Margaritas with chips and salsa, a paloma with fish tacos — there’s no shortage of classic tequila-food pairings. But what about when you want to take your agave explorations to the next level? As bartenders and beverage directors across the country finally break out of the less-than-inspired party pairings we’ve all been enjoying in the United States for decades, more interesting agave-based liquors are appearing on menus across the country.

The result? Delicious, unexpected pairings that will make you think twice about everything you know about food and beverage pairings. Here are some exciting ideas, care of food and beverage pros across the country.

The Best Foods to Pair With Tequila, According to Chefs

  • Loaded nachos
  • Grilled bone marrow
  • Crawfish boils
  • ‘Nduja broiled oysters
  • Lettuce soup
  • Lightly grilled meats and fish
  • Chocolate
  • Mexican Chicken Mole Arepa

“I threw a cocktail party featuring savory cocktails with my friend Margaret Eby. We went through uncharted cocktail territory in developing the menu and came up with some surprising and some unsurprising combinations. Tequila is delicious in lettuce soup — surprising! Tequila is bonkers delicious in a Bloody Mary spiked with Poi Dog chili peppah water — not surprising!” —Kiki Aranita, chef & owner, Poi Dog Sauces, Philadelphia

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“At Porchlight, we have loaded nachos that pair well with tequila. There are tomatillos, jalapeños, tomatoes, and lots of Mexican spices and chiles in the nachos. From cumin and even chocolate in our chili, we have a variety of peppers like chipotle, ancho, pasilla peppers, and others in the loaded nachos — all of which are used in authentic Mexican dishes which pair perfectly with tequila.” —Christine Espinal, executive sous chef, Porchlight, New York

“I believe tequila pairs well with everything. One of my favorite pairings is grilled bone marrow with tequila. Tequila reposado pairs well with grilled bone marrow because it breaks nicely through the fat, and it adds a nice citric touch to it.” —Alex Tellez, chef, Sor Ynez, Philadelphia

“Growing up in southern Louisiana, we had a lot of seafood boil gatherings. My favorite was always the crawfish boils. Now when I enjoy my crawfish boils, I like to pair it with tequila. I find that it complements the flavors well with the spice and citrus that seasons the crawfish.” —Carolyn Nguyen, chef-owner, Revolution Taco, Philadelphia

“I love pairing ‘nduja broiled East Coast oysters with Cincoro Tequila. In this dish, the spicy Calabrian chilies and the rich notes from the ‘nduja make these the perfect oyster pairing with Cincoro Tequila. Cincoro is naturally rich and delicious with a smooth finish, made using 100 percent Blue Weber agave harvested from Jalisco, Mexico, so it complements the ‘nduja and plays well with the fresh lemon and kick of spice from these oysters. I think this duo is ideal for the hot summer months.” —Manny Gonzales Charles, chef, Society Cafe, New York

“When pairing with tequila, the first food that comes to mind is always tacos — the perfect match — although I’d generally stick with chicken, seafood, or pork for a tequila pairing. It’s tasty, salty, sweet with a kick, and immediately hits the tongue like a hurricane. Any lightly grilled meats like chicken or fish go great with tequila, it really gives you a burst of flavor. When I hear the spit and hiss of the grill, I know the magic is at work. I do try to stay away from smoked meats such as brisket when pairing grilled food with tequila.” Scotty Scott, author, “Fix Me a Plate: Traditional and New School Soul Food Recipes”

“Tequila and chocolate make an unexpected match made in heaven. One of my favorite unions is a reposado tequila and my Mexican Chicken Mole Arepa. The fruity notes from the reposado and robust mole are very similar to a classic savory and sweet pairing. An arepa makes the perfect vessel, as its slightly sweet taste melts into the mole. This is an experience your taste buds need!” Chef Jumoke Jackson, chef, Slutty Vegan, Atlanta