The 30 biggest food trends of the last decade

Activated charcoal and meat alternatives are two of the many trends that defined the 2010s.

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Activated charcoal and meat alternatives are two of the many trends that defined the 2010s.
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Insider

Rainbow bagels and pastries changed the way we eat dessert.

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The rainbow bagel with cream cheese and rainbow sprinkles.
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Max Bartick/SpoonUniversity

Instagram and other social-media platforms have opened the doors for more and more photogenic foods – and nothing is more photogenic than a rainbow-colored bagel.


Avocado toast has become synonymous with the 2010s and millennials.

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Avocado toast.
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AlexPro9500/iStock

Avocado toast is exactly what it sounds like – simply smashed avocado spread on toast. It often comes with eggs and spices.


Milk alternatives such as oat milk, soy milk, and various nut milk have spiked in popularity.

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A carton of oat milk from Oatly.
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Hollis Johnson/INSIDER

Whether it’s more conscious consumers worried about the environmental impact of the dairy industry or those who choose to stay away from dairy for health or ethical reasons, one thing is clear – milk alternatives are here to stay.


Acai bowls topped with granola and fresh fruit became a popular wellness trend.

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A loaded acai bowl.
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Oksana Mizina/Shutterstock

Pronounced “ah-sah-ee,” the acai bowl craze spawned the popular chain Playa Bowls, which now has 65 locations.


Kombucha has cemented itself as a popular health drink.

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A conveyor belt filled with Health-Ade Kombucha bottles.
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INSIDER

Kombucha is made by fermenting tea, often infused with other flavors. In fact, because of the fermentation process, kombucha is slightly alcoholic, coming in at less than 0.5% ABV.


Activated charcoal turned everything from ice cream to cocktails black.

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Ice cream dyed black with activated charcoal.
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Shutterstock

At one point in the 2010s, foods made with activated charcoal began to replace those popular rainbow items. Everything from ice cream to cocktails was being made with the ingredient, and it was even the center of the “50 Shades of Charcoal” festival in the summer of 2018.

It has since been banned as a food additive in New York City.


Matcha, a specific kind of green tea, is known for its health benefits and vivid green color.

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A matcha latte.
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Pixabay

Matcha has been around for centuries, but the fad food began taking over menus and Instagram feeds around 2016. The flavor was soon incorporated in everything from candy to baked goods.


Poke bowls usually feature raw fish, rice, and various vegetables.

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A poke bowl with red onion, cucumber, salmon, masago, edamame, and sesame seeds.
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iStock

The dish was everywhere in the summer of 2016, with Hawaiian restaurants popping up all over New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, and several other cities.


Elaborate cocktail creations also hit the scene across the country, including smoked cocktails.

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A smoked cocktail at a bar in Portland, Maine.
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Portland Press Herald / Contributor

Many mixologists choose to impart a smoky flavor into their cocktails by burning different herbs and wood chips in or around the glass.


Meat alternatives, such as the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Meat burger, have turned the fast-food industry on its head.

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The Impossible Burger “bleeds” like real beef.
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Impossible Foods

Burger King’s Impossible Whopper and Dunkin’s Beyond Meat breakfast sandwich are two examples of fast-food companies shifting to plant-based meat alternatives due to increasing consumer demand.


Coconut oil — as a cooking ingredient and as a wellness cure-all — became a popular alternative to other cooking oils.

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A jar of coconut oil from Trader Joe’s.
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Brianna Arps/INSIDER

Though coconut oil contains lots of saturated fats, it has roughly the same amount of calories per tablespoon as olive oil and is often found in moisturizers and hair-care products.


Wild, over-the-top desserts also made a splash.

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Milkshakes from Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer.
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Desiree Navarro/WireImage

Massive milkshakes, giant sundaes, and elaborate waffle creations all made waves in the 2010s.


Latte art made a splash as coffee culture intensified.

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A latte with a stylized “Ta Da!” written in foam.
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INSIDER

Latte art, or art made using espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk to make images in foam, took over social media for a spell in the mid-2010s.


Hard seltzer will go down as one of the biggest trends of the 2010s, with consumers flocking to the lower-calorie boozy beverage.

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Natural Light’s hard seltzer.
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Natural Light

The summer of 2019 was the summer of hard seltzer. The boozy beverage was so beloved that there was even a national shortage of White Claw, the most popular brand of hard seltzer.


The fast-casual explosion hit its stride with chains such as Sweetgreen and Shake Shack.

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A worker holding a bowl at Sweetgreen.
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INSIDER

Fast-casual restaurants lie somewhere in between fast-food and full-service in that they usually don’t offer table service with a waitstaff, but are generally regarded as having higher quality food than the average fast-food restaurant.


Soylent and other meal replacement shakes got a face-lift in the late 2010s.

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Soylent bottles in a refrigerator.
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Melia Robinson

With its modern, minimalist branding and marketing, Soylent caters towards a younger crowd that’s looking for quick, on-the-go meals.


Though they’ve been around for hundreds of years, macarons saw an uptick in popularity in the states in the 2010s.

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An assortment of macarons.
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Michal Osmenda/Wikimedia Commons

The French cookies are made using whisked egg whites and sugar to make meringue, the main ingredient in macarons.


Food trucks have become hotbeds for chefs who might not have the resources to open a brick-and-mortar kitchen.

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Food trucks in Washington DC.
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stupid systemus/Flickr

The mobility of a truck allows entrepreneurs to reach a large audience and announce their location on various social-media platforms.


Kale, a nutritious leafy green, became a popular smoothie additive.

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A bunch of organic kale.
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Cynthia Sass

The leafy green became so popular that Beyoncé was even seen wearing a “kale” sweatshirt stylized in the collegiate format of Yale University.


Edible gold leaf has become a widespread decoration for fine-dining dishes.

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A pile of gold shavings.
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Edible Gold

From $2,000 gold-covered pizza in Manhattan to an Australian burger made with 24-karat buns, the fancy ingredient has become an over-the-top addition to a variety of foods.


Natural Wine has both divided the wine community and spurred a new wave of young enthusiasts.

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A few bottles of natural wine from Primal Wine.
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Primal Wine

Natural wine, a broad term for wines that are produced with minimal intervention from the winemaker, has become a popular drink option in recent years.


Juicing fruits and vegetables became a popular trend in the wellness scene.

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A juicing machine churns out some kiwi-lemon juice.
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Shutterstock

Juicing vegetables including celery, kale, carrots, and beets, made raw vegetable consumption cool and easy. However, home juicing has lost a bit of steam as many fast-casual restaurants and grocery stores have started offering pre-juiced vegetables in bottles.


Cold brew coffee is everywhere these days, as iced coffee lovers flock to the highly-caffeinated coffee beverage.

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A cup of cold brew from Starbucks.
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Starbucks

Cold brew is made by steeping ground coffee with cold water for hours, creating a coffee “concentrate” that often has more caffeine than your average cup of joe.


Negronis made a comeback, as cocktail lovers have embraced the bitterness of various Italian liqueurs.

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A Negroni in a rocks glass garnished with an orange peel.
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Jonathan Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty

The Negroni is made with gin, vermouth, and the bitter Italian liqueur Campari. It’s also the staple cocktail of the world’s best bar of 2019.


Though smoked and cured meats never go out of style, charcuterie boards dominated the 2010s.

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A charcuterie board.
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Flickr/Stewart

Charcuterie boards often feature a selection of smoked or cured meats, various cheeses, and a sweet component – whether it be dried or fresh fruit, honey, or sweet veggies.


Session beers, or beers that are brewed to have a lower alcohol content, are becoming popular for their drinkability.

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Founder’s All Day IPA, a low-ABV session beer.
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Founders

Low-ABV session beers are meant to be enjoyed in larger quantities. The lower alcohol percentage allows people to drink more of them in a “session” without getting too intoxicated.


Mocktails and nonalcoholic beers, such as Heineken’s 0.0, also made a sober splash in the 2010s, as more consumers become “sober-curious,” or give up booze altogether.

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Heineken’s 0.0 beer, which contains no alcohol.
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Heineken

Mocktail bars are also opening all over the country to cater to customers looking for a way to socialize at the bar without drinking alcohol.


Fermenting foods made a huge impact on restaurants big and small.

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A bowl of kimchi, or spicy fermented cabbage, is a longstanding staple in Korean cuisine.
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REDA&CO / Contributor

Fermenting food, or allowing bacteria and yeast to break down carbs in order to preserve food, became a huge trend in the 2010s, as fine-dining establishments and mom-and-pops alike got into the practice.

The Noma Guide to Fermentation, a guide to fermenting pretty much everything, was also released by the team at Noma.


Farm-to-table restaurants, or restaurants where the aim is to shorten the distance between ingredients’ sources and the restaurant, were popular.

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Terrain Cafe, a farm-to-table restaurant affiliated with the Anthropologie clothing and home furnishings store.
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Smith Collection / Gado / Getty

Though its actual meaning is often hard to define, farm-to-table became a popular phrase in the 2010s as consumers tried to eat more locally grown, organic products.


Zero-waste cooking has become a trend as professional chefs and home cooks alike try to lower their carbon footprints.

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Silo: The Zero Waste Blueprint, a book by UK-based chef Douglas McMaster.
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Silo

Cooking with as little waste as possible – whether it’s leftover food or plastic packaging – has become a goal for many restaurants as the industry becomes more and more conscious of its environmental impact.