Food trends may come and go – but there’s nothing like a shared memory of something delicious to trigger your nostalgia.
Some popular foods have stuck around longer than others. We rounded up some of the most popular food fads in the US from each year since 1955.
In 1955, the Campbell’s Soup test kitchen birthed that American Thanksgiving staple, green bean casserole.
Recipe creator Dorcas Reilly aimed to create a dish that was easy and economical for home cooks to recreate, reported NPR. She focused on using ingredients that were inexpensive and readily available around the US – and she succeeded.
But by 1956, grasshopper pie was a sweet treat that everyone could get behind.
The famous shockingly green creamy cocktail known as the grasshopper was sweeping the US – but grasshopper pie took those flavours and made them family-friendly.
According to folklorist and American pie historian Emily Hilliard, grasshopper pie may have come from a recipe invented by the Knox Gelatine and Heublein Cordial companies as a cross-promotional item.
In 1957, beef stroganoff was a fancy and exciting Russian-French treat.
Although the dish was invented in the 1800s, its popularity didn’t sweep across America until the late 1950s, according to Bon Appétit.
The meal first swept through China and eventually found popularity in the US after World War II, when returning American servicemen had expanded their palates and were more open to new flavours, according to Fork n’ Plate.
By 1958, barbecue was a big deal in backyards across the US.
While humans have been cooking food over fire for a lot longer, 1957 was the year that Popular Mechanics printed plans for a DIY oil barrel backyard barbecue – long before you could go to your local home center and pick up a ready-made grill anywhere in the US.
Although 1952 was the year that George Stephen, Sr. came up with the design that we still know today as the Weber Grill, it took several years of convincing consumers that this device would revolutionise all the problems they’d previously had in backyard grilling.
However, 1958 was the year that Stephen – son of one of the founders of Weber Brothers Metal Works, which had nothing to do with grills at that point – bought out his dad and his dad’s partner and changed the name to Weber-Stephens Products – and the rest is finger-licking history, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
At the dawn of 1959, cheese balls were sweeping holiday parties everywhere.
Everything old eventually becomes new again – witness the rise and fall (and rise) of the humble cheese ball. Essentially a party food consisting of your favourite shredded cheese, cream cheese, seasonings, herbs, and/or nuts, it’s perfect to spread on crackers.
It can be as high, low, or middlebrow as you want – infinitely customisable, the cheese ball is all about what you put into it.
When 1960 rolled in, gelatin cookery was a must in many modern US kitchens.
In 1960, Knox unleashed their now-infamous Knox On-Camera Recipes cookbook of “gel-cookery.”
As Serious Eats noted in its social history of Jell-O salad, this was a time when gelatin wasn’t just for dessert – it was for every part of the meal. Savoury recipes involving shrimp paste and mayonnaise were completely commonplace.
In 1961, chicken a la king was a cream sauce lover’s dream.
According to recipe developer Melanie Preschutti, chicken a la king started its life as “upscale comfort food” in New York City at the dawn of the last century – but reached its peak popularity much later, finding its way to weddings and banquets and elaborate dinner parties around the US.
Cocktail meatballs ruled in 1962, and are still a popular appetizer in the US.
Grape jelly is the not-so-secret ingredient that gives these tasty balls their timeless appeal – but beyond that, it seems like variations abound. You can use store-bought meatballs or cocktail wieners – and mix that jelly with chilli sauce or BBQ sauce or even other seasonings.
Any way you mix it, throw it in your slow cooker for a Southern favourite that is still delighting taste buds, even half a century later.
Enter 1963, when Julia Child’s coq au vin ruled plates around the US.
An early public television appearance in 1962 so endeared Julia Child to the audience that WGBH gave her her own show, “The French Chef,” which premiered in 1963, according to Biography.
It’s hard to pick a single Child recipe that shaped the world of food – but if you have to narrow it down to one, her coq au vin might well be it.
Pop-Tarts were a huge deal when they were first introduced in 1964.
The realm of toaster pastries was brand new – so Kellogg’s had no idea how well they would sell, although of course, they had high hopes.
The first batch sold out in just two weeks, according to HuffPost. That caused Kellogg’s to issue a print advertisement apologizing to potential customers for the shortage.
Just think what would have happened if they’d been frosted – that tasty frosting everyone loves didn’t become a part of Pop-Tarts until 1967.
By 1965, everyone wanted California Dip — even if you weren’t from the golden state.
Some unknown genius who shall forever go down in the annals of history as “Anonymous Tailgating All-Star” first thought to combine an envelope of Lipton Onion Soup Mix with sour cream back in 1954 – and it quickly spread across the United States over the next few years, according to Bon Appétit.
We know it as “French onion dip now,” but back then, it was called “California dip” – and here’s the official recipe, in case you need it for your next game day.
In 1966, chocolate fondue was taking the US by storm.
It was in a Manhattan restaurant called Chalet Suisse that a chef called Konni – born Konrad Egli in Switzerland – first invented the dish, according to European Cuisines.
A fortuitously timed cross-promotional item featuring Swiss chocolate Toblerone – which was then brand new to the US – many Americans immediately fell in love for this exciting new dessert.
An elegant display of crêpes Suzette seemed like the best way to impress dinner guests in 1967.
This is yet another dish that Julia Child made into a household name – and you couldn’t make it properly without lighting some Grand Marnier on fire.
After McDonald’s introduced the Big Mac in 1968, American fast food was never the same.
Although Big Mac inventor Jim Delligatti came up with and then tested the sandwich in limited locations in 1967, it didn’t go national until 1968 – but that’s also when it started to change the world, according to the Atlantic.
This iconic sandwich’s popularity and worldwide recognition only continued to grow – and in 1986, the Economist introduced its Big Mac Index to compare local Big Mac prices around the world, and use those numbers as a handy reference for its readers.
In 1969, carrot cake was seen as a healthy way to enjoy dessert.
Carrot cake isn’t much better for you than other cakes – although it does at least contain a vegetable. But it’s definitely delicious, and many Americans during that time seemed to love it.
As a new decade dawned in 1970, the US turned to quiche.
Quiche Lorraine – that eggy custard pie filled with cheese and bacon inside a beautiful pastry crust – is widely credited with starting the quiche craze.
Soon Americans were stuffing ingredients into egg custards with wild abandon – and even Bisquick got in on the action with an “Impossible Quiche” recipe that promised to bake the crust right along with the rest of the quiche – no extra crust-baking step necessary.
In 1971, you needed your eggs Benedict — but not before 11:30 am, please.
Americans have loved brunch for a long time – and a good eggs Benedict is part of the reason why. While its true origins occurred in the 1800s and are shrouded in mystery, 1971 was when this delicious, indulgent dish inspired McDonald’s to create its own version – the Egg McMuffin.
Everyone had an opinion about granola in 1972.
American social upheaval was in full swing by 1972, and what Americans liked to eat was changing much more rapidly than before.
While granola had been brought to the US much earlier by German immigrants, it didn’t reach its most popular form – oat-based rather than tooth-breakingly wheatberry based, according to Rolling Stone – until after that grain switch happened.
The granola many Americans know and love today owes its popularity in large part to Layton Gentry – a man that Time magazine described “Johnny Granola-Seed” in 1972.
1973 was a great year for salad bars.
Salad bars had quietly been gaining power at steakhouses for some time – but not like many Americans know them today. Credit that to Chicago restaurateur Rich Melman and the first restaurant in his Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group, R.J. Grunts.
Suddenly, you could have as much as you wanted of whatever you wanted – and crucially, you could go back for more. The restaurant opened in 1971, but the concept caught on quickly.
Cake was both “crazy” and “wacky” in 1974 — and also proto-vegan by accident.
In the 1970s, women’s magazines in the US sometimes introduced completely new concepts – and at other times, reintroduced things that had been around since World War II rationing days. Wacky cake – also called crazy cake – enjoyed huge popularity for just this reason.
During the war, dairy ingredients and eggs weren’t easy or inexpensive to get – so many home cooks learned to do without. By 1974, it wasn’t so difficult to get those ingredients anymore – but the novelty of a rich, moist chocolate cake that came from such an unusual recipe proved difficult to resist.
Beef Wellington was a hit in 1975.
The ultimate in dinner-party one-upmanship, beef Wellington is one British favourite that made a significant impact on American entertaining throughout the 1960s and ’70s. It spawned countless variations during this time – including chicken Wellington, which never achieved the same level of love.
1976 saw chicken Kiev make a big splash — both in the US and UK.
By 1976, chicken Kiev was a dinner party staple – much like beef Wellingtons, it showcased skill and finesse on the part of anyone who successfully made and served them.
But this dish also holds the honour of becoming the very first ready meal created for UK chain Marks and Spencer in 1976 – a true testament to how this buttery, rich breaded chicken dish had truly taken over the world.
The US was swept away by their love for pasta primavera in 1977.
A fateful recipe printing from Le Cirque in the New York Times sealed the dish’s popularity – it quickly swept through restaurants and home kitchens alike.
The US couldn’t get enough walnut and goat cheese salad in 1978.
A variation of this salad style became a Chez Panisse classic – the founding restaurant of California cuisine and the farm-to-table movement, which opened its doors in 1971.
American cuisine has evolved and changed a lot since then, but Alice Waters’ influence is still felt in food trends to this day.
1979 was a magical time for blackened fish fillets.
Some may not completely understand the difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine – and Chef Paul Prudhomme’s fusion of the two is one huge reason why.
In 1979, he opened K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen in the French Quarter of New Orleans, and he set palates aflame by inventing his blackening technique for cooking fish fillets.
When 1980 rolled in, chicken Francese had the comforting zing that Americans wanted.
This enduring Italian-American favourite’s name simply means “chicken French-style.” Although its origins are difficult to pinpoint with any accuracy, its golden, bright, lemony sauce spread to restaurants and wedding banquets across the US.
Enter 1981, which saw the rise of “Oriental” noodle salads.
If you cringed while reading that, you’re not alone. Modern debate over whether the term “oriental” is racist or simply horribly outdated and ignorant will likely continue unabated. It’s worth noting that in May 2016, President Obama signed a bill into law that formally eliminated the terms “Negro” and “Oriental” from federal laws.
But in the early 1980s, salads that would probably be called “Asian noodle salads” today were all the rage in the US.
Typically, either Chinese or Japanese noodles were served cold – and topped with any number of other things, as long as a dressing featuring Asian ingredients such as soy sauce, ginger, peanuts, and scallions also topped the whole thing off.
In 1982, pasta salads ruled American summers.
While macaroni salads had been around for decades, the newer, lighter pasta salad rose to prominence by 1982. Tri-colour spiral pasta, Italian dressing, and assorted accompaniments like tomatoes, black olives, and fresh mozzarella balls colour many an ’80s kid’s memory.
By 1983, the US knew the glory of buffalo wings.
Residents of Buffalo, New York had loved their signature wings since their invention in 1964. The undeniable genius in making over a part of chicken that was only considered fit to make stock previously was there – but it first had to spread across the state, then the region before it could conquer the country, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
Hooters wouldn’t be the last national chain to base its entire existence around wings – and scantily clad waitresses – but they definitely helped inform a nation about these deep-fried, spicy delights.
When 1984 rolled around, potato skins were part of American life.
The exact origins of this bar snack favourite are in dispute, but by 1984, the cheesy, delicious, deep-fried morsels were all around the US – so much that farmers had to boost potato production to keep up with demand according to the Chicago Tribune.
1985 was the year of wine coolers and mocktails.
Both wine coolers and mocktails – cocktails with no or low-alcohol content – became big deals in the mid-’80s. A light dessert and adult beverage all in one sounded like a great idea.
It seemed like microwave popcorn was the best snack in 1986.
A snack food that’s high in fibre, low in fat, low in sodium, and incredibly convenient sounded like the perfect treat to Americans in 1986.
Of course, not everyone felt that way – especially makers of conventional popcorn poppers that required no microwave to use. One manufacturer, Debra A. Kumm, told the New York Times,
”Microwave popcorn is a fad. It will last until people read the labels and realise what chemicals microwave manufacturers put into their popcorn.”
1987 saw the rise of chocolate truffles as the sweetest of rewards.
Alice Medrich’s legendary Berkeley-based Cocolat was already popular among locals – but a November 1986 article in the New York Times officially launched the US’s love of chocolate truffles into the stratosphere.
Health consciousness drove the popularity of bran muffins in 1988.
An overwhelming desire for low-fat dessert-like foods swept over the United States in 1988.
Enter the bran muffin,which seemed like the ideal high-fibre alternative to doughnuts and cookies. Popular perception was that bran muffins were also helpful in controlling cholesterol – an idea that would go on to be disproved by a Harvard study in 1990.
You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing crème brûlée in 1989.
While crème brûlée existed prior to 1989, it took Le Cirque pastry chef Dieter Schorner to boost its appeal worldwide, according to the Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets. Cookbook author Patricia Wells even included a recipe for it in her 1989 cookbook, “Bistro Cooking,” because she felt that it was currently one of the entire world’s most favourite desserts.
Fusion pizza swept across the US in 1990 thanks to California Pizza Kitchen.
Once upon a time, you couldn’t find chicken on pizza in the US.
Wolfgang Puck started putting unusual ingredients on pizzas at Spago, but it took CPK and its massive nationwide expansion to bring fusion pizzas to the masses.
By 1991, tiramisu was an American obsession.
Like so many other recipes on this list, the exact origins of this recipe are hazy – and so many variations exist that the matter is confused even further. But a delicious tiramisu is hard to top – no matter where you find it.
Its popularity grew in the USover the course of the 1980s, according to Eater – and by 1991, it was inescapable.
In 1992, ranch dressing was the most popular salad dressing in the US.
Creamy, slightly tangy – and yet not overwhelming, ranch dressing had been on the rise for years.
Ever since Steve and Gayle Henson – of the real Hidden Valley Ranch, which is an actual place and not just a brand name – first invented the recipe, it was steadily winning hearts and minds across the country. In 1992, it completed its coup and overthrew Italian dressing as one of America’s favourite condiments.
By 1993, sushi had found a home in the hearts — and plates — of Americans everywhere.
The country discovered its love for sushi in the ’80s – but by 1993, that love showed no signs of slowing down.
Americans typically served their rolls with mayonnaise and cream cheese – which is definitely a far cry from the traditional Japanese food upon which our adaptation is based.
It seemed like the US was completely obsessed with Caesar salad in 1994.
It might seem like you can find Caesar on almost every menu in the US now – but to get there, it first had to win over the public.
In April 1993, the New York Times published an article that set the salad-loving public on a mission to find a good Caesar at their favourite restaurant – and salad menus haven’t looked back since.
But by 1995, sun-dried tomatoes became popular in the US.
Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil first trickled into American consciousness in the ’80s – but exploded in popularity after publication of a 1995 cookbook fittingly called “Sun-Dried Tomatoes,” according to Taste Magazine.
Traditionally, these tomatoes are exactly what the name says – but a sped-up version of the process resulted in an inferior product, which chef Joyce Goldstein told Taste Magazine is the reason why they eventually fell from grace.
The US fell in love with fried calamari in 1996.
This battered and deep-fried cephalopod wasn’t always so beloved – as recently as 1981, squid was considered to be fit only for bait by fishermen, according to Slate.
But by 1996, it was so popular on appetizer menus across the country that the New York Times created the Fried Calamari Index to gauge any food trend’s popularity by coverage within the publication.
In 1997, crab cakes were one thing the US couldn’t get enough of.
While Chesapeake Bay natives may have been snacking on crab cakes practically since they were in the womb, the rest of the US found out how tasty they were in the ’90s – and by 1997, they were practically inescapable.
Chesapeake culinary expert John Shields wrote of the ultimate in simplicity and high quality in crab cakes for the Baltimore Sun – it turns out that no matter your geographic region, the key to crab cakes is, rather unsurprisingly, your use of good crab meat.
Fast-forward to 1998, when people were dreaming of molten chocolate cake.
First born in the ’80s – again, with a hotly disputed origin story, according to Eater – molten chocolate cake was popular throughout the ’90s.
In 1997, it started to be served at Disney World – but it truly became an inescapable icon of chocolatey decadence for the masses when Chillis added it to its menu nationwide in 1998.
In 1999, people in the US couldn’t get enough Cosmopolitans.
“Sex and the City” certainly helped the Cosmo rise in popularity.
The popularity of the show was responsible for more than one major cultural shift, and introducing much of the US to their favourite – or least favourite – pink cocktail was just one of them. Although the show debuted in 1998, it wasn’t until the second season that this iconic drink made TV history.
When the world didn’t end in 2000, the US celebrated with tuna tartare.
If you wanted to get more seafood into your diet but sushi wasn’t your thing, tuna tartare – the lighter cousin of beef tartare – was having a moment in the year 2000.
Although it was created by Chef Shigefumi Tachibe in 1984 in Beverly Hills, like many new food experiences, it took time to grow on the public.
It came about as an improvisation – some customers came into Chaya Brasserie one day and didn’t want red meat, according to the Atlantic. Chef Tachibe thought quickly on his feet – and delicious history was made.
In 2001, cupcakes stole the hearts of Americans.
“Sex and the City” wasn’t done with our taste buds yet – in season three, it introduced us very briefly to NYC’s Magnolia Bakery and a certain vanilla cupcake with pink vanilla buttercream frosting.
Even today, it’s still a tourist destination for fans of the show – and the bakery itself went from a tiny neighbourhood place to one with multiple locations all over the world.
Cupcakes went from being just another bakery offering to having their own dedicated bakeries across the land.
2002 wasn’t just a classic BMW model — it was also the year that bacon took over the US.
True bacon fans might argue that every year is the best year for bacon – but 2002 was the year that the cookbook “Everything Tastes Better With Bacon” was published. That’s a sentiment with which a whole lot of Americans apparently agree.
In 2003, whatever you wanted to eat was probably low-carb thanks to the South Beach Diet.
Although Dr. Arthur Agatston created the South Beach diet much earlier, his bestselling book was published in 2003 – and went on to sell 23 million copies worldwide by 2008.
A cardiologist by profession, Dr. Agatston told Time Magazine that he wrote the book with an eye toward preventing some of the health problems he regularly saw in his practice.
Matcha came for American beverage cups in 2004.
2004 was the year that Americans learned that much like their beloved coffee, green tea had more than one flavour variation up its sleeve. Of course, tea aficionados already knew this – but it’s always a joy to see something you love get the recognition it deserves.
Besides the expected tasty hot beverage, matcha started showing up in everything from smoothies to ice cream to macarons.
2005 saw the rise of the word “locavore.”
The phrase was used to describe someone dedicated to eating food grown within a 100-mile radius of their home as possible.
Farmers markets were on the rise, and more people were interested in knowing where their food had come from. When writer Jessica Prentice coined the phrase, she probably didn’t expect that it would become the New Oxford American Dictionary word of the year a couple of years later – but it did.
By 2006, frozen yogurt rose to take the crown.
Long before it became a running gag on “The Good Place,” Americans became obsessed with frozen yogurt.
In its original location in West Hollywood, Pinkberry devotees “launched 1,000 parking tickets,” according to the LA Times. They also regularly annoyed neighbourhood residents, leaving a trail of froyo litter in their wake after stumbling away from their fourth visit to the shop in a single week.
But there was no denying its popularity – and by upping the tartness and lowering the sugar, Pinkberry proved that froyo could be closer to its aspirations as a healthier frozen treat than ice cream.
Other players in the industry caught on – and the probiotic-packed treat’s national expansion doesn’t look to be slowing any time soon.
In 2007, EVOO was so popular, it found its way into the Oxford American College Dictionary.
Rachael Ray’s TV reign began in 2005, and her lifestyle publication and cookbook empire soon saw both her general persona and catchphrases like EVOO and “oh my gravy” enter the collective pop cultural consciousness.
But not every food trend gets immortalised in a dictionary entry – unlike EVOO.
In the US, 2008 was the year of pesto.
By 2008, pesto was everywhere– sold pre-made in jars, smeared on sandwiches, used as a pizza sauce, and tossed with pasta. It’s incredibly easy to make yourself, which helps – and it requires no cooking whatsoever while being reasonably healthy if you don’t go crazy with the parm.
In 2009, Americans ate a lot of hummus.
This simple dip that is usually made with chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and cumin was all over the country in 2009 – both in cold cases at supermarkets and in restaurants.
It’s packed with protein thanks to the chickpea base – and you can dip just about anything into it, from pitas to raw veggies.
Americans couldn’t get enough quinoa in 2010.
Quinoa is a seed – and very importantly, is packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and is gluten-free. It’s also a relative rarity in the plant world, since it’s a complete source of protein.
It was only a matter of time before quinoa took the US by storm.
For the US, 2011 was all about Greek yogurt.
Seen as a healthy way to get a lot of protein into your diet, Greek yogurt went from accounting for only $US60 million dollars in sales in 2005 to a staggering $US1.5 billion dollars in sales in 2011, according to the Atlantic.
In 2012, Brussels sprouts got their delicious revenge.
Although Brussels sprouts sometimes get a bad reputation, they can actually be pretty delicious.
A world of good cooking techniques both at home and in restaurants managed to change an awful lot of peoples’ minds according to the New York Times.
In 2013, Americans couldn’t get enough of kale.
In 2013, the US took kale very seriously. From salads to chips, it seemed like Americans couldn’t escape the cold-hardy green vegetable.
American dreams were full of ramen in 2014.
Instant ramen has been popular around the world for years – but lovingly handcrafted, slow-cooked, unctuous broths of the type that you can only get from simmering actual bones for long periods of time got some long-overdue love in America in 2014.
That love doesn’t seem to have abated since 2014 – and you can now find some quality ramen just about everywhere if you know where to look.
Visions of all-day breakfasts became reality in the US in 2015.
Industry magazine QSR reported that according to a National Restaurant Association forecast, Millennials are much more into the idea of breakfast for dinner than any other generation.
Many Americans couldn’t get enough of avocado toast in 2016.
By 2016, some allegedly gave up their dreams of homeownership and instead pulled hard for avocado toast – in all its forms.
Of course, it’s pricier if you’re eating the restaurant version all the time, but if you want to save money and still eat this heart-healthy fruit – yes, it’s a fruit– then it’s the simplest thing since peanut butter to smear on your toast yourself.
In 2017, bean-to-bar chocolate was having a moment.
First craft beer, then craft coffee, and finally craft chocolate. While some might be wondering what took so long, the fact that craft chocolate requires expensive specialty equipment – and thus, a significant up-front investment, according to Bloomberg – makes it more understandable.
As with other craft specialty items, the beauty of bean-to-bar chocolate is the unique flavours of the beans involved – as well as the process used to make them. It’s something you can’t get from commercial chocolate, according to Paste magazine.
2018 isn’t over yet, but so far #mealprep seems to be hitting its stride across the Internet — if not the country.
If you’re looking for ways to save money, eat healthily, and also eat tastily – the meal-prepping lifestyle may just be for you. Of course, it demands that you have certain resources in reasonable abundance – such as enough money to buy a week’s worth of groceries at a time, and also enough time to prep those ingredients once you get them home.
But one especially beautiful part of this trend is that it involves breaking down a seemingly daunting task – like cooking a week’s worth of healthy meals for yourself and possibly also your family – into manageable steps.
If you’ve made something ahead of time that you can just heat up and eat, it can feel like the best gift ever.
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