Budget Food and Wine

12 Budget Food and Wine Pairings That’ll Make You Feel Fancy

When it comes to food, frugal living can be healthy for both your waistline and your wallet. Although, a little splurge every once in a while can be good for the spirit. If you can indulge a bit without breaking the bank, why not? Uncorking a nice bottle of wine can take the simplest of foods up a notch. We’re mixing some sipping and swirling with flavors both savory and sweet for some budget food and wine pairings. The goal is to make the ordinary a bit more extraordinary and keep you within budget while having fun.

Fast Food and Wine Pairing Ideas

Merlot and a Hardee’s Mushroom and Swiss Angus Burger: A room-temperature red is the perfect balance to the juicy heartiness of a 1/3-pound burger. The sweet edge of Swiss cheese, the mushroom sauce, and of a toasted potato bun pairs perfectly with a red.

Pink Moscato and McDonald’s Breakfast: If you make it to McDonald’s by 10:30am, grab an Egg McMuffin, hotcake, hash brown, or oatmeal, and pair it with light, sweet wine for brunch. While this moscato isn’t a mimosa, it makes a pretty tasty combination. If you miss their limited breakfast hours, there’s always a Waffle House nearby.

Rosé and a Taco Bell Box: Order a Taco & Burrito Craving Pack—four crunchy tacos and four Beefy 5-Layer Burritos – and pair it with a chilled rosé. The fruity sweetness of the rosé smooths out the spiciness of the tacos. If burritos aren’t your jam, order a chicken quesadilla or play mix and match with the craving pack.

Riesling and a Panda Express Big Plate: Pair an order of honey walnut shrimp, Kung Pao chicken, broccoli beef and fried rice with a sparkly Riesling. While this wine is a German creation, it’s a great match for spicy Asian food.

Cava and Popeye’s 5-Piece Chicken Box: Spanish Cava is an inexpensive sparkling white wine or rosé. Either way, it gives the perfect cut to fried favorites like irresistibly greasy and well-seasoned chicken tenders from Popeye’s.

Comfort Food and Wine Pairings

Chardonnay and Mac and Cheese: Imagine the bubbled, warm creaminess of mac and cheese along with the chilled, clean zip of a Chablis or other chardonnay. Just be careful—a good white wine can make you forget just how dense that dish really is.

Beaujolais and a Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup: Cheese in all of its forms seems to bring comfort, and grilled cheese and tomato soup can fix the worst day. Adding a nice glass of light red can work out all the wrinkles as its berry tones melt against the cheesiness while holding its own against the tomato.

Pinot Noir and Lasagna: Traditional lasagna demands a red that can handle its richness. Meatless lasagnas often lend themselves well to a white wine like a Pinot Gris. Either way, the fact that the dish leaves lots of freezable leftovers makes lasagna extremely budget-friendly.

Healthy Food and Wine

Pinot Gris and Shoyu Ramen: Ramen’s bold broth, toppings, and seasonings make every dish a feast for the senses. With so many flavors going on, you need a wine that’s stable and simple like a Pinot Gris.

Syrah and Turkey Chili: Turkey chili tends to be lighter and has a mellower seasoning than a spicy beef chili, so we chose a Syrah over a shiraz—it’s more full-bodied and smokier cousin. Syrah hits all the seasonal notes to make the turkey chili just a little bit more flavorful without overpowering the meal.

Sauvignon Blanc and Veggie Wraps: Whether adding a layer of hummus or goat cheese to your wraps, the citrusy, crisp notes of a sauvignon white embody the kind of freshness that lighten even the heaviest ingredients. It also enhances the flavors of veggies—especially grilled ones.

Wine and Salad: We left this one open because you match the wine to the dressing with salads. Although, the contents of the salad count for something, too. Food & Wine recommends a sauvignon blanc for vinaigrette, a Pinot Gris for ranch, and a Riesling or Vouvray for sweeter dressings.

The Basics of Pairing Wine & Food

Ready to create your own interesting pairings? Experts have come up with a few helpful guidelines to match wines to dishes. Some tips to get you started:

  • White wines are made from white or black grapes. They’re light because the skins aren’t part of the process—only the juice. They tend to be crisp and acidic. White wines include chardonnays, Rieslings, sauvignon blancs, and pinot gris. Good pairings include poultry and seafood. White wines are usually served chilled
  • Red wines are made from whole black grapes. The skins, seeds, stems, and juice are all fermented together. The younger the wine, the higher its tannin content, so reds can have a strong, dry, bitter edge. Serving them at room temperature can soften that effect. The robust flavor stands up well to heavier foods like red meat, BBQ, pasta, and pizza. Choose a merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, zinfandel, Chianti, or Beaujolais.
  • Rosé wines start with the juice and skins. The skins are removed once the wine gets a bit of color. The result is a pretty wine with a pink blush. It’s usually light and sweet and goes easily with a wide variety of foods, including poultry, fish, fruit, cheese, and salty snacks.
  • Sparkling wines are considered a lighter fare. They can complement any number of dishes.
  • Dessert wines are typically heavier and sweeter, and are often a treat in themselves. They pair well with sugary treats. Ice wine, moscato, and port are popular choices in these cases.

Find Your Perfect Pair

The options are endless. The more you explore, the longer your list for pairings will get. We’ll leave you with a few snack matches to keep you thinking about the infinite possibilities.

Take popcorn. Chardonnay is often the hands-down pick for plain popcorn, but make it cheddar popcorn, and you might want to open a bottle of cabernet sauvignon instead. Opt for caramel corn, and you can switch to a pinot noir or moscato that suits your desired intensity of sweetness. And, as you’ll find, sparkling wines can be fun with any of them.

At Pelican State Credit Union, we know money is important. That’s why we’re committed to helping you find smart financial ways to live your best life.

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