28 Foods That Are Commonly Confused With One Another

colorful macarons in bowl
colorful macarons in bowl - PNH/Shutterstock

There are a lot of foods in the world — and we mean a lot. When you consider the fact that there are 195 countries, and every one of them has their own national cuisine, local ingredients, numerous recipes, and cooking styles. It can be hard to keep track, so it's no wonder that certain foods get confused with one another. There are some foods out there that even look virtually identical to others, and yet have totally different culinary uses or come from a completely different tradition.

In some situations, these mix-ups are made because the very ingredient itself has a similar counterpart. Foods like bananas or sweet potatoes, for instance, are almost indistinguishable from plantains or yams — but their flavors, and the way they're used in recipes, vary considerably. In other situations, recipes like ragù and Bolognese are commonly referred to as one another, but are actually different types of the same dish. Some foods are also confused by their names (macarons and macaroons, anyone?), but are made from completely different ingredients. It's a minefield out there, folks, but we're here to help you avoid those common mistakes. ‌

Read more: 12 Vegetables And Fruits That Used To Look Very Different

Bananas And Plantains

banana and plantain split image
banana and plantain split image - Fcafotodigital/Getty & Dny59/Getty Images

We understand why bananas and plantains are confused so often; they look exactly the same. Okay, not quite — their size difference is pretty large — but given that both of them have a curved shape and a bright yellow skin, you'd be forgiven for expecting that they'd taste the same. Bananas and plantains are hybrids of the same plant species, created by cross-breeding two wild forms of the plant, with plantains technically being considered a subclass of bananas.  However, while they're closely related, they have a different composition that gives them a different taste and use. Plantains have a higher starch content and a tougher consistency, with a milder flavor. Bananas, on the other hand, are softer, with a sweet taste.

Because of this difference, plantains are pretty unpleasant when eaten raw, and whether they're ripe or unripe, they need to be cooked for the best flavor. Their changeable flavor also makes them more versatile than bananas, with green plantains generally served with savory dishes, and yellow plantains served with sweet ones. Like bananas, plantains show their ripeness by their skin turning from a light green to a bright yellow, with black spots appearing along the body of the fruit.

Ragù And Bolognese

bowl of Bolognese with pasta
bowl of Bolognese with pasta - hlphoto/Shutterstock

There's a lot you need to know about the difference between ragù and Bolognese, and the main thing to remember is that one is a type of the other. Bolognese is commonly referred to as ragù, but it's actually a type of ragù sauce. It's worth remembering that this is, in essence, a ragù that comes from Bologna, with its full name being ragù alla Bolognese.

Ragù, then, is a broader term for a meat-based sauce that's served with pasta, for which there can be many regional variations. It's usually made from pork or beef, and is often (although not always) made with a tomato sauce. Both sauces are made with wine, too, although Bolognese is generally made with white wine, whereas other ragùs are made using red wine. Bolognese will also often be cooked with milk or cream in its recipe, to give it a creamier, thicker consistency. Whichever one you go for, though, both ragù and Bolognese are perfect with a long pasta noodle. Spaghetti, tagliatelle, and pappardelle are all ideal for these sauces, as the meat pieces cling to the unfurling strands and pack each mouthful with flavor. ‌

Raw Sugar And Brown Sugar

raw sugar and brown sugar
raw sugar and brown sugar - Anton Starikov/Shutterstock & Oksana Ermak/Getty

On first glance, raw and brown sugar are very similar. Both of them are made from rough, brownish granules, and have a super-sweet taste. However, if you're used to putting brown sugar in your coffee, don't think that raw sugar will do exactly the same thing. Raw sugar is exactly what it sounds like: A less-refined version of sugar that's used to make the white granulated form. This sugar comes in larger crystals, derived from sugar cane, and its golden brown color comes from its natural molasses content, which is siphoned out when it's processed into white table sugar.

Where brown sugar differs is that it's more heavily processed than raw sugar — but contrary to taking molasses out, brown sugar actually has molasses mixed into it. This added molasses content makes it different in a few ways. Firstly, it adds extra moisture, which makes it soften and melt more quickly. It also gives it a slightly darker color than raw sugar, and lends a gentle caramelized note that makes it the perfect choice for coffee and rich, dark chocolate cakes. While both products will sweeten your food, brown sugar will likely add a deeper flavor.

Ginger Ale And Ginger Beer

ginger ale and ginger beer
ginger ale and ginger beer - Steve Cukrov & FoodAndPhoto/Shutterstock

Ginger ale or ginger beer: Surely there's nothing between them, right? Well, not really. Although these two drinks sound similar (and are both, somewhat confusingly, non-alcoholic), they have a few key differences. Ginger beer usually has a sharper, spicier, more fiery taste than ginger ale, which can be sweeter and tamer. Ginger beer's different flavor comes from the fact that, traditionally, it's fermented using real ginger. This fermentation process can also give it a very low alcoholic content.

The color of ginger beer can also be different. This drink can have a paler, slightly cloudy color, whereas ginger ale can have a more golden, lager-like tone (pretty confusing, huh?). Generally, ginger beer should be used when you want a more insistent flavor, either in cocktails or just on its own. By contrast, ginger ale should be used in lighter applications, such as if you're mixing it with a clear spirit. Interestingly, too, while we're often told that ginger ale is good for soothing an upset stomach, it's actually ginger beer that's probably more effective here. Commercially-made ginger ales often include artificial ginger flavoring and are high in sugar, neither of which will please your tummy, whereas ginger beer will often contain higher levels of ginger (which is what you need to reduce nausea).

Sweet Potatoes And Yams

sweet potatoes and yams
sweet potatoes and yams - jiangdi/Shutterstock & Floortje/Getty

The relationship between sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and yams is fairly confusing. They seem similar, so it might surprise you to hear that none of them are particularly close to one another, and sweet potatoes and yams actually come from distinct plant families. This distinction also means that they have a pretty different flavor. Get past the similar-looking skins, and your yam will likely have either a white or purple inside. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, have the distinctive orange hue that we all know so well.

So, what about taste? Well, that's pretty different, too. Sweet potatoes live up to their name, with a sweet, gently nutty flavor that goes well in both sweet and savory applications. Yams, on the other hand, have a milder flavor. Texture-wise, they tend to be starchier than sweet potatoes, which can have a creamy, more buttery consistency. Although you can use sweet potatoes instead of yams, you shouldn't expect the same taste. If you do need to do this, though, try to find a milder sweet potato variety that has less sweetness, like a Jewel or a Satsuma-Imo.

Jams And Jellies

jelly on spoon and jam
jelly on spoon and jam - Pannonia & Mattjeacock/Getty

Marmalade, jams, jellies: What's the difference between them all? The answer can be pretty difficult to figure out, and the distinction between jams and jellies is probably the trickiest. While the end result of these can be similar, the distinction lies in what ingredients go into them. Jam is made using a high proportion of the fruit it's based on, with half of its composition made up of the fruit itself. This fruit is chopped up and cooked with sugar, water, pectin, and acid (usually lemon juice), until it's thick and glossy.

Jelly, on the other hand, isn't required to have fruit at all, using fruit juice instead. It's made by combining the juice and sugar, together with pectin to thicken everything up. This can result in a difference in texture between the two: While jellies are smooth and have no seeds, jams tend to be chunkier and more rustic-looking. It can also result in a difference in flavor, with jams sometimes having a "fruitier," slightly more authentic flavor, due to the presence of real fruit.

Frappe And Frappuccino

frappe and frappuccino
frappe and frappuccino - Alter-ego/Shutterstock & Baibaz/Getty Images

What a frappe is, versus what a frappuccino is, can be pretty confusing — not least because people have a tendency to shorten the name of their frappuccino to "frappe" in casual conversation. Remember, though, that the two drinks are totally different. A frappe is a blended beverage, made with coffee or espresso, sugar, and ice. In the United States, these ingredients are most commonly blended with milk, but they don't always have to be: In some countries, people blend their coffee with ice cream or soda instead.

A frappuccino, on the other hand, is specifically an iced version of a cappuccino. This is generally made in a similar way to a frappe, but the base ingredients usually remain the same (coffee, milk, and ice), with various syrups or additions that can give it a fresh twist. Frappuccinos were developed in the early 1990s and premiered in a café called The Coffee Connection, but the joint was soon bought out by Starbucks, who are now well-known for their frappuccino offerings. Whether you're going for a frappe or a frappuccino, you can be safe in the knowledge that you're getting a delicious, caffeinated beverage — just don't expect them to be exactly the same.

Muesli And Granola

muesli and granola
muesli and granola - Towfiqu Ahamed/Getty & this_baker/Shutterstock

When it comes to oat-based breakfasts, there's a battle going on between muesli and granola. This isn't helped by the fact that the two are confused so often. We can understand why: Both breakfast items are made with the same ingredients. While muesli and granola recipes vary considerably, both are a combination of oats, dried fruits, and nuts, and are usually served with milk.

However, their difference lies in the way they're prepared. Muesli is less processed than granola. The oats, fruits, and nuts are mixed together, and then it's ready to go. Granola, on the other hand, is cooked. The mixture is often set together by honey or some other sticky sweetener, and then it's baked in the oven until it forms hard, crunchy clusters. This can also mean that granola is sweeter than muesli, and may have a higher sugar content, although this all depends on how much fruit is used in proportion to the oats and nuts. This crunchiness can also make granola slightly more versatile than muesli, as it's easier to munch on as a dry snack, or scatter over frozen yogurt or ice cream.

Sherbet And Sorbet

sherbet and sorbet
sherbet and sorbet - MaraZe/Shutterstock & Milanfoto

In an ideal world, we'd be having both sherbet and sorbet for dessert. What's the difference between the two, though? It all lies in the ingredients. Sherbet and sorbet may look similar, but one (sherbet) has dairy, and the other (sorbet) does not. Sorbet is usually a simple blend of frozen fruit, or can be made by blending fresh fruit with simple syrup and then freezing the mixture. This simplicity can result in a different consistency to sherbet, with sorbet often developing more ice crystals than sherbet due to its higher water content and lower percentage of dairy. Because of its minimal ingredients, sorbet can also taste simpler and somewhat sharper than sherbet.

Sorbet is also, arguably, easier to make, and can be made with some pretty impressive one-ingredient hacks — although sherbet, as a fairly simple combo of fruit, a dairy product like milk or cream, and potentially a thickening agent, isn't exactly different to create either. Bear in mind, too, that neither of these desserts should be confused with sherbert. Most commonly seen in the U.K., sherbert is a fizzy, sweet-sour powdered candy that's often served in bags or small containers, with harder candies like lollipops used to scoop it up.

Hot Chocolate And Hot Cocoa

hot chocolate and hot cocoa
hot chocolate and hot cocoa - NIKCOA/Shutterstock & Dny59/Getty

If you've got a mug of hot, steaming, chocolate-flavored liquid, you might not care whether it's hot cocoa or hot chocolate. Well, we do, and we're here to tell you the difference. These beverages are frequently confused with one another, but they're made using different ingredients. Hot chocolate contains, well, chocolate, mixed with warm milk or cream until it's melted, thick, and viscous. Hot cocoa, on the other hand, gets its chocolatey flavor from cocoa powder mixed with sugar, which is then combined with hot milk or water and stirred until smooth. Cocoa powder is made by refining cocoa nibs to produce a fine, intensely-flavored powder, while chocolate is made from a combination of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sweeteners, giving the drinks a noticeably different flavor profile.

While you might think that hot chocolate is sweeter, given that it's made of already-sweetened melted chocolate, you'd be wrong. Hot cocoa is often sweeter than hot chocolate, because it contains a higher amount of added sugars. Plus, it tends to be less expensive. As you'd probably expect, hot cocoa is also thinner than hot chocolate, and tastes less rich. You can make hot cocoa thicker and creamier, though, by making it with whole milk or half and half, which will raise its fat content.

Macarons And Macaroons

macarons and macaroon
macarons and macaroon - cribdonite/Shutterstock & Lauripatterson/Getty

Perhaps the ultimate food mix-up, macarons and macaroons are two items that everyone confuses with one another. While they're both cookies, the similarities begin to run dry there. Both macarons and macaroons are gluten-free and have whipped egg whites as a key ingredient, but beyond that, they begin to use different ingredients.

Macaroons (with a double "o") likely have Italian origins, and commonly contain shredded coconut. These cookies are also often coated partly or fully in chocolate, and they have a ball-like shape and a rustled appearance. Macarons, on the other hand, are those dainty-looking sandwich biscuits that you see in a million different colors. These cookies are often thought to be French, but they originate from Italy, too — these two deserts share a common origin in medieval Sicily, explaining their similar names. These cookies are made using almond flour and powdered sugar, and once the batter is made, they're piped into small discs. Once baked, two macarons are put together, sandwiching a soft filling, made from foodstuffs like jam or ganache. This process gives them a chewy but crisp consistency.

Salsa And Pico De Gallo

salsa and pico de gallo
salsa and pico de gallo - Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock & Geshas/Getty

What we think of as salsa is just one part of the picture. There's a difference between pico de gallo and salsa, with the former being the classic combination of raw chopped onions, tomatoes, lime juice, and cilantro that we most commonly refer to as salsa, and often served with tortilla chips. However, pico de gallo is just one type of salsa. "Salsa" is an umbrella term that can apply to a wide range of sauces, which can be served raw or cooked, and which can be eaten in tacos or as a dip.

Interestingly, most salsas are way saucier than pico de gallo, and help to moisten tacos while also adding some key flavor and heat. Red salsa taquera is the type most commonly used with tacos and is made with chile de arbol, which gives it a hotter flavor. Salsa taquera is typically blended until it's smooth, unlike pico de gallo, which is chunkier and crunchier. Other salsas, like salsa verde, have a brighter, sharper flavor, whereas salsa brava has a deep and spicy taste. If you want freshness, though, pico de gallo is usually the one you'll want to go for.

Seltzer And Sparkling Water

glass of seltzer or sparkling water
glass of seltzer or sparkling water - Stockcam/Getty Images

Who'd have thought there could be this much difference between fizzy waters? As it turns out, seltzer and sparkling water have distinct formulations that give them a slightly different taste. If you want simplicity, seltzer is the way to go. This water is a basic combination of H₂O and carbon dioxide, with the carbon dioxide added in during the production process to make it bubbly.

Sparkling water, on the other hand, doesn't have anything added to it — but it has more going for it than seltzer. True sparkling water is naturally carbonated spring water, with carbon dioxide working its way into the water from the rock chambers it passes through. This also means that it has a higher mineral content than seltzer, which gives it a subtle yet noticeable taste difference.

So when should you drink seltzer instead of sparkling water, and vice versa? Seltzer's clean, simple taste makes it a great choice for adding flavors to, or combining with liquors in a cocktail. Sparkling water, on the other hand, is best enjoyed on its own, due to it having more minerals. To tell the difference between these two, though, you'll need to look carefully at the label, as once they're in a glass they're indistinguishable from each other.

Spring Onions And Scallions

spring onions and scallions
spring onions and scallions - Floortje & 4kodiak/Getty

Spring onions and scallions are commonplace in cooking, most prominently in Asian cuisine but also in dishes around the world. Importantly, though, there's a subtle difference between scallions and spring onions. While they look similar, due to them being the same plant species, spring onions (which can also be referred to as green onions) have a stronger flavor than scallions and tend to be slightly larger too, both of which come from them being grown for longer. Spring onions get their sharper taste from their bigger bulb, which sits at the end of the green fronds that most people use to garnish their salads or noodles.

By contrast, scallions are harvested earlier, so they're thinner and smaller, with a bulb that's the same thickness as the greens. Because of their milder flavor, scallions are usually easier to use when raw, and they impart a slightly sharp bite that's similar to the flavor of chives. Spring onions, on the other hand, are more "oniony," and you might find that cooking them is useful to help their flavor mellow out. The green and white parts of a spring onion may also have a slightly different flavor, with the white bulb having a sharper taste.

Read the original article on The Daily Meal