Tart Vs Sour

Tart vs Sour: The Difference Explained

When it comes to describing taste, tart and sour are two terms that are commonly used interchangeably. However, there is a slight difference between the two that sets them apart. Understanding the difference can help you better appreciate the flavors in your food and drinks.

Tartness refers to a subtle sourness that adds a tangy flavor to your taste buds. It’s usually used to describe the flavor of fruits such as cranberries, raspberries, and pomegranates. Tartness has a refreshing quality to it and is sometimes used to balance out sweetness in desserts. Tart flavors are not too strong and can make your mouth water, but they don’t give you a puckered feeling like sour flavors do.

On the other hand, sourness is a more intense flavor that makes your mouth pucker up. Think of a lemon or lime – those acidic fruits that can make you wince if you eat them raw. Sour flavors are often used as the dominant flavor in candies, drinks, and some savory dishes. Sour flavors can be too overwhelming for some people but are great to add complexity to dishes or drinks.

Tartness and sourness are two dimensions of taste that can complement each other in different ways. For example, a mixture of tart cranberry juice and sour lime juice can create a well-balanced drink that is not too sweet nor too sour.

The Science Behind Tartness and Sourness

The sensation of tartness and sourness comes from different types of acids. Citric acid, which can be found in lemons, limes, and oranges, is responsible for the sour taste. Malic acid, which is found in apples, grapes, and berries, is responsible for the tart taste. Both of these acids stimulate the taste buds on your tongue that are responsible for detecting sourness and tartness.

The intensity of the tartness or sourness depends on the acidity level of the food or drink. The more acidic something is, the more sour or tart it tastes. The pH scale is used to measure acidity, with a lower pH meaning more acidic. For example, lemons have a pH of around 2, while cranberries have a pH of around 2.3. This is why lemons taste more sour than cranberries, even though both fruits have acidic properties.

Tart vs Sour Foods and Drinks

Tart and sour flavors can be found in a variety of foods and drinks. For example, tart flavors can be found in yogurt, grapefruit, and green apples. Sour flavors can be found in lemons, limes, oranges, and sour candies.

In the drinks category, tart flavors can be found in lemonade, cranberry juice, and some white wines. Sour flavors are more commonly found in cocktails, sour beers, and some sodas like lemon-lime.


Q: Are tart and sour flavors bad for you?
A: No, tart and sour flavors are not bad for you in moderation. They can actually be beneficial for digestion and have antioxidant properties.

Q: How do I incorporate tart and sour flavors in my cooking?
A: You can add tart flavors to dressings, marinades, or sauces for a refreshing taste. Sour flavors can be used to make pickled vegetables, soups, or sauces for a more intense flavor.

Q: How do I balance out tart and sour flavors?
A: Balancing tart and sour flavors depends on the dish you are making. Adding salt or sugar can help to balance out the flavors, and using aromatic herbs like basil, mint, or parsley can also help to add complexity.

Overall, tart and sour flavors are two distinct tastes that can bring a kick to your taste buds if used in the right way. Knowing the difference between them can help you create better-tasting dishes and drinks, and experimenting with different combinations can be a fun way to discover new flavors.