Tired of mumbling as you point to a menu? Or wishing that your favorite recipes came with pronunciation guides? Many food names and food words, particularly those for trendy new foods, are pretty tough to pronounce. In fact, there are numerous terms that most people mispronounce without ever knowing better.
Don’t want to be one of them? Whether you want to order confidently at a restaurant or just tell your friends what you’re cooking for next week’s dinner party, these are the food names that you don’t want to mispronounce.
How to pronounce it: Ah-sigh-EE
You probably know that açaí counts as a superfood. But you’d be in the minority if you know the correct way to pronounce the name of this berry. Most people don’t know that a cé cédille — the “c” that comes with a little tail — is pronounced like a soft “s” instead of a hard “c.” Another thing that most people don’t know about these berries? Research hasn’t definitively proven most of the health claims about this superfood.
How to pronounce it: ANN-iss
Many people say, “uh-NEESE.” But that means that they’re mispronouncing the name of this spice. Chefs use the seeds of the anise plant either ground or whole to make desserts. Some popular examples? Italian biscotti, for instance, uses anise. Anise seeds also make an appearance in Italian sausages and in alcoholic beverages such as sambuca and absinthe.
How to pronounce it: Ben-YAY
Most people know that a New Orleans pastry called a beignet tastes delicious. But few actually know the correct way to pronounce the term. A beignet features fried dough and sometimes a filling of banana or plaintain. Either way, a good beignet gets topped with powdered sugar. And Southern Living reports that beignets actually hold the title of the state doughnut of Louisiana.
How to pronounce it: Bru-SKEH-tuh
Most people say, “bru-SHEH-tuh.” But that’s actually the wrong way to pronounce the name of this Italian appetizer, which features grilled bread with olive oil, salt, and either tomatoes or other delicious toppings. Giada de Laurentiis would definitely not condone mispronouncing this term — especially if you decide to try making this Italian restaurant staple at home.
How to pronounce it: KARR-ah-mel
Most people pronounce the name of this delicious treat “car-mel.” Foodies will tell you that that’s not actually the correct pronunciation. But the final word may come from Oxford Dictionaries, which reports, “The word caramel can acceptably be pronounced in several accepted ways, including KARR-uh-mel, KARR-uh-muhl, and, in North American English, KAR-muhl.” The group adds, “The disappearance of that second syllable -uh- in the final pronunciation seems to have been in the works for a long time. Order that caramel ice cream sundae however you like!”
How to pronounce it: Shar-KOO-tuhr-ee
We’ve heard all kinds of mispronunciations of the word charctuerie. (Even from people who order it all the time to go with their fancy cocktails.) Charcuterie refers to the traditional preparation of meats like salami, sausage, and ham, and also terrine, pâté, and confits. A charcuterie board can also include artisanal cheese, fruits, nuts, honey, and bread. It’s a great thing to order at a restaurant, or to assemble yourself — so long as you know how to pronounce charcuterie.
How to pronounce it: Chi-POHT-lay
You’d think that everybody would know how to pronounce Chipotle by now, especially given the popularity of the chain restaurant that borrowed the name of this smoked pepper. But that’s not the case. As The Huffington Post reports, even people who love the taste of the chipotle pepper often don’t know what it is. (So you can forgive your friends for saying, “chi-poh-tuhl,” already.) A chipotle pepper is actually just a smoked, dried jalapeño pepper.
How to pronounce it: CREW-dah-tay
Sure, crudités might just be a fancy name for a vegetable plate, but that’s no excuse to mispronounce it! This traditional French appetizer consists simply of sliced or whole raw veggies, along with a sauce to dip them in. (Typically a vinaigrette — not the ranch sauce that commonly appears on American veggie plates.) Crudités are simple to prepare, and can include a wide variety of different vegetables. If only the word were as simple for people to pronounce correctly!
How to pronounce it: ON-diyv
Many people pronounce endive exactly how it looks: “EN-dive.” But that’s not the correct pronunciation for this vegetable. The Huffington Post explains that the curly, leafy green called endive is pronounced “EN-dive.” But the torpedo-shaped vegetable we also call endive — actually the Belgian endive — gets the fancier pronunciation. The two look very different. In fact, the rocket-shaped veggie is difficult to grow — and tastes completely different from the leafy kind of endive.
How to pronounce it: Ess-PRESS-oh
Believe it or not, plenty of people pronounce espresso “expresso.” (Talk about an easy way to annoy your Starbucks barista.) This coffee drink is notoriously potent. It’s brewed by forcing high-pressure water through coffee grounds, resulting in a shot of super-strong coffee. You can drink a shot of espresso on its own, or order a drink that adds milk foam or steamed milk to the cup. Either way, remember that there’s no “x” in espresso!
How to pronounce it: FAHR-ro
Many people pronounce this grain, “fare-ro.” But that’s actually not quite correct. The proper pronunciation sounds more like “fahr-ro.” NPR characterizes farro as “an ancient and complicated grain worth figuring out.” That’s because even though we refer to farro as a single grain, it’s actually three: farro piccolo (einkorn), farro medio (emmer), and farro grande (spelt). They’re easy to confuse, especially when you consider the debate over whether you should go whole-grain or not. At least you know how to pronounce it!
How to pronounce it: NYOH-kee
Another Italian dish that Giada would want you to pronounce correctly? Gnocchi, which too many people pronounce “noh-chee.” Other pronunciations that fall somewhere in between, especially for Americans who aren’t so fluent in Italian? You’ll often hear “nok-ee” or “noh-kee,” too. Gnocchi refers to a variety of dumplings that are served like pasta. You can make them at home, or buy them at the store (especially if you buy them fresh at a specialty grocery).
How to pronounce it: YEE-roh
There’s a pretty healthy debate about the correct way to pronounce gyro. But we can assure you that it doesn’t sound at all like the first syllable of “gyrate.” Americans in the know often pronounce it “jeer-oh” or “zheer-oh.” But if you want to say it like a Greek, it’s “yee-raw.” That might be enough to make your head spin. Especially since gyro refers to a dish made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie and then wrapped in a pita.
14. Hors d’oeuvres
How to pronounce it: OR-derves
Have you ever been to a cocktail party or an upscale restaurant, and enjoyed some small appetizers? Then you’ve eaten hors d’oeuvres. Many people mispronounce the term, but at least most of us understand the concept. Hors d’oeuvres can be hot or cold. They can be served at a table or as everyone is standing and mingling at a party. The one requirement? Typically, you can eat them without the use of cutlery.
How to pronounce it: FUH
Most people say “foe” when ordering this Vietnamese noodle soup. But the proper pronunciation of pho sounds more like “fuh.” If you want to be precise despite the difficulty of Vietnamese dipthongs, the Houston Press reports that the best pronunciation sounds “like the word ‘fur’ without the ‘R’ at the end.”
How to pronounce it: KEEN-wah
Head to the local health food store and the employees there can tell you that people come up with some pretty creative ways to pronounce quinoa. But as the Houston Press notes, the pronunciation isn’t the only thing that people get wrong about quinoa. Most people also assume that it’s a grain. It’s actually a chenopod, just like epazote and spinach.
How to pronounce it: see-rah-cha
Sriracha is everywhere. All your friends have a bottle in their refrigerator, and all your favorite restaurants have it on their menus. Less common? People who actually know how to pronounce the name of this spicy sauce. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not “sree-rah-cha.” That first “r” is silent. Good to know for the next time you want to order sriracha chicken.