Coffee means so much to the people who love it. It’s the thing that wakes you up in the morning and keeps you going as the day drags on. It’s a familiar workplace ritual and a delicacy to be savored. But one other area where this beverage shines is when it’s paired with food that goes with coffee.
Not every food mixes its taste and texture flawlessly with coffee, but here are 15 foods that make perfect companions.
15 foods that go well with coffee
1. Coffee cake
It’s hard to get any more obvious than this sweet cake with coffee right in its name. Coffee cake comes in a variety of flavors and textures, but all of them are tailor-made to be enjoyed with a hot cup of coffee. My favorite is a sour cream coffee cake with a nice streak of cinnamon, brown sugar and walnuts through the middle.
Yet another iconic food to pair with coffee is the donut. Donuts come in many shapes that can range from plain to decked out with all sorts of sprinkles, icings, and glazes. In all cases, the sweetness of a good donut can perfectly offset a cup of coffee, especially one made more on the milky side.
Not all coffee pairings need to be sweet. Savory can work just as well or better. Bacon is one of the most popular breakfast foods around, and one of the main reasons is that it goes extremely well with coffee. The salty, savory, fatty flavor of bacon can perfectly complement a strong cup of joe.
Bagels can be eaten plain, toasted, loaded up with cream cheese or other toppings. And they’re a wonderful food to enjoy with a cup of coffee. If you’re not eating your bagel sweet, a mellower, sweeter coffee may be the best pick to pair with the bagel.
5. Dark chocolate
Chocolate plus coffee is nearly always a hit. Dark chocolate, in particular, is an outstanding pairing. The complexity and slight bitterness of dark chocolate can offer a refined counterpoint to a sophisticated coffee.
6. Scrambled eggs
Scrambled eggs are yet another breakfast food that works perfectly with coffee. You can make scrambled eggs straight up with a bit of salt and pepper, or load them up with vegetables and other goodies. But a bare-bones scramble with a nice, strong cup of coffee is all you need.
Staying in the realm of breakfast foods, the crepe is a dish that coffee sets off beautifully. Some crepes are sweet; others can be made with savory ingredients like meats, cheeses or vegetables. All of them shine when paired with the right type of coffee.
8. Grilled cheese
Many of the previous bites are well known for their successful partnerships with coffee, but the grilled cheese sandwich flies under the radar. It’s one of the best choices for pairing with coffee. Crispy, toasted bread sandwiching gooey, melted cheese goes wonderfully with a strong cup of coffee. If you have a little fat left over from frying your breakfast bacon, try grilling your sandwich in it for lunch.
9. Smoked salmon
Bold flavors are often the way to go with coffee food pairings. Smoked salmon checks that box. The salty, fishy flavor can hold its own paired with a bold coffee. For an even better food experience, put smoked salmon on a toasted bagel and eat with your morning coffee.
Maybe the greatest dessert pairing with coffee. It’s hard to go wrong when you pair coffee with foods that bring their own coffee flavors to the table, and the inclusion of espresso or coffee liqueur in tiramisu makes it a dessert that fits this bill. Enjoying it with a nice cup of coffee takes it to the next level. Tiramisu is only scratching the surface of desserts that go well with coffee, though.
Another food that might not immediately spring to mind as a coffee pairing is berries. But berries, whether eaten alone or as part of some other sweet dish, make a fabulous complement to coffee. As with most sweet foods paired with coffee, you’ll probably get the best results pairing berries with a sweeter coffee. Peru and Puerto Rico are two coffee-producing countries where you can usually find a nice, sweet match.
12. Hard cheeses
Cheese and coffee may seem like a strange pairing on the surface. But the key to unlocking the cheese/coffee combination is staying away from softer cheeses with delicate flavors. Those types of cheeses can get overwhelmed by strong coffee, but harder cheeses like cheddar and Swiss can easily hold their own.
13. Peanut butter and banana sandwich
The peanut butter and banana sandwich is criminally underrated in general, and that goes double for its pairing with coffee. The combo of the sweetness of the banana and the rich creaminess of the peanut butter is a winner by itself. Add in the flavor of a nice cup of coffee, and it’s off the charts.
14. Tapioca or rice pudding
The sweet, milky flavor of tapioca or rice pudding goes incredibly well with a strong cup of coffee. The vanilla and cinnamon in rice pudding in particular blends perfectly with the bold, smoky flavor of a darker roast.
15. Cottage cheese
If you’re not looking to eat a huge amount for breakfast, consider pairing your coffee with a bowl of cottage cheese. Not only is the meal relatively low in calories, but the creamy cottage cheese complements the flavor of a more mellow coffee quite nicely.
Coffee and food pairing
The first rule of pairing coffee with foods is simple: Follow your palate. If a combination tastes good to you, that’s all that matters. But there are a few other guidelines to keep in mind when trying to come up with your own coffee and food pairings.
One thing to consider is that the strength of your coffee should work well with the food’s flavor intensity. A delicate, refined-flavored food can easily be drowned out by a more robust coffee. The lighter and sweeter your coffee is, the more it can interplay with subtler flavors.
Another consideration is the origin and character of the coffee you’re drinking. Many coffee drinkers these days experiment with distinctive coffee beans from different regions of the world, and often those beans deliver significantly varied taste profiles.
These flavor profiles can interplay with foods in ways you can anticipate and work with. So, for example, an El Salvadoran coffee with citrus notes could play nicely with a rich dark chocolate brownie.
You could spend a lifetime sampling different coffee/food pairings and still not scratch the surface of everything possible. And coffee comes in such a wide variety of flavors that you can probably find the perfect coffee for nearly any accompanying dish.
This list should get you started in exploring some tried-and-proven food that goes with coffee. But this is just the beginning. Get out there and explore some other foods with coffee, and you may find a new favorite.
If you do, or if you already have a go-to food pairing with your coffee, let us know in the comments below.