7 Food Trends You’ll See (and Taste) Everywhere in 2021

Karla Walsh
·7 min read

7 Food Trends You’ll See (and Taste) Everywhere in 2021

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In fashion, sometimes what’s old is new. Take 1970’s high-waisted jeans or 1980’s hair scrunchies ... they’re back with a vengeance. Same holds true with food. Sometimes “old” things that were previously en vogue return anew, especially when we’re craving nostalgia—as many of us have during the often-uncertain days of 2020. Along the way, sourdough starters, warm-from-the-oven cookies, and classic egg salad sandwiches returned to favor as a source of comfort, as the 2020 Google Year in Search trends bear out.

With that in mind, there’s always plenty new (truly new) to add to the culinary lexicon, especially as more of us get extra comfortable cooking at home. We tapped food industry pros and dove into brand reports to predict the seven food trends you’ll likely be seeing more than ever before during 2021.

The Top 7 Food Trends of 2021

Speaking of cooking more at home, 47% of Americans surveyed in November by Instacart and Harris Poll report that they plan to continue cooking more themselves for the foreseeable future until the coronavirus pandemic calms down. Here’s what we anticipate shopping for and whipping up.

Related: The Flavors You’ll Start Seeing Everywhere in 2021, According to Experts

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Next-Level Charcuterie

Hot on the heels of jarcuterie, mail-order charcuterie boards, and charcuterie chalets, Pinterest predicts that fancy boards with unique toppings will continue to rise in popularity throughout 2021. It’s no longer about just cured meats and cheeses: Bagel or pancake-topped breakfast charcuterie boards, colorful candy charcuterie boards, and taco bar-like Mexican charcuterie boards will be the casual family meal du jour.

“Charcuterie has taken off for many reasons, but one reason is because it’s highly visual. It’s all over social media and the internet, and Millennials in particular reported even more impact on their diets from influencers and social media over the course of the pandemic,” says Sarah Marion, Ph.D., a Seattle, Washington-based director of syndicated research for the market research company Murphy Research. “Back in January a little more than a quarter of Millennials rated influencers and social media networks very influential on their eating habits. As social lives moved online, this number went up, hitting a high point of 41% in September and is currently sitting around 37%.”

Prioritizing Plant-Based Eating

Instead of beef, pork, or poultry, even carnivorous Americans are picking more plant protein sources, including beans, legumes, whole grains, and plant-based meat substitutes. About 28% of people surveyed by IFIC say they’re eating more plant proteins than they did a year ago.

Related: Our Best 30-Minute Vegan Dinner Recipes

This was boosted by new research that proved replacing red meat with plant proteins may lower risk for heart disease. Referring to the increased availability and improvements in the market for plant-based beef and seafood replacements, Meyer says, “there’s innovation that is happening around this style of eating and it feeds into other important issues such as sustainability and overall health.”

Marion adds that “restricting animal products has become fairly common,” even among those who are more flexitarian than vegan dieters. “What's fascinating is that the number of nutrition-engaged consumers restricting animal products seems to align with the ebbs and flows of the pandemic, hitting a high point in November with 32% of nutrition-engaged consumers avoiding meat, dairy, or animal products. This is a significant increase from January, when 25% were avoiding these things.”

Andy Lyons

Spicy Sauces, Seasonings, and Condiments

This pantry staple trend is hot. Literally. Instead of seasoning with plain ol’ salt and pepper or drizzling recipes with olive oil, expect to see snappy spices and flavor-boosted sauces, including hot honey, which has seen substantial growth in Yelp review mentions and Pinterest searches throughout 2020. Whole Foods Market and Instacart trend experts explain that this could be a way for home cooks to ensure their basics don't taste boring. More than one in five Americans (21%) polled by Instacart say they've tried exotic spices and flavors to add more excitement to their homemade meals. From piri piri sauce (aka peri-peri sauce, a style of Portuguese hot sauce made from peri-peri peppers) to za’atar spice blend, this is not your typical American pantry.