Food Phrases and Idioms

We all love food.We love eating it of course but we also like cooking it and talking about it. Here are some English Food Phrases and Idioms for advanced English learners.

There are many English expressions linked to the theme of food. Of course, they are metaphorical meanings and have a very different meaning than the food items that they may refer to.

Scroll down to watch a video lesson.

English Food Phrases and Idioms


When we are planning a task or have a job to do perhaps that we are not looking forward to someone may tell us don’t worry it won’t take you long, it is as easy as pie. (this expression has a similar meaning to a piece of cake – something is easily achieved)

A pie is a very popular and common dish in England.

Pies come in all shapes and sizes and are made with different ingredients. We have fish pie, shepherds pie and steak and kidney pie which the most well known. (this expression has similar meaning to a piece of cake – something is easily achieved).

My favourite has always been Shepherds pie! If I can cook it anyone can!


When someone has a favourite person (for example, a child or grandchild) who they are very proud of and always happy to see, we refer to this person as the apple of one’s eye.

Example: The grandfather had four grandchildren. Two boys and two girls. He was fond of all of them but the first born grandchild was his favourite and he always told her (Mary) that she was the apple of his eye.


Beans are a favourite food of many. Easy to make.Tasty to eat and cheap to buy.

However, if you drop them or spill them it can be a little bit messy (tomato sauce everywhere!) When some one has a secret or some information that we really want we keep asking them to tell us. We ask them to “spill the beans” or give us the information.

We constantly urge them (encourage them):

“Come on, spill the beans, you know you want to!”

English Phrases about Food - Infographic

Enjoyed this infographic? Here’s what you can do next:


Still on the theme of beans. Lots of food is well known for giving us energy. Beans in particular offer one of the best sources of energy.

If someone is full of beans, it means they are full of energy, they are very active.

Example: When children are jumping and running and screaming and shouting we often hear the parents saying: “Don’t worry, they are full of beans”.


Sometimes it is difficult to persuade someone to do what you want them to or to get them to agree to your request.

To help we often have to find their “good side” (something that will help in persuading him/her more easily).

Often praising them or flattering them works quite easily and we refer to this as buttering them up (like putting lots of butter on makes the toast very smooth).

Example: Juan wanted Ana to cook his favourite meal (paella). Ana said she was busy and did not have the time. Juan told her over and over again that she was a great cook and her paella was well known to be the best in the family. “Come on, you know your paella is the best. Lets have a beautiful evening paella, wine and music”. He continued this for several minutes until she eventually agreed. His buttering up had worked. He got his paella.

We can help you speak better English


We all love cakes. The sweet taste of a rich chocolate or gateaux is a very warm experience. To have your cake and eat it is used when somebody wants everything.

Not happy with one thing he/she wants it all.

Example: Michael had been asking his boss for many months about promotion. When finally his boss called him in and told him he was being promoted he was of course very happy. However, he immediately asked for an increase in his salary and a company car. His boss was a bit surprised. You really want your cake and eat it don’t you. 


When we want to preserve some vegetables (like cucumbers or onions) we often use vinegar. These are then referred to as pickled.

We all have difficulties at times in our lives. Some are more difficult than others. When we have a problem that is not easy to solve we say “oh we are in a pickle here.” 

Example: David had a problem. He had lost his job and needed to repay his bank loan. He owed them money for his car loan. He phoned his father to see if he could help. “Dad sorry to ask but I am in a bit of a pickle. I lost my job and need to repay my bank . Could you help for a few weeks please?

More Information

For more information on useful English expressions, English Phrasal Verbs and English Grammar Rules, check out the following links:

English Expressions about Success

More English Food Idioms

English Food Adjectives

Free resources are always available at BBC Learning English.

What does Apples and Oranges Mean?

In this short video English lesson you will learn what does idiom Apples and Oranges mean in English.