Wellness Wednesday: The Six Tastes

This is perhaps my favorite Ayurvedic principle. Of course it would be - it has to do with food. It doesn’t just help me understand food, but it helps me understand food in a way that enables me to combine flavors and ingredients that yield delicious and healthy recipes. Curious to know how? Read on…

The Six Tastes are my (now not so) secret magical tool to creating meals that are both balancing to the doshas and also tasty. They uphold the foundation of Ayurvedic cooking, and eating! All foods are made up of all six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent, and bitter. The more wholistically (yes I made up that word) the six tastes are combined into a meal, the more wholesome and satisfying that meal is. This is because the six tastes are made up of the five natural elements that also make up our bodies. Therefore, when eat a meal that consists of all six tastes, we are providing a complete set of building blocks for our bodies to operate and thrive on. Make sense? Good!

Put to use, when I’m formulating recipes for clients’ doshic needs, I’m simultaneously tasting for the tastes that my clients need as well as ensuring that a little of each taste is present. The former requires knowledge of the subtle energetics and properties of my ingredients, while the latter comes in an easier form of “Hmm, this is missing something.” For example, a salad dressing to pacify pitta that starts off with olive oil, lime juice, cilantro, salt, and pepper includes the tastes: bitter, sour, bitter/astringent, salty, and pungent, respectively. It’s missing sweet and astringent. Olive oil is slightly sweet due to its being a fat, but we’ll need a little more sweetness because you can imagine that the flavor of this dressing would be pretty bitter and sour. To bring in a more wholistic salad dressing, I’d throw in some maple syrup. The maple syrup would help round out the experience instead of it being a sour punch to the tastebuds.

Cooking with the six tastes in mind (and in mouth) is an easy and crucial tenet to cooking Ayurvedically but also tastefully! I hope this serves as a helpful guide for you to come up with some wonderful recipes in your own Ayurvedic kitchen.