What in the Food-Tok?

Image Credit: Spencer Davis on Unsplash

Ciarán Howley examines some of the weirdest food trends from Tiktok last year and how the platform may change our relationship with food forever.

Everything has a -Tok these days. On the global video platform TikTok, you can find a virtual corner to cater to even your most niche interests. I was delightfully surprised by the existence of WendyTok which is about all things - you guessed it - Wendy Williams. 

But looking at the bigger picture, Tiktok has become the place where trends and microtrends are born and disseminated. From FashionTok to BookTok, for each of these respective industries there is no escaping the mainstay of the platform. In many ways, influencers and content creators have overtaken the role of magazines. Why pick up a copy of Bon Appetit to read about Harry Styles’ breakfast when I can watch a six part TikTok series analysing it? For free! The floodgates have well and truly opened and there is no shortage of the kinds of recipes you can find online. The FoodTok tag has an astounding 112 billion views with recipes, food-tasting videos, reviews and anything and everything in between. 

Subsequently, we see a host of chefs and food content creators coming up on the app and, often, the weirder they are, the better they do by the numbers. That’s the beauty, and detriment, of TikTok though. You don’t need a degree or qualification to hop on and start reviewing gourmet restaurants or rank iced coffees in your local area. It seems bizarre that Gordon Ramsay had been working as a chef since the age of nineteen to get to where he is now, when anyone with a camera and the slightest interest in food can create a massive following. 

However, looking at some of the recipes and foods that went viral in 2022 maybe there is something to be said for having a little bit of experience. On December 1 2022, TikTok shared the top ten trending foods from FoodTok of the year, and the list ran as follows. 

  1. Cloud bread: 3.4 billion views
  2. Baked oats: 1.3 billion views
  3. Charcuterie boards: 1.2 billion views
  4. Pasta chips: 1.1 billion views
  5. Mug cake: 1 billion views
  6. Birria tacos: 922.2 million views
  7. Pink sauce: 599.8 million views
  8. Cinnamon rolls: 597 million views
  9. Nacho tables: 415.1 million views
  10. Butter boards: 358.4 million views

Take a look at this list and you’ll find the recipes are all fairly easy to do, though one or two are slightly questionable.

Butter boards was one of the more unusual recipes to emerge from FoodTok last year. Incredibly popular and proclaimed by many as “the new Charcuterie board”, some users online pointed out the bizarreness of centering a dish around butter, which is a topping. And probably not great for your cholesterol either.

The Pink Sauce controversy, however… The epitome of FoodTok’s randomness. In summer of 2022, Chef Pii launched bottled Pink Sauce - and while lovers of BarbieCore may have been quick to pounce, no one actually knew what the sauce was made with. What began as a very small business ballooned into a global phenomenon and there were sudden calls for people to stop buying the sauce, after some claimed to have been hospitalised after ingesting it. Talk about escalating quickly.

Love it or hate it, FoodTok is well and truly here to stay and is transforming the food and hospitality industry, possibly forever. It’s made opportunities to learn new recipes and experience new food cultures more accessible and enjoyable than ever. But in 2023, I’ll be taking the weirder and wilder trends with a fistful of salt.