12 Hottest Food Trends Of 2022

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the food trends of 2022 is that quite a few of them have been in the works for a while. In fact, almost none are completely original to 2022, yet they have still gathered plenty of momentum and evolved to become something new and exciting. Some trends, like baked oats and cloud bread, take their inspiration from older recipes that have been transformed by home cooks on social media. Meanwhile, charcuterie boards are as popular as ever, but people's interests are being sparked by a new variation known as the butter board.

Meanwhile, other food trends of 2022 are about new laws and changing demand. So, while things like oat milk and cannabis-infused foods have been around for decades, they're only now poised to become seriously profitable. As we take a closer look at all the intricacies of the food fads of 2022, it's likely we're also looking at the new normal. So, buckle up and get ready to see the future as it will play out at the grocery store and in your kitchen.

Ghost kitchens are still popping up everywhere

Ghost kitchens first appeared during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic when people were staying away from in-person restaurants, only going through drive-thrus, or opting for food delivery. Some ghost kitchens actually cook for multiple brands to appeal to a wider variety of customers. To the public eye, these delivery-only restaurants live solely online, often partnering with existing food delivery companies like DoorDash to get food to your door, as per Eater. So, if you're looking for a ghost kitchen, you'll most easily find one by scrolling through your delivery app.

Despite the ethereal name, many of these virtual restaurants actually operate out of local brick-and-mortar establishments. Shawn Broaddus, owner of Broaddus Burgers in Lafayette, Louisiana, told the Acadiana Advocate that it's one way to keep his kitchen moving and employees working. When there's a rush, he says, someone can simply pause the ghost kitchen option until they reach a lull. Other ghost kitchens operate out of smaller spaces, saving money on rent, utilities, and staffing (via NY Engineers).

Virtual restaurants are expected to grow 12.5% every year, reaching a market of $13.97 billion by 2030 (via Market Research Future). It's so profitable that companies like MealOutpost and Nextbite now pay restaurants to host specific ghost kitchen brands. Nextbite CEO Alex Canter says many ghost restaurants have transitioned to a model that still relies on delivery but with an in-person walkup option, too (via Nation's Restaurant News).

More people are embracing plant-based foods

Plant-based food products are becoming increasingly popular. According to Soylent, 10% of adults in the US follow either a vegan or vegetarian diet. However, it's not just vegetarians and vegans who are eating plant-based foods. According to a survey by Kroger and the Plant Based Foods Institute, 95% of consumers have been buying more or the same amount of plant-based foods over the course of 2021. Not only are people buying more plant-based foods, but they're decreasing their animal-based foods intake, according to Supermarket News. In the six months before April 2022, 40% of shoppers had purchased plant-based meat or dairy product alternatives (via Supermarket News). Meanwhile, more people have searched for plant-based foods on Google in 2022 than ever before.

Vegan restaurants and restaurants with plant-based foods on the menu have been on the rise, too, as per Forbes. The Slutty Vegan fast food chain has become so successful that it's now valued at $100 million (via Bloomberg). Owner Pinky Cole sees it as a rival to Burger King and has plans to open at least three locations in each state (via Fortune).

Oat milk is growing in popularity

As recently as five years ago, oat milk was barely on anyone's radar, though the popular brand Oatly has been around since 1994 (via FoodHack). Instead, people tended to buy soy milk or almond milk. While almond milk still reigns supreme in the non-dairy world, oat milk has swiftly moved up to the second-place spot (via Food Navigator).

Food Navigator says that sales of traditional dairy milk alternatives like almond and soy milk have declined in 2022. Meanwhile, both oat milk and pea milk have grown in popularity. Pea milk has increased by 27.37% to $60.13 million in sales, which places it in the fifth position above rice milk and cashew milk. However, oat milk's 50.52% increase in popularity had already brought in $527.44 million by the middle of 2002.

Part of oat milk's success lies in the fact that it's creamier than other non-dairy milk, so it has a mouthfeel that is much closer to cow's milk. Plus, it froths well when you steam it to create the perfect cappuccino microfoam (via Refinery29). Thus, it's become an especially popular coffee drink base.

Non-alcoholic beverages are on the rise

Interest in non-alcoholic beverages has risen recently, thanks in part to teetotaling movements like Dry January. Around 20% of the U.S. population said they were participating in Dry January in 2022 by abstaining from or reducing alcoholic beverages for the month. This figure was up 13% from 2021 (via Morning Consult). A larger percentage of Generation Z and Millenials participated in Dry January than older generations, according to New Food.

Between August 2001 and August 2022, sales of mock alcoholic beverages increased by over 20%. Non-alcoholic beer has been the most popular, racking up $328.6 million in sales, according to NielsenIQ. Non-alcoholic wine is second-most popular, making $52.04 million (up 23.2% from 2021). While alcohol-free liquors only accounted for $5.03 million in sales in 2021, their popularity has increased by a staggering 88.4%. 

Meanwhile, more people are searching for information about mocktails in the U.S. on Google than ever before. As the trend continues, you'll likely find more mock alcohol beverages in stores and restaurants, though currently, the most convenient way to find them is via the internet. For many, the best part of buying alcohol-free beverages online is that there aren't any pesky state-based liquor laws to consider.

Butter boards are the latest take on charcuterie

Though they've been around for a while, charcuterie boards have continued to stay popular through 2022 (via Google Trends). Why stop there? Butter boards weren't entirely new when recipe developer Justine Doiron first posted her version of one on TikTok in the fall of 2022, hoping that it would become the next popular form of charcuterie — which it did, as per Google Trends.

If you're raising an eyebrow at the concept, butter boards are not as horrifying as they may sound. Instead of a serving of greasy saturated fats, a butter board is really a fresh take on bread and butter meant to serve a group. The board Doiron introduced to the world was a beautiful creation full of fresh ingredients, including flaky salt, lemon zest, red onion, cilantro, edible flowers, and honey. She served the result on a wooden cutting board alongside freshly-baked brown bread.

Doiron's herby butter board was a springboard for other creations. As the TikTok went viral, it inspired others to combine butter with a variety of fresh and dried ingredients. Intrigued? Making the perfect butter board simply involves using good quality butter and a mix of flavors and textures to create variety. Overall, the occasional butter board is less expensive than standard charcuterie, since traditional boards rely on more expensive ingredients like meats and cheeses.

Climate-friendly food is trending

In 2022, consumers have been seeking out more climate-friendly foods that pose the least amount of harm to the environment. They've also turned to more sustainable foods that actively provide environmental benefits, like local sustainable foods such as whole grains. The Whole Grains Council explains that it takes far less water to grow whole grains than meat products. Beans and lentils have a carbon footprint that's 50% less than winter wheat (via University of Sheffield). However, people looking for more climate-friendly foods also have meat options, as The Washington Post reports that venison is one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly meats available. Meanwhile, rope-grown mollusks can be both tasty and help create habitats for other sea life (via BBC).

Upcycling is one of the next sustainable food trends, too. Food companies engaging in upcycling usefood they would normally throw away, like ugly and bruised food or stems and leaves (via Forbes). According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the world wastes 1.3 billion tons of food every year. In the U.S., food waste produces 170 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to the output of 42 coal power plants (via USDA). If you want to find companies that are responsibly upcycling food, check out the Upcycled Food Association's list of upcycled certified products.

Pink Sauce is the latest dipping trend

In June 2022, Miami-based private chef Carly Pii introduced the world to Pink Sauce in a viral TikTok, where she casually dips her fried chicken into a concoction that looks like bright pink paint. People first speculated as to whether it was perhaps ranch dressing that had been dyed an obscene color of pink. It wasn't long before her TikTok was nothing but Pink Sauce, which she declared edible and natural. The sauce officially launched on July 1, 2022 (via TikTok). Since Pii introduced Pink Sauce, it's garnered 599.8 million TikTok views (via CNBC).

Unfortunately, Pii seemingly forgot that she might need to get the sauce approved by the FDA before she began selling it, as Forbes noted. Oops. This kerfuffle resulted in a fake pink sauce-related death and very real FDA agents visiting her house to inspect her kitchen, to Pii's great annoyance, as she told VICE.

The current FDA-approved incarnation of Pink Sauce is more orange than pink, contains dragon fruit, and is sold by Dave's Gourmet. Despite all the hype, VICE came down hard, saying that it's little more than an extra-sour and salty version of ranch dressing. Despite its viral success and now guaranteed-safe production process, you may still prefer to try Pink Sauce at your own risk.

Caviar bumps have become a luxury menu item

If you've ever done a tequila shot and licked salt off the back of your hand as a chaser, you're already halfway to understanding caviar bumps. The idea is to place a spoonful of caviar on the back of your hand and then lick it off. In 2022, it's become all the rage to eat this expensive delicacy off your hand. It's the fancy, antithetical answer to the bother of charcuterie boards, given that you can serve it up with nothing more complicated than a spoon.

As lifestyle expert Kristen Shirley told the New York Times, "If you put caviar on blinis or chips or put chives or red onion on it, it masks the flavor. Why are you eating something that costs $200 an ounce just for it to taste like red onion?" Eating caviar plain is also how caviar specialists have traditionally sampled the dish to determine which variety they will buy.

While you can find caviar bumps on the menu in some locations, it's a secret menu item in others. Temple Bar in New York City offers it for $20 with a side of sake, but only if you know to ask for it (via Eater).

Cannabis-infused foods are on the rise

As of Election Day 2022, 21 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana, while 37 have legalized medical marijuana to some degree (via CNET). Only South Carolina, Kansas, Wyoming, and Idaho still consider cannabis illegal in every form (via DISA). With more states legalizing some form of cannabis every year, marijuana edibles and CBD-infused foods have become increasingly popular. Cannabis edible sales are projected to top $4.8 billion by the end of 2022, with the industry growing to over $8.2 billion by 2025, according to Statista.

With so many cannabis foods on the market, there's no need to endure the skunky smell of marijuana smoke or rely solely on magic brownies for your cannabis hit. Dispensaries now offer a variety of pre-packaged foods that include baked goods, lollipops, and gummies (via Denver Health). You're no longer limited to sweet treats for cannabis consumption, either. A variety of drinks now contain cannabis, such as seltzers, teas, and juices, as well as drink mixes to add to your favorite beverage at home. Cannabis-infused oils and seasoning packets allow you to cook with this ingredient, too. Plus, plenty of savory foods are available, including baked pretzels, cheese biscuits, and peanut butter (via Verilife). With so many ways to consume cannabis legally, dinner parties with weed-infused foods and cocktails are no longer necessarily underground events.

People are replacing grain-based bread with cloud bread

If you've ever followed low-carb diets, you've likely run across a cloud bread recipe that's meant to take the place of more carbohydrate-heavy wheat bread. TikTok user @Linqanaaa brought cloud bread to wider attention back in 2020 when many of us were stuck at home and trying pandemic-era food trends like whipped Dalgona coffee. Her version of cloud bread is supremely simple, containing only egg whites, sugar, and cornstarch. The result is more like a fluffy dessert bread than a savory bun.

While Dalgona coffee has become a distant, quarantine memory for most foodies, cloud bread seems to be here to stay. According to CNBC, cloud bread was the top TikTok food trend of 2022, with 3.4 billion views. Home cooks are still working with the basic cloud bread recipe, adding a variety of new colors, flavors, and ingredients. If you're ready to switch it up, go savory with herbs, garlic, and onion powder. As for sweet cloud bread entries, flavors like vanilla and strawberry aren't out of the question, as well as toppings like slivered almonds or whimsical sprinkles.

Kiosks are taking over for human cashiers

If you've visited a Taco Bell recently, you may have been surprised to find self-serve kiosks partially or even completely replacing more standard human cashiers. In locations without a cashier, most restaurants have completely removed the overhead menus. Instead, you're meant to walk in, place your order on a touch screen, pay, and then wait for your food to be ready.

Sure, menu kiosks might make it easier to personalize your favorite menu items, but the truth is that this trend is a corporate-based move that is all about maximizing profits. That's because you're more likely to pay a little extra for an add-on or see something on the menu that catches your own, even if you originally didn't intend to purchase it. In fact, Harvard Business Review says that restaurants like Taco Bell, Chili's, and McDonald's have all reported just such customer behavior, not to mention sales increases between 20% and 30%. 

When restaurants fully commit to the kiosk model, then it stands that they will no longer have to pay cashiers or even find someone willing to work amidst a historic labor shortage. Moreover, in 2020, a single kiosk cost about $10,000. In 2022, they're a far more afforadable $2,500 (via Retail Customer Experience). The kiosk industry is expected to grow 13.6% per year in the U.S. and will likely grow from $2.4 billion in 2021 to $4.6 billion by 2026 (via BCC Research).

Baked oats have become a breakfast phenomenon

Oatmeal has been touted for years as a healthy breakfast food, and for good reason. It's one of the most nutrient-dense foods that you can grab off grocery store shelves, containing manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and B vitamins, among a long list of other nutrients. People often eat it to help reduce their cholesterol and blood sugar, while it also allows many diners to feel full all morning (via Healthline). However, not everyone is a fan of oatmeal in its gloopy, porridge state. And even if you've resorted to eating oats as granola or overnight oats, a change is always nice. So, it's no wonder baked oats have garnered an eye-popping 1.3 billion views in 2022 (via CNBC).

Baked oats are another food trend that started in 2020 and which has only gotten more popular in 2022. Take Jazmin Tyler, who first shared her recipe for berry baked oatmeal on TikTok in June 2022. She got the idea from other TikToks, to be fair, but it was her particular recipe that went viral. Even without any sugar in the mix, she told Yahoo! Life that her baked oatmeal tastes like dessert. The idea naturally sparked a variety of copycats and innovations that make it clear this recipe is ready for innovation. Now, you can find everything from cinnamon roll and birthday cake variations, to chocolate chip and Nutella baked oats.