Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Flavor & The Menu
June 13, 2023

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Trade and consumer press alike have anointed Mexican-inspired cuisine as the reigning global flavor choice of American diners, establishing a very clear imperative for foodservice operators. Although Americanized Mexican dishes, typically rooted in California and Texas adaptations, are still popular, today’s diners are showing greater interest in the breadth of the signature ingredients, preparations and flavors of regional Mexican cuisines. Consumers may not be able to connect the dots between Oaxaca and tlayudas, Jalisco and birria or Puebla and chalupas, but they are embracing the sophisticated flavor profiles they discover as brands explore the Mexican pantry.

According to 2023 research from Technomic, opportunities abound for ingredients like Mexican sauces, moles, avocado and “new,” less-familiar peppers—not only used in traditional Mexican dishes, but elevating an array of other menu items, such as handhelds, pizzas, salads and bowl builds. Customers look to these ingredients to meet a variety of need states, including satisfaction, health halos and authenticity.

Getting it “right,” however, can be a daunting kitchen challenge, often requiring the time and skill level that can be in short supply today. “The game is getting more and more authentic, and that’s where MegaMex comes in,” says Dan Burrows, consulting chef for MegaMex Foods. The company’s extensive portfolio provides products that have been thoughtfully crafted to deliver unmatched operational simplicity as you infuse the spirit of Mexico into your menu.

These product solutions are centered on taste and convenience, supplying chefs with speed-scratch advantages, without any compromise of menu integrity. Discover:

  • Hand-scooped avocados in six formats (WHOLLY® AVOCADO Brand)
  • Five flavors of guacamole (WHOLLY® GUACAMOLE Brand)
  • Twelve varieties of tasty salsas and sauces (LA VICTORIA® Brand, HERDEZ® Brand, EMBASA® Brand)
  • One-of-a-kind pepper pastes in three bold flavors (TRES COCINAS® Brand)
  • On-the-go handhelds (DON MIGUEL® Brand)
  • Multiple ready-to-use ingredients to round out your recipes, from refried beans and jalapeños to tomatillos and more

Each product reflects a pride in the authenticity of ingredients, whether developed by Mexican flavor specialists in this country or vetted and used by Mexican consumers for years, notes Burrows. “Expertise and heritage is at the forefront.”

Hand in hand with flavor, these products lend coveted versatility, consistency and expediency to chefs ready to amplify Mexican flavors on their menus. Here are three general approaches to consider.


Infuse Fan Favorites with Mexican Flavors

Operators can leverage the growing popularity of Mexican flavors without completely upending their menus. Start by giving one or two classic dishes a refreshing makeover that adds dimension and distinction, separating you from the competition with new signatures. Product solutions from MegaMex Foods make these exceedingly simple transformations to execute.

In the Chipotle Brownies a la Mode pictured here, a simple squeeze of TRES COCINAS® Chipotle with Adobo Authentic Pepper Paste to brownie batter yields a balanced spicy-sweet, smoky profile. Chef Burrows points to how mole is made with peppers and chocolate as the genius inspiration for this riff. “Adding that chipotle flavor to a brownie is amazing,” he says. “The sugar in the brownie tames the heat. Take a bite, let the fat clear, and you have a little pop or chile pepper at the end—and you want another bite. The flavors are so well-balanced.”

In another menu inspiration, Nacho Chili Mac & Cheese is elevated by substituting a conventional cheese sauce with LA VICTORIA™ Nacho Cheese Sauce, then topping the noodle mixture with a chili con carne made with LA VICTORIA® Thick’N Chunky Salsa, beef, chile seasoning and beans. Dial up the heat further with a side of EMBASA® Nacho Sliced Jalapeños.


Add an Easily Identifiable Mexican Dish to the Menu

“Customers are starting to expect Mexican dishes on the menu,” says Burrows, noting that the market for authentic flavors is “exploding.” Many restaurant concepts have room for recognizable dishes, as diners improve their awareness of the scope of this cuisine beyond the Americanized-formulas that have dominated the foodservice landscape. “You can take something that seems familiar, but get more authentic with flavors and forms, creating something more craveable as a result.” He cites chilaquiles as an example. “Nachos can become chilaquiles, which are so much better than American nachos.”

Here are two menu inspirations that each offer an accessible entry point to both operators and their guests. The Ropa Vieja with Roja Rice features flank steak braised with LA VICTORIA® Salsa Picante until tender. For the Keto Breakfast Enchiladas, egg omelets replace tortillas and are filled with WHOLLY® GUACAMOLE Homestyle Guacamole. They’re topped with a sauce prepared with LA VICTORIA® Traditional Red Enchilada Sauce and TRES COCINAS® Chipotle with Adobo Authentic Pepper Paste, plus queso fresco and cilantro.

Burrows also encourages chefs to begin exploring preparations featuring al pastor and barbacoa. Birria has already passed from emerging trend to mainstream application. He expects tlayuda to be the next hot dish, ripe for both traditional presentations and experimentation. “You’re beginning to see all of these in QSR and fast-casual brands—even in niche operations like taco concepts. Customers are starting to demand them—and it’s happening pretty fast.”


Take Mexican in Unexpected Directions

Gumbo. Loaded Tots. Spring Rolls. Shrimp Po Boy. Bahn Mi. These are not dishes associated with Mexican cuisine. But the craveable appeal of Mexican flavors is driving inspired mash-ups designed to capture an audience that simply cannot get enough.

The key is making sure such dishes fit within your concept, advises Burrows. “It needs to make sense flavor-wise. Perhaps I have a steakhouse, and instead of a regular hollandaise, I incorporate a little Mexican pepper heat. Overall, the dish is still very much a steakhouse item. Or maybe I always use a Calabrian pepper for my Italian restaurant’s arrabbiata sauce, but try using TRES COCINAS® Ancho & Pasilla Authentic Pepper Paste instead. It’s still delicious, and the customers love it.”

Two more menu inspirations highlight the opportunity here for capturing the keener nuances of Mexican flavors while simplifying your process using products from MegaMex Foods. The Avocado Oscar is the “ultimate Surf & Turf,” featuring a grilled beef filet mignon topped with buttery WHOLLY® AVOCADO Diced Avocado and Alaskan King crab. It’s finished with a drizzle of chipotle-lime hollandaise made with TRES COCINAS® Chipotle with Adobo Authentic Pepper Paste. Meanwhile, tempura gets a Mexican identity in the Cilantro Tempura Shrimp and Vegetables, featuring crispy tempura shrimp, peppers, vegetables and a squeeze of lime. Serve it with two dippable sides: soy sauce and HERDEZ® Guacamole Salsa.


MegaMex Foods offers practical, efficient ways to put authentic Mexican flavors on menus. Across its portfolio of solutions, each product category has been informed by American foodservice expertise.

The needs of the foodservice operator are paramount, says Burrows, noting that a wide spectrum of equipment, storage, packaging, disposal, costs, time and other kitchen factors is always top of mind for the company. “Foodservice is such a penny business now; we all have to think more about shelf-life, packaging studies and ensuring consistency in performance, despite an inconsistency in the skill level of kitchen staff.” For example, he continues, foodservice products are packaged in easy-to-open, -pour, -store and -discard pouches. “We know that glass is a deal-breaker for American foodservice.”

Similarly, because foodservice operators think about safety every day, “This was a big part of how we looked at our avocado products, both to keep them fresh and food safe, as well as providing them in formats that reduced the risk of kitchen accidents,” says Burrows. This dual focus on simplicity in the kitchen and unmatched flavor on the plate sets MegaMex Foods apart in the marketplace.

If you’re ready to make menu moves toward a Mexican imperative, turn to MegaMex Foods for products that have been thoughtfully developed for BOH needs, while staying true to the heart of Mexican cuisine.

Discover the benefits of the MegaMex Foods portfolio of product solutions at megamexfoodservice.com.



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