Palate cleansers are food items or drinks served in small portions between different meal courses to prepare those who are eating for the next course. They literally ‘cleanse’ the flavours of the previous course or dish off the palate by removing lingering aftertastes. Palate cleansers usually have neutral or sour flavours. They also help improve digestion and stimulate the appetite. Efficient palate cleansers work to reset the taste buds, preparing them to be able to distinguish between different flavours. 

The purpose of palate cleansers depends on what is being tasted. In the case of wine, for instance, cheese or dark chocolate may work as a palate cleanser. This ensures that the different flavours of the main food or drink being tasted don’t blend on the tongue. With sushi, pickled ginger is served as a palate cleanser so that diners can taste the flavour of each fish. Raita works as a palate cleanser with spicy food like Indian curries. 

Here are some foods that works as palate cleansers:


Fruit sorbet is probably the most common palate cleanser. Many restaurants serve a citrusy sorbet to help diners cleanse their palates in between courses. Light and refreshing, sorbet cuts through fatty and spicy food well. French and Italian restaurants are known for serving sorbet as a palate cleanser and the course is known as ‘intermezzo’. One of India’s most popular restaurants, Indian Accent, is known for serving anaar and churan kulfi sorbet—a desi take on the French and Italian course—as a palate cleanser. 


Unsalted crackers have a neutral flavour and work best with salty meals. They also work well when eaten between tasting different varieties of wine. Some sommeliers end up tasting more than 100 wines in a day and crackers offer their palates respite from overstimulation.The acid in white wine and tannins in red wine can end up causing palate fatigue, which can be managed by munching on unsalted crackers. Crackers also work to cleanse the palate in between courses that are made up of spicy dishes.


Herbs have a strong, refreshing flavour that can prepare the palate for other flavours. A sprig of parsley or a mint leaf can be chewed on or added to drinking water. Some of these may even be used as garnishes on sorbets. 

Pickled ginger

Pickled ginger is a palate cleanser commonly served with Japanese cuisine, especially sushi. The strong, tart flavour of pickled ginger works to cleanse the palate between multiple courses of raw fish, so that the taste buds can interpret subtle differences in flavour better.