39 English Food Phrases You Can Use in Daily Conversation
Idiomatic expressions are sayings in English that don’t mean what they appear to mean.
They have a literal meaning and a figurative meaning. The literal meaning is what you understand immediately from the words used. The figurative meaning is something that goes deeper than the words you’re hearing or reading.
In this post, I’ll show you 39 of the most common food phrases and idioms in English, so you’ll be able to understand them when they pop up in conversation!
- 1. It’s as easy as pie
- 2. To go bananas
- 3. You are the apple of my eye
- 4. To be full of beans
- 5. To spill the beans
- 6. To butter someone up
- 7. Have your cake and eat it too
- 8. That’s the way the cookie crumbles
- 9. To be the cream of the crop
- 10. To eat you out of house and home
- 11. To have all your eggs in one basket
- 12. To buy a lemon
- 13. There’s no use crying over spilled milk
- 14. To go nuts
- 15. To be paid peanuts
- 16. Two peas in a pod
- 17. To be in a pickle
- 18. To take something with a grain of salt
- 19. To drop like a sack of potatoes
- 20. The proof is in the pudding
- 21. Piece of cake
- 22. Icing on the cake
- 23. Take the cake
- 24. Cool as a cucumber
- 25. Hot potato
- 26. To be like a kid in a candy store
- 27. Not my cup of tea
- 28. Selling like hot cakes
- 29. Couch potato
- 30. Cherry-pick
- 31. In a nutshell
- 32. Bread and butter
- 33. Too many cooks spoil the broth
- 34. Bite off more than you can chew
- 35. To sugarcoat something
- 36. Food for thought
- 37. A tough nut to crack
- 38. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
- 39. Like chalk and cheese
1. It’s as easy as pie
This English expression has nothing to do with the crispy, crumbly, mouth-watering delicacy that is pie. When something is said to be “as easy as pie,” that means that it is very simple to do, so simple that anyone could do it.
2. To go bananas
When someone says “that man has gone bananas,” it means that they’ve become hyper, wild or crazy. So, it might be helpful to think about a monkey jumping through the trees, seeking bananas.
3. You are the apple of my eye
Hey, romantic English learners, watch out. When you tell your lover that they are “the apple of your eye”, you mean to say that they are the one who you admire, love and want.
4. To be full of beans
To “be full of beans” means to be hyper or have a lot of energy. English speakers generally use this phrase to refer to children who can’t seem to sit still, and it can be interchangeable with the expression “you’ve got ants in your pants!”
5. To spill the beans
If someone claims “you’ve spilled the beans!” it means that you have accidentally said something you shouldn’t have. For example, you may have accidentally told someone too much information about a surprise party.
6. To butter someone up
When you “butter someone up”, you are praising or flattering them. Maybe they deserve it, maybe they don’t, but you’re doing this because you want something from them.
7. Have your cake and eat it too
Just imagine having a beautiful cake in front of you right now. You want to eat it all immediately—but you’ll be sad when it’s all gone and eaten. You want to “have your cake and eat it too”. You want to do both—but you just can’t.
This phrase is used when you want to have the best possible outcome for a situation even though that outcome is not possible.
8. That’s the way the cookie crumbles
This expression though doesn’t have anything to do with cookies. It’s just a way of saying “that is the way things happen” and acknowledging that sometimes things turn out in a way that we can’t control.
9. To be the cream of the crop
“To be the cream of the crop” means to be the best of the best. It essentially refers to people or things that are of high excellence.
10. To eat you out of house and home
To have someone “eat you out of house and home” means that this person has eaten all your food and left you with scraps (or nothing). They have eaten so much of your food that you ran out of money and have no home left.
11. To have all your eggs in one basket
When someone puts “all their eggs in one basket”, it means that they have put too much faith in one thing. In fact, they’ve put so much faith into something that when it fails, they will be left with nothing.
12. To buy a lemon
There are those lemons you can buy at the grocery store, and then there’s one other kind of lemon you can buy. This second kind of lemon is actually a car.
If you went to the car dealership and “bought a lemon”, then you bought a car that doesn’t function well or needs a lot of additional repairs.
13. There’s no use crying over spilled milk
This expression is normally used when someone is sulking (feeling sad) or complaining about a past mistake or circumstance. This phrase means to say that one shouldn’t complain about things that have already happened or that can’t be changed.
14. To go nuts
Along the same lines of “being full of beans” or “going bananas”, when someone “goes nuts” they are hyper or have a lot of energy. It can also mean to become insane.
15. To be paid peanuts
When someone is paid peanuts, it means that they work for a low wage. Essentially, the work they do is worth a lot more than what is being paid.
16. Two peas in a pod
If you’ve found “the apple of your eye”, chances are good that you might be “two peas in a pod”. This phrase refers to two people who work well together or get along really well.
The pod is the small pouch that protects peas while they grow. Now you can imagine two little peas nice and cozy inside their pod.
17. To be in a pickle
Though this expression is an odd thing to think about (how does one “get into a pickle”?), it actually means “to be in a difficult situation.” I guess it would be a very difficult situation if you were stuck inside a tiny pickle, so it almost makes sense.
18. To take something with a grain of salt
If someone gives information or an opinion that isn’t reliable, you might be told to “take it with a grain of salt”. For example, someone might tell you: “Be careful, airplanes are dangerous. But that’s just my opinion so take it with a grain of salt.”
This expression advises someone to be skeptical of some promise or statement or to not take things literally or harshly.
19. To drop like a sack of potatoes
When I fall down a flight of stairs, my mom loves to say that “I fell like a sack of potatoes”. It means that someone or something has fallen quickly and hit the ground hard. A sack of potatoes is so heavy that it falls fast and makes a really loud sound.
20. The proof is in the pudding
This phrase means that something is successful and useful because it has been tried before. It essentially says that something is deemed good quality because it has a record for being good and reliable. “He won the last ten races so he’ll definitely win this race! The proof is in the pudding!”
But why pudding? The original British English phrase is “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” meaning that you don’t know how delicious the pudding is until you have tasted it. You test the pudding’s quality by eating it.
21. Piece of cake
This refers to something that is very easy to do or accomplish.
22. Icing on the cake
If something is the “icing on the cake,” it makes a good situation even better or more enjoyable. This phrase can also be used sarcastically, to refer to an additional bad thing on top of an already bad situation.
23. Take the cake
This phrase means to be the most extreme in a particular way. Often, it is used to refer to someone behaving in a bad or rude manner.
24. Cool as a cucumber
To be as “cool as a cucumber” means that someone can remain calm and composed, especially in a stressful situation.
25. Hot potato
This phrase refers to a controversial or difficult issue that is best avoided or passed on to someone else, just like a hot potato that is uncomfortable to touch.
26. To be like a kid in a candy store
If you are “like a kid in a candy store,” you are excited to be in a situation, with numerous choices or options that you find very appealing.
27. Not my cup of tea
Something that “isn’t your cup of tea” is something that is not to your liking or preference personally. It might be something that is greatly enjoyed by others, but it just isn’t for you.
28. Selling like hot cakes
To “sell like hotcakes” means to be sold quickly and in large quantities because of high demand. The product doesn’t have to be food related, it can be anything!
29. Couch potato
This phrase refers to a person who spends a lot of time sitting and watching television or being inactive. Sometimes people use this phrase about others as an insult, but they might also refer to themselves as one.
To “cherry-pick” means to select only the most desirable items or options from a group.
31. In a nutshell
When someone starts a sentence with “in a nutshell,” it means that they are about to summarize something briefly or concisely without lots of details.
32. Bread and butter
Someone’s “bread and butter” is the main source of their income or focus of their livelihood.
33. Too many cooks spoil the broth
When too many people are involved in a task, it can lead to confusion or mistakes. In these situations, you might say “too many cooks spoil the broth” to indicate that less people should be involved with a certain task to produce a better result.
34. Bite off more than you can chew
This means to take on a task or responsibility that is too difficult to handle, or to take on a lot of work and then not be able to complete it.
35. To sugarcoat something
This phrase means to make something appear more pleasant or appealing than it actually is.
36. Food for thought
“Food for thought” is something that makes you think about or consider a topic more deeply. You might offer someone food for thought when you offer them a perspective they hadn’t previously considered.
37. A tough nut to crack
This can be a difficult problem to solve, or a person who is particularly difficult to deal with in some way.
38. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
As children often inherit characteristics from their parents, this phrase is used when pointing out that someone’s behavior is similar to that of their parents.
39. Like chalk and cheese
Just as chalk and cheese are opposite, this phrase refers to two things or people that are completely different or incompatible.
That’s not all!
There are more food idioms and idioms that have nothing to do with food at all. You can check these out in books such as “101 American English Idioms”. You can also get a guide to idioms from Scholastic or McGraw-Hill. You can also learn more about English idioms with this guide here.
Make sure you remember these food phrases for your upcoming English conversations.
Don’t worry, it’ll be as easy as pie!