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Chocolate and chilli, caramel and salt, even just pineapple on cheese pizza – these once-unusual food pairings have now become mainstays of restaurant menus, and chefs continue to push the boundaries of what can appear together on our plates.


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Some chefs, including Heston Blumenthal have discovered unexpected flavour combinations by studying the chemical compounds of individual ingredients (known as molecular gastronomy), and then pairing those that resemble one another, whereas others have discovered unique dishes by simply trying and testing. If it’s time to shake up your menu, here are some of our favourite extraordinary flavour pairings that are sure to surprise your customers.

Beetroot & Egg

Favoured by Australians as a burger topping, beetroot and egg make a versatile food pairing that you could use in salads, brunch dishes and more. You could use pickled or fresh beetroot; both will offer an entirely different flavour experience.

Orange & Olive

For a light appetiser with a twist, offer your guests olives marinated in olive oil and freshly squeezed orange juice. The salty, citrusy olives also add an extra level of flavour to a classic martini too.

Watermelon & Tomato

Whether as a watermelon gazpacho, a summery salad or even a grilled fruit-and-vegetable skewer, the light, juicy flavours of watermelon and tomato make for a refreshing combination that you’ll want to feature on your menu all year-round. Add a sprinkling of feta cheese for salty-sweet perfection.

Vanilla & Cardamom

Dazzle your guests with the tropical-tasting combination of vanilla and aromatic cardamom that offers a more exotic alternative to cinnamon. Just a light dusting on vanilla ice cream will add a citrusy, spicy flavour, or you could add it to milkshakes, cakes and sweet fruit-filled pastries.

Apricot & Basil

Sweet, juicy apricot and peppery basil is a delicious food match that brings a depth of flavour to fruit puddings, especially tarts, pastries and muffins, but also transfers very well to savoury dishes like a quinoa and pistachio salad.

Dark Chocolate & Parmesan

Not only is dark chocolate and parmesan a food combination that’s been scientifically proven to work, but it lends itself to both sweet and savoury dishes so offers plenty of potential for experimentation. The deep flavour of the dark chocolate brings out fruity notes in the cheese; try parmesan shavings on a dark chocolate pudding, or even adding dark chocolate to a parmesan Panini. Your guests may need some convincing, but they’re in for a very pleasant surprise.

Coca-Cola & Pork

Unsurprisingly, the indulgent combination of pork ribs or loins cooked with Coca-Cola is a transatlantic favourite. The sweetness of the Coca-Cola adds a caramel flavour to the meat, as well as extra stickiness when teamed with barbecue sauce. It’s the perfect way to make your restaurant’s barbecue ribs stand out from the crowd.

Chocolate & Avocado

Technically, avocado is a fruit, which makes its pairing with sweet chocolate much less peculiar to most people. Avocado and chocolate puddings and milkshakes are dairy-free desserts often enjoyed by vegans, but even carnivorous customers will enjoy their smooth, light texture, plus you can remind them that they provide one of their five-a-day too.

Jalapeno & Strawberry

Admittedly one of the more bizarre combinations on this list, hot jalapenos and sweet strawberries go hand-in-hand in the form of salsas, jams, and even margaritas. Just be sure to use more strawberry than jalapeno!

Apricot & Mushroom

The fresh sweetness of apricots is a great balance for the earthy flavours of mushroom, which is why it works so well in Chinese-inspired stir-fries and rice dishes, as well as with lamb, chicken or bacon. Try adding chopped apricot to vegetable rice, or making an apricot and mushroom sauce to drizzle over a roast.

Chocolate & Onion

This food pairing will either tantalise your customers or turn their stomachs, but chocolate and onion really can work well together! You can add caramelised onions to the batter of chocolate cake, drizzle melted chocolate onto battered onion, or even add dark chocolate to an onion gravy for an even richer flavour. This works well if you use unsweetened chocolate and sweet onions, so the sweet flavour is coming from an unexpected source.


Lockhart Catering on 20 November 2014 10:01 AM

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