The Food Channel®, in conjunction with CultureWaves®, a consumer insights company, and the International Food Futurists®, has put together a Top Ten Trends in Sandwiches and Salads to help keep you up to date on the latest innovation in food. We’ve also created some great recipes to demonstrate some of the trends, including our fresh take on a Farmers Market Sandwich, and a Sandwich Dip Flight that will have you saying, “Where has this been all my life?” Read up on these trends, and check out the recipe links below:
#1 – The New Enhancements: This includes dressings, spreads, sauces, and condiments such as ketchups, mayos, etc. that are used to enhance the experience and the flavor, as well as unusual toppings that go beyond lettuce and tomato. We are looking at infused flavors, chunky additions, and ketchup/mayo mixtures. We particularly love seeing lime ketchup, whisky ketchup, maple ketchup and more hit the market—and they are being incorporated into the fine dining scene, as well as the home chef arena. For example, food blogger Chef Terri Milligan makes a Blueberry Chipotle Lime Ketchup, while others take a basic ketchup and add extra ingredients to create some surprising flavors. We also see the rise in popularity of dried fruits and spices (fig, cranberries, orange peel, and candied ginger) and hazelnuts or caramelized/toasted nuts—anything that can be added to a sandwich or a salad to bring out a different flavor.
#2 – Vegetable Infusions: Vegetables are moving beyond side dishes and salad toppings. Now, we’re looking at cauliflower, for example, as a carb replacement, milled and baked into bread or pizza crust or even croutons. You can find any number of recipes and chef/nutritionists talking about it. We like Joy Bauer’s take on it with her recipe for Cauliflower Pizza Crust. When vegetables are used as a topping, we’re seeing broccoli, asparagus, and anything roasted go on top of a meat/protein so you get your salad and meat in one. When typical salad vegetables are used in such mash-ups, they tend to be spiced more strongly. Thyme has come into play with roasted vegetables and helps to make an excellent sandwich or salad topping; we’re also seeing curry and Harissa and Sriracha sauce used with sandwiches and salads—even Whole Foods recommends mixing it into mayonnaise for a little extra kick.
#3 – Global Flavors: We’re looking beyond the proliferation of Bánh mí (Taco Bell, Smith & Wollensky, Which Wich) and seeing what else is out there—and finding global influences are getting stronger. Doner kebabs from Germany and Turkey may take off (and are already in food trucks). The Cemita from Mexico has possibilities. It is interesting to note that food trucks were where the Korean taco craze got started, and they moved onto restaurant menus. Now, food trucks themselves are becoming brick-and-mortar restaurants. It’s unclear whether they will continue to wield influence, and if not, it’s anyone’s guess who will set the next big global sandwich trend. There is lots of interest in the global flavors, particularly when someone comes up with an American hook. We see several trends combined at restaurants such as Harissa Mediterranean Cuisine in Seattle, where their Tabouleh Salad includes bulgur, chopped parsley, mint, tomatoes and onions.
#4 – Cheese Choices: Cheeses have moved from hard deli cheese to soft and semi-soft cheese (Burrata, Fontina, Gruyere, Brie, etc.). You see it happening with feta on salads, and Brie on sandwiches, and we expect new cheese choices to offer new experiences particularly around texture. There is an opportunity for both salads and sandwiches to significantly change flavor and texture profiles with a difference in cheese choices, particularly when mixed with other unusual components—yogurt bites, pistachios, and various seeds. Restaurants such as The Steakhouse at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City are serving Torched Burrata in a salad, and making mouths water in the process.
#5 – Daypart Agnostic: Diners don’t really care what time of day they eat what kind of meal—it’s whatever fits into their schedules. That means salad for breakfast is now a thing. (Yes, really, just ask Women’s Health.) We’ve gotten used to breakfast sandwiches, and those are now showing up for dinner, too, particularly now that McDonald’s is experimenting with all day breakfast offerings. (To be fair, Jack in the Box has offered all day breakfast for years.) This new attention to the extended daypart will have an impact on the to-go world, too, in that you won’t have to run back out to pick up that fresh salad. Now you can get it at the same time you get your morning breakfast sandwich.
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#6 – Seafood as the Protein of Choice: The attention-getters now are soft crab (also known as blue crab, or soft-shell crab), lobster, and whitefish. We might find ourselves looking further into trash fish, too, and how it gets incorporated into sandwiches or flaked for salads—tilapia is actually a trash fish, and there’s more where that came from. Example: The fish sandwich from Art Mel’s Spice Dicey in Bermuda serves fresh snapper fish tenders dredged in a spice mix and flour and then flash-fried. The crispy fish is then piled high on thick slices of homemade toast and topped with cheese, fried onions or coleslaw. Locals recommend ordering it on the super-soft raisin bread with hot sauce or tartar sauce.
#7 – Grain Salads: It may be grains mixed into salad greens, or it may be a grain salad like a tabbouleh (which is bulgur wheat) or quinoa (which is made from the seeds of a grain that is closely related to spinach). We’re seeing a lot of attention around ancient grains such as freekeh, spelt, chia, and farro. Restaurant concepts that focus on healthy offerings are getting attention, too, including New York’s 7 Green & Grain, which gets rave reviews for its Peruvian Quinoa.
#8 – Sandwich Breads: We are watching breads closely for several factors, but primarily because they are some of the hottest news in sandwiches. White bread is a novelty, whereas pretzel bread, brioche, Hawaiian rolls, and anything homemade are becoming mainstream. Banana flour is the newest choice for gluten-free bakers. We are watching salt-crusted breads as they move from pizza and pretzel buns into something new that introduces a novel flavor into the mix. There are some early hints of alcohol infusions in bread that goes beyond beer breads, and identification of craft beers with certain beer breads. Bridor is doing something interesting with sandwich breads in a Soft Artisan Bread line. The line includes 12-grain, semolina, white and sprouted grain varieties. Rick Bayless’ tortas, especially with queso and jam, are interesting, as are telera rolls—particularly as we see the growing global influence hit this category. We are also watching non-bread sandwich carriers with double protein, lettuce pockets, etc. And Southern-style flaky biscuits may be on their way to becoming the new pork bun, carrying short ribs and higher-end meats.
#9 – Beyond French Dip: We are beginning to see other types of dips growing out of the “dressing on the side” trend for salads, including cheese or ranch dip used for French fry dipping. Americans love to dip, and the possibility of sandwich dippers and salad dippers is interesting. We are dipping into melted cheese, jams/apple butter or applesauce, all of which may really be an evolution of the snacking influence.
#10 – Wilted Salads: Far from withering on the vine, today’s salads are thriving once put into a hot skillet. This trend is about changing the form up even further, so you get the nutrition and benefit of salad greens with the different flavor that the charring or searing brings out. Charred endive is popular as either an appetizer or side dish, often filled with a cheese mixture or even another vegetable. Flash-fried kale or spinach (try the baby spinach version tossed with lemon, Parmesan and garlic at Metropolitan Grill next time you are in the Ozarks) gives a wonderful crunch with only a few extra calories, and wilted greens are taking root. The same rule applies to sandwiches, which are just better toasted! Keep in mind that it’s more about the texture of the bread and how crunchy or caramelized it is than anything else—it’s part of enhancing the flavor. Oh, and seeing the black edges is no longer a bad thing. A range of burnt is not only acceptable, but desired.
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