Hot, Hot Hot! Spicy International Tastes Drive 2024 Culinary Forecast

What’s trending in food for the new year? The 2024 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast from the National Restaurant Association culls insights from 1500 worldwide culinary professionals to predict food trends expected for the new year.

Topping the list are comfort foods -- but not the traditional U.S. fare. World soups and stews, such as Birria, Chicken Tom Kha, Laksa, Salmorejo and upscale ramen, are “a safe way for customers to experience new ingredients and unique flavors; they present an economical way to diversify the menu, especially as menus are being streamlined,” according to the report. Additional comfort food trends include global chicken wings, international BBQ, various grilled and cooked cheeses, and stuffed vegetables.

Restaurants have been incorporating birria, a spicy, smoky stew originating from Mexico on tacos, sandwiches, nachos, poutines and pasta -- a trend already all over TikTok and Instagram. The report anticipates even more birria used in innovative ways on 2024 menus.



The hot chicken trend will continue in QSR and fast casual -- specifically Nashville Hot, which contains cayenne pepper among other specificingredients. Customers are seeking flavor in general; in addition to heat, expect “Everything Bagel” spice, agave syrup, ingredients like turmeric, ginger and hibiscus to continue to trend.

Even condiments are high on zest, with the spicy chili crisp, Tajin (on corn and everything else) and chipotle ketchup trending much like sriracha has for the last few years.

Customers are also seeking drinks that promise health benefits. “Energy drinks and functional waters touted to enhance focus, improve stamina, help gut health, and ease inflammation, claim to contain natural ingredients, vitamins, amino acids, probiotics, electrolytes, and other health-related additives, while not forfeiting flavor” will be popular.. Nitro cold brew coffee will also remain popular.

And perhaps least surprising, social media’s obsession with food isn’t going anywhere. “Viral ‘food fads’ can successfully translate to menus and limited time offers,” per the report.  “Social platforms are intrinsic to restaurant marketing today, capturing attention and generating buzz.”

Other forecasts: Expect companies to continue to develop restaurants as entertainment. integrate more usage of AI and AR, and promote monthly subscriptions.

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