The 109 Hottest Food Trends of 2018
From intriguing spices and experimental cuisines to ancient grains and new DIY foods, 2018 was a huge year for food trends. In 2017, The National Restaurant Association released its What’s Hot 2018 Culinary Forecast, and there were definitely some things to take note of for 2018.
For example, did you know that Peruvian cuisine was on the rise, while artisan cheese wasn’t as popular as it once was? Or did you have any idea that jackfruit was trending for 2018, while bitter melon was thought to be so last year?
The National Restaurant Association compiled the data by surveying 700 American Culinary Federation members in 2017 and asking them to rate over 100 items as 2018’s predicted “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news,” or “perennial favorite,” respectively. Take a look back at what they deemed the top food trends of 2018, and see how many of them you’ve tried yourself over this year.
New Cuts of Meat
Traditional cuts such as the ribeye, T-bone, and filet are officially a thing of the past. Now, it’s all about the shoulder tender, oyster steak, Vegas Strip Steak, and Merlot cut.
House-made condiments—like ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise—gave Heinz a run for their money in 2018.
Street Food-Inspired Dishes
There’s a time and place for fine dining, but in 2018, street food staples such as tempura, kabobs, dumplings, and pupusas reigned supreme.
Ethnic-Inspired Breakfast Items
While waffles and omelets will always be accepted breakfast foods, ethnic-inspired breakfast items had their chance to shine. Think: chorizo-scrambled eggs and coconut milk pancakes.
With mounting concern about the environment, it should come as no surprise that sustainable seafood was slated to be a hot trend in 2018.
Healthful Kids’ Meals
Happy Meals may be one of the most popular fast food items of all time, but 2018 was the year for healthy entrees for kids.
Vegetable Carb Substitutes
We’ve seen the emergence of cauliflower rice, and zoodles (zucchini noodles) already, but there were more veggie carb substitutes this year, as this trend was on the rise.
Sure, you’re well aware of cilantro, parsley, and thyme, but have you heard of chervil, lovage, lemon balm, and papalo? By the end of 2018, you’ll know all about ‘em.
Authentic Ethnic Cuisine
Say goodbye to imposter ethnic cuisine (sorry, Chipotle) and hello to the real thing.
Continuing with the ethnic theme, 2018 embraced an array of ethnic spices such as harissa, curry, peri peri, ras el hanout, and shichimi.
You’re probably slightly familiar with Brazilian cuisine, and by the time 2018 is said and done, you’ll be acquainted with the food of Brazil’s neighbor—Peru—as well.
In addition to house-made condiments, house-made pickles were also big this year. Call us crazy, but burgers in 2018 shaped up to be especially delicious.
Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that were raised by farmers in the past, and 2018 was the year of heritage breed meats. In other words, get ready for some Berkshire Duroc and Gloucestershire Old Spots pork.
Thai-Rolled Ice Cream
We’ve already been introduced to Thai-rolled ice cream, and apparently, it’s sticking around for 2018. In fact, it’s actually a trend on the rise. No complaints here!
People with spicy palettes, rejoice! Bold African flavors were all the rage in 2018.
Ethnic-Inspired Kids’ Dishes
If you haven’t gotten the hint yet, ethnic foods were everywhere you turned in 2018—including on your kids’ plates. Get ready to introduce your little ones to beloved ethnic staples such as tacos, teriyaki, and sushi.
Doughnuts With Non-Traditional Filling
We can’t ever remember a time when doughnuts weren’t on-trend. But 2018 was specifically all about doughnuts with non-traditional fillings, such as liqueur and Earl Grey cream.
Gourmet Items in Kids’ Meals
Kid cuisine staples include mac and cheese and french fries, but in 2018, little ones’ meals got an upgrade. For example, lobster mac and cheese and truffle fries could be making an appearance for the pint-sized.
Ethnic condiments fit with several individual themes we’ve seen on this list thus far. Not sure what constitutes an ethnic condiment? Think sriracha, sambal, chimichurri, gochujang, and zhug.
As their name suggests, Ancient grains such as Kamut, spelt, amaranth, and lupin have been around for thousands of years, but they made a comeback in 2018.
Since 2018 seemed to be all about the house-made goods, why not pair your house-made condiments and pickles with some house-made charcuterie? Though this trend isn’t as hot as it once was, it still stuck around.
Vegetarians and vegans will be pleased to know that plant-based burgers were poised to be a hot food trend, and if you take a look at the frozen food aisle in the supermarket, you’ll see tons of delicious options now.
Not familiar with Filipino cuisine? By the end of 2018, you’ll be saying, “Pass the pancit!”
Hybrid dogs are as popular as ever, and in 2018 hybrid fruit and vegetables—kale-Brussels sprouts, pluot, broccoflower—had their opportunity to shine.
Protein-Rich Grains and Seeds
If you’re looking to lose some weight, you’ll be relieved to know protein-rich grains—which melt away belly fat—were still popular. To get a head start, stock up on hemp, chia, quinoa, and flax.
Artisan/House-Made Ice Cream
As beloved as a pint of Ben & Jerry’s is, there’s something special about ice cream that’s house-made as opposed to mass-produced. Good thing the artisanal stuff is still trendy!
Speaking of sweets, savory desserts will still be having a moment in 2018. This is great news for those who prefer savory items, but if you have a craving for a bit of sugar at the end of a meal, you may want to stick to the house-made ice cream.
Heirloom Fruit and Vegetables
The term “heirloom” is to plants as “heritage” is to meats. That is to say, heirloom plants are most often thought of as old-time varieties of vegetables that come true from seed. Despite trending over the past several years, expect to still see heirloom foods in 2018 and beyond.
In addition to house-made ice cream, condiments, pickles, and charcuterie platters, house-made sausage will remain popular through 2018. If this house-made trend continues, there may be nothing left to source!
News flash: apples, bananas, and the like are totally boring. These days, it’s all about exotic fruits such as rambutan, dragon fruit, paw paw, and guava.
Ethnic Fusion Cuisine
We’ve already established that ethnic cuisine had a big year in 2018, so why not just combine the food from multiple cultures and start a new trend?
Charcuterie typically involves cured meat products, but 2018 put a spin on the old dinner party standby by incorporating seafood into the mix.
Smoked Dessert Ingredients
If you’ve ever thought your dessert was missing a smokey flavor, you’ll be pleased to know that smoked dessert ingredients have their time to shine.
The artisanal cheese trend appears to be cooling down a bit, but you can still expect to see plenty of it in 2018.
Savory Jam and Jelly
Bacon jam, tomato jam, and hot pepper jelly are just three examples of the savory jams and jellies you can expect to see more of.
Superfruits are designated as such because they have a myriad of health benefits, and in addition to blueberries, strawberries, and kiwi, we can now count Acai, goji berries, mangosteens, and purslanes as part of the extra-nutritious group.
Whole Grain Items in Kids’ Meals
Though it’s always preferable to feed your children whole grains instead of refined grains, the trend of including whole grain items in kids’ meals is actually not quite as popular as it once was.
Middle Eastern Flavors
You’re probably more familiar with Middle Eastern flavors than you realize (think harissa, coriander, and anise). Get a headstart on these regional herbs and spices, and you’ll be ahead of the trend.
Non-Wheat Noodles and Pasta
Non-wheat noodles such as those made of quinoa, rice, and buckwheat (like soba noodles) typically have fewer calories than wheat pasta, so the fact that they are trending in 2018 is great news for those looking to lose weight.
Because cheese is so delicious, we can’t imagine it would ever fall out of favor. It looks like 2018 belonged more specifically to ethnic cheeses such as queso fresco, paneer, labne, and halloumi.
Grilled Items in Kids’ Meals
Kids are typically served fried items including french fries and chicken fingers, but giving them grilled food (as was expected to happen more frequently in 2018) is better for their overall health.
Who says your food always has to be Instagram-worthy? In fact, ugly produce made a case for itself in 2018, and we couldn’t be more psyched about it. Bring on those weird-looking carrots!
As people move toward eating healthier, organic produce remains as popular as ever. Though organic fruits and veggies are typically more expensive than their non-organic counterparts, the benefits to organic produce include increased freshness and fewer pesticides.
Though not very healthy, extreme milkshakes sure are fun to eat and take photos of. Like it or not, they’re poised to remain Instagram fixtures.
The cronut (croissant-donut) arguably started the hybrid dessert phase, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Brace yourselves for the townie, ice cream cupcakes, and more.
Free-range pork and poultry are treated better and contain more nutrients than pigs and chickens who aren’t permitted to roam freely, so it’s good to know the concept is still popular.
Oven-Baked Items in Kids’ Meals
Baked chicken fingers and oven-baked fries are healthier than their oil-fried counterparts. Plus, we doubt your kids will catch the difference.
Southeast Asian Flavors
Southeast Asian flavors include fish sauce, soy sauce, and coconut milk—all of which you probably saw more of in 2018.
Underutilized fish such as mackerel, mullet, redfish, and porgy aren’t as nutritious as salmon or tuna, but they’re still tasty and have a lower fat content than certain red meats.
Millennials, rejoice! Avocado toast snagged a spot roughly halfway through this list, which proves it isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Kids’ Entree Salads
If you continuously struggle to get your little ones to eat their fruits and veggies, you’ll be happy to know that entree salads for kids are trending upward. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the kiddos will automatically start chowing down.
Fruit/Vegetable Side Items in Kids’ Meals
Grownup meals typically feature fruit or vegetable side items, so why not do the same for kids’ meals? There’s certainly nothing wrong with a nutrient boost!
The jackfruit is a species of tree in the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit family native to South India. It has a vibrant green color and is rich in vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber; so eat up!
Grass-fed beef has higher concentrations of certain nutrients than regular beef as well as higher omega-3 levels and less fat overall. Understandably, it’s also more expensive than beef that is grain-fed.
If you have trouble controlling how many delicious appetizers you eat at a party, you’ll be happy to know that many apps in 2018 became bite-sized. However, that doesn’t mean you should snack on even more of the tiny hors d’oeuvres!
Mini was in for 2018. In addition to bite-sized apps, we also be saw more of bite-sized desserts. While this means you may get to taste some different sweet treats, don’t let their small size trick you into eating too many!
Tapas, meze, and dim sum are popular in parts of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, respectively. It looks like they’ll all be headed stateside soon.
Latin American Flavors
Latin American flavors—cilantro, chilies, lime—made a big impact this year, which is great news for people who can’t get enough of big, bold flavor.
Ethnic Dips and Spreads
Keeping with the ethnic theme, ethnic dips and spreads also made their mark in 2018. This is helpful to those watching their weight, because ethnic dips such as hummus, baba ganoush, tzatziki, and dukkah tend to be healthier than American favorites like ranch, spinach-artichoke, and blue cheese dips.
As predicted, the burger got a gourmet boost in 2018. Now, it will pair perfectly with all of those house-made condiments and pickles!
If you aren’t already familiar with Bibimbap, chances are you got acquainted with the tasty Korean mixed rice dish by the end of 2018.
Soup lovers will be happy to know bone broth became especially popular this year. Unfortunately, this trend isn’t vegan- or vegetarian-friendly.
Poke is a raw fish salad typically served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine, but the low-carb favorite has morphed into more of a protein-rich main course since gaining popularity in major cities a couple of years ago. Looks like the trend will be sticking around for 2018 and beyond.
Kale, mustard greens, and collards were big in 2018. Not only do we love these veggies for their dark green hue, but these low-cal leaves are also packed with nutrients such as iron and vitamin C.
Traditional Ethnic Breakfast Items
Brunch-goers will be pleased to know the millennial favorite will be getting a boost from ethnic breakfast items. That means you should make room for huevos rancheros, shakshuka, ashta, and more.
If you thought only chickens lay eggs safe for humans to eat, 2018 was here to prove you wrong. Prepare your palettes for duck, quail, and emu eggs.
As their name suggests, micro-vegetables and microgreens are small in size, but in this case “micro” is more of a reference to their young age than anything else.
Farro is a whole grain known for its nutty taste and higher protein content than quinoa. Because it is higher in fiber than many other whole grains, it’s ideal for those looking to lose weight.
If you like ramen, chances are you will also have an affinity for pho, which was trendy in 2018. The tasty Vietnamese noodle soup consists of broth, rice noodles, some herbs, and meat.
Black rice—also known as forbidden rice—will likely be working its way onto many plates, although it’s not as popular as it once was.
It seems many of us will be embracing our inner Aziz Ansari à la Master of None and making our own pasta by hand. If only the getaway to Italy was included!
If you’re a meat eater on a budget, you’ll be relieved to know cuts that are typically inexpensive and underused were a hit in 2018. Said cuts include chicken feet, pig ears, tongue, and oxtail.
Extra Hot Peppers
If jalapeños aren’t hot enough for you, rest assured knowing that extra hot peppers such as habaneros, ghost peppers, Carolina reapers, and Scotch bonnets will be very trendy next year.
Game meats such as venison, game birds, boar, and rabbit haven’t quite achieved the popularity of chicken or beef, but it looks like 2018 might see a rise.
Sliders/Mini-Burgers In Kids’ Meals
Burger sliders have been popular among adults for years, but now the shrunken eats are headed for the pint-sized set. How are we only just thinking of giving tiny burgers to tiny people? It seems like a perfect match!
If you love to plan ahead, you’ll be pleased to know that overnight oats (a healthy breakfast that can be made the night before) is trending upwards. With our awesome overnight oats recipes you’ll never get tired of this rising star.
As we head into the colder months, nothing sounds better than a bowl of ramen. Though the Asian soup may not be as popular as it was a few years ago, it still remains a favorite dish for many.
Chickpeas are packed with fiber and other key nutrients, but frying them certainly doesn’t add to their nutritional value. Thankfully, this trend is on the way out, so let’s hope we can soon get back to eating chickpeas that haven’t been bathed in oil.
Of course you’re already familiar with the concept of spiralized veggies. Though still somewhat popular, the concept of turning vegetables into noodles is now considered a trend that’s classified as “yesterday’s news.”
What’s not to like about olive oil, lemon, and basil? Apparently nothing, because Mediterranean flavors (which can also do wonders for weight loss) were deemed a “perennial favorite.”
Beef and chicken are some of the most popular sources of protein. Although goat hasn’t reached that level of popularity in America, the meat is frequently eaten in the Middle East, South Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
Bitter melon is another trend that has fallen into the “yesterday’s news” group, which is good news for those that look to melon for a little dose of something healthy and sweet.
Gourmet Mac and Cheese
What’s better than mac and cheese? Gourmet mac and cheese that includes truffles, lobster, and other pricey add-ins.
Algae may be healthy for you, but its polarizing sea-like taste means that not everyone is on board with the nutrient-rich plant. Those who can’t stomach algae may be relieved to know that even though it is still trendy, it’s now considered “yesterday’s news.”
If we had to pick a textbook “perennial favorite” food, bacon would win by a landslide. Perhaps that’s why this tasty (though not very healthy) protein still finds itself on a list of food trends.
A few years ago, quinoa was still a foreign food to many, but now the protein and fiber-rich grain has become a part of our diets, hence why it stuck around in 2018.
Meals in Mason Jars
Get ready to embrace your inner hipster, because even though they were deemed “yesterday’s news,” Mason jar meals in mason jars are still popular.
We can’t remember a time when comfort foods weren’t popular, and it looks like they were more coveted than ever before in 2018. Think chicken pot pie, meatloaf, roasted chicken, and a host of other delicious staples.
The vitamin C-rich veggie made a name for itself in 2018, and we think it’s about time. If eating cauliflower stalks isn’t for you, consider trying the ever-popular cauliflower rice.
Juice/Milk In Kids’ Meals
Another kids’ meal trend we saw in 2018 was juice or milk with your little one’s entree. Thankfully, both beverages are a much better upgrade from sugary soda and include key nutrients crucial to growth and brain development.
Though some may be turned off by the texture of octopus, it is a great source of protein, oxygen-transporting iron, and brain-supporting vitamin B12. However, those watching their cholesterol should limit their intake.
Since there are countless varieties of breakfast hash, not to mention it’s easy to make and always flavorful, we’re not at all surprised this early-morning dish was classified as a “perennial favorite.”
Brussels sprouts are more than just a nutritious Thanksgiving side. It turns out that the delicious vitamin-packed veggies were trending in 2018.
Barbecue is another “perennial favorite.” Though it was originally popularized in the South, the cooking style has since found devotees all over the country.
Though bone marrow may be a bit too adventurous for some eaters, the delicacy was still expected to be popular in 2018.
Popular in Latin American cooking, ceviche is healthy, flavorful, and delicious.
Semifreddo is a class of semi-frozen desserts, and the principal ingredients are usually eggs, sugar, and cream. Though it’s not one of the healthiest things on this list, it’s fine to indulge every once in awhile.
If you love pizza but are looking to cut down on carbs, rest assured that there’s still space for flatbread slices as a food trend.
Though it seems like the different varieties of popcorn are now endless, flavoring the healthy snack and movie theater staple is still trendy. However, flavored popcorn did fall into the “yesterday’s news” category, so don’t expect it to be around for much longer.
Though not as popular as fried chickpeas, regular chickpeas (which are much healthier thanks to an abundance of protein and fiber minus the unhealthy fats) still found a spot on our 2018 food trends list.
Egg White Omelets/Sandwiches
Eggs are an excellent source of protein, and even though you lose plenty of valuable choline and B vitamins when you omit the yolk, the whites are low-calorie and fat-free. However, egg white omelets are also classified as a “yesterday’s news” trend.
The beloved Italian sweet treat is very similar to ice cream, but adds more milk rather than cream into its recipe and usually omits egg yolks—resulting in a dessert that’s lower in fat than the American staple.
Broccoli rabe is rich in fiber, protein and vitamins A, C, and E. It makes a great side dish or addition to a soup or stir-fry.
Another “perennial favorite” is the breakfast burrito and taco. We’re hoping these babies never fall out of favor, because they’re flavorful, comforting, and downright delicious!
Probiotic- and protein-packed Greek yogurt is always a staple in our kitchen, so even though it’s been trending for over a decade, we’re still happy to see that it snagged a spot on this list.
Though it might be surprising to see something as vague as shellfish on this trendy list, the class of tasty crustaceans was voted a “perennial favorite.” If we had to guess, we’d say we have delicious lobster and shrimp to thank for that.
Offal—organ meats such as heart, tripe, liver, and sweetbreads—is a trend that fell in the “yesterday’s news” group, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t still see it in 2018.
Chicken and Waffles
A favorite in the South and amongst the brunch crowd, we’re not surprised the carb-heavy meal (with some protein thrown in for good measure) snagged the penultimate spot on this list.
It’s hard to believe pumpkin spice is still one of the biggest food trends of 2018 after what feels like at least a decade in the spotlight. But, the autumnal flavor was still popular in ’18 thanks, in large part, to the cult status of Starbucks’ overly sweet Pumpkin Spice Latte.