What is a Savory Food?

What Is A Savory Food
Photo by Louis Hansel

Humans like different flavors in food. So we have five primary tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami) that the human tongue can detect. So then, what is a savory food?

In short, savory food is something full of flavor, delicious and tasty, sometimes used generically to mean the opposite of sweet or salty. Savory food can have a salty or spicy flavor rather than sweet.

However, some sweet dishes include savory ingredients, and the most flavorful savory dishes may have a hint of sweetness to balance out other flavors.

Savory and sweet are often considered opposite ends of the taste spectrum, but there can be a lot of overlap.

What is a Savory Food?

Savory foods primarily capture umami flavors. Umami, which is the Japanese term for “essence of deliciousness,” is a flavor found in fish, mushrooms, cheese, soy sauce, and many other foods.

The primary underlying role of this flavoring is to help people ensure they are getting enough protein for organ growth and maintenance.

Although most modern humans with access to adequate food don’t have to worry about it, this benefit greatly helped our ancestors thrive.

Meat, for example, is normally a savory food; vegetables, in general, are also savory. Snacks, finger foods, and hors d’oeuvres are also often savory.

Foods prepared with a minimum amount of sugar and without emphasizing the sweet taste are considered savory. Additionally, the aromatic plant called savory can also be used to flavor meats and meat sauces.

Savory foods get their flavor from the presence of an amino acid called glutamic acid. This acid is found naturally in many foods considered savory.

However, MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a budget-friendly additive that is sometimes incorporated into foods to give them a more umami flavor.

What is Sweet Food?

Sweet foods are often described as opposed to savory foods. This is because sweets are thought to reach the opposite end of the taste spectrum of salty and umami tastes, which are associated with the salty taste.

Sweet foods give the body quick sources of energy, which was important when people needed to hunt and gather food.

However, many different foods today contain unhealthy amounts of sugar, so it’s best to eat sweets in moderation.

Savory Foods With Sweetness

Although savory foods are generally not sweet, some popular dishes contain small amounts of sugar that mix well and add overall depth.

Bacon is a great example; chefs often balance strong savory and salty flavors with sweet honey and maple glazes.

It also happens during the process of frying the outside of the steak or when caramelizing the onions. In both cases, savory foods benefit from a hint of sweetness.

Another example is the nut, which is a bridge between savory and sweet. They can be toasted with butter or coated in sugar and used in sweet dishes like cookies or brownies.

They can also be roasted along with salt and garlic and eaten plain, lightly toasted for a savory sauce, or added to an Asian stir-fry.

Sweet and savory flavors are often together in the same dish. The pork roast can have glazed applesauce. Asian dishes often have sweet sauces but are also seasoned with garlic and onions.

Glazed carrots combine sweet and savory flavors like sweet corn cooked with salt and pepper. Sweet pineapple is a popular topping, along with ham, for pizza with a Hawaiian twist.

It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between sweet and savory. Both work together and separately, allowing chefs to give food maximum flavor and appeal.

Examples of Savory Foods

Savory foods come in all different shapes and sizes, some contain meat, and some are plant-based, making them suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Here are some examples of what is a savory food.

1. Popcorn

Popcorn is one of the most popular savory snack options. It is a healthy alternative to snacks unless you opt for buttered popcorn at the movies, which is loaded with saturated fat.

If you want a healthier popcorn option, you should choose air-popped popcorn that doesn’t have the added fat and calories you can find in prepackaged popcorn. Homemade popcorn also allows you to create your own flavor profile.

You can season with sea salt and olive oil to give it an extra savory taste without adding anything unhealthy. You can cook your own popcorn on the stove, in the microwave, or in an automatic pressure cooker if you have one.

2. Hamburger

Hamburgers and cheeseburgers are alike to American cuisine. A beef patty sandwiched between a soft hamburger bun topped with onions, pickles, and tomatoes will make your mouth water.

The burgers satisfy the craving for umami and salty taste on the human tongue and are rich in glutamate, which meets the demands of a savory meal.

If you want to make a healthier burger, you can opt for a veggie or chicken burger on a whole grain bun.

3. Pizza

Originally Italian, pizza is made from the best ingredients with fresh cheese, basil, and tomato without many extras.

However, since pizza became popular in the United States, it has become much more savory than its Italian predecessor. Now pizza often contains a lot of extra salt and pepper.

It is a popular option to put garlic, salt, and chili oil on the pizza to give it some extra flavor. Many people choose to add savory toppings like anchovies or pepperoni to their already delicious pizza.

4. Chips

Chips are crispy snacks made with corn, potatoes, or vegetables and used for dipping in other savory foods such as hot salsa or queso.

Spinach artichoke dip: Made with sour cream, mayonnaise, cream cheese, artichokes, and spinach, it is a wonderful side dish for someone who wants to enjoy something creamy and savory with their fries.

5. Dried Meat

Bites of dried meat snacks, such as beef jerky and pepperoni, add a wonderful salty and umami flavor. Dried meats are a great option to take with you when traveling or doing outdoor activities like hiking. Charcuterie is another good option for snaking, although it must be kept cold, unlike dry meats like jerky.

6. Mac And Cheese

Mac and cheese are one of the most popular children’s dishes in the market. Pasta and Cheese — What’s Not to Love?

You can add a touch of savory with breadcrumbs. The savory cheese is what gives the mac and cheese its delicious, unique flavor.

You can make macaroni and cheese at home using healthier ingredients like whole-grain pasta and low-fat cheese, or you can buy your favorite brands at the store.

Some of the most popular mac and cheese favorite brands include Annie’s, Amy’s, Kraft’s, and so on. You can choose the type of mac and cheese you want from these fav brands, be it white cheddar or vegan.

7. Quesadillas

Quesadillas is a Mexican dish you can find at Mexican restaurants, fast food chains like Chipotle, or even make your own at home.

They are usually made of a flour tortilla which is often filled with beans, cheese, and sometimes vegetables or meat. They are richly seasoned and, therefore, very tasty. Quesadillas are easy to make and go well with guacamole, salsa, or hot sauce.

8. Potato

Potatoes are the main ingredient in many savory dishes such as fries, baked potatoes, and many more, especially if you add salt, cheese, or bacon bits to the dish. It makes it more savory.

Garlic and Rosemary Baked Potatoes are another great food that’s savory, inexpensive, and easy to prepare. So many cultures around the world include potatoes in their diet.

9. Soup

There are so many types of soup. From chicken noodle soup to Italian wedding soup to tomato soup, there’s a soup for everyone.

Almost all soups are savory and full of flavor, making them the perfect meal on a cold winter’s day when you’re craving comfort food.

Some soups can be healthier than others, depending on how much red meat, cream, and salt you add to the dish. Clear broths soups are generally healthier because they use less cream.

Other soups, like pumpkin and squash soup, can be thicker but just as healthy yet are made with pureed vegetables to achieve that creamy texture.


There are so many savory dishes that we cannot list them all. Eating small amounts of sweet foods from time to time will make you more likely to appreciate savory foods at the other end of the flavor chain.

Rumor has it that the ancient Roman Empire is said to have brought the savory spice to England, where it quickly became popular for cooking and medicine.

Savory foods provide a wide range of nutrients and the essential fats and proteins we all need. Almost everyone can find that delicious savory food they will enjoy.

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