1) There is a word in Portuguese that describes all kinds of food that are not sweet: "salgado". And "salgado" can be used in the sense of "containing salt", "too salty" or just "not sweet". If I want to say that something is not sweet, what's the best word for it (as most used in the US): savory or salty?

For example: "I'm not much of a sweets eater, I prefer savory dishes." (or "I prefer salty dishes")?

What word do you use to describe all kinds of food that are not sweet, like meat, pasta, sandwiches, snacks...?

2) And does "salty" mean that the dish has salt or does it mean that it has too much salt? Or can salty mean both?

  • 3
    salgado means salty only. This word being used as not sweet relies heavily on context. For instance, O almoço de hoje é torta salgada (Today's lunch is salty pie) works because most interlocutors expect pies to be sweet. – Ramon Melo Sep 21 '17 at 2:33

This is an interesting question because by dictionary definition, "salty" and "savory" are listed as synonyms, but I wouldn't necessarily consider them to be as I have learned it natively in the US.

In my experience, it depends somehwhat on context. "Savory" tends to mean flavorful in a non-sweet way, but it doesn't have to be salty. This is used especially often with rich dishes that might feature meat, vegetable, butter/oil and/or herb tastes. A salty item could also be savory, but something savory does not have to be salty. Something with an "umami" taste quality would definitely be savory to me.

If I were talking about a dinner dish, I would definitely find "sweet" and "savory" to be the opposites I would talk about. If I called a dinner dish "salty" I would probably be saying it was too salty, or that somehow the saltiness overwhelmed the general flavor. But if I called a dish savory, it could be flavorful from herbs or richness.

Snack foods are a different matter, though. A salty snack is purposefully salty, and satisfies a craving for salt in a way I would not expect a savory meal to do. "Savory" isn't a word I would use as much for, for instance, a cracker, unless it had some particular flavoring apart from salt that set it apart. But if I am thinking about crackers or chips, or French Fries, etc. I would say something was "salty" in a positive, crave-able way.

While the dictionaries don't make this distinction, here is a resource that considers savory to be the opposite of salty:

In the world of cuisine, savory is also often used to mean the opposite of sweet, or salty. https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/savory


1) I believe that savoury would best suit your purposes. From Google:

(of food) belonging to the category which is salty or spicy rather than sweet.

2) Salty can essentially mean both - Google again:

tasting of, containing, or preserved with salt.

It is a matter of context. As a native speaker, if you said a dish was salty, I would presume it has too much salt as salt was the prevailing flavour. If you said some almonds were salty, then I wouldn't necessarily think it had too much salt, but rather they were flavoured with salt.

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