Describing food

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Hello and welcome to Learn English Vocabulary. My name is Jack and I’m making this podcast for you to learn or revise English vocabulary. 


Today, I’m going to talk about food and the level of the language in this podcast will be around B1. I’m not going to talk about specific foods, I want to talk about the most important adjectives you need to describe food. I will describe some different foods and I want you to try to work out what foods I’m talking about. 

I’ll start with five adjectives that you can use to say that you like the taste of something. I’m going to say these in order. Starting with an adjective you could use when you like something a bit and then moving up in intensity until you are using language for the best food you have ever eaten.

Here we go.

Mmm. This is pleasant.

Mmmm. This is tasty.

Cor! This is delicious.

Wow! This is delectable.

Ugh! This is exquisite!

OK, so I think delicious and delectable are actually about the same level, but delectable is not as common so you should reserve it for less common tasty food. Exquisite is a great word that can also be used to describe a beautiful work of art. It’s quite formal, though.

If you are in an informal situation, you could say.

Mmm. This is yummy.

Cor! This is scrummy.

Wow! This is scrumptious

I would never use the word scrumptious myself because it doesn’t sound like a real word to me. But it is and it does mean very tasty.


OK – so now we talk about flavour. The first word is sweet. This is actually the most common of all the words and is actually an A1 level word so I’m sure you know it. It’s used to describe food that tastes like sugar or honey. If you really like cakes and biscuits and chocolates, you could be described as having a sweet tooth. 


Next is salty. Salty food tastes like salt. I think that this is quite easy to understand as everyone knows what salt tastes like.


Sour is next. This is more difficult to describe. Things that are sour have a sort of sharp taste that causes saliva to form in your mouth. Some people say lemons are sour or vinegar, vinegar is often used to give sweet and sour sauce it’s sourness. There’s a plant in the UK – I’m not sure if people eat it everywhere, they probably do, but I’ve never seen it anywhere else. The plant I’m thinking of has a marvellous sour flavour, especially if you eat it raw. It’s called rhubarb. It’s a plant with massive leaves and you eat the stalks. I used to have it growing in my garden when I was a kid and would sometimes snack on it. 


When I was a kid, I really didn’t like the next adjective. Spicy is used to describe food with a strong flavour of spices. Now, this could be caused by pepper, nutmeg, or cloves, but it’s usually chilli. British food is mostly just salty so we love Indian, Chinese and Thai food because it’s got so much more flavour. However, some dishes are too much for us and come with warnings, usually with little pictures of chilli peppers so we know what to expect. 

Hot and fiery

If a food is really spicy, that is, is made with a lot of chilli, it can be described as hot or even fiery. I avoided any hot food when I was growing up and found the burning sensation that you get in your mouth after eating hot food really unpleasant. However, I lived in Indonesia for three years where children snack on birds eye chillis as if they were chewing gum and gradually built up some appreciation of spicy food. 


If you are in an Indian restaurant and you don’t like spicy food, you can ask for something that is mild. Mild is used to describe flavours that are not too strong. You should be able to taste the flavour, it’s not the same as tasteless, but it shouldn’t leave you with a burning mouth.

Bitter, tart and acidic

OK, the last of the general food adjectives that I want to describe is bitter. This is used to describe tart or acidic sour flavours. So a grapefruit might be bitter. Or some coffee, especially espressos from dodgy coffee shops can be bitter. Some green vegetables can be bitter, like Brussels sprouts or kale. 

Cheesy, minty, peppery, smokey, creamy, fatty

Finally, I want to talk about a class of adjectives that mean tastes like this. So if something is cheesy, it tastes like cheese. Or minty, it tastes like mint. You can also describe food as peppery, smokey, creamy, fatty

I’ve used or presented 24 adjectives that you can use to talk about food. I’ve now got a challenge for you. I’m going to describe three foods and I want you to try to work out what food I’m describing. 

Food number 1:

This food is a favourite all over the world. For many, it’s a guilty pleasure because it’s not very good for you, but it is pretty tasty. I have eaten this food in about 10 different countries. It’s originally from Italy, but everywhere you go, you’ll find that people have found ways to adapt it and give it their own flair. It’s got a sweet and salty flavour. There’s a subtle salty flavour to one part and then on top, there’s a sweet and slightly sour sauce and that’s topped with lovely cheesy and fatty and salty flavours. In Hawaii, people put pineapple on top which adds a strange sweetness that I don’t really mind, but lots of people think is totally wrong. 

Food number 2:

This food is a dessert that comes from France. I really love this because the flavour is rich and creamy and sweet with a vanilla custard, but then it’s topped with a crunchy layer that’s bitter and intensely sweet at the same time. It’s really good.

Food number 3:

I’m going to challenge my self this time. I’m going to choose a condiment, that is something that you add to a plate of food to enhance the flavour. So this is a strange flavour that is an acquired taste. That means it’s a flavour that is pretty horrible when you first try it, but later, you find yourself wanting to experience it again. This has a very strong flavour that is intensely salty and sour with a really peppery kick that can make your eyes water and your nose run. It goes really well with meat. 

What do you think? Do you know what food I’m describing? I don’t think that many of you will be able to get all three. If you think you can, leave me a comment with the answers on the Learn English Vocabulary website page for this podcast or in the comments on Apple podcasts is that’s where you’re listening.

If you have enjoyed this podcast, please leave me a comment or a review and don’t forget that you can read the transcript for this podcast and complete some language activities on

Thanks for listening.

Show CommentsClose Comments


  • Ying
    Posted 30/11/2020 at 7:21 am

    They are piazza, creme Brulee and
    Worcestershire sauce.

    • Jack
      Posted 01/12/2020 at 2:58 pm

      Hi Ying

      You got the first two right! The condiment I was looking for is not Worcestershire sauce, though that’s a pretty good guess.


  • Kathi
    Posted 11/04/2021 at 3:14 pm

    Hey there, I’m curious, is the last one ginger?

  • Sophie
    Posted 20/08/2021 at 4:00 pm

    Hi, I think that first food is pizza, second – crème brûlé, and the third is Tabasco sauce.

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