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How To Balance Flavor

Apr 15, 2020

Flavor balancing is the key to creative problem-solving in the kitchen. Too generous with the salt? Balance it out with something bitter. Add too much heat? Neutralize it with something sour. Keep reading for our ultimate flavor balancing guide.

Salt

What: Salt is a universal flavor booster. It enhances sweetness but balances out bitterness.

Where to find it: In addition to kosher or sea salt, try the following flavor boosters – hard cheese, pickled vegetables, miso, olives, soy sauce or liquid aminos, seaweed, and fish sauce.

Quick tip: Add olives or cheese to pasta dishes with bitter greens. Start with our Mediterranean Pasta with Tuna & Greens.

Acid

What: Acidity adds sourness, and balances spice and sweetness. It also enhances saltiness.

Where to find it: Citrus is a simple go-to, but you can also add acidity with sherry, red wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, balsamic and apple cider vinegar. Greek yogurt, sour cream, pickled vegetables, and tomatoes can also add a nice bite to your dishes.

Quick tip: Add some zest and flavor to your Grain Bowls with onions pickled in apple cider vinegar.

Sweet

What: Sweetness isn't just for desserts. It balances out sour, bitter and spice while enhancing saltiness.

Where to find it: Try sweeteners like sugar, stevia, maple syrup, agave, honey, and jam. Balsamic, apple cider vinegar, ketchup, BBQ sauce, carrots, corn, sweet potatoes, fennel, peas, beets, and squash can also add an unexpected sweetness to traditionally savory dishes.

Quick tip: Try a Sweet & Savory Vegetable Bake with squash, tomatoes, onions, and fontina cheese.

Bitter

What: Bitterness can get a bad rap, but bitter greens are often full of good-for-your-gut fiber, potent antioxidants, and magnesium. Sweet and salty flavors can mellow out their bite.

Where to find it: Bitter greens like dandelion greens, cabbage, kale, broccoli, arugula, spinach, and mustard greens. Or, add coffee, cacao, grapefruit juice, or beer to cut excess sweetness or saltiness.

Quick tip: Try our Swiss Chard Pasta with Garlic Breadcrumbs with a generous portion of parmesan or pecorino cheese to balance out the bitter greens.

Spice

What: Spicy flavors add heat to dishes and balances out sweetness.

Where to find it: Beyond hot sauce, try other condiments like wasabi, horseradish, dijon mustard, or harissa. Jalapeños, arugula, radishes, and habaneros are also great ways to add spice and freshness to any dish.

Quick tip: Add some heat to your Lamb Meatballs with harissa or a side salad of arugula, radishes, lemon and EVOO.

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