6 Ingredients that Will Be on Every Menu in 2020

The year is drawing to a close. That means it’s prediction time! What will be the must-have menu ingredients in the first year of the new decade? 

Some trends from 2019 are still riding their wave (hello, CBD!). But there are some food items that are going to have their own moment in the coming year.

One consistent theme in 2020? Health and sustainability. Next year’s trends are big on reducing the ecological impact of the food and restaurant industry, while also providing maximum nutritional benefit to the consumer. 

Read on for the ingredients that you’re about to see everywhere in the new year!

1. Plants, plants, plants

With people more concerned than ever about the environment, health, and animal rights, plant-based diets are a natural outcome. 

2019 brought us the rise of meat substitutes like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat. These ingredients have shown many restaurateurs that there’s a big market for meat-free dishes. Those alternatives will continue to be popular, with fast-food chains like Burger King hopping on the bandwagon with their Impossible Whopper. 

But 2020 will bring a new focus on hearty, healthy veggies, instead of just meat substitutes. People want to eat real, nourishing food. So it’s time for veggies to be the star of the show. And remember, many of these diners aren’t full-time vegans. They’re Flexitarians who are trying to limit their intake of animal products. 

How you can stay on-trend? Make sure your plant-based offerings aren’t an afterthought. Don’t just sub out the chicken for some tofu. Instead, source high-quality produce that can be the star of the show. Provide a few well-thought-out vegan entrees to earn a reputation as a place where all diets are welcome.

2. Wild mushrooms

Wild mushrooms have a little mystery that restaurant-goers find irresistible. They have to be found and foraged, instead of grown. And the expertise required to identify the safe species from the poisonous is literally a matter of life and death. 

These adaptable fungi will be found in entrees, appetizers, and even some drinks in the coming year. Their meatiness makes them a great substitute for animal protein. And their glutamate levels add richness and umami without increased sodium. 

Chanterelle, trumpet, Lion’s Mane, reishi, and maitake mushrooms are just some of the species that we’ll be seeing on menus in 2020. 

3. Alternative Greens

It’s time to switch up our salads. There are fresh, interesting greens coming to a restaurant menu near you. Consumers are ready to ditch the romaine and iceberg in favor of leafy alternatives. With recent concerns about the safety of these overdone lettuces all over the news, the shift is a timely one. 

One of these interesting greens is celtuce. While it sounds like a hybrid of lettuce and celery, it’s actually a naturally occurring veggie, native to China. The leaves and stem are both edible, with a slightly nutty flavor. The stem can retain its crunch, even after cooking. It makes a great substitute for celery or cucumbers. 

Another great option is Little Gem. This small lettuce tastes like a cross between romaine and butter lettuce. It has thick, juicy leaves that are more substantial than romaine. It’s perfect for salads or sandwiches. 

Also, keep an eye out for kale sprouts. This kale/brussel sprouts hybrid make a great side dish when sauteed with garlic and oil. 

4. Sustainable Seafood

Sustainable seafood has been a hot button issue for quite a while. Concerns about overfishing and bycatch have increased interest in sustainable fishing practices and species. 

Sustainability can include both farming and fishing methods. People have traditionally been wary of farmed fish. The process can contaminate surrounding waterways. Plus, fish can escape their pens, causing damage to the food chain and ecosystem. But there are reputable fish farms out there focused on production in an eco-friendly way. For example, recirculating tanks re-use water and prevent pollution and escape. 

Wild fishing methods have varying degrees of sustainability. Dredges and large nets can damage the seafloor environment and catch other species on accident. But longlines and trolling lines catch fish individually, reducing the number of unwanted species that get caught and allowing for their release. 

Expect to see an increase in smaller seafood species like turbot, uni, and abalone in the coming year. These smaller species take less time to reach maturity, meaning it’s easier to fish them in a sustainable way. They can also be better for consumers. By eating lower on the food chain, you reduce the amount of harmful mercury that you’d get in a larger species like tuna. 

Consumers are aware of the fragility of the oceans and want to feel like they’re contributing to the solution, rather than the problem. So an increase in sustainable species and cultivation methods will be a draw in 2020. 

For more information about sustainable seafood, visit Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. This website is a wonderful resource for fish types and catching methods that help restaurants and consumers to make eco-friendly choices.

5. Functional Beverages

It’s not enough for drinks to taste good. We want them to work for us, too. Drinks with a purpose will be all the rage in 2020. Kombucha and other fermented drinks are said to promote a healthy gut biome. Turmeric lattes may be able to help reduce inflammation. Collagen powder added to coffee or smoothies may improve the health of hair, skin, and nails. 

Moon milk is also gaining popularity. This drink contains delicious spices like cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, and nutmeg. But it’s the ashwagandha — a member of the nightshade family — that is said to help with everything from arthritis to anxiety. 

Spirulina, CBD, chlorophyll, bee pollen — all of these health aides will see a spike on restaurant menus in the coming year. The actual efficacy of these ingredients is still up for debate in scientific circles. But as far as customers are concerned, the possible benefits of these functional beverages are worth the extra cost. 

6. Low- and No-ABV Drinks

Technically this is an ingredient that will be missing from menus in 2020. And that ingredient is alcohol.

Many people are noticing a shift in the way people think about a night out. Rather than using any restaurant meal as an excuse to imbibe, many people are focusing more on the social aspect of their meal and avoiding the alcohol altogether. This “sober curious” movement has encouraged customers to try not reaching for that glass of wine every time they get together with their friends.

The result has been an increase in low ABV cocktails and mocktails on drink menus. These drinks still feature premium ingredients like fruit purees and herbs. They can still feel indulgent without the alcohol. 

There’s even a non-alcoholic spirit on the market called Seedlip. The varieties of this distilled non-liquor have herbal, citrus, and floral notes to mimic some of the most popular spirits normally used in cocktails. They add depth of flavor without the common impaired judgment of alcohol. 

Happy New Year!

Get in on next year’s trends by looking for interesting and sustainable alternatives to some of your current ingredients. Can you swap out hand caught yellowfin tuna for its overfished bluefin cousin? Source some Little Gem lettuce to replace that boring romaine? Replace a meat-focused entree with some cleverly cooked veggies?

Food trends for 2020 are all about doing good — good for your body and good for the planet. It’s amazing how often those two things coincide.

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