Pistachios are the nut of the year, flavoring everything from pesto to sweets. (Dreamstime)

Pistachios are the nut of the year, flavoring everything from pesto to sweets. (Dreamstime)

What will you be cooking in 2023? Here are some predictions

This year’s trends include the comeback of a deli meat, purple sweet potatoes, pistachios in everything and cabbage as the new green of choice.

  • By Nicole Hvidsten Star Tribune
  • Friday, January 13, 2023 1:30am
  • Food & Drink

By Nicole Hvidsten / Star Tribune

Forecasting is a gamble in any industry.Meteorologists are at the mercy of Mother Nature’s whims. Sports predictors can go from first to worst (or vice versa) as teams weather injuries and personal dynamics. And in food? Consumers’ fickle shopping and dining habits and changing demographics make forecasting trends more difficult than finding cream cheese before the holidays. But that’s what makes it interesting.

National media companies, grocery wholesalers and food and restaurant consultants all have unveiled their predictions for this year, and we’ve combed through them to create our own list of what to expect.

Plant-based eating

Global food and restaurant consultants Baum + Whiteman cited the 10% drop in supermarket sales of faux meat in the past year as evidence that popularity of certain plant-based food is waning. Price, taste and growing skepticism about the health benefits, as well as complicated ingredient lists that show just how processed some of those foods can be, are all part of the reason.

But don’t mistake that trend for a lack of interest in eating less meat or veganism. Home cooks continue to look for ways to prepare plant-based meals, and the cookbook industry has released a barrage of books to help you make vegetable-forward meals part of your routine.

We’re still in search of plant-based alternatives, too. The desire to preserve the bee population has led to increased demand for honey alternatives. Expect new products to hit the market as well as revisiting centuries-old ingredients, like date syrup. (Better Homes and Gardens also predicts dates will have a resurgence in popularity.) And the search for plant-based egg products has a new local player with AcreMade, which produces its powdered substitute from pea protein.

Noodling around

In the pasta department, make room in your pantry for more gluten-free options, including what Better Homes and Gardens predicts will be a new wave of plant-based pasta alternatives to boost our vegetable and fruit intake. Add to chickpea and spinach pasta versions made from spaghetti squash, beets, hearts of palm and more. If your choice of pasta is cacio de pepe, hold up: Its overuse has made it passe.

The popularity of noodles made from fresh ingredients is staying, so that spiralizer purchase was definitely warranted.

Ingredients of the year

Baum + Whiteman have declared mortadella as the deli meat of the year, calling it a “signifier of sophistication and respectability.” In addition to piling it on top of sandwiches, expect to see it as part of meatballs, on top of pizza and as a nostalgic representation on charcuterie boards. The company also wondered if, when cut thick and fried, it could become the next Spam. (Minnesotans know that nothing can take the place of Spam.)

Look for crema to have its moment. The spreadable condiment that’s popular in Italy — think of it as a béchamel type of sauce that’s different from Mexican crema — is often served at room temperature, flavoring sandwiches, pastas, salads, sauces and charcuterie boards. Make your own or buy jars of flavored crema, from pepper to pistachio.

Speaking of pistachio, it’s been declared the nut of the year. Pistachios are replacing pine nuts in pesto, are paired with ricotta in filled pasta and are increasingly found in sweets, including several past winners of the Star Tribune’s Holiday Cookie Contest.

The Food Network tapped tamarind as its ingredient of the year, fueling the demand for bold, unique flavors. Its global roots make it popular in cuisines from Africa as well as Mexican, Indian and Southeast Asian food. Last summer we saw Doritos’ Tangy Tamarind Crunch, and Google searches for Banderilla Tama Roca Tamarindo Mexican Candy Sticks grew 5,000% last year, catapulting it to viral status.

The New York Times named the ube the tuber of the year. The look of the vanilla-scented purple yam from the Philippines is unmistakable — it’s the base of an ice cream at Fletcher’s as well as the popular ube pancakes at St. Paul’s Kalsada that have captured the hearts, taste buds and Instagram feeds of local diners.

Cabbage will usurp kale as the green of choice, and watch for an uptick in demand for chocolate ice cream.

Matters of the heart

Several trend watchers noticed that cooks (and manufacturers) are paying attention to environmental issues. Reducing waste and conservation are among the top priorities. Cooks will see more products being packaged as powders or pastes, allowing companies to save on shipping costs, greenhouse gases and water use. Where consumers once looked for terms like organic and sugar-free, they’re now also looking for upcycling, net-zero and regenerative farming. Makers who are value-based or mission-driven are becoming more popular, too, according to a survey by grocery retailer FreshDirect.

The next big appliance

In the appliance aisle, combination ovens remain the rage, with steam ovens being at the top of the list — and even boosting home sale prices. Taking things outside, live-fire cooking, and outdoor cooking in general, continues to grow. Grilling, campfire cooking and spit roasting remains popular with both home cooks and chefs, as proven by Yia Vang’s digital Food Network Series “Stoked” and Andrew Zimmern’s “Wild Game Kitchen” for the Outdoor Channel. And home cooks are building their outdoor cooking oases with pizza ovens, Blackstone griddles and smokers.

Mealtime and menu trends

If you haven’t hopped on the charcuterie bandwagon, there’s still time — that trend isn’t going anywhere. (Restaurants are seizing on it, too, with the East Coast seeing fast-casual restaurants like Kured becoming the Chipotle of charcuterie.) Ditto butter boards, which have become party staples. Will we be seeing honey boards or nut butter boards soon?

According to the Food Network, a twist of nostalgia will be on the menu. We’ve already seen it with last year’s Dirty Shirley (a boozy Shirley Temple), but look for cooks and restaurants to focus on simpler times: s’mores-flavored foods, hand pies, pizza — this one is at the whim of a cook. Homespun Midwestern food also gets a trendy nod (think cowboy caviar), and so does the Minnesota State Fair, which was called out for its pickle pizza.

Both at home and on menus, fusion cuisine still reigns. Scallion pancakes will be used in non-Chinese dishes, and dumplings and churros will also see multicultural creativity. Cooks will be looking to re-create restaurant recipes, but will “veganize” them. Fans of fried cheese (and who isn’t) will be happy that the perennial appetizer will once again be in vogue, but with fontina and fresh mozzarella as the cheese of choice.

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