Italian is no longer the go-to favorite cuisine of Americans as Latin and Tex-Mex foods take over in popularity.
- An analysis of 4,500 new menu items released at major restaurant chains last year found that Americans are opting for foods with Latin-inspired ingredients and preparations, according to restaurant-menu consultancy Datassential.
- The analysis shows that the 10 fastest-growing items on U.S. menus include birria Mexican meat stew, chicken taco salad, and dishes made with the popular spice Tajín.
- The new food preferences have overtaken Italian food, which was previously America’s favorite, with pizza and pasta being top choices.
Why it’s news
Demographic changes in the U.S. are leading to shifts in American food preferences, changing the go-to cuisines for many consumers.
The dramatic rise in the U.S. Latino population is reshaping the national palate, with Latin and Tex-Mex-inspired foods becoming popular in the U.S., overtaking Italian food.
The U.S. Hispanic population reached 62.1 million in 2020, an increase of 23% over the previous decade that outpaced the nation’s 7% overall population growth, according to Pew Research. As the population continues to grow, so does their influence on traditional American cuisine.
An analysis of the 4,500 new menu items released at major restaurant chains last year found that Americans are craving cheesy, spicy foods with Latin-inspired ingredients and preparations, reports Datassential.
The analysis shows that the 10 fastest-growing items on U.S. menus include birria Mexican meat stew, chicken taco salad, and dishes made with the popular spice Tajín. It also shows that one of the top-added menu items is Ranch Water, a cocktail of tequila, lime, and Topo Chico sparkling water.
Italian was America’s favorite for a long time, with the top choices being pizza and pasta, but as more generations become adults, their food preferences are changing and shifting the overall preference in the U.S.
Millennials were “the first generation to actually prefer Mexican cuisine over Italian cuisine,” and Gen Z are “the first generation to prefer both Mexican and Chinese cuisine over Italian cuisine,” says Datassential analyst Mike Kostyo.
Kostyo explains that “the things that young people are growing up with as the norm are so different from 20 to 30 years ago,” and many restaurants previously put pasta and pizza on the menu as a comfort item, but many are now adding tacos and burritos to please guests.
While many younger generations are beginning to prefer Latin and Tex-Mex dishes over Italian, the previous favorite remains highly popular. Another fast-growing option among Americans is Asian food, according to Datassential.