Savory foods are a staple of the American diet.
From pizza to hamburgers, hot dogs, and French fries, saltiness defines some of these cornerstones of fast food in the United States.
There are five main flavors—sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami—that can be detected by the human tongue.
Savory foods are defined as having a pleasantly salty taste or smell without much (if any) sweetness.
You will often encounter savory foods as snacks at the bar or in Italian restaurants.
If you are curious about finding more savory foods to add to your “favorites” or “want to try” list, keep reading for 25 savory foods, and then some commonly asked questions about what defines a savory meal.
What Are Examples Of Savory Foods? (25 Examples)
Popcorn is one of the most popular options for savory snackers.
Popcorn is also a healthy snack alternative unless you are going for movie theater popcorn butter that is loaded with saturated fats.
If you want to go for a healthier popcorn option, you should choose air-popped popcorn that does not have the extra fat and calories you might find in prepackaged popcorn.
Homemade popcorn also gives you the option to create your own flavor profile.
You can add sea salt and olive oil to give it that extra savory flavor without adding any unhealthiness.
You can pop your own popcorn on the stove, in the microwave, or an air-popper if you have one.
Hamburgers and cheeseburgers are synonymous with American cuisine.
A meat patty between a soft hamburger bun with cheese, onions, pickles, and tomatoes is sure to make any mouth water.
Hamburgers satisfy the umami and salty flavor cravings on the human tongue and have a high glutamate content, which fulfills the requirements for a savory dish.
3. Veggie Chips
Veggie chips have become extremely popular and healthy alternatives to potato chips.
They are great for when you have a craving for something savory but still want to fuel your body with healthy food.
Kale chips and asparagus chips are popular variations of veggie chips and can be purchased from the grocery store with a lot of different flavor profiles such as sriracha, mustard, and salt.
You can even make veggie chips yourself by roasting and drying vegetables in the comfort of your own home.
By preparing veggie chips yourself, they will be even healthier because you can minimize preservatives and additives and use healthy oils and salt to give your chips the exact flavor that you want.
Pretzels are one of the most common foods associated with the savory flavor profile because one of their principal ingredients is salt.
They are also quite addictive if you are not careful.
If you are trying to watch your health, you can try to go for mini pretzels that keep your snacking at a slower pace, which allows you to fill up without going overboard.
Pretzels are great by themselves but are also amazing vehicles for your favorite dips like guacamole and hummus.
Pizza originated in Italy made of the finest ingredients with fresh cheese, basil, and tomato with not a lot of extra additives.
However, since pizza has become big in the United States, it has become way more savory than its Italian predecessor.
Now, pizza often has a lot of extra salt and pepper.
It is popular to put garlic salt and chili oil on pizza to give it some added spice.
Many people choose to add savory toppings such as anchovies or pepperoni to their already-savory pizza.
Chili is an amazing savory dish that can be prepared in a variety of ways.
So many places around the country claim to serve the best chili.
Chili is typically made of beans, tomatoes, ground meat, cheese, and other vegetables like celery that add more flavor.
Chili uses umami and salty flavors to create a unique savory flavor profile.
It is the perfect meal to satisfy your craving for savory food while keeping you warm and full.
7. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is an interesting one because it often crosses the bridge between sweet and savory, depending on the type of peanut butter you buy.
Peanuts by themselves are naturally savory but often have added salt which contributes to this flavor.
Peanut butter has a lot of added sugar, which makes it a unique cross between sweet and savory.
You can buy a lot of types of flavored peanut butter these days as well, including white chocolate or cinnamon peanut butter that are closer to desserts than to snacks.
However, if you are looking for savory peanut butter, stick with your favorite natural peanut butter that is lower in added salt.
You can also find other types of nut butter like almond butter and hazelnut butter that may be healthier options because they are lower in fat but still pack in all the great taste.
8. Potato Chips
Of course, potato chips have to make the savory foods list.
Just because some of your favorite potato chips might not be so healthy does not mean that all of them are not healthy.
You can find sweet potato chips or baked potato chips that are much lower in saturated fats.
You can even try roasting and drying potatoes at home to craft your own potato chips that have all the flavors you are looking for without all of the added bad stuff.
Cheese can range in flavor from sharp cheddar to more mild cottage cheese.
Some more savory cheeses include blue cheese, cotija, feta, mozzarella, and cheddar.
Cotija is typically found in Mexican dishes like guacamole and tacos.
Mozzarella is more popular in Italian food.
Cheddar is common in American foods like sandwiches and burgers.
There is a wide variety of cheese flavors which makes it a popular savory option around the world.
Cheese is also a great accompaniment for other savory snacks and dishes like crackers and chili.
Bacon is a great example of a savory food because of its high glutamate content.
Bacon is a staple for breakfasts in the United States and Europe, though preparations might vary from country to country.
Bacon can also have an added sweetness when some chefs choose to add a maple glaze.
11. Asian Noodles
A lot of Asian cuisines utilize extra glutamate (MSG) to make their dishes even more savory.
Many Asian cuisines such as Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean use noodles as some of their staple foods.
One example of a savory noodle dish is Dan Dan noodles that originate from the Sichuan area of China.
They are served with a spicy sauce called “mala” which is made of pork, Sichuan pepper, chili oil, preserved vegetables, and green onions.
They are quite salty and use the umami flavor of meat, making Dan Dan noodles a very savory dish.
Lots of other Asian noodle dishes like Pad Thai, Mi Xao, and Lo Mein are also savory foods to try.
The number of dried meat snacks seems never-ending these days.
While beef jerky used to be the only type of dried meat on the market, you can now find turkey jerky, pork jerky, chicken jerky, and yes, even vegan jerky.
Jerky makes a great grab-and-go snack that is high in protein but also unfortunately quite high in sodium and fat.
There are some healthier options you can find, though, especially if you go the vegan route.
There are tofu jerkies and fruit jerkies that are healthier than their meat-containing counterparts.
Another option is to search for turkey or chicken jerkies that often have fewer nitrates than pork and beef jerkies.
Did you know that avocadoes are technically fruits?
Did you know that fruits can be savory as well?
Avocadoes are one of the only naturally savory fruits on the market.
Not to mention they are a key ingredient in one of the best dips: guacamole.
Avocado is a healthy, filling snack that is chock-full of healthy proteins and fats.
It goes well with a pinch of salt and pepper or even some of your favorite hot sauce if you are looking for something spicy.
If you want a mix of savory and sweet, salt and honey make the perfect combination.
Avocadoes are also unique because they are one of the few savory foods that have a creamy texture.
If you want savory but are bored of crunchy or crispy, then avocadoes are a great option!
Tomatoes are the other kind of fruit that falls into the savory category.
Unlike most other fruits, they are not extremely sweet and go well with a variety of savory meals such as hamburgers, lasagna, wraps, sandwiches, and more.
They are also good by themselves or with a pinch of salt and olive oil.
Tomatoes are one of the healthiest savory snacks you can eat.
Potatoes are staples for so many savory dishes including French fries, baked potatoes, and many more.
They can be topped off with salt, cheese, or bacon to make them even more savory.
Potatoes that are chopped and served with garlic and rosemary are another way to make a great, inexpensive, savory meal.
So many cultures around the world incorporate potatoes into their diet.
16. Corn Tortilla Chips
Corn tortilla chips are versatile for any dip.
While regular potato chips might be viewed as pure junk food, corn tortilla chips are usually healthier options.
They often come salted, or even with a hint of lime, which makes for a great savory snack for any dip you choose.
They are also satisfying snacks all by themselves!
There are a lot of corn tortilla chips on the market, but you can find healthier ones by looking for brands with fewer ingredients and additives.
Be sure to check the serving size as well because it is very easy to find yourself scarfing down the whole bag!
They go well with healthy sides like guacamole or hummus.
Fritters are deep-fried small cakes or patties that are popular in the American south.
They are supposed to be savory, but can be sweet as well.
They are best served warm.
Fritters can be made from dough or batter, and then chopped ingredients are added to it to give it a unique flavor.
Some popular fritters are corn fritters, potato fritters, pork fritters, and more.
They are just fried dough, so you can’t go wrong with adding almost any ingredient to them.
They are often found at southern barbecue restaurants paired with fried chicken or pork ribs and your favorite coleslaw and mac and cheese.
18. Savory Pies
Though more popular in the UK and Europe, savory pies are slowly making their way into the mainstream American diet.
Savory pies like Shephard’s pie feature meat with creamy sauce and vegetables.
Some other popular savory pies include Steak & Ale pies, or vegetarian pies that come with mushrooms, broccoli, peas, and other vegetables.
The crust used is less sweet than dessert pies.
Savory pies are a dense yet savory and filling dinner option.
There are so many kinds of soups.
Almost all soups have salt and are packed with flavor, making them the perfect meal on a cold winter’s day when you are craving some comfort food.
Some soups are healthier than others, and it depends on the amount of red meat, cream, and salt that you add to your dish.
Typically, clear broth soups are healthier since they use less cream.
Other soups like pumpkin and squash soup might be thicker yet just as healthy but are made from pureed vegetables to give it that creamy texture.
20. Nuts And Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a healthy option for those craving a savory snack without all the unhealthy consequences.
Nuts and seeds are high in protein and healthy fats that now come in several flavors like habanero, coconut, chili-lime, toasted salt, and so much more.
If you are bored of eating plain nuts, there is certainly no shortage of savory nut flavors that will satisfy any craving.
You can also find a lot of nuts and seeds in nut bars like Kind bars or RX bars that come in sweet or savory flavors, depending on your preferences.
Eating these bars that are high in protein and fiber will help to keep your high-calorie snack cravings at bay.
They are also great afternoon pick-me-ups when work seems to be going slowly.
If you like savory breakfasts, eggs are a great way to go.
You can prepare them in so many ways: scrambled, over easy, hard-boiled, omelets, and more.
You’ll often find them paired with potatoes, toast, or tomatoes to make a filling American breakfast.
They have a lot of protein and healthy fats that give you the fuel to get through the day.
Salt and pepper or even some hot sauce go great with eggs to make your breakfast even more savory.
Eggs are also key ingredients in a lot of savory dishes like huevos rancheros.
Like corn chips, crackers are great vehicles for your favorite dips and veggies.
You can also use crackers to make mini sandwiches with meats and cheeses if you are looking for a filling snack.
Crackers come in a variety of flavors, such as sriracha, salt, herb, cheese, and much more.
Some cracker brands are healthier than others.
Be sure to check the ingredients list in addition to the serving size before purchasing savory crackers from the store.
23. Onion Rings
Onion rings are crispy on the outside with a softer onion center on the inside.
It is the perfect side dish with any barbecue or fast-food meal.
The thick rings of onion will be coated with breadcrumbs or dipped in batter and then fried.
They are often served with ketchup, mayonnaise, or tartar sauce.
Some people might even add some salt, pepper, and cheese to create an even more flavorful dish.
24. Mac And Cheese
Macaroni and cheese is one of the most popular kids’ meals on the market.
Pasta and cheese—what’s not to like?
The savory cheese is what gives mac and cheese its delectable unique flavor.
You can make mac and cheese at home by using healthier ingredients such as whole grain pasta and low-fat cheese, or you can buy your favorite brands from the supermarket.
Some of the most popular Mac and Cheese brands include Amy’s, Annie’s, and Kraft.
From these brands, you can choose the type of mac and cheese you want, whether it’s white cheddar or even vegan.
Quesadillas are a Mexican dish that you can find at Mexican restaurants, fast food chains like Chipotle, or even make yourself at home.
Quesadillas usually have a flour tortilla and are filled with cheese, beans, and sometimes vegetables or meat.
They are richly spiced and therefore are quite savory.
Quesadillas are easy to make and go quite well with guacamole, salsa, or spicy sauce.
How Do You Make Savory Flavors?
If you want to make a meal more savory, consider adding soy sauce, fish sauce, or miso to your broth or stock.
These are typical flavors used in Asian dishes.
If fish sauce sounds scary, do not be alarmed.
It tastes nothing like fish.
It is almost always used in spring rolls and most Vietnamese dishes.
If you like Vietnamese food and sweet and sour sauce, chances are you will love fish sauce.
Soy sauce, fish sauce, and miso are all great flavors to add to your favorite savory dishes.
Is Savory The Same As Spicy?
No, savory and spicy are not the same.
Savory is another word for salty.
Spicy is that peppery flavor that can leave your mouth burning and wanting more at the same time.
You can find foods that are both spicy and savory, like chili, pizza, or buffalo wings.
Is Buttery Savory Or Sweet?
Butter is usually considered savory, especially if you buy salted butter, but you can also buy unsalted butter which is often used for baking, or if you are trying to minimize sodium intake.
This makes your dishes a bit less savory comes in handy if you are interested in making a sweet recipe like cakes, or even want your toast to be a bit sweeter (or at least less savory).
In general, butter is typically considered savory and is used in a lot of savory snacks and meals like popcorn and butter pasta.
Is Meat Savory?
Umami is the flavor typically associated with meat.
Umami and savory flavors can also overlap.
You can prepare meat in a way that has a high glutamate content that triggers both the tongue’s umami receptors and savory flavors.
When meat has a high enough glutamate content, that means the MSG is higher and MSG is typically associated with salty savoriness.
That is why your favorite Salisbury steak might be described as savory.
Is Cheese Savory?
Cheese is typically considered savory since it has a relatively high salt content.
You might be surprised to find out that a 30-gram portion of cheddar cheese contains more salt than a 30-gram bag of potato chips.
Cheese is also known for accompanying other savory dishes like grilled cheese and potato chips.
Most of these dishes are high in salt, which means cheese is generally considered savory.
What Is The Savory Flavor Good For?
Savory is a flavor that goes well with so many things.
One favorite is a combination of sweet and savory, like caramel.
Some people like to put chocolate in their popcorn or eat chocolate-covered pretzels, all of which feature a unique combination of sweet and savory.
Another favorite is putting salt on summer fruits like watermelon and pineapple which turns any sweet snack into a delicious treat that fulfills all your savory snack cravings.
The savory mineral is also great in soups, stews, bean dishes, cabbage, sauerkraut and so much more.
What Is The Most Savory Food?
The most savory foods contain glutamate, which is an amino acid that gives natural products like mushrooms, meat, anchovies, and cheese their unique flavors.
The kind of savoriness associated with meat and fish is called umami and can also be achieved through cooking and fermentation by reducing moisture and increasing the concentration of glutamate.
What Herb Is Savory?
Savory actually has its own special herb called Summer Savory.
This herb is in the mint family and is originally from the Mediterranean.
It has been used since the Middle Ages and is aromatic with similarities to thyme.
It has a peppery aftertaste which gives it a unique flavor.
Why Is It Called Savory?
Rumor has it that the ancient Roman empire introduced savory spice to England, where it quickly became popular for cooking and medicine.
The English called it “savory” because of its close relation to spiciness and its pungent flavor.