Skip to main content
Weird and Wonderful cravings revealed: The public’s weirdest food pairings and why we crave these flavour combinations

Weird and Wonderful cravings revealed: The public’s weirdest food pairings and why we crave these flavour combinations

Weird and Wonderful cravings revealed: The public’s weirdest food pairings and why we crave these flavour combinations

Viral TikTok food trends have been coming and going over the past year, from ‘girl dinner’ and ‘rat snacking’ to pairing cottage cheese with ice cream and hot dogs! These trends all have one thing in common – unusual food combinations.

Pinterest predicted ‘melty mash-ups’ to be one of the biggest food trends for 2024, further playing into the idea of creating unique flavour combinations as a new way of enjoying food.

We collected data from the public to find guilty pleasure food combos they loved, choosing 5 of the most interesting flavours to give expert insight into why they work so well together. Analysing over 250 flavour combinations from the public, allowed us to analyse what the foods have in common and why people crave them.

The flavours we chose were Milkshake and Fries, Mango and Chilli, Ice Cream and Olive Oil, Pickle and Chocolate and Feta and Watermelon.

The public vote on their weird and wonderful flavour combinations

Why Do We Crave These Flavours?

Sweet and Salty: Milkshake and Fries

We found that people crave a lot of unusual combinations, but many have the same thing in common. The foods include different flavours which our bodies often crave, for example, the combination of sweet and salty foods with milkshake and french fries. These flavours work well together as salt is a flavour enhancer [1] which can create an even more positive response to tastes.

Foods with high sugar and fat content not only taste good but can also be linked to making us feel good too, with studies finding there may be a link between eating these foods and brain chemicals such as serotonin which give us feelings of pleasure [2].

Cravings for fatty foods, such as french fries, can indicate a dopamine deficiency [3]. Dopamine plays a vital role in how we feel, including motivation, mood, memory and attention. We often have cravings for fatty and salty food when we are feeling low in mood or stressed. Many people crave their favourite foods as a way of feeling comfort, commonly craving high-fat, sugar, or salty options.

Though we champion the idea of intuitive eating and listening to your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues, indulging in these comfort foods too often can lead to unhealthy eating habits which can be detrimental to your health.

Spicy and Sweet: Chilli and Mango

Chilli combined with mango creates a sweet and spicy flavour combination, a common craving for many people. Our bodies process spice through our taste buds, however, as it does this, the capsaicin in the chilli binds to the taste buds giving the burning sensation we feel with spicy food. Sweetness in foods such as mango works well to balance this spicy flavour and dilute the pain.

Sweet and spicy food combinations such as chilli and chocolate or sweet chilli sauce, are known favourites in this category. Both combine the different flavours to create a positive sensory experience.

Mixing sweet and spicy elements together is an art, being sure not to make it too sweet so that the spiciness is dulled and not making it too spicy that the sweetness doesn’t come through.
Acidic and Sweet: Pickle and Chocolate

Pickles contain a high sodium content due to the brine used to preserve them, this gives them the moreish taste many can’t resist. Love them or hate them, the distinct salty and acidic vinegar flavour of pickles is known to be paired with an array of savoury meals. From burgers and fried chicken to cheeseboards, they tick the box when you’re looking to add a new flavour profile to your meals.

The sodium in pickles is an important electrolyte which helps to keep your body hydrated. So when you’re craving something salty like a pickle, it could be due to your body needing a hydration boost.

Loved by everyone as an indulgent sweet treat, chocolate isn’t the first thing we think to pair with pickles. Pairing acidic pickles with rich chocolate creates a surprising but interesting mix of flavours. The sweet and
creaminess of chocolate can soften the sharpness of the pickle and create a delicious sweet and savoury snack.

Acidic and Sweet: Olive Oil and Ice Cream

Olive oil on ice cream marries together a sweet and creamy flavour with a hint of acidic, peppery bitterness. The use of olive oil and ice cream as a dessert is an indulgent choice, bringing together different flavours and textures not often used together.

Packed full of heart-healthy benefits, olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, and antioxidants, and has anti-inflammatory properties [4], meaning it can not only act as a great flavour choice but have added benefits too. Giving this unique combination of both pleasure and potential health benefits.

Tangy and Fresh: Feta and Watermelon

The sweet freshness of watermelon paired with the tart saltiness of feta works together as an unlikely duo. The coolness of the refreshing watermelon amplifies the tangy taste of feta, both ingredients enhancing the taste of the other.

The saltiness of feta enhances the watermelon’s natural flavours and taps the primal sugar and salt cravings. Throughout history we have relied on sugar as a source of energy and salt for survival, helping the body to function.

Watermelon is nutrient-dense, as well as containing antioxidants that include vitamins A and C [5] which are essential for keeping us fit and healthy. The fruit is also known for its hydrating properties which makes it the perfect pairing for a more salty taste like feta.

Ranked: The Publics Most Loved Flavour Combinations

  1. Milkshake and Fries
  2. Cheese and Jam Sandwiches
  3. Strawberry Jam and Peanut Butter
  4. Chocolate and Crisps
  5. Pickles and Peanut Butter

Data revealed the 5 most loved flavour combinations were milkshake and fries, cheese and jam sandwiches, strawberry jam and peanut butter and pickles and peanut butter. These combinations all have the same things in common: they are an amalgamation of different taste sensations, including sweet and salty, and acidic and sweet.

Ranked: The 10 Most Common Foods In Weird Flavour Combinations

  1. Cheese
  2. Peanut Butter
  3. Jam
  4. Chocolate
  5. Bacon
  6. Marmite
  7. Ice cream
  8. Banana
  9. Fries
  10. Dark Chocolate

Cheese is the most common food in weird flavour combinations

The study found that cheese was the most craved flavour combination, with many people adding it to their weird and wonderful snack choices. Some of these cravings included pairing the much-loved dairy snack with jam, Nutella, marmite, kimchi and cherries.

The high number of people craving cheese is interesting as often the body seeks specific foods it may be missing, in this case craving cheese may signal a fatty acid deficiency such as a lack of omega-3.

People crave salty additions to their favourite foods

The data shows that the majority of people crave a salty element to their weird and wonderful food combinations. Some of the most common are bacon and french fries, as well as many people opting for a “salted” version of their favourite snacks.

Although many people look to reduce their salt intake, this craving for saltier foods may be telling you something. As studies find a sodium craving can mean your body is dehydrated, this can happen if you sweat a lot or if you don’t get enough fluids, leading to sodium levels becoming too low.



Data was collected from Instagram comments here.