FlavorDB 101

A guide to using this resource and its features

FlavourDB Overview

FlavorDB is a resource with extensive coverage of 25595 flavor molecules. Among molecules listed in the database, 2254 have been reported to be found in 936 natural entities/ingredients. These natural ingredients have further been classified into 34 categories, and mapped to 527 distinct natural sources. An additional 13869 compounds were identified as synthetic. For the remaining 9472 molecules no specific source could be ascertained. The features provided as part of the detailed molecular and flavor profiles of these compounds have an impact on their taste and odor through gustatory and olfactory sensory mechanisms.

FlavorDB offers a user-friendly interface for querying and browsing flavor molecules, entities/ingredients, natural sources, as well as performing flavor pairing. Interactive data visualizations such as the flavor network and interlinked search options are provided to retrieve relevant information. Apart from searching via textual query or by drawing the chemical structure, FlavorDB also provides a ‘Visual Search’. Using this a user can interactively browse through the ingredient categories to access corresponding natural entities and subsequently obtain details of their flavor molecules.

For any flavor molecule, the resource also facilitates lookup for structurally similar molecules within the database as well as those commercially available from external sources (ZINC). Thus, through a blend of the entity and flavor space along with a dynamic interface and visualizations, FlavorDB provides a wide spectrum of information facilitating insights into the flavor universe.

The Flavor network

The Flavor Network represents the graph of flavor sharing across all Entities/Natural Ingredients, which are shown along the circumference. To observe the pattern of sharing, click on any Entity. As the flavor network is way too dense, To address dense pattern of interrelationships, the backbone network with statistically significant edges is depicted; further only entities sharing more than four molecules are shown, entities having 15 or less edges were exempted from this condition. The entities are grouped together according to categories (separated by spaces), making it visually easier to observe flavor sharing within and across categories.

To access ‘The Flavor Network’, please click on the ‘Load the Flavor Network’ button on the main page.

It is interesting to observe unexpected similarities among seemingly disparate entities, which can be explored further using the Search options.

FlavorDB Visual Search

Visual Search, as the name suggests, provides a graphic way of exploring FlavorDB. Starting with a map that depicts all the categories, one could click on any of the boxes to open up a map of ingredients in that category.

For example clicking on the category ‘Dairy’ will show a detailed map of all the ingredients in it. Further hovering over at ingredient ‘Butter’, for example, will pop up a tooltip (small box) with a link to the page with entity details. Clicking on the URL will open show the list of all 131 molecules in Butter, along with details of the entity as well as its natural source.

At any stage, to go back one level back, just ‘right click’ anywhere on the map.

Flavor Pairing Search

User can pair an entity by entering the entity name in the given field.

Importantly, we facilitate search based on synonyms knowing very well that many ingredients are known by wide variety of names. For example, to search for ‘Eggplant’, you may also search by either ‘Aubergine’ or ‘Brinjal’. Looking for ‘Custard Apple’, is as good as looking for ‘Cherimoya’. The search box comes with an autocomplete option to assist you with any ingredient containing a string matching with two or more characters typed, greatly enabling the user’s ability to traverse the database.

If you wish to pair two ingredients in the database, you can first search for one of the two ingredients you wish to pair. For example, if you wish pair parsnip and tomato, search for either parsnip or tomato. The complete flavor pairing analysis for search entity will be displayed along with ingredients with which it shares flavor molecules. The user can then select or search for the ingredient in ‘detailed flavor pairing analysis’ table.

Flavor Pairing

‘Flavor Pairing’, also known as ‘Food Pairing’, is a heuristic used for finding ingredient pairs that are expected to go well together. Historically such pairing has been practiced largely based on trial and error, and relies heavily on human judgment and intuition of connoisseurs. Evidence-based understanding of rules or heuristics that dictate choice of food facilitates better informed experiments to test hypothesis, and hopefully to design acceptable food pairings.

Founded on the extensive repertoire of 937 entities and their constituent flavor molecules (2254), ‘Food Pairing’ tool provides a powerful engine for spanning through more than 437000 pairings to reveal interesting flavor profile overlaps across categories and disparate entities. The Flavor Network provides a bird’s eye view of this information.

When one searches for a specific ingredient in ‘Flavor Pairing’ app, the results are presented in a hierarchy. At the basic level, it provides information of ingredient and its natural source, along scientific classification of the latter. It also provides graphic results for flavor pairing at the level of categories as well as ingredients.

For example, Parsnip (a root vegetable) has most sharing with categories, Fruit, Spice, Dairy etc. At the ingredient level, it shows highest sharing with Tomato, Ginger, Carrot, Beer etc.

The ‘Detailed Flavor Pairing Analysis’ section gives complete list of ingredients that share one or more flavor molecules with the query Entity/Ingredient. Clicking on ‘Entity Name’ or corresponding ‘Number of Shared Flavor Molecules’ opens up details of shared molecules. One may as well probe the results through search box provided with the results panel.


In the absence of comprehensive information in literature that link flavor molecules with their receptors, we provide a list of 33 receptors known to be involved in gustatory sensation. These include receptors for Sweet (3), Bitter (25), Sour (3), and Umami (2). We also provide a list of 1068 odor receptors.

The panel includes details of ‘Receptor Name’, ‘Uniprot ID’, and link to Uniprot page. The outgoing link takes one to comprehensive information of the receptor, including sequence, structure, function, taxonomy, pathology, expression, interaction, and list of similar proteins. These details are useful in exploring the interaction of flavor molecules with receptors as well as probing the mechanism of action responsible for flavor sensation.

Molecule of the Day

‘Molecule of the Day’ feature provides peek into FlavorDB by randomly picking one flavor molecule every day. The user is invited to examine the 3D structure of the molecules (View JSmol), to go through its ‘Molecular & Flavor Profile’, and to search the FlavorDB space for structurally similar molecules.

FlavorDB Statistics: Molecules

‘FlavorDB Statistics’ are provided on the landing page of FlavorDB. The ‘Molecules’ tab provides an overview of database, by way of distribution of categories of entities, ‘Number of Unique Molecules’ in the category and ‘Number of Entities’ in it.

Each blob represents a category and is color coded to depict ‘Average Number of Molecules per Ingredient’. Clicking on any blob would pop up details of the Category indicating statistics of ‘Number of unique molecules in the category’, ‘Number of ingredients in the category’ and ‘Average number of molecules per ingredient'.

FlavorDB Statistics: Entities

The Pie Chart shows number of entities in each of the categories. Hovering over the chart pops up name of the entity category as well as number of entities in it.

FlavorDB Statistics: Flavors

This chart provides frequency of Flavor terms for all flavor compounds reported to be found in natural ingredients. For clarity of visualization, only flavor terms that occur ten or more times are shown. Hovering over data points pops up the name of the Flavor term and its frequency. This can be used as a sneak peek into the flavor characterization of the database, to further search the database using any of the desired flavor term.

FlavorDB Statistics: Functional Groups

This chart provides frequency of Functional Group across FlavorDB. Hovering over data points pops up the name of the Functional Group and its frequency. Starting with an overview of the functional characterization of molecules from this chart, one could then explore the database by using one of the groups as a search query.