Is there a word in English for a food eaten only partially out of hunger and largely for taste? Or perhaps for the act of eating for flavor rather than to satisfy hunger?

  • 2
    Welcome to English Language & Usage! Could you elaborate more on what you mean, with examples or perhaps research that you may have done? Feb 26, 2016 at 16:31
  • 3
    I would think that most food eaten in the US and Western Europe falls into this category. It hardly merits a unique moniker.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 26, 2016 at 20:16
  • 2
    This is a great question. HotLicks point is bitterly true. Comfort food and many other phrases come to mind which (disgustingly!) actually celebrate the idea.
    – Fattie
    Feb 27, 2016 at 0:04
  • 1
    @JoeBlow: why is it so disgusting? Of course, one can over-indulge in comfort eating, as in many other things. But it’s much like many other pleasures: we go for walks even if we’re not traveling anywhere, we play competitive sports although we’re not really battling over resources, we have sex for pleasure not reproduction, we use language for purposes beyond essential communication. These seem like basic perks of a post-subsistence society, not some kind of terrible decadence.
    – PLL
    Feb 27, 2016 at 10:38
  • 1
    I'm not sure if you're joking around, the current ultra-disaster of human health is the reason it's disgusting.
    – Fattie
    Feb 27, 2016 at 16:18

7 Answers 7


The first word that comes to mind is treat. From M-W dictionary (fairly far down on the page if you follow the link):

treat (noun): something that tastes good and that is not eaten often

As an example:

Your fresh chocolate chip cookies are a wonderful treat.

  • a treat is sort of "one example" of the topic. However (tragically) really the majority of eating (not merely desert / snacks) in the "carb-driven West" is in the category under discussion.
    – Fattie
    Feb 26, 2016 at 23:55

Such a food item is called a delicacy:

OED II.12.b.: Something that gratifies the palate, a choice or dainty item of food; a dainty.

Collins 3. (Cookery) something that is considered choice to eat, such as caviar.

Cate is a synonym, not actually marked as obsolete in OED but not really attested there since the 1870s.

  • 1
    ... and the verb to delight in
    – Phil Sweet
    Feb 26, 2016 at 17:06
  • 1
    I would argue that the primary connotation of "delicacy" is rarity/expense, not specifically "not eaten to satisfy hunger". You can absolutely eat delicacies as a dinner entree - if you're rich.
    – neminem
    Feb 26, 2016 at 22:00
  • yeah, that's not really right - just as Neminem says
    – Fattie
    Feb 26, 2016 at 23:54
  • French fries are rarely a delicacy (but a superb ff is), and they are rarely needed to ensure adequate caloric intake for the physically grueling afternoon ahead, but they fit the OPs question.
    – ab2
    Feb 27, 2016 at 16:34



goody (go͝od′ē) Informal

n. also goodie pl. goodies

Something attractive or delectable, especially something sweet to eat. FOD

Word associations show that many people react to the word "brown" with the instant response of "chocolate." It's a given that decadent goodies are usually a delicious chocolate brown (emphasis is mine.) Colors for Your Every Mood

decadent treat

decadent: characterized by or appealing to self-indulgence M-W

She slowly scooped a trail of chocolate from the plate with her finger, easing the decadent treat past her lips.

  • This word always makes me think of the story of Little Red Riding Hood, since she was carrying goodies to her grandmother. Feb 26, 2016 at 20:00

Eating for flavor, and more generally doing anything just for pleasure, is sometimes called indulgence, and this word has slightly negative connotations. (For instance, note self-indulgence). One sense of to indulge is essentially to do whatever you please, beyond some proper restraint.

But the question isn't about the action, but about a word for food.

However, indulgence can refer not only in the act, but also to the object of the act. That is to say, a morsel of something tasty is an indulgence.

This sense is corroborated by Merriam-Webster, which gives one of the meanings as "something that is done or enjoyed as a special pleasure".


All foods that have no dietary purpose are junk foods.

junk food, noun –Google

food that has low nutritional value, typically produced in the form of packaged snacks needing little or no preparation.

It's not a single word but it is 'a' noun and IMO, colloquially as close as you're going to get.

Look at all the junk food! What, not hungry? There's always room for Jello.

  • Minor nuance - all junk foods are perceived to have no dietary purpose, but all foods that have no dietary purpose is a much larger category. As an example, a lot of spices arguably have extremely limited dietary purposes but wouldn't attract the junk food tag.
    – tanantish
    Feb 27, 2016 at 10:21

A treat is usually something eaten only occasionally and could be eaten out of hunger. My three year-old son only eats when hungry, as far as I can tell, but when he is hungry he prefers what we call 'treats' over, say, a tomato.

An indulgence could also be eaten out of hunger, and Junk food often is. Although junk food has no nutritional value it is very effective at making you feel full, if only very temporarily. People often buy a burger or pizza precisely because they are hungry so I do not think junk food is the word you are looking for. The problem is that although the burger will fill your stomach it won't satisfy the body's needs, so you feel hungry again very quickly. So when you see people eating loads of burgers, that's not (necessarily) because they're being ridiculously indulgent, it may be because they are genuinely hungry.

There is no word that means exactly what you want, but an indulgence is as close as I can think of. I would recommend likening the food in question to some sort of food that is only eaten for taste, as a simile, although I can't think of a quintessential example. A related thing would be coffee, since nobody would drink coffee because they were thirsty, only for the taste.


Snack (n.) a small amount of food eaten between meals

He had a snack of chips and dip.
between-meal snacks
I didn't have time for lunch so I just grabbed a quick/light snack.
peanuts, potato chips, and other snack foods

(from http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/snack)

  • 4
    Most of your usage examples here suggest a food eaten in small quantities to temporarily satisfy hunger. In my experience, that is a more common usage of "snack" than the usage the asker is looking for.
    – recognizer
    Feb 26, 2016 at 19:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.