Food experts predict 2013 will be the “year of the taco,” not mention a good time for a few other Latin foods. (Pictured: beer-battered, Baja-style fish tacos. Photo/Courtesy Mercadito.)

6 Latin food trends for 2013

It’s that time of year again when lists of ingredients and eating ways America will become obsessed with surface everywhere. And since Latin food has become so intertwined with American food, we decided to get in on the action and do a little Hispanic forecasting of our own. contacted three of the country’s leading food experts and asked them to look into our proverbial crystal caldero. Here’s what they predict:

1. More spicy por favor. Expect to see the most mainstream products—think potato chips, Cheetos, even popcorn—in new flavors like chipotle or jalapeño, or laced with popular picante sauces like Tapatio. “The millennials, whether or not they’re Hispanic, are really appreciating their favorite products in these new flavors,” said Kazia Jankowski, Associate Culinary Director at the Boulder-based Sterling-Rice Group, which specializes in the culinary field and recently published 10 Trends That Will Take Over Your Plate in 2013. One example Jankowski points to: the high end popcorn brand, 479 Degrees’ launch of a chipotle-caramel flavor.

2. Sour arrives. A sour flavor profile isn’t necessarily new to Latin cuisine, but 2013 will be the year all things acidic gain more acceptance in mainstream dining rooms. “You’ll see a lot more of ingredients like passion fruit, tamarind, lime and grapefruits—and not just in margaritas,” Jankowski said. “Expect to see them in all kinds of dishes.” A good place to start looking: ceviches, which are increasingly popular and typically flavored with with lime, lemons or bitter oranges.

3. Tapas 2.0. The food industry refers to it as the “small plate concept.” Of course, we Latinos know it better as…tapas, those Spanish-style small-portioned dishes of which you order many to share with friends at a restaurant table. While there’s nothing new about tapas or small plates, the trend for 2013, says Jankowski, is that the dishes won’t be for sharing anymore. “The idea is menus will feature a small portion so you can better control what you eat,” Jankowski said. “It all originated with tapas, yes, but this year it’s moving beyond that.”

4. The taco gets an upgrade. “I say 2013 will be year of the taco,” declares Gerry Ludwig, Corporate Consulting Chef for Gordon Food Service, the largest privately held food distributor in North America. And not just the taco we already know either. He’s talking serious, chef-driven tacos making an unprecedented cross over. Consider, Ludwig says, these recent important openings: New York City master chef April Bloomfield, already famous for her burgers at The Spotted Pig, her seafood at the John Dory Oyster Bar and her hearty English breakfast at The Breslin, last month debuted Salvation Taco in partnership with her friend Chef Roberto Santibañez; they’re putting out the likes of a roasted cauliflower with curried cream taco and a moroccan lamb one served on Indian naan. And in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, Chef Rick Ortiz opened Antique Taco, a combination taco stand and hip antique shop, already hailed by Michelin as one of the city’s best values, where he serves up fish tempura tacos garnished with sriracha tartar sauce and a market mushroom taco with pumpkin seeds, smoked onion cream and arugula.

5. Chorizo goes mainstream. You know it’s safe to say an ingredient has “gone mainstream” when it finds its place on an…iHop menu? Yes, that quintessentially American breakfast emporium serves up “Chorizo & Eggs” in at least some of its regional restaurants. The other sign chorizo has arrived, says Steve Bryant, Director of Food & Beverage for the MSLGroup North America, a strategic communications group specializing in the culinary industry? Even vegetarians are finding ways to incorporate it’s smokey, spicy deliciousness into their diets. Hence—and we’re not kidding here—the  “soyrizo” made with textured soy protein instead of random pork parts. And while you might be thinking that will never take off, here’s a little more proof: it’s already selling at Trader Joe’s.

6. The new (yet old) super foods. Vicky Allende-Fite, a Hispanic practice leader also at the MSL Group says that as younger Hispanics become more health conscious, and as restaurants and chefs develop dishes to attract more Latino customers, “they will likely reach for familiar ingredients” that have long been known for curative powers. One example: nopales, which are high in calcium and can help reduce the risk of cancer, declared earlier this year by the American Cancer Society to be the number one killer of Hispanics. Or chayote squash, which is a rich source of dietary fibers and anti-oxidant and is great for cholesterol and weight control. “They’re getting a fair amount of buzz already,” Allende-Fite says. “And as education around healthy eating starts to take hold, people will likely go toward what’s worked in the past.”

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