Are you looking to broaden your knowledge of ingredients? Perhaps you’ve stumbled across something in a recipe that has got you stumped. Or maybe you’re simply trying to figure out a clue on a particularly difficult crossword puzzle.
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From foods you might already have stashed in your kitchen cabinets to weird, wonderful ingredients you’ve never heard of before, get ready to join us on our culinary journey!
1. Wahoo Fish
We’re kicking off our list with one of the stranger W foods. Wahoo (also known as ‘Ono’) translates as ‘good to eat’ in Hawaiin. They certainly live up to their name, and their firm, flaky, opaque flesh has a delicate, sweet flavor.
Found living in the warm waters of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, Wahoo Fish can be cooked in a variety of ways including baked, grilled, fried, and steamed. If sliced thinly enough, they can even be eaten raw.
If you’re a fan of Asian cuisine, you may be familiar with Wakame. This is one of the most popular edible seaweeds in the world and it grows in the wild off the coast of Australia. However, the majority of it comes from farms located in Japan and Korea.
Wakame has many culinary uses. It can be dried and eaten as a snack, mixed into soups as powdered-seasoning, or added fresh to salads. It has a mild, salty flavor that you’d expect from seaweed.
Walnuts are easy to find in local supermarkets and health food stores. While they aren’t strictly a nut and are, in fact, edible seeds from the Drupe Fruit, they are considered tree nuts. This is because they can cause the same allergic reaction to nut allergy sufferers as most other tree nuts.
You need to use quite a lot of force to crack a walnut as their hard, bumpy shells are really tough. Once you’re inside, however, you’ll find a nut that looks remarkably like the human brain!
Walnuts have a sweet, nutty flavor and, depending on the variety, you may notice some bitter notes. They are also extremely versatile nuts and can be eaten raw, roasted, and made into oil or butter. One thing to note with walnuts, however, is that since they have a high oil content they may go bad faster than other tree nuts. Many enjoy them on ice cream. They are one of the most popular foods in American dessert baking.
4. Walla Walla Onions
Walla Walla Onions are one of the largest varieties of onions you’ll ever find. Like most onions, they have a slightly flat bottom and a peak at the top, but their papery skin is whiter in color. Once cut open, you’ll find juicy, translucent layers of flesh with a sweeter flavor than regular onions.
As well as being ginormous, Walla Walla Onions are popular for eating raw. This is because they have a higher sugar and water content, making them much less pungent than standard onions.
They can, of course, be cooked as well and their high sugar content makes them a great choice for caramelizing and using in recipes such as French Onion Soup.
5. Walleye Fish
Also known as ‘Pickerel’, Walleye fish is a freshwater, ray-finned fish that is native to Northern USA and Canada. It’s quite easy to find in supermarkets and restaurant menus as it can be fished both commercially and recreationally.
Walleye is a great substitute for certain saltwater fish, such as snapper. It has a subtle flavor with a mild amount of fishiness and absolutely no saltiness. It also has a firm, buttery texture that pairs well with white wines and steamed vegetables.
6. Wampee Fruit
Found growing on tropical evergreen trees throughout Southeast Asia, Wampee Fruits are distantly related to citrus fruits. They are quite small and are similar in size to grapes. As they ripen, their color moves from bright green to a beige color.
The texture of a Wampee Fruit is quite similar to that of a Kumquat. Inside, you’ll find between 2-5 large seeds which can also be eaten. Flavor-wise, Wampee Fruits are a mixture of sweet and sour, although some varieties are much sourer than others.
You can also eat the skin of a Wampee Fruit, which has a spiced flavor. However, the riper the fruit is, the more bitter the taste of the skin becomes.
You’re most likely to find Wasabi served alongside Sushi. This spicy green paste is made from a type of pepper, although its heat is closer to that of Horseradish. As with Horseradish, it has a strong scent that adds to its heat.
Unfortunately, this striking similarity in flavor and scent means that a lot of commercially available Wasabi isn’t truly Wasabi at all. Instead, it’s simply Horseradish masquerading as Wasabi by being dyed bright green.
8. Water Chestnuts
Despite their confusing name, Water Chestnuts aren’t actually nuts in any way. They are actually aquatic tubers that look very similar to Chestnuts in both shape and color. They also have a brown, papery skin that, once peeled, reveals crisp white flesh.
Water Chestnuts are most commonly found in Asian cuisine and they can be eaten raw or cooked. They don’t have very much flavor and, instead, are used to add a crisp crunch to dishes. You'll likely find Water Chestnuts in stir-fries and soups, but they can also be used to add texture to dumplings and stuffing.
Watercress is an aquatic plant that belongs to the Brassica family along with Cabbage, Broccoli, and more. It can be found growing wild across most of the Northern Hemisphere but is farmed all over the world.
Watercress is easy to identify by its small green leaves with scalloped edges. It also grows in clusters and has very thin stems. Flavor-wise, Watercress has a spicy, peppery flavor that isn’t dissimilar to Arugula. It’s most commonly eaten raw and is often added to sandwiches and salads. It can also be added to soups to give them a peppery kick.
Arguably the most famous type of melon in the world, Watermelons are large, oval, and have striking, striped skin in shades of dark and light green. Once cut open, you’ll find bright red flesh that’s dotted with jet black seed. This makes them one of the most beautiful fruits on the planet.
Their looks aren’t all they have to offer, though. Watermelon has a sweet, refreshing flavor that is quite similar to cucumber. It’s also extremely juicy, which is where it gets its name from. Watermelon is usually eaten raw and it makes the perfect partner to sharper flavors such as Feta or Basil.
11. Water Mimosa
A popular aquatic vegetable that is most often used in Asian cuisine, Water Mimosa has a full-bodied, umami flavor. Think of a cross between cabbage and mushrooms.
Water Mimosa grows near the banks of rivers and it has very woody stems, so it’s generally the feather-like, crunchy leaves that are harvested and eaten. It is a pretty invasive plant though, and in Australia, it’s considered as a weed.
The first thing you need to know about Wattleseed is that it comes from the Acacia plant. Most of the 700 species of Acacia produce seeds that are highly toxic, but Wattleseed is not one of them.
These tiny seeds are usually roasted and turned into powders or liquids that can be added to baked goods. They have a rich flavor that tastes a lot like a combination of Coffee, Hazelnut, and Chocolate.
13. Water Spinach
Although Water Spinach looks a lot like regular Spinach with its long, wide leaves, it’s actually not related to it at all. The flavor isn’t similar either, and it has a grassy, nutty taste. It also has a crunchy texture that is similar to seaweed.
As you may have guessed from its name, Water Spinach is an aquatic plant that can be found growing in Southeast Asia’s tropical waterways. There are two different varieties of Water Spinach - Green Stemmed and White Stemmed. Aside from color, there isn’t much difference between them and the taste and texture remain the same.
14. Wax Apples
This is another ‘W’ food that isn’t quite what it claims to be. Wax Apples are actually berries but they got their name from their smooth skin and bright green or red colors. Shape-wise they bear a stronger resemblance to pears and their white, spongy flesh isn’t very apple-like at all.
They are very tasty though and have a sweet, juicy flavor with a crunchy texture. They are most commonly eaten raw, but they can also be cooked in both sweet and savory dishes. This makes them just as versatile as regular Apples.
There’s a lot of confusion around what wheat is. Put simply, it’s a type of grass that is grown mostly for its seed. This seed is then ground down to make flour, which goes into a variety of products including bread, pasta, cereal, and more.
Wheat is an excellent source of carbohydrates and fiber, but it does contain gluten. This means that anybody with a gluten allergy or intolerance should avoid eating wheat wherever possible.
16. White Asparagus
It would be easy to assume that White Asparagus is a different variety to Green Asparagus, but it’s actually the same thing! The only difference is that it’s harvested before the spears break through the surface of the soil. Since it’s never exposed to sunlight, it’s unable to produce chlorophyll, and this is what gives it its white appearance.
This also means that White Asparagus is much more tender than Green Asparagus. However, it does need to be peeled before cooking as it has tough, fibrous skin. The flavor is similar to Green Asparagus, but it is sweeter.
17. Whitebark Raspberry
Whitebark Raspberries belong to the same family as Black Raspberries, the only difference is that they develop a thick, waxy, white coating as they grow. This is where they take their name from.
However, once the coating is removed, a deep-purple berry is revealed that looks almost identical to a Black Raspberry. Their flavor is also pretty much identical.
One interesting fact about Whitebark Raspberries is that they were the inspiration for the Blue Raspberry flavoring you find in candies and sugary drinks. However, they very rarely feature as an ingredient.
18. White Beech Mushroom
These smooth, ivory-colored mushrooms can be found growing in clusters at the base of Beech trees in East Asia. They are identifiable by their small, rounded cap and slender stems.
White Beech Mushrooms are extremely bitter and, as such, they are never eaten raw. However, once cooked, this bitter flavor disappears altogether and they produce a succulent, buttery taste with a firm, ever so slightly crunchy texture.
They can be cooked in a variety of ways including sauteed and braised, and they match perfectly with stronger flavors such as garlic, onions, and certain spices.
19. White Button Mushroom
White Button Mushrooms are one of the most commonly cultivated mushrooms in the world. This is mostly due to their versatility. They can be eaten raw or cooked, and each way offers a different flavor.
When served raw, White Button Mushrooms have a mild flavor and a crispy, spongy texture. When cooked, the flavor develops further and they have an umami, earthy taste with a chewy texture.
Because of their popularity, it’s really easy to find White Button Mushrooms. They can be identified by their caps that are usually 1-2 inches in diameter, and their brown gills that are hidden underneath their caps.
20. White Chocolate
The rich, buttery, almost sickly-sweet taste of White Chocolate makes it one of the most popular types of Chocolate in the world. But did you know that White Chocolate isn’t actually Chocolate at all?! It’s actually created from the byproduct of the chocolate-refining process and gets most of its flavor from Cocoa Butter.
White Chocolate is used in a variety of ways. It can be used in baking, melted to make rich, velvety sauces, and, of course, eaten just as it is.
21. White Currants
These are closely related to red currants but, as their name suggests, they are pure white in color. Some varieties are almost translucent, while others have a slight, sun-kissed pinkiness to them.
As well as being different in color, White Currants are also sweeter than Red Currants. This makes them a popular choice for super-sweet desserts as well as making jams and jellies.
22. White Figs
While most figs are native to Western Asia, White Figs are believed to have originated in Southern California. They are quite hard to come by outside of the Western Coast of the USA, however, as they are extremely delicate which makes them difficult to ship.
As you might have gathered from their name, White Figs are pale in color and their skins range from ivory to a very light green. Once cut open, however, it’s a completely different story and you’ll find beautiful, red-purple flesh with a sweet flavor and jammy texture. They also contain edible seeds that provide a satisfying crunch.
As is the case with regular Figs, the flavor of White Figs develops as the fruit matures. Very ripe White Figs have an intense flavor that is similar to Strawberries and Raspberries combined.
Found living in the cold freshwater lakes of Northern America, Whitefish has a mild, fishy flavor that is quite similar to salmon. It gets its name from its pure white flesh which has a medium-firm texture. It also breaks into large flakes that hold together pretty well.
Whitefish is very oily and, because of this, it’s a good fish for smoking. It can also be grilled very easily and it’s oil-content comes in handy again here as it’s quite difficult to accidentally overcook.
24. White Turnip
White Turnips are a winter vegetable that have a very similar, sweet flavor to Baby Turnips. They have white-cream-colored skin and purple-tinged shoulders and are shaped a lot like an overly large radish.
Their naturally high sugar content makes them ideal for roasting or braising and they caramelize while they cook, providing an extra depth of flavor. Their green tops can also be eaten and have a similar taste to spinach or beetroot tops.
These bottom-dwelling fish can grow up to 2-feet in length and they can be found in waters around the United Kingdom and Ireland. They feed on shrimp, crab, and smaller fish. They also grow at a really fast rate which makes them one of the most sustainable and economical species of fish.
The white flesh of Whiting is at its best when it’s freshly caught. It’s not overly oily and it has a firm texture, but it can go soft and mushy if overcooked. Its closest flavor comparison would be Cod or Pollock, as it’s not too fishy but still has a slightly fishy flavor.
26. Wild Boar
Wild Boar has a unique, nutty flavor that is a bit like a combination of Pork and Beef. So, while it is related to the domestic pig, it is a meat in its own right. It’s also less fatty than pork but has more marbling. This means it cooks faster. It’s also really versatile and can be served as ribs, steaks, or ground for multiple purposes.
Since it’s leaner than Pork, Wild Boar is often considered as a healthier alternative. It’s also full of natural vitamins, minerals, and proteins. And, unlike some farmed Pork, you don’t have to worry about ingesting additives, hormones, or antibiotics.
27. Wild Leeks
Wild Leeks are a forager’s treasure! They can be found growing wild in forests during early spring and they look a lot like their conventional counterparts, but are much smaller and have thinner stalks. They also have white bulbs that gradient to red as they get close to the leaves.
The taste and smell of Wild Leeks are much more pungent than regular Leeks, and they have a strong garlic-like flavor. This is stronger in the bulb and stems though, and the flavor is much milder in the leaves.
28. Wild Rice
Found growing in shallow waters, small lakes, and slow-moving rivers of North America and China. Wild Rice is actually a type of grass grain. It has a higher nutritional value than standard White Rice, and it’s becoming popular in health food stores for this reason.
Wild Rice has a nuttier flavor than White Rice as well as a chewier texture. It does take longer to cook though, so it’s not the best choice for anybody looking for a quick-fix meal or dish.
29. Williams Pear
Williams Pears are famous for their perfect pear shape and thin, golden-yellow skin that blushes pink when kissed by the sun. For these reasons, they are also the most commonly grown and commercially available type of Pear in the United States.
Inside a Williams Pear, you’ll find crisp, ivory flesh with a buttery flavor. Like most fruits, the flavor intensifies as they mature as well. Despite being so juicy, Williams Pears have quite a low moisture content. This makes them an ideal choice for baking, although they are arguably most delicious when eaten raw. I enjoy them in my salad.
Despite their name, Wineberries aren’t actually used to make wine. That job is best left to Grapes! However, their sweet-sour flavor makes them an excellent choice for making jams, jellies, juices, and desserts.
Wineberries are related to Raspberries and, although native to Asian countries, they can now be found growing all over the world. As they mature, they develop orange-red flesh and this is protected by a hairy husk that oozes a sticky fluid.
31. Winter Melon
Winter Melons look a lot like large Watermelons, although they have white flesh and yellow seeds. They have a flavor that is best described as a cross between a cucumber and a zucchini. For this reason, they are mostly prepared as vegetables and used in Asian cuisine.
32. Winter Squash
First thing first; a Winter Squash isn’t actually a standalone fruit or vegetable. Instead, it’s the collective name that is used to describe lots of different squash varieties that can be harvested in fall and stored throughout the winter.
The squashes that make it into this group can be identified by their tough skins, which is entirely different from summer squash.
Varieties of Winter Squash include Pumpkins, Spaghetti Squash, Butternut Squash, and more. All types of Winter Squash tend to be on the sweeter side of the taste spectrum and have nutty undertones that are ideal for roasting or pureeing into soups.
Wolfberries are more famously known as Goji Berries. While these are a relatively new superfood on the scene, they have actually been used for thousands of years in traditional Asian medicines.
These bright red berries are usually dried, but they can also be eaten fresh or turned into a vitamin-rich juice. They have a tart flavor that is similar to cranberries and cherries. The shoots and leaves can also be eaten and are often served as leafy greens in Asian cuisine.
Although Wolffish have a menacing, toothy appearance, they are one of the most sought-after ingredients in the world. Their lean, firm white flesh has a mild flavor that is ideal for anybody who doesn’t particularly like strong-tasting fish.
Their scarcity is mostly due to the fact that they are bottom-dwelling fish that live in the depths of the Atlantic ocean. The majority of Wolffish that are caught are simply an accidental byproduct of trawler fishing.
35. Wong Pei Fruit
Found growing in clusters on native Chinese trees, Wong Pei Fruits are small, round, and yellow. Their skin is covered with a light fuzz that is similar to a Peach and, once peeled, you’ll find soft white flesh that is protecting small green seeds.
As far as flavor is concerned, Wong Pei Fruit is similar to Lychee but not quite as sweet. They also have a texture similar to a Grape. One thing to note, however, is that the seeds are inedible and they should be picked out and thrown away before eating.
36. Wood Apple
If you don’t already know what a Wood Apple is, you’d be forgiven for picturing a standard Apple in your mind’s eye. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Wood Apples are very strange fruits. They have a thick, hard, rough rind that is more similar to a Coconut than an Apple. They aren’t hairy, but they do have a very light grey color.
Wood Apples are tough to crack as well and, if you ever do manage to get on open, you might wish you never had. The reason for this is because they have a very strong smell that has been likened to everything from Blue Cheese to baby poop!
Luckily, the taste is nothing like the smell at all. It’s sweet and acidic and is often compared to Tamarind. It also has a jammy, custard-like texture, although this is often interspersed with seeds and pieces of rind.
37. Wood Pigeon
As we arrive at the end of our list, we encounter the Wood Pigeon. These are closely related to Urban Pigeons, although they tend to prefer living in the woods.
Wood Pigeons have a gamey flavor and a succulent texture. They are most commonly found in European and Western Asian cuisine as they are considered a sustainable source of meat.