Tamarind might sound — and taste — unfamiliar to many, but one influential company known for its spices and seasonings predicts it’s going to have a breakthrough year.
McCormick & Company, the top-selling maker of seasonings and spices, has named tamarind as its 2024 “Flavor of the Year.” The report, released yearly since 2000, identifies trending spices and seasonings about to hit restaurant menus or in cookbooks and perhaps become the new pumpkin spice.
Tamarind comes from a tree that commonly grows throughout Africa, Mexico, Asia and India, and produces pods containing the acidic and tangy-sweet flavor that can be added to a number of foods such potato chips, ice cream and even in coffee.
McCormick deploys a team of about 50 people, such as chefs and food technologists, around the world to seek out trending flavors, with Executive Chef Hadar Cohen Aviram taking charge to select the flavor of the year.
Aviram told CNN that tamarind was chosen because its flavor profile “brings out all of what we saw for this year,” noting three trends it has identified like the growth of tangy and sour foods; dishes McCormick calls “thoughtfully borrowed,” which are modernized versions of regional foods, and “new-stalgic” foods that are over-the-top takes of childhood favorites (think: mozzarella sticks with caviar.)
“All of those trends that we saw this year, we see them projected through this one flavor,” she said.
Choosing tamarind was a 9-month process using McCormick’s team, which visits various countries from South Africa to China and even Poland, examines restaurant menus, interviews experts and uses data “to see what’s going on in these places,” Aviram said.
“We’re not inventing anything new,” she added, noting that tamarind has been around for thousands of years and has been a popular ingredient for a while on menus in Asia and Mexico.
“We’re looking at what’s trending, that is the key, but knowing when it’s the right time and when the chef starts featuring that [flavor]… that’s when we know that it’s coming up,” she said, adding that the report is an “inception point” for new flavors coming to the menus in the US in the coming months.
McCormick is partnering with Black Tap Craft Burgers, a restaurant with 7 US locations and known for its over-the-top foods, to feature tamarind in milkshakes, burgers and fries beginning on February 1, 2024 for a limited time.
Home chefs can also experiment with tamarind with McCormick selling a Mexican-influenced seasoning online that includes the flavor, which Avriam calls a “really nice pairing” that is a savory addition to food.
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