What does savory spice mean?

In the world of herbs and spices you will frequently see the term “savory” or “savory spice” used as a way to describe the flavor. What does savory spice mean exactly? The word savory in describing food is confusing because something that is unsavory would taste or smell bad.  So in theory, one could infer that a savory spice is something that tastes or smells good.

Confusing, right? So we know savory spice means something that tastes good. But what does savory spice taste like exactly?

The best way to describe what a savory spice tastes like is to describe what is does not taste like. When it comes to herbs, spices and blends, savory means the opposite of sweet, salty, sour and bitter.  So if a spice blend is described as “sweet and savory” we know that it is both sweet and contains some other flavor.

Still confused? So what is that “other flavor.”

What does savory spice mean?The human sense of taste can be categorized into five basic types of taste:

  1. Sweet
  2. Sour
  3. Salt
  4. Bitter
  5. Umami

We all know how sweet, sour, salt, and bitter taste. Many people have never heard of Umami. Umami is a Japanese word referring to the fifth sense of taste caused by the presence of glutamates. The taste is often described as meaty and pungent. Meaty, meaning that is has the culinary qualities of meat but not necessarily tasting like meat. The kanji in umami separate into the kanji for beautiful and taste. Beautiful taste. So savory could simply be described as “beautiful taste.”  Clear as mud, right?

What does savory spice mean?

Savory is certainly nebulously defined and it will never be easy to articulate exactly what savory spice tastes like.  At least you know that if you purchase something described as savory, it will likely taste good!

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