Dr. Pepper: A Challenge in Pairing

In light of recent Dr. Pepper/Zodiac Killer-related events, we asked noted author and local food eater, Richard McLarn, to share what pairs best with this buzzworthy drink. Below is his sound advice.

Photo: Pablo Esteban

Any idiot can pair their food with a wine just like any stripper can dance to the song “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” A simple Google search will yield hundreds of results of wine pairings. It takes a true foodie to pair their food with the most unholy of sodas: Dr. Pepper.

What is Dr. Pepper? No one really knows. It has twenty-three flavors, and the recipe is a closely guarded trade secret in the same vein as the secrets of Scientology. You don’t know what they are; you don’t want to know, and anyone that does is probably in a cult. Dr. Pepper is a garbage soda that isn’t quite Coke and isn’t quite Pepsi. Its primary customers are people who say, “Well, what do you have?” No one should drink it. Ever.

Therein lies the challenge. What does one pair with a product that, by all standards of logic, shouldn’t exist? Through rigorous trials, numerous experiments, and more than just a few hastened trips to the bathroom to expel the evil, the truth has been exposed. Dr. Pepper pairs well with the following… “foods.”


Dr. Pepper wants to be something else. It wants to be a cola, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark, so it should come as no surprise that it pairs well with a food that wants to be something it isn’t, something called a Wannabe-BLT. What’s a Wannabe-BLT? Good question. It’s a BLT that doesn’t quite hit the mark. Got bacon? Ditch it and get some Canadian bacon. Got lettuce? Throw it out and grab the kale. Tomato? Nope. You’re going to want papaya on this monstrosity. Just for good measure, replace the mayo with an egg wash and put it on an untoasted croissant. You now have something that really wants to be a BLT. When you pair it with the Dr. Pepper, you have the culinary equivalent of a band with the following members: George Harrison, Peter Criss, Garfunkel, and J.C. Chasez. You don’t want it. You don’t need it, but there it is, oddly satisfying in its perfectly underwhelming nature.


To really capture the flavor of self-loathing (no doubt one of the twenty-three in the recipe), one must pair Dr. Pepper with a food that is eaten solely when one hates themselves. Next time you find yourself dipping your Cheetos in ranch dressing, crack open a cold can of DP… or a warm can because it doesn’t really make a difference, and your life means nothing. No self-respecting adult has ever dipped their Cheetos in ranch dressing. Most people would never even think to do that because most people have self-esteem and a sense of self-preservation. Interestingly, the DP really brings out the tang of the ranch, the saltiness of the Cheetos, and the off-brown, maroon can really accentuates what a shit-hole your apartment has become since your significant other left you. When you’re ready to die alone: Cheetos, ranch, Dr. Pepper.


Magnesium Citrate. Yup, that’s the third one, magnesium citrate. Normally, one only drinks magnesium citrate the night before having surgery on their bowels or a colonoscopy. It’s a powerful liquid laxative designed to “clean the pipes,” so to speak. Walgreens sells it in grape, cherry, and lemon flavors. It doesn’t matter which flavor is paired with the Dr. Pepper. They’re all about the same. Here’s how to do it. Drink the whole can of DP, the whole damn thing. Don’t even stop for air. Let the bubbles rip and tear at your throat as you chug it as fast as you can. Once that’s done, grab the magnesium citrate. Now, chug that too. Here’s the advantage. The magnesium citrate will highlight all the good properties of Dr. Pepper when compared to a medicine designed to turn you into the Exxon Valdez. As you spend the next five to six hours in the bathroom alternately praying for death or to have every orifice on your body sewn shut for the rest of your life, you’ll gain a new appreciation for the soda that is Dr. Pepper. Plus, you might as well get a colonoscopy since you’re prepped for it.

That’s it. That’s all the foods that pair well with Dr. Pepper. When making culinary choices, it’s important to consider the aspects that make up a delightful meal: taste, texture, and presentation. Dr. Pepper has none of these. It’s probably best left where you found it—in the garbage.

Richard McLarn wrote a book. You can read it HERE.