9 Worst Food Trends Of 2023, According To Tasting Table Staff

Every year food innovations capture our collective imagination while other culinary methods, ingredients, and traditions are dredged up for rexamination. A return of the espresso martini? We are here for it — although, overworked bartenders might not be so on board. Adding olive oil to coffee in what appears to be a take on bulletproof coffee? It's a choice, and some of us have thoughts.  

Not every food trend gains recognition because the masses want to try it themselves. Sometimes, media outlets, influencers, and restaurants latch onto an idea that is repeated ad nauseam until a novelty is then monetized in staggering ways, like the poor choice to give an internet sensation called Salt Bae vast real estate to sell burgers in Manhattan. 

So, with the privilege of hindsight, our team at Tasting Table compiled some of the worst food trends in 2023. We have a lot of opinions on girl dinners, pickle drinks, and all those edible foods used as decor only to be tossed into the garbage once the cameras are put away.    

1. Olive oil coffee drinks

When the butter coffee trend kicked off in the late 2010s, it was huge with the exercise and ketogenic diet community as a way to add additional healthy fat to your morning caffeine fix. And while the trend of olive oil coffee in 2023 rings similar by adding a healthy fat to coffee, something about it hits differently — not necessarily in a good way. Rather than let these two beautiful items shine on their own or even compliment one another, olive oil coffee ends up tasting like a fatty, oily, bitter sip that coats your mouth with a slick, unappealing texture and an even more unappealing aftertaste. (The Tasting Team reviewed Starbucks' Oleato coffee drinks and had the same sentiment.)

Olive oil coffee had a moment in 2023, and that's where it should stay.

— Sara Kay, features contributor

2. Food waste for aesthetics

The most alarming food trend this year is egregious food waste for aesthetics. A peer shared with me their experience at a recent PR dinner where, to their dismay, pounds of fresh vegetables were piled around each place setting as table decor. This intentional misuse of food for aesthetic purposes is not just wasteful but deeply concerning.

Another vivid illustration of this trend was a recent Eater photoshoot featuring Molly Baz. In a striking display of excess, Baz lay on a vast bed of Caesar salad, complete with croutons, parmesan cheese, and 40 pounds of Romaine lettuce for the shoot. The amount of salad used appeared to be enough to feed a small village (or around 200 people). On Eater's now-deleted Instagram post, followers criticized the blatant food waste. Ironically, the food site often covers the topic of food waste, questioning in 2020, "Are food waste videos worse than any other dumb thing that people do on the internet?"

Adding to this trend is the phenomenon of mukbang, where influencers consume exorbitant amounts of food for online views and clout. The gravity of this issue is further underscored by statistics from No Kid Hungry, which state that 1 in 5 children in America is at risk of hunger, with 13 million children facing starvation at any given time. The casual and extravagant food waste for entertainment, clout, or decor is troubling. Food waste is not just the worst food trend in 2023, it's a trend that needs to end.

— Kat Lieu, news contributor

3. Butter boards

In a world with such divergent opinions about saturated fat, it's not entirely unsurprising that people on one extreme of the spectrum would decide to turn butter into a meal. Popularized by a TikTok video posted by Justine Doiron at the end of 2022, the concept took over in 2023. With hundreds of millions of views on the platform's #butterboard page, the trendy idea seemed to appeal to many people's desire for an easy yet decadent hosting solution.

Endlessly customizable with toppings, and the source of inspiration for other types of boards (Nutella, peanut butter, cream cheese, you name it), one might think of butter boards as a success story. Nevertheless, unless you're delicately spreading pieces of garnished butter with a knife onto a piece of bread, your pretty board can quickly become a crumby mess. With multiple people pushing pieces of bread across the same buttery surface, unless you have extra sturdy crumb-free bread, chances are your board is quickly going to look like a smushed pile of butter.

While I get the concept of returning to simple fare like bread and butter and turning it into something gourmet, I'd rather people stuck with compound butter and other less extravagant options.

— Lucia Capretti, features contributor

4. Pickle drinks

This summer, I ventured into new territory by trying a pickle cocktail, a concept that intrigued me as a devout pickle lover. I've always believed that when it comes to burgers and hot dogs, the more pickles, the better. However, sipping on a pickle cocktail was an entirely different ballgame.

While the experience of enjoying one was interesting, I can't see myself making it a regular beverage choice. To be frank, this food trend should remain a novelty in 2023. Pickles, in my opinion, are best suited as a food accompaniment or snack, or even as a quirky garnish to a drink, but they don't quite hit the mark as the main flavor of a cocktail. I'm open to the idea of a pickle-flavored spirit adding a tangy twist to a bloody Mary, but as the star of the show in a drink? It just didn't resonate with me. All told, it wasn't the worst drink I've had all year, but it definitely ranked as one of the oddest.

— Dani Zoeller, features contributor

5. Tinned fish in restaurants

A friend posted to Facebook about spending $14 for some pickled fish and then another $8 for three sourdough slices to accompany it. This $22 non-starter, starter got me thinking about tinned fish, or conservas, and their place on the table.

I'm no stranger to working with Italian olive oil-packed canned tuna or Spanish bocarones, but I always used them as a starting point for a dish, not the focus, with a few accouterments thrown on as an afterthought. Conservas are the new charcuterie platter; items purchased elsewhere, paired with a one-size-fits-all limited selection of condiments and bread and put out for diners as something special. The side dishes usually involve minimal effort, too.

On the minimalist side, like the now-closed Bar Maruno in Los Angeles, canned seafood ran between $18-$60 with some pickles and bread and butter. Boston's Saltie Girl runs a similar price point, although you can spend $156 for some white clams paired with three salts, bread and butter, pickled peppers, and pepper jam. Barbouni, in St. Petersburg, Florida, has a deep selection of conservas topping out at $79, all paired with toast, butter, salt, sumac onions, lemon, shug, and parsley.

All things are equal in conserva land, it seems. It matters not that scallops and anchovies have vastly different flavor profiles; you're getting the same pairings. So, where's the value added that makes these restaurant-worthy dishes?

— Greg Baker, features contributor

6. Decorative ice

One trend we'd love to see in the rearview mirror as 2023 draws to a close? Decorative ice. When hosting a party, whether or not you have enough ice is usually the last thing on your mind, let alone hand-designing individual cubes with edible flowers, herbs, or even glitter. While these decorative cubes can be admittedly pretty, they don't add much to your cocktails beyond aesthetics and often melt the minute you set up the perfect shot for your holiday Tiktok. With so much to prepare before your guests arrive, who has time to worry about perfecting ice — not to mention the freezer space you need to house dozens of trays of decorative ice cubes and spheres?

While we're all for preparing flavored ice for large-batch cocktails or freezing leftover juice to avoid food waste, filling individual ice cubes with barely edible ingredients just for the sake of looks feels silly. There's a time and a place for specialty ice — like the oversized cubes in your Old Fashioned that keep the drink cold without diluting it — but finicky molds and expensive herbs aren't it. We'll stick with regular old ice to chill those bottles of champagne when we ring in the new year.

Sarah Bisacca, features contributor

7. Plant-based chicken and eggs

We're all for plant-based diets and looking for alternatives to heavy meat consumption. That being said, the trend of turning plants and other ingredients into foods meant to mimic the appearance, taste, and texture of meat products feels a bit wrong. While Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have taken over many facets of the vegetarian packaged product industry, items like look-alike eggs and alternatives to chicken increased this year.

The various companies creating these eerie laboratory eggs use different ingredients, such as almonds, cashews, coconut milk, yeast, potato protein, soy, chickpeas, and more. Meanwhile, non-meat chicken is going down a different rabbit hole, with the creation of cell-cultured chicken. Although it's not plant-based, it might still appeal to vegetarians who avoid meat due to the harming of animals. This new development means that chicken can be grown in labs without having to slaughter animals.

While I get that companies are trying to find ways to profit from the numerous types of diets, I'd like to see a little less processing going on. How about eating whole foods that are farmed sustainably and cooked with delicious spices to add flavor?

— Lucia Capretti, features contributor

8. The raw vegan diet

According to Greek mythology, Prometheus will spend the rest of eternity nailed to a mountain because he gave humans fire. And according to people on the raw vegan diet, there was really no need. Content promoting the raw vegan diet has surged over the last year with TikTok influencers gaining millions of views on videos about how we shouldn't be eating animal products or anything heated above 104 to 118 degrees Fahrenheit. While some people claim that the raw vegan diet boosts energy, clears skin, and slows signs of aging, there is no scientific evidence to support that a raw vegan diet results in any of these benefits.

To the contrary, if you're on a raw vegan diet, it's also said that you're less likely to be getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need, it is more difficult and expensive to eat enough calories, and the restrictive nature of the diet can encourage an unhealthy relationship with food. In one extreme case, social media influencer Zhanna D'Art died of suspected starvation after promoting a raw food diet to millions of viewers.

Although it's great to incorporate plant-based food into your diet, cooking food has plenty of benefits, which is why humans have been doing it for thousands of years. It prevents foodborne illnesses and, in many cases, cooking food makes more nutrients available for our bodies to absorb. So, let's keep the fire burning in 2024!

Fletcher Huntley, features contributor

9. Girl dinner

The concept of "girl dinner" is not inherently bad. I am all for unconventional and creative meals, and using what you have in your kitchen to make a satisfying dinner is fine by me (and I've done it many times). The viral TikTok audio of "girl dinner" was an internet sensation in 2023, and while the trend started out pretty tame and funny, I (and others) found that it quickly devolved into something more dangerous: the promotion of not eating enough.

I love a good conglomeration of snacks as a dinner just as much as the next girl, but what I didn't love so much in 2023 was people wanting to participate in the "girl dinner" trend, and posting videos and photos of food that just isn't enough for a meal. I'm not here to police what other people eat and post about eating, especially since we don't get to see the whole picture of someone's entire day of eating. Rather, I found that the "girl dinner" trend highlighted society's expectations of women: The expectation to be thin.

There were many think pieces about the potential harms of "girl dinner" that go more into it than I can in two paragraphs, but overall, I liked the fact that "girl dinner" didn't shame anyone for having a snack plate for dinner once in a while. However, I did not like the promotion of potentially disordered eating within it, hence its place on this list.

Julia Collins, features editor