Mexican Rises to the Top as Most Popular Cuisine in the U.S.

Mexican cuisine has risen above Italian and Chinese as the most desired cuisine type in the U.S. for the first time, with 82% of Millennials and 75% of Gen Z saying they “like or love it.” [1]

This is a major shift and shows the desire for more unique global flavors when dining out.  While we search for traditional and authentic Mexican cuisine, younger generations likely derived their love for it through well-known Americanized Mexican dishes like tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, and more. Targeting proven forms like this is a great way to introduce new flavors and new ingredients to your menu.

Ever the versatile ingredient, lentils are a fantastic addition to your pantry for Mexican cooking and can stretch beyond the traditional sopa de lentejas (lentil soup) preparation to these approachable dish formats like nachos and tostadas — and they can soak up the big flavors of emerging regional Mexican cuisines as well, acting as a flavor sponge by absorbing their surrounding seasonings.

“Lentils take spice, seasoning, and sauces so well that they make it less overwhelming to make healthy substitutions,” says James Bickmore-Hutt, corporate chef with

Safe experimentation with lentils can benefit both consumers and your food cost at the same time, as lentil crumbles and blends can introduce customers to the ingredient in dishes that they recognize, encouraging future repeat purchases. For example, our street tacos use a hearty blend of lentils, mushrooms, and walnuts to replace animal protein for a plant-based dish that’s high in protein and highlights bold but familiar flavors.

If your customer base is primed for more adventurous emerging flavors and dishes, lentils play well in the growing regional Mexican cuisine trend, particularly as modern Mexican approaches celebrate plants and plant-forward proteins. [2]

Regional Mexican cuisines including Yucatan, Baja-Med, and Oaxacan highlight plant-based ingredients with vibrant flavors including chiles, cocoa, and citrus. Although lentils may not be the first ingredient that comes to mind when thinking of emerging Mexican trends, they shine as a plant-based whole food that is high in protein and fiber and drives flavor by soaking up the flavors that they’re cooked with, adding body and expansion to rich spices and herbs.

In recipes like this arroz con chorizo y lentejas from Rick Bayless, lentils add protein and fiber to a classic format without taking away from the dish’s flavor or texture. [3] Lentils are an ideal plant-based protein to substitute or complement animal proteins, with 12 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber per ½ cup serving. 

Lentils also offer versatility in just one SKU, becoming velvety in sauces, crunchy in fried toppings for salads or tacos, and even delightfully firm as a pickled side. They can have a unique pop and texture in an acidic escabeche.

As a component in Mexican dishes, lentils can be a boon to non-commercial and commercial large format foodservice operations thanks to their affordability and consistency. If you can cook from scratch, lentils are a very easy ingredient to learn. They cook from dry in 15-20 minutes with no need to presoak. If you need a precooked option, those are plentiful, too.

If you’re ready to start introducing or experimenting with lentils in Mexican dishes, contact the team at today. We are on hand to help you innovate! 

Mexican-Inspired Dishes:

[1] Datassential Flavor 2022
[2] Flavor and The Menu, “The Mexican Gateway: Plant-forward cuisine is finding inspiration in modern Mexican flavors
[3] Rick Bayless, Chorizo Rice With Lentils