Let me start with this: There is no such thing as a new food trend. Sure there are new cooking innovations (see: smart kitchen gadgets), new manners of preparing the same foods we've always had in our fridges (cauliflower rice, kale chips), and the westernization of foreign staples (matcha, poke), but it's incredibly rare to encounter a food or beverage previously unheard of. But that doesn't stop us every January from anticipating what the new year will bring in terms of culinary wonders. (Spoiler: It's usually weirdly flavored lattes.) And these last six months have been nothing if not palate-titillating.
So, yes, while some of these "trends" have been around for years (I have been eating oats, bruised bananas, and mushrooms since, I don't know, I was introduced to solid foods?), 2018 saw their resurgence, for one reason or another, and their proliferation into the mainstream. So, get your appetite ready and start to meal-plan as you peruse our list of the biggest food trends of 2018 (so far), below.
Nettle: From Sfoglini's pasta to Pukka Herbs' teas, nettle (also known as that plant with the stinging leaves that we avoided at all costs as kids), is making its way into the food and drinks industry. For good reason! It's a natural allergy relief remedy, helps detoxify the body, and even reduces arthritis pain thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, if you've had Sfoglini's Nettles or a cup of Pukka Herbs' Cleanse tea, you know it just tastes really good.
Keto Diet: Arguably, the most popular way of eating this year (I don't have enough fingers to count the number of people I know who said they've adopted it), a ketogenic (keto for short) diet forces the body to go into a state of ketosis by reducing its carb intake and increasing fats to convert to energy (in place of carbs, which are the body's preferred fuel). The list of foods allowed includes olive and coconut oils; protein like meat, fish, and eggs; leafy green veggies, like kale and spinach; nuts, avocados, and whole milk. It's kind of confusing, because, like, how are butter and heavy cream better than chickpeas? But maybe it's just us? People who are doing it really seem to like it.
CBD-infused beverages: After the sudden popularity cannabidiol (CBD) has had in the beauty industry, the ingredient is now on its way to dominate the bar scene. Derived from the cannabis plant, CBD can help with everything from stress and insomnia to anxiety and pain (alas without getting one high). In NYC, Patent Coffee, the sister to our favorite speakeasy bar Patent Pending, offers a CBD Omija Berry Arnold Palmer and CBD Cold Brew with 15mg CBD oil as part of its menu. In L.A., Gracias Madre, the popular vegan Mexican restaurant to which some have attributed the launch of this trend, serves a CBD Snowcone made from lemon, agave, hibiscus hielo raspado, and cannabidiol oil.
Oat Milk: "We carry Oatly!" proudly proclaimed coffee shops after The New York Times published "The Humble Ascent of Oat Milk" earlier this year and the Swedish product became so popularit sold out online and in stores Stateside. The dairy-free alternative to milk has become so in-demand that it's now carried at coffee shops like MatchaBar, Intelligentsia Coffee, Café Grumpy, Stumptown, and Maman. IMO, it's delicious and worth the hype.
Non-alcoholic spirits: This has been a Dry Year, with many starting with Dry January and continuing to live the booze-free life months later. With the demand for grown-up non-alcoholic cocktails rising, brands like Seedlip, the world's first non-alcoholic distilled spirit, and Curious Elixirs, booze-free craft cocktails made from natural ingredients, are rising in popularity with bars and consumers alike. We wouldn't be surprised if several more brands specializing in booze-free libations entered the market by end of this year.
Functional cooking: A term that I first heard from Jamie Kantrowitz, the co-founder of Countertop—an Ayurvedic line of spices, spreadable ghee butter (the first of its kind!), honey, and kitcheri mix—functional cooking is the act of adding health-enhancing ingredients to your recipes. Think: spices for your gut that you can easily add to anything from your morning yogurt and eggs to poultry and stir-fry veggies without changing your go-to recipes. And Countertop isn't the only one! EatBrands, a line of spices and vegan pops, combines probiotics (meaning, the products need to be refrigerated) with superfood spices for gut benefits and to support the immune system.
Mushrooms: Blame it on Phantom Thread if you like, but mushrooms have become popular… for non-poisoning reasons (though, for poisoning bad men, as well?). Varieties like reishi, chaga, and cordyceps have been spotted in coffee, tea, and smoothies and supplemental powders (that can be added to coffee, tea, and smoothies) which have been touted by, of course, Gwyneth Paltrow. Packed with antioxidants, iron, and potassium, "functional" mushrooms can support the immune system and cure inflammatory conditions. Already, mushrooms have started to make their way into select coffee and health shops (see: California's Lifehouse Tonics), but by the end of this year, expect to see shroom lattes and elixirs everywhere else. (If you want to be even more ahead of the curve, next on the trendy caffeinated beverages list is, apparently, the broccoli latte.)
Cosmetically challenged produce: Restaurants are getting progressively creative when it comes to helping eliminate food waste. In New York City, Graffiti Earth practices sustainability by working with cosmetically challenged, meaning “ugly,” produce that would otherwise go to waste because of its non-flavor-affecting visual flaws and underutilized seafood, like broken scallops (that get damaged during handling but are perfectly safe), while Sunday in Brooklyn repurposes byproduct in food dishes and waste like citrus peels and leftover herbs in drinks. Just recently, in California, a modern convenience store The Goods Mart made a deal with GrubMarket, farm-to-table food delivery service, to carry fruit of this variety only.
Instant Pot: If 2017 was the year of the Instant Pot takeover, then 2018 is going to mark its coronation. (I blame it on the demise of the regular slow cooker following that This Is Us episode.) Now that the kitchen device—popular for its pressure cooking abilities to make rice, beans, and protein in minutes—exploded in popularity (despite being around since 2010), expect to see cookbooks and chef-approved recipes to round out the next six months.
Fine-casual concepts: A step up from the fast-casual concept, fine-casual, also known as fast-fine, came to fame when Shake Shack restaurateur Danny Meyer defined the term on 60 Minutes as the "marrying together the ethos and taste level of fine dining with the fast food experience" in October. Typically helmed by chefs with fine dining backgrounds, these joints could combine ordering of high-quality food at the counter with sit-down service, a variety of alcohol options, and organic/local/sustainable practices. While, according to Bon Appetit, San Francisco currently holds the majority of restaurants that fall under the category, it's only a matter of time before other cities join in on the fun.