The Best And Worst TikTok Food Trends From 2023

The power of TikTok to shape food narratives and inspire home cooks to try new techniques and ingredients is growing by the day.

Creators are always coming up with new, innovative and fun ideas to get their audience involved,” is how Cugine, the force behind @meals_by_cug (which has over 1 million followers on Instagram) sums up the appeal of TikTok content for foodies.

TikTok-famous trends have an impact on all aspects of the culinary world (yes, even for those who “aren’t into social media”). In 2023, several trends proved especially popular on TikTok, but they weren’t all created equal. We called upon a group of professional chefs and influencers to give us their takes on TikTok trends that deserve to stick around, plus the ones that are already past their prime (and one trend that’s up for debate).

The Good

Tinned Fish

Tinned fish isn’t a new phenomenon; it’s been a popular food genre in the Mediterranean region for generations. But 2023 definitely saw a rise in tinned fish on American menus, and these salty, briny and deeply flavorful preserved bites were also a huge hit on TikTok.

Ali Hooke, a chef and TikToker who’s a big believer in tinned fish, told us that “tinned fish exploded as a trend when people [used TikTok to] learn what it really is, what brands are out there, the cool things that people historically have done to preserve fish and the new things they are doing today.” As Hooke and other TikTok influencers worked to demystify this ingredient and give TikTok users a clear concept of how to seamlessly work tinned fish into their existing food routines, they helped to turn the “trend” into a culinary choice that can stick with viewers for years to come.

Cottage Cheese’s Comeback

Anyone who remembers cottage cheese as a go-to “diet food” in the 1970s and 1980s might be baffled by cottage cheese’s ubiquity on TikTok in 2023. But this vintage dairy ingredient showed up in recipe videos for everything from ice cream to dips to hot dog toppings to cheesecake.

In the opinion of Yumna Jawad, recipe developer and creator of FeelGoodFoodie (with over 4 million followers on Instagram), the popularity of high-protein curds and whey is a positive from both a health perspective and a flavor perspective. “Cottage cheese was definitely having a strong moment in 2023. It was an opportunity for many content creators to think of what it can add creaminess and protein to. I loved using it in a pasta sauce, adding it to my pancakes, and even bulking up my scrambled eggs with it,” Jawad told us.

‘Thomas Keller Method’ Zucchini

TikTok food content tends to focus on easy recipes that can be effectively packaged in brief videos, which is why it’s surprising to see a cooking method popularized by a celebrated, multiple James Beard Award-winning chef like Thomas Keller blowing up on this social media platform.

But Keller’s “zucchini method,” which calls for scoring a zucchini with a knife, salting it, squeezing out the extra moisture, searing the zucchini in oil, then baking it in the oven, is a simple process that results in zucchini that’s “perfectly golden and tender,” according to food influencer Hannah Jo Buchalter.

Buchalter thinks Keller’s recipe became such a TikTok sensation because “he took a vegetable that everyone wants to include in their diets and, with a simple preparation, turned it into something absolutely delicious. This recipe is likely to stick around not just because of its straight forward nature but also because of its versatility and potential to be modified with new flavors and approached from different cultures.”

Hash Brown Toast

Lightly frying a hash brown patty and adding common toast toppings like smashed avocado or even peanut butter and jelly caught fire on TikTok this year, and Walter Nunez, executive chef of The Rex Steakhouse in Rodondo Beach, California, views the success of “hash brown toast” as a testament to the durable nature of “flavor and versatility.”

He said that “ a crispy hash brown is a great vehicle for a wide variety of flavors – savory, sweet, and everything in between. In addition to offering a deliciously crispy texture, hash browns are also great for soaking up sauce and rich flavors, making it a versatile base for many dishes.” Because the TikToks of this trend frequently involved frozen hash browns, this trend also has the simplicity factor working in its favor.

Sunday Roast

“Sunday roast,” a beloved icon of British cuisine, involves roasted meat, roasted potatoes, sides that might include roasted veggies or Yorkshire pudding, and a savory gravy.

Sunday roast gained a plethora of new fans on TikTok in 2023, and Jessica Young, a former chef and current CEO of Bubble Goods, isn’t surprised by this development. I’m a big fan of a cozy meal, and I think the Sunday roast obsession is here to stay. It’s something I think we’ll see be adopted in both home cooking and within restaurants and hospitality outside of the UK. Bring on more crispy potatoes and Bisto [gravy]!” she said.

The Bad

‘Extreme Spicy Food’ Challenge

“Challenge” videos in which creators wolf down large quantities of food or dishes with extreme levels of spice have been part of TikTok culture since the beginning, and they showed no signs of slowing down in 2023. However, chef and influencer Harrison Hill warned that “shoving down massive amounts of food in record time or consuming bizarre food combinations doesn’t exactly scream ‘culinary artistry’ or ‘respect for food’. Instead, these challenges promote unhealthy eating habits and a disregard for the value of food.”

A particularly common example of “extreme” TikTok challenges in 2023 involved creators consuming mega-spicy dishes, often to the point of causing themselves physical pain. Miguel Guerra, chef of MITA and EME Cafe and Bar in Washington, DC, is ready to say goodbye to this trend because “while it initially gained popularity on TikTok due to its novelty and the thrill of watching people consume extremely spicy dishes, I believe it lacks the strength and relevance to remain important in the future. It is likely to lose its relevance due to health concerns, diminishing novelty, a lack of sustainability, and changing tastes and preferences among consumers.” After all, as Hill said, “food is meant to be enjoyed, not endured.”

‘Fruit Roll-Up’ Ice Cream

Placing a scoop of ice cream on a Fruit Roll-Up, folding it up, popping it back in the freezer, then removing it to enjoy as a handheld frozen treat had huge appeal on TikTok this year, but some influencers and food professionals question whether this super-sweet dessert has real staying power or whether it’s an idea that’s better on video than it is in reality.

“I just don’t think people are going to continue to have a craving for Fruit Roll-Up ice cream or think that is cool for long. I am a longtime fan of Fruit Roll-Ups and ice cream both, but i just don’t see it as an item that will continue to be of importance,” said Dominick Lee, food influencer and culinary director/executive chef of Alligator Pear in New York City.

Frozen Yogurt Bark

In 2023, TikTokers loved spreading Greek yogurt on baking sheets, adding fruit and other mix-ins, freezing it until it becomes solid, and eating it like chocolate bark.

Buchalter acknowledged that the frozen yogurt bark trend “looks quite good onscreen and is also very simple to make.” But she told us that her IRL experience with this TikTok hit didn’t play out as she hoped. “I tried it, I filmed it, I was ready to upload it, and then I tasted it. The bark was hard, icy, bitter, and almost cracked my tooth.”

Freezer Pancake Bites

Time-saving cooking hacks garner big viewership numbers on TikTok, and sees how freezer pancake bites (a popular topic on #FoodTok this year) could appeal to users on that basis. But although the act of making boxed pancake batter is fairly simple to execute, “the idea of making the batter, placing it into ice cube trays in the freezer, and remembering to cook it on busy mornings doesn’t seem sustainable,” Yawad said.

She admits to first viewing freezer pancake bites as “a catchy and fun way to make pancakes, but it took me longer to cook the frozen cubes of pancakes than it would have taken to just mix a new batch and cook immediately.”

The Controversial

‘Girl Dinner’

The social media-powered rebranding of a meal made up of snack items as “girl dinner” made a deep pop culture footprint last summer. Our consulted influencers all agreed that “girl dinner” was a big deal in 2023, but their final verdicts on this “trend” were decidedly split.

I don’t think ‘girl dinner’ is going anywhere,” suggested author and influencer Erin Clarke of Well Plated. Her points in favor of “girl dinner” rest on this trend’s ease and accessibility: “It’s one of the most relatable trends we’ve seen and one that we’ve all most likely participated in at one time or another. Some trends take effort to be a part of, but this one takes zero effort, and that’s the whole point!”

There are, however, plenty of concerns about “girl dinner” as a lasting trend. For one thing, “girl dinner” is a pretty silly and twee moniker for a dining style that’s been around forever and that has a presence in countless cultures. Aren’t tapas, dim sum, mezze, and banchan all “girl dinners”? And why the need to gender these snack spreads? Also, Jackie Shames, a Miami-based publicist and body acceptance influencer, points out that promoting “a plate of small snacks replacing a proper dinner” could prove problematic because “I am someone who advocates for body acceptance and food freedom on my platform. I didn’t love the fact that it endorsed disordered eating, something I wouldn’t want younger generations to adopt.”

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