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According to ancient knowledge from India known as Ayurveda, all foods can be classified according to six tastes. These are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent.
In this system of Ayurveda, the tastes, also known as rasas, are understood to have a profound influence on our bodies and minds.
In fact, the concept of rasa goes beyond simply the flavor of foods, to encompass the entire vital process by which we choose, ingest, digest, and excrete our food.
Maya Tiwari, a teacher of Ayurveda and an early mentor of mine via “A Life of Balance,” describes rasa (taste) as a kind of intelligence that we can learn.
Rasa is not “the irresponsible throwing together of foods that appeal simply to the sense of sight and taste irrespective of ingestion and digestion,” according to Tiwari.
Rather, “The delicious taste that ensues from foods knowledgeably and cleanly prepared is only one of the many graces of rasa.”
Ayurveda supports a greater awareness of nature and the universe, and promotes eating in accordance with the seasons.
The knowledge of rasa invites us to add more awareness to our daily cooking. In turn, we can experience the joy of balanced living.
I cook according to the six tastes every day, and so can you!
In my personal experience, cooking according to the six tastes has been a profoundly rewarding lifelong pursuit.
It is clear that when you succeed in including all six flavors in your meal, your meal is transformed.
A balanced and complete flavor profile will elevate your meal from average to astounding—and beyond—to utter bliss.
I call this the bliss effect, and I write about it in “The Six Secrets to Flavor That Make Eating Blissful.”
You can also check my guide and learn the seven steps I follow every day to create incredible, balanced flavor in my dishes.
The reference charts below will help you plan your meals, and prepare blissful food.
If you need recipes and inspiration, visit my vegetarian food blog Buttered Veg. All the recipes over there include the six tastes.
In fact, cooking with these recipes may be the fastest way to experience bliss from your food.
By the way, I am not talking about the temporary bliss that comes from indulging in a Rocky Road Ice Cream Sundae.
I am talking about real, healthy, vegetarian food! Satisfying in every way.
How to read the six tastes reference charts
Below, you will find a complete reference resource for all the foods, spices, and teas you can imagine cooking with, classified according to the six tastes.
These charts categorize foods according to their tastes, as well as their basic energies of heating or cooling.
Most foods are comprised of two main tastes, but sometimes it’s more than two, and sometimes it’s just one.
If an ingredient has only one of the two tastes listed in the heading, it will be indicated in parentheses. It will also be indicated in parentheses if the food has more than the two tastes listed in the header.
For a quick tip to use this reference, just hit command “F” (on a Mac) or control “F” (on Windows), which will pop up a search window. Then you can search for the ingredient you are curious about.
You can also read through the charts in their entirety, and familiarize yourself with the flavors of the foods. You may be surprised by what you learn.
While you are reviewing it, think about which flavors you eat the most of, and which flavors you feel you should have more of?
If you would like to learn about the medicinal effects of the six tastes, VISIT THIS POST.
There are plenty of insights here, so go ahead and check it out!
AYURVEDA’S SIX TASTES INGREDIENT REFERENCE CHARTS
|Jerusalem artichokes (astringent, bitter)|
Potatoes, white (salty)
Spinach (astringent, pungent)
|Sprouts (astringent, pungent)
Taro potatoes (salty)
Winter squash: acorn, buttercup, butternut, spaghetti
|Arugula (bitter, pungent)|
|Artichoke (sweet, astringent)|
Bell peppers (pungent)
Burdock root (astringent, bitter)
Corn, fresh (sweet, astringent)
Eggplant (astringent, bitter)
Mushrooms (sweet, astringent)
Plantain (sweet, astringent)
Turnips (pungent, astringent)
Turnip greens (pungent, astringent)
|Pomegranate (sweet, astringent)|
Quince (sour, sweet)
|Strawberries (sour, sweet)
Bananas (sweet, sour)
Cherries (sweet, sour)
Mango, ripe (sweet)
Basmati rice (sweet)
|Wheat bran (sweet)
White rice (sweet)
|Brown rice (sweet)|
Cornmeal (sweet; dry)
|Corn (sweet; dry)|
Millet (sweet; dry)
Oat bran (sweet; dry)
|Oats (sweet; dry)
BEANS, LEGUMES & PEAS
Lentils, brown and red
Toor dal (sweet)
SPICES, HERBS, CONDIMENTS & SEAWEEDS
Curry powder (bitter)
Sage (bitter, astringent)
Fenugreek leaves (bitter)
|Garam masala (bitter)|
|Orange peel (pungent, bitter, aromatic)|
|Black salt||Mineral salt||Sea salt|
|Dill leaves and seeds|
Neem leaves (bitter)
|Mint leaves (pungent)
|Fennel||Saffron (astringent, bitter)||Vanilla (pungent, astringent)|
|Barley malt (astringent)|
Brown rice syrup
Brown sugar, unrefined
Fruit juice concentrates (astringent)
Maple syrup (bitter)
OILS & FATS
|Safflower oil (astringent)|
Sesame oil (bitter, astringent)
|Vegetable oil, mixed
|Mustard oil||Olive oil|
|Butter, unsalted (astringent)|
Cheese, unsalted (sour)
Cheese, salted (pungent)
NUTS & SEEDS
Flax seeds (sweet; astringent)
|Poppy seeds (astringent)|
Pumpkin seeds (sweet, bitter, astringent)
|Sesame seeds (sweet)|
|Psyllium seeds||Sunflower seeds|
Fish and shrimp
|Bone marrow fat (astringent)||Mussels||Clams|
HERBS & TEAS
|Oat straw (sweet)
Passion flower (bitter)
Pau d’arco (bitter)
|Peruvian bark (pungent)
Cinnamon (sweet, astringent)
Fenugreek (bitter, sweet)
Ginger, dried or fresh (sweet)
Ginseng (bitter, sweet)
Juniper berries (bitter, sweet)
|Burdock (astringent, bitter)||Hawthorn (sweet, sour)||Hibiscus|
Source: “A Life of Balance,” by Maya Tiwari