Novelty Foods That Trended in Recent Years

Were these food items really worth the fuss, or were they just for the ‘gram? From rainbow bagels to ramen burgers, from Unicorn Frappuccino’s to Dalgona shakes, here are some of the novelty foods that filled your social feed in recent years.

1) Cronut

three cronuts

Food “hybrids” were becoming a thing in the new millennium, and cronuts were among the first of those. It also kicked off every foodie’s obsession with the so-called “viral” food. Shaped like a donut but with the texture of a croissant, cronuts debuted at Ansel’s Bakery in New York’s Soho neighborhood in 2013. It had people waiting in line in front of the bakery for hours during the height of its popularity. From America, the demand for cronuts later spread across the globe. 

While the bakery still sells cronuts today, thankfully you don’t have to spend the entire morning waiting in line to get one.

2) Rainbow bagel

a rainbow bagel with a cream in the center

One of the foods that best typifies dining in the Instagram and social media age is the rainbow bagel. This technicolor bread was the creation of The Bagel Store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who started selling them in 2015. 

While they taste like regular bagels, the rainbow bagel nevertheless attracted the attention of many people, many of whom traveling from across the country just to get one. Demand was so overwhelming that the store was forced to close temporarily in 2016.

3) Dalgona coffee

dalgona coffee

When the Covid-19 pandemic began sweeping the world in 2020, we found ourselves spending longer time in our kitchens than we could have imagined. For the time being, we gave up regular visits to our favorite cafés, so the Dalgona coffee became the substitute for our coffee-shop fix. This foamy concoction of instant coffee, milk, and sugar is actually quite easy to prepare, you don’t even need an electronic hand mixer to make it.

4) Over-the-top milkshake (crazy milkshake or freakshake)

crazy milkshake with pink macarons and donut and cream on top

In the mid-2010s, restaurants and cafés started adding every sweet treat they could find to their milkshakes. Although the over-the-top milkshake trend started at a café in Canberra, Australia, in 2015, it wasn’t until a burger joint in New York City popularized it a year later. You can add and top everything to your milkshake with whatever your heart desires – fudge, popcorn, Fruit Loops, M&M’s, even doughnuts and cake slices. 

5) Ramen burger

ramen burger

If you are a fan of ramen and burgers, then you must thank Keizo Shimamoto, a Japanese-American chef who came upon the idea of fusing these two dishes. He shaped ramen noodles into burger buns. This playful East-West fast-food creation, as expected, caught the foodies’ fancy when Shimamoto introduced it at the Smorgasburg food market in Brooklyn, New York, in 2013.

6) Raindrop cake

a plate of raindrop cake with syrup and kinako

Once again on the Japanese novelty food – this curious-looking cake, indeed resembling a raindrop, was first invented by Kinseiken Seika Company in Yamanashi Prefecture (near Tokyo), Japan, in 2014. Originally named mizu shingen mochi, or “water droplet cake,” this gelatinous, transparent dessert consists of water, sugar, and agar, and shaped into a clear, giant dewdrop. It is normally served with kuromitsu (a molasses-like syrup) and kinako (soybean flour).

7) Pancake cereal

pancake cereal

Instagram was the melting pot (pardon the pun) of the biggest viral food trends from the past decade. Then, 2020 ushered in the TikTok era. One of the viral trends that TikTok launched last year was the pancake cereal, consisting of tiny pancakes soaked in milk and eaten just the way that regular breakfast cereal in milk is eaten.

8) Cloud bread

One of the food trends that went viral on the TikTok platform during the Covid-19 lockdown period is the cloud bread. Not only it is a viral thing on social media – it is actually delicious. It’s fluffy and tasty just like your favorite sourdough, but with significantly less carbs. All you need to bake it at home are egg whites, corn starch, and sugar. The ingredients come together to form a light and fluffy cloud-like bread. It’s like you’re taking a bite of a piece of heaven.

9) Unicorn frappuccinos

Starbucks unicorn frappuccino

Unicorn anything was viral in 2017, thanks to Starbucks, who started this trend by releasing the Unicorn Frappuccino. It consists of ice, milk, sour blue powder, pink powder, mango syrup, crème Frappuccino syrup, and blue drizzle. Soon, other cafés began copying the drink. And not too long after, Starbucks launched another drink that was just as visually dazzling as the Unicorn Frappuccino, the Mermaid Frappuccino.

10) Charcoal ice cream and froyo

hand holding black ice cream in a black cone

For people who could not stomach colorful food, there was the charcoal craze. Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream in New York City is widely believed to have started this trend by selling pitch-black ice cream made of activated charcoal in 2015. Activated charcoal is purported to have health benefits, such as anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Whether activated charcoal’s health benefits are real or just a marketing gimmick, that won’t stop people from buying charcoal ice cream and froyo and praising their rich, Instagram-worthy blackness.