Next up in our series of alphabet foods: the letter O!
We’ve gathered together some of the most popular foods beginning with the letter O. From everyday ingredients like olive oil and oregano, to a few foods that might be new to you, such as ogbono soup and opera cake, we've got all the best O foods into one place!
With that, we hope you grab a cozy cup of oolong tea or a satisfying oat milk latte and settle in with us to learn all about these outstanding foods that start with O.
20 Foods That Start With the Letter O
1. Oat Milk
Oat milk is a creamy plant milk, made by blending oats with water and then straining out the solids. The result is a beverage which is pale in color with a wonderfully creamy texture--without the use of dairy ingredients! Many oat milks are lightly sweetened or have added flavorings such as vanilla. Oat milk is also a popular choice for coffee drinks as its creamy texture makes it an excellent substitute for regular milk in lattes and other barista-crafted beverages.
While oat milk is lower in fat than other plant based milks such as coconut milk, it is higher in carbohydrates and generally is at the top of the list in terms of calorie content as well. Oat milk is a great option for anyone who prefers to eat plant based, but perhaps has other allergies such as nut or soy allergies which would preclude them from being able to enjoy almond or soy milk.
Speaking of oat milk, let’s get into the little grains which are responsible for producing such a delicious and versatile dairy alternative! Oats have a range of other uses beyond oat milk, as they can be used whole in baking, milled into flour, or cooked in water to produce everyone’s favorite stick-to-your-ribs breakfast: oatmeal!
There is a wide range of hulled oats and each variety differs in terms of processing. Whole grain oats, also called groats, are the least processed and maintain all parts of the grain with the exception of the hull. Rolled oats are far easier to cook as they have been pre-steamed and then rolled flat, making them useful in any type of recipe or as a cereal on their own.
Oat flour is made from whole oats and is highly useful as an alternative to wheat flour. However, on its own, it cannot add any rise to the final product. Therefore, it is best used in recipes that have baking powder or baking soda as a leavening agent.
Octopus, that eight-tentacled creature of the sea, is quite a nutritious and delicious source of sustenance when properly prepared! Octopus takes a bit of work to get just right, but the results are well worth it.
You’re unlikely to find fresh octopus in most markets and seafood counters, and this is a-ok! In contrast to most other meat and seafood items, frozen octopus actually has a better texture than fresh. Frozen octopus will also have the added benefit of arriving to you pre-cleaned, so you don't have to worry about removing the sharp beak and potentially messy ink sack. You can also often find octopus tentacles, which offer you the ability to cook a smaller and more manageable portion of octopus as opposed to the whole thing.
When cooking octopus, it’s best to give it a long, slow simmer in water or broth. Be careful not to cook it too quickly, or the meat can get very rubbery. After it is tender, the octopus can easily be finished in any number of applications, such as fried, roasted, or char-grilled.
The word offal by definition indicates any item that is a waste item or byproduct of another process. In the culinary world, the term offal is generally accepted as referring to the organ meats or any other non-muscular (yet still perfectly edible!) meat of an animal. Types of offal include by are not limited to: liver, heart, kidneys, sweetbreads, tripe, and tongue.
Many of these items are off-putting to most folks, understandably so as these tissues generally have a stronger aroma, flavor, and more unique texture as compared to the muscular meat of an animal. However, making use of offal is an important way to promote sustainability and reduce food waste. If offal is not your thing, consider cooking it up as a treat for your favorite four-legged companions! Organ meats are packed with healthy nutrients that can benefit pets as well.
5. Ogbono Soup
Ogbono soup is a traditional specialty dish of Nigeria. Ogbono is actually the word for a type of wild mango, but it’s not the fruit itself which flavors this soup! Rather, it’s ground ogbono seeds which are used as a thickener, making this soup extra hearty and more like a stew as opposed to a soup.
Ogbono soup typically includes some type of meat such as goat or fish and leafy vegetables such as kale or collard greens. The stew is strongly flavored thanks to plenty of chiles and onions, and the addition of palm oil is a must!
It’s truly mind blowing just how many different types of cooking oil there are out there. Most plant based oils are liquid at room temperature, such as extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, nut oils, and corn oil. But there are a few, such as coconut oil, which become solidified at room temperature, giving them a texture more like that of cold butter instead of cooking oil.
When selecting an oil to cook with, one of the most important things to consider is how hot the oil will be getting. If you are planning to use the oil to sear meat or fry potatoes, these are high-temperature applications and therefore the oil you choose must have a high smoke point, meaning it can get quite hot before it begins to burn. Oils such as grapeseed oil and peanut oil have very high smoke points.
If on the other hand the food is to be cooked at a low temperature or not cooked at all, you’re safe to use an oil that has a lower smoke point, such as olive oil or toasted sesame oil.
Having a slight resemblance to small, thin green peppers, okra is actually a fruit which has many unique properties unto itself! Although they are quite seedy, okra pods are entirely edible–skin, seeds, and all! Okra has a grassy, bright flavor which can be aligned with that of green beans and asparagus, although with other unique flavor nuances of its own.
One slice into an okra pod and the fruit will begin seeping mucilage, a thick, slimy substance that is naturally occurring in most all plants but is seen in abundance in some species such as okra. This texture leads some folks to be lesser fans of okra than others, as it definitely gives a unique mouth feel. Not to worry though, the slipperiness dissipates upon cooking, especially if the okra is pickled or deep fried--two popular, and super tasty, ways to enjoy this Southern institution!
Okroshka is a cold soup that is very popular in Russian cuisine, especially when warmer weather rolls around! The dish consists of diced boiled potatoes, diced cooked meat such as ham or veal, chopped boiled eggs, and a variety of raw vegetables such as spring onions, cucumbers, and radishes. The ingredients are mixed with stock or water, kvass (which is a fermented beverage made from rye bread), vinegar, and sour cream. The result is a creamy, chilly, and hearty soup that is often garnished with fresh herbs like dill and/or chives.
Olives are a type of stone fruit, having a single central pit much like peaches and plums. Unlike these sweeter relatives however, olives are much too bitter to be eaten fresh! They produce high levels of bitter flavor compounds so as to ward off critters and pests who are looking for a treat. Luckily for us though, early humans discovered that by brining the fruits of the olive trees or curing them in salt, the olives became palatable and delicious!
If you walk past the olive bar in a grocery store or deli, you’ll see that there are a wide range of olive sizes and colors to choose from. All olives start out green, turning increasingly dark shades of brown, purple, and even black as they ripen. In addition to being popular in their whole form, a huge percentage of the olives that are cultivated worldwide are pressed into olive oil, which is one of the most popular cooking oils around the globe.
Despite its appearances and similarity to the word nigiri (a sushi variety), onigiri is actually not a type of sushi at all. Onigiri is a Japanese dish consisting of rice that has been shaped into balls or patties and is often filled with other ingredients and flavorings before being wrapped in seaweed paper.
The main difference between onigiri and sushi is that onigiri does not contain fish, while seafood remains a core ingredient of most sushi preparations. In addition, sushi is always made using a specially prepared type of seasoned sushi rice, while onigiri is made using plain rice. The concept behind onigiri is to make rice into a portable snack or meal--no bowl and chopsticks needed!
Onions are a key member of the allium family, along with their close relatives: garlic, scallions, chives, and leeks. There are a ton of onion varieties out there, featuring many different colors, shapes, sizes, and flavors. Red onions are well known for their bright purple skins and layers of flesh, while sweet yellow onions set themselves apart from Spanish white onions both in color and flavor. Shallots are a type of onion known for their oblong shape, violet hue, and sweeter flavor as compared to onions.
Does chopping onions make you cry? No shame! Try lighting a candle or a burner on your gas stove, as the open flame will help to burn off some of those tear-inducing gasses.
12. Oolong Tea
Oolong tea is an extremely flavorful type of tea which can vary widely in intensity and flavor. Black tea is made from tea leaves which have been fully oxidized, while green tea is made from leaves which have been minimally oxidized. Oolong tea covers everything in between! This means that your cup of oolong tea might deliver all the same grassy flavor and aroma as a cup of hot green tea, or it could contain more deep and tannic flavors that you might associate with a black tea.
No matter the level of oxidation, there are many health benefits to be had from drinking tea as tea leaves naturally contain loads of antioxidants. These little compounds have the ability to take down free radicals, thereby preventing cell damage and improving the functioning of all body systems. A cup of oolong tea a day is one habit we can get behind!
13. Opera Cake
Opera cake is a traditional French cake, and a decadent one at that! This sweet treat consists of layers of coffee syrup soaked almond sponge cake and French buttercream with chocolate ganache sandwiched in the middle. The ganache also serves as a mirror-like chocolate glaze on the top layer. To finish, the entire confection is typically decorated in an ornate fashion–with molded chocolate ornamentation on top, elegant piping, or a shower of shaved chocolate.
The cake is traditionally cut into small rectangular pieces, giving a delicate appearance, but don’t let this fool you! This is one rich dessert and as most opera cakes are at least six layers tall, a small piece is all you need.
Oranges are one food starting with the letter O that is likely to be recognized by all! Navel oranges and Valencia oranges are perhaps the two most common varieties, but there are a whole host of other orange species worth getting to know. Seville and lima oranges are two other varieties which feature bright orange pulp, while cara cara oranges have a pinkish hue. Blood oranges, on the other hand, are shockingly red inside and are known for their sweet and sour taste.
No matter their coloring, all oranges are good sources of vitamin C, and most can be eaten fresh, juiced, or cooked into any number of sweet or savory dishes.
Originally native to the Mediterranean, oregano is now used globally and is a key flavoring component in Spanish and Italian cuisines especially. It may come as a surprise that oregano is in the mint family, related to, yet differing widely in taste from those fragrant leaves of peppermint and spearmint plants.
Fresh oregano can have a bitter, almost astringent flavor. Therefore, using it in raw form requires small doses and fine chopping. Thankfully, oregano develops a wonderful flavor when cooked, releasing natural oils and aroma throughout the dish in which it is included. Oregano is far hardier than other herbs such as basil and parsley, which wilt easily upon contact with heat. Therefore, oregano is ideal for use in slow cooked dishes such as stews, braises, and classic tomato sauce.
Ossobuco is a rich and hearty dish, made of braised veal bones and satisfying root vegetables that have been slow simmered in a mix of white wine and dark veal stock. The name “ossobuco” actually translates to “bone with a hole”, in reference to the appearance of cross cut veal shanks, which expose the bone marrow, making it possible for all of that goodness to cook out and into the braising liquid.
When it comes to any type of braised meats, it is of the utmost importance to brown the meat before adding it into the liquid. This allows the surface of the meat to caramelize, which sets an undertone of roasty-toasty rich flavor throughout the entire dish itself.
Oxtail is an extremely flavorful cut of meat, thanks to the unique combination of fat, bone marrow, and gelatin rich meat that come together. Traditionally, oxtail was only the tail of the male cattle, hence the name "ox", but nowadays the tail meat of either male or female cattle is used regardless.
Taste and texture-wise, oxtail can be most closely compared to the short rib. The cooking methods tend to be similar as well, as both of these cuts do their best work in a low-and-slow braise environment. Oxtail stew, also known in some regions as oxtail soup, is perhaps the most widely known use of oxtail across the globe. There is a version of this dish in many different cuisines, and you can find recipes for oxtail stew which take influence from Spain, France, the Philippines, Jamaica, Africa, and beyond. The thing they all have in common? Beautifully braised oxtails and an abundance of hearty veggies of course.
18. Oyster Mushrooms
A cluster of oyster mushrooms is a true thing of beauty! With broad, fan-shaped caps of different sizes emanating from a central stem, you can easily see why they bear the same name as a certain shellfish as they have a remarkably similar shape. Oyster mushrooms most commonly grow in a range of gray to brown hues. Blue oyster mushrooms have a slight blue hue to their gray caps, and golden oyster mushrooms are bright yellow, while pink oyster mushrooms are a brilliant shade of coral pink!
While they can be eaten raw, oyster mushrooms are generally best when cooked. They are supreme when lightly pan seared in plenty of olive oil and the addition of fresh herbs such as thyme or marjoram is an especially delicious combination.
19. Oyster Sauce
Unrelated to our new friend, the oyster mushroom, oyster sauce is an umami-packed, richly colored condiment which is a surefire way to punch up the flavor in any dish. Based on appearances alone, you might mistake oyster sauce for soy sauce, but one taste or whiff and you’ll realize that this stuff is surely a different beast altogether. While it doesn’t taste like oysters per se, it is quite reminiscent of the sea and provides a background of rich, briny flavor to any dish.
Oyster sauce consists largely of caramelized oyster juice, with a few other ingredients tossed in, such as cornstarch (to provide thickness), sugar, and salt among other things. This condiment is used widely across the cuisines of China, Thailand, and Vietnam to name a few. Oyster sauce is a key ingredient and flavoring in many saucy dishes such as chow mein, cashew chicken, and lo mein.
While we’re here, let’s get to know the little bivalves that are responsible for bringing us oyster sauce! Oysters are a type of shellfish, of which there are several different species. You may also be familiar with oysters as the crafters of a particular gemstone--the pearl! Oddly enough, the oysters we consume for culinary purposes are not the same oysters that produce gemstone-quality pearls. While edible oysters do on occasion produce pearls, they are not shiny and beautiful in the same way, therefore they hold no value.
Cooking oysters is always a delicious option, whether frying, stuffing and broiling, or making soup. However, the truth remains that oysters are most commonly eaten raw. In most restaurants, oysters are served on the half shell with a variety of accouterments, from fresh lemon juice and hot sauce to mignonette and fresh herbs.
Final Thoughts on Foods That Start With the Letter O
There we have it, an abundant list of foods that start with O! While it would be impossible to taste every food on the planet (an admirable goal though!), you can easily be inspired to expand your palate and cooking skills simply by being made aware of new foods and products.
If you've never tried your hand at braising, pick up some oxtails (an extremely affordable cut of meat to learn upon!) and try out a simple recipe for stew. Or, select a new cooking oil and whip up the national dish of a country whose cuisine you have never tried. Try your hand at shucking a few oysters or toss sliced blood oranges in the lunchbox instead of your usual Valencia.
Food is meant to be celebrated, enjoyed, and shared, and we hope you use some of these foods that start with O to do just that!