Food Facts: Holy Trinity

The Holy Trinity

As a culinary term, the holy trinity originally refers specifically to chopped onions, bell peppers, and celery, combined in a rough ratio of 1:1:1 and used as the staple base for much of the cooking in the Cajun and Louisiana Creole cuisine. The preparation of classic Cajun/Creole dishes such as étouffée, gumbo, and jambalaya all start from the base of this holy trinity. Similar combinations of vegetables are known as mirepoix in French cooking, soffritto in Italian, and sofrito in Spanish.
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While a “trinity” may refer to a generic representation of three cornerstone ingredients of a particular national cuisine, a trio of specific ingredients combined together to become essentially flavor bases, much like its original usage within Louisiana cuisine, are also called “trinities”. This is often created by sautéing a combination of any three (or at least, the primary three ingredients in a more complex base) aromatic vegetables, condiments, seasonings, herbs, or spices.

Because these three ingredients are so common in the recipes of some cuisines, they are almost indivisible and often end up being treated as a single ingredient. They provide the distinctive flavoring of specific cuisines. Cooking these few base ingredients in butter or oil releases their flavor, which in turn is infused into other ingredients. This technique is most typically used when creating sauces, soups, stews, and stir-fries.

The most common trinities cuisines are:

  • Latin cuisine (Cuban, Pilipino, etc.): This version of sofrito is based on the trinity of garlic, bell peppers and Spanish onion.
  • French cuisine: the definitive trinity of French cuisine is widely accepted as a mirepoix is the trinity of celery, onion and carrots.
  • Italian cuisine: The definitive trinity in Italian cuisine is soffritto, or a base of sauteed carrots, onion and celery, essentially the same ingredients as that of mirepoix.
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