The last couple of years have held a lot of upheaval, and while things finally seem to be getting back to some semblance of normalcy, the stresses of the pandemic, the climate, and other global events continue to take their toll.
Those in the food industry know the role that meals can play in helping to comfort and distract from the demands and worries of daily life.
This is never more apparent than during the winter season when cold weather drives us indoors, biology primes us to eat and hibernate, and holidays and family gatherings often entail feasting.
Despite the end of COVID lockdowns and the general reemergence of society, lingering stresses will likely have an impact on the flavors that trend as we head into winter 2022. What can we expect to see people clamoring for in stores and restaurants?
When life hits us with the unexpected, we tend to lean hard into familiar comforts that offer predictable outcomes. This could mean watching old movies that we already love or frequenting favorite restaurants, as well as favoring classic winter flavors.
Chocolate is a given with plenty of options for white, milk, semisweet, or dark. It can pair with tons of other holiday flavors, and combos like peppermint bark are already renowned.
Peppermint is another flavor likely to feature prominently this holiday season as a standalone product and paired with chocolates, cocoa, cookies, marshmallows, and more.
Of course, few flavors speak more to the warmth of home than vanilla. The sweet fragrance is enough to make worries melt away.
While fruit flavors are typically more popular during the summer, cranberry is a tart holiday classic sure to appear in baked goods and beverages. Look for pairings with other berries, as well as seasonal spices like nutmeg and cloves.
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Nuts are a nice addition to many holiday dishes, adding savory, sweet, earthy, and even bitter notes to overall flavor profiles. Their protein and fat content makes them a popular winter food on their own.
While walnuts and chestnuts are winter standbys, hazelnuts are slated to be the go-to for winter 2022.
The pairing of hazelnuts and chocolate is already well-established thanks to Nutella spread, but toasted hazelnuts also add a rich flavor and aroma to coffee, cookies, cakes, and ice cream, as well as savory dishes like bacony Brussels sprouts, winter salads, and squash ravioli, for example.
Speculoos, made popular by Biscoff cookies and cookie butter, brings classic gingerbread flavor to the table in new ways. Not only are these products delicious on their own, but cookie butter can be added to all kinds of other dishes, from cheesecake and cookie sandwiches to rugelach, baked brie, and more.
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While it’s not unusual to retreat to traditional holiday flavors and dishes, throwing something new into the mix can also be fun. Flavors that are trending for 2022, in general, are likely to appear in holiday menus, as well, thanks to growing familiarity.
Interesting citrus flavors are a shoo-in for holiday candies and baked goods, where they’ll add some bright innovation to traditional dishes. Grapefruit is a nice winter citrus that can easily be paired with vanilla shortbread or scones, where the primary flavor profile isn’t too sweet. It’s also a zesty addition to winter salads.
Meyer lemons, sweeter and mellower than regular lemons, make for outstanding lemon curd. They can also be added to treats like cookies, truffles, and decadent Dutch babies or brighten up winter squash soups.
Yuzu is a bit harder to come by stateside but can often be found in Asian markets. The lemon-lime-grapefruit flavor of this citrus makes for a refreshing addition to classic dishes like cranberry sauce, and naturally, it’s great in confections and dressings. All of these citrus fruits can also be added to holiday cocktails and punches.
With a slate of traditional flavors and some new options to consider, many offering inventive pairing opportunities, winter 2022 looks to feature a range of dishes that are both familiar and delightfully surprising.
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