Goth food: the dark side of food is surprisingly healthy

dark black goth food glutto digest

What is goth food? 

Goth food is any type of food that has been dyed with activated charcoal, squid ink, black sesame, black truffle, or some other type of black food coloring so that it appears black, or grey.  Besides staying up-to-date on one of the latest food trends, eating goth food a.k.a. “black foods” may also be beneficial to your health.

Black food aesthetic

Aesthetics play a pivotal role in goth food. Dark, dramatic, and visually striking, it is a feast for the eyes as much as the taste buds. Black and dark greys are the dominant “colors” that feature prominently in the world of goth food, with ingredients like activated charcoal, squid ink, black rice, and edible flowers often used to create intricate, darkly beautiful dishes. Presentation, in this subculture, is just as essential as the taste, and striking plating is a defining characteristic.

Black ingredients & their health benefits

  • Activated charcoal
    • high absorption rate of gases, heavy metals, poisons, and other chemicals (CAUTION: over-consumption may lead to reduced potency of medications, or malnutrition…so make sure to eat it in moderation; the Department of Health had banned activated charcoal in NYC in March 2018)
    • can aid in digestion, reduces gas & bloating, whitens teeth, reduces high cholesterol and removes toxins
  • Squid ink
  • Black sesame seeds
    • rich in many nutrients (B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc)
    • may prevent premature graying of hair, poor memory and hearing loss while maintaining healthy skin, bones, cholesterol levels, digestion plus a healthy heart
  • Black sapote
    • high in vitamins (C and A), phosphorus, calcium and iron
    • aids in digestion
  • Black truffles
    • high in protein and cholesterol-free
    • can help decrease total cholesterol levels

Although the ingredients that turn food “gothic” may provide health benefits, not all of the foods themselves are healthy to begin with. Don’t falsely believe that a black hot dog, for example, is a health food.  Obviously, burning your food to make it black does not make it healthy as the char has carcinogens (i.e. cancer-causing agents).

Popular goth foods

  • charcoal latte
  • goth ice cream
  • black cheese
  • black sesame affogato
  • black sushi
  • black hot dog
  • activated charcoal pizza
  • black hamburger
  • black ramen
  • black velvet cake
  • black sesame porridge
  • goth bao

This black food trend has arisen in popularity as “unicorn foods” (a.k.a. rainbow foods) have gone mainstream.  We discuss unicorn foods in greater detail here.


Of course, like many lesser-known things, a wave of controversy surrounded black food, specifically the ingredient of activated charcoal, in the late 2010s.

Activated charcoal first made waves as a trendy ingredient in the realm of detoxification and wellness. With its jet-black hue and reputation for its absorbing properties, it appeared as a captivating and edgy addition to various dishes and beverages. The initial attraction was driven by its dramatic aesthetic, as it transformed foods and drinks into enigmatic, visually striking creations. Its promise of absorbing impurities and toxins further bolstered its allure, positioning it as a potential detoxification agent in culinary offerings.

However, multiple concerns encircled this trendy ingredient:

  1. Health risks: Activated charcoal is indeed used in medical contexts, such as in emergency poison treatments, due to its absorption properties. However, when ingested in food, it indiscriminately absorbs not only toxins but also essential nutrients, rendering the food less nutritious. Furthermore, regular or excessive consumption may interfere with the absorption of medications, potentially rendering them ineffective.
  2. Lack of Regulation: The use of activated charcoal in food and beverages is often not regulated, which has raised concerns about the purity and safety of the product. The quality and sourcing of the activated charcoal used can vary, leading to uncertainty about its safety for consumption.
  3. Digestive Disturbances: Some individuals have reported digestive discomfort and constipation after consuming foods or drinks containing activated charcoal. Its abrasive nature might lead to gastric irritation, making it a problematic ingredient for those with sensitive stomachs.
  4. Questionable Detox Claims: The notion of activated charcoal as a detoxifying agent is a subject of debate. While it can absorb certain toxins, its effectiveness in this regard is often overstated in the context of food. It may offer little to no actual detoxification benefits, leading to skepticism about its use for such purposes.

The controversy surrounding activated charcoal in food continues to divide opinions within the culinary world and among health professionals. As it lacks clear regulatory guidelines and scientific consensus on its safety and efficacy in culinary applications, the debate rages on.

For those drawn to the dramatic aesthetics and edginess of activated charcoal in their dishes, it’s essential to exercise caution and moderation. When used sparingly and with mindfulness of potential health implications, it is harmless and can contribute to visually striking and intriguing culinary creations. However, for those seeking genuine detoxification or health benefits, a balanced diet and consulting with a healthcare professional remain more reliable approaches.

Where can I get it?  

Goth food can be found in most places that serve dishes with squid ink or activated charcoal.  Here are some locations you might want to try some black foods.

Los Angeles, CA: Little Damage Ice Cream
(charcoal ice cream)

charcoal ice cream los angeles california
photo: Little Damage on Facebook

New York, NY: Anytime
(popcorn chicken with squid ink)

new york nyc goth food
photo: @anytimenyc on Instagram

San Diego, CA: Bencotto Italian Kitchen
(squid ink pasta)

black goth food pasta san diego california
photo: Bencotto Italian Kitchen on Facebook

How can I make it?  

Like unicorn food, pretty much any type of food can me turned into goth food.  In order to make your food black, you’ll need to follow this basic universal recipe.

Ingredients (note: use savory ingredient for savory foods & sweet ingredient for sweet foods)


  1. First, take a teaspoon of squid ink or a pinch of charcoal and add it to the food you would like dyed black.  To make the food darker, incrementally add more.
  2. Mix the ingredients until it is fully and evenly incorporated into the food.
  3. If necessary, finish cooking/baking/heating up/freezing your food. Enjoy!

More on trendy food

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.