What Causes Food to Taste Bland?

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It can be frustrating to throw piles of spices, herbs and ingredients at a dish only to find that it doesn’t taste of an awful lot. But what causes food to taste bland? And how can you fix that?

One of the leading causes for food tasting bland is a lack of seasoning. A simple pinch of salt might not seem like much but it can help to elevate each of the ingredients in your dish and take a dish from bland to tasty almost instantly.

What Causes Food to be Bland?

There are actually a number of reasons why your cooking is turning out bland each and every time. So, what causes food to taste bland? Here is our in-depth list of what causes it and how to fix it:


  • Lack of Seasoning – This is the number 1 cause of bland tasting food. It’s as simple as not using any or enough salt and pepper. Salt, especially, helps to enhance the flavours in your dish. We know salt is supposed to be bad for you but a little will go a long way.
What Does Season to Taste Mean?

It sort of means what it says. You should add salt, taste the dish and if you can taste salt then it is seasoned enough. Ultimately, it comes down to your taste and what you like.

  • Poor Spice Use – Spices are one of the best ways to add interest to any dish. But if you use them incorrectly then they’ll disappear into the body of your dish. Firstly, it’s essential to toast spices to bring their flavour out. Next, you should choose whole and pre-ground spices and grind them fresh when you need them.
  • Old Ingredients – Ingredients that have been sitting in your cupboard for months on end are never going to taste that great. This is especially true for dried herbs and spices as well as opened condiments. If you’re keeping spices in the cupboard for extended periods of time then keep them away from sunlight in airtight containers.
  • Low-Quality Ingredients – Fresh, good-quality produce that’s locally sourced that’s used when it’s at its best will naturally taste better than something that’s been sat at the bottom of your fridge for a week or so.
  • Incorrect Recipe Adaptations – We all have to adapt recipes every now and then if we don’t have the right ingredients. But sometimes, these adaptations can go wrong. Swapping out stock for water or simply missing out on one of the key ingredients can immediately cause a dish to taste bland.
  • Avoiding Sauces and Dressings – All too often, people at home cook a piece of meat, serve it up with some vegetables and ignore a sauce. Whether it’s a drizzle of pesto, a dollop of aioli or a simple lemon dressing, these can all help to elevate a dish.
  • Lack of Marinating Time – Some recipes will call for meat, fish or veg to be left in a marinade for several hours or overnight. And this time is there for a reason. You need to allow your marinade time to work its way into the core of your ingredients. If you just slap the marinade on, it’ll only thinly coat the exterior.
  • Poor Cooking Technique – Steaming all your vegetables and roasting every protein is never going to bring out the best flavour in your ingredients. Instead, you should try mixing up the way you cook. Basting vegetables in a little butter after cooking them, for example, will instantly add flavour.
  • Too Much Routine in the Kitchen – As humans, we are creatures of habit. This can lead to us cooking the same things over and over again. Ultimately, this repetition in the kitchen is going to get boring and will lead to the same dishes tasting more and more bland as time passes. Get on Google and find something a little more interesting to cook!

Our Quick Fix for Bland Food

You can make a bland dish taste exciting by adding a sauce. If you have a base sauce that can be knocked together at home with some basic ingredients, you can fix any dish. A simple salsa verde is perfect for this: Combine a large handful of parsley, basil and mint with a couple of garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 8 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard in a food processor.

What Cause Loss of Taste?

Perhaps it’s not the food? Maybe your cooking is fine? Because there is another cause of food tasting bland and that is an illness.


Something as mundane as a common cold or a blocked nose will impact the way you taste food. If you’re suffering from a cold, then this can immediately be the cause for food tasting bland. If you think the cause of your bland tasting dinner is an illness then why not simply ask someone else to give it a try.

The other cause can be if you’ve eaten something too hot. Burning your tongue will limit your ability to taste. It’s as if your taste buds have been stripped and they need time to recover. This can be both heat from high-temperature things such as coffee or heat from chillies which can also strip your taste buds.

Bland Food FAQs

If you’ve still got a question or two about how to fix bland-tasting food, then these FAQs might help you out:

Why Is My Cooking Not Tasty?

If your cooking isn’t tasty, then chances are you’re holding back on one of the four major cooking elements bought to the forefront by Samin Nosrat: Salt, fat, acid (and heat). Make sure you’re seasoning well, adding fat and finishing with acid.

What’s the Quickest Way to Fix Bland Food?

If you’ve cooked a meal that’s a little lacking in flavour, then there are a few ways you can fix it, quickly. A pinch of pickled onions, a quick salsa verde, a handful of chopped herbs or a squeeze of lemon can all help elevate a dish fairly quickly.

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