From ancient times to today, the Six Tastes of Ayurveda have remained relevant to our lives as a source of healing.
The basic principle is simple: balance the six tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent in your meal, and you are guaranteed to experience satisfaction while eating.
I say this from personal experience. I have practiced Ayurvedic cooking according to the Six Tastes for over 20 years, and experienced profound inner joy and satisfaction from my food as a result.
This positive experience comes from the feeling of enjoying balanced food on a regular basis.
There is a metaphysical explanation for this, which starts with acknowledging that there are Five Elements that make up all matter in the universe, including our bodies. These are Air, Earth, Water, Fire, and Ether.
Each of the Six Tastes is primarily comprised of two of the Five Elements.
So when you consume some of each taste in a meal, your body gets an equal balance of the Five Elements, which is everything that it needs for health and wellness.
There is a further correlation between the elements and your emotions. This means that your mind also gets everything it needs.
Put in the simplest terms though, a balance of the Six Tastes on your plate tastes and feels incredible to eat. (Check out my testimonials if you want more evidence.)
Ready to learn how to get yourself some tasty food and maybe even bliss out?
Below are the exact seven steps I used to master the Six Tastes of Ayurvedic cooking.
Intro To Cooking With The Six Tastes
In this section, I will explain to you the nuts and bolts of how you can learn to master the six tastes. It is the exact process I used.
First, you are going to need this chart to familiarize yourself with the Six Tastes.
You'll be able to identify foods that contain each taste, as well as the qualities that each taste brings to the body and mind.
A Table Of The Six Tastes:
Elements, Mind-Body Impact, And Foods
Elements and the Six Tastes
|Sweet||Earth and Water||Calms nerves and mind and builds body tissue, however in excess it dampens digestion increases congestion, and weight gain.||Most grains and fruits, water, and milk.|
|Sour||Earth and Fire||Stimulates and energizes appetite and digestion, and supports elimination of waste from the body. In excess it can cause excessive thirst, hyperacidity, ulcers, burning, and skin conditions.||Lemon, lime, grapefruit, berries. All fermented foods, such as miso, soy sauce, yogurt, and pickles.|
|Salty||Water and Fire||Enhances flavor, cleanses, and stimulates appetite and digestion, but in excess it harms cells and bodily tissues and speeds aging.||Salt, seaweed, and watery vegetables such as zucchini, cucumber, celery, and tomato.|
|Pungent||Air and Fire||Promotes digestion and cleansing, and maintains metabolism and balance of bodily secretions, but needs moderation for optimal health.||Garlic, ginger, herbs like basil and oregano, spices like cardamom and cinnamon, and chili peppers.|
|Bitter||Air and Ether||Liver cleansing, helps to remove toxins, generally healing and toning to organs, controls skin ailments. In excess, bitter dehydrates, depletes, and can cause gas and constipation.||Turmeric, aloe vera, eggplant, lettuces, limes, kale, and cumin seed.|
|Astringent||Air and Earth||Cooling, drying, and heavy qualities are helpful for heat conditions and healing ulcers due to its drying and constricting effect on that reduce secretions and congestion. In excess, dry mouth, stagnant circulation and neuromuscular disorders.||Black and green teas, nuts, and legumes such as lentils and beans.|
Source: “A Life of Balance,” by Maya Tiwari
Associating the qualities with the tastes will really help you to intuit ingredients for your future meals.
Remember that cooking with the Six Tastes is not suppose to be scientific or a rigid thing. You can simply start to think in terms of flavors.
Do you have ingredients that represent each of the Six Flavors?
For example, think about the role of chutneys, sauces, garnishes, herbs and spices. These flavorful ingredients add important taste elements to the dinner plate. One of these could be just the thing you need to bring about an overall balance of flavors.
Hope that gives you a good idea of how this works. Now, let's go over the seven steps to Ayurvedic cooking with the Six Tastes of Ayurveda in detail.
7 Steps To Balanced Flavor In Ayurvedic Cooking
1. Plan Your Meal
In practice, this means thinking about including some of each flavor—sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent—in your meal.
Start with your main ingredient. Are you cooking squash and grains? Well that is very sweet. What will you add to balance the sweetness with other tastes?
Garlic or ginger will add pungency.
Turmeric or cumin will add bitter.
Include a side of cooked greens for astringency, and flavor your greens with red wine vinegar or lemon for the sour taste. Alternately, a fresh green salad with vinaigrette would provide the same tastes.
Finally, use salt or seaweed to add salt flavor, and you've got a balanced meal.
2. Source Quality Ingredients
Next, source quality ingredients and prepare them with a calm mind according to your plan.
For Ayurvedic cooking, always consider first what is in season, and what is available locally. Eating seasonally optimizes the potential for balance and flavor creation.
Balance comes from eating what nature provides, and flavors are always optimal when produce is fresh.
3. Cook Mindfully
When you cook, stay attentive to the amount of heat you are using, and the timing of adding the ingredients.
Give your food the time it needs at each stage of the cooking process to fully transform your raw ingredients into a harmonious meal.
Do not be in a rush while cooking. The key to experiencing cooking as a joyful meditation is giving yourself liberal time to cook.
If you are starving, consider eating a snack so that you are not anxious to finish. Fruit is a great pre-dinner snack because it is best to eat fruit on an empty stomach, and it takes about half an hour to digest.
Another good option is to make an herbal tea and enjoy it while cooking.
4. Present Your Food Attractively
Once the food is ready, serve it attractively on a plate or in a bowl. Visual appeal makes a difference in how the mind receives the food.
5. Analyze The Results
When you sit down to eat, mindfully taste your food.
Ask yourself, “how does it taste?” Analyze whether any of the flavors are missing.
You’ll know if something is missing, because your food will taste “meh,” otherwise known as lacking in interest or unimpressive.
Another common issue is that your food will have too much of one or two tastes.
It could be too salty, too sweet, too sour, or too oily. These are the most common problems in food today.
Another common problem is the missing bitter flavor.
Contrary to how most people feel about avoiding bitter at all costs, this taste is essential.
You don’t need much, but it is necessary to complete the harmony that is becoming your meal.
Bitter taste comes from lettuces, kale, turmeric, cumin, and lime.
6. Add In The Missing Ingredient(s)
Once you understand what is missing, go back to the kitchen and grab a bit of “this or that.”
A squeeze of fresh lemon to balance the salt;
A pinch of salt to balance the sweet;
A sweet relish or more food that isn’t sour to balance the sour;
Something dry and crunchy, such as pita chips or flatbread, to balance the bitter, or too much oil.
Some fresh turmeric root, or a bit of fresh arugula, to add bitter.
7. Enjoy The Experience Of Blissful Food
You’ve added the extra item to your meal … and voila! You discover a transformation has taken place!
Suddenly your food sings with flavor. One could even say it tastes blissful.
Your food can be this good! It really isn’t hard to achieve once you understand it and practice a bit.
The Six Tastes: A Recipe For Optimal Health
There are so many beneficial reasons to adopt this Ayurvedic approach to cooking.
I have experienced a lot of joy and inner peace from this approach, and at this point it has become a self fulfilling practice.
It encourages me to cook good things because I want the benefit of feeling good after eating.
It fosters self love and self respect because you are putting in the effort to care for yourself, and the others in your life.
Key Benefits Of Ayurvedic Cooking
A diet that is balanced according to the Six Tastes will naturally bring about balance in your mind and body, and support your overall health.
- Food addictions and cravings will stop bothering you
- You will attune to the seasons and crave foods that will best nourish your mind and body at a given time of year
- There will be no feeling bad about yourself for failing with your diet, because it has become easy to make good choices that you feel good about
- And hopefully, as you practice cooking with the Six Tastes, symptoms of disease will subside or disappear.
The more you cook with mindfulness and awareness of the Six Tastes, the more you position yourself to make better choices in all aspects of your life.
Learning this may also be easier than you think.
The Six Tastes are easy to work with once you learn to associate ingredients with their tastes.