Before we begin our food adventures in 2019, we should look back and appreciate all the dishes that captivated our taste buds last year. Take a look at 18 different trends that came out of 2018 and decide for yourself whether they’ll continue or phase out in the upcoming years!

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“Gut-friendly” foods and drink
2018 saw a rise in pickled and fermented vegetables like kimchi, sauerkraut and miso and prebiotics such as garlic and onions. The “gut-friendly” trend also applies to beverages, as many different brands and flavors of kombucha, a fermented black or green tea drink, hit the shelves. These foods and drinks became popular because of their health benefits, such as aiding digestion.

Protein-rich seeds
Chia seeds, hemp seeds and flax seeds have become common additions to smoothie bowls, yogurt, oatmeal and plenty of other foods. They add a nice unique texture to whatever you put them in and they’re highly nutritious!

Irene Wang / Daily Nexus

Rolled ice cream
Thai rolled ice cream gained popularity because of its fun method of preparation. A milk and cream mixture is chopped and stirred on an ice pan until it solidifies and is then rolled and decorated with tons of fun toppings such as pretzels, cookies and whipped cream.

In 2018, it seemed like almost every cafe or dessert spot had matcha on the menu. From matcha soft serve to matcha lattes, this green tea powder has dominated the dessert world. Since one serving of matcha tea is the equivalent of 10 cups of regular green tea, it’s sure to keep you awake and it even has more antioxidants than loose leaf tea for that health boost we all need.

Hand-made boba
A few boba shops elevated their game in 2018 by hand-making their own boba in-house. By making boba from scratch, a variety of different flavors, like taro or black sesame, can be incorporated into each tapioca ball, making your drink even more flavorful.

Acai bowls
It’s no doubt that acai bowls grew in popularity, even more so than previous years. Acai bowls are a quick, tasty snack you can grab from a local cafe, which makes it good to satisfy your cravings and spruce up your Instagram feed. 2018 saw the addition of new flavors for smoothie bowls and a variety of different toppings.

Winnie Lam / Daily Nexus

Hot pot
Hot pot soup rose in popularity, especially during the chillier months, because of its wide array of flavor options. You can customize anything from the flavor of your soup to the types of meats and vegetables in your hot pot. UCSB students definitely experienced this food trend with the grand opening of not one, but two new hot pot restaurants in the area.

Plant-based cuisine
As people became more health-conscious, they leaned more toward a plant-based diet based on foods made from vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts and fruits. Restaurants picked up on this trend and introduced more plant-based options in their menus, as plant-based cuisine is often high in fiber and provides many health benefits.

Zero-waste cooking
Sustainability was a big issue in 2018, so cooks and restaurants tried to incorporate no-waste cooking into their meals. “Nose to tail” cooking means using as many parts of an animal as possible to reduce waste and while we saw a lot of this, plants were also included this year, subsequently termed “stem to leaf” cooking.

House-made condiments
Heinz Tomato Ketchup will always be a favorite, but house-made chipotle mayo and Sriracha-infused ketchup innovated the condiment industry in 2018. Restaurants whipped up their own unique creations to pair with fries, burgers and much more. With this many new creations and combos, the possibilities are endless.

Street-food inspired dishes
Many restaurants offered an elevated twist to classic street foods like tacos and hot dogs. Restaurants often fuse flavors from different cultural cuisines to make a unique creation and provide customers with street-food cuisine at a sit-down restaurant.

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Carb substitutions
With the increasing use of vegetable spiralizers, carb substitutions gained a lot of popularity since they could be incorporated into pasta dishes and many other classic meals. This is perfect for people on a low-carb diet and will surely become more common in upcoming years.

Ugly produce
2018 saw the start of the ugly produce movement, as companies like Imperfect Produce advertised their delivery boxes filled with flawed vegetables and fruits for low prices. Purchasing imperfect produce reduces food waste and saves billions of gallons of water.

Microgreens are harvested after sprouting and in 2018 they were used largely for a visual component in many dishes. Their delicate texture and vibrant colors made it perfect for photos and help any dish look both healthy and tasty.

Rinah Anatalio / Daily Nexus

Overnight oats
Overnight oats gained popularity last year because of their convenience and customizability. It’s perfect to make the night before a busy morning and you can add fruits, nuts and seeds as desired.

Upgraded Chicken and Waffles
In 2018, fun creations like popcorn chicken in waffle cones and chicken and waffles on a stick gained attention on social media for their unique twists on one of our favorite sweet and savory combos.

Soft serve
While a classic vanilla cone is sure to satisfy our sweet tooth, a variety of different soft serve flavors reached the market in 2018 and took the ice cream game to the next level. Some of these funky flavors include activated charcoal, ube, watermelon and corn. Many dessert shops even swirl different flavors together for double the fun.

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Filled doughnuts
Many boutique doughnut shops popped up in 2018 with unique flavors and fillings. Some include Nutella-filled doughnuts, s’mores doughnuts and cereal-covered doughnuts.


Winnie Lam
Winnie Lam serves as the 2020-2021 On The Menu Editor. She has an unhealthy obsession with Trader Joe's and she loves all things matcha.