Favorite sour/acid recipes
October 16, 2018 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Acid is basically my favorite taste. What are people's favorite sour (esp. dinner) recipes!

It has dawned on me fairly recently that I have always been a fiend for acid. (Only I never realized that the words sour, acidic, and tart all describe the same thing: Oh, that’s why I would suck lemons and drink vinaigrette as a kid; that’s why raspberry is my favorite sweet flavor.)

However, I don’t have anything in my cooking repertoire that scratches that itch! And googling this seems to pull up low-acid recipes for reflux or sour mix recipes for cocktails.

What are peoples’ favorite doable recipes that are satisfyingly acidic? (Bonus points if vegetarian and if good as leftovers!)

P.S. An emphatic “Yes, I have read Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat!”
posted by little onion to Food & Drink (61 answers total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
Have you ever tried soon dubu with kimchi? It's not mouth-puckering but the sour note is very present.

I also like som tam phonlamai, which if you make at home you can make as tart as you like. You don't have to include the papaya if it's too much of a pain.
posted by praemunire at 10:35 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

You might look at the beer style "gose" - they're sour beers and they're being made in a lot of varieties right now. Caveat, they vary a *lot* in flavor, so it's worth trying a few different ones before deciding they're not for you. Someone described one as being like pickle juice, if that speaks to you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:35 AM on October 16, 2018 [6 favorites]

Hot and sour soup! (recipe pulled from google as I've never tried making it at home, but mmm)
posted by btfreek at 10:38 AM on October 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

Chicken with vinegar and chicken adobo. Sadly, neither is all that satisfying without meat — it's the contrast between the rich fatty chicken texture and the sharp vinegar flavor that makes them great. (For similar reasons, leave the skin on unless you hate it.) Both are real good as leftovers, though.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:42 AM on October 16, 2018 [9 favorites]

Haven't tried it yet, but I bookmarked this spicy-sour courgette recipe just yesterday. Sounds ace.
posted by doornoise at 10:42 AM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

A lot of Filipino recipes are sour. Adobo (as mentioned above, on preview), sinigang, lots of happy vinegar times.

I make fridge pickles - salt, sugar, vinegar, cucumber slices, water to cover, a few hours in the fridge, you can heat the brine to dissolve but I never bother. This goes well with tons of things but especially thai basil stir fry, which generally includes lime juice, also a bit sour but as with Thai in general, very balanced.
posted by wellred at 10:43 AM on October 16, 2018 [8 favorites]

I love cooking garlicky greens with a ton of fresh-squeezed lemon. I don't have a recipe, but just feel free to add as much lemon as you like. I also really like braising beans in balsamic vinegar. My method is a can of drained beans (I like garbanzos for this the best), 2 T balsamic vinegar, 1 T soy sauce and 1 T honey. I dump it all in a sauce pan and let the sauce reduce by half. You can add pepper flakes if you like.
posted by annaramma at 10:44 AM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

German/Alsatian food? Sauerbraten, red cabbage, choucroute garnie, Hasenpfeffer. These are more sweet-and-sour but you could bias the recipes toward the sour side.

Oysters with mignionette.

And yeah, collard greens and vinegar coleslaw.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:49 AM on October 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

The vinaigrette in this Blue Apron fried tofu with broccoli and potatoes (which we make all the time, minus the potatoes for carb reasons) is so good and so shallot-y, and I am vinegar-sensitive so my husband cuts the vinegar by half with water or orange juice, and I often ask him to make an 8x or 10x batch of it to keep in a bottle in the fridge because it's so good on roasted vegetables.

Braised cabbage.

If you're not already drinking shrubs and switchels, google those for all kinds of recipes.

I love tamarind, which you find in a lot of Filipino, Thai, Malaysian, and some regions of Indian dishes. This sweet potato curry looks real good, and I make this basic chutney once a month or so to keep in the fridge. (I plan to make this date-tamarind chutney soon.)
posted by Lyn Never at 10:49 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Ohhh that reminds me of this Mark Bittman chicken with vinegar recipe, which if I didn't live alone, making it somewhat awkward to deal with a whole chicken, I would cook constantly.

(Oops, I see someone else already mentioned this one. Make it a co-sign.)
posted by praemunire at 10:50 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Red lentil soup with lemon. You can just keep adding lemon until the desired state is reached.

I blend this soup, although I have never seen a recipe to recommend this. Blended it is thin but velvety.
posted by Frowner at 10:51 AM on October 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

This Orange-Ginger Pork Medallions is one of my favorite high-acid recipes. It doesn't necessarily read that way - but one cup of orange juice reduced to a glaze is delightfully acidic.
posted by slipthought at 10:52 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Vindaloo and Tom Yum Soup are both delicious.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 10:57 AM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

My wife makes a simple salad using peeled sliced cucumbers and a dressing made with sour cream, vinegar, and a little salt. Adjust the proportions to your personal taste. She likes to blend it thin so she can drink the dressing from the bowl at the end.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:58 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Real vindaloo. Not US Indian restaurant vindaloo, which is nothing like the real thing.

I like Madhur Jaffrey's recipe (2nd recipe down). It's an Indian twist on a Portugese-style stew with vinegar and garlic.
posted by w0mbat at 11:01 AM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I make large quantities of pickled red onions by slicing the onions thinly, and then submerging them in a mix of lemon juice, lime juice, and orange juice. (One large red onion --> one lime, one lemon, and half an orange. Scale to your pleasure.) They are very pleasantly tart, keep for a long time in the fridge, and you can eat them in large quantities with beans or any other Mexican food.
posted by willbaude at 11:04 AM on October 16, 2018 [6 favorites]

Harvard Carrots, adjust the sugar to taste.

4 lbs carrots, peeled
1 c sugar
½ c vinegar
½ c butter
2 T cornstarch
Salt and Pepper

Cut carrots into 1/4-inch coins.
Boil carrots until slightly tender (about 6 minutes)
Combine sugar, cornstarch, and vinegar in saucepan and cook until thickened.
Salt and Pepper carrots then sauté in butter until tender (about 4 minutes).
Coat with sugar/vinegar glaze.
posted by zinon at 11:13 AM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Others have already mentioned collard greens (or any other greens, really) but a key element of the dish that hasn't been brought up yet is pepper vinegar. That's what takes them to the heights of sourness that I imagine you're seeking.

I'll also second the recommendation of vinegar coleslaw.
posted by saladin at 11:24 AM on October 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

I have a slow cooker recipe that involves lentils, chicken stock, canned diced tomatoes, cauliflower and near the end, a brick of frozen spinach and cilantro but what it boils down to (heh) is lentils splashed with lemon juice. You can just do that if you're in a hurry.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:25 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

This French lentils recipe is meant to only take so much vinegar as to give a mild tang, but honestly I put in so much it becomes largely a delivery vehicle for vinegar, and it is delicious enough to make me eat lentils.
posted by praemunire at 11:34 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Agrodolce, the Italian flavoring (agro=sour, dolce=sweet) for many kinds of foods (search for agrodoce chicken or grilled eggplant, etc.) will get you far down this road. This squash recipe especially (it's not labeled agrodolce as such, but on the show she called it that).
posted by General Malaise at 11:38 AM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Borscht! I use the instant pot to make soup with beets, cabbage, carrots, other root veg ad lib, plus good stock and pickle juice. I save jars of dill pickle and kimchi juice specifically for this purpose.

Also good for the sour taste is kimchi or sauerkraut potroast.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:41 AM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I know Chicken with Vinegar has already been mentioned twice, but it really is that good, and I like this David Lebovitz chicken recipe even better.
posted by halation at 11:49 AM on October 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

French Sorrel - soups (like tschav for example) and salads. Seasonal, though - a flush in the spring and another in the fall. A green that tastes like a Granny Smith.
posted by garbanzilla at 11:49 AM on October 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Oops, just saw the "vegetarian" bit. This hot and sour eggplant is awesome and also quick and also also vegan (also good cold!).
posted by halation at 11:51 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sauerbraten aka pickled roast beef. Amazing with noodles and a good gravy.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 11:52 AM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

You can tweak a true traditional Spanish gazpacho recipe so the vinegar is to your taste.
posted by Stewriffic at 11:52 AM on October 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Sorry, just remembered another one: Eggplant, green peppers, and tomato. Simple and satisfying and very good hot or cold. You can use any vinegar you like (red wine is nice). Wonderful with toasted walnuts and fresh herbs on top (either mint or basil). Good hot with crusty bread; great cold the next day, served atop baby spinach as a salad.
posted by halation at 11:56 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

This Carolina Cole Slaw recipe has been in my rotation for a while. I tweak it and put in less sugar, more salt.

Also, I'm seeing some vinegar chicken recipes posted here, but the classic, excellent, super delicious vinegar chicken recipe is Cornell Chicken. So, so, SO good!
posted by cleverevans at 12:32 PM on October 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Trader Joe's offers a paste that is kale, basil, cashew butter, olive oil and lemon. I don't even like kale, and this stuff is fantastic.
posted by effluvia at 12:33 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

What luck, I made this last night and am eating it for lunch right now! Honey Ginger Tofu Veggie Stir Fry. The sauce has 1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar and it has a great vinegar-y kick. You could sub in almost any veggie (was thinking it would be good with broccoli and water chestnuts)
posted by LKWorking at 12:33 PM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

effluvia, what would you do with that? put it on pasta?
posted by wellred at 12:48 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

This Lebanese kebbeh recipe is very good and is sort of like a stuffed meatloaf. The sour ingredients in the stuffing are pomegranate molasses and the spice sumac, which is a sour-tasting dried and crushed fruit unrelated to the plants usually called “sumac” in English.

In my region of the U.S. there are small Middle Eastern and sometimes Indian markets where you'd buy the pomegranate molasses, sumac, and bulgur wheat required by the kebbeh recipe. (Note that bulgur comes in different grades. The recipe specifies fine, but when I've ended up with coarse bulgur it hasn't really affected the result.)
posted by XMLicious at 12:54 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thank you all so much for these! I can't wait to get started trying them out. (Also to be clear it's perfectly fine if a recipe isn't punch-you-in-the-face acidic, or if you just have the name of the dish and no recipe.)
posted by little onion at 12:54 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Wrong time of the year now, but find a gazpacho recipe you like (they are similar, but you probably have a favourite), and add a shot of pickle juice (or even just pickles, before blending), adjust as desired. I make mine really tangy, it's fantastic.
posted by Laura in Canada at 1:06 PM on October 16, 2018

Any recipes with tamarind in.... although it's often seen paired with fish sauce. Vegetable Pad Thai?
posted by quacks like a duck at 1:26 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Garlic Lemon Chicken
Squeeze the juice of 8-10 lemons into baking (lasagna) dish. Drizzle in about 1/4 cup olive oil and 6-8 crushed cloves of garlic. My mom adds oregano and calls it Greek Chicken, but I prefer it without. Put in 8 chicken thighs and marinate if you have time, if not, fine. Pop it into a 350° oven for ~45 minutes. Lemony goodness!
posted by sarajane at 1:28 PM on October 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

This old Nigel Slater recipe is fantastically sharp, just add more lime if you want super acidity: Pork with Lime, Cashews and Mint. So good!
posted by freya_lamb at 1:33 PM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Not that one needs an excuse to buy Belgian beer, but it is a big component is carbonnade a la flamande, a slightly sour, acidic beef and onion stew.
posted by mmascolino at 1:52 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Avgolemono soup is my friend's favorite food.

I solve this by drenching things in Chinkiang Vinegar; here is a recipe for 凉皮 (Liang Pi), which is a more nuanced way to drench noodles in vinegar.
posted by batter_my_heart at 2:01 PM on October 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Massaged kale salad - you scrunch the kale up with lemon juice, olive oil, salt - many variations on this online in terms of what other ingredients to add (apples, avocado, dates, ...) , so you can find one that looks good to you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:30 PM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

wellred, Here are some applications

Spread for turkey sandwich

Base for thai style basil soup with stir fry veg and corn

Yogurt or cottage cheese and blend for creamy basil whatever

Foccacia spread

It disappears fast off the TJ shelf.
posted by effluvia at 2:45 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

CEVICHE!! I love acidic citrus things and this totally fills that need. There are a million recipes out there but I especially like tuna/watermelon/lime and grapefruit/scallop.

Tom kha soup with extra lime.

Grated root vegetables (I like this with carrots and beets) with lime, jalapeño, cilantro and garlic.

This amazing fish with Meyer lemon relish!

I have so many more and am watching this thread with interest!
posted by centrifugal at 3:10 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Canh chua

posted by smoke at 3:13 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

You need Northern African preserved lemons in your life. They combine sour, salty, and hot and are amazing on their own or added to any number of dishes.

Take 6-8 lemons and cut them into 1/8ths. Salt them really, really well (like 1 tsp per lemon at least) and pack into a very clean quart glass jar. Smush them a bit and if the lemons are not fully submerged, top it up with some extra lemon juice and salt. Leave this for a week in a cool, dry place.

Now! Dump everything through a strainer, saving the lemon wedges. Wash and repack the jar but also put in as many skinny, hot chilis as you can fit. Heat up some vegetable oil to a boil and carefully pour this into the packed jar until everything is covered. Let this sit for another week and then they are ready to use :)
posted by ananci at 3:23 PM on October 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Pomegranates and pomegranate molasses vary from sweet to sour and sour ones are great in a salad or dressing.

Thai beef salad is dressed with a sauce made from lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and chilli and can be as sour as you like it.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 4:52 PM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've made this russian vinagrette salad a few times and it is amazing - all the flavour comes from the sauerkraut and pickles and beets. mmmmmmm. That recipe makes a lot, but it gets better as it soaks, so it's great for having lots of lunch leftovers.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:10 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

google Ottolenghi's tomato-pomegranate salad. Has tartness from both pomegranate seeds and pomegranate molasses. Complex, delicious, vegetarian.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:12 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hello, may I introduce you to pickled mustard greens? Widely available in Asian grocery stores. Some brands do punch you in the face with the sourness. Very easy dish that's great for leftovers: chop it up, sautée with optional scrambled egg, and mix with / serve over steamed white rice. It's also an ingredient in suan cai yu, a Sichuan fish stew - perhaps you could find a vegetarian protein substitute.

Vietnamese cuisine has several 'acid-forward'~ dishes:
Do chua is the classic pickled daikon and carrots that comes in banh mi sandwiches; you can also eat it with com tam (broken rice) and bi chay (vegetarian shredded 'pork' skin).
Goi du du is a tangy green papaya salad.
Canh chua is a sour soup with a tamarind broth, pineapple (so it's somewhat sweet), tomatoes, bean sprouts, and often but not necessarily fish.
Cu cai ngam nuoc tuong is white radish pickled in soy sauce and most commonly eaten with sticky rice and mung bean cakes, on the saltier side.

More ideas:
Umeboshi is a strong and salty Japanese pickled plum that can be eaten with rice, such as in onigiri rice balls.
Seconding the tom kha kai and tom yum.
Danmuji is a Korean banchan side dish (also known as takuan in traditional Japanese food) of yellow pickled radish, often served in gimbap/kimbap (Korean 'sushi roll'), though it tends to be a bit sweeter. Kimchi can also be sour of course, with plenty of associated dishes.
Pickled banana peppers or pepperoncini in a simple Greek salad, in a sub, or on pizza can sometimes hit that sour spot for me.
Injeri is a fun Ethiopian flatbread that's mildly sour and a bit spongy and consumed with various stews and salads. Or try any sourdough and add quick pickled vegetables (cucumbers, onions, beets, radishes, beans, jalapeños, cauliflower, etc.) for a tart sandwich.
Chamoy is a Mexican condiment made from pickled fruit that you could try using as a marinade or sauce in, for instance, tacos.

Okay, please excuse me while I involuntarily salivate ... enjoy!
posted by eyeball at 5:25 PM on October 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

If you find you like pickled mustard greens, I like them in this pork stir-fry.

(Hmm, it's almost as if I like sour foods.)
posted by praemunire at 5:31 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

This isn't a recipe sorry, but I sometimes have Indian pickles as a side when I do an Indian curry. They are intensely acidic and I can only have small bits at a time softened by bowls of curry and rice, but if you're ever doing Indian curries they're pretty great as the acid component to the meal.
posted by womb of things to be and tomb of things that were at 6:17 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

This “fall-toush” salad (a play on fattoush) has a great tang from sumac and lemon. It’s highly adaptable to whatever vegetables you have on hand that roast nicely. Vegetarian and keeps well.
posted by Empidonax at 8:02 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am a fellow sour-lover and this thread is so great!

A few other ideas:

- Thai "omelete": beat two eggs with a tsp of corn starch and 1 tsp each of fish sauce and rice vinegar (can do more rice vinegar if you want it). Heat up some oil in a pan until it's really hot but not quite smoking. Pour the eggs into the pan from about a foot up (this is important!). The eggs should instantly puff up - flip after about 15-20 seconds, then cook for another 20 seconds or so. Eat with rice and sriracha (vinegary!). (If the pan isn't quite hot enough, you might need to cook it a bit longer)

- Baked chicken with barbecue sauce and sauerkraut. As easy as it gets: place chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, bone-in or boneless, all work) on a bed of sauerkraut. Add some more sauerkraut to the top, and cover with barbecue sauce (use a really vinegary one!). Cook on 350 until the chicken is done (will depend on the cut of meat you used). Eat with rice or potatoes.

An emphatic “Yes, I have read Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat!”

Have you seen the Netflix show? The Acid episode takes place in Mexico and gave me some good ideas.

posted by lunasol at 10:20 PM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you're OK with fish, you'll go bonkers over Penang Asam Laksa - a sour fish noodle soup from Malaysia. It avoids the sweet components that mar other Asam Laksa variants to concentrate on the tamarind-based sourness. Then there is plenty of herbaceous mint and lemongrass and ginger combined with powerfully savory poached and flaked mackerel. Oh, and don't forget the red chili heat that keeps it so addictive.

It's the #7 best food in the world, according to CNN Go. I'd agree with them that it belongs in the top ten.
posted by Enkidude at 4:27 AM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

One of my favorite super quick dinner foods is to get the super thin pork chop cuts, season them with whatever I have on hand (salt, pepper, spicy stuff, etc.), and basically just saute them in lemon juice. They take like five minutes to make, are satisfyingly sour, and the leftover are really good cold on salads the next day.
posted by helloimjennsco at 8:37 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Have you ever cooked with amchur powder? It's a ground sour mango rind often used in Indian cooking; for example, it's an important component of Channa Masala.
posted by mosst at 9:20 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

My family, we eat jiaozi/guotie/potstickers with lots of Chinkiang vinegar (you can replace with Sherry vinegar for a fairly identical flavor, or balsamic for both sour and sweet) and raw garlic cloves. We dip it into the vinegar, and eat it, then take a bite of raw garlic, and then finish it off with the dumpling broth as a palate cleanser. Repeat cycle. I don't eat dumplings any other way haha!
posted by yueliang at 11:49 AM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hello fellow lover of the sour. First I must nth pickling. Here is a book that I use.

[Edit, you said vegetarian, I apologize]

I have also gotten into the habit of sprinkling apple cider vinegar over my popcorn.
posted by koucha at 2:01 PM on October 19, 2018

Posca. Not food but drink, the water doused with vinegar that kept the Roman army going. I have it most mornings when starting up work, when the coffee has started wearing off. My modern take is a to splash a teaspoon or two of red wine vinegar into sparkling water on ice. In the cool months, I switch to cider vinegar.
posted by bendybendy at 5:58 AM on October 23, 2018

I just discovered this question. What did you love that you have made?
I just open a can of sliced beets, pour out most of the liquid, not all, add some cider vinegar, and call them pickled beets. Ideally they marinate while I make a proper dinner, sometimes I just eat them from the can.
Sliced cucumber with a small amount of vinegar, add salt & pepper. Eat within a few hours.
I make a white chili with chicken & broth, white beans, and lots of pickled banana peppers *with lots of their pickling brine*. I can't eat dairy, but if you do, add shredded monterey jack cheese. You could maybe use tofu instead of chicken.
Save the liquid from tasty pickles, make your own quick pickles by adding grated carrots or sliced red onion, or sliced cauliflower, or some other vegetable. for safety, I only re-use the pickle juice one time.
You can add kimchi to Asian-style rice dishes, and add pickled jalapenos to sesame peanut butter sauce for pasta. A local Chinese restaurant uses some small Chinese pickled peppers that are great, but the jalapenos work.
This is a tasty ask, thanks.
posted by theora55 at 11:03 AM on March 15, 2019

I've loved making pepper and garlic vinegar, a tagine with home-made preserved lemons, and one or two agrodolces! I've tried vindaloo, avgolemono, Tom Yum Soup, and gose beers.

Looking back through this list, I really want to make the Sichuan eggplant, vinegar chicken (and eventually, almost everything else). And more simple things like fridge pickles!
posted by little onion at 9:36 AM on May 9, 2019

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