When you go into a coffee shop, you’ll inevitably see a row of tempting pastries and snacks to go with your coffee.
But which one do you choose?
As it turns out, there’s a bit of a method to the madness regarding what to have with your coffee.
As a former barista, I’ve put together a complete guide to some of the best coffee pairing ideas you can try. Plus, I’ve gone over what to look for when creating your own pairings.
Let’s jump in!
31 Coffee Pairing Ideas You Have to Try
Although there are tons of different pairings for coffee, a few get more attention than others.
Some of these are things you put in your drink, while others are things to eat with your drink.
Let’s take a look at some of my top coffee pairing picks.
One classic coffee pairing is alcohol (Irish coffee, anyone?).
Alcohol makes for some pretty fantastic cocktails and boozy coffee drinks if you’re into that.
A few of the most common alcoholic coffee drinks include:
- Irish Coffee
- Coffee Martini
- White Russian
There are tons of different shots you can add to your coffee. Just about any creamy liqueur will taste good, although you can go for things like whiskey or rum, too.
Amaretto and Baileys, for instance, are two popular alcoholic shots to add to your coffee on a night out!
Another popular coffee pairing is plant-based milk. Traditionally, you’ll find coffee paired with classic dairy milk.
However, the following kinds of plant-based milk also pair well with coffee, particularly with espresso:
- Almond milk
- Soy milk
- Oat milk (my favorite!)
- Pea milk
- Cashew milk
- Coconut milk
- Hazelnut milk
When these plant-based milk are combined with coffee, they give a unique flavor to the beverage. Some are silky, like soy milk, while others are slightly bitter, like almond milk.
They’re also excellent choices for individuals who are lactose intolerant.
Another excellent pairing for your coffee is dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate has a deep, rich flavor that pairs well with dark roasts. Like coffee, chocolate is a pretty intense flavor.
So, it can really pull out the notes in your coffee.
You can treat yourself to a square or two of dark chocolate alongside your coffee. Or, you can try making a dark chocolate mocha beverage instead.
Either way, you’ll get the pairing down pat.
White chocolate is another pairing that is perfect for coffee.
Although sweeter than its counterpart, white chocolate is often used in dessert-type coffee drinks.
White chocolate is a good idea because it helps soften the strong, bitter taste of coffee with its creamy, sweet notes.
In fact, some of the best Starbucks secret menu drinks are based on the white mocha sauce.
Just like dark and white chocolate, milk chocolate also pairs well with your coffee.
Milk chocolate is a bit sweeter than dark chocolate, so it works well for individuals who don’t like such strong, dark notes in their coffee.
Milk chocolate also pairs really well with soymilk. So, you can actually try two coffee pairings in one!
If you are searching for a treat to eat alongside your coffee, chocolate mousse is a great pick. Mousse tends to be sweet but not overly so.
That can also make it a great choice for pairing with softer, milkier coffee drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.
The thick texture of chocolate mousse also adds to the experience. It helps balance out the thin, watery texture of your coffee.
If you plan to make the mousse on your own, you can include a touch of coffee for a more explosive flavor.
When it comes to coffee and chocolate, there is no bad combination.
If you don’t want to eat straight chocolate, a chocolate cake might be a good pick.
Chocolate cake is significantly sweeter than just a square of chocolate. It’s also smoother and creamier, which can balance out dark drinks like americanos.
Caramel-based cakes make a perfect pairing for thicker coffees.
If you have a thick coffee from Guatemala or Indonesia, for example, the caramel helps balance out the bold body.
On top of that, you’ll really pick up on the toffee notes in the cake itself. That makes for a balanced drinking experience!
Cheesecakes are often sold in coffee shops thanks to their variety of flavors (including coffee).
Their creaminess is paired well with simple, strong coffee such as espresso. On top of that, since it comes in so many flavors, you can pair it with a ton of different types of brewing methods.
Light roasts tend to go best with creamy cheesecakes. The lightness of the dessert helps bring out the flavor notes of your coffee.
Chocolate crepes are great if you want something to start your day, and they pair well with coffee.
The nutty and caramel notes of toasted coffee beans complement the flavor of the chocolate crepes very well.
I’d recommend a dark roast for chocolate crepes. These roasts help complement the sweetness of the chocolate syrup.
Chocolate crepes aren’t the only kinds of crepes you can pair with coffee.
You can also eat crepes topped with fruit and berries alongside your morning cup of Joe!
For fruity crepes, I’d recommend pairing them with Kenyan coffee. The intense fruity notes and pronounced acidity of these beans pair well with sour fruits, such as raspberries.
Donuts and Croissants
The buttery flavor of donuts and croissants also works great next to coffee.
Coffee’s bitterness helps to highlight the sweetness of the pastries.
Donuts and croissants also frequently come with unique fillings. These fillings can add another dimension to your coffee pairing, making it an extra good match!
Cinnamon and coffee go well together, especially around the holiday season. As a result, cinnamon buns are an excellent pick for pairing with your morning brew.
The bold flavors of coffee beans go great together with the spicy notes of cinnamon.
One thing to note is that cinnamon buns are quite sweet. As a result, it’s best to drink them with filtered coffee as opposed to a latte or other milk-based brews.
Sweet bread includes things like Starbucks’ lemon loaf and pumpkin bread during the fall season.
It has a higher sugar content than something like a croissant and is usually a bit less buttery.
Because they’re sweeter, they pair best with black coffee or a plain latte. Otherwise, you may find something like a mocha makes the sweetness overpowering.
Biscotti is a classic Italian dessert made from almonds.
They’re quite hard and not very sweet. That’s because they’re baked twice, making them dry and crunchy—the polar opposite of coffee!
Traditionally, you’re supposed to dip the biscotti in your coffee to make it easier to chew.
Bitter coffee or espresso is a good combination with biscotti.
For those who don’t usually drink coffee, a chai latte could bring out all the spices that are usually found in biscotti.
Coffee pairs quite well with most muffins in general.
However, different types of muffins pair with different types of coffee.
For instance, Jamaican coffees go great with blueberry muffins. On the other hand, pumpkin muffins work well with Yemen coffees that bring out their spices.
If you’re going to pair a muffin with your coffee, think about what kind of coffee you’ll be drinking first!
Scones are British pastries that are crumby, buttery, and soft. On most occasions, they’re served accompanied by jam and cream.
Traditionally, scones are eaten with tea. However, you can also pair them with light roast coffee.
You can bring out different notes in your coffee by playing with the type of jam you use. This helps complement various fruity undertones in your coffee blend!
Vanilla Ice Cream
Vanilla ice cream is slightly sweet but not overly so, making it great for pairing with ice cream.
Some coffee shops will actually add vanilla ice cream to their house frappuccino recipes.
If you don’t want a frozen drink, however, try asking for an affogato. This is an espresso shot poured over vanilla ice cream.
As the ice cream melts, you get a rich, sweet summer treat to sip on. Yum!
Tarts are pastries filled with bitter, sour fruits. Tarts bring out the strong notes of the coffee thanks to the sweet and bitter flavors in them.
Coffee with fruity undertones tastes excellent with tarts. For example, blackberry, cherry, and blackcurrant notes are frequently found in coffee blends.
So look for the coffee with these flavor notes if you pair it with tarts.
Fruits go great with coffee, whether it’s berries or something as simple as bananas.
As we know, many types of coffee have fruity notes. And fresh fruit can really bring out these notes even more.
Red fruits, in particular, have a slight acidity that goes very well with coffee. These pair well with more balanced brews.
Caramel flan is creamy and semi-sweet, making it great for pairing with coffee.
Since it’s semi-sweet, you can drink sugary coffee drinks with caramel flan without it being overpowering.
Or, you can take advantage of flan’s smoky caramel topping to pair it with dark roast coffee.
Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies
Oatmeal and raisin cookies are sweet and sour biscuits that go great with coffee. Plus, the creamy taste of oats really pairs well with coffee.
Try eating an oatmeal raisin cookie with black coffee. This helps bring out the coffee’s acidity without overpowering any subtle flavors in the brew.
For a tastier experience, you can add a splash of oat milk to your coffee drink.
Mochi is a trendy Japanese dessert made of sugar and rice and comes in various flavors.
In Japan, many people pair their coffee with mochi. Since the gummy-like dessert isn’t too sweet, it goes well with a variety of coffee drinks.
You can also find mochi ice cream, which adds another dimension to your coffee experience.
French toast is a simple dessert with a hint of spice that pairs well with just about any type of coffee.
It’s a great pick for plain, black coffee from your drip machine. Since it’s a sweeter breakfast food with spicy notes, it can make your coffee taste richer.
Avocado toast is becoming such a popular coffee pairing that you’ll find it on the menu in most cafés.
It pairs well with full-bodied and fruity coffee. The smooth, muted taste of the avocados serves as a complement to the strong coffee.
If you want to try this breakfast food with your coffee, I’d recommend pairing it with a sweeter drink. The bland flavor of the avocado won’t overpower you with too much sugar.
Belgian waffles get decorated with cream, chocolate, and fruit. Since they’re such a decadent breakfast, many people think they can’t be paired with coffee.
However, this isn’t the case!
The trick is just to think about your toppings and take things from there. Try to find coffee that complements your chosen toppings.
For example, if you want a Belgian bacon waffle, look for bright and acidic coffees. In this case, an Ethiopian blend might be a good pick.
Cheese, Butter, and Cream
Dairy products are another great choice for pairing with coffee. The dominant, smooth flavors of dairy balance out the acidity of coffee.
You can try combining cheese, butter, and cream with coffees from India, Sumatra, or Papua New Guinea.
You can even put butter in your coffee! It’s said to have health benefits, and it will add thickness to your brew.
French macaroons are small, delicate pastries made out of sugar and almond flour.
They’re sweet, crunchy, and not at all heavy.
French macaroons pair wonderfully with dark roasts. They balance out the bitter coffee flavor without being too sweet.
You can actually find coffee-flavored macaroons if you’re looking for an extra caffeine kick!
If you like having coffee at dinner time, you can!
Red meats tend to go well with dark, smoky roasts. The best dark roasts for a good accompaniment are coffees from India and Sumatra.
On the other hand, if you prefer fish and chicken, a medium roast usually works well.
Think of coffee sort of like wine. Just like how dark wines go with dark meats, dark coffees also do!
Chili has bold flavors that pair well with smoky, earthy coffees.
In fact, you can add a bit of coffee to a chili recipe to perk things up a bit! The coffee helps bring out some of the darker, subtler flavors in your chili.
The combination also works well in reverse. You can add a pinch of chili powder to the spice mix for coffee drinks.
This gives a special touch to the drinks and gives you a bit of a kick as you sip your coffee.
Chili goes very well with nutmeg and cinnamon, too. So, if you already have a spiced blend, this might be a good pairing.
Omelets are another versatile breakfast food that goes well with coffee.
The most popular options for pairing coffee are vegetable or sausage omelets. Salty flavors go well with coffee, which makes these perfect picks.
The coffees that go best with omelets are from Ethiopia and Kenya.
What to Consider When Pairing Coffee
Now that you know about some of the different foods you can pair with your coffee, let’s look at how to come up with your own pairings.
After all, this isn’t an exhaustive list!
In general, you’ll want to think about the following:
- The origin of the coffee beans
- What type of roast do they have
- The temperature of the coffee
Let’s look at these factors in a bit more detail.
Where does your coffee come from?
Knowing the origin of the coffee beans helps you know the flavor profile that predominates in that particular blend of coffee.
When you know what flavor notes a coffee has, you can choose foods that go well with those coffee beans.
Coffee tasting is complex, and it might take some time until you learn how to recognize different flavor notes and aromas. So it’s not strange if, for you, all coffee tastes like, well…coffee.
But, with some experience and guidance, you will learn to recognize the subtle tasting components of your coffee.
Sometimes, coffee brands state the flavor notes on their packaging. Or, if you are ordering online, this will be included in the product’s description. Keep an eye on that when you’re choosing your coffee.
What’s the roast level of beans?
Roasting plays an important role in coffee pairing too. That’s because the darker the roast level, the more bitter the flavor will be.
Lighter roasts go very well for rich and flavorful foods.
On the other hand, darker roasts can go well with much lighter, softer flavors. A croissant is often a great pick for pairing with a darker roast.
Is your coffee hot or cold?
Another important thing to think about is the temperature of the drink.
For example, a cold drink or iced coffee goes well with warm brownies or cookies.
On the other hand, hot coffee pairs well with foods that are cold or at room temperature.
Think about what temperature you like your coffee at. Then, make choices about the best food pairings from there.
There are tons of different coffee pairing ideas out there, so this list is just the tip of the iceberg.
Whether it’s pastries, breakfast food, or cheese, you’re bound to find something that you love. Just make sure to think about the roast, origin, and coffee temperature before you pick your pairing.
Need help figuring out the roast and drink type to pair with food? Check out this guide to coffee roasts, drinks, and more!
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