As the plant-based eating movement continues to grow, more and more restaurants are expanding and enhancing their plant-based menu offerings. Today, you can get a taste of the hottest plant-based food trends at a wide variety of food service establishments all around the country, from high-end restaurants to local fast-casual chains. Some of the most popular trends you’re likely to see on a menu near you include:
1. Unexpected, “healthy” desserts
Plant-based eaters are often very health conscious, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t appreciate the occasional sweet treat. In response, a range of food service and food manufacturing companies have launched “healthy” plant-based desserts that are designed to satisfy a sweet tooth while minimizing the use of undesirable ingredients like refined sugars and, of course, avoiding any animal products.
Interestingly, these sweet indulgences often feature somewhat unorthodox ingredients—think bean-based brownies and blondies, avocado ice cream, and hummus milkshakes.
2. Oat milk
Move over, almond and soy: oat milk is rapidly becoming the most popular plant-based milk on the market, and it’s not difficult to see why. Safe for consumers who have allergies to soy or nuts, oat milk not only offers plenty of healthy soluble fiber and protein, but it boasts a smooth, ultra-creamy texture that makes it ideal for applications like specialty coffees and dairy-free ice cream.
3. Gut-friendly foods
Consumer interest in what is known as the “gut microbiome” (the name for the population of microorganisms that live in and help take care of the gastrointestinal tract) has greatly increased in recent years. This is due in large part to a growing body of scientific research that has made links between the gut microbiome and many other aspects of our health and well-being, such as our metabolism, weight, immune system functioning, and mood.
Consequently, foods that are “good for the gut” are becoming increasingly popular, and many of these are plant-based. Some of the best-known examples of gut-friendly, plant-based foods include fermented foods and beverages like kimchi (Korean-style fermented cabbage) and kombucha (a type of fermented tea).
Many plant-based foodies have declared mushrooms to be the “it” food of 2019. Long a popular ingredient in plant-based cuisine due to their wonderful flavor, texture, and versatility, mushrooms have now moved from the fringes to the mainstream and are enjoyed today by plant-based and carnivorous eaters alike. Furthermore, their applications go far beyond burgers and stir-fry; chefs around the country have been using mushrooms to replicate everything from scallops to satay to bacon.
5. Better faux meat
While some plant-based eaters are happiest working their way through a salad, others miss the taste, texture, and mouthfeel of meat. To appeal to these consumers, as well as to the many others who do not exclusively eat a plant-based diet but are nevertheless interested in reducing their meat consumption, chefs and food producers have been hard at work creating faux meat options that far surpass yesterday’s bland tofu hotdogs.
The two companies that have had the most transformative effect on the meat alternative sector are Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. Their plant-based “meat” products, which include everything from burgers to tacos, are wildly popular with all kinds of eaters, as they deliver on great taste as well as values in a way that few faux meat options have before.
Interestingly, the “faux meat” category is rapidly expanding to include more seafood options as well. Plant-based seafood products like fishless tuna and plant-based shrimp are becoming much more widely available. In addition, a range of snack products that evoke seafood flavors while also delivering omega-3s and other important seafood-associated nutrients are hitting the market. Why not try some dulse bacon or kelp noodles?
6. Vegan cheese
Like faux meat, vegan cheese is another plant-based substitute for an animal protein product that is seeing its popularity soar. Thanks to advances in production processes, it’s now possible for companies to fabricate many different types of plant-based cheeses, from firmer options to softer, spreadable styles. These are popping up on restaurant menus in all kinds of dishes, from comfort foods like grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni & cheese to tasty toppings for sophisticated salads.
7. Healthy fats
For plant-based eaters, “fat” does not have the same negative connotations that it once did. On the contrary, highly popular eating patterns like the keto diet embrace certain types of healthy, unsaturated fats. Many of these—such as avocados and avocado oil, nuts and seeds, olives and olive oil, and coconut and unrefined coconut oil—are already an important part of a plant-based diet, as they offer vital nutrients that plant-based eaters are not getting from animal protein sources. Restaurants are working these healthy fats into all kinds of creative dishes, from keto salad bowls to coconut bacon.