You might think that the number of foods that start with W would be relatively small. After all, W is allllll the way back there, at the end of the alphabet, far behind other more popular letters like E, T, S, and A.
But sure enough, the list of foods that start with W is plenty vast and varied! From Wakame to Worcestershire sauce, we’ve got them all here and will dive into each of them.
What are you waiting for? Let’s find all about the best foods that start with W!
20 Foods Beginning With the Letter W
Kicking off our list of foods that start with W is wakame, an edible seaweed that is a well-known component of Japanese cuisine. It is often used in salads (if you’ve ever ordered seaweed salad, you’ve had wakame!) and soups such as miso soup. As a sea vegetable, the flavor of wakame tends to be briny, savory, and oceanic-tasting. Wakame is most often sold in dried strips which must be soaked in warm water prior to use.
2. Waldorf Salad
Named after the famed Waldorf-Astoria hotel where it is said to have been invented, Waldorf salad has been gracing restaurant menus and kitchen tables for over 100 years. The original recipe for Waldorf salad consists simply of: red-skinned apples, celery, grapes, and mayonnaise.
At some point through the years, the addition of toasted walnuts became common, and some people even began to use raisins in place of fresh grapes. If using raisins in your Waldorf salad, a great tip is to soak them in warm water for 15-30 minutes so as to plump them up prior to stirring them into your salad!
Speaking of walnuts, they are one food that starts with W and most definitely deserves a spot all to itself! Archeological sites in Europe have revealed evidence of roasted walnut shells that date all the way back to 6000 B.C.E., telling us that walnuts are a truly ancient food source. Aside from being a key component in dishes such as our new friend Waldorf salad, they are also key players in classics like walnut cake, banana bread, coffee cake. Each crunchy bite is loaded with antioxidants and healthy omega-3 fats, making walnuts a great snack on their own as well.
Wasabi is the rhizome (underground stem) of a plant belonging to the Brassicaceae family, which also contains broccoli and cabbage, along with horseradish, mustards, and radishes. Wasabi is an important component of Japanese cuisine and is frequently used to make and serve sushi.
It may surprise you to learn that most wasabi that is sold outside of Japan contains actually ZERO wasabi! Rather, it's horseradish that has coloring added to give the appearance of fresh wasabi. The flavor of real wasabi, while still plenty punchy, is more herbal and aromatic than the nose-burning, sinus-clearing stuff that is served as wasabi in most restaurants. While it’s difficult to obtain fresh wasabi stems outside of Japan, it is possible to find true wasabi paste or powder online or in specialty markets.
5. Water Chestnuts
The water chestnut is an aquatic plant that grows in warm, freshwater marshes. The part of the plant we know as the water chestnut is not a nut, nor a fruit but is actually the tuber. The unique thing about water chestnuts is that, unlike most vegetables, they remain crisp even after cooking. This makes water chestnuts a popular choice for stir fries and noodle dishes where the satisfying crunch will be welcomed and highlighted!
Water chestnuts are most readily available in their canned form, but fresh water chestnuts may be available in certain markets depending on where you live. If you ever come across some, get them. Their sweet taste and nutty flavor will blow their canned counterparts out of the water.
6. Water Spinach
Confusingly enough, water spinach is not actually a type of spinach, nor is it even in the same family as spinach--but it is a leafy green that grows happily in water or very damp soil. The stems are actually hollow, making them buoyant and able to sway in the gentle movements of a stream or marsh.
The leaves and stems of water spinach are entirely edible, however the lower part of the stem grows fibrous as the plant grows bigger so this may need to be trimmed and discarded depending on the size of the plants. The most popular way to eat water spinach is stir-fried in a wok, perhaps with a bit of ginger or garlic to accent the sweet, fresh flavor of the greens.
Watercress has a refreshing, peppery flavor and is surprisingly piquant for a tender little green leaf! As its name suggests, watercress indeed grows in water where the roots can remain submerged while the leaves grow up through and break the water's surface. This leafy vegetable is most often eaten raw and is quite similar to arugula in taste as well as culinary application. Try a simple salad of watercress and thinly sliced red onion, tossed lightly in mustard vinaigrette.
8. Wheat Flour
Wheat flour is perhaps one of the most versatile foods that start with W, as it is the foundation of so many different foods: breads, pastas, baked goods, and even many sauces which rely on flour as a thickener. Wheat is one of the six true cereal grains, and therefore is considered as a staple food source in countries all over the world. Wheat flour is available in many different forms, some of which are better for cakes and other baked goods while others are optimal for baking bread. Some types you might encounter in the grocery store are: all-purpose flour, self-rising flour, cake flour, and whole wheat flour.
A mainstay of health food stores everywhere, wheatgrass is one extra-super superfood! Wheatgrass is actually the young, bright green shoots of the wheat plant, harvested long before any wheat kernels (which later become wheat flour) are produced. This means that despite being an actual wheat plant, wheatgrass is indeed gluten free. Wheatgrass juice is the most popular way to reap the health benefits that are in wheatgrass, however the shoots are actually edible whole as well!
10. White Chocolate
While made from the same cocoa plant that other types of chocolate come from, white chocolate is made from only the fat component of the cocoa bean, known as cocoa butter. The isolation of this cocoa butter is a natural part of the chocolate making process and was actually a discarded byproduct until Nestle thought to add sugar and milk solids, giving birth to a new delicious sweet. White chocolate has the same melt-in-your-mouth buttery texture as milk or dark chocolate and can be used in all sorts of sweet recipes like truffles and white chocolate brownies!
11. White Rice
Rice is another one of our six cereal grains (that makes 2 in our list today!) and each grain of rice is actually the seed of a grass plant. In its natural state, a grain of rice consists of a tough outer hull, a layer of fibrous bran, the germ (which will eventually grow into a new plant), and the endosperm (which feeds the new plant as it begins to grow). Brown rice retains all parts of the grain except for the outer hull, which is entirely inedible. White rice on the other hand, has these parts removed so as to leave only the starchy endosperm, which is then polished, resulting in the pure white grains we know as white rice!
12. White Wine
White wine is an alcoholic beverage that is actually a byproduct of fermented grapes. White wine is made from white grapes whose skins and seeds have been removed prior to fermentation while red wine, for comparison, is made from black or red grapes that retain their skins and seeds.
The light and floral characteristics of white wine make it perfect in both sweet and savory dishes alike! Try simmering it with spices for use as a fruit poaching liquid for an impressive dessert or make a savory white wine sauce to spoon over lightly seared fish.
Whiting is a type of fish, actually several types of fish that are commonly referred to under the umbrella name "whiting". The varieties of fish that make up the group known as whiting vary widely and might include: Alaskan pollock, hake, and Southern kingfish to name a few. You can expect all whiting will have a tender white flesh with a flaky texture and mild flavor, much like cod fish. Whiting are excellent fish for frying as they cook quickly and hold their texture well, but also are suitable for baking and sautéing as well!
14. Wild Boar
Wild boar, originally only native to Europe and parts of Asia, are now found on every continent except for Antarctica. The meat of wild boar is certainly similar to domesticated pork but is leaner with a more gamey flavor. When cooking most cuts (with the exception of tenderloin) of wild boar, it’s important to use a low and slow method so as to allow the tough connective tissues to break down without drying out the meat. Wild boar is not commonly seen in your everyday supermarket, but it is available through many meat purveyors as well as in specialty butcher shops.
15. Wild Rice
Wild rice, just like regular rice, is the seed of a particular type of grass. The grains of wild rice are longer and darker in color than typical rice, with a tougher hull and nuttier flavor. It has undoubtedly more texture than white or even brown rice, making it a popular choice for long-cooking dishes such as soups and stews. Due to its thick outer coat, wild rice takes much longer to absorb water, so plan on simmering it for anywhere between 40-60 minutes.
16. Winter Melon
Also referred to as the wax gourds or ash gourds, winter melons are large fruits with waxy, pale skin and thick white flesh. The taste of this melon, or lack thereof, is most often likened to the flavor of cucumber. Watery, slightly sweet, and just a bit grassy–this melon is by no means strongly flavored and therefore tends to take on the flavors of whatever it is cooked with.
The use of these melons is most common in the cuisines of countries like Cambodia, China, and the Philippines where they are made into soups, stews, stir fries, and candied for desserts. Winter melons are typically available in Asian grocery stores, however you’re unlikely to find a whole melon for sale anywhere! Winter melons are so large that they usually must be cut up prior to packaging and sale.
17. Winter Squash
Winter squash is a category of squash not so named for the season in which it grows, but for its ability to keep for so long after the autumn harvest--all through the winter in fact! Winter squash differs from summer squash in that it is denser, sweeter, has a nutty flavor and a very thick skin which helps it to keep fresh for many months after harvesting. Some types of winter squash are spaghetti squash, butternut squash, acorn squash, and pumpkins. Of these, butternut squash is one of the most common, with a flavor similar to that of a sweet potato, and an extremely versatile buttery texture.
Wintergreen grows wildly in two main regions of the world: Southern Asia and Eastern North America, where it is known by other names like boxberry and checkerberry. With a passing glance, wintergreen might just look like any other shrub or ground cover, but brush up against the leaves and you’ll be rewarded with the refreshing, cool scent of wintergreen. The leaves are entirely edible, as are the bright red berries–which also happen to taste minty fresh! Wintergreen can be used to flavor desserts like mint ice cream, cocktails, tea, and jams.
If you’ve never heard of wolfberries before, you might recognize them by their more common name, goji berries. These bright red jewels are the fruits of a shrub that is native to Asia, and are commonly used in cooking as well as in traditional medicine due the high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals found in the berries.
It would be unusual (but not impossible!) to find fresh goji berries at your local market or farm, but there are many other options which will deliver the sweet-sour flavor and nutritional benefits of wolfberries. You can check your freezer section for frozen whole berries or puree or give dried wolfberries a shot! Wolfberry powder is also readily available and is extra convenient for mixing into healthy beverages and smoothies.
20. Worcestershire Sauce
No list of foods that start with W would be complete without this tongue twister of a sauce! The only thing more complex than its name is the list of ingredients that make up this savory, umami rich ingredient. The specific recipe will vary from brand to brand, but in general, Worcestershire sauce contains vinegar, garlic, anchovies, molasses, tamarind, sugar, and chili pepper. This melting pot of ingredients results in a deep, dark, richly flavored sauce that can be used to season a wide range of dishes, from meatloaf and stir fries to vinaigrettes and stews.
Foods That Start With W: Final Thoughts
When it comes to foods that start with W, there are plenty of new ingredients to get to know, as well as a few that you are likely well-acquainted with. White rice and wheat flour are already a part of most typical diets, while wakame and winter melon might be new to you and well-worth giving a try!
Whichever the case, we hope you use this list of foods that start with W as inspiration for your next meal or recipe. Let us know what you come up with!