Elevating Vegetables to Center-of-the-Plate Status

2024 Food & Flavor Outlook        May 2024          Custom Culinary®

Rooting for Vegetables Header Image

Despite being sustainable, nutritious and delicious, vegetables are often relegated to side dishes instead of center of the plate. No longer an afterthought, it’s time for vegetables to shine!

 Today, many brands and chefs are looking at the plant-based revolution from a new perspective, taking a simpler approach that puts vegetables in a leading role. Vegetables are being elevated through flavour-boosting preparations such as fermenting, pickling, grilling and roasting.
An area where we’re seeing a clear shift toward whole-food formulations is in the alternative protein market, where vegetable-centric options are popping up alongside the plant-based meat analogues. Ingredients such as cauliflower, jackfruit, artichokes and beets are prominently displayed on ingredient labels and menus, often supplemented with nutritious chickpeas, yellow peas and quinoa.

  • Eggplant pâté, positioned as gluten-free and supplemented with green banana (Brazil)
  • Mushroom meatballs, made with lion’s mane mushrooms, seasonings and non-GMO soybeans (Taiwan)
  • Buffalo jack wings, a vegan option with whole jackfruit as the first ingredient (US)

In foodservice, chefs are taking advantage of seasonality to reinvent menu items with a vegetable-forward twist—think dishes like short ribs made with braised eggplant instead of beef. Vegetarian tasting menus take this creativity even further, celebrating the versatility of vegetables across preparation types and flavour profiles. This approach also helps to minimize food waste, with stems, leaves and bruised produce being repurposed into items like sauces and purées. 

  • Glazed turnips with turnip leaf onion sauce, hazelnut miso butter and togarashi pickles (US)
  • Braised morchella with soy “brisket,” radish and golden tremella, served with kale rice (Hong Kong)
  • Celery root shawarma with spinach pâté and fermented tomato (UK)

For the snack category, crisps, chips and jerky are common formats to showcase vegetables as the main ingredient. Brands are working to streamline their manufacturing processes to deliver products that are as close to raw as possible, with flavours that appeal to kids and adults alike.

  • Crunchy sweet potato biscuits made with brewers’ spent grain flour, flavoured with rosemary and hazelnuts (France)
  • Spanish tomato-flavoured tapioca chips, serving as a source of calcium and iron (India)
  • Corn-flavoured plant-based ice cream, made with non-GMO corn (China) 

Vegetable-driven menu items and product offerings are emerging all over the world, showcasing how vegetables can be tasty, indulgent and fun. They can attract not just to vegetarian and vegan diners, but flexitarians as well. And for regions with less direct access to fresh produce, packaged, canned and frozen vegetable items can help bring nutrient-rich options to an underserved population. 


FOODSERVICE: Fine dining is leading the charge in developing creative dishes that celebrate whole vegetables at the center of the plate, but we’re seeing innovation across segments.
Brands are experimenting with vegetable-forward meat alternatives that celebrate the integrity of the original ingredient, incorporating a variety of vegetables.
Simple preparations (e.g. roasting and drying) are being used to preserve the nutrients in vegetable-based snacks, along with “hidden” ingredients to introduce more regular vegetables into diets.


Celebrate vegetables as a center-of-the-plate focus with Chef Andy Jones’ delicious Bhuna Baked Cauliflower. This beautiful plant-based entrée is truly a showstopper!


Celery Root

Whole Ingredient “Seafood” Swaps

Marinated celery root rounds serve as a playful take on plant-based seafood. They’re marinated and initially cooked sous vide style, then seared to perfection, to intensify flavour.

Celery Root Scallops Recipe

Celery Root “Scallops”

Seared soy-miso celery root “scallops” served over a delicate ginger, garlic and shallot-forward celery root purée.


Thanks to exciting cooking methods and flavour profiles, today’s vegetable dishes are anything but boring. Contact your Griffith Foods representative to learn how our versatile products can enhance your culinary creations.


Vegetable-forward products and dishes are going “back to basics” and focusing on their roots. What’s coming next?


Protein brands are only scratching the surface of what can be achieved by utilizing whole, unprocessed vegetables. The next stage of development is demonstrating recipes that are just as satisfying as animal proteins.


For snack brands, exploring innovative processes will help to better preserve vitamins and nutrients inherently found in vegetables. More focus will be placed on communicating micronutrients that veggie snacks can provide.


Seeing the success of vegetable-forward menu items in fine dining and local establishments, more QSR and fast casual brands will expand their offerings to accommodate demand.

2024 Food & Flavor Footer

Bret Thorn, “New on the Menu: Eggplant standing in for short ribs and a crabcake Wellington,” Restaurant Hospitality, August 18, 2023.
Mintel, 2024 FlavorIQ® Food and Flavor Outlook Report, January 2024.
Rob Corliss, “Vegetables on Fire,” Flavor and the Menu, July 12, 2023.

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*Custom Culinary® is part of the Griffith Foods family of companies.