Here's What You Might Be Eating and Drinking in 2023, According to Experts

Chicken sandwiches, mushrooms, kelp, and alt-pastas are in, but pickle pizza is hitting the bricks.

Lemon Martini for 2023

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I've been doing this food trend prediction thing for a decade and a half. Food & Wine has been in the game for three decades longer than that. The thing I've learned along the way: plenty of this prognostication is just throwing spaghetti (or whatever non-wheat pasta with which TikTok becomes momentarily captivated) at the wall — especially now that we're entering our senior year of a global pandemic. Also, a hefty portion of it is regurgitated from press releases and from publication to publication, which is likely why in a cursory search, the majority of the 2023 food trends stories I saw cited the same laundry list: solo dining, dates (the food, not the activity, but you do you), tinned fish, gluten-free and plant-based pasta, "mood food" (that'd be your CBD and "functional" packaged goods), mushrooms, nostalgia and comfort dishes, kelp, nonalcoholic wines and spirits, and "traveling for food." It's vague enough that sure, some of these things could happen, but save for some hard market data on how many cans of mackerel are swimming off the shelves, it's mostly just reading Hōjicha leaves — which all these stories say we're gonna be slurping down like hard seltzer back in 2019. Let's give it a shot, though, shall we?

If I may get pedantic for a second, cultural micro-obsessions that are often referred to as trends — think butter boards, pink sauce, rainbow foods, keto cabbage alfredo — fall more into the realm of fads, which burn brightly for a time but fizzle out into cultural ash. That's fine! Pleasure and delight are renewable resources that we should mine as often as we can, and the communal experience of these moments become nostalgia for future you! Just maybe wait a beat before you lay out a whole lotta cash on supplies, change your social handle, or get a tattoo about it. 

Trends, on the other hand, pull up a chair, grab a mug of something cozy, and hunker down by the fire for a while. Case in point: a few years ago, air fryers may have seemed like something of a novelty, but now they've earned a permanent berth on kitchen counters in over a third of American homes, according to the New York Times; same goes for Instant Pots and other multicookers. Yogurt and seltzer once seemed like bit players before they got major billing on grocery store shelves. Sun-dried tomatoes remain superb, chocolate lava cake continues to smolder, decades after the initial boom.   

Per the National Restaurant Association's 2023 What's Hot Culinary Forecast, created in partnership with the American Culinary Federation and strategic consulting firm Technomic, chicken sandwiches will be ruling the roost, especially if they're spicy, fried, or have a sweet-heat fusion. Some of that oomph may come from variations of sriracha, as the once ubiquitous Huy Fong Foods-brand sauce recovers from a shortage due to drought conditions in northern Mexico where its key ingredient — red jalapeño peppers — are grown. (Marketing and PR firms are masterful at making "fetch" happen, but even they can't control the climate.) The report, which was compiled from a survey of more than 500 food industry professionals (and "generously supported" by Nestle Professional), also anticipates that consumers won't be bored of charcuterie boards anytime soon, the flavors of Southeast Asian countries will become more present in U.S. cooking as will "globally inspired salads."

Alternative sweeteners like maple sugar and coconut sugar will purportedly cause a stir, as will oat, nut, and seed milks (though it should be noted that the most recent edition of The NPD Group's annual Eating Patterns in America report indicates dairy milk sales are in no way cowed by their ascendance). Restaurant menus will remain streamlined, and we won't see a wrap on wraps or flatbreads in the near future. The NRA report mashes "Zero waste/Sustainability/Upcycled foods" together in a single line item as the authors explain that while these are matters of "key consideration for operators who want to build relevance with customers" and "nutrition and sustainability continue to influence our food system" in the end "it’s flavor that sells food." Oh and spritzes. They're gonna be a thing per the NRA, unlike pickle pizza, fried lasagna, and fruit-flavored coffees, which I mercifully hadn't heard of before but which are apparently on the wane.

Mintel Group Ltd., has long been a major player in the prophecy biz, analyzing consumer behavior to help food and beverage businesses anticipate the wants and needs of their clientele. Mintel's analysts pulled data from 36 global markets, product launches from their new products database, and their own proprietary data science and analytics tools to create the Global Food & Drink Trends 2023. These include, in part, provisions that can help people endure extreme weather and natural disasters, foods and drinks that optimize mental performance, packaging with a clear and minimalist design, and perhaps most intriguingly, food inspired by space exploration. "As Earth endures more chaos, space will become a source of optimism, innovation and connection," the report says. 

They're pros. I dig it. But here's what I'd like to see happening on Earth in 2023.

The Harvey Wallbanger and Other Fern Bar Cocktails

If the Espresso Martini can make a comeback, so can the Harvey Wallbanger (essentially a Screwdriver with a float of Galliano, an Italian liqueur), the Salty Dog (vodka and grapefruit juice served in a glass with a salted rim), the Lemon Drop (a Martini with lemon juice and Cointreau), the Piña Colada, and plenty of other '70s and '80s singles bar staples that are easy, breezy, delicious, and don't take 20 minutes to craft when the bar is already backed up. I'm personally holding out for the Strega Sour ascendance but that may just be me manifesting my #CroneEra.

Wiggly Food

Aspics, molded salads and desserts, oeufs en gelée, Jell-O shots — if they wiggle, I will giggle, guaranteed. These throwback dishes provide dinner and a show, and I can't tell you how incredibly soothing and brain-smoothing I find slow-mo TikTok/Instagram accounts like @adventuresinjelly to be when I'm in need of an emotional lift. #jello TikTok can tend toward the outrageous and icky, but I'm hoping for an uptick in home and restaurant chefs who embrace the serenity and elegance of gelatin so that I may feast on some bonus serotonin.

Compostable and Reusable Carryout

I already feel terrible for relying on takeout and delivery food as much as I do, but that's compounded further by the waste it generates in my recycling bin. Yes, I reuse and upcycle as many of the containers as I can, but it feels like a drop in the litter-strewn ocean. In 2023, I'm doing my level best to cook more, but I'm also keeping an eye on services like Deliver Zero, which allows customers to order food from restaurants in returnable, reusable containers, and noting which other spots have opted for compostable, or minimal packaging.

Sustainability for Hospitality Workers

As the meme goes, if it sucks, hit da bricks. The pandemic and its resultant staffing shortage caused those who remained in the industry to take a look at their workplace with fresh eyes. Many of them had been conditioned to accept exhausting or even abusive conditions at a bare minimum wage because well, that's just how it is, and there weren't really better alternatives. With a labor market that was suddenly in their favor, workers were able to explore more lucrative opportunities that had never been available to them before, and owners realized pretty quickly that the better they treated their staff, the longer they'd stick around. In 2023, I'm hoping to get so blissfully bored by seeing the same faces over and over at the host stand, working the floor, behind the bar, and behind the kitchen door at my favorite haunts as I eat my CBD-infused mushroom-and-anchovy kelp pasta and swig a tall upcycled glass of space-oat milk.  

Flambeed Dishes and Drinks

I just really like fire.

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