Taste Buds

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

A visualization of complementary flavours by David McCandless and Willow Tyrer.

All food tastes amazing, just sometimes not together.

So we roved around 1000 recipes for common flavour patterns and visualized the results.

A good way to build a meal, maybe, if you lack a chef’s intuitive buds. Less data visualization, more dinner visualization. An infoodgraphic, perhaps. Ok, we’ll stop now.

These were created back in 2009 for the Information Is Beautiful book. Willow, a Swedish infographic designer, came up with an elegant, organic style. We thought it might be nice to release them into the wild.

Enjoy your meal.

Want to play with these in your kitchen? Buy a printable hi-res PDF from our store


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Show Comments ( )

  • ortoslon

    it says that potato is complimentary with potato

    • Euge

      Spuds go with anything.

  • Michael Nestrud


    Nice visualization – where did you get the data for these pairings?

    Michael A. Nestrud, Ph. D.
    Sensory Scientist and Culinary Psychologist
    Cornell University ’11
    Culinary Institute of America ’04

    • Alex, Editor

      Hi Michael,

      Our sources are listed at the bottom – we do this with all our visualizations.

      This time we used BBC Food and

      Alex, site editor

      • Billy

        I wonder if the sources lean a bit toward, well I’m not sure toward what!? I cannot imagine not pairing cream with clams, oysters and mussels (ever been to Brussels? or for that matter New England?). How about Duck a l’orange? Doesn’t red wine go with beef, as it does in Burgundy? Both red and white wine have a much greater application that what I see listed.

  • Lisa

    I’m perplexed by the placement of some of the foods. Artichokes may be wonderful with all the things listed there, but in what universe are they a root vegetable? (Artichokes are essentially a flower. Even if one didn’t know this, clearly they grow at the top of a stem and are not a root.) Or beetroot a salad green (even if one might eat them in a salad), or squash, cucumbers, eggplant, and zucchini all “bulbous stems”?

    • Peter Rose


      The Royal Horticultural Society lists the following as root vegetables in the Horticultural Show Handbook – artichokes (Chinese and Jerusalem, not globe),

    • Prue J

      @ Lisa I would assume they are talking about a Jerusalem artichoke, which is a root vegetable.

    • Meic Goodyear

      I think this refers to Jerusalem artichokes, (aka fartichokes because of the gastric effects) which are certainly root veg, rather than globe artichokes, which a fowers of a kind of thistle. Agree about the others, though.

    • Merideth

      Jerusalem artichokes are not artichokes. It’s like listing sea horses as “horses”.

  • Midnighter

    The whole setup has been explored in-depth in this book, the flavor bible. Maybe you could work with those authors to present the information therein as an interactive chart.

  • Tom

    Is there any way to do this with colours that match when worn together? I imagined a world where each article of clothing came with a tag showing the colours that go with it to aid the fashion-deaf such as myself. But why not a giant poster to hang in my closet?

  • Will Stahl-Timmins

    nice graphic guys… It is making me hungry.

    I wonder if there’s a way of linking the flavours that occur multiple times, so that a whole dish could be more easily designed? Perhaps since you have a colour for each category, just colouring the texts around the outside that belong to that category might help?

    Keep up the good work :)

  • vbeauty

    I think it is only fair to credit

    Their visualizations have been being produced for several years and the work (of molecular pairing of tastes) is by the area is pioneered by the briliant Flemish chef Bernard Lahousse!/foodpairing

    Taste Bud’s format is either an homage / evolution or a colossal coincidence…. (and equally as beautiful)

    • david

      That’s a great link vbeauty. Thanks. We created the image in 2008/9 without seeing foodpairing. Theirs is a beautiful site and approach.

  • deusxmac

    obviously, you have never visited the american south, where fried pork chops with mashed potatoes are one step upon the stairway to tastebud heaven.

  • Rachael

    These are beautiful! Thank you for sending them out to us.

  • Kate

    This would work wonderfully with the visualthesaurus.

  • John

    A lot of the complementary flavors are redundant between foods. This visualization would be far more expressive if these redundancies could be reflected by the mapping as it would help categorized the foods and flavors as well as become predictive towards possible alternative combinations. Of course the best way to do that is with another dimension. >.<

  • Cindy

    Beautiful visualization. Will you be making this data accessible?

  • Mary

    Where’s the lamb?! I had fun looking through these — and now I want to cook some leeks.

  • Dunce bloor

    Nice! We’ve just done our own visual at BBC food if you’d like to take a look. The wheel of hunger!

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  • melissa martin

    Love this! Very similar to the work I did for my MFA Thesis…

  • Carl

    Just one thought – chilli with many things, but especially in the jerk that I’m cooking chicken with tonight

  • theasideblog

    Thanks, this graphic offers a great avenue for us as teachers to inspire visual thinking. Educating students to decode images takes on greater meaning today with visualizations and infographics successfully competing with traditional maps and charts in the classroom. Check out our blog about graphicacy in education:

  • ira

    Hi David,
    I admire your work quite a lot. This infographic is fascinating. It would be nice to see one of these for sweets and for fruits. Also, you should really approach restaurants with this…it’s a great resource!

  • Ashley

    I am doing a science project on the taste buds. Thanks for the help with the taste bud information!

  • Mauricio