Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

Unexpected Flavor Pairings Blueberries paired with savory, acidic or herbaceous elements surprise and delight diners

Blue Star Donuts' Blueberry Bourbon Basil, starring a vibrant blueberry glaze, is its top-selling menu item


One of the most significant markers of menu development today is a focus on complexity of flavor. Dining consumers respond to nuance, depth—and surprise. Heat is more interesting if it prickles and carries a bit of umami, rather than heat that just scorches. Savory is more memorable when it’s rounded by sweet, and sweet is more palatable when complemented by an herbaceous or acidic note, and so on. The challenge today is pinpointing unexpected flavor combinations that stand out as signature offerings.

When looking to deepen the flavor experience in everything from heat to acid, blueberries bring a layered flavor profile, introducing fruity, sweet-tart, bright and fresh notes. And of course, they also add incredibly vibrant color. At Blue Star Donuts, an eclectic doughnut shop based in Portland, Ore., with 11 locations on the West Coast, the Blueberry Bourbon Basil stands out with its unexpected flavor combination and dazzling color. It’s their number-one seller.

The doughnut is made with Blue Star’s famous brioche dough, then topped with a glaze made with fresh blueberries, local bourbon, fresh basil and sugar, beautifully demonstrating the wonderful pairing of blueberries with herbs. “All the color is from the blueberries,” says Jessica Kulp, director of marketing. “The beautiful blueberry flavor comes through, and you get these herbaceous notes from the flecks of basil, as well as caramel notes from the bourbon. It’s unique, and compels our guests to try it.” In fact, intriguing flavors are the hallmark of Blue Star Donuts. “It’s a great way for us to stand out,” says Kulp. “We offer delicious flavor combinations that you just can’t find anywhere else.”

Read on for more unique flavor combinations starring blueberries.

Blueberries + Heat

Dickey’s Blueberry Jalapeño Pulled Pork Sandwich

With consumers’ love of heat still burning bright, it’s a smart move to find new ways of giving them what they want. Modern heat demonstrates a complexity of flavor, often tempering the spice level with sweetness. Last summer, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, a legacy barbecue brand based in Dallas, offered a popular summer LTO, the Blueberry Jalapeño Pulled Pork Sandwich, illustrating a trend-forward strategy in combining unexpected flavors together.

“I enjoy adding heat to barbecue sauce for depth of flavor, but it can be a bit overbearing. The combination of sweet with heat is perfect,” says Dakotah R. Van Patten, chef at the Dickey’s in Kenosha, Wis. “The combination of pork and blueberry actually goes really well together—it takes that sweetness on nicely. Jalapeño is a mild-ish chile, so it works really well here.”


Blueberries + Balsamic Vinegar

Baked Brie with Blueberry Balsamic Chutney

The sweet, bright flavors of blueberries pair really well with the tangy acidity of balsamic vinegar, from a blueberry balsamic chutney on a charcuterie or cheese plate to a vibrant glaze on chicken or turkey. Blueberries also nicely counter the high notes of the vinegar with softer tones, thanks to their fresh, sweet-tart profile.


Blueberries + Herbs

Blueberry Basil Frosé

The Blueberry Bourbon Basil doughnut at Blue Star Donuts is a great example of how certain herbs pair well with blueberries, surprising consumers with an unexpected layer of aromatics. Blueberry and basil are beautiful together. Other herbs that work well include lavender, mint and rosemary, kicking up the flavor of blueberries while adding a lengthening complexity.

For more great ideas and menu inspiration, visit PositivelyBluetiful.com.

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