Are Kale and Quinoa Over?

Like all trends, food trends come and go. As specific dishes, ingredients, flavors, and presentations begin appearing in popular restaurants, they’re quickly adopted by home chefs who want to eat well and impress dinner guests.

In recent years, it seems that the food scene has been dominated by a few big players and trends. For a while, kale and quinoa seemed to be on every menu – both eating out and at home. Craft cocktails, locally sourced meat and produce, and trendy desserts were everywhere you turned. Love it or hate it, you just can’t get away from a popular food trend.

Now, the tide seems to be shifting for some of the most popular recent trends. The National Restaurant Association puts out an annual report called the “What’s Hot Culinary Forecast” that asks food experts and industry professionals what they think is going to hit it big and what they see losing steam.

Here are a few 2016 trends so you can get ahead of the curve and impress your palate and your friends.

Kiss These Trends Goodbye

Kale and quinoa have been at the top of the foodie favorites list for a few years now, but these trendy, alternative plate fillers are beginning to lose steam. Both appear on the 2016 Forecast’s list of Movers and Shakers that have dropped 5% or more since 2015’s forecast. Kale salads are down 10% and quinoa is down 8%.

Other dark greens are suffering the same fate as kale. Appearing as the third biggest produce trend in 2014, dark greens are down 7% and didn’t make it as one of top five produce trends forecasted for this year. Dark greens were the #38 overall hottest trend in 2014, this year they’re sitting at #89. Kale salads went from #50 in 2014 to #124 this year.

In 2014, quinoa took the top two spots for trendiest starches/sides dishes (#1 – Non-wheat noodles/pasta (e.g. quinoa, rice, buckwheat) and #2 Quinoa). This year it didn’t make the top five, though “non-wheat noodles/pasta” still comes in at #2 – this time without examples specified. Quinoa is sticking it out as the #78 food trend for 2016, popular, but slipping – it was #24 overall in 2014.

Some other slipping trends of yesterday that might have worked their way into your kitchen include:

  • Hybrid Desserts – Exemplified by the “cronut, townie, ice cream cupcake” and similar dessert
    mash-ups, this sweet after dinner offering came in as the top dessert trend in 2014 but is now on the most dropped list, having ducked 6%. For what it’s worth though, your guests will likely never turn their nose up at a cookie-brownie marriage because it’s “out of fashion.”
  • Flatbreads – It’s easy to see why flatbreads became popular – they’re essentially a pizza you can feel less guilty eating. They’re also easy to make at home and offer a big visual payoff at your dinner party, especially if you heap on unusual or upscale toppings. Flatbread appetizers took a hit this year though, listed as down 6%. (Actual flatbreads – as in naan, pita, tortilla, etc. – are also losing popularity.)

Flavors to Watch Out For

It’s natural that once-hot trends need to fade to make room for new rising stars. So what’s on the top of the list this year? Exotic and ethnic flavors are expected to be big, showing up several times on the “Movers & Shakers 2015 to 2016 Up 5 Perfect or More” list. In fact, this trend claimed four of the top five spots on that list.

  • African flavors – up 20% (the biggest gain by far)
  • Authentic ethnic cuisine – up 14%
  • Ethnic condiments/spices – up 11%
  • Middle Eastern flavors – up 11%

Keeping it simple and homemade (which admittedly isn’t always simple) is another popular anticipated trend this year. While you might not be making your own “house-made/artisan soft drinks,” people who enjoy cooking, baking, and even home brewing beer could find a happily receptive crowd at their next dinner party. As ingredients, dishes, and presentation moves to a more rustic, simple approach this year, home hosts won’t have to worry that their meals don’t look “restaurant perfect.”

If you’re feeling super ambitious in 2016, try serving homemade ice cream (#10 this year), house-made sausage (#17), or homemade pickles (#18) at your next summer cookout. Or, if you really want to shake things up and impress, try hosting a dinner party that features an ethnic menu and authentic dishes.

If that seems a bit much, go to your local butcher and farmers market to pick up locally sourced meats or seafood (the #1 trend this year) and locally grown produce (#3). When you get home, stick to simple preparations and presentations and you’ll be right on trend.

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