Why Are Sweet And Salty Combinations So Delicious?
In limited terms, you think of a dish or dessert as being savory or sweet. This is an accurate way to describe most dishes, however, not all make you choose. The beloved mix of sweet and salty is one that many can’t exactly articulate why it’s so satisfying – it just is. However, there is actually some science behind this flavor combination that both culinary academy students and people who just love food will find interesting.
“All of your taste buds are able to taste each distinctive flavor.”
How your taste buds work
Old research used to state that each section of the tongue was good for tasting certain flavors. For example, we used to think that the bitter taste receptors were at the back of the tongue, sour and salty on the sides, and sweet on the tip. However, science has discovered that not only is there another taste – umami, which describes something savory – but that all of your taste buds are able to taste each distinctive flavor. Part of the reason the human body distinguishes between all of these flavors comes back to survival. According to How Stuff Works, we taste sweet so we give our body necessary carbohydrates and salt to provide us with sodium. We taste sour or bitter to warn us if something we’re ingesting could be dangerous. Humans haven’t always loved IPAs, after all!
According to Delish, each taste bud on your tongue contains between 50 and 100 taste cells that send a signal to the brain to let you know how what you’re eating tastes. However, not all taste cells react at all times. The SGL1 receptor on your sweet taste cells is a sugar receptor that only transports the sweet flavor when sodium is also present. This makes the flavors of sweetness and salt combined hit you more intensely, allowing you to really enjoy the dish that contains both. This is known as the flavor layer effect.
Sweet and salty combos to try
If this has sparked an urge to enjoy a sweet and salty dessert, you’re not alone! Here are a few options if you’re ready to run to the kitchen:
- Salted fudge brownies from Delish.
- Chocolate-covered bacon from Nat’s Adventures in Baking.
- Sweet and salty fig toast from Bon Appetit.