I would like to know how something will taste, before cooking and trying it. Is it possible? Sometimes ingredients are too expensive for experimenting.

  • 2
    Not sure whether it’s the kind of answer you are looking for, but experience can be an important factor: after a few decades of cooking and experimenting I have now reached a stage where I can read a recipe and know how it’s going to taste or how changing something will taste.
    – Stephie
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 15:28

3 Answers 3


You have two fairly different questions here: flavor pairing (what combinations taste good), and prediction of flavors.


Eat as diversely as possible. Try things with different ingredients and combinations of ingredients. It's best if it's something you've cooked, so you know exactly what goes into it, but even eating in restaurants helps, especially if you look carefully at menus and at what you're eating. Eventually you'll learn your personal preferences better, and develop intuition for what everything tastes like.

There's really no substitute for this in the end, because everyone has different preferences, so ingredients and combinations that taste good to you might not quite line up with what others like. And besides, it's not really possible to describe flavors meaningfully, so even if someone tells you "you'll love strawberry and vanilla together", you ultimately have to just learn the flavors to be able to predict how it'll taste to you.


Specifically on combinations, see this previous canonical question. The summary is that again, this can be pretty personal, but insofar as there are common preferences, it's difficult to generalize. Most useful resources end up being long lists of pairings you might like, just slightly more general than looking for recipes that contain one of the ingredients and seeing what else is in them.


This is a research topic, exactly studying what you asked. It's called food pairing, the theory behind foodpairing is that, the more common the flavor molecules of two ingredients are, they can be better combined.

Please note that, in average we're talking about 200+ volatile flavor molecules per ingredient.

  • 1
    My understanding is that this method can produce lists of ideas, but is not in general a good explanation of our preferences. Many things that seem very similar in their flavor compounds are disliked together, and many things that don't seem very similar turn out to be common, well-liked pairings.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 17:43
  • Also, "Foodpairing" is a trademarked term (from a company trying to sell pairings/data based on this approach), and the Wikipedia article you linked oddly claims that "food pairing" means the same thing, when in fact it is the general concept of pairing foods by any method, which long predates this company. (Overall, this makes the article read a bit like advertising, though I'm sure it wasn't your intent to advertise for this company.)
    – Cascabel
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 18:12
  • @Cascabel Appreciation of flavor is definitely something subjective. As you said right now the theory is in the level of recommendations. Early results show a correlation of people liking a specific combination and flavor molecules; (mostly checking the dominant compounds). A weighted approach is maybe necessary, but unfortunately such flavor databases are not really open publicly.
    – zetaprime
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 18:15
  • @Cascabel you're right I should have used "food pairing"; edited it.
    – zetaprime
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 18:16
  • Sorry if I was unclear - one of the points is that "food pairing" is the general concept of finding foods that people think go well together, and it is definitely not just this flavor compound idea, which is just a method of pairing that some people think is a good idea.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 18:23

I don't know of master list. You pretty much can't know how it will taste before cooking.

Follow recipes and develop a pallet.

If you would like to add something to a recipe next time you cook it pull a small amount to the side and add what you would like to try.

If it is a whole new recipe then just make a small amount.

Onion should not take over a dish unless it is the dish. Onion adds to many dishes but you need to adjust how much you used and how much you cook the onions.

Tomato is pretty powerful. I would not use it with light fish but some people do. I would not think the tomato and cucumber would work together but they do.

I use hot peppers with a lot of dishes including tomato sauce. But I would pretty much never use it with meat, fish, or poultry.

As you get along you can try some weird paring. At the high end you are expected to have some contrasting flavors. But this is more for high end cooks. On Master Chef the panel often says I don't know how they are going to make that work and it often does come out great.

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    Disagree with your second sentence. I definitely can and I suppose others can too.
    – Stephie
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 15:29
  • @Stephie Good for you I can't. If it a modification to an existed recipe and a component I am familiar with I have a good idea. I have tried to tone a dish down with potato and it totally did not work. I recently tried kale with a soup and had no idea if it would work. A totally new recipe I don't know until I cook it. Often with hot peppers I don't now how hot they will be after cooking. Even master chefs taste as they go and adjust.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 15:39
  • 1
    I think Stephie's point is that your second sentence is an exaggeration, not that it's easy to be perfect. It's not that you "pretty much can't know", it's that with enough experience you can have a pretty good idea in most cases, even if there are exceptions.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 17:49

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