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Don't You Know What a Palate Cleanser is? Find it Out Here

What is a Palate Cleanser?
Palate cleansers act as buffer foods between strong and gentle flavors, preventing the former from overpowering the latter. We'll take a look at what palate cleansers actually are, and how they work.
Satyajeet Vispute
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2018
Did You Know?
Plain drinking water is the cheapest, most readily available, and versatile palate cleanser.
Does your chocolate cake taste like the beef burgundy that you had before it? If it does, then there surely is a problem. But before you decide to chuck it out of the window, do consider using a palate cleanser.

Palate cleansers, as the name suggests, are used to cleanse the tongue off the taste of certain strong-flavored foods before you can dig into the mild-flavored ones. Unlike what you might imagine, they aren't special chemicals, but are instead just ordinary food items which possess the specialized ability to remove the effects of strong flavors from the tongue.

In the following sections, we shall find out what a palate cleanser is, and how it works. We shall also discover what foods are good palate cleansers.
What is a Palate Cleanser?
Palate cleanser
A palate cleanser is a neutral-flavored food element that is used to cleanse the palate in between different flavors. What it does is, it removes the residual taste of a strongly-flavored meal that one has had previously, before one can enjoy another relatively milder-flavored one.
Palate cleansers are commonly used when enjoying a meal comprising multiple cuisines. They have historically been used in cultures where meals are traditionally rich in a variety of flavors. Commonly known palette cleansers include bread, sorbet, pickles, apple, grapefruit, etc.
Why Do You Need a Palate Cleanser?
The human tongue contains a number of tiny taste buds. Each taste bud is made up of a basal and supporting cells, that help maintain around 50 gustatory receptor cells. These are specialized cells that are stimulated by the chemical makeup of the different types of food that we ingest. When one of the primary tastes―sweet, salty, bitter, sour, spicy, etc.―activates these gustatory cells, a signal is sent to the gustatory region of the cerebral cortex, which the brain interprets as that particular taste or flavor.

Modern foods can be a brutal concoction of a variety of different flavors. Some of these foods have flavors that are so strong and/or so many in number, that they literally overload the taste buds and the gustatory region of the brain. The strong sensation of taste brought on by these flavors tends to linger on even after that particular food item has been completely ingested. As a result, the taste of other milder foods that one has subsequently gets overshadowed by it.

For example, one may fail to appreciate the gentle and soothing taste of a fruit-cake following the barrage on his/her taste bud brought upon from eating a spicy Mexican dish. In such cases, a palate cleanser can be used in between the high-flavored dish and the low-flavored one to remove the taste of the former, and allow one to better experience the latter.
Good Palate Cleansers
Many different food items are known for their palate cleansing abilities. Some are more effective than others when used with certain foods. Hence, in the following section, a generic classification of various palate cleansers is presented, distinguished from each other based on their typical uses.
For Beer and Wine Tasting
Water crackers
Water crackers
They say wine tasting and identification is a skilled art form. But even the most skilled artist needs to use an appropriate palate cleanser before he/she can move on to taste the next glass of wine. Plain unsalted water crackers and breads work perfectly for this purpose.

After one is done tasting a particular glass of wine, one can cleanse his/her palette off its flavor by chewing on a few crackers or slices of bread, and then wash them down with clear mineral water. This enables one to better appreciate and identify the subtle differences between one flavor of wine from another.
For Rich and Exotic Food
Pickled ginger
Pickled ginger
Rich food items such as dark chocolates and exotic ones such as sushi contain flavors that may be too overpowering, and thus prevent one from enjoying other subtler foods. In such cases, an acidic palate cleanser, such as pickled ginger can work wonders. Typically, it is used while sampling different types of sushi. For food items rich in garlic, a few drops of undiluted lemon juice can do the job of palate cleansing.
For Fatty and Spicy Foods
Scoops of mango sorbet
Scoops of mango sorbet
The flavors of foods which are high in fats, such as beef or pork, are best cleansed with the help of sorbets. For those who don't know, sorbets are actually frozen desserts made from sweetened and flavored water. There are a number of sorbet palate cleanser recipes that one could try out, including tomato, sweet lemon, lime, and melon. For very spicy foods, a sweet food item such as ice cream or other dairy products are known to be good palette cleansers.
For Multi-cuisines
Fresh salad
Fresh salad
For multi-cuisine meals, salads can be used as great palate cleansers in between courses. However, it is important to keep the salad light by not using strong and pungent spices such as pepper in it. Also, for an effective cleansing, cream dressing must be avoided. Lettuce, celery, cucumber, and tomatoes act as very good palate cleansers, and must definitely be included in the salad.
Thus, several different food items are capable of acting as palate cleansers. Using them between different foods and drinks will help you experience, both, strong and mild flavors properly, and therefore appreciate the taste of the meal in its entirety.