Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

XO Sauce Trend Insights Insights from our team of experts

Alden & Harlow in Cambridge, Mass., pairs a New York strip with a smoked mushroom XO sauce.
PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Scelfo


As American consumers start to understand and embrace umami, they’re seeking out that fermented flavor/funkiness to add to most any dish, Asian or other. XO sauce employs ingredients with a heavy dose of glutamine to deliver on the umami essence.

Foodservice operators can use XO sauce in a private-label capacity much like Thousand Island has been the secret sauce to many a tasty burger. Adding XO to barbecue offerings, roasted items and even in many plant-forward dishes can amp up the umami and unctuousness.
Elizabeth Moskow

Today chefs can innovate by swapping out the essential elements of XO: dried seafood (scallops and/or shrimp), fried chiles, garlic and shallots with oil, fermented soy, and sometimes dry-aged ham. Alternate ingredient combinations include:

  • Iberico ham, smoked paprika, anchovy and olive XO
  • Salted cod, sun-dried tomato, piquillo pepper, black pepper XO
  • Crispy shallot, black soy bean, salted duck egg, ginger

Robert Danhi

XO Marks the Spot – this Cantonese condiment packs an umami wallop, making it one of our top 10 flavor trends for 2019.

XO Sauce is umami on steroids. One simple and versatile application is to make it into a compound butter that can be used for many things, from topping grilled meats and fish to finishing pastas.
Stephen Kalil

XO sauce is similar to barbecue sauce in that there is not just one universally accepted recipe. Instead, you’ll find that local chefs pride themselves on putting their own unique twists on this umami-packed condiment.
Mike Buononato

As with other condiments, XO sauce can find its way into a host of preparations and cuisines. Consider how it might figure into Mexican cuisine (adobo, mole, etc.) and American barbecue applications.
Chris Koetke

From the Jan/Feb 2019 Top 10 Trends issue of Flavor & the Menu magazine. Read the full issue online or check if you qualify for a free print subscription.