Top Ten Side Dish Trends in 2010

Top Ten Side Dish Trends in 2010

Food & Drink

Top Ten Side Dish Trends in 2010


The Food Channel presents its Top Ten Side Dish Trends. The list is based on research conducted by The Food Channel in conjunction with CultureWaves®, the International Food Futurists®, and Mintel International. Here are the trends we see for what’s happening on the side.

Side dishes are front and center right now! Health consciousness has contributed to the craze—it’s now acceptable to order a variety of delicious sides and downsize the meat. And, in a hurting economy, anything that stretches the meal is in high favor. The rise in ethnic influences, regional dishes, and fresh seasonal availability has all influenced the trend. In response, restaurants and at-home cooks are all giving more space to sides than ever before. In fact, we’re calling sides the new “center of the plate.”

1. Intentionally Seasonal. In the old days, as they say, we ate when things came into season. There was no magic to it—it was simply a reflection of when products were available. Tomatoes came into season and we ate them. Peaches were ready to be picked, and we ate them. But over the years, the lines got blurred as we processed food and seasonal selections began to offer year-round availability. But lately we’ve become more intentional about eating with the seasons. We think it’s because we recognize the sheer joy that comes from freshly picked vegetables and fruits shining up from a side dish.

    For further evidence, read . . .

    Farmers Markets Hit the Road Rolling

    Global Cuisine Gets Localized in Canada

    Pop-Up Store Sells Restaurant Foods from Bay Area 

    Minnesota Company Delivers Freshness Door to Door

    A Jarring New Restaurant Trend

    Joe the Farmer Grows Crops for His Community

    Recipe Evidence:

    Sweet and Savory Apples

    2. Growing Your Own. To be seasonal, you have to have access, and what better access than your own garden? Whether it’s a back yard affair, a community garden, or produce from a Community Supported Agriculture farm (where you can till and weed as payment for your share of the crop), gardens are big. In fact, we’re seeing fall gardens being talked about more and more. Growing your own may be partly economic, but we also think it’s because of the rise in knowledge—you don’t have to have grown up with a garden to know how to do it, thanks to Internet sharing and community groups. Part economy, part communication, and pure pleasure.

      For further evidence, read . . .

      For Vegetable Connoisseurs, Heirlooms Are Hot

      Little Lettuce Heads for Small Households

      New Product Cleans Produce, Extends Shelf Life

      Rules for Eating, According to Michael Pollan

      Recipe evidence:

      Roasted Butternut Squash and Apples with Maple-Glazed Pecans

        3. A Toast to Roasted. Roasted is the new grilled, the new fried, the “why didn’t we think of this before” preparation that adds a depth of flavor to side dishes. There is something about the brown bits of caramelization that makes vegetables new, particularly when you roast a blend. Because, you see, its not about one vegetable anymore—it’s about pairing those flavors, putting the Red Bliss, the blues, and the fingerling potatoes together, for example, with a bit of fennel, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  

        For further evidence, read . . .

        Roasted Vegetables a Hot Commodity

        Roasted to Perfection

        Recipe Evidence:

        Garlic Roasted Vegetable Ziti Rigati

        Roasted Fall Vegetables

        4. You Say Potato. In fact, say it over and over again, because potatoes are creeping back onto our plates. But, they are healthier and more interesting, and—if you’ve noticed—more likely to be sweet potatoes than anything else. This is one of those vegetables that is big enough to call out on its own as a top flavor trend.

          For further evidence, read . . .

          Sweet Potatoes the Trendy Food Pick for 2010

          Shocking News: Zapping Potatoes Makes Them Healthier

          New Transgenic Potato Has Pumped Up Protein

          A New Potato That’s Really New!

          Recipe Evidence:

          Creole Kick Sweet Potato Fries

          Sweet Potato Fries with Apricot-Dijon Dipping Sauce

           5. Rice Is Nice. The new whole grain rice blends are shaking up the side of the plate with fancy risottos and new strains. Black rice, red rice, all of a sudden, it seems, there is a plethora of new varieties. Even the white rice is a better-for-you rice. If white rice has always been your white bread staple at the dinner table, be prepared to embrace the new grains. 

            For further evidence, read . . .

            Black Rice: Meet the Latest Superfood

            Rice On the Rise in the USA

            Black Rice Getting White Hot

            Recipe Evidence:

            Black Walnut Wild Rice

            Pumpkin Walnut Risotto

            6. The New American Regional. It may be nostalgia, it may be wanderlust—whatever the reason, people love to know the food’s history. And side dishes are just full of great stories and regional influences. A great example is coleslaw. It’s a true American creation that is currently being piled on everything! But keep going, because you get succotash from the Midwest, fried green tomatoes and okra from the South . . . or go to Southern Italy to find the local risotto famous in Abruzzo. We think the interest in regional comes from the new awareness of food and interest in trying new flavors, wherever they come from.  

              For further evidence, read . . .

              The Global Flavor Curve: American Is the New Ethnic

              American Regional Cuisine Served from a Truck

              Recipe Evidence:

              Fried Green Tomatoes

               7. Taking Root. People may no longer have root cellars for the safekeeping of root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, rutabagas, and parsnips, but these subterranean vegetables have gained newfound respect in recent years. No longer relegated to cold-weather-only status, root veggies are now available year-round and appreciated for their hearty flavor, versatility–and, oh yeah, the price is right for these tough economic times. The bright colored varieties, especially, are sought out for their nutritional bounty.  

                For further evidence, read . . .

                Getting Back to Our Roots

                “Flying Pans” Chefs on the Virtues of Root Vegetables

                Recipe Evidence:

                Sweet Potato Fries with a Trio of Dips

                Pickled Beets with Eggs

                8. Ethnic Side Lines. Over the years we’ve embraced ethnic main dishes to the point of fully acclimating them into the American menu. Well, now we’re beginning to notice those things on the side. A creamy fresh corn side dish like Creole-style corn maque choux, might just steal the show from the shrimp main dish. Are we going back to that favorite Mexican restaurant for the enchiladas, or the spiced bean and rice? Is it the sushi or the edamame that’s turning heads at the new Asian place? Perhaps we still want the Midwestern beef steak at the center of the plate but now we just might ask for a Caribbean rice medley instead of the loaded baked potato.

                  For further evidence, read . . .

                  Goya Reaching Out Beyond Latino Segment with Market Push for Sides and Seasonings

                  Mexico Seeks Official UNESCO Recognition of Its Cuisine

                  Recipe Evidence:

                  Coconut Vegetable Curry

                  Asian Vegetable Stir-Fry with Sesame Chili Orange Sauce

                  9. The Incredible Shrinking Protein. In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re all trying to live healthier lives. So we’ve pushed protein to the side and elevated, well, the side. As that happens, the side dishes grow in variety and stature. Heirloom tomatoes are called out by brand. Brussels sprouts find a new identity in top white linen tablecloth restaurants. Fine dining restaurants and entire cities (San Francisco, for one) have embraced the Meatless Monday concept. And many, many restaurants are now serving significantly smaller meat portions–because customers are asking for them.

                    For further evidence, read . . .

                    Meatless Monday Gains Momentum

                    Betty Crocker Gets a Vegan Makeover

                    Recipe Evidence:

                    Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

                    10. Color Is Hot.  These days it’s all about purple cauliflower, purple potatoes, and corn. Plus, carrots in assorted colors in addition to orange. Consumers are learning that brightly colored fruits and vegetables are often the healthiest–loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients. Chefs and restaurateurs love the visual interest these deeply-hued sides add to the plate, as well as their nutritional benefits.

                    For further evidence, read . . .

                    Picking Foods By Color a Bright Idea

                    The Color Purple: A Fashionable Food


                    View our video presentation of the 2010 Side Dish Trends.


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