Put down the sourdough starter and get ready to pickle everything. We're saying goodbye to 2020 and hello to 2021 with pickles, pesto, and comfort food. While the coronavirus pandemic impacts will likely shape how and what we eat for years to come, we're excited by the 2021 food trends experts from the grocery, restaurant, and hospitality industries are predicting. Here's a look at what and how we'll be eating in 2021.
More Outdoor Dining Options
Going out to eat is much more of a treat than ever before, and as such, expect to see restaurateurs continue to get creative with outdoor dining. "Diners can expect to see even more tented, heated rooftop spaces leveraging themed playlists to create an inviting atmosphere. Restaurant and bar owners will also place a greater focus on lighting, greenery and landscaping to ensure diners' surroundings feel special, even while outdoors," said Scott Gingerich, senior vice president of restaurants and bars for Kimpton Hotels.
Chickpeas Will Pop Up in Everything From Pasta to Cereal
As much as we love hummus, there's so much more to chickpeas than that standby. Palak Patel, a chef at the Institute of Culinary Education, said to expect to continue to see more packaged food products including pasta, rice, and crackers made from chickpeas and to look for the plant-based protein to pop up even in items like cereals. Personally, we think roasting chickpeas makes for one of the best work-from-home snacks.
Pesto Is the New Banana Bread
From windowsill herbs to mushroom grow kits, 2020 was the year we stepped up our home garden game. We've already in the habit of adding fresh herbs, chiles, and vegetables to our food, so where do we go from there? "Baking. It's not going away, I think the banana, sourdough, carrot bread craze may die down a bit, but people are still excited about learning how to do something that for so long has seemed completely unapproachable," said Seamus Mullen, chef at ICE.
Gingerich concurs, betting we'll be making pesto, jam, and pickling the vegetables we grow. "We're seeing consumers seek out more fresh, homegrown or homemade ingredients—think garden pesto, homemade oat milk, and hearty, healthier breads," Gingerich said.
We're already into the ugly fruits and vegetables, but what about the peels and the stems? Whole Foods Markets says they are seeing a considerable rise in packaged products that use the often neglected and underused parts of ingredients. A few things they're excited about: The Ugly Company: 100% Upcycled Kiwis, Apricots and Peaches; Renewal Mill: 1-to-1 Baking Flour made from okara, or upcycled soybean pulp; and Spudsy Sweet Potato Puffs snacks.
Local Goes Mainstream
While the pandemic showed us how fragile the U.S. food system is, it also offered a glimpse of a more resilient supply chain. Small farmers and food artisans continued to feed their communities despite the challenges of 2020. In 2021, we expect we'll be continuing to see community shared agriculture programs sell out of memberships and see businesses focus even more on sourcing locally. "We are also seeing a larger focus on sourcing locally, either from chef-grown gardens or local purveyors and partners. We're all in these unprecedented times together and want to do what we can to support our local suppliers while meeting consumer demand for fresher food. This movement will also create a shift toward more streamlined, sustainable and seasonal menus with rotating daily specials," Gingerich said.
Nostalgic Comfort Food
From PB&J to grilled cheese, we sought comfort in childhood classics throughout 2020. Kimpton Hotels reported the most popular room service orders in 2020 included burgers, pizza, grilled cheese, and pasta. Still, as we move into 2021, they and the chefs at ICE expect to see some of those old staples get creative, healthier upgrades. "I think that we'll see a continued interest in comfort foods, but likely with a healthy spin. Health being top of mind and with increased home cooking, people are looking for ways of making lasagna, shepherd's pie, enchiladas and more all more healthy while still being comforting," said Mullen.
From taco kits to turmeric to-go cocktails, the pandemic forced restaurants to get creative when it came to takeout options. Gingerich and the data science team at Yelp expect restaurants will continue to see a rise in demand for do-it-yourself restaurant-quality food that can be easily prepared or heated up with simple instructions at home. And many of us are and will continue to use food as a way to satisfy our wanderlust. Yelp says interest in Thai food is up 15 percent, and Mullen thinks we'll be exploring more cuisines in our kitchens. "Perhaps exploring Turkish or Israeli cuisine at home since we're in a time when we can't travel, we can bring other cultures to us," he says.