Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

Stand-Out Sides Creative plant-based menu ideation yields signature side dishes

Cornbread studded with black beans, jalapeño, peppers and cilantro make this side dish satisfying and craveable.
PHOTO CREDIT: Bush's Best Foodservice

Sides are no longer afterthoughts. Today, they’re carefully complex, serving up layered flavors and textures, distinguishing themselves as modern, craveable, interesting dishes. Certainly, offering memorable sides is important. What makes it more of an imperative is the way a growing number of diners build their meals, choosing sides and snacks, sharing as they go.

With plant-forward innovation capturing the imagination of diners across the country, here’s a snapshot of how leading-edge restaurants are making their sides the star of the show, along with a few strategies when approaching plant-forward sides development.

Quick ideas for memorable sides:

  • Build on the popularity of mashed potatoes with other plant-based purées, like white bean-cauliflower-brown butter purée or lima bean-stock-butter-rosemary purée
  • Roast carrots, then toss with a hummus-pesto purée
  • Grill cauliflower heads, then lay on a bed of white bean-garlic purée
  • Add Massaman curry powder and mango chutney to braised lentils
  • Add harissa paste and roasted eggplant to braised chickpeas

On the menu:

  • Pole Beans “Carbonara” with fregola, smoked trumpet mushrooms
    —Vedge, Philadelphia
  • Parsnip Fritters with cilantro, walnuts, sunflower
    —Sarma, Somerville, Mass.
  • Shanghai Shoots: Shanghai shoots with fermented black beans and crème fraîche
    —Dirt Candy, New York
  • Black Eyed Pea, Soffrito, Scallion, Crispy Prosciutto
    —Gjelina, Los Angeles
  • Stuffed Squash Blossoms with masa, epazote, maitake mushroom, goat cheese curds, morita chile hummus
    —Bad Hunter, Chicago
  • Bincho Grilled Fava Beans with lemon and tomatillo cream
    —PYT, Los Angeles


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About The Author


Katie Ayoub is managing editor of Flavor & The Menu. She has been working in foodservice publishing for more than 16 years and on the Flavor team since 2006. She won a 2015 Folio award for her Flavor & The Menu article, Heritage Matters. In 2006, she won “Best Culinary Article” from the Cordon D’Or for an article on offal.