Food Mashups to Food Trends: reinventing burgers, pizza, tacos & more

not not tacos san diego

What are food mashups?

First of all, the “food” being referred to includes your most common foods and dishes like: pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, tacos, ice cream, etc.  (Don’t get this confused with the “basic food groups” which according to the USDA are: grains, protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables.)  These are a limited number of ordinary foods that your average American defaults to eating on a regular basis because they are readily available at most fast food or quick serve restaurants.

Now, “food mashups” describes common foods that are combined or remade in unconventional ways with other foods or unexpected ingredients.  In other words, they are classic food makeovers. Sometimes, they are food hybrids, combinations of familiar foods, that become food trends.  This leads to an infinite number of variations of the basic pizza, burger or taco…as long as you use a little creativity.

Emmy-award winning culinary personality, Sam Zien a.k.a. Sam The Cooking Guy, is an expert at reinventing common foods.  In the summer of 2018, he opened his own restaurant—Not Not Tacos in the Little Italy neighborhood of San Diego, CA.  On the menu are unconventional tacos of all sorts.  When asked how he originally came up with the idea Sam mentioned:

For some reason, I had been making tacos at home with all kinds of stuff because I have 3 sons. Over the years I’ve done that a lot.  So, this idea of weirdness in a taco in a tortilla was kinda in my head.  During this [initial restaurant] meeting I go, “So I’ve got an idea.  It’s tacos, but it’s not Mexican tacos.” So they ask, “What do you mean?” And I go, “I mean things like pastrami, meatloaf and eggplant parm.”

not not tacos eggplant parmesean

(Kelly’s Shrimp & Eggplant Parm tacos)
“Well, they’re not NOT tacos.” -Sam the Cooking Guy

As the general population’s taste buds broaden from exposure to a wider variety of cuisines, we continue to yearn for something new and exciting. Since the early 2010’s, food mashups and makeovers of classic foods have been all the rage and—due to our insatiable appetite—are here to stay.

Where can I get food mashups?  

You can get these unconventional conventional foods at all kinds of eating establishments from trendy restaurants to classic eateries.  You just need to know where to look. ?  Here’s a list of several places you must try for the best versions of rehashed classics.

Austin, TX: Lick
—seasonal ice cream with inventive flavors—

basic foods mashups makeovers ice cream
photo: Annie Ray Photography

Des Moines, IA: Fong’s Pizza
—Chinese and globally flavored pizzas—

nontraditional unconventional pizza mashups
photo: Fong’s Pizza on Facebook

San Diego, CA: Not Not Tacos
—genre-bending tacos with familiar flavors—

nontraditional unconventional taco mashups in san diego
photo: Glutto Digest

Chicago, IL: Dimo’s Pizza
—American pizza mashups—

nontraditional unconventional pizza mashups chicago
photo: Dimo’s Pizza on Facebook

Philadelphia, PA: Little Baby’s Ice Cream
—ice cream with unique sweet or savory flavors—

nontraditional unconventional ice cream mashups philadelphia
photo: Little Baby’s Ice Cream on Facebook

Wilmington, DE: Pizza by Elizabeths
—innovative healthy pizzas—

nontraditional unconventional pizza mashups wilmington
photo: Pizza by Elizabeths on Facebook

How can I create a food mashup and make a new food trend?

There are literally an infinite number of ways to reinvent basic foods.  Obviously, we can’t list them all out, but we can help get your creative juices flowing and think “out of the box” so you’re not stuck eating your usual basic foods.  Also, this is how the majority of food trends that go viral on social media are created.  So, if you’ve ever wanted to come up with the next food trend, here’s how…

1) First of all, you’ll want to choose what foods you’d like to use as your foundation. (1-2 foods is ideal.)  Here is a quick list of “basic foods”:

  • savory basic foods
    • bacon
    • bagels
    • burgers
    • burritos
    • corn dogs
    • croissants
    • eggs (scrambled, fried, poached, souffléd, etc.)
    • french fries
    • fried chicken
    • hot dogs
    • mac ‘n cheese
    • mashed potatoes
    • nachos
    • pizza
    • pretzels
    • ramen
    • sandwiches (PB&J, grilled cheese, cheesesteaks etc.)
    • spaghetti
    • sushi
    • tacos
  • sweet basic foods
    • cakes
    • cereal
    • chocolate chip cookies
    • cotton candy
    • chocolate bars
    • cupcakes
    • donuts
    • fruit jam/jelly/preserves
    • ice cream
    • marshmallows
    • muffins
    • pancakes
    • peanut butter
    • pies
    • waffles
    • waffle cones

2) After you’ve selected your foods, you’ll want to figure out how you want to reinvent them.  These are the 7 main ways basic foods are reinvented:

  • familiar food mixes: These are “food mashups” or “food hybrids”: two or more familiar foods that combine their ingredients in a manner that each food is still recognizable.
    • mac ‘n cheese tacos (a taco with mac ‘n cheese filling)
    • bacon and mashed potato pizza (a pizza topped with bacon and mashed potatoes)
    • ramen burgers (a burger that uses fried ramen for the buns)
  • familiar food shapes: These are familiar foods shaped like other familiar foods or geometric shapes and are also a type of “food hybrid.”  However, they only include the ingredients of one of the foods formed in the shape of the other food.
    • pizzushi (sushi ingredients in the shape of pizza)
    • cotton candy burritos (cotton candy and ice cream rolled into the shape of a burrito)
    • donugs (chicken nuggets in the shape of small donuts)
    • cube croissants (croissants shaped like a cube)
  • familiar foods in unfamiliar sizes: These foods are simply unexpectedly big or small.
  • familiar foods with a visual twist: These familiar foods have an unexpected ingredient or element.  You can use ingredients like: edible goldedible glitteractivated charcoalnatural food coloringliquid nitrogen, fire, etc. (Use of liquid nitrogen and fire are not recommended without professional supervision.)  Also, you could simply change the size of the food to make it huge or small.
  • familiar foods with surprising textures:
  • familiar foods that are spicy:
  • familiar foods with international flavors:

3) Take your selected basic foods and, depending on which one of the five methods you selected from step 2, cook and/or combine them as necessary.  (Use online recipes for any of the basic foods as cooking guidelines, or buy the foods pre-made.  There is no defined way to combine the foods…just use a little creativity.)  Happy inventing!

Hello! I'm Kristina

Kristina Reynolds is the Founder & CEO of Glutto and an alumna of the University of California, San Diego. She writes articles & posts for Glutto Digest with insights from fellow industry experts. Furthermore, she is the author of The Fittest Food Lovers: How EVERY BODY Can be Incredibly Fit and Still Enjoy Food, a collaborative philanthropic book with proceeds going to charities that fight world hunger.