Shutterstock / Janice Mattheis Shutterstock / Janice Mattheis
The mere thought of combining certain ingredients might be enough to make you lose your appetite. Beef stew and ice cream? Um, no thanks. Some duos remind me of being a kid and combining pantry ingredients into “potions.” Lately, though, restaurant chefs and Instagram influencers have been sampling wild food pairings—and touting the results as mind-blowingly good. (Psst: You might be pronouncing these food names wrong.)
Which of these trending pairs would you try?
Pasta and Cream Cheese
Weirdness level: 1/10
Sure, you’ve heard of pasta and mayonnaise (macaroni salad, anyone?), but slathering your favorite bagel spread on a steamy plate of penne sounds, well, gross. But trust us, it’s good. Cream cheese will create a creamy Alfredo-like sauce when warm, and, after a couple hours in the fridge, it’ll mimic macaroni salad.
Another pasta partner? Cottage cheese! Cheaper than ricotta, it’s indistinguishable in a lasagna.
Cola and Chicken
Weirdness level: 2/10
The next time you’re cooking chicken, try adding cola. The acidity of the soda will help tenderize the meat and lock in the flavor. Some people saute their chicken in cola, but if you’re looking for lasting flavor, consider using the beverage as a marinade for boneless chicken.
Strawberries in a Caprese Salad
Weirdness level: 3/10
Super sweet strawberries don’t seem to belong in a savory salad like a Caprese. Au contraire! When strawberries are tossed with balsamic vinegar and basil leaves, their sweetness is actually heightened. Remember this idea when fresh tomatoes are out of season. (It’ll actually make bland winter strawberries taste more berry-ish.)
Our most popular dessert ever is another strange strawberry recipe, and it’s sometimes called a salad.
Eggs and Maple Syrup
Weirdness level: 4/10
You might find eggs and maple syrup on the same breakfast plate, although not prepared together. But that’s about to change. When combined with a runny yolk, maple syrup turns into a thick, complicated sauce—perfect with pancakes! Or if you prefer scrambled eggs, drizzle some syrup on top for a breakfast that’s sweet and savory.
Peanut Butter and Burger
Weirdness level: 5/10
Move over, jelly! It’s all about the peanut butter burger. Thousands of restaurants are serving up this strange pairing (including Shake Shack, with its legendary secret menu). It’s like a burger and a PB&J rolled into one. The super savoriness that results is reminiscent of a more-common topper: bacon.
Blueberries and Steak
Weirdness level: 6/10
What do you usually top your steak with? Probably something savory, right? (White sauce? Blue cheese? Surely not ketchup!) Try blueberries next time. This tart pairing is a Florentine specialty that will give your hearty filet a sweet, summery taste. You can either mash them on top or make a mouthwatering blueberry vinaigrette.
Salt and Watermelon
Weirdness level: 7/10
While salting a bowl of watermelon may not be your first instinct, it’s worth a try. Adding some salt will enhance the fruit’s flavors, and if you also mix in lemon juice, the slices will really shine. Sodium is an electrolyte, so this healthy snack is a smart way to recover after a grueling workout. (Much more natural than these surprisingly dehydrating drinks.)
Pickles and Ice Cream
Weirdness level: 8/10
Not only is this wacky combination the perfect mix of sweet and salty, it has some health benefits. The salt in pickles is vital for blood circulation and cellular metabolism, while the sugar and fat you find in a favorite ice cream will give you an energy boost. Eat them side by side, or dip your pickle into a bowl of vanilla ice cream—we’re not judging! Try making ice cream without a machine.
Cheetos and Milk
Weirdness level: 9/10
Discovered by Philippine food site Pepper, Cheetos and milk is the craziest combo of the summer. But don’t knock the viral trend just yet. Since Cheetos are made with corn—a core ingredient of most cereal—you’ll end up with a savory, cheesy take on the breakfast staple.
Coffee and Orange Juice
Weirdness level: 10/10
Ding ding ding! We have a winner. This is the absolute strangest combination we found. Orange juice and coffee might work side by side, but mixed together?
Here’s the theory: A couple of drops of OJ will take some of the bitterness out of coffee. Plus, it’s not as heavy as the milk or cream you usually pour into your cup of joe. (Some people stir in a spoonful of butter for the same reason!) Would you try it?
What can we say? Opposites attract, even in the food world!
For more anthropological fun, check out our investigation of the strange foods people eat when they’re alone.