From the vegetable revolution to global flavors taking over U.S. shelves, 2018 is turning flavor norms and expectations on its head with new combinations and twists on old favorites. Based on our research, consumers are looking for both a way to enjoy their favorite foods in a healthy, delicious way while also looking for an over-the-top indulgence that will look great on their social media pages.
Check out this quick recap of each of our 2018 Top 10 Flavor Trends below:
1. Vegetables Served Medium-Rare
Vegetables are being prepared in more interesting ways than ever and in doing so, have replaced meat at the center of the plate. Chefs are giving veggies the main-course treatment with smoke, brine, confits, curing, dry-aging, and even transforming them into satisfying jerky and hearty, meat-like sauces. They're also experimenting with the selection of veggies they offer with everything from leafy greens to sweet potato receiving a spot in the limelight.
2. Leaves of Change
There are a few contenders coming for kale’s top trendy veggie food crown. Kohlrabi is sprouting up on menus, from kohlrabi fries in Miami to kohlrabi ice cream in Atlanta. Mushrooms are another veggie becoming more ubiquitous on menus and in new crafted food products, as witnessed at this year’s Winter Fancy Food Show. Chard is a legitimate contender to be the next “power green,” but collards are making a comeback, too, thanks to a shifting of popular tastes to the South.
3. The Future Looks Super
New immune system boosting superfoods like chia seeds and plant-based ingredients are keeping an increasing number of health-conscious Americans interested in both juice shops and home cooking. Moringa has been popping up in everything from functional beverages to desserts, while bee pollen has been taking off beyond the usual honey application because of its ability to give the immune system that boost everyone needs once in a while. Grains, like farro and wheatberries, are cropping up in main dishes, while berries, like Schisandra, add beautiful color and intriguing flavors to desserts and more. The growth of predominently plant based diets is also introducing seeds like chia seeds among many others.
4. Conserve, Preserve, Shaken & Stirred
For cocktails, the combination of unusual, rare ingredients and process, creative composition, and an intriguing story, is a successful formula to creating signature sips and preserving maximum flavors. New trends include milk washing – mixing milk, liquor, and citrus to create a clear, mellow cocktail that feels round and silky – clarifying, infusing with peppers or floral flavors and fruits, and adding candied citrus or ginger to bring an unparalleled sweetness to cocktails.
5. Floral Explosion
Once a global mainstay rarely found in the United States, floral and blossom flavors are showing up more often in different food and beverage categories, including soft drinks, tea, confectionery, ice cream, and more, in the U.S. Unique flower flavors include nasturtium, orange blossom, marigold, and hibiscus, which can be found in everything from formal 15-course meals to beers from microbreweries across the country.
6. Audacious Herbs
Uncommon herbs and wild plants are giving a fresh spin to soups, sauces, dishes, desserts and cocktails, and introducing Americans to more global flavors they crave. From grain bowls to salads to pasta dishes, sorrel has grown into a mature ingredient on menus in the United States, and shiso is being used as a flavor agent in dishes, drinks and desserts. Epazote is making the jump from Mexico to the U.S. in multiple dishes and martinis, while hyssop was all over our StarChefs flavor survey, and pairs well with chocolates for desserts.
7. Adventure in a Glass: Cocktails with Depth
Bartenders are having a field day becoming mixologists behind the counter thanks to the influx of more interesting spirits. Consumers are looking for intriguing fruit and syrup combinations that take influence from the culinary world, focusing on mouthfeel and texture as well as spice and vegetables, and less on high alcohol mixtures without depth. Champagne, prosecco, ginger beer and other sparkling cocktails, as well as egg white and foam cocktails, spicy combinations, and earthy flavors like beets, sweet potato, and carrot are on the rise.
8. Global Horizons: What’s Next?
The globalization of taste has led to a longing by consumers for more genuine, authentic tastes and a true desire to experience the unknown, especially within Millennials and Gen Z. We’ve had African flavors on our radar for years, and now we’re seeing flavors like spices, harissa and charred West African vegetables come to a head. Russian cuisine is pushing its way into America with flavors reflective of its harsh climate. Portuguese food’s main influence is coming through seafood, pastries and wine, while Syrian kibbeh, kebab halabi, hummus, tabbouleh, shawarma, and more are hitting tables as appetizers and entrees.
9. Opposites Attract
In every category, consumers are looking for combinations of new and traditional, local and global, pop and high culture in their food to keep them discovering new and previously unthought-of flavor groupings. Japanese and Italian cuisine share common elements, which can be easily explored in combining their meats, pasta, and preparations. Within the United States, chefs are bringing together southern ingredients with their heritage, like catfish and chaat masala, cilantro, and more. Fruit and meat combinations have been in the shadows for a long time (i.e. prosciutto and melon), but are working their way into the lime light, while unusual, savory ice cream combinations are being embraced.
10. Comfortably Yum
Comfort has always defined American cuisine, but the idea of what is “comfort” evolves with trends. Now, the influence of global comfort food is going mainstream, so traditional American comfort food is getting new twists and flavor infusions from Filipino flavors of adobo to Asian flavors of dumplings to Indian spices in traditionally Italian meatballs. Consumers are unafraid to embrace changes in sweet comfort, too, like rice pudding or elaborate donuts designed specifically to be shown off on Instagram.