Abstract Several forms of dietary learning have been identified in humans. These include flavor–flavor learning, flavor–postingestive learning (including flavor–caffeine learning), and learned satiety. Generally, learning is thought to occur in the absence of contingency (CS–US) or demand awareness. However, a review of the literature suggests that this conclusion may be premature because measures of awareness lack the rigor that is found in studies of other kinds of human learning. If associations do configure outside awareness then this should be regarded as a rare instance of automatic learning. Conversely, if awareness is important, then successful learning may be governed by an individual’s beliefs and predilection to attend to stimulus relationships. For researchers of dietary learning this could be critical because it might explain why learning paradigms have a reputation for being unreliable. Since most food preferences are learned, asking questions about awareness can also tell us something fundamental about everyday dietary control.