Food Trend Spotlight: America’s Most-Loved Dishes 

January 2024 

Classic American dishes like burgers, fries, macaroni and cheese, and pizza are beloved because they are approachable, flexible, and delicious. The perennial appeal of these dishes makes them a perfect entry point to introduce new ingredients or trending global twists. When you add lentils to a dish, they act as a flavor sponge and carry the flavors of globally inspired cuisines while adding plant-forward nutrient density and holding consistency for operational ease. 

If you want to introduce a new American regional cuisine or trending ingredient, but are unsure how to start, embrace safe experimentation. You can make unfamiliar flavors exciting to consumers by presenting them in the formats that Americans already love to eat. corporate chef James Bickmore-Hutt says that embracing these well-loved dishes creates ease from an operational standpoint: “A crowd favorite like the burger is grounded in a simple composition: meat, condiments, cheese (sometimes), and vegetables. When utilizing lentils in either a plant/animal protein blend or in a fully plant-based application, the key is simplicity. With a tried and reliable ratio, you can easily plug in a rotating array of spices and seasonings that are easily absorbed by the lentils, acting like a flavor sponge, and keep the operational familiarity simple for scalable solutions with back-of-house staff.” 

Here are some ideas for using America’s most-loved dishes to introduce new flavors and showcase menu innovation:  


Move a burger around the world using our LTO strategy: start with a simple, nutrient-dense lentil-mushroom-beef burger base and add global inspiration with different spices and condiments. Using lentils in blends with animal protein can help lower your production costs while adding whole food plant protein, which consumers increasingly say they look for on a menu.  

Dishes that mix plant and animal protein appeal to 60% of the general population, and 30% of consumers say that in the coming year, they plan to order more lentil and legume dishes that are plant-forward or contain blended protein. [1] You could even market a seasonal or LTO burger passport to inspire return purchase intent and encourage consumers to explore more flavors and regional cuisines. 

Loaded Fries 

Loaded fries are another great vehicle for bringing global influence onto the plate. French fries are universally loved by consumers and are present on over 60% of U.S. menus [2]. Fries are a neutral base which allow for the integration of toppings, sauces, and seasonings that bring big flavor. Inspired by the popularity of poutine, loaded fries offer the opportunity to steal the poutine build and allow it to be inspired by cuisines and regions from around the globe. Over 60% of consumers are interested in trying loaded fries [3]. 

With 12 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber per half-cup serving, lentils are an excellent source of plant-forward nutrient density, adding staying power to even the most indulgent dishes. As Chef Bickmore-Hutt says, “Incorporating lentils helps to bridge the gap between ‘comfort’ and ‘healthy’ food — consumers feel better about eating a basket of fries if they are topped with a plant-based gravy that has nutritional density. Consider combinations such as the Indian favorite, dal with crumbled paneer, or bold Korean fermented spice-tossed lentils with fresh pickled shaved vegetables, and my favorite, a Greek seasoned lentil crumble with fresh Greek salad and red wine vinaigrette dressing.” 

Mac and Cheese 

Ever versatile, lentils can help you create your own cuisine mash-up that introduces global flavors, like this comforting Curried Mac and Cheese. You can apply this formula to any regional cuisine: Take a cuisine that you would like to explore and bring aromatics and spices into a quintessential American format. corporate chef James Bickmore-Hutt says that embracing these American favorites also creates ease from an operational standpoint: “A dish like mac and cheese is really simple to execute at scale. When you add a component like lentils that are straightforward to cook and take up the flavors of spices that they are cooked with, you can create complexity and appeal in just a few executionary steps.” 

Here are more classic American dishes that make great points of entry for safe experimentation:  


Email us to let us know how you’re introducing bold new flavors and ingredients with safe experimentation! 

[1] Datassential 2023 Plant-Forward Opportunity Report 
[2] Datassential, Snap 
[3] Datassential, On The Menu, March 2017