Every new year brings new food trends to the scene. In 2021, Americans relied on Google searches to whip up new takes on pasta and Korean cookies. The one thing on the list that wasn’t a new concept? Chicken. It was slow cooker chicken, to be exact, and there is no doubt chicken (in its many forms) will continue to be the country’s protein of choice. This year alone, it’s estimated the average American will consume about 100 pounds of chicken. That’s a lot of bird! While we all have our favorite ways of enjoying chicken dishes, there’s always room for inspiration in the kitchen. We caught up with experts working in the food industry to give us the scoop on what to expect in the world of chicken in the coming year. With new takes on classics and more love to the entire bird, here’s what 2022 will bring in trending chicken recipes.
1. Fried Chicken Makeover
There’s nothing like biting into a piece of crunchy fried chicken. It’s been a classic comfort food for years, but the demand skyrocketed last year thanks to the chicken sandwich wars among top food chains. This year, Chris Moyer, corporate executive chef of Perdue Farms, predicts fried chicken will be landing on even more menus thanks to elevated cooking methods. The first is smoke-fried chicken, which means smoking the chicken first in a pellet or electric smoker ($220, Ace Hardware) before breading and frying. The second is double-fried chicken made popular in Korean-style fried chicken, where you bread and fry chicken as usual, but re-bread and fry again for an extra crispy exterior. As for the home cooks, air-fryer chicken is expected to be on the rise, which is why Jessica Christensen, senior food content manager for Meredith Premium Publishing, is working hard on developing new recipes that will “give you the option of deep-frying or air-frying” the chicken.
Sauces are also expected to join the upgraded fried chicken trend. There’s the already-popular Nashville-style hot chicken, but Moyer predicts the “sauce and toss” method to rise, which tops already-fried chicken with a sauce. Think dishes such as chicken parmesan, crispy Caprese chicken with basil pesto, and chicken fried steak with gravy. “Good stick-to-your-ribs food that takes me back to my early days,” he says.
2. Early Bird Chicken
It’s always a good day when starting with the chicken and the egg. “Who doesn’t love chicken and waffles for breakfast?” Christensen says. You can try the crispy breakfast chicken in a new light by enjoying it over a corn bread donut or waffle. Expect to see even more tasty chicken breakfast sausage options in the store, but you can go beyond the expected breakfast meat and toss other cuts into your breakfast as well. Moyer recommends making a hash with chicken thighs mixed with potatoes, peppers, onions, and paprika.
Related: 7 Food Trends to Watch for (and Taste) in 2022
3. Innovative Chicken Coatings
Breadings and crusts for chicken will get a new look and taste this year. Tagging onto the trendier fried chicken recipes, breading will go beyond the typical flour batter and move onto ingredients such as Japanese-style bread crumbs, and even potato chips or hot cheese curls—a leading trend BH&G senior food editor Emily Teel contributes to TikTok. “Doritos create a fantastic coating that is very crunchy and flavorful that also looks good on the plate,” he says. “Pringles can also be fun given the many different flavors to choose from—I recommend BBQ.”
Beyond fried chicken coatings, Moyer also sees more demand for potato-crusted chicken (instant mashed potatoes work great) as well as using ingredients like sunflower seeds. “I recommend roasting the seeds to bring out some of the oil, cooling them, and then grinding them into a fine texture,” he says. “You may also want to mix in some breading to help with the crispiness of the crust.” For a healthier option, Moyer says vegetable-crusted chicken is also a great option with the help of freeze-dried veggies such as carrots ($12, Walmart), corn, or cauliflower.
4. Going Beyond White Meat
Moyer says those “in the know” have always loved the “savory, juicy deliciousness that dark meat brings to the table.” Now more than ever, though, restaurants are flocking to chicken thighs and other dark meat cuts to keep up with consumer demand. In the past year, Moyer says Perdue has seen a 15% increase in boneless thigh sales and a 20% uptick for ground chicken, which uses mostly dark meat.
“Chicken thighs are perfect for slow cooking and pressure cooking,” Cristensen says. “They hold up to the heat and pressure without getting dry texture.” One thing to note is the importance of checking for safe internal temperature. Look for 180ºF when cooking with bone-in dark meat (to ensure the bone marrow is cooked as opposed to 170ºF with white meat.
Related: Your Complete Guide on How Long to Cook Chicken Using Any Method
5. Experimenting with Flavor and Technique
In 2022, expect to find more Middle Eastern and Asian flavors taking the forefront. Taiwanese-style chicken with five-spice or popcorn chicken with basil as well as Japanese-style chicken katsu (especially in sandwiches) are trends Teel is seeing. For a spicy kick, Moyer suggests gochujang, a Korean fermented red chili paste that will liven up any chicken dish such as the fiery chicken pictured above. On the Middle Eastern front, Moyer suggests seasoning your chicken kabobs with baharat (a blend of cardamom, paprika, cloves, coriander, nutmeg, turmeric, and dried chili) or dukkah (made from nuts, sesame seeds, coriander, and cumin).
6. Chicken Pizza Crust
If you’ve jumped on the Keto diet train and are craving pizza, there’s a new crust coming to town—made entirely of chicken! That’s right, no cauliflower here. Sarah Brekke, culinary specialist for the BH&G Test Kitchen, says this Keto-friendly pizza crust is made of ground chicken, cheese, and some seasonings. “It is parbaked until nearly dried out and set before topping with your traditional pizza toppings and baked for a few more minutes until bubbly and melty,” she says.
7. Plant-Based “Chicken”
While this may not be exactly chicken, both Moyer and Teel are noticing the huge demand for meatless products that look (and taste) like chicken. With the slew of new plant-based chicken alternatives, Teel says “vegan and vegetarian people can still enjoy some of the trending chicken moments” this year.
What chicken trend are you most excited about? While we wait to find out which trends stick around, try your hand at making homemade fried chicken. You can also skip the takeout menu and whip up one of our favorite spicy chicken recipes or go-to Asian-inspired chicken dishes.