How TikTok trends change the way you eat

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Thanks to its short-form, video-focused content, TikTok has become home to an endless buffet of mouth-watering food clips dished up by a clever algorithm. Creators of all kinds, from home cooks to professional chefs, have flocked to the platform to share their culinary creations. But TikTok’s impact on food isn’t just limited to what you eat. Along the way, creators have sparked important discussions that have reshaped how food is talked about.

A person holding a stuffed pepper sandwich over a plate.
From bell pepper sandwiches to girl dinner and butter boards, TikTok trends are changing what’s on your plate. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

So, if you’ve started your day with Dalgona coffee, enjoyed a salmon rice bowl for lunch, used a wine glass to dig into an aesthetically immaculate birthday cake, prepared a butter board or served girl dinner, you’ve experienced how TikTok has transformed eating habits.

The rise of TikTok in shaping food culture

Today, TikTok and food go together like feta and pasta, but recipes didn’t always dominate this social media platform. TikTok’s roots can be traced to and Douyin, two apps that were predominately used to create lip-synching videos around 2014. In 2018, the apps merged into TikTok, which gradually became home to a broad variety of short-form content, including food-related videos. 

In 2020, as the global coronavirus pandemic hit, TikTok’s popularity soared. Lockdowns pushed many people to learn how to cook for themselves. Those who couldn’t work from home suddenly had lots of time to further hone their culinary skills. Some even took to TikTok to show off their new-found cooking abilities. Food trends such as dalgona coffee, cloud bread and frozen honey swept the platform, with the tag #TikTokFood racking up an astonishing 43 billion views in 2021, according to Magnet.

Lockdowns eventually lifted, but TikTok’s foodie community, also known as FoodTok, is still barrelling forward in 2024. Driven by the need to stay relevant in FoodTok’s fast-paced ecosystem, creators are constantly dreaming up innovative new recipes. Bell pepper sandwiches, for example, aren’t just traditional bread sandwiches with bell peppers. Instead, this recipe features crunchy bell peppers stuffed with cold cuts, crispy bacon, cheese and vegetables for a gluten-free twist on a classic meal.

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TikTok’s role in promoting waste reduction

The world may never forget the moment when Emily Mariko’s salmon rice bowls first went viral, but TikTok food trends are more than just a way to show off new recipes. Many creators have also used their platforms to speak out about issues that matter to them. For example, a fast-growing community of users dedicated to sustainability is using social media to showcase eco-friendly eating habits.

Like many other creators on the sustainable side of FoodTok, creator Sabrina Pare of Sabrina Sustainable Life uses her platform to share composting tips and recipes that make the most of leftovers. “Reducing food waste and composting…[is] the single biggest climate action an individual can take,” explains Pare in one of her videos. By showing realistic strategies for reducing food waste, Pare hopes to make sustainability more accessible and attainable for the average person.

If you’re interested in the zero-waste lifestyle but not ready to commit fully, one easy way to reduce your environmental footprint is to embrace recipes that avoid waste. You might be surprised at your ability to repurpose leftover ingredients into a delicious meal. For example, a handful of mini peppers, some bacon slices and a small amount of cream cheese can all come together to create an impressive appetizer of bacon-wrapped mini peppers. It’s perfect for any gathering, and your guests will never know that you’re secretly feeding them your leftovers.

Another way to cut down on waste is by thinking carefully about your daily routines. If you grab a morning coffee and breakfast several times a week, you could be contributing hundreds of used cups and muffin wrappers to landfills every year. Consider swapping single-use coffee cups for a reusable thermos. Or make your own breakfast muffins at home to avoid all that packaging.

The globalization of food through TikTok

In addition to promoting sustainability, many food TikTokers also use their platforms to celebrate their cultural cuisines. Joanne Molinaro, also known as The Korean Vegan, Eden Hagos, founder of BLACK FOODIE and Ana Regalado, creator of Salty Cocina, are just a few of the TikTokers who have captivated audiences by featuring traditional dishes.

Regalado’s recipe for birria tacos, for example, has currently gathered a whopping 21.3 million views. The video’s success reflects a broader surge of interest in this tender, spicy dish. TikTok’s obsession with birria, a meal that originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco, demonstrates how regional cuisines can gain popularity around the world thanks to the power of social media.

Regalado recently summed up how she feels about her TikTok stardom in an interview with TODAY. “Never in my life did I think it would get this big and this wide with so many viewers, this many followers, but I’m glad I can help them bring dishes to their family and their table and that makes me happy.”

As a platform focused on short, informal videos, TikTok is perfectly designed to allow creators to show off specific cooking techniques, specialty ingredients and step-by-step instructions for preparing different cultural foods. One of Hagos’ most popular videos demonstrates how to make Tsebhi Beghi, a slow-simmered lamb and onion stew. While onions sizzle in a huge pot, Hagos chats about her experiences eating the stew growing up and its place in Ethiopian and Eritrean cultures. In the comments section, users worldwide share their own memories of eating Tsebhi Beghi and ask for tips about how to make the stew themselves.

The future of food trends in the age of TikTok

What might the future hold in store for FoodTok? In the constantly changing world of social media, TikTok’s recent tweaks to its monetization methods may have an effect on its food content.

TikTok’s Creator Fund, which allowed influencers to easily monetize their content, was a magnet for the talented and charismatic creators who brought FoodTok to life. But TikTok’s recent changes to its monetization methods may make influencers hungry for opportunities elsewhere. New social media platforms, such as X, Threads and Bluesky, might steal creators away from FoodTok and onto different platforms. If so, food culture may change as a result.

As food creators grow their platforms, they may opt to leave the unpredictable world of TikTok for other opportunities, such as creating cookbooks or working as private chefs. Social media can be a way to foster connections worldwide, but it can also harbor hate, ignorance and mean-spirited comments. Creators who get the chance to exit TikTok may not look back.

While it’s impossible to predict what the future will hold for FoodTok, it’s clear that the past few years have been a unique moment for food culture online. From its humble roots as a lip-synching app used by teenagers, TikTok now features a smorgasbord of food-related content, including cooking tutorials, fridge restock videos and mukbangs. 

Amidst all the chaos, many creators are choosing to focus on what matters to them: sustainable practices, celebrating their traditional cultures and sharing the dishes they love with the world. Clearly, audiences can’t get enough of the food in their feeds.

Sara Nelson is the creator of Real Balanced, a food blog that showcases easy and balanced recipes. Since 2017, she has shared these recipes with thousands of blog readers and social media followers. Sara lives in Wisconsin with her family.

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