The Key Reason Some Food Always Tastes Better As Leftovers

Have you ever reheated a leftover meal like meatloaf and it seemed to taste better than when you first ate it hot out of the oven? There are some meals that are notorious for being tastier on the second day, including spicy chili or bursting-with-flavor curry, and saucy lasagna or hearty beef stew. 

Let's face it: Having a fridge full of leftovers, whether homemade or from a restaurant, can be a real comfort when weeks are busy and it's hard to find time to make dinner for just yourself — or a family of six. So, the fact they can have even more flavor and texture when reheated is an added bonus. 

And it's not your imagination — science shows that some foods truly do have more flavor and improved taste the second time around. However, the answer to why doesn't lie in how the leftovers are stored or reheated, but in the ingredients with which they are made.

Aromatics continue to increase in flavor

The reason that meatloaf tasted better on day two was it contained aromatics such as onion, garlic, and pepper. Science says these ingredients will continue to have chemical reactions during the reheating process, releasing more flavor and aroma than they did during the initial cooking.

The non-aromatic ingredients also play a role in the flavor of the reheated dish. Should a food have a fatty element, the aromatic food, such as curry powder, will seek out the fat and its flavor will become part of the fat-containing item such as cheese. Having a well-mixed item will also encourage the ingredients to interact more, thus leftovers stored in the fridge will have more opportunity to share flavors and become more tasty when it's time to reheat them and eat them.

Next time you serve yourself a big bowl of two-day-old chili, trust your taste buds that it really does taste better thanks to the aromatic ingredients having more time to reach their full flavor potential.