10 Quirky Food Pairings to Try ASAP, According to The Kitchn Editors

published Nov 22, 2023
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What’s better than eating your favorite food? Combining it with your other favorite food, of course. At The Kitchn, we’re no strangers to fun food mash-ups, like gooey pizza grilled cheese, taco-style spaghetti and brownies topped with pecan pie. You won’t find us shying away from unexpected food combinations. 

In fact, once The Kitchn editors started sharing our favorite food pairings, we found that the combos we reach for at home are rarely what you’d expect. Here are some of the quirkiest — and most delicious — food pairings we love at The Kitchn. 

1. Sharp Cheddar and Peanut Butter

I’ve paired peanut butter with a lot of flavors, but had yet to try our Associate Food Editor, Cory’s, favorite combo: sharp cheddar cheese and peanut butter on a cracker. He says, “Trust me — the salty sharp cheddar goes so well with the slightly sweet nutty flavor, and the cracker adds crunch.” He recommends you try this combo on Wheat Thins or Triscuits.

2. Steamed Broccoli and Mayonnaise

Kids in the late ’80s and early ’90s were rarely served crispy roasted vegetables — at least in my house. We had only two choices: boiled or steamed. The way my mom mellowed the strong flavor of limp broccoli was with a dollop of mayonnaise. The creamy condiment acts as a shortcut salad dressing of sorts, and to this day I rarely serve broccoli without it. 

3. Popcorn and Cream Cheese

Our Cleaning and Organizing Editor, Quinn, dips popcorn into cream cheese. According to Quinn, “It’s a little salty-sweet-creamy-rich snack that’s a lot more filling than a plain ‘ol bowl of the just-popped stuff.” How she keeps the popcorn kernels from crumbling in that block of creamy cheese is a mystery I can’t wait to solve.

4. Sushi and Coffee

When our Recipe Director, Lauren, let slip that Apartment Therapy Media’s social media manager, Andrea Kaufman, pairs sushi and coffee, I lit up her DMs immediately. She told me that she’ll often pick up sushi for lunch (her faves are spicy tuna or spicy salmon maki) and grab a coffee while she’s out. She ends up having them together for lunch often enough that it no longer feels unusual. Luckily before I had a chance to try this combo, she clarified the following: “I do not use the coffee in place of soy sauce when eating sushi.” Crisis averted.

5. Parmesan and Dark Chocolate Cookies

Ten-year-old me would never believe what I’m about to say, and that is that some desserts are just too sweet. To combat the one-note song of some sweets, Rachel, one of our culinary producers, swears by including both Parmesan cheese and dark chocolate in some baked goods. Her go-tos? “Chopped or rolled up — like a pinwheel — in cookies.”

6. Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cake

The combination of peanut butter and chocolate isn’t unusual per se, but it’s how our Senior Lifestyle Editor, Mara, puts the two together that is unique. Creamy peanut butter is her desert island food; her favorite is Trader Joe’s (although our taste test revealed a different top peanut butter brand). She’ll spread it onto slices of chocolate layer cake as if it were sandwich bread to cut through the richness of the chocolate, or just alternate bites of cake with spoonfuls.

7. Potato Chips and Tuna Salad

Don’t be shocked if you see our Senior Food Editor, Kristina, using potato chips to scoop up tuna salad instead of a more customary dip. “Tuna salad is essentially a creamy dip,” she explains. “Whenever we have extras left over or if my husband and I are just too lazy to make a sandwich to begin with, we just grab some potato chips and go to town.” 

8. Chex Mix in Cereal Treats

We love the crunch and marshmallow-y goo of a classic Rice Krispies treat. Things get really interesting when you start swapping the crackling rice cereal with something unexpected. Our Recipe Director, Lauren, makes the stovetop sweet with Chex Mix. “The gooey sweetness contrasts with the crunchiness of the Chex Mix,” she says. “The way the melted mallow also finds its way into the nooks and crannies of all the pieces is amazing.”

9. Brie and Chili Crisp

I knew that our Culinary Producer James would have an unexpected chili crisp pairing (after all, he literally wrote the book on chili crisp). He loves the juxtaposition of chili crisp and dairy, and the tangy flavor of Brie cheese is the ultimate pairing. Serving that creamy, tangy French cheese with spicy, savory chili crisp is one of his favorite combos. So if you’ve been serving the same baked Brie as a holiday appetizer for years, it’s time to reach for James’ crunchy chili condiment instead.   

10. Oreos and Cheez-Its

Sweet and salty snack mixes have a little something for everyone. Culinary Producer Rachel dressed up store-bought cookie dough with salty, savory Cheez-Its and chocolatey Oreo cookies, and found that the pairing actually works! Today, you’re likely to find her munching on those same flavors together in a snack bowl. That reminded me that sometimes cookies are the best partner for cheese.

What’s your quirkiest food pairing? Tell us about it in the comments below!