Pickle Dr. Pepper Actually Makes Perfect Sense

Food Features pickle Dr. Pepper
Pickle Dr. Pepper Actually Makes Perfect Sense

If there’s one thing social media is good at, other than contributing to genocides and driving political unrest, it’s convincing us to try seemingly strange food combinations. But often, even the oddest-sounding viral combos are actually really delicious, as is the case with the recently trending pickle Dr. Pepper. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like: pickle slices in Dr. Pepper. And while it may seem exceedingly weird to the uninitiated, there’s a reason it’s getting so much hype on social media—the combination just makes sense.

The drink went viral on TikTok after the user Mississippi Memaw posted a video of herself ordering a Dr. Pepper with pickles at a Sonic. The person taking her order didn’t seem phased at all, seeming to suggest this is a request they’re at least somewhat used to receiving. At the end of the video, she suggested that others give the drink a try—and try they did. The app is now full of people adding pickle slices to their Dr. Peppers, yielding myriad responses. Some have decided it’s disgusting, a drink they’d never willingly ingest again. Others are more neutral, noting that the pickles don’t actually affect the flavor of the soda that dramatically. But some have come to accept that the pickle Dr. Pepper is a prime example of a perfect salty-sweet combo.

Salty-sweet dishes and snacks have long been mocked and maligned by those with sensitive palates and limited culinary imaginations, deigned strange or nonsensical despite their genius. How many times have you seen someone sneer at a plate of chicken and waffles or pass up a particularly juicy slice of melon and prosciutto because they thought the flavors wouldn’t work well together? Hate for the pickle Dr. Pepper comes from the same misguided perspective.

But salty and sweet foods are actually at the peak of deliciousness, rolling two of our basest cravings—for sugar and salt—into one delicious package. The almost bland sweetness of (preferably fountain) Dr. Pepper provides the perfect backdrop for the salty crispness of a pickle slice. It’s not just the combination of salty and sweet flavors that makes this drink work, though. The pickles’ acidity also helps cut the sweetness of the soda, providing a balanced flavor profile that most sweetened sodas just don’t offer.

I think this drink’s newfound virality is also partially a result of the fact that, in recent years, we as a culture have become obsessed with pickles. They play a starring role in many of the internet’s favorite viral dishes, and small artisanal pickle brands are now popping up at shoppy shops in cities across the country. We’ve entered the peak pickle era, and the pickle Dr. Pepper is the delicious proof.

Are you entitled to hate pickle Dr. Pepper? Of course; nothing is for everyone. But I don’t really think it’s fair for us to think of it as a deeply odd novelty; the pickle Dr. Pepper is just honoring the tradition of the salty-sweet dish, carrying on a culinary legacy that deserves to be preserved. If you’ve chosen to sit this internet food trend out, I support you. But for all the lovers of the salty and the sweet out there, pickle Dr. Pepper may just be the drink you’ve been waiting for.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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