The Food Trends to Look for in 2016, According to Food Network Kitchen

Here are the top trends Food Network Kitchen’s prognosticators predict we can all look forward to in 2016.
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Stunt snacks that aim to shock consumers with their strange mash-ups of flavors and products are so 2015. The coming year, 2016 — can you believe it’s almost here? — is all about foods that fit our schedules and lifestyles.

And the new year will usher in a new emphasis on authenticity.

“The American food landscape is more diverse, global and fluid than it’s ever been before. The new authenticity isn’t about ‘exotic’ anymore; instead, it’s about getting something honest, passionate, original and unmediated — something

real,” the Food Network Kitchen team suggests in its food-trend forecast for 2016. “This means a lot of things, but the ones we’re most excited about: high-end street food and low-end fine dining, elevated-grandma food, food-nerd-chic, adventure cuisine, chefs of color making whatever food they’re passionate about, and travel apps that let you eat like a local anywhere in the world.”

That means eaters can look for border-crossing, boundary-pushing, authority-challenging personal cuisines; humble eats (like tacos) to be elevated and high-end foods (like French fare) to be brought down to earth; a new wave of culinary innovators and influencers who thumb their noses at preconceived notions and conventions; and the continued rise of local-food apps.

Here are a few other trends the team’s prognosticators predict we can all look forward to in 2016.

Fast and Fancy: In a trend driven in part by millennials, who are apt to blur the lines between high- and low-end cuisine in pursuit of a tasty, affordable, conscientiously created meal they can feel good about, formerly lowly foods — like burgers and burritos, falafel and tacos, and sandwiches boasting barbecued meats or chicken fresh from the fryolator — are being reinvented and raised up in an “explosion of chef-driven fast casual” dining. (Think “better sandwich.”) Established restaurant chains will up their games, too, with higher-caliber ingredients and more opportunities to customize.

Deliciousness Your Doorstep: Ding-dong — your food has arrived! In 2016, consumers can expect to see a greater level of convenience. With the delivery of everything from your groceries and meal prep options (meals, ingredients, kits) to takeout of every stripe. Do you follow a paleo or vegan diet? There are app-based delivery options for that, too. So easy.

Plant One Here: The Food Network Kitchen team has dubbed 2016 “the year of plants,” predicting a continued increase in consumers looking to legumes, pulses and nuts as key sources of protein and the development of new meat substitutes “from vegan hamburgers and chicken strips to milk, cheese and eggs.”

Waste Not ... : Increased attention is being focused on retail and consumer food waste and how to minimize it — by embracing “ugly” produce and almost expired foods, making the most of leftovers, conserving resources like water and other efficient solutions.

Bring On the Bread: Atkins-shmatkins. Carbs are back, baby. Baking will be big in 2016. “An era of good bread is upon us again: fancy toasts and tartines, flatbreads topped with everything, the reinvention of ancient wheats and local mills, bagels and babka as part of the resurgence of classic Jewish food, and cheesy bread from all over the world (see: the unlikely Instagram darling khachapuri, aka melted cheese in a bread bowl),” the team maintains. “While dessert never went away, sweet baking is more popular than ever,” including the “holy baking grail”: “Pinterest-worthy cakes that still taste good.” Mmmm.

Pint-Size Cooks: The next generation of food nerds — the offspring of those food-focused millennials — is heading into the kitchen to cook and bake. They’re also tuning in to family-focused cooking shows in droves, expanding their food and food-prep vocabulary and becoming “fluent in the language of competition-show criticism.” And, of course, some of those kids are starring on those TV shows and videos — and kid critics, kids’ cookbooks and cooking camps abound.

Visual Aids: We’re living in the age of visual recipes — infographics, stop-motion videos, and lots and lots of pictures. “Recipes are moving from strict and prescriptive to playful and dynamic,” the team notes. “Think entertainment and inspiration, not rules."

Gaga for Gadgets: From new specialized cooking products crowdfunding their way into our lives to restaurant-grade products migrating to our homes, gadgets are having a moment. But it’s not all about the fresh and the new. “Old-school” appliances and cookware — like broilers and baking sheets — are also getting some respect. “Sheet-pan dinners (with everything roasted on one pan in the oven) are growing in popularity,” the team observes. “Think of them as the griller’s equivalent of slow cooking, a set-it-and-forget-it dinner, but with char.”

Taste of the Tropics: Ah, tropical living … so relaxing and sweet. The retro, modern tiki-bar trend has ushered in a craze for tropical foods (coconuts, plantains, pineapples, poke, Hawaiian sweet rolls, nori, guava) and beverages like mai tais, pina coladas and pineapple wine. Also a thing? That old pantry staple, Spam — “both packaged spam and ‘homemade.’” Yup.

Big, Bold Flavors: Last year’s embrace of natural fermentation and wild yeast has led to this year’s preoccupation with “the astringent, the tannic, and the puckery,” tastes that hit at “the front of your mouth,” the team notes. “Think unripe fruit, walnuts, smoked everything, greener coffees, tea (as a drink as well as an ingredient), pomegranates, and Sichuan peppercorns everywhere.” In other words, in 2016, we’re all feeling super-sweet on sour.

To Tip or Not to Tip: As the no-tipping/gratuity-included restaurant movement gains momentum, with its promise of greater pay equity and reliable benefits for food-industry workers, its long-term effects on the way we eat out are still unclear. Checks may rise, and as a result, consumers may find themselves more inclined to cook at home.

Also on Food Network Kitchen’s radar for the coming year? Boozy root beer, baking with miso and banoffee pie, pork floss, arepas, tree waters, tamarind chutney as Indian ketchup and — be still, our foolish, food-loving hearts — ice cream sandwiches specifically made with bread.

Looks like 2016 is shaping up to be a delicious new year. Here’s hoping it also finds you and yours happy and healthy!

Photos courtesy of iStock
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