My mother refers to a "bite" as in something to bite on, say raw carrot bits in a stew.

Cambridge only refers to the food sense noun as a strong taste, though:

bite noun (STRONG TASTE) › [U] If ​food has bite, it has a ​sharp ​ or strong ​taste: I like ​mustard with bite.

That still applies if it were pickles in a tuna salad, but can "bite" also refer to food texture alone? I think it might be more versatile than "crunch" or "chewy".

What is the best word to describe under-cooked carrot bits in a stew, as well as pickle bits in a tuna salad?

  • Maybe firm or crunchy?
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 24, 2016 at 20:47
  • Homeguides SFGate has: '... water chestnuts keep their crunchiness even when well cooked.' An article on Facebook has: 'If water chestnuts keep their crunch after cooking, does this mean that ...'. Mar 24, 2016 at 20:56
  • Are you talking about al dente or just plain raw?
    – Jim
    Mar 24, 2016 at 20:56
  • 1
    Al dente, but that doesn't fit the pickles, which I'd call chewy. Mar 24, 2016 at 20:57
  • I call that texture- crunchy, chewy, crispy, are all textures. Pickle bits add an interesting texture to tuna salad. I have heard people use “bite” but it strikes me as colloquial. “Mouth feel” is also a term but is usually used for liquids and smooth and creamy textures like ice cream.
    – Jim
    Mar 25, 2016 at 1:05

3 Answers 3


For carrots in particular you'd describe them as "crunchy". Food with "bite" can either be firm to the tooth or, as you note, strong or pungent in flavour.

  • 4
    Do you have a source for the firm sense? Mar 24, 2016 at 20:48
  • @CeesTimmerman Source added in an answer.
    – DjinTonic
    Aug 10, 2023 at 15:54

I've been familiar with this meaning as long as I can remember and was quite surprised to find it in the OED only.

Bite (n.)

Chiefly Cookery. The quality of having a firm texture or of being resistant to biting or chewing.

1898 A li'l ill-fortune he wants now, same as a salad o' green stuff wants some bite to it.
E. Phillpotts, Children of Mist iv. xii. 484

1999 The rice should be tender and creamy, but retain some bite.
BBC Vegetarian Good Food April 36/3

2012 Homemade Thai fishcakes, on a bed of still-warm stir-fried vegetables with bite, mild chilli-flavoured sambal condiment, and cooling chive crème fraiche.
Journal (Newcastle) (Nexis) 29 June a27

In his answer, Mike C mentioned another sense that is also applicable to food, but different from texture:

Bite (n.)

A sharp penetrating effect

The soup has a peppery bite.
The bite of the wind on our cheeks M-W

This could conceivably lead to ambiguity when describing, for example, a spicy pasta dish without specifying either the pasta or the sauce. The penne all’arrabbiata (or penne arrabbiata) needed more bite could mean that the pasta was cooked too long (texture) or that the sauce need more chili pepper (heat).


Perhaps al dente covers this, as it

describes pasta and vegetables, rice or beans that are cooked to be firm to the bite.

  • But the pickles aren't cooked, are they? Mar 24, 2016 at 22:33
  • 1
    Pickles may use processed cucumbers (hot water bath for a few minutes).
    – jxh
    Mar 24, 2016 at 23:57

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