The Top Food Trends of 2021

Dec 17, 2020

While much of 2020 was about stocking up the pantry with nonperishables and desperately Googling “curbside takeout near me,” 2021 should be a whole new ballgame for the food industry. After a year of being in survival mode, expect to see some welcome food and beverage trends, many of which put a renewed focus on health’s flavor.


The Delicious, Nutritious Chickpea

Chickpeas are gaining popularity as a hearty, meatless alternative that doesn’t skimp on protein and has a distinctive, nutty flavor. While it has been in mainstream grocery stores for decades as the primary ingredient in hummus, expect to see more of it in 2021, even in its non-mashed form. It may appear in traditional middle eastern stews, as a main ingredient in dressed-up vegetarian tacos, and even take center stage in fancy tapas. It can also be used as a wheat alternative in the form of chickpea flour. Gluten-free bakers, rejoice!



If you think of mushrooms primarily as a pizza topping, it’s time to hit the books. Adaptogenic mushrooms have been used medicinally for decades in East Asian medical practices. Health gurus boast some strains of mushrooms as ways to reduce brain fog, increase immunity, and lower stress levels. Expect to see these in health food stores and beyond.




Birria—The “G.O.A.T.”

Birria originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Traditionally, it is a long-marinated pulled meat, usually goat or lamb, although it might include beef in the United States. The meat is placed inside a tortilla, topped with cilantro and red onion, and then served with a side of broth for dipping. It has been on the rise as a menu item in Mexican restaurants for the latter half of 2020, and it should continue to gain traction in 2021.


Meatless “Meats”

Plant-based burgers will be even more popular in 2021, being offered at restaurants and even commanding their own aisle in grocery stores. With so many deceptively meaty burgers on the market to choose from, which one should you pick? The New York Times ran a blind taste test of six top brands and reported their findings to help you make an informed decision. Expect to see more meatless “jerkies” as well, including mushroom and jackfruit jerky.


Boozy ‘Bucha

Hard seltzers have been having a bit of a moment lately. Expect the catalog of all that is bubbly and boozy to expand a bit this coming year to make room for hard seltzer’s hipster older brother, hard kombucha. When the health benefits of probiotic Scoby meets the buzz of a beer, what’s not to love?


boozy kombucha


A Whole New Oil

Expect to see many new oils beyond your traditional olive, peanut, and vegetable oils this year. Some will emerge for their unique flavor, some for health benefits, and others because of their high smoke point, which allows you to cook things like jalapeños without the fumes burning your eyes. Pumpkin seed oil, sunflower seed oil, and avocado oil may make an appearance in salad dressings, too.



These Japanese sandwiches started as a convenience store staple. Traditionally, they have katsu—a fried pork cutlet—in the middle. Now they’ve taken a more gourmet turn and can contain just about anything, from egg to salted beef to strawberry. As a snack that proudly displays its middle, restaurants may go overboard in their offerings in hopes of free advertising. This snack is so ‘grammable,’ some chefs are opting to stuff it with picture-perfect, edible gold foil.


Hot Honey

Spicy and sweet have made quite the duo in the past, and this time it’s no different. Expect to see this devilishly sweet condiment drizzled on everything from fried chicken to ice cream. What makes it hot? In a recipe for homemade hot honey, Bon Appétit suggests using chiles like Thai, Fresno, or Holland.


Booze-Free Cocktails

People are becoming “sober curious,” which started happening even before quarantine forced us to reexamine our daily habits. After the success of Dry January in 2020, CNN Travel ran a piece about how non-alcoholic craft cocktails were changing the bar scene. Until recently, non-alcoholic options were slim for any bar patron not wanting to consume alcohol for various reasons, including pregnancy, liver problems, or just an overall desire to cut back. Now companies like Seedlip and Stryyk are making it their mission to distill high-end non-alcoholic liquors that can be a part of a cocktail that is as carefully hand-crafted as a boozy one.


Are you evolving your menu to meet new tastes and demands? How are you keeping your management, chefs, and staff abreast of new food trends? Don’t underestimate the power of conversation, knowledge, and training! If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you have to keep your restaurant staff in sync. Synergy Sync is an integrated training and operations management platform created by restaurant leaders for restaurant leaders. Increase sales with consistent, quality training, maximize labor efficiently utilizing our app-based, results-oriented training program. Schedule a virtual tour to learn more about Synergy Sync and how it can accelerate your training and help your team thrive and succeed.