Can You Complete These Common Food Pairings?

Ian Fortey

Image: Pixabay by Mccartyv

About This Quiz

They say that variety is the spice of life, but sometimes a variety of spices can do a lot for your life as well. Not to mention a variety of fruits, meats, beverages or delicious and totally unhealthy desserts! The whole culinary world is great on its own but so much better when you branch out and add a little of this to a little of that and make something even better. That's the fun of food pairings—taking one ordinary thing and elevating it to something a little extraordinary that's tasty and enticing in a whole new way.

No doubt you have more than your fair share of favorite pairings in the world of deliciousness. It's those foods that are OK on their own but when you mix them together become so good, so perfect, that they satisfy your craving like nothing else. But your favorites are probably just one or two dishes, right? (Or maybe even a few more than that!) How many do you think you could identify in a pinch, though? Think you can pick over our list of food pairings here and get them all? There are literally hundreds to choose from, so let's see how many you can get!

Fried chicken may be the most perfect form of chicken ever. What should you have with it?

Chicken and waffles are by no means international cuisines; they're most famously paired in the American South, but they've also had some history with the Pennsylvania Dutch. If you like soul food, though, then you really need to try some chicken and waffles from a soul food restaurant.

This may not be super common in America yet, but in Europe, you can find people eating this with their French fries every often.

French fries and mayonnaise are a pretty common pairing in many parts of the world. It may sound strange to you, but it's very likely that everyone in the world has some strange food customs to others—even fry customs! In America, you may eat them with ketchup, but you can find them with gravy and cheese in Canada and with malt vinegar in the U.K.

What kind of sauce absolutely belongs on your falafel? Or at least on the side, if nothing else?

Tahini is a pretty tasty condiment made from sesame, and it's pretty common in Middle Eastern foods. Sesame has been eaten for thousands of years, but the first mention of tahini specifically dates all the way back to the 13th century.

You just filled a big ol' bowl with tortilla chips, so what are you going to have on the side?

Chips and salsa are a classic combination and, if we're being honest, one of the most delicious snacks ever. The best part about salsa is that it's not just one thing: You can enjoy all kinds like salsa verde, which is made from tomatillos, salsa roja, which is the common red salsa most of us know or pico de gallo, which is made with fresh, raw ingredients.

There are lots of great flavor combinations in Italian cuisine, but if you want to really complement some tomato, you should put it with what else?

Tomato and basil are a classic flavoring pairing in Italian cuisine. You can buy dried basil, but if you're serious about enjoying it in your food, then you want to eat it fresh, added at the very end of cooking so that the heat doesn't destroy the flavor.

You can make ramen with just some stale noodles and boiling water, or you can fancy it up the right way. What's a key ingredient that belongs with it?

Ramen served with a poached egg is a classic preparation. While most college kids are familiar with simple instant ramen noodles, restaurants tend to put more effort into making it. And it makes sense, considering they've been making ramen in Japan since the 1600s.

You've got yourself a big pot full of baked beans, and it's only missing one thing to make it a classic pair. What's that one thing?

Franks and beans, sometimes call beans and wieners—or, if you're feeling especially saucy, "Beanie Weenies"—is a dish you will probably not find at many restaurants in the world but is an old-school, comfort-food staple. If you like the dish, mark July 13 on your calendar, since it's National Beans N' Franks Day.

Everyone likes shrimp, right? Well, even if you don't, you probably know what it goes well with, don't you?

Shrimp and grits is a Southern classic that you can find in Georgia, South Carolina and more places down the coast. The recipe for grits is a pretty old one, dating back to the 16th century and the Muscogee tribe who used to live around what is now Tennessee.

You could eat a hamburger with no sides, but why would you? What belongs next to any proper burger?

A burger and fries are pretty much an American classic, and you can find them paired up all over the world now. Back in 1940, the only things you could order to eat on the original McDonald's menu were a burger, a cheeseburger and fries.

Tell us what you want to have alongside your chocolate chip cookies to make the perfect pair.

Milk and cookies are about as old as cookies, probably. So how old are cookies, exactly? There's evidence of cookies as far back in time as the 7th century, around the time that sugar became an ingredient people could actually make use of. In terms of cold milk and cookies, well, that dates back to the invention of refrigeration.

Chocolate is great all by itself, but you can make it better if you know how to pair it. Do you?

Thank Harry Burnett Reese for the modern love of peanut butter and chocolate, which seem like they were made for each other. Reese is the man behind the famous peanut butter cup, which he was inspired to make after he started working for Hershey back in 1971.

On a cold day, nothing hits the spot like a grilled cheese sandwich and this perfect pairing.

Tomato soup belongs to the side of a good grilled cheese sandwich. The pair dates back ages; both are relatively inexpensive, so they made a decent lunchtime pairing, and as everyone who's ever had a pizza knows, you can never go wrong with cheese and tomato.

Say you have some peanut butter handy, but there's no chocolate as far as the eye can see. What other pairing goes great in this scenario?

It's peanut butter jelly time! Peanut butter jelly time! And so on. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are childhood staples for many people, and if not for peanut butter's invention back in the late 1800s, who knows what we would have grown up eating?

Are you hungry for some breakfast? The eggs are already cooking, but what needs to go with them?

Not a lot of breakfasts are as iconic as bacon and eggs, and their history is a little unexpected. According to legend, bacon and eggs were introduced to bacon PR man Edward Bernays by Sigmund Freud. Bernays went on to convince America that they all needed to be eating it.

There are 1,001 ways to prepare your macaroni, but this one simple ingredient matches up better than anything.

Mac and cheese are high up in the ranks of comfort foods, possibly even the most popular of them all. It's said that mac and cheese can trace its roots to Thomas Jefferson, who brought a pasta maker back from Italy and created a classic in the process.

When you want to season your food, you probably reach for the salt. But if you want to complete the pair, you'll want to shake on this as well.

Salt and pepper are probably the most common seasonings in the world—go to nearly any restaurant and they're the only two right there on the table. Why those two? Well, salt has been boosting flavor since at least 450 B.C. Pepper, on the other hand, has been around for nearly 4,000 years.

It's never a bad time for a sandwich, right? Of course not. Now, if you have some ham, what would that pair with perfectly?

Ham and cheese have long been a classic pairing. How popular are they? Back in 1894, if you wanted to have a snack while watching a ball game, you weren't buying a hot dog. The only food sold at New York ballparks at the time was ham and cheese sandwiches.

Lots of people like a cup of coffee to start their day, but they might also pair it with this treat. Do you know what it is?

Coffee and donuts have been a breakfast staple for a long time, probably because they're both pretty simple and fast, which is exactly what you want in the morning. According to research, over 40% of all breakfasts in America include coffee.

People eat rice all over the world, and if you want to give it a little boost, pair it with this for a perfect meal.

Rice and beans is a perfect meal for any number of reasons. It can be high energy and high protein, it's vegetarian and the ingredients are cheap and plentiful. There are numerous dishes in Latin American, African and even Asian cuisine that are, at their core, just rice and beans.

Sugar is great for sweetening any dish, but if you want a classic combo, you need to add this spice.

Cinnamon and sugar perfectly complement each other in all kinds of dishes. The flavor of cinnamon and the sweetness of sugar combine to make all manner of desserts pop. Cinnamon by itself has been flavoring foods since at least 4,000 years ago.

Vanilla ice cream is a great canvas for adding all kinds of flavors. Add it to this and make one of the greatest drinks ever!

Mix root beer and vanilla ice cream to make a classic root beer float. This treat was invented back in 1893 by Frank Wisner. The story goes that Wisner was inspired by the snowy peaks of the Rockies to top his root beer with a scoop of ice cream. Is it true? Eh, who knows, but it tastes good

What trip to the U.K. would be complete without a trip to one of their famous shops that sell fish and this perfect pairing?

Fish and chips are maybe the most iconic food in England, and it's a pretty popular combo on this side of the ocean as well. No one is 100% sure who the innovator was that first paired these two items, but they were being sold in and around London as far back as the 1860s.

Sweet and spicy go hand in hand in all kinds of cuisine, which is why mango pairs so well with this. What is it?

Mango and chili have an uncanny knack for playing well off of each other. Mangoes originally came from Southeast Asia and India; they were taken to Brazil as far back as 1700 and made their way to Mexico by the 19th century. In 1860, the mango became an American!

Few food combos are as simple and classic as this one. You need bread to start, and then what do you add to it?

Bread and butter is so basic and simple, it seems like a no-brainer. How long have they been paired up? Well, there's a 4,500-year-old limestone tablet with a recipe for butter on it, so it's safe to say it's very old.

If you want to talk about two things that belong together, you might say they're like peas and this food.

There's probably no way of knowing when peas and carrots first met each other on a plate or why anyone thought they bonded better than other vegetables, but it happened. Is it the contrast in colors or textures? Hard to say, but they've been cultivated for thousands of years.

If you're going to eat some sausage, then you should probably pair it up with this!

Sausage and sauerkraut is a very popular combination in Germany and in any place that has a German influence over its cuisine. Sauerkraut itself is just fermented cabbage, and it wasn't even invented by the Germans; there's evidence it dates back to the construction of the Great Wall in China.

Spaghetti is a nearly perfect food. Of course, if you want it totally perfect, then you should pair it with this!

Spaghetti and meatballs are an Italian classic, which is ironic since it's not actually Italian. Though Italy does have both spaghetti and meatballs, they don't typically go together. That said, Italian immigrants in America in the late 1800s gave this dish its start.

This pair is so perfect that Starbucks brings it back every year. The first half is pumpkin—what's the other?

Cinnamon and pumpkin is the core of pumpkin spice, which has become one of the most popular flavors for everything in recent years. How popular is pumpkin spice? You can literally buy pumpkin spice kitty litter.

It's breakfast, so you should pour yourself a bowl of cereal. Once that's done, what goes on it?

Milk and cereal is one of those dishes that you almost don't even think about. Milk has been around for thousands of years, but cereal is actually a relatively new food in the grand scheme of things. Thank John Harvey Kellogg for inventing what we recognize as cereal back in the 1880s.

When you're looking for something tropical and delicious, you could start with coconut and then add this!

Lime and coconut are very complimentary flavors in both food and in drinks. Just how popular is this match up? Ask Harry Nilsson, the man who wrote the song "Coconut" that features the memorable lyrics "you put the lime in the coconut / you drink 'em both up."

It's hard to pair anything poorly with chocolate, but this mix may be one of the most refreshing. What is it?

Mint chocolate is so popular as a pairing it actually has its own day. February 19 is Mint Chocolate Day, according to the U.S. National Confectioners Association. Makes you wonder what other candy flavors have their own days.

Not everyone is down for a hot dog, but if you are, then you know this is its most iconic topping.

A hot dog with mustard is—to some folks, at least—the perfect food. You can get this at street vendors in cities all across America. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, which is a thing, estimates Americans eat 20 billion hot dogs a year.

A pancake is so flat and plain on its own. What belongs on it?

Pancakes and maple syrup as a breakfast combo are nearly perfect. Maple syrup has been produced in North America by native tribes for hundreds of years—it was here before the first European settlers even arrived.

If you like biscuits but feel like they're too dry, then you need to pair them with this!

Biscuits and gravy is one of the most famous breakfast dishes in the American South, and you can trace its roots all the way back to around the time of the Revolutionary War. Both parts of the meal were cheap and easy to make while providing a meal that had some bulk to it.

Bagels are pretty tasty, but have you ever had one with this classic pairing?

Bagels and lox are actually not as simple as the name implies. The lox, which is thinly sliced, cured salmon, is just one part of a proper bagel and lox sandwich. You also need cream cheese, onions and capers.

Ham needs something to cut through all that salt and fat, and this is the perfect thing. What is it?

Ham and pineapple are so good together they meet up on their very own kind of pizza—Hawaiian. The two flavors do show up a lot in Hawaiian cuisine, and the sharp acidity of the pineapple perfectly contrasts the salty, fatty ham.

Salt can go with almost any food, yet this one has become immensely popular. What is it?

Salted caramel has become a pretty popular flavor in the last few years. The recipe is a pretty simple one: You just produce caramel the way you normally would and then sprinkle a bit of salt in. It's just that easy.

If something is traditional, you might call it as American as apple pie. But if you want the full apple-pie experience, pair it with this.

You could argue there's nothing special about apple pie and ice cream, and that ice cream maybe goes with any dessert, but that's missing the bigger picture. Hot apple pie paired with a cold scoop of ice cream is a nearly perfect contrast in both flavor, texture and temperature.

There are hundreds of kinds of cheese out there, and nearly all of them pair perfectly with these.

Cheese and crackers is both simple and pretty fulfilling. Restaurants around the country had cheese and crackers as a menu staple as far back as the 1850s. Why so popular? Probably because it was a simple, cheap food that everyone has had at some point.

Horseradish is one of those greatly underappreciated condiments, but it pairs perfectly with this food.

Roast beef and horseradish is one of those dishes you don't see in a ton of places these days, though you can still get a decent roast-beef sandwich with horseradish now and then. In the U.K., it's a traditional accompaniment to a Sunday roast dinner.

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