These forbidden food combos deserve a second chance

Kevin Farrell

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Some of the greatest love stories of all time are between foods that far surpass the sum of their parts. But for every irresistible chocolate and peanut butter or strawberries and champagne duo, there exists a combo of foods – like olives and oranges – that people will run away screaming from.


Still, some chefs have managed to crack the code on what we think of as forbidden food mashups. Here are six unlikely pairings that chefs have made work, despite the odds being stacked against them.

Fish & cheese

Many Italian chefs are adamant about keeping cheese segregated from any and all seafood, but this prohibition only dates back to the 1940s, when World War II brought soldiers from across the world to Italian shores. Cookbooks predating the war include plenty of recipes mixing all manner of fruits of the sea with cheeses.

Nevertheless, the influential Italian culinary rules of the period took root, and cemented once those same soldiers returned to their home countries. Today, there are but a handful of countries that break the ban. Mexican beach towns often top fish dishes with salty Oaxacan or melty Chihuahuan cheese, and Greek chefs aren’t shy about tossing a little Feta into a seafood dish. Consider even the classic New York bagel with cream cheese and lox.

Fruit & pizza

Untraditional pizza toppings are nothing new. Frank Pepe’s clam-topped Frankenstein is a frequent topper of lists of the best pizzas in the country, after all. But if you want to stir a truly heated debate, try floating the idea of fruit atop your pie. Pineapple may be a staple in many a corner pizzeria, but it remains a staple that plenty of people abstain from.

Fruit-topped pizzas, while certainly an acquired taste, do tend to bubble up from time to time. But for every successful example of pizza alchemy like the long-running caramelized pear & gorgonzola pie at California Pizza Kitchen, there’s a monstrosity like the strawberry pizza that curdled stomachs and drew headlines from the likes of Time and Teen Vogue late last year. Maybe it’s not so much all fruit as it is most fruit that should be banned from pizzerias? Fig and burrata pizza? Great. Roasted peach and bacon? Borderline. Cantaloupe? Hard pass.

Coffee & orange juice

An idyllic breakfast table is set with both coffee and OJ – but never in the same cup! But at Dallas coffee and juice shop Local Press, organic cold-pressed orange juice is topped with a shot of Noble Coyote espresso. The fruit of their twisted union is called a Sunrise, and it has a cult-like following.

If the combination of bitter espresso and bright citrus doesn’t scare you off, then you might also want to stay for a Lemon Buzz – fresh lemon juice and Topo chico topped off with a shot of espresso and a splash of simple syrup.

Ice cream and pickles

The team behind NYC’s Jacob’s Pickles branched out a bit for its sophomore outpost, serving up dumplings, noodles and a generous selection of teas at Lucky Pickle Dumpling Co. But it’s the ambitious house dessert that puts Lucky Pickle square on our list here: pickle ice cream.

Pop in for the umami bomb in a cone on a sweltering summer day, or take it to go by the quart. Said to be more of a palate cleanser than a cone of frozen dill and vinegar, this treat is sure to satisfy those pregnancy cravings. For those who can’t quite bring themselves to take the plunge into such a briney dessert, don’t fret. Lucky Pickle also makes matcha and chocolate chip varieties as well.

Peanut butter and mayonnaise

The great culinary love affair that time forgot. But seeing as how I have trouble even settling my stomach for long enough to write about the pair, perhaps that’s for the best? Garden & Gun calls this combo “a forgotten Southern Sandwich,” but back in the 1930s and 40s, it was all the rage.

Sometimes left to its simplest form – bread, peanut butter and mayo – or sometimes topped with questionable additions like bananas or hard-boiled eggs, there is no doubt that this sandwich both existed, and was incredibly popular. But there may be a reason for that  – namely, The Great Depression, which left pantries bare of all but a few staples. Maybe it’s best then that this one stays forgotten.


Kevin Farrell

About Kevin Farrell

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