Everyone and their editors scrambled, at the end of the year, to come up with the food trends to watch in 2017. Would poke spread to more of the country? Was fast casual officially over?
With so much excellent coverage, we wanted to do less predicting, but instead take a look back at 2016 and deduce some truths about how home cooks are approaching meals in today's world. Perhaps it's less sexy than forecasting the future of whey, but we'll never tire of knowing just how much Americans love meatloaf.
The Trend to Watch: Midwestern Cuisine! With bloggers like Molly Yeh making tater tot-topped hot dish trendy, and cities like Detroit leading The New York Times' "52 Places to Go in 2017," the Midwest is poised to make a resurgence in the food and travel world. Watch for millennial bloggers and hip chefs reimagining classic casseroles and cookie salads.
The Trend that Won't Quit: Much like olive oil's takeover in the 90's, yogurt (particularly Greek yogurt) has entered American kitchens and simply won't budge from refrigerator shelves. What started as a trend a few years ago has now transitioned into a cooking staple for those looking for high protein alternatives to other fats like butter and oil.
How Recipes Work Seasonally: Across the board, recipe traffic dips for publishers in the summer months. Makes sense; who wants to turn the oven on in the middle of July? No bake cakes and simple, fruit-based treats skyrocket in popularity all summer long.
Top Cooking Holidays: Last February we noted that, by far, the holiday that produced the most recipe traffic in our network was not Thanksgiving or Christmas, like we might have predicted. It was actually the Super Bowl! And recipes for chicken wings and queso dip, like this mega-popular one by The Baking Fairy, had millions of viewers.
Quick Cleanup Is Always A Theme: Any time we pull top recipes for a given time period, something like this recipe for salmon baked in a foil pouch lands in the top ten list. Other favorite quick, weeknight methods for getting dinner done with minimal dishes include "skillet" preparations, or "one-pan" recipes.
Cooks Like Classics: As often as we hear about home cooks experimenting with new cuisines and moving toward more vegetable-based cooking, meatloaf and classic casseroles are still among the most popular recipes in our network, consistently.
Video Makes A Difference: In the past year and a half, cooking videos have completely transformed the online recipe landscape. Bloggers and media outlets alike know that people follow quick recipes that they find on Facebook, so those recipes that include a video have a leg up on others.
Keywords Work: It seems a little too obvious to be true, but calling a recipe "the best" actually works. Even better if the recipe is for something everyone loves--like chili or chocolate chip cookies. A cook who needs a recipe will likely Google "Best Chili Recipe" before they get cooking.
The Perfect Storm: As I analyzed the top two most trafficked recipes of the year (which boasted hundreds of thousands of more views than the third most popular recipe in our network), I noticed that each employed a number of the concepts listed above in order to achieve success.
In the case of this recipe by The Cookie Rookie, there is a video included, a one-pan preparation, the word "easy" in the title, and game day appropriateness.
And for the most trafficked recipe in 2016, we see "the best" included in the title, a recipe for a classic dish everyone loves, a tale of testing out the recipe with her church pals (how's that for Midwestern charm?) and a video! Note that the recipe was originally posted in 2014, but still generates tons and tons of traffic for this blogger. Evergreen content is real!