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Easily Incorporate the 6 Tastes of Ayurveda into Every Meal to Find Balance

Updated: Jun 12

According to Ayurveda, all 6 tastes should be incorporated into every meal to find balance. Each taste (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, astringent) is needed to balance each of the five elements (ether/space, air, water, fire, earth).

I won't lie, when this concept of incorporating all 6 tastes into every meal was introduced to me, I found it completely overwhelming.

Then I began to realize that it's much easier than it sounds.

This post will explore how to incorporate the 6 tastes of Ayurveda into every meal to find balance using:

  • foods

  • spices

  • condiments

6 tastes of ayurveda: indian thali with lots of small bowls of different foods

80/20 rule

And, right off the bat, I want to make sure that you are aware of the 80/20 rule in Ayurveda that I was taught when I was first studying Ayurveda.

Some would even go so far as to call it a 70/30 or even a 60/40 rule.

What it means is that 80% of the time (or 70% or 60%) we try to follow the Ayurvedic principles.

The other 20% of the time (or 30% or 40%) we live our lives and don't get caught up in trying to be perfect.

If an Ayurvedic practice or principle is creating stress in your life, it may not be beneficial for you at this time.

You can always revisit it later when you have more space to breathe in your life.

How is it even possible to incorporate all 6 tastes into a meal?

6 tastes of ayurveda: Indian thali with lots of different dishes together

In the cookbook by Usha and Vasant Lad, Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing, there is a beautiful image on the inside cover that shows how Ayurvedic food can seamlessly incorporate the 6 tastes of Ayurveda using the ingredients of the meal from foods and spices to condiments.

Their example is a typical Indian-style meal, but this can also be done with foods from any tradition.

This is their example:

  • chapati (wheat flatbread or sometimes made of other grains)--sweet

  • plain rice--sweet

  • vermicelli kheer (a desert of noodles in sweet creaminess)--sweet

  • raita (a thin yogurt and vegetable dish)--sour

  • fresh lime--sour

  • coconut chutney--sweet and sour

  • mango pickle--sour, pungent, bitter

  • potato cauliflower subji (potatoes and cauliflower cooked with spices)--pungent

  • kidney bean bhaji (kidney beans cooked with spices)--pungent and astringent

  • tur dal soup (pigeon pea soup cooked with spices)--astringent, sour, and pungent

  • lassi (yogurt drink that is mixed with water and spices and sometimes sugar)--astringent, sour, sweet (Lad & Lad, inside front cover).

You may notice that the salty taste isn't mentioned in the example above, but Ayurvedic food uses salt in almost every dish because it adds heat to the dish, making the food more easily digestible.

This same concept of using all of the 6 tastes at every meal can be incorporated into any cooking style, not just Indian cooking.

Most cuisines already have a similar way of incorporating all of these tastes into their meals.

Amadea Morningstar has a cookbook with recipes that adapt this process of using the 6 tastes of Ayurveda into Western meals called Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners: Familiar Western Food Prepared with Ayurvedic Principles.

She mentions that Dr. Sunil Joshi, a teacher I have been lucky enough to study with, told her to first attend to appetite, digestion, and elimination before working to balance the individual doshas (Morningstar, 3).

Using foods to incorporate the 6 tastes of Ayurveda into every meal

6 tastes of ayurveda: vegetables in a market

In a previous post, I listed the 6 tastes with corresponding foods.

Using foods is one way to incorporate the 6 tastes of Ayurveda into every meal.

The sweet taste is the taste that we will all consume more of for 2 reasons:

  1. It's almost impossible to avoid the sweet taste as it's present not just in sugar, but also in grains, oils, milk, meats, sweet fruits, and sweet vegetables.

  2. You need the sweet taste to build your tissues and organs, otherwise you risk depleting your body.

The Western diet is usually mostly sweet, sour, and salty.

It's much more challenging to incorporate pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes into a Western diet because we don't use a lot of these foods when cooking.

However, pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes are generally needed in smaller quantities than the sweet taste, so that makes it a little easier.

Examples of foods with pungent taste include:

  • onion

  • radish

  • garlic

  • ginger root

  • mustard greens

  • arugala

  • chili peppers

  • and many spices

Examples of foods with bitter taste include:

  • leafy greens: kale, dandelion, green cabbage

  • zucchini

  • eggplant

  • aloe vera

  • turmeric root

Examples of foods with astringent tastes include:

  • pomegranate

  • legumes, like chickpeas

  • okra

  • lotus seed

  • sprouts

  • unripe bananas

  • broccoli

  • cauliflower

  • artichoke

  • asparagus

  • green beans

  • rye

  • buckwheat

  • quinoa

By including some of the food examples of pungent, bitter, and astringent listed above into your meals, it's possible to easily add these tastes to your daily life.

If you would like more suggestions on how to incorporate all 6 tastes, you can keep reading to see how you can use spices for this purpose.

Using spices to incorporate the 6 tastes of Ayurveda into every meal

6 tastes of ayurveda: spices in metal bowls

Spices are used in cooking to:

  • stimulate the digestion

  • enhance taste

  • increase the digestibility

  • promote absorption

  • assist in counteracting incompatible food combinations (Lad & Lad, 59).

Spices are an easy way to add pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes to your diet.

Examples of pungent spices include:

  • black pepper

  • ginger powder

  • mustard seeds

  • cumin

  • asafoetida

  • pepper flakes

  • clove

  • ajwain

Examples of bitter spices include:

  • turmeric

  • fenugreek

  • cumin

  • dill

  • saffron

Examples of astringent spices include:

  • turmeric

  • marjoram

  • basil

  • bay leaf

  • coriander

  • dill

  • fennel

  • nutmeg

  • parsley

  • saffron

  • poppy seed

  • tarragon

You may notice that some spices have ended up on multiple lists.

Remember that foods, spices, and herbs are made up of a combination of the 5 elements according to Ayurveda and can easily have more than one taste.

The spices listed above can be used in cooking meals to add these tastes of bitter, pungent, and astringent which are sometimes lacking in our Western cuisine to each meal.

If you would like to hear about more ways to get all 6 tastes of Ayurveda into every meal, keep reading to learn about how condiments can be used to get the six tastes in every meal.

Using condiments to incorporate the 6 tastes of Ayurveda into every meal

6 tastes of ayurveda: limes and cilantro in a white bowl

Possible condiments to help bring balance to your meals:





coconut, shredded and unsweetened

sunflower seeds, toasted


pumpkin seeds, raw or toasted



sesame seeds, toasted




hot peppers


raw onion

raw radish

horse radish

lime pickle

black pepper



cilantro leaves

mint leaves



plain yogurt

raita (watered-down yogurt with veggies and spices)

almonds, cashews, other nuts

mango chutney




mustard, prepared



soy sauce




maple syrup

* in moderation

** rarely

↓ pacifies, reduces

↑ aggravates, increases

This chart is composed of information from two sources: Ayurvedic cooking for Self-Healing (Lad & Lad, 225 & 230) and The Ayurvedic Cookbook (Morningstar & Desai, 217)

These condiments can be added to your meals to help balance the 6 tastes of Ayurveda.

For example, if you are missing the sour taste in your meal, add a little lemon, lime, or vinegar to add a splash of the sour taste.

If you are missing the pungent taste in your meal, add a little raw onion, raw radish, horseradish, or prepared mustard to your meal.

If you are missing the sweet taste or if the meal is too pungent, add a little yogurt, raita, or honey (after you've finished cooking. Honey should not be cooked because it becomes sticky and adheres to the channels of the body when heated).

If you are missing the salty taste, just simply add some salt. This could be sea salt, rock salt, black salt, or even seaweed.

If you are missing the astringent taste, add some cilantro on top of your meal or eat some raw radish with your meal.


You may notice that in my recipes, I often mention garnishing with lime or cilantro to incorporate the sour and astringent tastes that may be missing from a particular dish.

You can check out my recipes on my website to see how I have incorporated multiple tastes into each dish.

You'll find that I use that 80/20 rule with the recipes.

Many will have all 6 tastes and some, especially breakfast foods, may have fewer tastes.

6 tastes of ayurveda: warm, spiced oatmeal in a white bowl

Warm, Spiced Oatmeal which has sweet, salty, pungent, and astringent tastes but not the sour and bitter tastes. Adding some saffron just before you finish cooking would bring in the bitter taste.


6 tastes of ayurveda: Sauteed swiss chard recipe, fresh chard

An example of a dish using all 6 tastes is my Sautéed Swiss Chard recipe. I've added dates to this bitter dish to add the sweet taste and soften the bitterness. Onion and garlic have been included to add the pungent taste. Garnishing with lime and cilantro add the sour and astringent tastes to this dish. Salt is used during cooking to give the salty taste.


6 Tastes of Ayurveda: Quinoa with Sweet Potato, Beets, and Beet greens in a white dish

Another example is my Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes, Beets, and Beet Greens. The sweet potatoes and beets bring the sweet taste to the meal. The lemon juice as a garnish adds the sour taste. Salt is used in cooking for the salty taste. Turmeric, cumin, black pepper, and fresh ginger are added for the pungent taste. The beet greens bring the bitter taste. And finally, the quinoa, turmeric, coriander, and fresh cilantro offer the astringent taste.


6 Tastes of Ayurveda: Roasted Vegetables

The Roasted Vegetables recipe doesn't include all of the tastes, but add the Fresh Cilantro Sauce and you've got all the tastes covered!


I would love to hear if you have any questions about incorporating all 6 tastes of Ayurveda into your meals. Please leave a comment for me.


If you would like to learn more about which tastes would be more supportive for you, you can book an online consultation with me.


Lad, Usha, and Vasant Lad. Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing. 2nd ed., The Ayurvedic Press, 1997.

spices 228-229

Morningstar, Amadea. Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners: Familiar Western Food Prepared with Ayurvedic Principles. 1st ed., Lotus Press, 1995.

Morningstar, Amadea, and Urmila Desai. The Ayurvedic Cookbook: A Personalized Guide to Good Nutrition and Health. 12th ed., Lotus Press, 2013.

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