Pastry chefs revolt against the dominance of sweet with green desserts

13 Nov 2023

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Step aside, sugar rush! There is a savory revolution going on in the world of gastronomic desserts. Creative pastry chefs are taking their taste buds on an unexpected journey and challenging the conventional notions of dessert. Pioneering chefs are now steering desserts away from sweetness towards complexity, acidity, and savory flavors. Meet: the green dessert.

Pioneering complexity

One of the visionary pastry chefs and cooks who are pushing the boundary of modern pastry is the Ecuadorian cook Pia Salazar from the restaurant Nuema. Her iconic desserts with local vegetables have won her the title of World’s Best Pastry Chef 2023. Salazar is breaking away from the sweet norm and crafting desserts that intrigue and challenge the palate, presenting complex flavor profiles such as radish and turnip, which was her first creation. 

Diners were skeptical about this dessert featuring root vegetables instead of chocolate, but she persevered. Her desserts are usually made up ofjust two or three ingredients, often a combination of an Ecuadorian fruit and vegetable.

 “In my cooking, I convey emotions, sometimes from people or from family memories,” Salazar says, so her pastries always tell a story. ‘Coconut, Yeast and Black Garlic’ is an homage to her deceased father, with the ingredients representing his personality: yeast for his strength, coconut for his kindness (his favorite fruit) and garlic for his tenacity. To bring this highly unlikely mix of flavors together, she used complex cooking techniques. The seaweed is depigmentated for a week and then cooked for four hours so it gets a texture and taste similar to tender coconut.

Salazars desserts with vegetables are perfectly aligned with consumer wishes to try new tastes or a combination of tastes which are unusual at first. According to our 2023 Taste Tomorrow global consumer survey, 65% of consumers are after those new and surprising flavors. In South-America, where Salazars Nuema is located, interest is highest with 75% of consumers. But also in the Middle East and Africa (72%) and the Asia Pacific Region (71%) are after those tastes. 

Yuca root & mandarin

Leek, Lemon Verbena and Tonka

Defying expectations

We’ve mentioned vegetable based patisserie as a major patisserie trend before. But what’s different now is the type of vegetables used. But this time it isn’t the classic carrot cake or sweet potato pie that is being made. Root vegetables such as pumpkins, beets and yams are relatively sweet vegetables that are well known for their application in pastry. 

Chefs making green patisserie are defying expectations and entering uncharted territory by using ingredients such as leek, peas or garlic. The New York restaurant Dirt Candy had a dessert that focused entirely on the potato, featuring chocolate malted potato ice cream, potato brownie, french fry caramel and crispy swirly potatoes. 

A multifaceted experience

Green desserts are a symphony of flavors and textures. The rich variety in ingredients – from vegetables and herbs to fruits and spices – provides an abundance of sensations. These desserts offer a rich and varied palette of flavors, which can’t always be said of traditional sweet confections, that can be rather monotonous.

Desserts with vegetables require great skills from pastry chefs. They have to apply multiple culinary techniques and be a master at harmonizing flavors. Besides savory flavors, the incorporation of acidity is an essential aspect of green desserts. With fermented or sour ingredients, they create a dynamic interplay of sweet and sour. This acidity not only harmonizes the dessert's richness but also provides a refreshing and palate-cleansing element that keeps guests coming back for more.

Think of the ‘Fennel and Citrus Surprise’ by pastry chef Nicolas Boussin, former Champion of France and MOF pâtissier 2000. This creation balances a fennel compote and lime basil mousse with coconut cream cheese streusel and lime cream. The flavors are mostly aromatic, fresh and acidic, instead of overwhelmingly sweet. 

Global thrills

Thrill-seeking consumers looking for pastry with layered flavor notes and interesting umami and sweet pairing are turning towards global cuisines. 65% of the 20,000 global consumers we questioned would like to try exotic tastes from other parts of the world. A number that was just 60% in 2021.

They’ll hit the jackpot when they discover Chinese cuisine. “In Chinese cuisine, we eat sweet and savory at the same time,” says cookbook writer Zoey Xinyi Gong to Shondaland. “Desserts can come with the main course or at the beginning of the meal, which is why you see more vegetables too.”

In her ‘The Five Elements Cookbook’ she shares vegetable desserts such as purple rice-stuffed lotus root with brown sugar glaze and mint and mung bean sweet soup. As a traditional Chinese medicine food therapist, Gong highlights another appealing aspect of green desserts: they are – or at least appear – to be healthier. Vegetable and herbal ingredients don’t just provide flavor but also function. 

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