Food & Beverage

What foods were 'hot' in 2015?

Mexican chef Alberto Juarez Don Beto slices grilled meat onto a hand-held tortilla for a taco al pastor
Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

2015 was the year for spicy eating. The dish that increased the most in popularity over the last year was tacos al pastor. The spicy small pork tacos infused with pineapple flavor saw spike of more than 277 percent in orders, through food delivery service GrubHub.

Spicy miso ramen orders increased 220 percent, while chicken tikka masala went up 162 percent. Unique spices like Korean hot sauce gochujang went up 228 percent.

"The popularity of spicy foods has been on the rise for the past few years," said GrubHub media relations director Sandra Glading. "This year (2015), I think diners began to think beyond their go-to favorites and use GrubHub to try out new cuisines."

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The popularity of spicy foods reflects one of the National Restaurant Association's predicted food trends for 2016. The NPD Group reported in March that 56 percent of U.S. households keep hot sauce in their kitchens.

GrubHub looked through its data to determine the biggest year-over-year changes in ordering between 2014 and 2015. The online takeout food ordering and delivery service currently has 6.4 million active diners and processes more than 220,000 orders per day. The numbers were pulled from more than 900 U.S. cities and London and consisted of more than 35,000 restaurants.

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Since there were so many different cities and regions, it was difficult to determine accurately the most popular dish of 2015. However, several trends emerged.

Another major move was towards healthy foods. Items with labels like paleo, gluten free, organic, free range and grass fed saw an 18 percent spike from 2014.

In addition, healthy ingredients like acai saw a 19 percent spike. Ancient grains popularity went up 33 percent, especially orders with farro (105 percent), kamut (92 percent) and quinoa (34 percent).

"There are likely several reasons," Glading explained. "First, the increased availability of more incredibly tasty choices that are also healthy has allowed diners to make choices that are both fun and good for them. Second, diners branched out and tried some trendy healthy options that entered the consumer zeitgeist this year — kale Caesar salad and Brussel sprouts were big hits in 2015."

There was also a shift towards homemade dishes. Artisinal pickle orders went up 53 percent, while fresh housemade sausage increased 11 percent. Perhaps the most surprising was the demand for housemade flour, up 57 percent.

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Glading said the flour trend stunned GrubHub the most because the company did not know the ingredient was such a focal point for diners.

"As online ordering becomes more popular, diner needs have shifted slightly," Glading said. "Where it used to be that they wanted any type of food sent quickly to their doorstep, diners today want a wide variety of local options to choose from. This allows them to pick and choose from their favorites, or try new cuisines."