3 Flavor Trends to Spice Up Your Menu in 2019

A chef finishes off a colorful dish with a red sauce.
2019 is the year to be bold with your menu. Use these three flavor trends to appeal to today's adventurous and health-conscious consumers.

The new year is always a great time to try something different, like an edgy hairdo, trendy exercise routine or hip diet. And speaking of diets, consumers from all generations are beginning to seek out new flavor trends this year.

More people are looking to improve their health and wellness with new "superfoods." At the same time, palates are becoming more adventurous, and diners are eager to try dishes with ethnic spice blends or rich, umami tastes.

As consumers shift toward cuisine that experiments with bold colors, exotic spices and superfoods in 2019, how can your foodservice organization satisfy these adventurous and health-conscious desires? Try incorporating these three flavor trends into your cuisine for a menu that will appeal to a wide range of consumers all year long.

1. Earthy, Umami Tastes

Umami refers to the fifth taste group, after sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Often associated with Japanese foods and other ethnic dishes, umami is a satisfying, savory flavor with broad appeal.

The richest umami foods include dried shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes, miso, green tea, Parmesan cheese, kombu or nori seaweed and nutritional yeast. Try this flavor trend out in traditional dishes like sun-dried tomato pesto with pasta or steak and white button mushrooms. Or consider a new take on Asian-inspired dishes like miso ramen to appeal to guests eager for Eastern cuisine.

2. Ethnic Spices

Exotic spices such as turmeric, sumac, ginger and cinnamon, as well as spice blends like harissa and garam masala, create complex, exciting flavors.

Turmeric can be used fresh or dried to create a golden hue and intense flavor in beverages and desserts as well as savory foods like hummus or curried chicken. It also works well in vegan dishes like a tofu scramble or a bean dip.

Sumac, a Middle Eastern spice, adds both citrusy and salty flavors to foods. Its deep red color makes a feast for the eyes when dusted on beans, feta cheese, seafood, poultry and popcorn. And Harissa, a North African spice blend made with smoked red peppers, spices up almost anything.

There are many variations of the Indian spice blend garam masala, but in general, this mix of smoked and ground spices works best when used sparingly on lentils, soups and grain-based bowls.

3. Tropical Fruit Flavors

Tropical fruits like açaí berries (pronounced ah-sigh-EE), pitaya (aka dragon fruit) and jackfruit are becoming the stars of trendy café plates and are being bought up by health-conscious consumers. These delicious foods — which shine in breakfast bowls, smoothies, sandwiches and more — are often referred to as "superfoods" because they're brimming with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.

Açaí berries, which come from palm trees, are a trendy ingredient for the health- and environmentally-conscious consumer. They're available to purchase whole, dried or as frozen pulp or dried powder, and are perfect for smoothies or fruit bowls.

Pitaya can also be bought whole and has a mildly sweet flavor that's a cross between a pear and a kiwi. It's refreshing on top of oatmeal, and the red-pulp variety adds an exotic color and flavor to seasonal fruit salads and fruit-based puddings.

The jackfruit — that enormous yellow (when ripe) or green (when unripe), oblong fruit with a bumpy exterior — contains large edible seeds and pale, stringy pods of flesh. When roasted or boiled, the seeds mimic chestnuts in both taste and texture. The fleshy parts of the fruit are as sweet as pineapple when eaten ripe. When unripe, it can be marinated or seasoned, then cooked for a tasty addition to savory dishes like chili or tacos. Jackfruit is available fresh, canned, vacuum-sealed, dried and frozen.

Incorporating modern flavor trends and unique ingredients into your menu is an easy way to appeal to the modern customer's desire to stay healthy while trying adventurous dishes. Apply these flavor trends to your offerings to liven up your menu and give today's guests what they want.