Everyday Cooking

11 Pandemic Food Trends We Are So Over

So long, farewell.

December 28, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland

After nearly two years of living through the highs and lows of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve learned how to adjust our lifestyles to keep each other healthy. While we desperately longed for the days of “normal,” we also learned how to make do with the present. In the kitchen, this meant relying on basic pantry staples and recipes that weren't too time-consuming on nights when we were all just plain tired of cooking.

And as we reflect on another year of pandemic life, there are some things—like well-worn recipes—that we have had enough of, plain and simple. This isn’t goodbye to banana bread, overnight oats, or sourdough starter; it’s just “see you in a bit, when we’ve had time to experiment with new things that don’t remind us of March 2020.” If you too are just over seeing (and making!) feta pasta and espresso martinis, here’s what to make instead:

Banana Bread

We don’t want to see another piece of banana bread for at least three years. Back in March 2020, it felt like everyone was baking banana bread and eating it for every meal. Like a high school crush, we were once in love, have since moved on, and are better off for it. Now we have eyes for other quick breads, from zucchini to pumpkin to a Key lime-scented loaf.

Sourdough Bread

Try we did, but many of us found that while we loved playing with our sourdough starters, we lacked the patience to spend three days on a loaf of bread. And sometimes, we were too busy feeding ourselves (and our new pets) to remember to feed our starters, and tossed them into the fridge for weeks at a time. We may hang onto those clusters of wild yeast and flour, but we need something lower key, like a sourdough treat to make in just a few hours, or a snack to make with the discard. And some of us, well, we need bread recipes that call for no starter at all.

TikTok Feta Pasta

Baked feta pasta went so viral it actually caused a run on feta in some areas. We loved the concept, but at this point, we’re ready for another one-pot pasta (or a twist on the original) to take center stage. Food52’s Brand Marketing Manager Rilka Noel admits to having cooked the TikTok phenomenon one too many times and is now leaning into anchovy-based pastas instead.

TikTok Pancake Cereal

We thought pancake cereal was very cute, but we also thought, “who's got the time?!” Admittedly, many of us did in fact have time during certain moments these past two years, but at this point, we just want big, fluffy, diner-style pancakes. And when we’re craving cereal, we just may try our hands at a supermarket classic, or something warm and porridgy instead.

Espresso Martinis

Once restaurants and bars began to re-open, many people couldn’t wait to get their hands on a bartender-made cocktail. It seemed that at the top of everyone’s list was the espresso martini. Maybe it’s because we were all tired and needed a jolt of caffeine to be able to socialize successfully, or maybe it’s because Timothee Chalamet was spotted drinking one. At first, we couldn’t resist that sweet, coffee-flavored foam, but we’ve moved onto other classic cocktails and low-ABV (or no ABV) beverages too.

Pots of Beans

Just kidding! I'll never tire of a big pot of beans cooked from dry. But when I want dinner a bit quicker or more hands-off, I know there are speedier ways to achieve bean-satisfaction: switching to canned.

Focaccia Gardens

Focaccia gardens—as in, the concept of arranging colorful ingredient on a proofed but unbaked tray of focaccia—are still extremely adorable, but quite frankly, we want to get to our bread faster these days, and like to keep things simple and classic. The fact that one of these focaccia recipes requires no kneading at all is a major win in our (recipe) book.

Overnight Oats

Overnight oats are like that reliable pair of pants you’ll never get rid of, but are never too excited about wearing. We’re not telling you to throw out your jars (or that pair of charcoal straight-leg trousers), but we are saying that there’s a whole lot more out there when it comes to hearty, make-ahead breakfasts.

Chicken Noodle Soup

PSA: This is not to say we’re done with chicken noodle soup. But it is possible to overdo it on a beloved comfort food, especially after eating it for weeks when you were feeling under the weather. We’re taking a break from our favorite simple CNS (is that a thing? It is now!) and swapping in some riffs, from rotisserie chicken to chile crisp.

Pantry Recipes

In the very early days of the pandemic, when it was best to limit trips to the grocery store, we stretched our pantries to their limits. These days, if you’re feeling like making a meal that might require visiting a few specialty stores, put on your mask and get to it. While each store will likely have its own safety policies in place, when it comes to indoor activities like grocery shopping, the CDC says, “if you are fully vaccinated, to maximize protection from the virus that causes COVID-19 and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.”

Talking About “Quarantine 15”

Odds are you’ve heard someone worrying about gaining weight after moving around less and eating more during the pandemic. We’re here to say it loud and clear: Who cares?! We are so, so over people assigning morality to ingredients, recipes, and body types. Eat food, live life. The pandemic has been taxing enough without worrying about if your jeans from 2019 still fit. The Food52 mission statement really says it best: Our interest is “helping everyone enjoy life’s most important pleasures—food, home, and connection to others.” Keywords: enjoy + food.

What quarantine-esque recipes are you so over? Let us know in the comments below!
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Rebecca Firkser is the assigning editor at Food52. She used to wear many hats in the food media world: food writer, editor, assistant food stylist, recipe tester (sometimes in the F52 test kitchen!), recipe developer. These days, you can keep your eye out for her monthly budget recipe column, Nickel & Dine. Rebecca tests all recipes with Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Follow her on Instagram @rebeccafirkser.


Tanya M. January 1, 2022
WOw I wasn't aware any of these were trends during the pandemic.................. curious to try some of these now; though I normally just cook dried beans in my pressure cooker.

Actually I made banana bread & overnight oats a lot pre-pandemic (when I had less time) but not at all during the pandemic.
Liz S. December 29, 2021
I have never been "on trend" with much ... always behind or unaware. But as a sourdough baker since 10/2015 via some great articles on thekitchn.com and then research into the health benefits ... and holy cow, you (Food52) has Maurizio Leo on board and just today or yesterday a great video short on sourdough. And beans !!! thanks to Heidi Swanson (www.101cookbooks.com) .... years ago, I found about about Rancho Gordo beans and although I eat omnivore, I love my beans. Anyway, obviously to each their own.

As a long time work from home software developer, I have been zooming and wearing joggers/yoga pants, baking sourdough and beans and gosh ... not sure what all else, but I suddenly found that I was "on trend" during COVID :)

And another thing ... there is a LONG history of sourdough/naturally leavened baking. And one of the key things for me is that the transition to commercial yeast baking to speed things up and add consistency, lost nutritional value. Slowing down the process aka sourdough is beneficial to nutrition and as a long time bread baker (35 years before I transitioned to sourdough), the longer process ... longer in start to finish, but actually less hands on ... is wonderfully calming.

I am "so not over anything", food or otherwise :) !!! I do wish that I could stop myself from clicking on this kind of article though ... RATS!
Smaug December 29, 2021
There were such high hopes- people were going to learn to cook, to garden, to play a musical instrument, they were going to write. Just didn't happen, as far as I can see- we jumped right back on the "too much trouble" bandwagon. We're rapidly approaching a point where the only survival skill most people possess is shopping.
Liz S. December 29, 2021
I am maybe not quite so cynical, Smaug. I think there are some beautiful success stories that have come out of the past 2 years ... youTubers that I follow and some local people that regrouped and evolved. There are some local to me success stories of people who modified/innovated and are thriving.

I do think that many high hopes and many adjustments have created new revenue streams and new satisfaction as in "one door closes and another opens".

I am not naive enough to believe that is true for all, but for those with the true survival spirit ... YES!
Smaug December 30, 2021
Well, people have certainly come up with new ways to sell stuff, the other side of the shopping coin. As far as learning to do things for themselves, I haven't seen it much, but of course I'm dealing with a very limited sampling.
emily December 29, 2021
Love your last point - "We are so, so over people assigning morality to ingredients, recipes, and body types. Eat food, live life. The pandemic has been taxing enough without worrying about if your jeans from 2019 still fit." I've heard a lot of people beating themselves up over gaining weight, or (horrifyingly) talking about how they're glad they lost weight due to stress/illness. This time of year is especially rife with diet-talk, so it's a good time to unfollow anyone on social media making you feel bad, and give yourself permission to leave the table/room if your family is being judgmental. (Same applies in the office, but it requires a bit more tact! lol)
Smaug December 29, 2021
I generally ignore fads in the first place, but for many of us preparing our own food is simply part of life, and includes things like sourdough and cooking pots of beans. Neither of which, by the way, is particularly time consuming.