Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Flavor & The Menu
February 2, 2020

As diners have embraced the combination of sweet countered with prickling or biting heat, chefs have delved deeper into the possibilities. Honey has become a favorite here, thanks to its positioning as a natural sweetener as well as its nuanced, rounded profile. From Sriracha and gochujang to sambal and habanero, the complexity of sweet and heat lends itself to a number of menu opportunities.

This Hot Honey Meatball Wrap, developed by Butterball Foodservice, demonstrates the way hot honey balances savory elements while introducing dimension and building craveability. Turkey meatballs serve as a lean, wholesome, neutral protein, taking on the flavors and the gorgeous honey glaze nicely.

The dish fires on multiple cylinders, cleverly introducing moo shu-inspired elements through strips of egg pancake (instead of the traditional scrambled egg), along with a stir-fry of mushrooms, ginger and garlic. The turkey meatballs carry the most flavor in the build, glazed in hot honey then tossed in a savory combination of soy sauce, sake, cornstarch and sugar, all atop a grilled flatbread. With 47 percent of diners reporting that they enjoy sweet-heat combinations, and 77 percent reporting that they favor spicy foods, according to Technomic, hot honey presents serious menu opportunity.

Turkey, as a familiar, lean and versatile protein, serves as an ideal platform for translating this trend. A quick look across the foodservice landscape showcases the possibilities. Bruegger’s Bagels reports huge success with its limited-time offering called the Sweet Heat Turkey Sandwich, which sees a Sriracha-honey cream cheese spread on marble rye topped with roasted turkey, melted cheddar and bell peppers. Main Street Gourmet Deli in Somerville, N.J., menus a turkey sandwich called Division St., dialing up the experience with a combination of turkey breast, bacon, Muenster, avocado, lettuce, tomato and onion with hot honey mustard on toasted rye. In Beaumont, Texas, The Stuffed Mushroom Kitchen & Catering Co. menus Sriracha-honey Turkey Meatballs. In each of these, the combination of honey and heat delivers that complexity and nuance of flavor experience that diners today want, while keeping things familiar and safe with a beloved protein, turkey.


Datassential’s 2019 MenuTrends Tracker showcases five ways the sweet-heat combination is finding traction, reporting a significant increase in menu mentions over the last four years:

Habanero honey +200%
Sriracha honey +200%
Chile honey 150%
“Hot” honey 121%
Spicy honey 33%


With turkey’s versatility and mild flavor, it’s easy to find pathways into that perfect balance of sweet and heat.

Turkey Garam Masala
Indian spices lend aroma and flavor to turkey breast filets, while a finishing glaze of habanero honey punches up the experience with searing heat tempered by the round sweetness of honey.

Country Fried Turkey Waffler
This dish offers a fresh take on the classic, serving up turkey in a craveable, crispy coating, and buddying it up to fluffy waffles. A Nashville hot syrup finishes the brunch-ready dish, giving hot honey a Southern twist with maple syrup, hot sauce, honey and brown sugar.

For more on-trend ideas starring turkey, visit Butterball Foodservice.

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