Here’s what we’re seeing in our crystal balls.

Megan O. Steintrager
December 30, 2020
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| Credit: Design by Julian Birchman; Photos: Top left Graze HTX; all other images Getty

Well, 2020 was quite a year—and one we’re glad to leave behind. That said, it was also a year that brought some pretty great food trends, including an explosion in home baking and TikTok-inspired projects like whipped coffee and hot chocolate bombs, to name a few. Making predictions is always a tricky proposition—and it seems even more so now than ever—but we’ve taken a crack at it nonetheless. So, after passing the crystal ball around the Test Kitchen (and looking at some actual data), here’s what we think is on the horizon in the food world in 2021. 

2021 Food & Drink Trends

1. We’ll Spice Things Up in New Ways

I’ve always been a fan of spicy foods but this year my hot sauce and spicy condiment love went to whole new levels—I don’t think I went to the grocery store once without grabbing a bottle of hot sauce or some sort of spicy condiment, such as harissa, Sriracha, gochujang or chipotle sauce, to liven up my pantry meals. And I’m not alone: A report from the grocery delivery company Instacart shows sales of piri piri were up 725% year over year, while lao gan ma (chili crisp) saw a 227% increase. We’re also seeing lots of hot honey (try it on pizza!) and spicy cocktails (e.g., jalapeño margaritas). As we’ve all been cooking more at home and eating more frozen and canned veggies, we’re looking for new (to us) ways to spice things up, and we predict this is a trend that will just keep growing. 

2. We’ll Keep Expanding the Definition of Charcuterie

This year was all about getting creative with charcuterie, as our social media feeds were filled with hot cocoa “charcuterie” boards, jarcuterie, charcuterie chalets, charcuterie Christmas trees and charcuterie pizzas. We don’t think this trend is going away, but we do see it evolving—or perhaps revolving like this charcuterie Airstream trailer created by Lauren Lastowka. Lauren notes that she was inspired to make a small Airstream instead of a giant house because it creates less food waste, and we think the more sustainable charcuterie creations will be the trend of ’21, whether that means making smaller charcuterie houses or jars or going plant-based with vegan “charcuterie” boards

3. Tofu Will Take Center Stage

Tofu is a key ingredient in many cuisines, so while it’s certainly not a new ingredient, EatingWell’s audience has shown an increased interest in the soy product over the past year, with views of tofu recipes and articles up 20% this year compared to last. And according to Google Trends, many tofu recipe searches increased last year, including air-fry tofu, soft tofu, tofu tikka masala and braised tofu. Tofu is economical, long-lasting (it keeps for weeks in the fridge and longer in the freezer), healthy and incredibly versatile—you can grill it, roast it, stir-fry it and use it in stews, curries, tacos, sandwiches and more. We think these attributes, along with increasing interest in plant-based eating, will cause people to cook more tofu, both in classic dishes like mapo tofu as well as spins like this buttermilk fried tofu

4. We Are Going to Seriously Up Our Mocktail Games

As we noted in our health and wellness predictions, we think people who began drinking more alcohol in 2020 will cut back in 2021. But that doesn’t mean we’ll all be reaching for plain seltzer—we want something that still seems special. Views of mocktail recipes on EatingWell were up 427% this year compared to last year, and that’s a trend we think will continue into 2021. Look for mocktails that include boutique bitters, fresh juice and ingredients like turmeric and elderberry that are associated with fighting inflammation or boosting immunity. 

5. Bite-Size EVERYTHING

Grazing is in, and we’re all reaching for little bites, both sweet and savory, including mini quiches, mini casseroles and tiny desserts. Views of recipes that include the word “mini” are up 88% year over year on EatingWell. We think the demand for individually portioned foods will continue to grow as we (fingers crossed) return to getting together in groups later in 2021. 

"Jarcuterie" photo courtesy of Graze HTX.

What foods and drinks do you think will be big in 2021? Email us to let us know at testkitchen@eatingwell.com (you can send us questions too).