12 Food Trends Southern Chefs Are Looking Forward To In 2023

From mushrooms to canned seafood, these are the foods to expect to see on 2023 menus.

Chaneterelle Mushrooms
Photo: Antonis Achilleos

Just like fashion, food trends come and go. Cupcakes were once all the rage before cake pops took over. This year the internet gave us butter boards and its multiple spins-offs like cream cheese or peanut butter boards. A lot of these food trends start in restaurants and trickle out into your favorite magazines (like ours) and then into grocery stores. So, we thought we'd ask a few Southern professional chefs what they think will take off next year. They don't have a crystal ball, but we'd bet their predictions are pretty spot on.

01 of 12

Canned Seafood

Canned fish
Claudia Totir/Getty Images

Executive chef Thomas Davis of The Betty in Atlanta predicts that all sorts of tinned fish, like anchovies, but also canned seafood, like mussels or clams, will be everywhere next year.

"I am looking forward to the emergence of canned seafood from Spain and Portugal, and this offering becoming widely recognized and embraced by American diners and chefs," said Davis.

While canned tuna and sardines are nothing new, he's excited by up and coming brands bringing small-scale, handcrafted seafood canning to the forefront.

"With so many unique coastline areas, it will be exciting to see local fisheries starting to utilize some of these techniques in a more artisanal fashion than what we typically find in restaurants and on grocery store shelves," said Davis.

02 of 12

Asian-Inspired BBQ

Asian BBQ Sauce

Westend61/Getty Images 

Barbecue is obviously popular across the South, but executive chef Dung “Junior” Vo, of Noko in Nashville, thinks the region will embrace global barbecuing traditions, in particular Asian barbecuing techniques and flavors.

"As a Vietnamese American, I grew up eating a lot of BBQ food. Since gas wasn’t readily available in every household, at least not when and where I lived, we grilled and cooked a lot of our meals with coals. Essentially, it’s our way of barbecuing," he said.

Chef Vo personally loves this style of cooking because the rustic-style centers around comfort food and traditional techniques.

"As a chef, I’ve always wanted to showcase my heritage as much as I could, bringing food back to the way it was served traditionally. Cooking with natural wood and/or coals gives it a distinct flavor and smokiness that you wouldn’t normally get by cooking it any other way," said Vo.

03 of 12

Nixtamalization Beyond Corn

Masa Harina vs Corn Flour

Nixtamalization is a traditional Mexican and Central American process in which corn is treated with lime, cooked, dried, and ground to make flour (masa). The masa is then used to make foods like tortillas or tamales. That's not the only way it has to be used however.

"I use this technique with fruits and vegetables; the nixtamal creates a barrier around the fruit so you can cook it without it falling apart. I’ve done this with strawberries, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, lemons, and limes. With potatoes, the technique creates a crust on the outside, so when you fry the potato, it stays crispier longer but remains soft on the inside. It’s an interesting technique that’s starting to trend in the States," said executive chef Katsuji Tanabe of a’Verde Cocina and Tequila Library in Cary, North Carolina.

04 of 12

Retro Dishes

Baked Oysters with Bacon, Greens, and Parmesan
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke

"I think we are going to see a lot of chefs look back to the past and focus on the classics. Not necessarily reimagining them but executing them at a high level," predicts executive chef Matt Weinstein of Oak Steakhouse Highlands, in Highlands, North Carolina.

We know that Southern Living fans love a good retro recipe, but Weinstein sees them making their way back onto restaurant menus.

"Dishes like coq au vin, cassoulet, lobster thermidor, and oysters Rockefeller. There are so many great dishes that people have forgotten about or don't even know. Sometimes the best way to go into the future is to look into the past for inspiration," said Weinstein.

05 of 12

Goodbye Sous Vide


Getty Images

"I think 2023 sees the end of sous vide cooking as we’ve known it as there are a lot more gadgets coming out that are way less of a hassle!" said executive chef and co-owner Victor King, of The Essential, Bandit Pâtisserie, and Bar La Fête in Birmingham, Alabama.

While the sous vide machine will always be a useful kitchen tool, whether at home or at restaurant, new professional and at home appliances, like combi ovens, are on the rise.

06 of 12

Food as Medicine

Fresh vegetables and fruits on white background
Claudia Totir/Getty Images

"One of the biggest upcoming food trends is how it’s important to look at food not only as nourishment but also as medicine. That’s something that I think will definitely be making a comeback in 2023, because yes, we do use food to feed ourselves and feed the soul, but there are also a lot of health benefits from certain foods," said chef Shamil Velazquez of Minero Mexican Grill & Cantina & Delaney Oyster House in Charleston, South Carolina.

With the rise of culinary medicine programs at medical schools, including at the Tulane University School of Medicine, which offers a culinary medicine program for medical students, and online courses to medical residents enrolled in seven U.S. residency programs, chef Velazquez is certainly onto something.

07 of 12


Blue bowling ball in center of alley
Prasit Photo / Getty Iimages

“The experience within the experience. Dinner theatre is going to be it – live music, tableside service, other forms of entertainment or a show –  whether on your plate or on the stage, it’s going to be the key in 2023," said Sam Bakhshandehpour, co-owner of The Electric Jane in Nashville.

Dinner and a show or activity is part of an emerging genre of dining out called eatertainment. From bowling to ping pong, or even burlesque, diners are ready for more than just a meal when they go out.

08 of 12

Ancient Grains

Millet grains


Michelle Arnold / EyeEm / Getty Images

Grains like millet and amaranth are nothing new, in fact, they're pretty old, but they're getting a second life on restaurant menus. Chef Ryan Pera of Coltivare in Houston thinks consumers will be more attracted to ancient grains in 2023. These grains may have been around a long time, but are fairly new to many American consumers.

"Millet is more sustainable than other grains and is used by many cultures because it doesn’t require a lot of water. Amaranth, another super grain, grows really well in the South specifically. The entire plant is edible and is so spectacular looking, which makes it really appealing to home gardeners,” said Pera.

Celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan of Morph Hospitality Group in Nashville thinks fonio, an African heritage grain, is going to become more popular in the United States. "It's a healthy alternative to the regular over processed grains that we usually eat. As people are always looking to better what they put in their bodies, it has legs to become a staple in 2023."

09 of 12

A Lighter Version of Grandma’s Cooking

Shelling Field Peas
Iain Bagwell

"All chefs in the South want to give our guests what we love most, what our grandmothers cooked. Right now, when you think about Southern cooking, you think about heavy comfort food, but comfort food doesn’t need to be heavy," said Daniel Hatcher, executive chef at Hotel Zaza in Austin.

Southern chefs are taking inspiration from seasonal local produce more than ever, and are crafting vegetable-forward entrées that highlight the bounty of the South.

"My grandmother had an amazing garden and was always proud to share with her family. I can appreciate hours spent over a shovel now… much more than hours spent over a stove. I love a good biscuits and gravy, but I am even happier to see tomatoes and okra grown in delta soil.  Butter beans, and crowder peas packed in a Ziploc with dirt at the bottom of the bag are golden," he said.

10 of 12

Non-Alcoholic Spirits and Drinks

Canned Ghia
Courtesy of Ghia

Mocktails really took off last year, and it looks like they aren't going anywhere soon. If anything, the trend is poised to expand as more companies and restaurants offer non-alcoholic spirits and ready-made NA beverages, like Ghia.

“2023 will be the year of non-alcoholic spirits. We will see menus change and accommodate those who are looking for something to drink without the booze,” said owner and chef Hunter Evans of Elvie's in Jackson, Mississippi.

Non-alcoholic spirits or imitation alcohol used to get a bad rap, but now more brands have created delicious drinks full of flavor without any of the booze. Some companies mimic hard liquor, as Free Spirits does, or creating a new kind of non-alcoholic drink altogether, like Seedlip, an industry favorite that makes flavorful spirits from distilling botanicals, for a satisfying alcohol alternative that doesn't just taste like sugar.

11 of 12


Chaneterelle Mushrooms
Antonis Achilleos

Mushrooms are going to shine next year, according to chef Hunter Evans. As the vegan and vegetarian diets become increasingly popular and omnivores crave delicious meatless mains, mushrooms, especially lesser known varieties, will take off.

"Aside from being one of my favorite ingredients to cook, I think as our foodways continue to change the way we eat meat, we will see a lot of people turning to and cooking all sorts of varieties of mushrooms," said Evans.

12 of 12

Dressing Up Affordable Cuts of Meat

Cutting beef
BRETT STEVENS / Getty Images

Meat prices have steadily been climbing and chefs, just like you, are using more affordable cuts in their cooking as a result. Executive chef Kristin Beringson of Henley in Nashville not only expects these cuts to make their way onto restaurant menus, but thinks chefs will transform them into more than just soups or stews.

"Recipes involving dressing up these less expensive cuts, to make them more presentable and desirable will be super popular! For example, crafting a recipe on how to turn a cube steak into a fine dining entrée," Beringson said.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles