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These Were the 12 Coolest Food Trends of 2017

While there was no single food that made an overwhelming splash this year—unlike cronuts and cupcakes in past years—we found that the food trends of 2017 actually say a lot about how we're eating right now. The focus is on health and individuality for many people, in many different ways.

CharcoalCourtesy Miss Paradis miss-paradis.com

Charcoal

In Manhattan, you could choose from the inky Black Coconut Ash flavor at Morganstern's Ice Cream or the charcoal-laced lemony cocktail at Beauty and Essex. In Los Angeles, you could try the charcoal-almond soft serve at Little Damage. And there are plenty of places in between that are jumping on the activated charcoal—considered a detoxifier—bandwagon. You can find it in charcoal-activated bread at Miss Paradis in Manhattan and, yes, even pizza—take a look at these versions.

UnicornCourtesy Starbucks

Unicorn food

The trend exploded in April with the now-famous Unicorn Frappuccino, a rainbow-colored concoction as unforgettable for its brilliant purple, blue, and pink hues as for it was for its overpowering sweet-and tangy taste. Then, in August, Polar water launched their Unicorn Kisses flavored seltzer. We've also heard of Unicorn Lattes in popping up in Brooklyn at a café called The End, and adorable Unicorn Macaroons (designed to look like sweet little unicorn faces) actual coming out of a bakery in Duluth, Georgia called Mac Lab.

Peanut-buttercourtesy the lions pack

Protein-enriched … everything

Sure, this one started a few years ago, but 2017 was the year this packaged-food trend really hit its stride, with protein-laden frozen pancakes from Kodiak Cakes, protein-packed cookie dough from Lion's Choice, yogurt, bread, pudding, pretzels, chips, and even cream cheese. Beloved by weightlifters (and those looking to lose weight), these products help keep fitness types fueled on the go and without cooking everything from scratch.

Coffeecourtesy Café Integral

House-made nut milks

Sure, we've been using almond milk in our morning cuppa for a few years now, but a recent explosion of house-made nut milks—from almond to cashew—are serious game changers. Coffee shops around the country are making their own. We love the cashew-pepita and almond blends at Café Integral Nolita in New York City and hear rave reviews of the almond-date mix at Square One in Silverlake, California as well as the almond-macadamia nut blend at Go Get Em Tiger on Larchmont in Los Angeles. If you're in the market for dairy swaps, here are 11 smart ideas.

Sous-videcourtesy Starbucks

Sous vide takes over the world

Whether you were in a fine dining restaurant, an elegant lounge, or even a Starbucks, the answer to how your favorite dish was made was most likely, "sous vide." From sous-vide Egg Bites, which launched at Starbucks in January, to sophisticated cocktails around the country, chefs are using sous vide—a cooking technique in which vacuum-sealed foods are immersed in water and cooked at a controlled temperature—to change the texture and flavors of foods.

Pokezarzamora/Shutterstock

Poke

For lovers of this Hawaiian-style raw ahi dish, the proliferation of poke shops opening up across the country are a boon. If you're not on board, you might think the fad will bust, but it did feel magical to suddenly find it available just about everywhere, from Manhattan street corners to suburban shopping malls. True, some critics cry foul—since there's more to poke than just chopping up some sashimi-grade tuna and serving it with soy, sesame, onions, and scallions. Truly traditional poke includes limu (a Hawaiian algae) as well as kukui nuts, and chances are that's not what you'll see on the menu around the corner. 

EdiblesCreative Family/Shutterstock

Edibles

As state after state legalizes marijuana, the boom in weed-based foods continues to explode. Today, you can find a wide range of candies and baked goods—from gummy bears to brownies and krispy treats—in legal states; both packaged products and boutique retailers are opening up as well.

YogurtP fotography/Shutterstock

Dairy-free yogurt

This sounds like an oxymoron, but these yogurts are made from everything from soy to cashew milk, almond milk, and coconut milk. Now available just about everywhere, and in increasing flavors and textures and quality, they're a savior for the lactose intolerant and vegans alike. Check out the five things that happen to your body when you go dairy-free.

PastaCourtesy Beth Galton

Fine dining goes fast casual

If the term is unfamiliar to you, fast-casual means high-quality food served quickly in an informal setting. Celebrity chefs bought in big this year: In Los Angeles, the Voltaggio Brothers opened up a fish hot spot called STRFSH; in Manhattan, Mark Ladner opened the fast-casual Pasta Flyer; then there's the fast-casual spin-off of fancy NoMad from chef Daniel Humm called Made Nice. These follow in the footsteps of successful industry leaders like Shake Shack, the chicken sandwhich chain Fuku, and the veggie-centric Beefsteak chain.

Hot-potcourtesy 99 Favor Taste

Hot pot

Cook-it-yourself restaurants have long been growing in popularity, but this year many parts of the country saw an explosion in Sichuan-style hot pot restaurants, where you simmer meats, vegetables, and seafood in spicy chili pepper and Sichuan peppercorn-laden broth. Often—as is the case with the trendy 99 Favor Taste on St. Mark's Place in Manhattan—the meal is all-you-can-eat, and you pick the ingredients—which also include things like pork dumplings and fried tofu—from a menu, and mix your own dipping sauce from a bar, using sesame paste, garlic, chili oil, and cilantro, for example. At the end of the meal, ice cream is usually included to help cool down your fired-up palate. And take a look at this amazing bonus to eating spicy food.

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