The Essential Guide to Malbec Food Pairing

By | Travel & Wine Writer, Co-Founder
Last Updated: September 23, 2023
The Essential Malbec Food Pairing Guide |

Mmm… Malbec. Big, bold and spicy. This grape variety is a favorite of wine connoisseurs and is classically known to be a great partner with an assortment of meats. Check out some of the best Malbec food pairings below.

Learn About Malbec Food & Wine Pairings

Malbec’s Origins

Malbec has received an extensive amount of notoriety in the past 15 years. It’s most commonly associated with the Mendoza region of Argentina after a French engineer brought vines back from France in the late 1860s.

Malbec is actually an approved grape variety for some of the most delicious Bordeaux red blends. While its use in the region has been extensive (but typically not a dominant variety), it has more classically been associated with the region of Cahors when it comes to France. The variety has historically thrived there. Malbec’s from Cahors tend to be much more tannic, as is evident by the chewy texture, raisin-esque flavors and astringent feel noticeable on the palate.

It’s important to note that Malbec from Argentina – which is a New World wine region – tends to be somewhat less tannic than those found in southwestern France – an Old World wine region. These New World versions are often lower in acidity, juicy and full of blackberry nuances.

RELATED: Learn All About the Malbec Grape Variety

If you do come across a varietal Malbec from Cahors, consider using fattier meats as food pairing options. If the variety has come from Argentina, try pairing it with leaner meats.

Despite its tannic content, Malbec food pairings don’t have to be solely meat-based. This grape variety has unique dark plum and cassis fruit notes, making it ideal to pair with more savory dark meat poultry and pork. Without further ado, let’s get specific with Malbec food pairing concepts.

Some of the Best Malbec Food Pairing Ideas

Malbec Wine & Food Pairing Guide |
Malbec paints your glass with a deep, alluring palette of inky purples and rich, velvety blacks, inviting you into a world of bold, concentrated flavors.

This full-bodied red, with its distinctive inky color, is characterized by medium-high tannins that work in harmony with its robust flavors. The ability of Malbec to stand up to a range of different foods is a direct result of its robust profile.

At its core, Malbec has a complex flavor profile. It prominently displays notes of black and blue fruits, but as you delve deeper, you might uncover a surprising kick of spice, a touch of smoke, or even subtle leather undertones in some varietals. This complexity lends itself to a broad array of food pairing possibilities, making Malbec a versatile choice for many meals.

The bold nature of Malbec makes it particularly well-suited to pairing with various meats. Whether it’s the deep flavors of pork loin, the smokiness of St. Louis pork ribs, the exotic allure of Cuban-style lechon, or the savory taste of lean brisket, Malbec steps up to the plate. It’s also a wonderful companion to duck and dark turkey meat, providing a hearty contrast to these distinctive flavors.

Contrary to popular belief, Malbec also works surprisingly well with fish. While it’s common to think of red wine as incompatible with seafood, Malbec defies this convention. The trick is to select fish that are rich, fatty, and bold in flavor. Options like grilled or blackened salmon, bluefish, and swordfish make excellent pairings, offering an unconventional but rewarding combination.

Pairing Malbec with Appetizers

As we journey further into the culinary world of Malbec pairings, let’s explore some appetizer options that beautifully complement this versatile wine. Each of these appetizers balances the rich, bold flavors of Malbec, setting the stage for an unforgettable dining experience. Click through for the complete recipes!

Spicy Tomatillo Risotto Appetizer

Spicy Tomatillo Risotto combines the creaminess of risotto with the tangy kick of tomatillos, resulting in a dish that perfectly balances the robust fruit notes and the subtle spice undertones of a Malbec. The wine’s tannins also contrast nicely with the creamy texture of the risotto, offering an exciting taste experience.

Barbecue Drizzled Brisket Shoots

Brisket, with its smoky and savory flavors, works wonderfully with Malbec. When it’s drizzled with barbecue sauce and served in bite-sized portions, it brings out the fruit notes in the wine while harmonizing with its smoky nuances. The umami flavors of the brisket counterbalance the wine’s tannins, enhancing the overall flavor profile of both the wine and the food.

Salmon Tartar Appetizer with Cilantro

While pairing fish with Malbec might seem unusual, fattier fish like salmon offer a delightful contrast to the wine’s bold character. This salmon tartar, fresh and rich, beautifully echoes the wine’s fruit notes. The addition of cilantro adds a hint of brightness that plays off Malbec’s underlying spice.

Spanish Chorizo

Spanish Chorizo, with its smoky, spicy profile, is a natural fit for Malbec. The spice in the chorizo marries well with the dark fruit and spice notes in the wine, while the fat in the sausage helps to smooth out the wine’s tannins, creating a balanced, flavorful pairing.

Jamon Serrano

Jamon Serrano, particularly when paired with Manchego cheese, offers a salty, savory contrast to Malbec. The salty ham and nutty cheese both work to soften the wine’s tannins, making for a mouthwatering combination that enhances the fruit flavors in the wine.

Black Pepper Skillet Steak Bites

Steak is a classic pairing with Malbec for a reason: the hearty meat stands up well to the wine’s boldness. Black Pepper Skillet Steak Bites offer a punch of flavor that works beautifully with Malbec’s high tannin content and deep fruit notes, creating a robust and satisfying flavor profile.

Buttery-Garlic, Parsley & Ground Pepper Shrimp Appetizer

Shrimp, especially when seasoned with butter, garlic, and pepper, can surprisingly stand up to a Malbec. The buttery, garlicky shrimp complement the wine’s fruity notes, while the black pepper echoes its spicy undertones.

Baked Teriyaki Duck Sauce Salmon Bites

Another bold seafood dish, these Baked Teriyaki Duck Sauce Salmon Bites offer a richness that balances well with Malbec. The sweet and salty teriyaki sauce plays off the wine’s fruit and spice notes, while the fatty salmon is a pleasing counterpoint to its tannins.

Greek-Styled Creamy Lamb Meatballs

The gamey, rich flavors of lamb are a strong match for Malbec’s bold, fruity character. These Greek-Styled Creamy Lamb Meatball Bites, with their creamy texture and robust flavor, interact wonderfully with the wine’s tannic structure, creating a pairing that is both balanced and flavorful.

Best Malbec Meat Pairings

After exploring the world of appetizer pairings, it’s time to dive into the heartier domain of main courses. Here, Malbec truly shines, demonstrating its ability to perfectly complement an array of meats. The full-bodied nature of Malbec, its fruity notes juxtaposed with complex spice undertones, provides a robust counterpoint to the rich, savory character of various meats.

Whether it’s beef, pork or lamb, Malbec has the versatility and depth to elevate your meat dishes, making every meal an event. Let’s take a closer look at some standout meat pairings that will allow you to experience Malbec in a whole new light, enhancing the natural flavors of the meat while bringing forward the wine’s own nuanced taste profile.

Malbec with Skirt Steak

Pairing Malbec Wine with Steak |
Charred skirt steak meets its match in the bold, fruity flavors of Malbec, creating a palate-pleasing dance of savory meatiness and ripe berry notes. This dynamic duo truly showcases the art of pairing, where each bite of steak is elevated by a sip of Malbec, amplifying the culinary experience to new flavorful heights.

When it comes to pairing food and wine, the magic lies in balancing flavors. Take skirt steak and Malbec, for example – it’s not just a random match. Think about the steak: full-bodied and robust, with a meaty umami character that’s accentuated when it’s charred on the grill. Now, consider Malbec. This red wine, typically from Argentina, has a strong personality itself. Its full-bodied structure, intense fruitiness, and moderate acidity offer the perfect counterpoint to the steak.

Skirt steak often carries a slightly gamey undertone, which is beautifully complemented by the ripe blackberry, plum, and sometimes cocoa flavors that a good Malbec brings to the table. But it’s not just about the fruitiness. Malbec’s high tannin content interacts with the proteins and fats in the steak, helping to soften the meat’s texture and spread its flavors across your palate.

And let’s not forget about the impact of the cooking method. Grilled skirt steak develops charred edges and smoky flavors, which work incredibly well with Malbec’s often present oak aging notes of vanilla, smoke, or tobacco.

Mexican ‘Machaca’ Slow-Cooked Braised Brisket Tostadas

The slow-cooked, braised brisket in these tostadas delivers a savory depth that’s perfectly matched by Malbec’s bold flavor. The smoky, umami-rich brisket is beautifully echoed by Malbec’s fruit notes, while the tannins in the wine balance the fattiness of the meat, making every bite a journey of flavor discovery.

Mojo and White Onion Carne Asada Tacos

The citrusy, garlicky mojo marinade in this carne asada provides a bright contrast to Malbec’s deep fruit notes. The savory grilled meat, combined with the tangy onions, interact beautifully with the wine’s tannic structure, offering a balanced, multi-dimensional flavor experience.

Cuban-Styled Lechon Asado (Roasted Pork) A+++

Roasted pork, especially in the Cuban style, has a unique, savory richness that stands up well to a full-bodied Malbec. The wine’s fruitiness plays off the pork’s natural sweetness, while its tannins provide a counterpoint to the rich, fatty character of the roasted pork.

Garlic & Jalapeno Bison Burger Recipe

Bison, leaner and slightly sweeter than beef, pairs remarkably well with Malbec. The wine’s black fruit notes harmonize with the meat, while the spice from the jalapenos mirrors the wine’s underlying spiciness. The garlic adds another layer of flavor that is subtly echoed in the complexity of Malbec.

Grilled Sirloin Steak with Mushroom Cream Sauce

Grilled sirloin and Malbec are a classic pairing, with the wine’s boldness complementing the steak’s robust flavor. The addition of a mushroom cream sauce adds a rich, umami element that contrasts nicely with the wine’s tannins, resulting in a well-rounded, flavorful pairing.

Pesto Pepper Steak Sandwich

The bold flavors in this sandwich – from the peppery steak to the aromatic pesto – create a complex flavor profile that matches well with Malbec. The wine’s fruitiness is a nice counterpoint to the savory steak, while its spicy undertones play off the pepper and herbs in the pesto.

Norwegian Meatballs with Spicy Cream Sauce

The rich, savory flavors of these meatballs, combined with the heat of the spicy cream sauce, provide an exciting contrast to the fruity, slightly spicy character of Malbec. The cream sauce also works to soften the wine’s tannins, resulting in a balanced, intriguing pairing that’s sure to delight.

Poultry Pairings

The robust flavor profile and texture of turkey’s dark meat complements the full-bodied, fruity notes of Malbec, creating a harmonious pairing that highlights both the wine’s and the meat’s distinctive qualities.

While Malbec is traditionally paired with red meats, its rich and complex flavor profile can also be matched perfectly with certain poultry dishes. Exploring Malbec alongside poultry presents an opportunity to discover new flavor synergies. Dishes with bold seasoning and sauces, in particular, can complement and enhance the flavors found in both New World and Old World Malbecs. Let’s venture into these delicious combinations.

Indian-Styled Butter Chicken Burritos

The rich, spiced butter chicken in these burritos provides a flavorful contrast to the fruity notes in Malbec. The creaminess of the sauce is a perfect balance to the wine’s tannins, while the heat from the Indian spices finds a partner in Malbec’s spicy undertones. The end result is a delightful harmony of tastes that enhances both the burritos and the wine.

Honey-Smoked Turkey Recipe (emphasis on the dark meat with Malbec)

When it comes to turkey, the richer, more flavorful dark meat pairs exceptionally well with Malbec. A honey-smoked preparation amplifies the natural sweetness in the meat, which matches beautifully with the fruity notes in the wine. The smoky flavors also interact wonderfully with the wine’s subtle smoky notes, creating a multi-dimensional dining experience.

Turkey Tacos Carnitas

The savory, slightly smoky flavor of turkey carnitas pairs excellently with Malbec. The richness of the dark turkey meat brings out the wine’s fruity notes, while the smoky, slightly spicy carnitas preparation resonates with the wine’s complex undertones. The result is a delightful balance of flavors that makes the most of both the tacos and the wine.

Spicy Hungarian Paprika, Jalapeno Chicken Burgers

These burgers, with their spicy paprika and jalapeno heat, bring out the spice notes in a Malbec. The meaty chicken offers a savory counterpoint to the wine’s fruity character, while the spiciness of the burger harmonizes with the wine’s complexity, creating a bold, satisfying flavor experience.

Garlic, Honey & Malbec-Marinated Savory Smoked Duck

Smoked duck, with its rich and distinctive flavor, stands up well to a robust Malbec. A marinade of garlic, honey, and Malbec enhances the natural sweetness of the duck, which interacts beautifully with the wine’s fruit notes. The smoke from the duck and the garlic in the marinade subtly echo the complexity of the Malbec, making for a wonderfully harmonious pairing.

Pairing Malbec with Fish

malbec with fish - salmon over wild garlic pasta
The rich, bold flavors of salmon and wild garlic pasta harmoniously balance with the fruity, full-bodied character of Malbec, creating a layered taste experience that amplifies the qualities of both the dish and the wine.

While it might be unconventional, pairing Malbec with fish dishes can be a remarkable culinary journey. Certain robust, flavorful fish recipes can indeed hold their own against Malbec’s bold character, providing an unexpected but delicious combination that can rival even the traditional steak and poultry pairings. Here are some outstanding seafood dishes that can bring out the best in a glass of Malbec.

Swordfish Steak with Mango-chutney and Curried Lentils

The strong, meaty flavor of swordfish steak can stand up to the full-bodied nature of Malbec. The sweetness of the mango-chutney pairs beautifully with the wine’s fruit notes, while the spicy, earthy curried lentils echo the wine’s complexity. This pairing creates a wonderful balance of flavors that enhances both the dish and the wine.

Argentinean-Style Grilled Swordfish with Spicy-Orange Chimichurri

This dish takes the affinity between Malbec and grilled flavors to a new level. The spicy-orange chimichurri, with its tangy heat, complements the wine’s fruit notes and spice undertones. The robust swordfish stands up well to the wine’s body, creating a harmonious and flavor-packed pairing.

Pineapple Teriyaki Salmon with an Orange-zest

The combination of sweet pineapple, savory teriyaki, and zesty orange in this salmon dish offers an exciting contrast to the fruity, slightly spicy character of Malbec. The rich flavor of the salmon harmonizes with the wine’s boldness, while the fruity, tangy sauce brings out the wine’s own fruit notes, leading to a delightful interplay of flavors.

Barbecue Halibut Steak with Garlic-cloves and Brown Sugar

The BBQ halibut steak, with its smoky flavor and subtle sweetness from the brown sugar, creates a multi-dimensional taste profile that matches well with Malbec. The savory, smoky fish and the spicy garlic echo the wine’s complex notes, while the sweetness of the brown sugar complements the wine’s fruitiness, resulting in a well-rounded, flavorful pairing.

Grilled Halibut with Cilantro and Garlic Recipe

The grilled halibut, with its robust flavor, pairs remarkably well with Malbec. The wine’s fruit notes harmonize with the fish, while the cilantro and garlic add an aromatic, spicy layer that mirrors the wine’s underlying complexity. The result is a delightful balance of flavors that is sure to delight seafood and wine lovers alike.

Malbec Cheese Pairings

malbec with cheese pairing
The bold and complex flavors in Malbec pair well with the rich, sharp characteristics of cheeses like Manchego, Aged Gouda, English Farmhouse Cheddar, Smoked Vermont Cheddar, and Danish Blue.

When it comes to pairing Malbec with cheese, don’t shy away from strong, sharp flavors. A robust Malbec can hold its own against powerful cheeses, and the interplay between the wine’s fruity notes and the cheese’s savory qualities can create a remarkably satisfying gastronomic experience. The diverse herbaceous aromas and savory flavors inherent in many Malbecs provide a perfect backdrop for a variety of cheese profiles.

Manchego Reserve

This Spanish cheese, with its characteristic nutty flavor and firm texture, is a match made in heaven for Malbec. Its rich, buttery notes balance beautifully against the wine’s fruit-forward profile and its sharpness contrasts the smooth tannins of the Malbec, creating a delightfully harmonious pairing. Order a large wheel of it on Amazon and throw a pairing party with friends.

Extra Aged Gouda

An extra-aged Gouda, with its deep, caramel-like flavor and slightly crystalline texture, pairs wonderfully with Malbec. The cheese’s robust, umami-rich character stands up to the wine’s full body, while its sweet undertones complement the wine’s fruit notes, resulting in a complex and satisfying flavor combination.

English Farmhouse Cheddar

This traditional English cheese, known for its sharp, slightly earthy flavor, is an excellent match for Malbec. The cheese’s strong flavor profile provides a savory counterpoint to the wine’s fruity notes, while the wine’s tannins balance out the richness of the cheese, creating a well-rounded, flavorful pairing.

Hickory and Maple Smoked Vermont Cheddar

Smoked Vermont Cheddar, with its distinctive smoky notes and sharp flavor, offers a unique pairing opportunity for Malbec. The smoky flavors of the cheese resonate with the wine’s subtle smoky undertones, while the cheese’s sharpness is a perfect balance to the wine’s robust, fruity character.

Danish Blue Cheese

Renowned for its bold, piquant flavor and creamy, crumbly texture, Danish Blue provides an adventurous and satisfying pairing with Malbec. The cheese’s intense, salty flavor brings out the fruit-forward character of the wine, creating a fascinating flavor contrast. At the same time, the creaminess of the cheese helps to soften the wine’s tannins, leading to a balanced and pleasing interplay of flavors.

Caloric Content and Health Benefits of Malbec

When enjoying a rich and flavorful Malbec, caloric content might not be the primary consideration, as the culinary experience often takes precedence. However, it’s still useful to know that a standard 5-ounce glass of Malbec typically contains about 125 calories. While this is a fairly modest amount, it is a factor to bear in mind for those tracking their caloric intake.

Even more intriguing are the potential health benefits linked with Malbec and other red wines. Notably, this wine is rich in polyphenols, compounds recognized for their antioxidant properties. The high polyphenol content in Malbec is readily apparent from the wine’s signature dark, inky coloration. Antioxidants play a crucial role in maintaining good health, with potential benefits including promoting heart health and preventing certain types of cancer.

You are reading “Best Malbec Food & Wine Pairings” Back To Top

malbec and food, steak and wine, what food goes with malbec: wine and food pairing

If you enjoyed this guide, make sure you register to become a Winetraveler for free! You’ll get access to all of our content and interact with other Winetravelers and for travel inspiration around the world. Be sure to follow along with us on Twitter and Instagram as we continue to feature more exciting destinations.

Get Articles Like These Directly in Your Inbox!

Subscribe to Winetraveler and receive notifications when new articles are published. It's free!

Leave a Comment, Ask a Question or Share a Review

Share to...