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Is there really anything that is truly "flavorless"?

ipsedixit Sep 8, 2012 10:20 PM

People will say things like, "this dish is flavorless" when in fact it is just not true, and most likely hyperbole.

What they really mean is that the dish lacks flavor, but is not truly without any flavor.

So with that said, is there any thing out there -- either a dish or an ingredient -- that is truly without any flavor whatsoever?

Even something as bland as rice has some flavor to it -- be it a bit nutty, or a tad sweet. Rice, even in it's most neutered and adulterated form as parboiled rice, has some flavor to it (maybe not good flavor, but flavor nonetheless).

And water, that bland liquid from our faucet, certainly cannot be said to be flavorless, right? I, for one, can discern distinct flavor permutations between the tap from different municipalities that I've visited and lived at.

And one of my former bosses swore he could tell the difference between Evian and other bottled waters. When called on it, he passed a blind taste test. So, yes, I guess water is not without flavor.

What say you? Is there anything that is truly flavorless?

Gelatin maybe?

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  1. eclecticsynergy RE: ipsedixit Sep 8, 2012 11:53 PM

    I think freshly distilled water might be a candidate. Not the stuff that's been in a plastic bottle, surely, but newly made, straight from the still into a glass. If it can't be said to be utterly flavorless, it could be considered a sort of baseline for neutral flavor.

    14 Replies
    1. re: eclecticsynergy
      coll RE: eclecticsynergy Sep 9, 2012 12:03 AM

      I had some water from a stream in Wyoming once that was truly flavorless. It was just wet, otherwise nothing. Other than that, every tap water and every bottled water is totally different. Glad I had the experience of true nothingness once in my life. It does exist.

      1. re: coll
        ipsedixit RE: coll Sep 9, 2012 12:39 PM

        That sort of reminds me of the water I had at Glacier National Park.

        1. re: ipsedixit
          Chowrin RE: ipsedixit Sep 9, 2012 06:46 PM

          good way to catch giardia. Not Advised for People At Home. (except if the stream's been tested).

          1. re: Chowrin
            coll RE: Chowrin Sep 10, 2012 05:44 AM

            Mine was from a stream running through my BILs yard, been in the family for 100 years or more. I trusted him when he said "Drink this"! And glad I did. But don't worry, I watch Survivor Man and know the drill.

            1. re: coll
              EWSflash RE: coll Sep 10, 2012 07:57 PM

              Doesn't matter whose property the stream was running through, there were deer and beavers and heaven knows what else upstream, creatures that carry giardia.

              1. re: EWSflash
                coll RE: EWSflash Sep 11, 2012 02:57 AM

                Just lucky I guess! That was in the mid 1980s, when I was young and carefree...I'll have to ask him sometime, maybe it was from a spring?

        2. re: coll
          jmcarthur8 RE: coll Sep 10, 2012 10:42 AM

          When my son was young, we were having dinner at Grandma's house in a different state than ours. He took a drink of his water, and then said "This water tastes glassier than ours".

          It did, too. I never would have thought to describe it that way, though.

        3. re: eclecticsynergy
          John Francis RE: eclecticsynergy Sep 10, 2012 04:40 AM

          Distilled water, for sure. (Bottled spring water doesn't count, nor does tap water.) Also vodka without added flavorants.

          1. re: John Francis
            Virginian RE: John Francis Sep 10, 2012 08:30 AM

            I knew it wouldn't take long for someone to post that vodka has no flavor. That is entirely incorrect. Anyone who has tasted more than one brand of vodka (and that includes me) can distinguish different tastes between brands, if not actually identifying the brand. And, it only takes a single sip to know that vodka is not water.

            1. re: Virginian
              alliegator RE: Virginian Sep 10, 2012 09:20 AM

              Agreed. Vodka is generally my hard drink of choice and I'm picky about the brand. Water, not so much.

              1. re: Virginian
                John Francis RE: Virginian Sep 10, 2012 09:36 AM

                People can also tell the difference between water from different sources, but that's because of of the presence of elements besides H and O. I believe that's also true of vodka, which if it consists only of water and ethanol after being distilled, has no flavor that I can detect.

                1. re: John Francis
                  Virginian RE: John Francis Sep 10, 2012 09:37 AM

                  Really? You actually can't taste the ethanol? I certainly can.

                  1. re: Virginian
                    foiegras RE: Virginian Sep 10, 2012 04:11 PM

                    Me too. I have not yet experienced anything without flavor. I quite like the taste of jicama, tofu and water chestnuts not so much.

            2. re: eclecticsynergy
              huiray RE: eclecticsynergy Sep 11, 2012 08:55 AM

              I'd go along with the distilled water (freshly distilled straight from the still, that is) being the baseline for neutral "taste".

            3. j
              jaykayen RE: ipsedixit Sep 9, 2012 01:36 PM

              Pure water is flavorless.... it has no chemicals that your nose or tongue can detect.

              1. Veggo RE: ipsedixit Sep 9, 2012 01:38 PM

                Icicles, and one of my old girlfriend's cooking, and tofu.

                15 Replies
                1. re: Veggo
                  Tovflu RE: Veggo Sep 9, 2012 06:33 PM

                  Tofu has flavor. I love eating plain tofu, but there are certain brands that I don't like for plain use because they have such a distinct flavor difference from my preference. Those ones are still enjoyable in other preparations though.

                  1. re: Tovflu
                    Veggo RE: Tovflu Sep 9, 2012 06:47 PM

                    OK, I'll move on to jicama, which is as flavorful as waterlogged styrofoam. I'll save water chestnuts for later.

                    1. re: Veggo
                      Tovflu RE: Veggo Sep 9, 2012 06:50 PM

                      Ah, jicama! I'd forgotten that one. We may be in agreement there, right down to the'waterlogged styrofoam.'

                      1. re: Veggo
                        cheesemaestro RE: Veggo Sep 10, 2012 08:01 AM

                        Jicama is not flavorless.. It's slightly sweet and is a great addition to salads. Its texture is not like styrofoam, but more like a fresh, crisp apple.

                        1. re: cheesemaestro
                          Veggo RE: cheesemaestro Sep 10, 2012 08:28 AM

                          You are right. I'm spoofing a bit. I was trying to imagine the most visually unappealing meal - maybe baked cod or halibut, boiled cauliflower, jicama salad with water chestnuts and tofu, mashed potatoes, all served on a white plate. Horchata for beverage, tapioca for dessert. But it would be a tasty meal.

                          1. re: Veggo
                            lcool RE: Veggo Sep 10, 2012 09:01 AM

                            Only needing some raw,unsalted zucchini ribbons to up the anti,flavour or looks

                          2. re: cheesemaestro
                            huiray RE: cheesemaestro Sep 11, 2012 08:47 AM

                            Also agree re jicama. It *definitely* has a taste and great texture.

                            Cooked jicama is a prominent ingredient in various SE Asian dishes. Malaysian popiah (YUM!!) to me would be unimaginable without jicama.

                            1. re: huiray
                              Tovflu RE: huiray Sep 11, 2012 09:23 AM

                              I have to say my experiences with jicama has been limited. The most recent time I can remember having it was raw from a salad bar selection and it struck me as tasting like extremely pure water.

                              I've never had it cooked though. Does it retain it's stiff texture/structure after cooking?

                              1. re: Tovflu
                                huiray RE: Tovflu Sep 11, 2012 09:36 AM

                                To an extent. It becomes somewhat limp/softened but still has a slight crunch. A common way to prepare it is to shred or julienne into strips (after peeling the corm, of course), somewhat like what I imagine you might have had on that salad bar. Cooking times affect the final result. The sweetness becomes more noticeable on cooking. Of course, it is often cooked w/ seasonings added as well so obviously the "natural" taste is no longer the only taste in those cases.

                            2. re: cheesemaestro
                              TroyTempest RE: cheesemaestro Sep 12, 2012 08:34 AM

                              Jicama is not flavorless, but it is about the closest that a food can come, that i have ever had.

                              1. re: TroyTempest
                                huiray RE: TroyTempest Sep 12, 2012 08:40 AM

                                Well, I can summon up the flavor and taste of jicama ("sar kot") in my mind quite easily.

                            3. re: Veggo
                              chowaholic RE: Veggo Sep 16, 2012 11:53 AM

                              Agreed! Jicama tastes like crunchy water.

                            4. re: Tovflu
                              sueatmo RE: Tovflu Sep 9, 2012 07:17 PM

                              I'm not sure if Tofu has flavor. I can't get past the appearance (gray) and a slight sickening smell.

                              1. re: sueatmo
                                huiray RE: sueatmo Sep 11, 2012 08:41 AM


                                I don't know any type of tofu that is GRAY in color, except certain types of preserved fermented tofu after it has been exposed to air and oxidation has occurred - when it could HARDLY be said to be tasteless.

                                In any case, I agree with the poster above that tofu does indeed have taste. (Let alone different kinds of texture) Different preparations of tofu have different tastes too. I think millions and millions of people also consider that different types of tofu have different tastes, too. ;-)

                              2. re: Tovflu
                                huiray RE: Tovflu Sep 11, 2012 08:42 AM


                            5. s
                              sueatmo RE: ipsedixit Sep 9, 2012 01:45 PM

                              Well, we would not eat flavorless food, would we? Unless we were starving and desperate for any calories at all?

                              If you have ever eaten old iceberg lettuce, you know that food can come close to being flavorless. Plain Minute rice comes close too, having only mouth feel going for it and only a very slight flavor.

                              1. eclecticsynergy RE: ipsedixit Sep 9, 2012 03:27 PM

                                "Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity." ~Voltaire

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: eclecticsynergy
                                  Veggo RE: eclecticsynergy Sep 9, 2012 03:45 PM

                                  If Voltaire had been my age when he turned that phrase, he would have included bowel movements along with eating and drinking as pleasurable necessities.

                                  1. re: Veggo
                                    DeppityDawg RE: Veggo Sep 10, 2012 07:54 AM

                                    For information, the book where that quotation appears ("Les Adorateurs, ou les Louanges de Dieu") was published when Voltaire was 75. It claims to be a translation of another book by a certain "Monsieur Imhof", but I'm not sure what to make of that.

                                2. Tripeler RE: ipsedixit Sep 9, 2012 05:42 PM

                                  Not entirely flavorless, but fairly close: shirataki, the little bundle of noodles made from konyakku (a root vegetable). There are no calories, but it is oddly filling. Often found in Japanese dishes such as sukiyaki and oden.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Tripeler
                                    Tovflu RE: Tripeler Sep 9, 2012 06:31 PM

                                    This is the only thing I could think of. The flavor, when they're prepared properly, barely registers. It's still there, but just barely.

                                    1. re: Tripeler
                                      ipsedixit RE: Tripeler Sep 9, 2012 07:46 PM

                                      I know they are totally different, but konyakku sort of reminds me of the wax paper that's used in Chinese White Rabbit candy.

                                    2. Crockett67 RE: ipsedixit Sep 9, 2012 07:19 PM

                                      While some same pure refine oil or even deionized water is flavorless.

                                      Really, your saliva is flavorless to you. Meaning it's the base level of flavor noise that any change in is detected.

                                      1. c
                                        cresyd RE: ipsedixit Sep 10, 2012 03:06 AM

                                        Someone will have to verify this for me - but the purely gelatin/cartilage items (i.e. sharks fin, birdsnest) are supposedly not about any taste but rather texture. I've had sharks fin soup once, and don't recall the sharks fin itself really having any flavor - but I'm hardly an expert so I'm very open to being wrong.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: cresyd
                                          Veggo RE: cresyd Sep 10, 2012 03:11 AM

                                          You are exactly right. Shark fin is tasteless cartilege, shrouded in myth.

                                          1. re: Veggo
                                            cresyd RE: Veggo Sep 10, 2012 03:22 AM

                                            Taking this one step further - Iron Chef Japan basically used to rank sea cucumber/sharks fin/ birds nest in that order of high quality/specialness. So would people in the know say that sea cucumbers have any taste?

                                            1. re: cresyd
                                              Veggo RE: cresyd Sep 10, 2012 03:35 AM

                                              I have been a diver for 24 years, and I have seen countless sea cucumbers lope along sand flats defenselessly because none of the thousands of sea predators has any interest in them.

                                              Then along came man....

                                        2. h
                                          HillJ RE: ipsedixit Sep 10, 2012 09:09 AM

                                          Aloe, gelatin, water, Truvia (& not worth spending $ on to find out).

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: HillJ
                                            coll RE: HillJ Sep 10, 2012 09:26 AM

                                            Aloe? It's the most bitter thing I have ever tasted, I think. Straight from the plant I'm talking about. Yuck.

                                            1. re: coll
                                              HillJ RE: coll Sep 10, 2012 09:34 AM

                                              I make smoothies with aloe juice because I like what it does to the texture of the drink.
                                              I also believe in its digestive benefits.

                                              1. re: HillJ
                                                coll RE: HillJ Sep 10, 2012 09:37 AM

                                                My mother used to take it for allergy reasons, she bought it in a plastic jug. I have only tried it from my houseplant, when I burnt my tongue, but it was pretty vile. Guess the jug isn't so bad?

                                                1. re: HillJ
                                                  foiegras RE: HillJ Sep 10, 2012 04:15 PM

                                                  To me (supertaster), aloe juice definitely has a taste. I think it's all a matter of sensitivity ...

                                                  1. re: foiegras
                                                    HillJ RE: foiegras Sep 10, 2012 04:17 PM

                                                    Interesting, foiegras. I experience texture over taste. Have a name for that? :)

                                            2. alliegator RE: ipsedixit Sep 10, 2012 09:21 AM

                                              I'm thinking glass noddles. The most flavorless solid food I can think of. Great at taking on other flavors, though.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: alliegator
                                                seamunky RE: alliegator Sep 11, 2012 04:09 AM

                                                i agree. i have a pretty hard time detecting the flavor from bean thread / glass noodles. everything else mentioned (except for distilled water) i can taste distonctly

                                              2. mucho gordo RE: ipsedixit Sep 10, 2012 10:08 AM

                                                Any relatively cheap ingredient used primarily as "filler" such as celery or rice. Their purpose is to give substance to a mixture without altering the taste of the main, more costly, ingredient thus allowing less of it to be used.

                                                15 Replies
                                                1. re: mucho gordo
                                                  linguafood RE: mucho gordo Sep 10, 2012 10:13 AM

                                                  But celery adds a distinct flavor... namely, that of celery. It's why a good (tomato) sauce often starts with the trifecta of onion, carrot & celery.

                                                  1. re: linguafood
                                                    mucho gordo RE: linguafood Sep 10, 2012 12:39 PM

                                                    Aside from the onion, for me, the other 2 ingredients do nothing to improve any primary ingredient(s). Their fairly weak flavors do more to offset or neutralize than enhance.

                                                    1. re: mucho gordo
                                                      Veggo RE: mucho gordo Sep 10, 2012 12:42 PM

                                                      Mucho, mirepoix is part of life, my friend.

                                                      1. re: Veggo
                                                        mucho gordo RE: Veggo Sep 10, 2012 03:55 PM

                                                        I know, I know...........

                                                      2. re: mucho gordo
                                                        linguafood RE: mucho gordo Sep 10, 2012 12:53 PM

                                                        Well, that's just your opinion, man '-D

                                                        1. re: linguafood
                                                          mucho gordo RE: linguafood Sep 10, 2012 04:03 PM

                                                          Exactly, linguafood, it's my opinion. The tomato sauce you mention above is fine for pasta which, by itself, has no flavor but, a beef dish, such as meatloaf, suffers when covered by a tomato based sauce. I want to taste the beef, not the sauce.

                                                          1. re: mucho gordo
                                                            linguafood RE: mucho gordo Sep 11, 2012 08:10 AM

                                                            Pasta has flavor, too. Dough & salt, to be exact.

                                                            1. re: linguafood
                                                              mucho gordo RE: linguafood Sep 11, 2012 10:00 AM

                                                              Technically, I suppose you're right.

                                                        2. re: mucho gordo
                                                          tastesgoodwhatisit RE: mucho gordo Sep 10, 2012 06:28 PM

                                                          Interesting. I find that fresh good celery had a strong and distinct taste that I quite like, and am happy to eat plain. Plain white rice does have a distinct flavour and aroma, but it's more subtle. I find it does vary between different rices.

                                                        3. re: linguafood
                                                          foiegras RE: linguafood Sep 10, 2012 04:18 PM

                                                          To me, celery is a fairly strong flavor, detectable a long ways off ... OTOH, I use organic celery and cook with the leaves as well. Still ... celery?!

                                                          I make a risotto with only onion, carrot, celery, chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Each of the ingredients is bringing something, and if it didn't, it would be eliminated.

                                                          If they didn't have flavor, why would celery and carrot soups exist?

                                                          Pasta also obviously has a flavor ... that's why I make sure to buy the good imported Italian stuff, and salt it well. And why good handmade pasta is worth a drive ...

                                                          Boxed rices definitely have a flavor ... a bad one. I hate the taste of converted rice ... I won't eat it.

                                                          1. re: foiegras
                                                            jmcarthur8 RE: foiegras Sep 10, 2012 05:00 PM

                                                            Hubby and I have been talking about this for a while. He doesn't taste any flavor in rice or pasta, and I detect a lovely flavor in each.
                                                            Until he quit smoking a few years back, he thought parsley had absolutely no flavor. Now he can tell, but still, it's faint. There are several green herbs that he simply can't taste.

                                                            1. re: jmcarthur8
                                                              huiray RE: jmcarthur8 Sep 11, 2012 08:52 AM

                                                              I'm another who finds that rice has a taste. It's subtle but it is there.

                                                              1. re: jmcarthur8
                                                                cheesemaestro RE: jmcarthur8 Sep 11, 2012 10:45 AM

                                                                Rice definitely has flavor, especially fragrant varieties like basmati. Rice cakes, on the other hand, are getting pretty close to a food that's as tasteless as can be.

                                                                I had jellyfish once a long time ago. My recollection of it is that, by itself, it conveyed very little flavor.

                                                              2. re: foiegras
                                                                huiray RE: foiegras Sep 11, 2012 08:51 AM

                                                                I agree, celery *definitely* has a taste. Also, adding celery to any soup or broth or stew produces an unmistakable change in the taste and smell profile.

                                                                Celery leaves is still "celery", why shouldn't it be?

                                                                1. re: huiray
                                                                  foiegras RE: huiray Sep 11, 2012 11:18 AM

                                                                  My point was that organic growing intensifies the flavor, and celery leaves are more flavorful than stalks, but even given that the celery I choose and the way I use it intensifies the flavor, celery still seems a very odd choice to me for 'flavorless.'

                                                          2. h
                                                            HillJ RE: ipsedixit Sep 10, 2012 10:19 AM

                                                            does anyone think that say Uncle Ben's or most boxed basic white rices have a flavor?

                                                            1. drongo RE: ipsedixit Sep 10, 2012 04:59 PM

                                                              My wife eats shirataki noodles (the konjak type not the tofu type) and I think they're tasteless (I see people on the web comparing their flavor and texture to "rubber bands" and that seems about right to me).

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