WASHINGTON — Comfort foods, from soups and stews to stuffed vegetables, will be a common theme on menus in the year ahead, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2024 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast. The association compiled insights from a survey of 1,500 culinary professionals to identify trending dishes, ingredients and flavors.
Topping the list are globally inspired soups and stews, including chicken tom kha, laksa, salmorejo and upscale ramen, which, per the association, represent “a safe way for customers to experience new ingredients” and an “economical way to diversify a menu.” Birria in particular, a spicy, sweet, smoky stew, may be added to tacos, sandwiches, nachos, poutines, pasta and more, according to the association.
Global chicken wings and international barbecue also are on tap, as well as grilled and cooked cheeses such as provoleta, queso fundido, raclette, halloumi and juustoleipa. Stuffed vegetables such as chiles en nogada, stuffed peppers and stuffed cabbage rolls also are expected to roll onto more menus.
Rounding out the list are wagyu beef and hot honey breakfast sandwiches. Emerging ingredients include calamansi, cannabis and cucamelon, described as a “citrusy cucumber.” Top flavors are Nashville hot, everything bagel seasoning, agave syrup, turmeric ginger and hibiscus. Trending condiments include chili crisp, chipotle ketchup and Tajin, a blend of salt, dehydrated lime juice, chile peppers and garlic.
Energy and health are driving beverage menu trends, giving rise to botanical ingredients, functional additions such as probiotics and electrolytes, and low- or no-alcohol options.
Restaurant operators are likely to incorporate social media trends into menus and marketing and introduce regional and streamlined menus, too.“This year’s trends are dominated by consumer craving for comfort and community with a healthy side of curiosity influenced by social media,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the association. “Old favorites like barbecue are taking on new flavors, and social sharing is influencing the spread of regional fares like Nashville hot. Even the chicken competition is going global on local menus.”