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Cooking for a picky eater...

So I am trying to assemble a list of recipes that I could make for my boyfriend and me, but he is a rather picky eater and doesn't like a lot of the things I like, so I'm having a bit of trouble...
Here are a few things he doesn't like:
1. Cheese (and I love cheese and cheesy things)
2. Italian food (I love italian food)... he says he doesn't like the flavor scheme, so things like chicken parmesan, marinara sauce, and alfredo sauce he just really doesn't like...and we've been to Italy and he still doesn't like the food there, so I couldn't even try recreating some of my favorite authentic Italian dishes...
3. ANY vegetable except broccoli. Well, he'll eat tomatoes and cucumbers (he doesn't call them vegetables though) but of course those are two veggies that I can't stand
4. Beans

I know it may not seem like a lot, but it's difficult cause I've taught myself how to make a lot of Italian-style things that he doesn't like at all, and things like chili and mac-n-cheese that are simple but he won't eat them (he might eat chili sometimes...) and his whole life he's always just made do with frozen pizzas and frozen dinners and dining hall food at school (lots of hamburgers) so... my first instinct is to make my Italian food dishes I like 3 times a week but thats 3 times that he simply won't eat more than two bites so I want to change that...

Can y'all help me out with some recipes? He likes most meats and he likes to grill/eat grilled food.

You might say just let him live off of frozen pizzas but I enjoy cooking and I don't mind cutting down my preferences when I'm dining with him, I just need more creative options...my culinary skills are a novice level, but I'll extend myself a bit if necessary.

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  1. similar issues here, you two may have lots of notes to share


    1 Reply
    1. re: hill food

      There's also another active picky boyfriend thread and searching on this board and General Topics will yield many picky child/family member threads.

      You have your own strong likes/dislikes. Perhaps a way to begin negotiations is to agree to have one of your preferred foods and one of his at every meal, or alternate favorite entire meals. You're both adults.
      Assuming no allergies or serious intolerances, you both should be able to get down a food you don't care for.

      Roasting vegetables is one of the most successful way of getting people to like vegetables. In general, 1" chunks tossed with oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and/or herbs/spices, roasted on a sheet pan for 45 min at 400F, turning veg over at the 25 minute point. Softer ones take less time, root vegetables the most. Don't crowd the pan since that will inhibit browning.

    2. With all due love, respect and affection for another Hound, you may need to sit HIS butt down and tell him that if he's that particular about what food you prepare that he'll actually eat, than he needs to help you establish a menu.

      I've discovered my "picky eater" (we're talking a guy who never had a taco till he was 20, Chinese food till 22 and only vanilla ice cream till about 24!) - actually isn't half as picky as he thought... just mostly scared of things he doesn't already know he likes.. (At 28 guess who just tried carrot cake for the first time and was relieved to find out it wasn't a "vegetable loaf"!)

      So I'd say ask for input, push the envelope a bit, and if something falls flat with him... as grandma would say "eggs and bacon are in the fridge - you know where I keep the skillets!"

      1 Reply
      1. re: CaliforniaJoseph

        "just mostly scared of things he doesn't already know he likes.. (At 28 guess who just tried carrot cake for the first time and was relieved to find out it wasn't a "vegetable loaf"!)"

        My husband. He adamantly hates cucumber, but loves tzatziki. Adamantly hates cream cheese frosting, except for the kind I made him. Adamantly hates pumpkin, except for the kind we can get in Malaysia (which is also closer to the texture of Canadian pumpkin). Hates... Well, the list goes on.

        Over the years, I've made some of the things he thinks he hates in ways he hasn't had them before, and while he hasn't always liked them, he has enough times that it's still worth experimenting. I ask him to try one bite only, not eat the entire serving, so it's also a reasonable request on my end.

        At the same time, there are foods that I always thought I hated until I had them cooked in a different way. Sri Lankan curries (the husband is Sri Lankan) has made me change my mind on cabbage, potatoes, chicken gizzards, beans, and other things. I still don't like brain, liver, tripe, and so on, but I find them much less revolting when cooked in a Sri Lankan curry than when cooked in other ways. In other words, I can tolerate some things in small doses when done as a Sri Lankan curry that I would make me want to vomit when done in other ways.

        In other words, it may be worth it to try some experimenting with other cuisines and flavours.

      2. Welcome to the home cooking board. There is a wealth of suggestions for cooking for picky eaters on this board, and using "picky eater" as a search term I was able to find a lot of prior threads. Plus there are at least three currently active threads on picky eaters; I don't think each picky eater is so unique that you won't find suggestions in any of these prior threads:


        It is possible that some of these threads have links to others in this list, but gosh, if there are no ideas here there are no ideas.

        1. It sounds like you need to branch out into new cuisines. First I would try Asian food, no cheese, few beans, nothing like Italian and can customize the vegetables easily. Also veg can be very small and covered in sauce so you don't really taste it.

          As for Italian you mostly named Italian American dishes. What about more northern Italian? can you do risotto without cheese? It says he eats pizza, does he pick the cheese off that? Since you don't like tomatoes does that include tomato sauce? Does he eat potatoes?

          Do you like eggs? Frittata and tortilla are good plain options.

          Mexican can be made with out beans and cheeses. Maybe he would like queso fresco which is more traditional than regular stringy cheese like cheddar.

          English food may also be to you liking. Less heavy on vegetables. Learn to braise meat if you can't already. Can you play off of things he likes? Different kinds of protein for the burgers?

          1. I know I've posted what I'm about to say on other threads; my fiancé is one who "don't eat this or that". He's from the South and his palate is nowhere near where mine is so it's challenging for me to get him to eat all the things I love...mostly, the only Chinese food he'll eat is shrimp fried rice, he really don't like pasta and will eat spaghetti once every year or so and that limit's the Italian that I love. Forget about Indian or any other cuisine in that direction.

            Very few veggies will he eat and squash, tomatoes, okra, asparagus unless it's cooked to death and many other veggies don't stand a chance with my fiancé. I adore cheese but about as open minded he gets with that is provolone.

            BUT I've learned to add ingredients in his food that he don't notice like when I make gumbo, I might add yellow or zucchini squash or okra is small pieces that he really won't focus on. Once he eats it, he discovers, hey, it's pretty good. He will usually only eat carrots, shredded in a salad so I sometimes will roast some with potatoes (he loves those) and I get no flak. He had never had brown rice, quinoa or couscous until I slowly introduced it to him without bringing it to his attention. Still today, he thinks couscous is ground rice. I let him think it.

            Finally, I used to limit my menus because my fiancé wouldn't eat everything I like but I've learned to cook what I want and make him something else so a lot of nights we are eating two different things. I got tired of depriving myself. So, my advice is if you want chicken parmesan, make his without sauce and give him some broccoli with maybe another veggie mixed in like carrots or cauliflower so he can get used to different vegetables. Make pasta for yourself and rice for him. Some people will tell you don't go out of your way to make a separate dish for him but it's really not that hard if you start with the same meat for both of you and do different sides. Good luck

            4 Replies
            1. re: Cherylptw


              Cook what you like for yourself and make his version how he likes it - as healthfully as possible. Maybe watching you enjoy the more interesting version will pique his interest and he will try and like - maybe he just wants plain food.

              1. re: Cherylptw

                I am trying to understand how being Southern has anything to do with being picky...

                1. re: LaLa

                  Good point, LaLa. I mean, "picky" is basically euphemistic for "ignorant" when it comes to the palate. Lots of the food "intolerance" issues discussed in the myriad threads of this ilk really boil down the the cyclical interplay of a lack of exposure, a lack open-mindedness, and a fear of change. Sure, there are taste aversions, but that would physiologically be based in particular ingredients, not entire cuisines.

                  Geographic location isn't really an issue. After all, I don't think everyone in the South believes the Earth is flat, do they? Or is the point that it's ok for people raised below the Mason-Dixon to be "ignorant"?

                  1. re: LaLa

                    My read on that is that being Southern means his baseline for what foods he regards as normal is different from hers, not that being Southern inherently means being picky.

                2. Roasted chicken is always a hit with my picky eater. You can roast the broccoli with it. Serve with potatoes or rice.

                  1. Question: why are YOU doing all the cooking? If he is so particular, maybe he'd like to prepare half of all meals according to his liking.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Querencia

                      They'll probably just end up eating frozen meals like she said. Plus it sounds like they're in college. Ramen, takeout and hot pockets are the typical college diet. All my sister eats are falafel and taco bell. Put her in charge of cooking and she'd rather starve.

                      Is it possible he has selective eating disorder? He seems as picky as a 5 year old.

                      I say...deny sexy time if he doesn't eat his veggies. >:)

                      1. re: Querencia

                        My husband doesn't cook either. At all. He will maybe heat up a can of soup a few times a year. I cook what I feel like eating. If he wants some, that's great - if he doesn't want it he makes himself a sandwich. If I was a stay-at-home wife, I might feel more inclined to cater to his tastes more, but since we both work full-time - he's a grown man and can feed himself.

                      2. Shredded cheese on the side for you, optional for him. My friend's family uses this solution to handle a dairy-allergy issue without requiring the whole family to abstain.

                        Veggies are quick to prep / cook. Make the veggies you like for you (always offer him a bite), and single-serve veggie of his choice for him.

                        1. As Abby would say, you have to decide if you are better off with him or without him. Consider a lifetime of having to cook two sets of dinner menus, or the alternative of giving up the foods you enjoy. Never assume you can change the man. It just won't happen.

                          As Jacques Pepin would say, "Happy cooking!"

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mangeur

                            Or, as my grandpa used to say,
                            "Guys will marry gals thinking that they'll never change. And, gals will marry guys believing that they can change them.....
                            Both parties are usually disappointed."

                          2. Did i read "he likes to grill"?? Well, then he should be grilling!! Get him involved in meal prep and like others said incorporate new foods into those he already likes. Broccoli salad, roasted broccoli, sauteed....add in some cauliflower a few times and say its just like white broccoli.
                            And looks up the other threads linked in this one there are tons of ideas!!

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Ttrockwood

                              Cauliflower is not white broccoli...

                                1. re: rudeboy

                                  That I would be miffed at husband if he made that comparison because te flavors are very different and I found cauliflower to be very offensive in flavor until the last sixth months. The texture isn't even similar just the appearance. It would have ruined my broccoli for sure.

                            2. I would not be able to stop myself from continuing to offer up dishes that he claims not to like, paired with things he does. Same as I do with kids. By doing so, you may be able to gradually stretch his palate. Grilled chicken or pork skewers with onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, etc.

                              I also second melpy's suggestion of Asian food. Millions of possibilities w/o cheese or beans - start with something very non-threatening like fried rice (with veggies - chopped to disguise them).

                              1. I'd tell him "you're on your own baby".
                                he needs to adjust you don't.
                                cook what you like........he can eat what part of it he likes.
                                if it's nothing, he'll learn to either eat what you did prepare and appreciate you and your efforts or he'll make his own food or lose weight.

                                1. The hubby has some food aversions. Two things he said he hated was lime and coconut. I finally asked him when was the last time he had either one or what was his point of reference for disliking them.

                                  My first encounters with either food was in the 1970's, lime was bad lime candy or faux lime-aid drinks. Coconut was mounds bars or bakers coconut in the bag. I hated both of these things and they really are not fair representations of either food. I asked him if these were what he thinks of for these foods and he agreed. I blame bad food in the 1970's and lack of better versions of these foods in the US midwest at the time.

                                  He already eats Indian dishes with coconut milk and Mexican food with lime in it. After this discussion I have gotten him to be much more open to either one in dishes. May not work for all things but could help someone sort out their long standing aversion to some foods.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: blackpointyboots

                                    One of my fondest childhood memories is eating shredded coconut out if the bag...

                                    1. re: C. Hamster

                                      One of my fondest childhood memories is of the time my brother mistook a bulk bag of dishwasher detergent flakes for a bag of shredded coconut.

                                      I'm a bad sister.

                                      1. re: Jacquilynne

                                        Just spit my wine at the screen laughing.

                                          1. re: blackpointyboots

                                            I don't think so, no. I think I've seen him eat coconut things from his wife's bakery.

                                        1. re: C. Hamster

                                          The flavor of bakers shredded coconut, mounds, or those cheap coconut cookies most groceries stores had in the 70's is a different flavor than something like coconut milk or coconut soda that are more subtle. So if someone found the first set to be too cloying or didn't like it they still may like the latter in something.

                                      2. La La and Company, where did I state in MY post that being southern has anything to do with being picky? For the record, I meant that my fiancé is not culinarily open to foods outside Southern food. The fact that people take a post out of context is one of the things I can't stand about Chowhound.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Cherylptw

                                          "He's from the South and his palate is nowhere near where mine is "

                                          Not sure how you think anyone was taking anything out of context....seems to me you were pretty clear.
                                          For the record...that would be a him problem, not a Southern problem.

                                        2. If he eats frozen pizza how about making it at home?? He can actually grill the pizza too! This thread had a ton of ideas for toppings- you can always swap pesto or just olive oil for the tomato sauce and then whatever toppings sound good:

                                          If he likes burgers i'm thinking meatballs or meatloaf would be a safe bet. Try adding in finely shredded veggies and lentils to add nutrition. Have the meatballs as a sandwich or make tiny ones for soups