New flavour trends for starter menus

November 25 2014

If you want to boost the sales of appetizers, you might want to try being a little more inventive with what you're offering.

Recent research from Technomic shows that restaurant customers like to be adventurous when it comes to choosing an appetizer. Almost 60 per cent of customers who reported buying starters said that the main reason they made the purchase was to try something new or unique, according to Canadian Restaurant and Food Service News (CRFS).

What's more, The Canadian Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report also showed that nearly one-third (31 per cent) of customers said that strong or unique ethnic flavours played a part in choosing to buy a starter.

The latest flavour trends can provide great inspiration for chefs looking to add new items to their selection of appetizers. According to MenuMonitor, sage, peanut and maple are the three fastest-growing flavours, followed by pistachio, lime, citrus, miso, dill, honey and cranberry.


With sage topping the list, and dill showing up further down, herby flavours seem to be a great way to brighten up a dish. Sage works well with beans and poultry and it also complements pumpkin perfectly for savoury seasonal dishes. Accords, a wine bar and restaurant in Montreal serves Cornish hen with flageolet beans, fried sage and a juniper berry sauce.

Meanwhile, dill is a great accompaniment to salads, vegetables, meats and sauces. At Chianti Cafe, diners may choose to order fried ravioli bites with dill cream-cheese dip. CRFS reports that the herb brings a refreshing taste to the fried and cheese-heavy starter.


Restaurants need to be careful when adding nuts to their menus, as allergies can be a serious concern. However, these little ingredients can bring a lot of flavour and interesting textures to dishes - not to mention nutrients like protein, iron and calcium.

Peanut is the second-fastest growing flavour trend and it's a common ingredient in Asian cooking - such as Thai peanut sauce. It's also regularly used in Canadian inspired dishes, says CRFS. For example, at Canoe in Toronto, they offer a foie gras starter with peanuts, Nova Scotia blueberries and toasted bulrush brioche.

Another nutty flavour that's on the rise is pistachio, which is up 40 per cent from last year. With their delicate flavour, they work well in sweet and savoury dishes.


Although starters are generally considered thought of as savoury items, a little bit of sweetness can enhance meat and vegetable starters. With maple being the third fastest growing flavour, it can add sweetness and bring some Canadian flair to your meal. Bow Valley Grill in Banff, Alberta, for instance, uses maple-Yukon Jack bourbon to flavour its grilled bison skewers.

Honey also ranks as a fast growing flavour. Similar to maple, it can be used to add a nice level of sweetness to a variety of of sweet or savoury dishes, but with a less distinctive taste.


The fruits that are growing in flavour popularity are mainly on the sour and tangy end of taste spectrum. Citrus, lime and cranberry are all named on the list of trending flavours and all work well as sauces or flavouring for savoury meats.


Miso is most commonly associated with soup, but it can also be used to create delicious sauces, marinades, dips and salad dressings. It has a high salt content, so it brings out other flavours very well.