34 English Idioms About Food (With Examples)

34 English Idioms About Food (With Examples)

Many English-speakers consider the ability to enjoy good food one of life's great pleasures.

The importance of good food is reflected in the fact that there are a lot of different English idioms that refer to food and eating.

If you are trying to learn English, you need to learn different English idioms. Idioms can be confusing as the real meaning of an idiomatic expression has nothing to do with what the phrase translates to. 

The following English idioms about food are examples of how idioms are used in daily life to talk about a variety of ideas and feelings. You should try to memorize them and incorporate them into your daily conversations with English speakers. 

1. Finger in the pie

Meaning: To be involved

If someone has a “finger in the pie” they are involved with something. It’s often used to imply that someone is very busy or important.

Examples:

As one of the top salespeople in the company, Harold has a finger in almost every pie.

2. Cream of the crop

Meaning: The best

When someone uses this English idiom, they are describing an object. They are saying that something is the best of what’s available. It can also be used to describe a person or an animal who is considered elite or a prime example.

Example:

The puppy’s father is an award-winning show making him the cream of the crop.

3. Forbidden fruit

Meaning: Something that is bad for you, illegal

If an English-speaking person says that someone or something is “forbidden fruit”, they are saying that it should be avoided because it is bad for you. It can also refer to something that is taboo or illegal.

Example:

While cannabis is legal in Amsterdam, in other parts of the world it’s forbidden fruit.

4. Sell like hot cakes

Meaning: Popular, best selling

This is another one of those English idioms about food that is used to describe an object. If something sells “like hot cakes” it means that it is selling out fast. 

Example:

The new iPhone is selling like hotcakes, good luck getting one now.

5. Sugarcoat

Meaning: Present the best side or outcome

If someone is “sugarcoating” a piece of news, they are trying to present it in the best possible light.

Example:

Don’t sugarcoat it, I know sales are bad.

6. Piece of cake

Meaning: An easy task

You will probably hear this idiom used when tasks or jobs are being assigned. If an English speaker says that something is a piece of cake, they are saying that it will be easy to accomplish. This is also used as words of encouragement, the implication being that they have confidence you can handle a job.

For example:

I took up calculus last summer, this will be a piece of cake.

At your fluency level, spending two weeks studying in Paris will be a piece of cake.

7. As easy as pie

Meaning: A simple task

This English idiom is quite similar to “piece of cake”. If an English speaker says this, they mean that a task is simple and easy to accomplish.

Example:

It is easy as pie to gain fluency in French by watching movies on Netflix.

8. Half-baked

Meaning: Without a good plan

If something is described as “half-baked”, the implication is that it is doomed to fail. You have acted without having a good plan or thinking things through.

Example:

Your business plan is half-baked, you’re going to lose your investment.

9. In a pickle

Meaning: In a bad situation, in trouble

When someone says this, they are saying that you are in a less than ideal situation.

Example:

Did you lose the directions to Kenji’s house? Now we’re in a pickle.

10. Big cheese

Meaning: An important person

This is an English idiom about food that is a slang term to refer to a boss or a superior. A “big cheese” is someone who commands respect because they are important or powerful.

Example:

In a small town like this, the mayor is the big cheese.

11. Top banana

Meaning: Leader or boss

This is similar to the idiom “the big cheese”. It is used to refer to someone who people look to for leadership.

Example:

Arthur is the top banana, no one does anything without consulting him first.

12. Hard nut to crack

Meaning: Hard to understand or get to know, secretive

If someone is described as a “hard nut to crack”, the implication is that they are very reserved and even secretive. You will have a hard time getting to know about them or getting their real opinion on something.

Example:

Arnel is a hard nut to crack, he never goes out with his co-workers.

13. Salt of the earth

Meaning: Ordinary but decent

This is another English idiom about food that is used to describe or compliment another person. When a person is described as this, they are considered decent and kind even if they are not important or of high social standing.

Example:

Her parents are real salt of the earth types, even if they are not rich, they always help out their neighbors.

14. Rotten to the core

Meaning: Corrupt or bad

This English idiom about food is not a compliment. It is meant to imply that someone is shady or not of good character.

Example:

Many people feel that the American police force is rotten to the core.

15. Butter up

Meaning: To be nice to, flatter

If you want to ask for a favor from someone, you might compliment them first to make them feel kinder towards you. If that’s your strategy, you are “buttering them up”.

Example:

Butter Mary up by complimenting her dress before you ask to borrow her class notes.

16. For peanuts

Meaning: Inexpensive

This English idiom is usually used when a speaker is talking about a purchase they made or are thinking of making. If they bought something “for peanuts” they bought it cheap.

Example:

I found a lot of Spanish language learning textbooks for peanuts at the secondhand bookstore.

17. Take it with a grain of salt

Meaning: Don’t take it seriously, think about it

You might hear this from an English speaker if they think that you might be following bad advice. They might also say this if they want to say that you shouldn’t worry too much.

Example:

Bob only studied German for two weeks, take it with a grain of salt when he says it is a difficult language.

18. In a nutshell

Meaning: In summary

You might hear an English speaker say this at the end of a meeting or presentation. They will say this before summarizing what happened or if they want to say that they are finishing up.

Example:

In summary, we need to decide on one of two actions moving forward.

19. Souped up

Meaning: Made more powerful or stylish

This is an idiom that is used to describe something that is cool or impressive. The key to using this idiom correctly is that the object, like a car or a computer, was modified from its original form to be more impressive. 

Example:

All the cars in the Fast and Furious franchise are souped-up. 

20. Have a sweet tooth

Meaning: To love sweet food

This idiom is used to describe someone who loves sweets and sugary foods. 

Example:

She has such a sweet tooth she always takes two pieces of cake.

21. Hot potato

Meaning: Issue, controversial subject

This is one of those English idioms about food that have nothing to do with food. When someone refers to something as a “hot potato” they are saying that something is controversial or difficult to discuss. It’s similar to the idea of a “hot button topic”. Basically, it’s a subject that can lead to an argument or on which there are many different views.

Example:

Mark is an environmentalist so the idea of nuclear power is a hot potato.

22. That’s the way the cookie crumbles

Meaning: That’s just the way things happen

You might hear an English speaker use this idiom if they want to comfort you after you got some disappointing news. The implication is that sometimes you don’t get what you want but it’s okay.

Example:

That’s a hard course to get into, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

23. Egg them on

Meaning: Encourage to do something

If someone is “egging you on” they are encouraging you to do something.

Example:

If they hadn’t egged Bob on, he might have never talked to Paula.

24. Cool as a cucumber

Meaning: Always calm

This idiom is used to describe someone who is always cool and collected. A calm person is “cool as a cucumber.”

Example: 

Timothy’s a great person to talk to in a crisis, he’s cool as a cucumber.

25. One smart cookie

Meaning: An intelligent person

If you hear an English speaker use this idiom to describe someone, they are saying that that person is smart. It is an expression of admiration.

Example:

Andres is one smart cookie, he’s a polyglot. 

26. Apple of one’s eye

Meaning: Loved one

This is a sweet English idiom about food that is used to say that you think very highly and even love someone.

Example:

Her children are the apple of her eye, she’d do anything for them.

27. Worth your salt

Meaning: Good at your job or a task

If you want to tell someone that they are doing a good job, you could tell them that they are “worth their salt.”

28. Sour as vinegar

Meaning: Someone disagreeable

If an English speaker describes someone using this idiom, you will want to avoid that person. They are saying that that person is disagreeable or unpleasant. You can also use it to describe someone who is temporarily in a bad mood.

Example:

The shopkeeper is sour as vinegar, always scolding the neighborhood children.

The pain in her knee is making her sour as vinegar.

29. Bought a lemon

Meaning: Buy something worthless

If someone says this, they are saying that they ended up spending money on something that was not worth it.

Example:

Jasper bought a lemon, that car is in the shop more than it’s on the road.

30. Sweet as honey

Meaning: Kind, good-natured

This English idiom is quite complimentary. Someone who is described as “sweet as honey” is pleasant and kind. 

Example:

Patsy is as sweet as honey; everyone loves spending time with her.

31. Variety is the spice of life

Meaning: Try new things

This English idiom doubles as life advice. If someone says this, they are encouraging you to try new things.

Example: 

I like to learn new languages and about new cultures; variety is the spice of life.

32. A bitter pill to swallow

Meaning: A disappointing outcome

If a situation did not turn out exactly to your liking, but you have to accept it anyway, it is “a bitter pill to swallow”.

Example:

It was a bitter pill to swallow when I didn’t get into my number one college choice.

33. Bear fruit

Meaning: Get good results

This is another wise English idiom that is meant to encourage you to work hard and put in an effort. If your actions have “borne fruit”, your hard work has paid off and enabled you to reach your goal.

Example: 

Memorizing those lists of idioms bore fruit! I now understand Pedro better.

34. Bit off more than you can chew

Meaning: Overwhelmed

If someone is very busy or has too many tasks, they might use this idiom to imply that they feel overwhelmed and might need help.

Example:

You bit off more than you can chew trying to learn both Russian and Korean at the same time.

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