One of the easiest and most memorable ways to innovate on the menu is through mashups. Taking inspiration from two seemingly disparate dishes, flavors or formats can demonstrate a unique point of difference—with delicious results.
Operators who may not be known for international dishes can still bring authentic global flavors into mashup dishes. The natural play of sweet, savory, sour and hot flavors with Chinese or Korean fare can enliven everything from brunch offerings to sandwiches. Think Five-Spice Churros, Mala Fried Chicken and Duck Fat Waffles1 or Bulgogi Pizza. Or, look to Mexican mole sauce as inspiration for balanced flavor combinations. Mole poblano famously pairs chocolate with chili peppers, with some recipes also containing almonds, pumpkin seeds and warm spices.2 Sweet ingredients can be paired with salty, tangy or spicy ingredients to bring an addictive, crave-worthy quality to dishes across dayparts.
Another rule of thumb for mashups: consider incorporating familiar flavors into an unexpected format. For example, a dumpling shop in New York is capitalizing on the trend with flavors that would normally be found on a deli sandwich menu—Philly Cheesesteak, Reuben, Lamb Gyro, and Pastrami Dumplings give consumers a new way to experience their lunchtime favorites.3
Not only do unique pairings and mashups help consumers beat flavor fatigue, they enable operators to maximize the versatility and usage of ingredients across the menu. This creative approach gives consumers something new and exciting to look forward to as operators start to re-open their dining rooms.
From Mashup to mainstream:
the art of combining flavor
growth of mac-and-cheese burgers
on US menus over the last 4 years.4
growth of the term “mashup”
on menus over the past four years,
with the term “fusion”
in double-digit decline.5
400% 4-year growth and 150% 1-year growth of Korean tacos on US menus.6
#SweetAndSpicy recipes showcasing the culinary mashup trend can be found on Instagram, with almost 135,000 tagged photos. Professionals and amateur chefs alike post photos that range from healthy to indulgent, demonstrating how bold flavor combinations can bring signature flair to a variety of menu options.7
NuBana™ Green Banana Powder is an ideal “whole food” ingredient for creative mashup dishes and products—delivering the functionality of a starch with a fruit label, yet without the sugar or taste of ripe bananas. The gluten-free, allergen-free powder is high in nutrients such as potassium and magnesium. Its versatility extends from snacks (crackers, granola bars, chips and cookies) to coating systems for chicken pork and seafood; batters; dough blends; alternative proteins and beverages.
1 Katie Ayoub, “Found in Translation,” Flavor & The Menu,
January 24, 2021.
2 “All About Mole: What It Is, Where It Comes From,
and How to Make It,” America’s Test Kitchen, April 4, 2018.
3 “NYC Dumpling Kiosk to Start Franchising,”
QSR, November 10, 2020.
4,5,6 Datassential MenuTrends,
U.S. menu penetration growth 2016-2020.
7 Instagram, #sweetandspicy
accessed May 10, 2021.