sweetness of the honey balances the cheese’s sharpness, creating harmonious flavor.
Ways to Enjoy: When it comes to enjoying blue cheese and honey, the options are endless. Consider serving this pairing on a charcuterie board alongside cured meats, fresh fruits and crackers. Or go gourmet by adding it to your favorite salad. You’ll be amazed at how these contrasting flavors complement each other perfectly.
4. Chamoy and Pickles
Have you seen this trending pickle kit? Chamoy, a classic Mexican condiment paired with a dill pickle is probably the most surprising combo in this list.. This combination brings together the sweet and tangy notes of chamoy with the crisp and briny essence of pickles.
Chamoy, known for its complexity, offers a combination of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors. Pairing it with pickles adds an extra layer of contrast, as the pickles provide a refreshing crunch and a briny punch.
Ways to Enjoy: Try dipping pickle spears or slices into a bowl of chamoy. The result is a snack that’s both refreshing and tangy. It really is an unexpected fusion of flavors.
5. Roasted Stone Fruit and Balsamic Vinegar
This pairing combines the roasted goodness of stone fruit with the complex acidity of balsamic vinegar. This fusion is a symphony of contrasting flavors.
The caramelized sweetness of roasted stone fruit, such as peaches, cherries and apricots, harmonizes with the tanginess of balsamic vinegar. The heat of roasting intensifies the natural sugars in the fruit, making them the perfect canvas for the vinegar’s acidity.
Ways to Enjoy: To savor this delightful pairing, roast stone fruit halves in the oven until they become tender and slightly caramelized. Drizzle them generously with a balsamic vinegar glaze just before serving. The result is a decadent dessert or side dish that balances sweetness and acidity beautifully. You can also experiment with incorporating roasted stone fruit and balsamic vinegar into savory dishes like roasted chicken or grilled halloumi salads.
6. Avocado and Chocolate
Hold on to your hats! Avocado and chocolate might not seem like a likely pair, but they join forces to create desserts that are not only indulgent but also surprisingly healthy.
Avocado’s creamy texture works well with the richness of chocolate. The result is a dessert that’s velvety and satisfying without the need for heavy cream or butter.
Ways to Enjoy: For a guilt-free treat, try making avocado chocolate mousse. Blend ripe avocados with cocoa powder, sweetener of your choice and a splash of vanilla extract. The result is a luscious chocolate dessert that’s dairy-free and packed with healthy fats. You can also experiment with avocado chocolate smoothies for a decadent breakfast or snack. Check out more avocado recipes here.
7. Mango and Tajín Seasoning
The tropical sweetness of mango in harmony with the fiery, tangy kick of Tajín seasoning is a match made in heaven.
Mango’s natural sweetness and juiciness are elevated to new heights when paired with Tajín, a Mexican seasoning blend that combines chili, lime and salt. It’s a mouthwatering blend of sweet and spicy that’s truly addicting.
Ways to Enjoy: Start simple by cutting ripe mango into slices and sprinkling Tajín generously on top. It’s a quick and easy snack that’s bursting with flavor. For a more indulgent treat, try mango margaritas with a Tajín rim or incorporate mango and Tajín into your next batch of tropical salsa for freshness. My new favorite is mangonada, a frozen Mexican treat (recipe coming soon) that infused fresh mango, chamoy and tajin.
8. Kimchi and Grilled Cheese
This unlikely, yet incredibly satisfying pairing of kimchi and grilled cheese is one to remember. It’s a match that combines the comforting goodness of a classic grilled cheese sandwich with bold Korean flavors.
Kimchi, the fermented Korean side dish made from cabbage and chili peppers, brings a fiery kick to the party. When nestled between layers of ooey-gooey melted cheese, you get a tantalizing contrast of textures and flavors that’s simply irresistible.
Ways to Enjoy: Start by preparing your favorite grilled cheese sandwich with slices of your preferred cheese (cheddar, Swiss, or mozzarella work wonderfully). Just before closing the sandwich, add a generous layer of kimchi. Grill until the bread is golden and the cheese is melted. Now you have a delicious sandwich that’s savory, spicy and unforgettable.
9. Chocolate and Chili Powder
This pairing is another delightful fusion of sweet and spicy flavors..
Chocolate and chili powder may seem like an unlikely pair, but they work surprisingly well together. The chocolate is wonderfully complemented by the spicy heat of chili powder and you end up with a depth of flavor that’s so satisfying.
Ways to Enjoy: If you’re already a fan of adding cocoa powder to your chili, you’re onto something fantastic. The cocoa’s richness adds a velvety undertone to the dish, while the chili powder brings the heat.
You can also try incorporating into desserts like chocolate chili brownies or spicy hot chocolate. Savory dishes like mole sauce, feature chocolate and chili as key ingredients.
10. Apple and Cheddar
Many already know that the sweetness of apples works well with the sharpness of good ol’ cheddar cheese. This is a pairing that brings warmth and comfort.
Apples are a fall staple and their natural sweetness is easily complemented by the robust, sharp notes of cheddar cheese.
Ways to Enjoy: To celebrate this cozy pairing, consider crafting apple and cheddar grilled sandwiches. Layer thin apple slices and cheddar cheese between slices of bread and grill until golden and gooey. Another delightful option is to create autumn-inspired salads with apple slices, shredded cheddar, mixed greens, candied pecans, and a drizzle of vinaigrette. Or how about a homemade cheddar apple pie?!
From the unlikely marriage of chocolate and bacon to the refreshing contrasts of mango and tajin, we’ve explored the joy of discovering flavors that dance together in perfect harmony. This proves that when it comes to food, there are no limits to exploration.
I encourage you to be adventurous. Don’t hesitate to try out new combinations, experiment with unexpected ingredients and let your creativity guide you along the way. You might just stumble upon your own unique pairings that become your go-to favorites.
Have you ever discovered an unexpected food pairing that surprised and delighted you? I’d love to hear about it! Share your favorite unexpected food pairings in the comments below.