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Sweet Meets Savory: The Chocolate Connection

Sweet Meets Savory: The Chocolate Connection

Auli Cinantya
21 July 2023


From rich cocoa-crusted beef to indulgent Mole sauce, discover the surprising harmony of chocolate and savory flavors.


Did you know that a sprinkle of salt can elevate your hot chocolate drink? Chocolate is a versatile ingredient renowned for its decadent use in desserts. However, many may not realize that chocolate also pairs exceptionally well with savory foods.

The intriguing combination of sweet and salty flavors in chocolate and savory dishes creates a complex and balanced taste experience. The natural sweetness of chocolate contrasts with the savory or salty flavors in a dish, enhancing the overall taste profile. Moreover, chocolate contains compounds like theobromine and phenylethylamine, which can heighten the umami or savory taste in certain dishes, amplifying the depth of flavors.

The use of chocolate in savory dishes is not a recent innovation; it has been a culinary tradition for years. To showcase this delightful combination, we have compiled a list of savory dishes that incorporate chocolate as a key ingredient:

Savory Chocolate Dishes

Beef Carbonade

Beef Carbonnade is a traditional Belgian dish with beef stewed with onions and beer. While the classic recipe doesn’t typically include chocolate or cacao, some modern variations or regional adaptations may incorporate a small amount of chocolate or cacao powder to add depth and richness to the dish.

Adding chocolate or cacao enhances the flavors of the beef stew by providing a subtle sweetness and a hint of bitterness that complements the savory and earthy notes from the onions and beer. Chocolate or cacao is usually used sparingly, and its presence may not be immediately noticeable, but it contributes to the overall complexity and depth of the flavor profile in the dish.

Chocolate-crusted Fish

Chocolate-crusted fish is a delectable dish that combines the richness of chocolate with savory fish flavors. This unique culinary creation, though unconventional, has gained popularity in Mexico, particularly in the coastal regions.

The dish often uses local fish varieties like red snapper, sea bass, or grouper. The idea of chocolate-crusted fish originated from the rich culinary traditions of Mexican cuisine. 

Cocoa-crusted Beef Tenderloin

It is said that the concept of combining cocoa with savory dishes, including beef, has roots in Latin American and Central American cuisines. Cocoa-crusted beef tenderloin is a unique and delightful dish that combines cocoa’s rich and intense flavors with the tender and succulent beef tenderloin. 

One of the key reasons why cocoa works so well with beef tenderloin is its natural ability to complement and enhance the meat’s inherent flavors. The slightly bitter and earthy notes of cocoa pair harmoniously with the richness and natural umami of the beef. The combination creates a delightful contrast of savory and slightly sweet flavors, making each bite a truly sensational experience for the taste buds.

Japanese Curry

Japanese curry is a popular dish in Japan and has its own unique flavor profile compared to other curries from different regions. One key ingredient that gives Japanese curry its distinctive taste is chocolate or cocoa powder.

Chocolate in Japanese curry is not meant to make it sweet like a dessert; instead, it adds richness, depth, and complexity to the flavor. Adding chocolate or cocoa powder enhances the umami (savory) taste of the curry, making it more satisfying and comforting.


Mole is a traditional Mexican sauce with a rich and complex sauce made from a blend of chili peppers, spices, nuts, and, notably, chocolate. The use of chocolate in Mole and some other curries adds a unique depth of flavor to the dish. The chocolate’s natural sweetness and bitterness complement the spiciness of the chili peppers and the richness of the nuts and spices. The cocoa in chocolate enhances the sauce’s texture, resulting in a velvety and luscious consistency.

The marriage of savor and sweetness in Mole, along with the variety of spices and ingredients, creates a harmonious and flavorful combination that is both indulgent and deeply satisfying.

Pasta al Cacao

Pasta al Cacao is also known as chocolate pasta. It is a unique and decadent pasta variety made by adding cocoa powder or chocolate to the pasta dough. The cocoa powder or chocolate gives the pasta a rich, slightly sweet flavor and a deep brown color.

While chocolate pasta might sound unusual to some, it has been a traditional dish in certain regions of Italy, particularly in Tuscany.

The dish is typically served with savory sauces, often featuring game meats like wild boar or venison. These robust and flavorful sauces complement the chocolate-infused pasta’s slightly sweet and earthy taste, creating a delightful contrast of flavors. The dish’s warm and savory characteristics make it a perfect choice for cozy meals on chilly days.

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