When people think about dessert, they typically think about sugar—and there are, no doubt, plenty of deliciously sweet desserts. And, at the Culinary Vegetable Institute, we’re not trying to turn that tradition completely upside down. Instead, we like to take the best of the sweet, add flavorful savory components—and then celebrate swavory dishes to complete a meal.

“I also like to call these savory-sweet combinations ‘ambidextrous desserts’,” Chef Jamie Simpson says, adding that, “at the CVI, we talk about these swavory treats quite often as we experiment with delicately balancing the line between sweet and savory desserts.”

Although we may have invented the actual word “swavory,” it’s not an entirely new concept. “Think about having cheese for dessert along with bread and sweet jam,” Chef Jamie says, “and that’s the concept, especially if you pair that combination with a light dessert wine. Or, you can create a chocolate chip cookie that has a salty component.”

Savory Desserts Trend

According to a fairly recent Datassential keynote report, some of the fastest growing dessert trends have been focused on savory ingredients. When looking at the years 2014 to 2018, for example, the number of restaurants that offered salted caramel or sea salt on their dessert menus more than doubled—with salted caramel being the fastest growing cheesecake flavor during that four-year time frame, as well as the fastest growing flavor of ice cream. (And, as Jamie notes, you can’t really take sugar out of ice cream, so that flavor is actually another example of something swavory to enjoy.)

At the CVI, we love to apply vegetables and herbs to nearly every dessert we make—“I think we’re pretty unique that way,” Jamie says—and the CVI team recently served guests with a unique sunchoke recipe for dessert. This quirky and flavorful tuber is also called a Jerusalem artichoke, a sunroot, an earth apple, and a Canadian truffle.

“Our sunchoke recipe,” Jamie explained, “was a hybrid between a custard and a cake, one where eggs were whipped rather than folded in.”

Sunchokes were prepared in multiple ways for this recipe, including being peeled, pureed, and folded in the custard. Roasted skins were steeped into milk before being added to the base, peels were crisply baked, cream was steeped with dried sunchoke pulp from a juicer, juice was caramelized and more.

“When the batter was poured in,” Jamie says, “it was dense like custard on the bottom but lighter on top. There was a variety of textures in this dish, overall, and this fairly simple dessert with an intense sunchoke flavor clearly demonstrates the concept of swavory desserts.”